It is thought the role of Work and Pensions Secretary was offered to former Education Secretary Justine Greening who turned it down.
The changes were part of yesterday's Cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Theresa May. Further junior ministerial appointments are expected today and it is not yet known whether the position of Pensions Minister will change.
Former barrister and amateur jockey Guy Opperman was appointed Pensions Minister last June, officially titled Parliamentary Under Secretary for Pensions and Financial Inclusion.
Ms McVey's move is being seen as a major promotion for her after she was promoted Deputy Chief Whip on 2 November 2017. She was Minister of State for Employment from 2013 to 201 and was elected Conservative MP for Wirral West in May 2010.
She graduated in law before becoming a graduate trainee with the BBC in 1991. She returned to Liverpool John Moore’s university in 2008 to do an MSc in corporate governance. She was the first MP to employ an apprentice and got the House of Commons authorities to introduce the scheme.
Prior to a career in politics, she worked as a broadcaster and a journalist, presenting and producing programmes such as GMTV, a legal series for Channel 4, a BBC consumer show and a BBC science show. In 2000, she set up her own business finding office space for new start-up companies as well as establishing a business women’s network in the north west.
According the government website, she is "passionate" about issues such as careers, youth unemployment, apprenticeships, investment and business growth.
Jon Greer, head of retirement policy at Old Mutual Wealt, commented: “It is disappointing that one of the most important jobs in government, which has a huge bearing on people’s financial wellbeing, has become a merry-go-round. Esther McVey will have some understanding of the brief from her time as Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Work and Pensions. However, setting retirement policy and ensuring we have a well-functioning state pension system is a long-term project which is put at risk if the minister responsible for the DWP changes for one year to the next.
“Those planning ahead for their retirement need certainty and stability when it comes to government policy so that they can make informed Financial Planning choices. We need a minister to stay in the role for a number of years with a real commitment to properly scrutinising any proposed legislative changes to the pension system.”
Mr Gauke, a qualified solicitor, is moving to the Ministry of Justice to be the new Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor. He was given the role of Work and Pensions Secretary last June in the previous reshuffle. He served for many years in the Treasury. He was appointed Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury in May 2010, and promoted to Financial Secretary to the Treasury in July 2014, where he served until July 2016. Mr Gauke served as Chief Secretary to the Treasury from July 2016 to June 2017.
In other cabinet moves, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will take on the social care brief to add to his NHS remit.
Rachael Griffin, financial planning expert at Old Mutual Wealth, said about the social care move: “What on the surface seems to be either an obvious tweak or simple move, is in fact quite substantial. The role used to sit with the Department of Communities and Local Government, which seemed counterintuitive. The government has been making noises about wanting more coherent and integrated health and social care systems and this is an important step towards the integration.
“At the moment there are some bizarre anomalies in the way people get funding for social care. For instance, under the Continuing Healthcare rules, the NHS will meet the costs of people’s complex, severe or unpredictable health needs and is applicable to both those in nursing homes and who get home help. However, it’s all horrifically vague. To be eligible, an individual's primary need must be healthcare, rather than social.
“Bringing the two systems together allows the government to set the record straight and tidy up a messy system. We hope this opportunity is seized and, when combined with the upcoming green paper on social care, we finally have a system that is easy to understand so that people can plan appropriately for their future and make financial provision.”
• Editor's note: Story updated on 09.01.17 / 9.10 am to add Rachael Griffin and Jon Greer comments.