WATCH: Esther McVey admits benefit claimants ‘will be worse off’ under Universal Credit
Esther McVey has admitted that benefit claimants moving on to Universal Credit "will be worse off" than under the old system, despite Theresa May insisting nobody would lose out.
The Work and Pensions Secretary said the welfare changes being rolled out meant some could take in less in benefits - and repeatedly refused to deny findings that million of claimants could be up to thousands of pounds worse off.
The startling admission comes just a day after the Prime Minister told MPs that £3bn-worth of "transitional protections" are in place that mean people "will not see any reduction" in their benefits.
But the scheme, which is due to be rolled out nationwise next year after extensive delays, has been under fire over the way claimants switching from legacy benefits to the new system have had to face longer waits for their first payment.
Asked whether some claimants could be worse off, Ms McVey told BBC News: “The Welfare Act went through in 2016 and the country voted for those changes in 2015, so some people could be worse off on this benefit..."
The minister also refused to confirm a report by The Times claiming that she told Cabinet colleagues the changes would see half of all lone parents and two-thirds of working-age couples with children lose around £2,400 per year.
And confronted on findings by the Institute for Fiscal Studies and Resolution Foundation that up to three million claimants could be around £1,800 a year worse off, Ms McVey refused to deny the figure.
She added: “I’ve said we made tough decisions, some people will be worse off…
“Under the old system, 700,000 people didn’t get £285 a month so they didn’t get the money they were owed.
“Under the old system, the most vulnerable weren’t getting as much as we’re now going to give them.”
But the Cabinet minister also took aim at John Major after the former Tory Prime Minister warned that the Government risked a public backlash like that against the poll tax under Margaret Thatcher if it failed to address concerns over Universal Credit.
On the reported £2,400 loss for some claimants, the ex-PM had told the BBC: "I am saying that if you have people who have that degree of loss, that is not something that the majority of the British population would think of as fair.
"And if people think you have to remove yourself from fairness, then you are in deep political trouble."
But Ms McVey responded: “What John Major was saying even though he doesn’t know the things we’re doing, is we’ve got to make sure it’s fair to everyone, hence that’s what we’re doing. We’re making sure this transitional protection [is in place] and we need to make changes, which I’ve said I’ll do. We have been doing.”
A spokeswoman for the Prime Minister insisted those migrating from other benefits onto Universal Credit will not be hit in the pocket.
However, she said new claimants or those whose circumstances have changed could lose out.
"The Prime Minister made it really clear that when people move across, there's not going to be a reduction in their payments because we've put £3bn-worth of protections in," she said.
"There are people who are new to the system whose circumstances have changed who will have their payments reflecting their circumstances."