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Esther McVey, secretary of state for work and pensions, escaped being given a benefits style sanction and having four weeks’ pay docked by MPs yesterday, when opposition parties failed to muster enough votes to support the move.

McVey hit the headlines following her response to the highly critical report into universal credit (UC) by the National Audit Office (NAO). Amongst other things, McVey untruthfully told MPs that the NAO has urged that the roll out of UC be speeded up, when they had actually recommended the precise opposite.

Claimants who give inaccurate information to the DWP can face sanctions and even criminal prosecution.

McVey made a very limited apology to the House of Commons after the head of the NAO published an open letter criticising McVey’s statement to MPs.

In an effort to keep the pressure on McVey, Labour introduced an opposition day motion that read:

“That this House censures the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the right hon. Member for Tatton, for her handling of the roll-out of universal credit and her response to the NAO report, Rolling Out Universal Credit; notes that the Department for Work and Pensions’ own survey of claimants published on 8 June 2018 showed that 40 per cent of claimants were experiencing financial hardship even nine months into a claim and that 20 per cent of claimants were unable to make a claim online; further censures the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions for not pausing the roll-out of universal credit in the light of this evidence; and calls on the Government to reduce the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions’ ministerial salary to zero for four weeks.”

The motion failed, with 268 MPs voting in favour and 305 voting against.

You can read the Hansard record of the debate here.

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