Government announces new equality watchdog commissioners


The government has announced the names of eight new commissioners who will join the board of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) next month.

One of the new board members is Mike Smith a disabled consultant and leading rights activist, while two others have extensive experience of disability rights issues.

Smith, apparently now the sole disabled commissioner, is likely to chair the EHRC’s disability committee and to be given responsibility for “championing” the commission’s work on disability.

Smith chairs the National Centre for Independent Living, is a former director of the accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, is a board member of the lesbian and gay rights charity Stonewall and is already a member of the EHRC’s disability committee.

The other two new commissioners with particular expertise on disability issues are Stephen Alambritis, head of public affairs at the Federation of Small Businesses, and Dr Jean Irvine, a trustee and director of the campaigning disability charity RADAR.

Alambritis is a former commissioner with the Disability Rights Commission, and was a member of the Disability Rights Taskforce, while Irvine is a board member of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and a former director with the Post Office.

There were more than 600 applications for the ten appointments to the EHRC board, which now takes the number of commissioners to 15.

Only two commissioners were re-appointed for a second three-year stint, although five others – including the chair and vice-chair – did not have to seek re-appointment.

The appointments come after a troubled few months for the EHRC, and particularly its chair, Trevor Phillips.

This summer, Phillips was hit by a series of resignations from the board in protest at his leadership, including those of the EHRC’s two disabled commissioners, Sir Bert Massie and Baroness [Jane] Campbell.

19 November 2009