Activists round on disability commissioner, demanding resignation after he voted to implement Tory cuts
A prominent Scots disability campaigner is calling for the resignation of the equality watchdog’s disability commissioner for voting in favour of benefit cuts.
Susan Archibald, a former Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations board member, is being backed by a raft of individuals and groups in her call for Tory peer Lord Chris Holmes to stand down as disability commissioner for the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) after he voted in favour of disability benefit cuts when they had been condemned by his own organisation.
Archibald has both written a letter and created an online petition calling for his resignation.
It is part of a new campaign from an alliance of anti-austerity, grassroots groups from Scotland and the north of England that are committed to fighting for equality – the Cross Border Alliance –will “name and shame” public figures “colluding in the cuts to disabled people and not addressing disabled people’s rights”.
The coalition includes Disabled People Against Cuts, Black Triangle, The Centre for Welfare Reform, Carer Watch, and the Spartacus online campaigning network.
Lord Holmes voted in favour of measures to cut payments by £30 a week for new employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants placed in the work-related activity group.
Archibald in her letter points out the commission expressed concern that this measure “will cause unnecessary hardship and anxiety to people who have been independently assessed and found unfit for work”.
I am calling for your immediate resignation of the position you hold as disability commissioner - Susan Archibald
In a briefing document published earlier this year, EHRC also said the measure would be “likely to have a disproportionately adverse impact on disabled people”.
“As a disability rights campaigner I am calling for your immediate resignation of the position you hold as disability commissioner and chair of the disability committee for EHRC as alongside my peers and other user led organisations we think you are no longer worthy of this position,” Archibald states.
Lord Holmes said in a statement: “It is public knowledge that I am a Conservative peer in the House of Lords.
“In that context, I will sometimes vote or take a position that is either personal or different from that of the EHRC.
“I completely respect people’s right to disagree with how I have voted in the past and I know these are deeply held views on these issues.
“But these are complex and sensitive issues. Public bodies would be immeasurably weakened if they were only drawn from people with only one viewpoint or one sort of background.”
An EHRC spokesman said: “The strength of our board comes from the breadth and diversity of skills, experience and viewpoints our commissioners bring to bear on the important issues we tackle.
“It is not uncommon for commissioners to have different views on an issue, and we welcome the constructive and challenging debate through which the board reaches its collective decisions.”