Esther McVey, the new Work and Pensions Secretary, was a director of a company served with health and safety prohibition notices in the past – and this is problematic because it’s an area covered by the DWP.
The Tories are saying it’s no big deal – but this is a 180-degree about-face from the situation when she became Employment Minister.
That was in 2013 – 10 years after the notices were served on JG McVey and Co because of unsafe scaffolding. Ms McVey’s brief would have included oversight of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) but that element of her job was removed after her connection to the infringements became clear.
So the question is simple:
If it was sufficient reason to prohibit Ms McVey from responsibility for the HSE then, why isn’t it sufficient reason now?
This seems to be a subject the government is keen to avoid – and the message appears to have been passed down to its compliant media.
When Barry Gardiner raised the subject on the BBC’s Sunday Politics, presenter Sarah Smith tried to shut him up.
Quite rightly, he stuck to his guns, as this clip from the Skwawkbox blog shows:
The issue seems to be clear: If Ms McVey was incapable of preventing breaches of Health and Safety law as a company director, how can the public have faith that she can correctly carry out her duty in that respect, as Secretary of State?
The Departmental spokesperson’s claim that the compliance notices were handled “to a satisfactory standard at the time” is neither here nor there.
We have no evidence that Ms McVey understood the reasons for the enforcement notice – and, after being a part of a government that participated in a wholesale “bonfire” of “red tape”, that she ever understood the need for such things.
How can we expect her to do her duty properly?
Better not to risk any wrong decisions. Better not to give her the opportunity. Better to admit Ms McVey’s appointment was a mistake.
But Theresa May doesn’t have the right qualities. She has too much arrogance and not enough courage.
So we must wait for the mistakes to happen and highlight any cover-ups that may follow.
Labour has called on Theresa May to rethink the appointment of Esther McVey as work and pensions secretary because McVey was a director of a demolition company served with health and safety prohibition notices, an area covered by her department.
Jon Trickett, the shadow Cabinet Office minister, has written to the prime minister saying he had grave concern about McVey’s promotion in this week’s reshuffle because of the two notices served on the firm in 2003 owing to unsafe scaffolding.
The notices from the Health and Safety Executive were against JG McVey and Co, a now-closed firm run by McVey’s father. Esther McVey was a director of the company from February 2003 to March 2006.
In July 2003, HSE inspectors issued an immediate prohibition notice, stopping work at a demolition site in Liverpool after workers were seen using scaffolding without proper protective edge rails. In September that year, work was halted on the site for the same reason.
In 2013, McVey was made employment minister in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), a brief which initially included oversight of the HSE. However, after her connection to the infringements came to light, that element of the job was removed.
As work and pensions secretary – a job she gained after Justine Greening opted to leave the government rather than take on the brief – McVey now has overall responsibility for workplace health and safety among her duties.
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