Tory ministers should be forced to pay compensation to 180,000 victims of a disability benefits scandal, Labour demands tonight.

The party has called on Tory welfare chief Esther McVey to fork out for thousands who were paid less Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) than they were owed.

The Work and Pensions Secretary is already handing over £970m in back payments, dating back to 2011, as 400 staff work to fix the blunder.

But in a letter to Ms McVey, seen by the Mirror, Labour now argues the government’s own guidance shows she should add compensation payments on top.

The guidance, issued by the Treasury, says public bodies that “have caused injustice or hardship” through “service failure” should consider “remedies”.

These can include financial payments, the guidance adds, and should restore victims to the state they would be in “had things been done correctly”.

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Margaret Greenwood and Shadow Disabilities Minister Marsha De Cordova warned the error could have caused “serious losses”.

In their joint letter, they said many people “may have been forced to live at below subsistence levels” with “severe restrictions on their lives”.

The MPs also questioned whether victims would be repaid for other, connected benefits, such as free NHS prescriptions and free school meals.

The pair wrote: “Some ill and disabled people will be waiting almost a decade to be repaid their entitlement to social security.

“And some will have tragically died without receiving the arrears owed.

“We urge the government to act immediately and provide compensation for the hardship experienced by those who have been affected”.

The blunder emerged last year when officials found errors when thousands of people were converted from the old incapacity benefit to ESA.

Earlier this month it emerged the number of potential victims had risen from 70,000 to 180,000 and the back payments bill had soared from £340m to £970m. It will take until December 2019 to pay everyone back.

DWP sources brushed off any suggestion they will pay compensation – and said the guidance had already been taken into account.

A spokesman said: “Whilst we transferred people to Employment Support Allowance (ESA), we transitionally protected their amount paid on Incapacity Benefit where appropriate so they saw no reduction in benefit.

“Where the error occurred, as we have made clear, was in ensuring that claimants received further funds to which they were entitled under ESA.

“We are committed to paying back all arrears owed, and are in the process of doing this – paying back around £120 million so far.”