Peer threatens to resign whip after disability post scrapped


Lord Shinkwin.

A Tory peer has threatened to resign the whip over a decision to scrap the post of disability commissioner on the Equalities and Human Rights Commission.

Lord Shinkwin said he applied for the position but found out in May he would be a general commissioner – rather than having a specific disability role.

He told a Lords debate that the commission’s behaviour was “shocking”.

The commission said it had taken the decision to “mainstream” disability work across all board members.

Lord Shinkwin told a Lords debate on disabled access he had been given evidence in the form of official documents and emails suggesting Minister for Women and Equalities Justine Greening was “involved” in the process which led to the abolition of the role

‘Fight from crossbenches’

He acknowledged Ms Greening did not take the decision as it “was not in her power to do so” but said all communications on the issue between the equalities office, the commission and the government should be provided.

If evidence proved she was involved in the process, he said Ms Greening would have acted “in flagrant dereliction of her duty to me as a disabled person – to all disabled people” and her position would be “untenable”.

He also called on Theresa May to “disassociate” herself and the government from the decision and write to the chair to reappoint a disability commissioner. If he did not receive such assurances Lord Shinkwin said he would have to “fight for disability equality and the reinstatement of a disability commissioner from the crossbenches” – by resigning the Conservative whip.

‘Greater voice’

Lord Shinkwin, who uses a wheelchair, is a campaigner on disability discrimination.

A spokesman for the commission said: “The decision on the future of the disability commissioner role was taken after no successful candidate was appointed.

“As the statutory disability committee had come to an end it was decided to strengthen our disability work by mainstreaming it across the whole of the organisation.

“This gives a greater voice for disabled people as all board members now focus on disability issues which will be central to all the commission’s work.”

A government spokesman said Ms Greening “has a statutory role in appointing commissioners to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission”.

“Any decision regarding their roles or responsibilities is entirely a matter for the EHRC. The secretary of state does not have the statutory power to appoint, reinstate or abolish a specific non-statutory commissioner role.

“The role of the EHRC is to promote equality and human rights in everything it does and we would expect all commissioners to play a key role in championing disability rights.”