Esther McVey ‘should resign for misleading on welfare changes’

MPs accuse work and pensions secretary of deception over watchdog report on reforms

Esther McVey is facing calls to resign after issuing an apology for misleading parliament about the government’s faltering welfare changes in an apparent breach of ministerial code.

The work and pensions secretary was accused of employing “mega-Trumpisms” to deceive MPs when she claimed that Whitehall’s independent spending watchdog had called for the universal credit rollout to be accelerated.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats called for the MP for Tatton to step down after the National Audit Office’s head, Sir Amyas Morse, said she had misinterpreted a highly critical report which had actually called for the reforms to be paused.

Sir Amyas accused the Cabinet minister of misrepresenting his report, branded her behaviour “odd” and said her claim Universal Credit works “has not been proven”.

Today Ms McVey apologised – but only for one point in the NAO letter.

And Theresa May ducked questions over whether she would resign. A No10 source said they were “not aware” of Ms McVey offering to quit – and said she had the Prime Minister’s full confidence.

Ms McVey told MPs: “I mistakenly said the NAO had asked for the rollout of Universal Credit to continue at a faster rate and be speeded up.

“In fact the NAO did not say that and I want to apologise to you [the Speaker] and the House for inadvertently misleading you.”

Ms McVey admitted that in fact, the NAO said there was “no alternative” but to continue the six-in-one benefit because it was already so far advanced.

“The point I was trying to make was the calls from the party opposite to pause it seemed to fly in the face of those conclusions,” she said.

She added: “I hope you will accept my apology.”

Earlier Prime Minister Theresa May disowned Ms McVey’s comments and confirmed would be correcting the record after Labour accused her of “misleading” parliament.

Labour shadow minister Marsha de Cordova raised the issue at PMQs ahead of Ms McVey’s apology.

The Labour MP said: “The head of the NAO took the unprecedented step of writing an open letter to the Work and Pensions Secretary setting out how she has misled parliament in three respective statements.

“The Ministerial Code is very clear, that ‘it is of paramount importance that ministers give accurate and truthful information to parliament correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity.

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