The government has appointed a commercial lawyer to chair the equality and human rights watchdog, despite MPs raising serious concerns about a potential conflict of interest caused by his firm’s work for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).The Government Equalities Office (GEO) announced this week that David Isaac (pictured) had been chosen to be the next chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), just days after two parliamentary committees refused to approve his appointment.The joint committee on human rights and the Commons women and equalities committee said last week that there was a “serious potential conflict of interest” relating to Isaac’s role as a partner at the law firm Pinsent Masons, which has a “significant amount of business with the government”, including DWP.They also warned that appointing Isaac – a former chair of the gay rights charity Stonewall – as EHRC’s chair could put at risk the commission’s prestigious “A” status as a national human rights institution.As a result of their concerns, and following a hearing at which Isaac gave evidence, the two committees said they were “unable to recommend that this appointment should proceed”.Despite that conclusion, the education secretary Nicky Morgan, who is also minister for women and equalities, this week confirmed her decision to appoint Isaac as EHRC’s new chair, following what she described as a “rigorous appointment process”.Earlier this month, Disability News Service (DNS) reported concerns at the government links of both Isaac and EHRC’s disability commissioner, the disabled Tory peer Lord [Chris] Holmes, as the commission prepared to investigate whether Conservative welfare reforms have breached the human rights of disabled people.Isaac has specialised in his work at Pinsent Masons on providing advice on “major public and private sector UK and global commercial and outsourcing projects”, but the company has refused to tell DNS which outsourcing projects he has worked on for DWP, leading to the possibility that he could have been involved in some of the reforms EHRC will now be investigating.In a letter to the chairs of the two committees this week, Morgan said she was “satisfied that any potential conflicts can and will be addressed”, that Isaac would not receive any profits as an equity partner from work carried out by Pinsent Masons on behalf of the government, and that he would not be involved in advising the firm’s government clients while he remained as EHRC chair.Morgan said in a statement: “I’m thrilled to offer David Isaac the position of chair of the EHRC.“David Isaac has an impressive track record and brings a range of experience both from his work on LGBT issues and human rights and as an experienced lawyer.“We are confident that in his role as chair of the EHRC he will be a strong and effective advocate for equality and human rights in Britain.”Isaac said in a statement: “I am delighted to have been offered this important role which is fundamental to driving equality and human rights in England, Scotland and Wales.“I look forward to further discussions with the EHRC with the intention of accepting the role in due course.”The two committees will now publish a report following the evidence hearing and the exchange of letters, and were not able to comment this week about Morgan’s decision to proceed with Isaac’s appointment.GEO declined to comment on the decision to ignore the committees’ concerns and appoint Isaac.EHRC also declined to comment on the decision to appoint Isaac, despite the concerns about conflict of interest.But the commission’s interim chair Caroline Waters said in a statement that she was “confident that David Isaac has all the skills, experience, commitment and integrity needed to lead the commission”.
Disabled activists have welcomed the decision of the equality watchdog’s disability commissioner not to seek a second four-year term.The decision of Lord [Chris] Holmes was only revealed after the Department for Education (DfE), the sponsor department of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), advertised for “one or more” new commissioners.The advert says that one of the successful candidates will be the new disability commissioner, and that – like the commission’s previous disability commissioners – they will be someone who is or has been a disabled person.The closing date for the appointment was on Tuesday this week (1 November), with interviews set to take place next month.As well as acting as an EHRC commissioner, the successful candidate will also chair the commission’s disability committee, although the committee is set to be disbanded in 2017 and replaced by an advisory group that will not have the same legal powers to make decisions on issues affecting disabled people.Concerns about the tenure of Lord Holmes (pictured) were first raised when he was made a Conservative peer, only seven months after his appointment as disability commissioner in 2013.These concerns resurfaced earlier this year when EHRC announced that it had commissioned a major piece of research into whether the government’s welfare reforms had harmed the human rights of disabled people and other minority groups.Disability Rights UK (DR UK) pointed out that Lord Holmes had voted in favour of many of those reforms after he joined the House of Lords, including cutting payments by £30 a week for some new employment and support allowance claimants, and it raised concerns over how disabled people could have confidence in the inquiry “whilst Lord Holmes has his position as a commissioner and chair of the EHRC’s disability committee”.The following week, a letter calling on him to resign as disability commissioner was sent to EHRC by disabled activist Susan Archibald, after being signed by several leading disabled people and campaigning organisations, including Disabled People Against Cuts, Black Triangle, Pat’s Petition and the Spartacus online campaigning network.Several of the disabled activists who signed the letter have now welcomed his decision not to seek another term as disability commissioner.Professor Peter Beresford, co-chair of the national service-user network Shaping Our Lives, said: “Lord Holmes’ decision not to seek to renew his miserable term as EHRC disability commissioner is important for only one thing.