Lord Holmes MBE

Member of the House of Lords of the United Kingdom

Britain’s most successful Paralympic swimmer and an active member of the House of Lords with a policy focus on digital technology for public good.

Chris is a passionate advocate for the potential of technology and the benefits of diversity and inclusion with a particular interest in technologies such as AI and blockchain and areas of application such as fintech and trade.

In Parliament, he specializes in legislation that deals with technology and inclusion, introducing Private Members Bills on the regulation of artificial intelligence and banning unpaid work experience. He was integral to the passing of the ground-breaking Electronic Trade Documents Bill.

On technology, he has previously co-authored House of Lords Select Committee Reports on: Democracy and Digital Technologies [2020], Artificial Intelligence [2018], and Digital Skills [2015] and under his own auspices published an influential report encouraging government testing of blockchain solutions for policy delivery, DLT for Public Good: leadership, collaboration and innovation [2017] He is also adviser to several tech and fintech companies.

On inclusion, and again under his own auspices, he has published influential reports on accessibility in the public realm and support for disabled students as well as Lords reports on Financial Exclusion [2017], Social Mobility [2016] and, for the Cabinet Office, The Lord Holmes Review on opening up public appointments to disabled people. He continues to advise the government of diversity and inclusion.

Early life

As a boy Chris was a promising sportsman; on school teams for most sports and academically gifted with a distinct ambition to get to Cambridge University, by no means a normal next step from the Kidderminster Comprehensive he attended. At the age of 14 and completely unexpectedly Chris went blind overnight. His extraordinary courage and determination took him back into the pool, and just four years later to straight A’s for his A-levels and a place at Cambridge. At the end of his first year at Cambridge he won a record-breaking six gold medals at the Barcelona Paralympics.

In total Chris won nine gold medals, including the record six gold medals at a single Paralympics. He gained a string of World and European titles, broke 35 world records and was awarded an MBE for services to British sport at the age of 20. He was member of the Great Britain swimming team for seventeen years and captain for five.

Career

After retiring from competitive swimming Chris worked as a journalist before qualifying and working as a commercial lawyer specialising in employment and pensions. He also took non-Executive Director roles at the Disability Rights Commission and UK Sport and was an Ambassador for the successful London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic bid.

In 2009 Chris was appointed Director of Paralympic Integration for London 2012. In this role, Chris drew on political skills, strategic know-how and his incredible determination to deliver the most successful Paralympics ever. It worked. London 2012 was the first games to have all sponsors signed to both Olympics and Paralympics, the first games to sell out all the stadia for every session and, incredibly, the first games to achieve worldwide television audiences in the hundreds of millions.

In recognition of Chris’s talents and contribution to the country he was invited by the Prime Minister to enter the House of Lords. Chris relishes this political role and his experiences navigating the ancient corridors of power with his guide dog, Nancy, offer numerous entertaining anecdotes.

Chris’s legal background stood him in good stead as non-Executive Director at the Equality and Human Rights Commission (2013-2017) where he headed up the Disability Committee and was responsible for important diversity and inclusion programmes, ranging from sport to broadcasting and precedent setting legal action concerned with the Equality Act 2010 and establishing principles around accessibility and inclusion.