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Esther McVey admits Universal Credit claimants 'will be worse off' in car crash interview as Tory fury mounts

Mirror logo Mirror 11/10/2018 Dan Bloom

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey © Getty Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey Esther McVey today admitted some Universal Credit claimants "will be worse off" in a car crash TV interview as Tory fury against the policy mounts.

The Work and Pensions Secretary broke days of silence after ex-PMs Gordon Brown and John Major both compared the six-in-one benefit to the Poll Tax.

But her bid to defend the benefit - which rolls out to 3.95million welfare claimants from July 2019 - backfired spectacularly as she repeatedly refused to deny it would cost more than 3million families £1,800 a year.

She also refused to deny telling her Cabinet colleagues millions of families would lose £200 a month.

Speaking after the Mirror launched a campaign to halt UC, she openly admitted: "Some people will be worse off."

Related: John Major warns Universal Credit will trigger Poll Tax-style 'danger'

a man riding a horse on a city street © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited

What is Universal Credit? Benefit explained in full as calls mount for it to be scrapped

It came on a dramatic day as:

  • Sir John Major warned of the "danger" UC will be the next Poll Tax

  • UC architect Iain Duncan Smith repeated calls to put £2bn more in

  • Conservative MP Nigel Mills demanded a pause to prevent a "fiasco"

  • No10 said it was "listening to concerns" and refused to rule out providing more help in this month's Budget

  • Jeremy Corbyn said "the system has to change dramatically"

  • MPs summoned a DWP minister to give evidence "urgently"

  • Our petition to stop the cruelty passed 7,500 signatures

Ms McVey was interviewed by the BBC five days after it was reported she privately told colleagues millions would lose £200 a month.

She repeatedly refused to deny making the comments, saying: "I won’t say what I said in Cabinet.

"I had a very open conversation with my colleagues there about how we support people."

Universal Credit is cruel far beyond austerity - and it's becoming Theresa May's Poll Tax, says Gordon Brown

© Credits: Bloomberg via Getty Images

Ms McVey claimed "everyone agrees on the principle" of UC - despite Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell saying it has "got to go".

She added claimants would get £3.1billion of transitional support.

But she admitted: "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 in society weren't getting as much money as we're now going to give them.

"What we've done is look at the whole benefit system - how do we get people into work, 1,000 people every day.

"Those people will be on less benefit by the sheer nature that they're now in work."

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Ms McVey also refused to deny reports by the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) that 3.2million households will be entitled to £1,800 less per year.

Labour's shadow work and pensions secretary Margaret Greenwood said: "This exposes Number 10’s claim this week that no family will receive less money under Universal Credit as fiction.

“The Government must stop the rollout now before millions of families are plunged into poverty and put at risk of homelessness.”

Jeremy Corbyn today called for "dramatic" changes to UC after warning people in the first stage of the rollout - involving more than 1million claims - had been "forced into debt" and their homes "put at risk".

a person standing in front of a window © Credits: PA

Labour launched a review last month with the option of scrapping UC - but a party spokesman confirmed yesterday it will be "replaced".

Speaking during a visit to Bristol, Labour's leader said: "Three million families are going to be worse off by about £50 per week from Universal Credit.

"So immediately we will say 'we will stop this process' and we would make sure that nobody is worse off under Universal Credit."

Jeremy Corbyn standing in front of a crowd © Credits: PA This morning Sir John Major warned UC could cause "the sort of problems that the Conservative Party ran into with the poll tax".

The Poll Tax triggered riots and civil disobedience and toppled Margaret Thatcher in 1990 before it was scrapped.

Sir John told the BBC he was not specifically predicting riots. But he said the Government should rethink its national roll-out.

Writing for the Mirror yesterday, Gordon Brown - the architect of Tax Credits which also launched in scandal, but gave a boost to millions - branded UC "cruel and vindictive far beyond austerity".

a box full of food: It could spark a huge increase, the Trussell Trust warn © PA It could spark a huge increase, the Trussell Trust warn

He added: "Theresa May says her mission is to address burning injustice. Well the greatest burning injustice of all time is children going to school ill-clad and hungry. It is the poverty of the innocent – of children far too young to know they are not to blame.

But the Government have lit the torch of this burning injustice and they have fanned the flames, with their £3billion of cuts."

MPs today summoned a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) minister to give evidence on the July 2019 rollout - BEFORE changes go before Parliament.

The Work and Pensions Committee asked Alok Sharma to give evidence "urgently" about "widespread concerns".

Downing Street said £3 billion worth of transitional protections was being put into the system to help people being moved over.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman would not deny the possibility of putting more money into the system at the Budget on October 29.

Last year's Budget saw £1.5billion put in - but critics say it was not enough because it has, since its launch in 2013, been bundled up with billions in austerity-driven benefit cuts.

The spokesman said: "The PM was clear yesterday that we are listening to concerns, that we are taking a test and learn approach to Universal Credit and improving the system as we roll it out."

Commons leader Andrea Leadsom doubled down on defending the benefit, insisting it was a "simpler" system and "we are making sure no-one sees a reduction in their benefits".

Labour shadow Commons leader Valerie Vaz warned the scheme is "causing real hurt to people".

But Cabinet minister Ms Leadsom replied: "I would encourage her not to believe everything she sees in the press."

McVey hurls a grenade into the Brexit debate

By NICOLA BARTLETT

Esther McVey threw a grenade into the Brexit debate by repeatedly refusing to throw her weight behind Theresa May's 'Chequers' plan.

Instead of stating she backed the plan, she said: "I'm completely supportive of the Prime Minister as she well knows."

The reporter asked directly if she also supported Chequers.

But Ms McVey said: "What I won't do even for you right now is speculate, give speculation into what is going forward."

Asked again if she backed Chequers she replied: "I'm fully 100% behind the Prime Minister and we will get the best deal for this country.

The reporter suggested people would understand from her comments that she backed Theresa May but not her plan - as they had when Cabinet colleague Penny Mordaunt made similar comments.

She replied: "I won't add into speculation as the Prime Minister goes into the most important negotiations of our time.

"I'm behind the Prime Minister, I hope you are to to get the best deal for this country."

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