Parliamentary history was made yesterday after a disabled peer gave a speech in the House of Lords with the aid of her personal assistant for the first time.
Crossbencher Baroness Campbell of Surbiton, who uses a wheelchair, thanked fellow peers at the start of her contribution for agreeing to alter a long-standing parliamentary rule following her request.
Baroness Campbell, a former commissioner of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, previously asked the procedure committee whether she would be allowed to use an assistant to provide help in taking notes and sometimes to read out the text on her behalf.
According to the existing rule, which dates from 1707: “When the House is sitting, no person shall be on the floor of the House except Lords of Parliament and such other persons as assist or attend the House.”
However, the committee concluded her request was “reasonable”, stating: “We therefore recommend that Standing Order 12 be dispensed with to the extent necessary to enable Baroness Campbell of Surbiton’s assistant to enter the chamber of the House, or any committee of the House, in order to provide her with necessary practical and personal help, and to read out the text of speeches on her behalf.”
Baroness Campbell told peers she was “delighted” to return to the chamber after a long period of illness.