A disabled MP who claimed he was mocked over his impairment by Labour MPs in a Commons debate believes similar abuse has taken place on several occasions.
The Conservative MP Paul Maynard, who has cerebral palsy, revealed in a newspaper interview how opposition MPs pulled faces at him, “really exaggerated gesticulations, really exaggerated faces”.
He added: “Only they know for certain whether they were taking the mick out of my disability. But it certainly felt like it. That is why politics is held in such low esteem.”
Following the interview, Stephen Brookes, a coordinator of the Disability Hate Crime Network and one of the MP’s constituents in Blackpool, said Maynard told a hate crime conference in the town last November that he had been mocked by Labour MPs on several occasions.
Brookes said: “When he spoke to us at the event, he made it clear that right from the start people had found it quite funny that he had a speech impairment.
“If this is the way MPs treat us, then no wonder there is hostility developing [in wider society].”
The Commons speaker, John Bercow, told Disability News Service: “I have spoken to Mr Maynard who is keen that no further action is taken in relation to the incident you mention and I will respect his wishes.
“I can assure you that I am not complacent about any cases of discrimination or abuse. I have spoken extensively about the need to eradicate abuse and boorish behaviour in the chamber.
“Any member who feels that they have been the target of abuse in the chamber, on whatever grounds, should raise the issue with me.”
Last year, Bercow told a joint meeting of all party groups, including those on disability and learning disability, that he would be the “disabled person’s champion”.
That meeting followed the speaker’s conference on parliamentary representation – which he chaired – which reported on ways to increase the number of disabled, female and minority ethnic MPs.
The disabled Labour MP Anne Begg, who was vice-chair of the conference, wasn’t in the chamber during the debate, but she said: “It is hard for me to believe that some of my colleagues would behave so appallingly, although I do know that the chamber can be quite a raucous place at times.
“At no point have I ever felt intimidated in that way. But the chamber will react to what people say if they think someone is saying something they disagree with.”
Maynard has declined to comment further.
9 February 2011