WATCH Esther McVey forced to apologise over 'incorrect' Universal Credit claims
Esther McVey has issued a humiliating apology to MPs today after being accused of making "incorrect" claims about Universal Credit by the Government's own spending watchdog.
The Work and Pensions Secretary was rebuked by the National Audit Office (NAO) after giving a statement to Parliament last month about her department's flagship welfare shake-up.
But In a letter released today, the organisation accused her of misleading MPs when she respond to its damning assessment of the roll-out of Universal Credit.
Speaking in the Chamber today, she said: "Whilst speaking in Parliament in answer to questions on the NAO report into Universal Credit I mistakenly said that the NAO had asked for the roll out of Universal Credit to continue at a faster rate and be speeded up. In fact the NAO did not say that…
"I want to apologise to you [the Speaker] and the House for inadvertently misleading you."
She added: “I believe it is right that as a minister I should come and correct the record and I therefore hope that you will accept my apology.”
However, Labour blasted Ms McVey over the blunder and said that if she had "knowingly misled" Parliament she should quit her Cabinet post.
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Margaret Greenwood said:“Esther McVey has admitted that she misled Parliament. She did so not once, but twice, on 21st June and 2nd July, despite the fact that her own department had agreed the NAO report on 8th June.
“The NAO report is damning about the roll out of Universal Credit, the Government’s flagship welfare programme.
“If she didn’t read it properly, that’s incompetence. If she did read it properly and knowingly misled Parliament, then she should resign.”
Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee Frank Field has requested an Urgent Question for tomorrow so that MPs wil be able to grill Ms McVey on the matter.
In the NAO’s letter, the organisation’s chief Amyas Morse condemned the Work and Pension Secretary’s "odd" claim that the body failed to account for "recent changes" to the controversial benefits overhaul, saying it had seen "no evidence of such impacts nor fresh information" to support a string of assertions she made in Parliament.
Ms McVey told the House today: “The NAO contacted my office and the end of last week and we are working on setting up a meeting.”