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Runner: Esther McVey got out of the DWP before she could be made to answer some very difficult questions.

Remember when Esther McVey quit the government last week, claiming it was because of Brexit, and I suggested she was running to avoid having to answer the criticisms of the Department for Work and Pensions raised by UN inspector Philip Alston?

It turned out that she had already exchanged words with the special rapporteur on poverty – but now it seems I was not wrong after all, as Ms McVey’s departure allowed her to avoid answering questions on a possible link between the hated Work Capability Assessment carried out by private contractors on behalf of the DWP and the deaths of benefit claimants.

This issue is whether the government showed key documents linking the deaths of claimants with the work capability assessment (WCA) to Dr Paul Litchfield, the independent expert hired to review the test in 2013 and 2014.

Dr Litchfield carried out the fourth and fifth reviews of the WCA but has refused to say if he was shown two letters written by coroners and a number of secret DWP “peer reviews”.

In the light of recent revelations, it seems reasonable to ask whether this is because he was asked to sign a ‘gagging order’ – a non-disclosure agreement requiring him not to say anything embarrassing or critical about the Conservative government or its minister.

Dr Litchfield published his two reviews in December 2013 and November 2014, but neither mentioned the documents, which all link the WCA with the deaths of claimants.

Disability News Service raised the issue in July, prompting Opposition spokespeople to send official letters demanding an explanation. Labour shadow minister for disabled people Marsha de Cordova’s was written on July 25, and Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokesman Stephen Lloyd’s followed on August 2.

Neither had received a response by the time Ms McVey walked out, as DNS reported.

I think we can safely conclude that the four-month delay – so far – indicates Ms McVey intended never to respond. The disagreement over Brexit provided a handy excuse to do a runner.

Will Amber Rudd be more forthcoming?

The evidence of her time at the Home Office suggests the opposite.

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