Zac Goldsmith has defended his decision to vote for cuts to disability benefit, after being forced to step down as patron of a Richmond charity.

The Richmond Park MP was asked to resign from his role of patron to Richmond Advice and Information on Disability (Richmond AID) after voting for cuts which could mean £1,500 less a year for those claiming the benefits.

He resigned as patron on Thursday after the charity’s chief executive Lucy Byrne criticised him for approving measures that would have a “severe and detrimental impact on the lives of disabled people.”

FROM YESTERDAY: Zac Goldsmith asked to resign as patron of Richmond charity after voting for disability benefit cuts

Mr Goldsmith said the philosophy behind the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) was that people are best helped by being enabled to get back into work.

The Conservative mayoral candidate said: “It is not just simply a cut, there is a new government fund which will be up to £100m which is specifically to help people get back to work.

“The concerns that have been brought to me by individuals are that people might be deemed fit to work when they are not fit to work.

“That comes down to definitions and it also comes down to local MPs, as with all these policies you can have a sound principle but it can have unforeseen consequences in practice.

“The job of the MP is to speak to the government and make sure that people who aren’t fit to work aren’t classified as fit to work.

“I have taken this up with ministers to understand the definitions and to provide reassurance – I don’t want people who are not fit to work to be worried about being deemed fit to work.

“The government needs to work very hard on that to provide that reassurance.

“No one wants a situation where people who are unfit for work are deemed fit for work, that is not an outcome anyone wants.”

Ms Byrne said on Thursday that it must be recognised that being a disabled person means higher living expenses, including keeping warm and travel to medical appointments.

She added: "We believe this cut moves disabled people further away from the workplace and increases the social isolation of people who are already vulnerable and already experience barriers in getting employment.

"Having voted for this brutal cut we believe that Zac Goldsmith’s position as patron is no longer tenable."

Mr Goldsmith said his resignation would not change his relationship with the charity and he will continue to work with them and their clients.

He added: “That is my duty as an MP.”