“It means that the government will be forced out into the open about its official attitude to disabled people’s human and civil rights by the kind of appointment it supports.“This is what we should be watching very carefully and doing all we can to raise the profile of the decision-making process.“We can expect little of this government given its record so far.“But we may be able shine some light onto the reality of the prime minister’s rhetoric of her support for people’s rights and freedoms.”Archibald said: “I am very happy he has decided to finally resign, as now disabled people in UK can get someone worthy of this title.“He gave up the right to be recognised as a disability leader when he decided to vote against the very people he should be representing in the House of Lords.”Linda Burnip, co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts, added: “This early resignation shows how little commitment he had for the job and supports our view that he should never have been appointed.”Before that appointment, Lord Holmes had been director of Paralympic integration for the London 2012 organising committee LOCOG, and served as a commissioner with the Disability Rights Commission for more than five years.A commercial lawyer, he won nine Paralympic swimming gold medals, including six at the Barcelona Paralympics of 1992.Among his achievements as disability commissioner, he championed a new engagement strategy for the committee, with meetings each year in Scotland, Wales and in one of the English regions, when previously they were all held in London.He has spoken out on issues such as disability hate crime, the inaccessibility of many Premier League football stadiums, the safety of shared space street developments, and the “disappointing” number of disabled people on the boards of the country’s major disability sports organisations.He also criticised his own government for refusing to reopen the Access to Elected Office Fund, which provided financial support for disabled people who want to stand for election to parliament or local councils.But the commission has appointed non-disabled people to the disability committee for the first time under his leadership, while he has also been unable to prevent the government deciding to scrap the committee and replace it with an advisory group.Lord Holmes declined to talk to Disability News Service about his decision to quit the watchdog, but he said in a statement: “It has been an honour to serve as disability commissioner over the last four years, and I am very proud of the work we have done in this time across many issues which impact upon disabled people every day.“This has included inquiries into disability hate crime, ensuring access to Premier League football stadia, promoting greater diversity in broadcast media, and our continued work on improving access to public transport, to name a few recent examples. “We have also taken landmark legal cases, not least Stott versus Thomas Cook and Paulley versus First Bus.“We have an excellent group of experts around the table at the [EHRC’s] disability committee who I was privileged to bring on board. After four years, it feels like the right time to move on.“My commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion remains complete as demonstrated in much of my other work, not least in relation to shared space. “I wish the new disability commissioner, when they are appointed, every success.”
The left took over the executive of Streatham Labour at its latest annual general meeting on Thursday evening, winning almost every post.Dr Valerie Coultas was elected as chair of the local party by 197 votes to 183, while anti-Brexit campaigner Seema Syeda and lawyer Axel Landin were chosen as co-secretaries.In response to the results, ex-Labour MP Mike Gapes tweeted that Coultas had been a “leading member of the International Marxist Group in the NUS”. The new chair was active in the group in the 1970s, then a journalist for Socialist Action in the 1980s.Streatham Labour recently voted to adopt an all-member meeting (AMM) local party structure, which was key in helping the left to secure wins last night.Described as “the former south London heartland of Progress” by left-wing anti-Brexit activist Michael Chessum, Labour left members in Streatham are now looking forward to selecting a Corbynite candidate who may go up against The Independent Group’s Chuka Umunna.Ahead of the AGM, local London Assembly Member Florence Eshalomi sent out a letter and leaflet by post to all members. Providing a map and details of the meeting, the AM urged them to vote for the Corbynsceptic slate of candidates.Referring to the new AMM structure, Eshalomi’s letter read: “There are members of the local Labour Party who want to use this new system to as a mechanism to deselect local councillors and me… We need your help to stop that happening.”Eshalomi is expected to stand in the upcoming parliamentary selection in Streatham, which could be subject to an all-women shortlist.Tags:Chuka Umunna /Mike Gapes /Florence Eshalomi /Michael Chessum /Axel Landin /Streatham Labour /Seema Syeda /
