Lib Dems would scrap disabled people’s minister


Liberal Democrat plans to cut costs across government would mean there would be no minister for disabled people if they won power at the general election.

Nick Clegg, the party leader, outlined the move as part of his plans for delivering “better politics for less”.

Clegg says a Liberal Democrat government would save £1.82 billion by “reforms that cut back waste in central government and the Houses of Parliament, making vital savings that can be ploughed back into more important public services”.

His plans would see the number of government departments cut from 24 to 14, the number of ministers reduced by nearly half to 73, and the number of ministers within the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) cut from five to four.

This would mean there would no longer be a minister for disabled people, a post currently held by Jonathan Shaw, but a new post of minister of state for work and disabled people.

A Liberal Democrat spokesman defended the move, saying that Shaw is also the minister of state for the south east.

He said: “Labour has often appointed a minister, commissioner or independent body when it has wanted to give the appearance that it is acting on an issue despite little real change. 

“In this instance, it is especially difficult to take the government’s commitment seriously when the minister of state for disabled people is also the minister of state for the south east in his spare time.

“We need ministers to take effective action for disabled people across government, not just token gestures.”

But Mark Harper, the Conservative shadow minister for disabled people, said it was vital to have a minister for disabled people so there was someone who can “talk with colleagues across government to make sure that all policies properly take into account any particular requirements disabled people have, not just those in the DWP”.

Harper said the post showed how importantly a government treats disability issues.

5 October 2009