In the wake of Priti Patel’s resignation from government, there have been some moves in Theresa May’s cabinet. But after the PM promoted Penny Mordaunt to Secretary of State for International Development, it left a gap for a Minister of State at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
So, May appointed Sarah Newton to the role. But sadly, a look at her voting record and contributions in parliament shows she’s about as pro-welfare and disability as former Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith; which should worry us all.
Newton’s voting record
Newton has been the Conservative MP for Truro and Falmouth since 2010. She was previously Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Home Office. She will now take responsibility for sick and disabled people’s relationships with the DWP. But her voting record gives an insight into her thoughts on benefit claimants.
According to website They Work For You, she has:
- Consistently voted for the Bedroom Tax; for reduced spending on welfare entitlements and for passing the responsibility of council tax benefits onto councils.
- Also consistently voted against raising benefit entitlements in line with inflation. And she voted against giving more money to sick and disabled people.
Two matters of note that Newton voted on were:
- Giving people with cancer more than a year’s entitlement to contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA); she voted against this.
- Cutting housing benefit for disabled people living in supported housing; she voted for this.
Newton was, in fairness, always voting with the Tory Whip. But a speech from 2011 sheds some more light on her views.
During a debate on the benefit cap, which limits the amount of housing benefit people can claim, Newton said:
I imagine that there are a great number of vulnerable people who are… listening to this debate. For the sake of clarity, I think it is incredibly important to… remind the whole House that people who are disabled are not subject to the benefits cap.
This is not true. Because around 15% of households who had their benefits cut by the cap had a member on ESA in the Work-Related Activity Group or at the work capability assessment phase, when they had not been found fit-for-work. This equates to 10,000 families who had their benefits cut, when someone was sick or disabled.
And as The Canary previously reported in July, Newton said in parliament that she didn’t believe alcohol was the most dangerous drug; flying in the face of standardised death rates which prove alcohol is the most dangerous drug after tobacco.
Newton said in 2011:
I am a Conservative MP because I want to create a fair compassionate society… It is ingrained in me to value and treat all people equally. Any civilised society should be judged by how it takes care of its weakest members.
As a member of the government who the UN said had created a “human catastrophe” for disabled people, committing “grave” and “systematic” violations of their human rights, Newton’s words in 2011 sound somewhat hollow.