Minister urged not to roll back ruling extending key disability benefit

A Conservative MP has urged disabilities minister Penny Mordaunt not to go ahead with plans to roll back a legal ruling extending a key disability benefit, telling her: "Don't do it."

Heidi Allen called for a top-to-bottom review of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) system, which she said was "not fit for purpose".

Ms Mordaunt has said she will take action to ensure PIPs go only to the most needy, after a tribunal ruled that claimants with psychological problems who cannot travel without help must be treated like those who are blind.

Prime Ministerial aide George Freeman faced Labour calls to apologise, and criticism from charities, after saying PIPs should go to "the really disabled people who need it" rather than those who are "taking pills at home, who suffer from anxiety".

Mr Freeman hit back, saying he suffered himself from "childhood anxiety and depression", adding in a tweet: "I don't need any lectures on the damage anxiety does."

But South Cambridgeshire MP Ms Allen has said that the judgment on whether an individual's disability was bad enough to entitle them to benefits should be taken on a "person by person basis" and was not one for MPs to make.

Ms Allen said that the Government should think again about the decision, expected to affect 160,000 people and save £3.5 billion in future years.

She told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that she believed other Tory backbenchers would share her view.

"In my view, the courts are there for a reason," said Ms Allen.

"If they have come up with this ruling, which says that the criteria should be extended, then I believe we have a duty to honour that. That is their role.

"Does that mean we should look at the process as a whole? Frankly I think we should do that anyway. It is not fit for purpose at the moment."

Ms Allen suggested that Mr Freeman may not have been "fully aware of the detail" of the ruling when he made his comments.

The tribunal called for payments to go to those with "overwhelming physical distress", which sounded as though it referred to those with a "severe mental health problem" and not simply a bit of discomfort, she said.

Ms Allen said the Government had a "really bumpy year" in 2016 because of proposed cuts to another disability benefit, Employment and Support Allowance, which she still hoped would be reversed in next month's Budget.

Asked for her message to Ms Mordaunt, the MP said: "Don't do it. If I was in her shoes, I would take the financial hit and say we need to accept this.

"Now let's really look at this PIP policy, which is something that needs to happen anyway, and review the whole thing from top to bottom."

Read Full Story