This week's column for the Croydon Advertiser: Two Private Members Bills worthy of support
Most of the changes to the law that Parliament spends its time discussing are proposed by the Government, but each year a small number of MPs – chosen by a random ballot – get a chance to propose their own ideas. Last year, both Croydon South MP Richard Ottaway and I were lucky enough to have our names drawn out of the proverbial hat. Richard brought forward a Bill to deal with the growing problem of the metal theft by better regulating the scrap metal industry and I brought forward a Bill to tackle discrimination against those with mental health conditions, both of which became law.
On 19th June, the MPs who got lucky in this year’s ballot published their proposals and there were two which caught my eye.
Graham Evans, the MP for Weaver Vale in Cheshire, introduced a Bill to ensure that people who, in the course of investigations of driving offences, provide blood or urine samples that reveal the presence of certain drugs are assessed for drug dependency and get the necessary treatment. This builds on the work I did with The Croydon Advertiser and the family of Lillian Groves, who was killed outside her home in New Addington by a driver under the influence of drugs, to tackle the growing problem of drug driving.
James Wharton, the MP for Stockton South, introduced a Bill to ensure we get a referendum on our membership of the European Union (EU). Whatever your views of the EU – whether you’re a passionate supporter, you want us to get out or, like me, you like some aspects of it but are unhappy about others – I hope you agree that this is such an important issue and one that has dogged British politics for so long that it has to be right to let the people of this country, not us politicians, decide. Anyone under the age of 55 has never had a chance to have their say and many of the people who did get a say in the 1975 referendum tell me that the EU today is very different from the Common Market we joined.
James’s Bill will be debated on 5th July. Many people have been campaigning for a referendum for a long time so this is going to be a big Parliamentary occasion - I hope Croydon’s other two MPs, Richard Ottaway and Steve Reed, will be there to support it. If you’re a strong supporter of a referendum, you can publicly co-sponsor the Bill at www.facebook.com/LetBritainDecide.