Esther McVey has said she is “dismayed” by “personal attacks” made on her by Labour as she denied attempting to bury news of a government U-turn on disability payments by “sneaking” out the decision.
The work and pensions secretary told the Commons on Tuesday afternoon she had been “often vilified” for implementing benefit changes, which she said made the UK one of the “most generous countries in the world when it comes to supporting its disabled people”.
Late on Friday afternoon McVey issued a written statement revealing the government would drop its challenge to a high court ruling which said ministers were wrongly denying thousands of people benefit payments.
The judgement ruled changes to Personal Independence Payments (PIP) discriminated against people with mental health issues.
McVey revealed today that she expected up to 220,000 people would be affected by the decision.
Speaking in the Commons today, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, Debbie Abrahams, accused McVey said the major climb-down was “sneaked” out.
McVey was forced to appear in front of MPs to be grilled over the benefits u-turn after Abrahams tabled an Urgent Question.
“To say there is a commitment to disabled people when the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities have said it is a human catastrophe, the cuts that have been wrought on disabled people by this government is an absolute disgrace,” Abrahams said.
But McVey said real terms spending on benefits under the Conservatives since 2010 had increased. “I was often vilified, people still said it was being cut and it was not,” she said. “Much the vilification that went on was not only unnecessary it was deeply untrue.”
The work and pensions secretary, who was promoted to the Cabinet by Theresa May in her reshuffle earlier this month, said the decision was announced via a written statement on Friday as that was the deadline for the legal judgement.
“I am not the kind of person who sneaks anything out,” she said.
John McDonnell on Sunday refused to apologise today for repeating calls for McVey to by lynched.
Labour’s shadow chancellor has also described McVey as a “stain on humanity” for her role in changing the benefits system.
Speaking in the Commons today, McVey said she was “dismayed” by “the personal attacks I have suffered” from otehrs including Labour MPs.
“People only do personal attacks when they don’t have workable policies,” she said. “It links politics with violence.”