Decision to ‘downgrade’ disabilities minister role met with anger from campaigners

The decision to not to appoint a new dedicated minister of state for disabled people has been criticised by rights campaigners. 

The move had been left vacant after Rishi Sunak’s mini reshuffle last week, which saw the previous minister for disabled people, Tom Pursglove, appointed minister for legal migration. 

The mini reshuffle came after Robert Jenrick’s resignation as immigration minister. Downing Street subsequently decided to split Jenrick’s old post in two, creating a new legal migration minister and illegal migration minister in the process. 

Tom Pursglove was appointed legal migration minister, with the position of illegal migration minister given to Michael Tomlinson. 

Amid criticism that the government was still yet to the fill the post of minister for disabled people criticised this week, Mims Davies was appointed to the post yesterday.

However, she remains a parliamentary undersecretary of state rather than becoming a minister of state — an apparent downgrade of the post.

Davies wrote on X (formerly Twitter) in the wake of her appointment: “Honoured to confirm my appointment as the representative for disabled people in government. I’ll work as hard as I can to ensure disabled people’s voices are heard loud and clear. …

“I’ll continue to champion opportunities, progression [and] life chances with my new portfolio [and] look forward to working with the sector [and] delivering for them. I’ll have a continued focus on social mobility-both reflecting the voice [and] needs of young people in DWP & all across [government]”.

Disability groups had previously voiced concerns over how long the minister for disabled people role might be left vacant.

Disability charity Sense said the job of minister for disabled people is “a vital role in Government to ensure disabled people’s interests are represented” and insisted it should not be taken on by someone who is “already juggling other responsibilities”.

Scope’s director of strategy, James Taylor, described the move as “an appalling and retrograde move by the Government”.

Reacting to the appointment of Mims Davies as a parliamentary undersecretary of state, Vicky Foxcroft, the Labour MP and shadow minister for disabled people, said it was “outrageous it took the government so long to finally agree to appoint a minister for disabled people”.

She said: “When they finally do, they have demoted the role to parliamentary undersecretary of state and the role was previously minister of state. Disabled people deserve better than this.”

Scope’s James Taylor said: “Disabled people have been waiting a week for an announcement on who will have responsibility for disability in government. And now we’re seeing a downgrading of the role.

“We’d urge the government to reinstate the dedicated minister of state position, to reflect the need for the UK’s 16 million disabled people to be treated as a priority.

“We need full-time leadership of disability strategy in government, to make sure policy doesn’t leave disabled people disadvantaged.” 

However, a No 10 spokesperson denied this week that the role was being downgraded.

“It’s not right. We will have a minister for disabled people who will lead on that important work”, the prime minister’s official spokesperson said. 

Pressed on the fact that the minister will not be dedicated solely to disability issues, he said: “What you will continue to see is a Government showing strong support for disabled people and for disabled issues.” is the UK’s leading digital-only political website, providing comprehensive coverage of UK politics. Subscribe to our daily newsletter here.