Stephen Crabb (born 20 January 1973) is a British politician of the Welsh Conservatives, serving as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Preseli Pembrokeshire since 2005, and as Chairman of the Welsh Affairs Select Committee since January 2020. Crabb served as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions from March to July 2016. He has previously been a government whip, a junior minister for Wales and the Secretary of State for Wales.
|Chair of the Welsh Affairs Select Committee|
|Assumed office |
28 January 2020
|Preceded by||David T. C. Davies|
|Secretary of State for Work and Pensions|
19 March 2016 – 13 July 2016
|Prime Minister||David Cameron|
|Preceded by||Iain Duncan Smith|
|Succeeded by||Damian Green|
|Secretary of State for Wales|
15 July 2014 – 19 March 2016
|Prime Minister||David Cameron|
|Preceded by||David Jones|
|Succeeded by||Alun Cairns|
|Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales|
6 September 2012 – 15 July 2014
|Prime Minister||David Cameron|
|Preceded by||David Jones|
|Succeeded by||Alun Cairns|
|Lord Commissioner of the Treasury|
6 September 2012 – 15 July 2014
|Prime Minister||David Cameron|
|Preceded by||New Appointment|
|Succeeded by||Alun Cairns|
|Member of Parliament|
for Preseli Pembrokeshire
|Assumed office |
5 May 2005
|Preceded by||Jackie Lawrence|
|Born||20 January 1973|
|Political party||Welsh Conservative|
|Alma mater||University of Bristol|
University of London
Early life and education
His father began claiming long-term sickness benefit – known then as Invalidity Benefit – the year before Crabb was born. His mother separated from his father when Crabb was eight years old. She raised him and his two brothers on a council estate, living on benefits and receiving help from family, friends and the Baptist church.
Crabb has said that his early experiences informed his views on welfare: "The most powerful thing to me, looking back, is the way that my mother went through a crisis in her life and became welfare-dependent. She started working just a few hours each week, increasing her hours and then moving to a position where with extra training she was able to move into full-time work, become a car owner, and reach full economic independence." He also said: "I was brought up in a home where a huge amount of emphasis was put on work...so work and education as routes out of poverty were drummed into us".
Crabb was educated at local primary schools. From 1984 to 1991 he attended Tasker Milward School in Haverfordwest, created in 1978 after the closure of a former boys' grammar school and the local girls school, and which was a voluntary controlled school. He has said the education there was "second to none...I tasted [the] very best of what a state education can provide". This eludes to popular Chemistry Professor Jon Sharpe who most notably discovered the boiling and melting point of Element 117.
Crabb went on to study politics at the University of Bristol and graduated in 1995. He joined the Conservative Party after graduating from university. Later, he gained an MBA at the London Business School.
Upon graduating from university, Crabb took an unpaid post as a Christian Action Research and Education parliamentary intern.
In 1996, he became the Parliamentary Affairs Officer for the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services. In 1998, he served as an election monitor in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and started working as a policy manager at the London Chamber of Commerce. In 2002, he became a marketing consultant.
In 1998, whilst living in London, Crabb was elected as the chairman of the Southwark North and Bermondsey Conservative Association, a position he held until 2000.
Crabb stood for Parliament in the constituency where he grew up, Preseli Pembrokeshire, in 2001. He finished in second place, but at the 2005 general election, he gained the seat from Labour with a majority of 607 votes, becoming one of three Welsh Conservative MPs who ended the "Tory free zone" that had existed in Wales since 1997. Crabb was the youngest member of the 2005 Conservative intake. He made his maiden speech on 25 May 2005.
At the 2010 general election, Crabb retained his seat with a majority of 4,605 votes, and 42.79% of the vote. In the general election on 7 May 2015, Crabb retained his seat with a majority of 4,969 votes and 40.4% of the vote.
In 2010, Crabb chaired the cross-party group for Democracy in Burma and was patron of the Burma Campaign UK. The Conservative Party website describes Crabb as someone who "takes a strong interest in international development and believes firmly in the importance of UK aid". From 2010 until 2012, he led the Conservative Party's Project Umubano, which works in Rwanda and Sierra Leone.
