Tory minister ‘insulting Holyrood on welfare’

UK employment minister Esther McVey. Picture: PA
UK employment minister Esther McVey. Picture: PA
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THE UK employment minister is “insulting” welfare claimants by refusing to give evidence to MSPs about benefits sanctions, the convener of a Holyrood committee has said.

Members of the Scottish Parliament’s welfare reform committee had hoped to question Esther McVey on the issue next month.

But the Conservative told them that, as social security was a reserved issue, she was accountable “first and foremost to the UK government and Parliament”.

Ms McVey wrote to the committee to state she would be “more than happy” to meet them informally to discuss the issue of benefits sanctions.

Committee convener Michael McMahon told her that was “disappointing”, adding it “follows a number of previous invitations to UK ministers to formally provide evidence to the committee, which have all been declined”.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith and welfare minister Lord Freud have both previously refused to give evidence to the committee.

Mr McMahon, for Labour, said: “UK ministers from other policy areas have been to Holyrood and assisted the work of the Scottish Parliament. It seems the exception is welfare reform, since Esther McVey has sadly chosen to join Iain Duncan Smith and Lord Freud in refusing to give evidence to us in public. The UK government is consistent in its inconsistency on this policy matter.

Committee deputy convener, the SNP’s Jamie Hepburn, called on Ms McVey to “watch our debate to hear about the impact of the reforms on the ground that MSPs are dealing with every day”.