Speaker ready to step in over mockery of disabled Tory

 

The speaker, John Bercow, could intervene in the case of a Conservative MP who claims he was mocked for his disability while speaking in a House of Commons debate.

Paul Maynard, who suffers from mild cerebral palsy, accused Labour MPs of "pulling faces" in an apparent mimic during a debate about the abolition of the child trust fund last October. A spokeswoman for the Speaker said yesterday that he would welcome a chance to speak to Mr Maynard who was elected as MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys in May.

As the row intensified, Trevor Phillips, the chairman of the Equalities and Human Right Commission, said the disclosure had made him feel physically sick. "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 would have been on CCTV and they would have been whipped out of the ground and not let back. That's one for the Speaker to look at as part of his drive to increase diversity."

Mr Bercow's spokeswoman said: "Debate in the House of Commons chamber should be conducted in an atmosphere of mutual respect. Discrimination or abuse towards any member on any grounds is unacceptable. If Mr Maynard would like to raise any issue the Speaker would welcome a discussion with him."

In an interview with The Times on Saturday, Mr Maynard described how a group Labour MPs were "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."

"Only they know for certain whether they were taking the mick out of my disability. But it felt like it."

Mr Maynard, 35, did not name his tormentors and said that he did not intend to do so and regarded the matter as closed. But one Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, told The Mail on Sunday he was one of a number of MPs told by the party's whip, David Hamilton, to "calm down" during Mr Maynard's speech. "I do remember Mr Hamilton coming over to me. He certainly told me to stop being rowdy," he said. "But I have never attacked anybody – even in a half-joking way – about disability, race or ethnicity."

Labour MP Tom Harris said 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."

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.

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