Candidates with Disabilities

Oral Answers to Questions — Cabinet Office – in the House of Commons on 5th June 2019.

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Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Conservative, Cheltenham

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

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

The Government are working with disability organisations to help political parties better support disabled candidates. In December 2018, we launched the £250,000 EnAble fund, providing grants that cover disability-related expenses that people might face when seeking elected office.

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Conservative, Cheltenham

I have met many talented students with disabilities in Cheltenham from the National Star College, so I commend my right hon. Friend for removing disability expenses from the electoral spending limits. Surely, that should apply across the United Kingdom. Does he not agree that it should be rolled out to Wales, too?

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

My hon. Friend makes a very good point. That is, of course, a matter for the Welsh Labour party in the Welsh Assembly. We have taken the view here that excluding disability-related expenses is vital to closing the gap between candidates with disabilities and candidates without disabilities, therefore enhancing equality of opportunity.

Photo of Gregory Campbell Gregory Campbell Shadow DUP Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

In supporting candidates with disabilities to stand in elections, does the Minister not agree that there could be a further benefit? It could result in the voting population of those with disabilities coming to the voting booths in person to vote for disabled or able-bodied candidates.

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

The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. It is good for us to ensure we have candidates from all backgrounds and all abilities, with candidates with disabilities having the opportunity to stand. There is a duty on all of us in political parties to do that. I am very proud that the Conservative party has a fund to support candidates who need extra help.

Photo of David Evennett David Evennett Conservative, Bexleyheath and Crayford

I welcome my right hon. Friend’s comments in answer to this question. Does he agree that we all want to encourage maximum participation to ensure we get the very best candidates to stand and participate in all elections?

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

My right hon. Friend makes a very good point. That is absolutely right, and as I say, it is why I am very proud to be the chairman of a party that has a fund, through the Conservative Foundation, that puts money into supporting candidates in that way. It is for all of us in all political parties to support candidates of all types and abilities to come forward, stand and represent their constituents.

Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Fisheries, Flooding and Water)

May I encourage the Minister to look at hidden disabilities, such as fibromyalgia and ME, as well as physical disabilities, to ensure that people with hidden disabilities, which might not be instantly recognisable, are included in the democratic process?

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

Yes. The hon. Gentleman is right. It is for all of us to ensure we have a holistic approach to make sure nobody is ever left behind and everybody has a chance to reach their full potential.