Thursday, 15 November 2012

Parliamentary Progress in Access to Elected Office!!

Yesterday afternoon saw a momentous change in British Politics!! No, it wasn't the eve of the inaugural elections of Police & Crime Commissioners (Vote Lib Dem!) but it was a relatively small change in the House of Lords.

Jane Campbell, Baroness Campbell of Surbiton, DBE became the first member of either Houses of Parliament to contribute to a debate using the assistance of an aide. Speaking on the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill: Second Reading, Jane examined the aspect of equality within the Bill and the removal of section three, Equality Act 2006 which will directly impact the statutory duties of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights (EHRC).

She spoke splendidly for a considerable time and when in need of a rest break, her assistant seamlessly continued reading her written statement. It is the first time in this context that the same speech has been delivered under two separate voices!

"Equality in Action!"
Speaking later on in the debate, Jane thanked the House for their warm words and praise of this change, citing it as "equality in action!" as it enables people with all experiences to contribute to the richness of parliamentary debate.

Reported by James Landdale, BBC as well @  - this change has come about due to the removal of
Standing Order 12 - which dates from 1707 and states that "When the House is sitting, no person shall be on the floor of the House except Lords of Parliament and such other persons as assist or attend the House.".

This was removed earlier this year by the Lords' procedure committee, 300 years of change!
"8. We therefore recommend that Standing Order 12 be dispensed with to the extent necessary to enable Baroness Campbell of Surbiton's assistant to enter the chamber of the House, or any committee of the House, in order to provide her with necessary practical and personal help, and to read out the text of speeches on her behalf."

It is clear that these changes only extend as far as Jane's personal and exceptional circumstances. This leaves much more to fight and reform on including the right for Deaf people to have their British Sign Language interpreters with them on the floor of either House. This is a particular blockage to their entrance into the houses as they will rely wholly on this communication support to understand others' contributions and to deliver their own.

If you have a disability and are interested in getting elected, whatever level of Government; your town hall or into the corridors of Westminster, please have a look at the financial support available through the Access to Elected Office Fund. The Access to Elected Office Fund offers individual grants of between £250 and £10,000 to disabled people who want to be selected as candidates for an election, or who are standing for election.

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