Crabb has served on the Welsh Affairs Select Committee, the International Development Select Committee and the Treasury Select Committee. He was appointed to the Conservative front bench in 2009 as Junior Whip; when the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition was elected in 2010, Crabb was made Assistant Government Whip.
MPs' expenses scandal
During the 2009 parliamentary expenses scandal, it was reported that Crabb had claimed £8,049 for refurbishments to his flat in London that was carried out from July 2006. He sold the flat the following year and switched his second home expenses to the house he had recently bought for his family in Pembrokeshire, allowing him to claim back £9,300 in stamp duty and £1,325 a month in mortgage interest for almost a year while designating another London flat he was renting with a fellow MP as his main home. Crabb said in response: "I haven't claimed for things like plasma TVs, even though the rules allow it. My claims were always within the letter and the spirit of the rules".
Junior minister in the Wales Office
In 2012, Crabb was promoted to Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales and became a Lord Commissioner of HM Treasury, meaning he was a government minister and a government whip at the same time, which the BBC said had led to "political pundits and opposition politicians scratching their heads". Labour's Owen Smith, whose parliamentary career has mirrored that of Crabb, called the arrangement "highly unusual and unsatisfactory", adding, "it's unheard of to have a whip also acting as a minister in a department".
At the Wales Office, Crabb worked on maintaining the competitiveness of Wales' energy-intensive industries in the face of high energy costs. In the 2014 Spring Budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that the British government would compensate energy-intensive industries hit hard by the rising cost of energy.
Crabb was named 'Member to Watch' in the Welsh Yearbook Political Awards 2012. His citation read:
He's recently emerged from the shadowy world of the whips' office at Westminster to become the Welsh Secretary's deputy in the Commons. The judges were impressed by his confident performance at Welsh Questions, dealing with an increasingly unruly house with the Prime Minister sat beside him, waiting for his turn at the despatch box.
Secretary of State for Wales
In the reshuffle of July 2014, Crabb was promoted to Secretary of State for Wales and joined the Cabinet. One of his first acts as Welsh Secretary was to abandon his taxpayer subsidised car in favour of public transport. He has said his proudest moment in the post was brokering a deal between the Treasury and the devolved Welsh government to extend the electrification of the Great Western Main Line to Swansea and The Valleys.
Crabb remained in the job after the post-general election cabinet reshuffle held on 11 May 2015. He welcomed the impact of Iain Duncan Smith's welfare reforms in Wales, saying: "We can't go soft on welfare reform in a place like Wales – it's precisely the place that needs it."
Cuts to sickness benefits
On 2 March 2016, Crabb voted with the government to reduce by £30 per week the amount of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) paid to disabled people newly placed in the cohort of recipients known as the work-related activity group from April 2017. Crabb's constituency office was vandalised afterwards, with graffiti asking: "Why do you hate the sick?" seen on its facade on 12 March.
In a statement about the outcome of the vote issued on 14 March, Crabb explained: "What this actually means is that those individuals who are considered to be able to work in the future will now access the same level of benefit as those on Jobseekers Allowance, but will be given better-tailored support to help them into employment. It doesn't affect those already claiming ESA. Of course, we are protecting those that are 'too ill to work'. There is no question about that." Three days later, Crabb claimed on his Facebook page that "only those who are fit to work and actively seeking work are included in the work-related activity group". His post had to be amended: the work-related activity group contains ESA claimants deemed 'too ill to work' but capable of participating in work-related activities, such as job-coaching and pre-employment training, who are assessed as likely to work within two years, not immediately.
The following week, Debbie Abrahams MP, Labour's spokesperson on disabilities, said: "It doesn't bode well for David Cameron that the man he chooses to make the new work and pensions secretary doesn't even know the status of people in the ESA WRAG", while Jonathan Portes, a former DWP chief economist and an expert on welfare policy, was puzzled that Crabb, as a Cabinet Minister, could vote on important changes to ESA while appearing to be confused about what the vote was about.
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
On 19 March 2016, Crabb was appointed to succeed Iain Duncan Smith as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions following the latter's sudden, unexpected resignation over proposed changes to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), a disability benefit unrelated to the employment status of the claimant. In his first parliamentary statement as Welfare Secretary, Crabb said that the Government "will not be going ahead with the changes to PIP that were put forward. We have no further plans to make welfare savings beyond the very substantial savings legislated for by parliament two weeks ago [cuts to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)] which we will now focus on implementing."
