The debate included discussion of the recommendations of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission and how the Foreign and Commonwealth Office pursues human rights questions.
Baroness Hollin shared her concerns about the rights of people living with learning disabilities: ‘people who are seen as different, and whose humanity is often not recognised.’
The Baroness referred to the Bucharest declaration and action plan ‘Better Health, Better Lives’ about improving the health and well-being of children with learning disabilities and their families which, as chair of the steering group, she introduced at a World Health Organisation European conference recently.
Eastern Europe countries are not the only ones to fail children. In countries throughout the world disabled children and their families experience discrimination, neglect and abuse in institutions and lack support, she said. Negative attitudes and stereotypes are the norm. These are human rights issues. Baroness Hollins outlined one of the declaration’s priorities: ‘The first priority of the Bucharest declaration—to protect children from harm and abuse—recommends that legislation should be reviewed to ensure that it meets human rights standards, especially those set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the United Nations convention on the rights of disabled persons, both of which this Parliament has ratified.’
Baroness Hollins commended the UK’s progress in planning for and meeting the needs of these children and their families offers important lessons for other European countries: ‘If we can get it right for people with learning disabilities, we can get it right for other citizens.’
In her closing remarks Baroness Hollins expressed her hope that other Members of the Lords would join her in ‘in promoting policy that makes a real difference in people’s lives, by putting disabled people at the centre of the human rights debate.’
Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench) opened the debate. Other speakers included:
- Baroness O’Loan (Crossbench), former chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission inquiry of human rights
- Earl of Sandwich (Crossbench), adviser to Anti-Slavery International
- Lord Avebury (Liberal Democrat), patron to several humanitarian projects and groups
- Lord Howe of Aberavon (Conservative), former Foreign Secretary
- Lord Luce (Crossbench), former Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
- Lord Harries of Pentregarth (Crossbench), former consultant to the Anglican Peace and Justice Network
- Lord Wright of Richmond (Crossbench), member of the House of Lords EU Sub-Committee on Justice and Institutions
- Lord Sacks (Crossbench), Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth
Lord Desai, the Bishop of Wakefield, Lord Anderson of Swansea, Lord Browne of Ladyton, Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick, Baroness Morris of Bolton, Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean and Lord Taylor of Warwick also participated in the debate. Lord Howell of Guildford responded on behalf of the government.
The term ‘maiden speech’ refers to the first time a new Member gives a speech in the House of the Lords. A maiden speech usually takes place during a general debate and is uncontroversial.
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