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Getting a bit rough, is it? Esther McVey dissembles desperately in an attempt not to answer questions posed by the Commons Work and Pensions Committee.

Getting a bit rough, is it? Esther McVey dissembles desperately in an attempt not to answer questions posed by the Commons Work and Pensions Committee.

A senior civil servant has been asked by an MP to examine whether any of the 49 secret reviews into benefit-related deaths concluded that the government had been partly to blame, writes John Pring for the Disability News Service.

The question came as Conservative employment minister Esther McVey was giving evidence to an inquiry into benefit sanctions policy.

Labour MP Debbie Abrahams, a member of the work and pensions committee that is conducting the inquiry, told McVey there was “an increasing… and a worrying number of deaths that are being associated with sanctions”.

Her questions came in the wake of a series of Freedom of Information Act requests by Disability News Service (DNS), which have revealed that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has carried out 60 – a figure later corrected by civil servants to 49 – internal “peer” reviews into benefit-related deaths since February 2012.

Abrahams asked McVey how many of the peer reviews concluded that the deaths had been associated with the use of benefit sanctions.

McVey said it was “wrong” of Abrahams to “politicise” and “inflame” the issue, and refused to answer her question.

We’ll be the judge of that. Was she saying the government has something to hide?

Let us all await the civil servant’s report with interest.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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