MPs have asked the prime minister fewer than 20 questions on subjects focused on disabled people and their rights in the last 18 months of prime minister’s questions (PMQs), Disability News Service (DNS) can reveal.
Analysis of the questions asked in the last 50 PMQs, dating back to December 2020, show that roughly between one and 1.5 per cent of the questions were aimed at seeking answers on issues such as disability discrimination and rights and social care.
The analysis by DNS looked for questions that included words such as “disabled”, “disability”, “mental health”, “social care”, “care”, “autism”, “autistic”, “learning difficulties” and “learning disability”.
Once questions about issues such as health, wellbeing, resilience, carers, diagnosis, treatment and care workers had been excluded, there were just 19 questions asked in the 50 PMQs between 9 December 2020 and 25 May 2022.
Of these 19, three were targeted at better-off recipients of social care who currently face having to sell their homes to pay for support.
Of the 19 questions, 12 were asked by Labour MPs, 2 by SNP, 1 by a Liberal Democrat, and one by Plaid Cymru.
Despite there being 359 Conservative MPs, only three of them have asked a disability-related question in the last 50 PMQs.
In all, during the 50 sessions, about 1,350 questions were asked.
This suggests that between one and 1.5 per cent of questions asked in PMQs raised issues around disabled people’s rights.
Those that were asked included a question from Labour’s Florence Eshalomi about ensuring disabled residents of high-rise tower blocks can evacuate in emergencies; Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer asking about unaffordable electricity costs for disabled people; a call by Labour’s Debbie Abrahams for a public inquiry into benefit-related deaths; and a question from Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, Vicky Foxcroft, on the failure to provide on-stage British Sign Language interpreters at the prime minister’s press briefings.
Others included Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper on the discharge of untested patients from hospitals into care homes at the start of the Covid pandemic; SNP’s David Linden on the government’s failure to extend the £20 universal credit uplift during the pandemic to disabled people and others on legacy benefits; and Plaid Cymru’s Liz Saville Roberts on the rights of people with dementia to person-centred care.
The choice of which backbench MPs will ask questions at PMQs is decided randomly.
This suggests that few MPs are putting their names forward to ask questions about disabled people and disability.
Deborah King, co-founder of Disability Politics UK, said she was “very concerned” about the lack of disability-related questions being asked in prime minister’s questions.
She said: “One reason why so few disability questions are asked in PMQs is because there are not enough disabled MPs in the Commons.
“The House of Commons deliberately omits to record statistics on how many disabled MPs there are.”
There are currently as few as five MPs who self-identify as disabled people.
In a statement submitted (PDF) as part of the UN’s current Universal Periodic Review of the human rights situation in the UK, Disability Politics UK and the Fawcett Society proposed amending electoral law to allow MPs to job share.
King said: “This could increase the number of disabled people, carers and parents who become MPs.”
Asked if the Commons Speaker could comment on the figures, a House of Commons spokesperson said: “The Speaker has no role choosing questions that are asked.
“The order of questions is determined by a random shuffle, and the topic of questions at PMQs is a matter for members themselves, and therefore not something that Mr Speaker would offer a comment on.”
Picture: This week’s prime minister’s questions
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