UK

Kit Malthouse Told To Resign As MS Charity Patron After Voting For ESA Disability Cuts

14/03/2016 14:39 GMT | Updated 14/03/2016 15:20 GMT

A Tory MP has been forced to resign as patron of a Multiple Sclerosis charity after voting to cut disabled people's benefits by a third.

Kit Malthouse was told he had "let down" sufferers and was no longer "suitable" to hold the position on Andover MS Society's board, based in his own constituency, after he backed moves that will see vulnerable sick and disabled people's support payments slashed by over £1,500 a year.

The ex-London deputy mayor incensed campaigners by backing cuts to Employment and Support Allowance on what peer Lord Low called a "black day for disabled people".

Donna Birch, chair of the society, told Andover and Villages: "Due to recent events we no longer feel that Kit Malthouse is a suitable patron, so we have asked him to step down from this role. 

“We feel sadly let down by our patron’s actions. Enough stress has already been put on our members by the upheaval of the benefits system, this just adds to their worries.”

Ed Holloway, national director of the MS Society, confirmed Malthouse had been asked to stand down because he could no longer be an "effective" enough ambassador.

He said: “After careful consideration, the branch felt that Mr Malthouse’s lack of support for the MS Society’s campaigning on disability benefits prevented him from being an effective patron."

Two other Conservative MPs, London mayoral-hopeful Zac Goldsmith and Tania Mathias, were also criticised by a different charity for voting to cut ESA. 

“We are shocked and disappointed to find that both our local MPs here in the borough of Richmond have voted for this cut and plan to invite both MPs to our offices to explain the impact this will have on disabled people," Richmond AID said last week.

In a statement sent to HuffPost, Malthouse defended his position, saying he would go with the will of his members but that there had been "wide misunderstanding" about the controversial vote.

"I was sorry to hear that Andover MS Society do not want me to continue as patron. Obviously if they wish to find a different patron that is a matter for them," he said.

"I have no desire to remain if their members do not wish me to do so. I did not seek the position but I was very pleased when they asked me, not least since MS has affected my wider family in the past and I believe there has been wide misunderstanding about what is proposed... 

"The MS Society undertake incredibly important support and outreach work and I will remain a strong supporter.

"I will obviously continue with my work on life sciences in particular, helping to stimulate research and investment generally, in the hope of finding therapies and cures for MS and other rare diseases."