A number of high-profile Conservative MPs have been criticised for voting in support of the government’s disability benefit cuts – some in spite of themselves being patrons of disability charities.
Kit Malthouse, the MP for North West Hampshire, was forced to resign from his position as patron of the Multiple Sclerosis Society after its members said his voting position “prevented him from being an effective patron”.
The cuts to Employment Support Allowance (ESA) will see claimants losing £30 a week if they are judged to be disabled but fit enough for “work-related activity”. You can see whether your MP voted in favour of the measure here.
Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London, was another Tory MP to vote for the cuts in spite of his position as patron of a disability charity.
Richmond AID said it was “shocked and disappointed” at Mr Goldsmith’s actions, but stopped short of calling for him to resign. Lucy Byrne, the charity’s chief executive, said the MP had been invited to its office “to explain” their decision.
The Commons could be forced to hold an emergency debate on the matter after a snap petition, set up on the 9 March, received more than 100,000 signatures in just a week.
And under the hashtag “#ESAcuts”, members of the public have been “naming and shaming” MPs who voted for the cuts online – often alongside unverified claims about their own expenses.
A coalition of 60 national disability charities has condemned the ESA cuts, saying they “mark a step backwards for disabled people and their families many of whom live in poverty and struggle to make ends meet”.
In a statement on his website, Mr Malthouse said he was “sorry to hear that Andover MS Society do not want me to continue as patron… [they] undertake incredibly important support and outreach work and I will remain a strong supporter”.
He said current ESA claimants would not be affected by the cuts, which he described as “sensible… since having a job is surely the best therapy of all”.
Mr Goldsmith’s campaign declined to comment when approached by the Independent last week.
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