WORK and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey was accused today of seeking MPs’ approval for announcing that she will not contest a High Court ruling over disability benefits.
Putting an urgent question, SNP MP Peter Grant asked her to explain her department’s “appalling” record of court defeats over benefit reforms.
Labour’s Gareth Snell said it was “frankly unacceptable” that she had “come to the House seeking plaudits” and called on her to unequivocally apologise for the defeated policy.
She replied that she did not expect praise.
Ms McVey said on Friday that she would not challenge the December ruling and confirmed today that it would affect up to 220,000 people claiming personal independence payment (PIP).
Regulations introduced in March prevented an award of the higher PIP mobility rate if someone cannot take a familiar journey on their own unless it is “for reasons other than psychological distress.”
The High Court found that the policy had been “blatantly discriminatory” towards people with mental health conditions.
Labour MP Stephen Timms said: “This was an ill-advised attempt to reduce the amount of benefit payable to people with mental health problems. I’m glad it’s been abandoned.”
Veteran Labour MP and work and pensions committee chair Frank Field said there should be some form of timetable to achieve parity of esteem between mental and physical conditions.
Ms McVey responded that she would be doing things as “sympathetically and effectively as possible.”
But her Labour shadow Debbie Abrahams said disabled people would be “gobsmacked” to hear the government claim that it was committed to them.
She added: “This sorry debacle should serve as a warning to this government of the dangers of seeking to undermine and subvert both the decisions of our independent judiciary and this House of Commons.”
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