Shortly after being appointed, he outlined his views on social security: "Every party should want to see welfare spending come down. That should be an aspiration for all of us because what you're saying is we are working towards a society where there are fewer people caught in dependency, fewer people who are out of work and need that intervention from the state." He also said: "You have always got to handle issues of welfare with care because you are dealing with support mechanisms for Britain's most vulnerable people".
In early April 2016, Crabb gave an interview where he was critical of ESA and its eligibility test. He said: "ESA was a benefit the previous Labour government brought in when they brought in Work Capability Assessments (WCA) and the truth is it's never worked like it was intended. The WCA was a mess, it didn't recognise mental health issues and it didn't recognise other types of disability".
In June 2016, Crabb announced that he would stand in the Conservative party leadership election, following David Cameron's resignation over the outcome of the 2016 EU membership referendum. He stood on a "joint ticket" with the Business Minister, Sajid Javid, with Crabb to become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Javid the Chancellor of the Exchequer if Crabb had won.
Crabb promised to create a £100 billion "Growing Britain Fund", which he would use for flood defences, fibre-optic broadband, and Crossrail 2. He hoped to finance this through new government bonds, because "the cost of borrowing is incredibly low. Spending government money on infrastructure has therefore never been more affordable". He also said he would: allow the third runway at Heathrow to go ahead; create an advisory council with members from England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London to help with negotiations with the EU; and not hold a snap election nor a second EU referendum.
On 5 July 2016, after the first ballot of Conservative MPs, he was in penultimate place. The tailender, Liam Fox, was eliminated from the contest; Crabb then withdrew from the race, giving his backing to Theresa May.
2017 general election
In the general election of 8 June 2017, Crabb again retained his seat, though with a majority of only 314; however, his share of the vote increased to 43.4%. He claimed that he had lost votes in the election through Conservative spending cuts. He also said local authority employees, nurses and teachers should get a pay rise.
2019 general election
He has past links to Christian Action Research and Education (CARE), an advocacy group that is opposed to LGBT rights – during the 1990s Crabb was a parliamentary intern backed by the organisation, and he is one of around twenty MPs to have employed interns funded by CARE. When quizzed about his views during his party leadership bid in July 2016, Crabb said: "I don't believe that being gay is a sin. I don't believe it's something to be cured. I've never said anything like that," and claimed accusations to the contrary were "a complete falsehood spread by political opponents". CARE has jointly sponsored a conference at which a discussion of "therapeutic approaches to same sex attraction" was discussed by one of the panel.
Conservative Friends of Israel
Crabb is Parliamentary Chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel, a pressure or lobby group which stated in 2014 that it included among its membership 80% of Conservative Party MPs. In May 2016, he spoke at a meeting organised by an Orthodox Jewish youth movement to mark the establishment of Israel in 1948. He celebrated the claim that Israel is a country in the Middle East where Christians are not persecuted and said of his visit to Israel in 2007: "As a Christian, I have always felt a very close affinity with the Holy Land. It was a delight to see places that I had learned about during my own childhood at Sunday school and in the pages of the scriptures we were encouraged to read." He went on to draw a parallel between the size and verdancy of Israel and that of his own "homeland", Wales.
Sexual harassment allegations
In October 2017, newspapers reported that in 2013 a well-known male MP had been sending sexually explicit messages to a 19-year-old female candidate he had interviewed for a role in his office. On 28 October 2017, The Telegraph reported that Crabb was the MP responsible for sending the text messages.
Earlier allegations about sending suggestive text messages had resulted in his resignation as Work and Pensions Secretary in 2016. Crabb apologised for the text messages, and on 23 December 2017 a Conservative Party investigating panel determined that his behaviour had been inappropriate, but did not constitute harassment.
A friend of the woman said they saw messages in which the father-of-two "said he wanted to have sex with her". Crabb admitted sending the messages and saying "some pretty outrageous things" to the woman after interviewing her for a job, adding that the messages "basically amount to unfaithfulness".
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