Esther McVey: 'I apologise' to those affected by Universal Credit'

Conservative leadership candidate Esther McVey has apologised to those who were negatively affected by Universal Credit but still believes it's been an overall success.

The controversial new system was linked to a rise in foodbank use following its role out last year, in which a series of administrative issues saw new claimants waiting up to five weeks before their first payment was processed.

Addressing the issue on Good Morning Britain, Esther said: “Universal Credit came into existence because the old benefit wasn’t working. It locked people out of work...it was a barrier to work and if you did go into work, the tax rates were over 90 percent, so it stopped people going to work.”

Asked if she thinks it’s been a success, Esther added: “Universal Credit has been a success in supporting the most vulnerable, more money goes there and supporting people going into work. What I will say, where it hasn’t worked for people, then I do apologise, that is wrong. That is why we have tried to make the system a lot better.”

When Piers then asked if she agrees it’s a scandal that people in the UK are using food banks, she said: “Yes I do... of course you wouldn’t want [the numbers using them] to go up. You have to look at why people go to food banks. People go there for all different reasons. Some people could be addicted to drugs and alcohol, some people could be in abusive relationships and running away, there are many reasons why people don’t have enough money.”

Esther McVey
The controversial Universal Credit system was linked to a rise in foodbank use. Credit: REX

Elsewhere, Esther also shared her thoughts on Michael Gove's drug scandal, after the Tory Leader favourite admitted he had taken cocaine on several occasions over twenty years ago.

Asked whether she thinks the furore against Michael Gove and other Ministers is justified, Esther said: “This is the age of transparency. People have said what they have done and then the public will decide what they think and then equally so will MPs decide. But I think people should look at what Michael Gove has done as a Minister and a Secretary of State.”

Piers then asked: “Is he a hypocrite?”

To which Esther replied: “Well, what he has written and what he has done, it does seem that way. However, what I do hope is that people can judge him on what he has done now and that will be what comes forward.”

At the start of the interview, Susanna Reid asked Esther whether she has ever taken cocaine, the former Work and Pensions Secretary, who one of eleven candidates vying to replace Theresa May, gave a firm “No”.

When Susanna then pressed her if she has ever taken any drugs, she said: “Oh, I have said yesterday that I have tried blow, pot, marijuana, whatever.”

When Piers Morgan then corrected her that “blow is cocaine”, Esther insisted: “Well that’s the wrong word, not where I come from it wasn’t. Marijuana. Like anyone else, who at university or what have you, I have tried it.”Despite having tried cannabis when she was younger, Esther claims she has no plans to legalise the class B drug.

“No, I haven’t looked for it to be legalised, no." Esther told Piers and Susanna.

"What I don’t want to see is a potential gateway going forward for maybe an entrance to other drugs, so I wouldn’t do that.”

Asked if politicians are being held to too high a standard now, Esther said: “Probably and possibly. I mean, it’s what maybe they would want the ideal person to be who is doing that job. As I said, we live in an age of transparency now.

"People are asking questions, people will give you the answer, and then people will judge on that.”