SCOTT Moore and Tom Armstrong return to Saints’ 19-man squad for Friday’s Engage Super League clash with Warrington.Michael Shenton misses out with an ankle injury whilst Matty Ashurst has been omitted.The squad is:1. Paul Wellens, 4. Sia Soliola, 5. Francis Meli, 7. Kyle Eastmond, 8. Josh Perry, 9. James Roby (pictured), 10. James Graham, 11. Tony Puletua, 12. Jon Wilkin, 13. Chris Flannery, 14. Scott Moore, 15. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 19. Andrew Dixon, 20. Jonny Lomax, 21. Shaun Magennis, 22. Jamie Foster, 24. Tom Armstrong, 25. Lee Gaskell, 28. Thomas Makinson.Tony Smith, Warrington’s Head Coach will choose from:1. Brett Hodgson, 3. Matt King, 4. Chris Bridge, 6. Lee Briers, 7. Richie Myler, 8. Adrian Morley, 9. Michael Monaghan, 10. Gareth Carvell, 12. Ben Westwood, 13. Ben Harrison, 14. Mickey Higham, 15. Jon Clarke, 16. Paul Wood, 17. Simon Grix, 18. Mike Cooper, 20. Matty Blythe, 22. Rhys Williams, 23. Ryan Atkins, 26. David Solomona.The match kicks off at 8pm and the referee is Richard Silverwood.If you can’t make the match, it will be covered extensively in the Match Centre as well as on Saints’ Official Twitter and Facebook sites.Tickets for the match are still on sale at the Saints Superstore in St Helens Town Centre, by calling 01744 455 052 or by logging on to www.saintssuperstore.comStats: Warrington are seeking their first ever Halliwell Jones Stadium win against St Helens on Friday night. The Saints have won all eleven of their away games at Warrington since the stadium opened in 2004.The Saints have won all but four of their Super League matches against Warrington, with the Wolves’ two wins coming at Wilderspool (56-22 on 20 April, 2001) and Widnes’ Stobart Stadium in February.Last ten meetings:St Helens 18 Warrington 25 (SLR3, 25/2/11)St Helens 28 Warrington 12 (SLQPO, 10/9/10)Warrington 24 St Helens 26 (SLR24, 31/7/10)St Helens 28 Warrington 18 (SLR7, 19/3/10)Warrington 26 St Helens 40 (SLR20, 11/7/09)St Helens 26 Warrington 14 (SLR1, 13/2/09)St Helens 17 Warrington 16 (SLR24, 9/8/08)St Helens 40 Warrington 34 (CCR5, 10/5/08)Warrington 22 St Helens 30 (SLR12, 25/4/08)St Helens 30 Warrington 22 (SLR2, 15/2/08)Super League Summary:Warrington won 2St Helens won 35 (including 1 win in 2010 play-offs)2 drawsWarrington highest score: 56-22 (H, 2001) (also widest margin)St Helens highest score: 72-2 (H, 2002) (also widest margin)
LANCE Hohaia has no doubt Saints will regain the form that has eluded them so far this season.The 28-year-old utility back says they’ve been unlucky at times over the last few weeks but they haven’t played anywhere near as well as he expects.“We’ve played well in parts over our last three games but I don’t think our form has been great all year,” he said. “We didn’t play well in our trial game either. Perhaps there are a few doubts after the Grand Final? Five losses in five years can be tough to get over mentally.“Huddersfield was a tough game and it won’t get easier this week. We were off our best and we know we have 20 odd games to fix that up. We are training very hard.“In the end they handled the pressure better than we did; Danny Brough took hold of the game late on and we needed to do that. The onus is on everyone in the team to take ownership of that. We had a huge lead against Catalans and defensively we let it go. That’s one area we can do better.“One thing I have noticed about St Helens is that we are expected to win every week – and that’s a pressure everyone has – and rightly so. We have a great squad here. We are only five games into the season but we know we need to string some performances together.“Yes, we’ve lost by one or two points, and they have been close games… but that makes no difference. You’re not going to win games if you leak 34 points.”Lance agreed a four-year deal to join the Saints after a successful career at New Zealand Warriors.He signed as a half-back but hasn’t had much chance to show the fans what he can do in that position.“It’s going well on and off the field for me and I’m reasonably happy with my form. I have spoken to Royce and he wants to play me in the halves but we have other guys who are going well and I need to do what’s best for the team.“Over the next few weeks that will be me playing at hooker. In the end I’ve been in the 17 each week and I’m happy.“When I fired signed I watched a lot of games so I well aware of the calibre of talent here with Lee Gaskell, Jonny Lomax and Gary Wheeler as well as the outside backs like Tommy Makinson. They are all pushing for places and it’s good for competition and no different from what I am used to. That is what pro sports is all about.“I’m here for four years and what happens in the future depends on all sorts of factors. I am patient and know I need to be confident and play well. At this stage I am happy to play hooker, standoff, wherever. As long as I am in the team I’m happy. We have a very professional team and a great facility so I am looking forward to my time here.”Off the field Lance is expecting another arrival soon – his partner is pregnant.“I’ll be a dad I three months, it’s my first child and all adds to the challenge. I’ve come here; we’re having a baby and experiencing a whole new culture. The baby will have a Kiwi Dad, American Mum and will be born in Britain!”