Justin Tomlinson MP (pictured above) has been appointed as the new disabilities minister following the resignation of Sarah Newton MP last month over Brexit.
Tomlinson is the Conservative MP for North Swindon and is a former member of the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee, a cross-party group of MPs charged with scrutinising government welfare policy.
He was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Disabled People following the 2015 general election victory of the Conservative Party, serving until Theresa May reshuffled the government in 2016.
In May 2015, it was reported by The Huffington Post that his appointment as Minister for Disabled People was controversial as he had previously voted against protecting the benefits of disabled children and those undergoing cancer treatment.
He was a minister that defended George Osborne’s budget cuts to disabled people’s support, which was aimed at saving £1.3bn and contributing to an economic surplus.
However, there was no political, economic or moral justification for the Conservative’s decision to cut support for disabled citizens while controversially increasing tax benefits for the wealthiest. This simply indicates just how unfair Conservative policies are, and how such policies cannot fail to engineer socioeconomic inequality.
At the time, lifelong Conservative voter, Graeme Ellis, said he had quit the party over the cuts – and made his views known on the official website of the Conservative Disability Group, on whose executive he has served.
“This website is temporarily closed owing to Disability Cuts,” a message on the site read after Osborne confirmed the cuts to Personal Independent Payments (PIP).
“The owner of the hosting package, Graeme Ellis, has resigned over disability cuts from the group and will no longer develop or host this site.”
The message was later amended to emphasise that no other member of the group was involved in the action and they had not known about it in advance.
Ellis, a former NHS worker who has diabetes and uses a wheelchair, said Osborne was “destroying lives”.
“I’ve been a Conservative voter since I could vote. But as a lifelong Conservative I could no longer agree with what the Government’s doing,” he said.
A Conservative Party spokesman said at the time: “The Conservative Disability Group has not deactivated its website.
“The owner of the domain, who is no longer a member of the group, has deactivated it without any instruction to do so.”
Tomlinson caused a furious backlash after he suggested taking in a lodger may help families cope with the benefit cap. He was branded “ignorant” and “out of touch” after raising the idea as one way people have dealt with the £20,000-a-year limit per household on welfare payments. David Smith, policy director at the Residential Landlords Association, suggested Tomlinson did not understand basic rules in tenancy agreements. At the time, Tomlinson was the Parliamentary Under-Secretary (junior government minister) for Family Support, Housing and Child Maintenance within the Department for Work and Pensions.
He said most private landlords ban tenants from taking in lodgers – either because of restrictions in mortgages or extra legal burdens for the landlord.
Frank Field, chairman of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, told the Mirror after the hearing: “What it shows is ministers find defending the benefit cap difficult.
“Many people would be breaking they tenancy agreement to follow the minister’s advice.”
People who live in council housing or housing association property would be breaking the rules of their tenancy by taking in a lodger and subsequently may be evicted.
Such an out of touch, ignorant and uncaring statement shows a woeful lack of understanding and empathy for people who are often in financial dire straits directly because of government policy.
Tomlinson was suspended from the House of Commons in 2016 for leaking a draft committee report. He shared the findings of an inquiry into regulating consumer credit with a Wonga employee in 2013. MPs backed the finding by the Commons Committee of Privileges that he had “committed a contempt” in disclosing the report. The incident happened when Tomlinson was a member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in May 2013.
He gave a confidential draft report on regulating consumer credit to an employee of payday lender Wonga, who replied with comments and suggested amendments to the report. Apparently, Tomlinson presented the amendments, word for word to the Committee as if they were his own.
Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Hudson noted that Tomlinson’s actions “provided Wonga with an additional opportunity, not available to or known to anyone else, to influence the recommendations of the committee”.
Justin Tomlinson’s dismal voting record
- Generally voted against laws to promote equality and human rights.
- Almost always voted for reducing housing benefit for social tenants deemed to have excess bedrooms.
- Consistently voted against raising welfare benefits at least in line with prices.
- Consistently voted against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability.
- Consistently voted for making local councils responsible for helping those in financial need afford their council tax and reducing the amount spent on such support.
- Consistently voted for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits.
- Consistently voted against spending public money to create guaranteed jobs for young people who have spent a long time unemployed.
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