The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities - Human Rights Joint Committee Contents

Memorandum submitted by Ray Fletcher

  I am writing as a private individual to the Committee pleading with the Committee to press the Government to support the Convention and Protocol in full with no reservations.

  In doing this the UK Government would be acting after many other countries have already done so but would at least be signalling that we as a nation believe wholeheartedly in the rights of disabled people in all aspects of their life.

  I would remind the Committee that the UK took a lead in the 1970's when under Harold Wilson the then Labour Government appointed Alf Morris as the world's first ever Minister with special responsibilities for Disabled People.

  The UK Government were a little slower than some other countries in introducing formal legislation to prevent discrimination but at least with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 we made a major step forward and were amongst the leaders in introducing such legislation. This has been further progressed since then with extensions to the original act under Maria Eagle's guidance.

  Overall therefore the UK has been at the forefront of change for disabled people since the 1970's but on this Convention there appears to be a marked reluctance to embrace the principles and practicalities that go with the convention.

  There is no reason why this should be the case. All of us are committed to full inclusion of disabled people in all areas of life and this convention reinforces that aim.

  Reservations, amendments or exclusions in ratifying the convention and protocol in my personal view indicates a reluctance to really commit to achieving full inclusion of disabled people and in the process undermines the governments' own disability strategy.

  The UN convention has come about because of particular initiatives and campaigns and the UK was the birthplace of one of the key building bricks in developing to the Convention.

  In 1999 Lord Morris of Manchester presented a Charter for the Third Millennium to RI's World Congress held in London. Alf himself chaired the group that drew up the Charter which included Archbishop Desmond Tutu; Professor Stephen Hawking; the then Commonwealth Secretary HE Emeka Anyaoku; together with notable representatives from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, India, Hong Kong, Russia, China and the USA.

  The UK therefore had a major part to play in bringing this Convention into life and it is a tragedy that this nation of progressive thinkers has held back on fully ratifying the convention and protocol.

  Now is the time to do it. No reservations. No excuses. Just do it!

6 November 2008

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