Esther McVey, who until this week was minister for disabled people, used government research and an international report to try to fend off attacks by Labour’s shadow equalities minister Kate Green in the Commons last month.
But an analysis by Disability News Service (DNS) shows that McVey gave a misleading summary of both pieces of research.
It is the third time she has been caught out by DNS making misleading claims in the House of Commons, with the latest evidence emerging in the week that she was promoted by the prime minister to minister for employment.
Green had criticised Tory ministers in last month’s debate for their attitude towards disabled people.
But McVey had told her to “get the facts right” and said she wanted to “paint the correct picture”.
She told Green that the “latest international statistics” showed the UK was leading “in all 23 indicators”, out of 55 countries.
And she also stated that new national statistics showed that “the gap closed in nine out of 14 headline indicators” on equality for disabled people.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has told DNS that the reports McVey was referring to were the government’s own Fulfilling Potential – Making it Happen, published in July, and a report by the Essl Foundation from last November on how different countries were implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
But an analysis of the Essl report shows the UK was leading in only 15 of the indicators – not all 23 – and that even on these indicators many other countries shared the same score.
McVey had failed to point out that each country was given a green, amber or red rating for each indicator, which meant there were a number of countries “leading” on each indicator.
On the UK report, McVey was also less than accurate.
She was only able to claim that the equality gap between disabled and non-disabled people had closed in nine out of 14 headline indicators because she compared the latest figures with 2009-10, rather than the most recent year.
If she had used the most recent figures – for most of the tables, comparing 2010-11 with 2011-12 – she would have been able to say that the gap had narrowed on only five out of 14 indicators, with the equality gap widening on six indicators.
So far, the DWP has failed to say if McVey will be apologising to MPs for misleading them.
It is the third time McVey has been caught out trying to defend her government’s record by providing misleading figures.
In August, DNS revealed that both McVey and the then employment minister Mark Hoban had claimed wrongly that the £50 billion a year the UK spends on disabled people was almost double the OECD average.
And in March, McVey wrongly claimed – for the second time – that coalition plans to abolish working-age disability living allowance had led to a huge rise in applications by people desperate to claim the benefit before it was replaced by the new personal independence payment.
10 October 2013