So badly have disabled people fared under this Government that I was content to see it out with a Minister for Disabled People who did nothing but collect his salary; that would have been a better performance than some of your colleagues who get paid for doing harm.

Last Friday, when the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill was talked out, contempt turned to fury. Eighty amendments were tabled at the report stage, ostensibly by backbenchers on their own behalf (though, in the case of Lady Olga Maitland at least, that is very difficult to believe). Amid your protestations, backed by the Prime Minister, that it had the encouragement of the Government but merely suffered from technical flaws, the Bill sank.

In response to a barrage of criticism, you denied complicity in drafting the amendments. Your mate, Tony Newton, the Leader of the House and a former Minister for the Disabled, says you unintentionally misled the House because it was noisy and you were flustered. Poor you.

As I knew before the debate that the drafting of the amendments was a matter of controversy, I presume you did too; and as you were asked at least twice about this, there can't be any excuse. Mr Newton has compounded your sin with another.

We are faced yet again with the question: do we prefer our politicians to be dishonest or incompetent? You and Mr Newton should spare us the choice and resign.

I realise it would have been very difficult for you to stand up and say 'I'm the Minister for Disabled People but I oppose this Bill', but that's your job. Instead , you resorted to the shabby tactic of pretending support while secretly wrecking, damaging the very people you are paid to represent.

I suppose your calculation was that many disabled people can't get out to vote, and most who do vote for the opposition, so you didn't need to bother.

The failure of the Bill means that we still have no rights; we are not equal citizens but rather petitioners pleading for consideration, reminiscent of beggars before a medieval monarch, so why should you bother about us?

The only glimmer of truth to emerge during the debate was the assertion that poor employers couldn't afford to help to guarantee rights for disabled people. Well, I can't afford to be disabled, but whereas people can choose to be employers or not, I have no choice.

We have had the claptrap about 'trickle-down', but after 15 years it hasn't reached us. It would be as well for you to admit that the 'economy' is a machine for the benefit of the rich. You do not even pretend to honour the municipal decencies, patronising at times though they were, which kept disabled people literally out of the gutter.

If I've got any anger left it's for disabled people, their families and carers, who think that grumbling and going on demos make a difference. The difference is in the ballot box.

(Photograph omitted)

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