Government scraps dedicated minister for disabled people | Politics News

The government has scrapped its dedicated minister for disabled people – after the previous holder of the office was moved to be legal migration minister.

Downing Street has defended its decision, saying that an existing minister will add the portfolio to their current workload.

Vicky Foxcroft, Labour’s shadow disabilities minister, said the move was “shocking”.

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“After 13 years of Tory austerity, pandemic and cost of living crisis, disabled people feel their voices aren’t being heard and represented in government. This confirms it,” she said.

Tom Pursglove held the role of Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work until last week, when he was moved to the Home Office following Robert Jenrick’s resignation over the Safety of Rwanda bill.

After Mr Jenrick’s departure, his immigration minister brief was split between Mr Pursglove – taking on legal migration – and Michael Tomlinson – the newly-minted minister for illegal migration.

Downing Street denied this was “downgrading” the disability role in favour of immigration.

“It’s not right. We will have a minister for disabled people who will lead on that important work,” the prime minister’s official spokesman said.

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Pressed on the lack of a minister focusing solely on people with disabilities, he said: “What you will continue to see is a government showing strong support for disabled people and for disabled issues.”

Earlier on Thursday, Conservative leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt was asked about the matter.

Labour’s shadow leader in the House of Commons, Lucy Powell, said: “The prime minister’s emergency reshuffle has left us with no disabilities minister.

“Given the women and equalities select committee’s damning report on the government’s disability strategy just last week, can the leader confirm that this position will be appointed before Christmas?”

Ms Mordaunt said: “She is right that the minister for disability is a very important point, and I’m sure that reshuffle announcement will be made imminently, but I would also just remind the House every Government department has a disability lead in place.”

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A minister or parliamentary under-secretary has held the role almost consistently since 1997.

Notable holders include Margaret Hodge, Maria Eagle, Esther McVey, Mark Harper, Penny Mordaunt, Chloe Smith, and Claire Coutinho.

Tim Nicholls, of the National Autistic Society, said: “This is a kick in the teeth for autistic people and disabled people, who are being sent a clear message that they are not prioritised by the government. We know how upsetting and frustrating this news will be for autistic people, disabled people and their families across the country.

“How can a government say it really cares about improving the lives of disabled people and the importance of that work, without a full-time minister?

“Scrapping the role of disability minister follows countless broken promises to ‘fix’ the social care system and reform mental health law. After decades of underfunding for vital support and services for disabled people, this role is needed now more than ever.”

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