Private Members Bills: The Right and Wrong

Last Friday I ensured I was present in the Commons to support a proposed private members bill - on the use of force in Mental Health Units.  As so often this Bill originates from a specific incident in the constituency of the proposer which highlighted the need for reform:  the tragic death of 23 year old Seni Lewis while being restrained in an isolation cell. The provisions of this Bill, which include mandatory training and stringent recording puts Mental Health Units on a par with other parts of the public service and will provide the UK with the best  legal protections for these vulnerable people in the world.

Although it didn’t achieve all its Commons stages the Bill made huge progress and will soon continue to the Lords and onto the statute book. 

Unsurprisingly it was not the progress of that Bill that hit the headlines!

Modern mobile phones mean that cameras are now almost universal.  This is a good thing.  Their misuse is not.  “Upskirting” in which intimate photographs are covertly taken is, plain and simple, a form of abuse.  It is a source of concern for many women and incidents have provoked understandable outrage.  What is worse is that the law doesn’t recognise the offence.  This needs addressing.

A bill to plug this gap has overwhelming (I actually think universal) support.  Unfortunately we didn’t get to debate it on Friday.  Of course changing the law has to be a serious deliberative process and there are some frankly poor bills that don’t deserve to be waved through for close scrutiny in committee. However I had zero hesitation in thinking the Upskirting Bill should be taken through: a view very widely held.

I was angry that one MP took it upon himself to block the proposal.  The fact that he did so on grounds of process not content makes it no better - it simply risks bringing the Commons into disrepute.   It was wrong.

Happily this Bill is not dead.  The Prime Minister is absolutely clear that time will be found to progress the new law:  the sooner the better.  


Photo caption: I have enjoyed two recent visits to Holy Trinity School, Lower Beeding.  These comprised fabulous fete organised to raise money for Harrisons Fund (supporting research in Duchennes Syndrome) and an assembly and meeting with the school council (pictured above)