Equalities chief condemns abuse of disabled MP

Equalities chief Trevor Phillips told today how MPs who mocked a colleague over his disability made him feel "physically sick".

Mr Phillips said the abuse of Tory MP Paul Maynard, who suffers from cerebral palsy, was "shocking". He said the MPs would have been banned had they been caught on CCTV at a football match.

But the chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission said he would not be intervening in the Top Gear race row, sparked after presenter Richard Hammond referred to Mexicans as "lazy" and "feckless".

Mr Phillips told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show: "I am not going to get hot under the collar about schoolboy provocation which frankly is organised so that we can get in to a ruck and sell more DVDs for Jeremy Clarkson.

"Jeremy is rich enough. I don't need to get in to that. I am bothered about what he said. It's juvenile, it's vulgar, it's unacceptable but that's for broadcasters and columnists to argue about. It's not for the law."

He told Marr: "We need to deal with more serious things. The other issue that you dealt with is the Paul Maynard MP problem, where he was obviously being mocked, according to his account, by other Members of Parliament.

"That to me is shocking. I felt physically sick when I read about it. If that had happened in a football ground, the people doing the mocking him would have been on CCTV and they would have whipped out of the ground and not let back.

"That's one for the Speaker (John Bercow) to look at as part of his drive to increase diversity."

Mr Maynard was elected as the Conservative MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys last May.

In an interview with The Times, Mr Maynard accused Labour MPs of "pulling faces" at him in an apparent mimic.

He said: "They were constantly intervening, trying to put me off my stride, which may be just normal parliamentary tactics.

"But some were pulling faces at me, 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 felt like it."

Other MPs confirmed that the incident had taken place, during a debate about the abolition of the child trust fund last October.

The incident calls into question the sometimes highly aggressive and confrontational nature of the House of Commons. It may also undermine efforts to increase diversity in parliament.

Mr Maynard, 35, has not named his tormentors, but a Labour party source told the Mail on Sunday the behaviour of some MPs was "disgusting", describing them as a "pack of hyenas".

Labour's Tom Blenkinsop (Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland) told the newspaper he was one of a number of MPs told by the party's whip David Hamilton to "calm down" during Mr Maynard's speech.

He added: "I do remember Mr Hamilton coming over to me. He certainly told me to stop being rowdy. But I have never attacked anybody - even in a half-joking way - about disability, race or ethnicity."

A spokeswoman for Commons Speaker John Bercow said "discrimination or abuse towards any Member on any grounds is not acceptable".

She added: "Debate in the House of Commons chamber should be conducted in an atmosphere of mutual respect and robust but dignified discussion."

On his personal website, Mr Maynard describes his cerebral palsy as "very mild" and says it does not especially affect the way he lives.

But he acknowledges: "It probably affects the way some people see me, and there will always be people who write you off because of it - but I've never let them stop me."

He was diagnosed with epilepsy too when he was 22, an event he says which was "a shock" and forced him to give up alcohol.

Labour MP Tom Harris earlier told BBC Radio 5 Live MPs would not have deliberately mocked somebody for having a disability.

He said: "There is not a single member of the House of Commons or any party who would deliberately attack or criticise or mock anyone for a disability."

Mr Harris, who was not present at the time, said he understood people were jeering until they realised there was "another issue".

He said: "Nobody knew about Paul's disability. If anyone did know about it and still made fun of him that is absolutely appalling and unforgivable."

He said in the period after the election the atmosphere in the House was at "fever pitch".

And he said it was in the nature of the Commons that anybody who made a long deliberate pause, like Mr Maynard did before speaking, would have been made to "pay the price".

Mr Phillips said Sky was right to dismiss football pundit Andy Gray after he and presenter Richard Keys were caught making sexist remarks off-air about football official Sian Massey. Keys subsequently resigned.

Refuting suggestions his Commission was no longer he needed, Mr Phillips told Andrew Marr: "Somebody has got to enforce the laws. My slogan for this is we want people to do the right thing when we are not in the room but they have got to know we are outside the room ready to step in.

"There's been a change. Sky: they did the right thing on the Andy Gray, Richard Keys thing but we didn't have to ring them up. They did the right thing. We are in a different place where we can be more proactive, preventative. That's our job."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor