Page 3 Profile: Lady Campbell of Surbiton, Crossbench peeress

 

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The Independent Culture

A peer with a difference?

Normally when we read about members of the House of Lords, it involves expense claims, cash-for-honours or simply some of them falling asleep. But not on this occasion. Crossbench peer Lady Campbell of Surbiton made parliamentary history yesterday by becoming the first person in 305 years to be allowed to speak with the aid of a personal assistant. Lady Campbell was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy as a baby and relies on a ventilator to breathe. She is able to speak for only minutes at a time.

Why wasn't this allowed in the first place?

Standing Order 12, created in 1707, stipulates, "When the House is sitting, no person shall be on the floor of the House except Lords of Parliament". Lady Campbell had to rely on fellow disabled peers including Baroness Wilkins to finish speeches on her behalf, but in July it was agreed that a "reasonable adjustment" could be made.

And how did the speech go?

Taking part in the second reading debate on the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, she began by reading a thankyou to the House by herself. "I am delighted to return to the Chamber today after a long period of illness. I am even more delighted to be accompanied by my assistant," she said, going on to describe her return as "equality in action". Her assistant then took over, before Lady Campbell addressed the House again to close her arguments.

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