THREE weeks have passed since local MP Stephen Crabb was appointed Secretary of State for Work and Pensions following his predecessor’s shock resignation.

The Western Telegraph sat down with Mr Crabb to talk to him about his new role in his first major Welsh newspaper interview.

“This is the department I always thought somewhere down the line in the mists of the future it would be a department I would love to go and work at” said the Preseli Pembrokeshire MP.

“Because it works on issues very close to my heart, getting people back into work, tackling poverty, protecting people who are perhaps more vulnerable, older people, people with disabilities.

“Those are the kind of issues that have always motivated me in politics.

“Everyone is shaped by their own personal experiences and backgrounds, we can’t help it.

"We are a product of where we come from. So of course my upbringing influences my thinking.

“I’ve always believed that a strong system of welfare is the mark of a decent society.

"It’s a good thing that we are spending £170 billion a year on supporting pensioners and on supporting families.

“But a benefit system that just locks people into workless-ness actually isn’t doing the job it is there for.

"So you want a benefit system that protects, supports but also creates that encouragement and assistance to help people move into work when they can.”

Mr Crabb spoke about how his promotion came about: “I had a phone call from the Prime Minister saying ‘We would like you to take this job’ and your first reaction is ‘gosh, what an opportunity’ and then you’ve got to think very clearly... ‘hang on, what am I stepping in to here’ and that’s the point I did seek from him assurance that we wouldn’t be doing the cut to Personal Independence Payments (PIP). I wanted to be sure I was able to start the job on a strong footing.

“In the statement I made in the House of Commons after I was appointed when I said we wouldn’t be doing the PIP cut, I made the point that behind every statistic there is a human, but sometimes in government we forget that.

"I’m starting off by saying ‘look, the commitment I’m making is to always keep in front of me that this is a department that’s about people’.”

Mr Crabb, before his promotion, was one of the majority of MP’s who voted in favour of cuts to the Employment and Support Allowance.

Has his opinion on the ESA changed now he’s in a new role?

“Nobody currently in receipt of the ESA will see a cut. So this is for new claims from 2017. That’s why when people say ‘you’re taking money off’ that’s not the case. There will be a change for people who are making a new claim.

“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. The cut is for new claims for the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) in ESA. This was always intended to support people moving into work, but only one percent of people who receive that higher level of benefit have ever gone into work, so it doesn’t do the job it was intended to do.

“Yes I did vote for that change but also alongside it an additional £100 million to support people getting better access into the work place.

“In the last two years, 300,000 disabled people found work. I think that’s a good thing and the disability charities will tell you that’s a really good thing.”

Two of Mr Crabb’s constituents, Paul and Susan Rutherford, are currently battling the Department for Work and Pension in the Supreme Court regarding the ‘bedroom tax’ and on this Mr Crabb said: “We’ve followed the Rutherfords' case for a number of years. They came to a surgery and I actually wrote to the Department for Work and Pensions a few years ago and to the council as their constituency MP trying to get them the discretionary housing payment.

“I don’t think there was ever any doubt that this was a case in which they needed additional support.

"The issue at stake here is in legislation should government be specifying every particular vulnerable group that needs the discretionary housing payment or does it give a large amount of freedom for local authorities to make those decisions on the ground, locally? Nobody has ever tried to stop the Rutherford’s getting financial support that’s why they’ve had the discretionary housing payment.

“We need to get clarity in the law, that’s why these things end up in the Supreme Court is to bring clarity to it but there was never any question in my mind that the Rutherford’s deserved the financial support that they eventually got from the county council.”

After his promotion, Mr Crabb was the subject of an online tirade of abuse regarding his apparent link to ‘gay cure organisation’ CARE (Christian Action Research and Education).

Mr Crabb told the Western Telegraph: “Within minutes of me being appointed there were people on social media saying ‘oh he’s got links to gay cure he must be homophobic’ and somebody had mocked up a picture of me with a quote reported to have come from me saying ‘being gay is a disease which needs a cure’ and that’s complete crap.

"I’ve never believed that and it’s not what I believe now.

“Whatever personal beliefs I have, religious or otherwise, homophobia is not a part of it and I don’t believe in gay cure therapy.

"Yes I’m a Christian, I’ve got very clear views on that but believing in gay cure therapies is not what I believe and has never been what I believe.”

Mr Crabb's interview with the Western Telegraph took place before around 40 protesters gathered at his office, calling for him to step down as the Patron of local charity Pembrokeshire Mencap.

But he said ideally he would remain in the role, which is taken up by the local MP, regardless of their party.  “I am proud to be a patron of Mencap," he said.

"The particular pressure that they are being put under, of course I’ve discussed that with them and met with the trustees and will continue to do so.

"The relationship has been a positive one and a really strong one for both. It’s enriched my life being associated with them, I’ve learnt a lot by getting to know them and I’ve also been able to helpful to them and I think ideally we’d like that to continue.”