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January 2011



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 Houses of Parliament, London

Polly Curtis

guardian.co.uk Thursday 14 January 2010

Conservatives hope to break down barriers facing disabled people who want to be parliametarians, local councillors or civil servants

A £1m fund to help people with disabilities become MPs is being planned under Conservative moves to make parliament more inclusive.

The money would pay for transport and support costs to break down the barriers facing disabled people who want to work as MPs, local councillors or civil servants

It is part of Tory policy to encourage parliament to become more reflective of the country. At the moment one in five people in Great Britain has a disability, but only 5% of MPs are registered disabled. There are currently 126 women in the House of Commons compared to 519 men, and only 15 MPs from ethnic minorities.

Today’s move by the Conservatives would establish an access to public life fund, to be trialled immediately after a Tory victory at the general election. The funds would cover the costs of adapting premises to make them accessible, sign language interpreters, specialised equipment, travel and support workers.

The money – to be spent over four years – would come from efficiency savings made by the government equalities office from their existing £84m annual spending, including from the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s budget. Disability charities would be invited to tender to administer the fund.

Mark Harper, the shadow minister for disabled people, said: “Despite there being over 10 million disabled people in the UK, they are still under-represented in public life. It is important that we break down the barriers which prevent disabled people from standing for public office.

“Given the recent damage done to the standing of parliament and our politics, it is all the more important that we open up our democracy and set up this fund to ensure that disabled people are given a fair chance to enter public life.”

Earlier this week the Speaker published a report of a commission convened to consider the problem, which suggested that there should be quotas set for the number of women, people from ethnic minorities and those with disabilities.

The policy of all-women shortlists that Labour has adopted in some constituencies and David Cameron is considering for this year should be extended to black and minority ethnic groups, it said.

Abigail Lock, head of campaigns at the disability charity Scope, said: “We know many people want to be candidates and that money has been a barrier to that. Campaigning is prohibitively expensive so we welcome this move to break down those barriers.”

Source:   http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/jan/14/tories-plan-fund-disabled-people

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