Posted by Neil Crowther on Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Yesterday at a joint meeting between the Minister for Disabled People Maria Miller and the various disability-focused All Party Parliamentary Groups, Baroness Campbell was heard to liken government policies on disability to 'building a nuclear power station on a fault-line without thinking what would happen if there were an earthquake'.
Now I may have misheard what Baroness Campbell said because the line was already formed in my head, having discussed it with Jane. It may have got lost in delivery or in translation. Only the transcript of the session itself can answer that question. So this is not a question of rebuttal or of questioning the ethics of those who report such things.
But it is important to clarify what the purpose of the comment was. Yes, the comparison was designed to communicate the gravity of the situation and that the potential for damaging effects was sufficiently evident to make a guess as to the risks. Had the analogy been 'like going out without an umbrella, while there are grey clouds in the sky' the same point could have been made, but it perhaps wouldn't have enjoyed quite the impact.
But the real point being made concerned the Minister's insistence (included in the government's response to the Joint Committee on Human Rights' report on independent living) that cumulative impact couldn't be assessed until decisions were made or policy had taken effect. Following this logic, risks would only be identified once it was too late to reverse them or to mitigate their effects. Such an understanding of the Equality Duty also flies in the face of case law.
I can confirm that it was designed to highlight the absurdity of the government's case for having so far failed to conduct a proper cumulative impact assessment, not to actually liken the government's disability policies to impending nuclear armaggedon, as some may choose to report.