Election Candidates: Disabilities

Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster – in the House of Commons on 13th March 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of James Duddridge James Duddridge Chair, High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill Select Committee (Commons)

What plans the Government have to encourage more candidates with disabilities to stand for election.

Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis Minister without Portfolio , Party Chair, Conservative Party

In December 2018, we launched the £250,000 EnAble fund, which provides grants to help cover disability-related expenses that people might face when seeking elected office ahead of the May local elections.

Photo of James Duddridge James Duddridge Chair, High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill Select Committee (Commons)

I thank the Minister for that answer. In the past, I have been a trustee of SHIELDS—Supporting, Helping, Informing Everyone with Learning Disabilities in Southend. What plans do the Government have to engage people who have learning disabilities in the electoral process?

Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis Minister without Portfolio , Party Chair, Conservative Party

I congratulate my hon. Friend, as I know he works hard in supporting what SHIELDS does. It is clearly doing positive work for people with learning disabilities in Southend. We are committed to supporting people with learning disabilities in participating in democracy. We are working, to that end, in partnership with the Royal Mencap Society, including, for example, through facilitating a meeting between Mencap and political parties on the provision of easy-read manifestos.

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Armed Forces)

Perhaps I should declare an interest, in that my wife is disabled and I have been glad of her support in my elections in the past. At the recent snap election, we faced an issue with access to voting stations; sometimes a school would be declared unsuitable because repairs were being carried out and another place had to be found for a voting station. Sometimes disabled access was an issue. What are the Government doing to make sure that it is made as easy as possible for disabled people to get in there and cast their vote?

Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis Minister without Portfolio , Party Chair, Conservative Party

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. We are working with returning officers on this issue, and there is the wider issue of engaging with people with disabilities to address. All of us, in all political parties, can do more about that. We should be looking at what we can do to encourage people to get involved. That is why I am so proud of being part of the Conservative party whose Conservative Foundation does exactly that.