Dominic Raab said calls to reverse disability benefit cuts are a ‘childish wish list’ unless economy is growing
A Conservative MP who dismissed a disabled woman on live TV after she said people with disabilities were dying because of spending cuts has been appointed as a government minister.
Dominic Raab, the MP for Esher and Walton, has been promoted by Theresa May to the role of justice minister as she reshuffles her top team following the general election.
Last month, Mr Raab was criticised for his response to a disabled woman, named Fiona, during an appearance on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show.
In addition to his comments on disability benefits, he also received criticism for suggesting that people use food banks not because they are poor but because they have “cash flow problems”.
A disability campaigner from Aberdeen, Fiona said she knew disabled people who had committed suicide because of spending cuts.
“You’re all talking about numbers and money, and there is an ocean of suffering under that. Oxford University just released research showing that in 2015 in England and Wales alone there were 30,000 excess deaths caused by cuts to health and social care,” she said.
“Tens of thousands of disabled and sick people are dying every year. We are dying. There have been hundreds of suicides. I spent hours after the last general election trying to talk people out of killing themselves, and I didn’t always succeed.
“People are dying here and nobody cares. I have friends who have been helping resettle disabled people in Scotland because at the very least we have a Scottish parliament which is trying its best with limited funds to protect people against the worst of these cuts. People have been fleeing England for their lives.”
Citing a Napier University study that found the work capability assessment can be linked to thoughts of suicide, she added: “It kills people. It is an act of violence and we are dying.
“This election is life or death for us. Anybody who votes for the Conservative Party, who are going to further these cuts, they are complicit in those deaths.
In response, Mr Raab said calls for cuts to be reversed were just a “childish wish list” unless the economy is growing.
“There are plenty of heart-rending stories here, and no one could be anything other than moved by it,” he said. “We have put 11,000 more doctors into the NHS, 12,000 more nurses. We have got a renewed focus on mental health and also making sure we’re trying to take the pressure off big hospitals in the manifesto.
“But the real truth is the money’s got to come from somewhere, and I can think of lots of things that I would like to avoid making difficult decisions on and lots of areas like the health service or schools that I want to put even more money in, but unless you’ve got a strong economy creating the revenue, it’s just a childish wish list.
“We’re trying to do our best to get the balance right between responsible public finances and investing in some of those crucial areas you discussed.”
“What they tend to find is the typical user of a food bank is not someone who’s languishing in poverty, it’s someone who has a cashflow problem episodically.”
The Trussell Trust, which runs food banks across the UK, responded by saying that delays in benefit payments were a major cause of people using food banks but that this was a particular problem for people on low incomes.
“It is our experience that people living in poverty are more likely to experience a sudden short-term crisis where they are referred for emergency food, whilst the underlying causes are addressed”, Adrian Curtis, a food bank network director for the organisation, said.