Tory peer threatens to quit party over axing of disability champion role

Posted On: 
24th November 2017

A Conservative peer has threatened to resign the party whip in protest at the Government's decision to scrap the post of Disability Commissioner.

Lord Shinkwin was set to succeed the last Disability Commissioner, Lord Chris Holmes.
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Lord Shinkwin, who was appointed to the post by equalities minister Justine Greening days before it was ditched in the spring, said the Tories were at risk of reviving its “nasty party” tag.

The job has instead been incorporated into a general commissioner on the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), but the peer said the move amounts to “downgrading” disability.

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“This is not about me, this is about the downgrading of disability,” the equality campaigner - who has been disabled since birth - told the Evening Standard.

“It is also about government transparency... there are an awful lot of serious questions that the Government needs to answer — and these answers need to come from the Prime Minister.”

And he added: “I will consider my position. I love my party but I have to stay true to what I believe on such a major issue of social justice.

“I want so much to help rebut unfair charges of our being ‘the nasty party’, but the rug has been pulled from under the wheels of my chair.”

Speaking in the Lords earlier today, the peer said the Prime Minister told him the Government had no role in the arms-length commission’s decision, but he added that the “evidence points in another direction”.

Risking a row with Ms Greening, he claimed “all the evidence” showed that the equalities minister was “involved” in the decision to scrap the role – a claim she is believed to have denied.

He called on the Prime Minister to prove the Government's innocence by releasing the paper trail of those involved in axing the post.

"Give me and the others the reassurance that the Equalities minister did not go behind my back and other disabled people," he said. 

"Release all material and communications concerning the disability Commissioner position and prove to me that they did not collude." 

Furthermore, the peer - who has in the past attracted controversy by leading a Bill that sought to ban late abortions of disabled foetuses - suggested bosses at the equalities commission rushed through a move to scrap the post because he was a Conservative.

A spokesperson for the EHRC told the Standard the claim was “complete nonsense” however and pointed to the fact his predecessor was himself a Tory peer.

The Government's Equalities Office has been approached for a comment.