Tory plans to increase number of disabled MPs is welcome news but will they deliver?

The Conservatives plan a £1m fund to help disabled people become MPs; currently 20 per cent of British people are disabled - yet only 1 in 20 MPs are disabled.

Yesterday’s Guardian reports Conservative plans to allocate a £1m fund to help people with disabilities become MPs and overcome the under-representation of disabled people in Parliament: twenty per cent of British people currently have a disability – yet only 1 in 20 MPs are disabled.

The final report of the Speaker’s Conference on Parliamentary Representation, published last week, suggested such an ‘access to public life fund’ for disabled people.

It highlighted several barriers preventing disabled people from becoming MPs, including wheelchair access to public buildings, documents not being available in Braille and a lack of sign language interpreters and specialised equipment.

There is no doubt that news of the fund will be welcomed by disabled people. It is to be hoped that this news will allow all disabled people to realise how much support will be available to them if they wish to enter politics. It is also to be hoped that the news will provide encouragement to those disabled people who do wish to enter politics to follow their dreams.

The proposals, however, may well have come as a surprise to some disabled people, considering David Cameron’s previous policies on disability. In 2008, much to the shock and dismay of many campaigners, Cameron backed a law allowing the abortion of fœtuses diagnosed with disabilities up until 39 weeks of pregnancy; at the same time, he pledged to vote to reduce the abortion time limit for healthy babies from 24 to 20 weeks.

Questions about whether the Party will be able to carry out these plans in the current economic climate will also no doubt be raised by disabled and able-bodied people alike. This is a very valid point and should be fully considered. Most of all, it is to be hoped that the Conservatives would at least make some effort to carry out such plans, and that this revelation is not simply a way for the Party to target the votes of disabled voters in the run-up to a General Election.

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