In an interview with Disability News Service at the Conservative party conference in Manchester Esther McVey declined 21 times to say if spending on working-age disability living allowance (DLA) and its replacement personal independence payment (PIP) would fall next year.
In public appearances and interviews, McVey is careful to say that spending is due to rise between 2009-10 and 2015-16.
But by taking 2009-10 (the year before the coalition came to power) as the starting date, she is able to ignore the impact of the introduction of PIP, which will eventually see spending cuts of more than 20 per cent.
McVey said there had been an increase in spending from 2012-13 (last year) to 2013-14, but when asked whether spending would rise next year, she said: “Across the board it goes from £12.5 billion to £13.8 billion in 2015-16. So yes, there has. There has been the increase in spend from 2009-10 to 2015-16.”
When DNS asked her to clarify whether spending was going up or down next year, she said: “All I can tell you is the complete sort of picture across the spending review and that is how it is measured across this complete spending review.”
DNS then tried again to secure an answer to the question, with the minister saying: “I can only give you what we are doing in the full spending review.”
When DNS suggested that it would not look good that she was unable to say whether PIP spending would rise next year, she said: “I know what I am doing and what we are doing within the department, and we are looking [at] the fall in the spending round because that is where we measured.”
It is not the first time that McVey has been accused of a lack of openness with Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) statistics.
In August, DNS reported how McVey and fellow DWP minister Mark Hoban repeatedly used OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) figures that gave a misleading impression of the comparative level of spending on disabled people in the UK and across the OECD.
2 October 2013