Author Archives: Celia Thomas

Baroness Celia Thomas writes…Disability rights and Labour wrongs

Who would have thought that a valuable addition to the Licensing Act which would have made life better for disabled people had been scuppered by Labour Peers?  And yet that is what happened on Wednesday evening.

The amendment, which sought to improve the accessibility of licensed entertainment premises (pubs, clubs, restaurants etc.) for disabled people, was tabled by the Chair of the Lords Equality and Disability Committee, Baroness Deech, a crossbencher, and signed by me, as Liberal Democrat Disability Spokesperson, a Labour Peer and another crossbencher.

The Committee, which was set up last year at my suggestion, to look at how the Equality Act was working for disabled people, took evidence from, amongst many others, local authorities and from the National Association of Licence and Enforcement Officers. They were keen to help make premises more accessible but said they needed a small addition to the licensing objectives in the Licensing Act to be able to take action. Without the amendment, a licensing authority can only ‘suggest’ the provision of a ramp, for example, or that a restaurant should not store toilet rolls in the disabled toilet thus making it unusable.  With the amendment, the licensee would be told that if no reasonable adjustments were made, the licence would be in danger of being lost.  

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Baroness Celia Thomas writes…Like a WRAG to a bull

What was the issue which caused the House of Lords to defeat the Government so spectacularly on Wednesday? It was George Osborne’s latest attempt to save on the Welfare Bill by cutting sick benefits.

At the moment, if you aren’t well enough to work, having had the Work Capability Assessment, you are either put into the support group or the work-related activity group. In the support group you don’t have to look for work, but if you are in the work related activity group, you are expected to be able to get back into some kind of work eventually. Under the Bill, those in the work-related activity group (the WRAG) will have their benefit cut to align it with Jobseekers’ Allowance.

The Government say that not enough of those in the WRAG are getting into work, so they want to ‘encourage’ them by cutting their benefits, putting some of the money saved into giving this group more specialised support to get into work. However, there are no details about how this will work.

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Baroness Celia Thomas writes…Derek Ezra 1919-2015

Liberal Democrat peer Derek Ezra died on 22 December 2015 at the age of 96. Celia Thomas remembers him.

Liberal Peers were absolutely delighted when Derek Ezra took the Liberal whip on becoming a Peer in 1983. He was one of the best known men in public life at the time, having been a well-respected Chairman of the Coal Board from 1972 to 1982. He had been a Liberal since university days, he told us, where he joined the Cambridge University Liberal Club in 1936. There he was a friend of Richard Wainwright, who was later to become the Liberal MP for Colne Valley.

A few years later, when war broke out, Derek became a gunner, rising eventually to the rank of Lt. Colonel; he later joined British Intelligence, where he was secretary of the Combined Intelligence Objectives Sub-Committee. After the war, he spent four years in Luxembourg as a member of the UK delegation to the European Coal and Steel Community where he worked with Jean Monnet, largely regarded as the founding father of the European Community. From that time on, Derek was a passionate, but not uncritical, supporter of the European Union.

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Baroness Thomas writes… Getting Personal Independence Payments right

This afternoon the Department of Work and Pensions announces a significant change on the new Personal Independent Payments following significant Lib Dem pressure. Celia Thomas, the Lib Dem peer who has campaigned tirelessly on the issue, explains why it’s a major win.

Getting the rules governing Personal Independence Payments right is vital. The new benefit, which will begin to replace Disability Living Allowance later this year, will have a huge effect on disabled people up and down the country.

I’m broadly in favour of the change to PIP, which seeks to clarify the eligibility of disabled people to this benefit, the purpose …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 15 Comments
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