Stephen Tall told us all about the private members' bills brought in by Tory MPs in their "alternative Queen's Speech" - everything from burka banning to reintroducing the death penalty to naming the August Bank Holiday after Margaret Thatcher.
I thought I'd look into the measures the Liberal Democrats who were successful in the Great Parliamentary Raffle are hoping to bring into law. As you might expect, they're a bit more practical and relevant.
Sir Malcolm Bruce's Bill is all about improving communications support for deaf people. Signature has more details:
Sir Malcolm is a tireless advocate for the deaf community and is keen to use this opportunity to improve the everyday communication experiences of deaf and hard of hearing people...
The main aims of the bill are to establish a body that oversees British Sign Language (BSL) training, BSL teaching and supports deaf and hard of hearing children in schools.
The full title is "a Bill to establish a body to assess provision of communication support for deaf people and to make recommendations; and for connected purposes". The short title of the bill has been confirmed as Communication Support (Deafness) Bill.
It would have been surprising if Mike Crockart hadn't produced a bill aimed at tackling nuisance calls. His campaign on the subject continues to gather support. Which? magazine is supporting his bill:
Backing Mike Crockart MP’s Private Members’ Bill which aims to change the laws around how personal data is used and to give regulators more powers to tackle companies which breaks the rules, Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said:
“People are sick and tired of being bombarded with nuisance calls and texts. The current system is failing the public and given the scale of this problem, it’s time for the Government to step in.
“We urgently need to see a new approach, new laws and new technology to tackle this scourge on people’s lives. We hope MPs get behind this bill to strengthen the law on consent and put people back in control of their personal data.”
Last Christmas, Tavish Scott highlighted that Christmas would be cancelled if Santa had to pay the extortionate delivery charges often levied on parts of rural Scotland. Robert Smith agrees and his bill aims to force retailers to be more upfront about these charges. He said:
Some of the extra charges made by online couriers to deliver to parts of Scotland are just outrageous. Retailers need to think about finding more reasonable ways to deliver their products to rural areas. One option is to deliver goods by Royal Mail which charges one price to deliver anywhere in the UK. Alternatively retailers need to think about using couriers that charge more reasonable amounts for delivery in Scotland.
People in rural Scotland and on the Islands understand that products may take a little longer to arrive, but the additional cost charged by some companies just seems out of all proportion.
Finally, Mark Williams concentrates on child protection and updating the definition of what constitutes cruelty. I will warn you that his explanation makes heartbreaking reading:
As a result, the 1868 Act stated that ‘wilful neglect’ was a criminal offence if the health of the child was or was likely to be ‘seriously injured’. The 1868 Act’s replacement in 1933 refers to the same requirement for neglect to be ‘wilful’, and for the child to be subjected to ‘unnecessary suffering’, and this only on a physical level, in order for that neglect to be criminal.
In my view there is no ‘acceptable’ level of suffering for children, and yet our laws in the United Kingdom currently assume that there is.
That needs to change – it cannot be the case that the ‘accidental’ neglect of children (that is to say there is nothing ‘wilful’ in the neglect) is not considered a criminal offence, and that no sanctions exist to tackle psychological and emotional child neglect – this is despite expert opinions suggesting that psychological neglect is the most destructive form of abuse.
I have encountered a number of harrowing tales since choosing to become involved in Action for Children’s campaign on Child Neglect. In one case, an individual child was openly told by his stepfather that he was hated; he was forced to go to bed before his siblings, at 6.30pm, and regularly wet his bed because his room was not lit, to the extent that maggots were found in the mattress. The child was persistently criticised, refused affection and told he wasn’t wanted; was socially isolated, prevented from playing with his siblings, and was used as a scapegoat for the family’s problems.
Yet, this is not considered criminal neglect by our laws and the police are, as such, powerless to intervene. When the child was finally removed to live with his grandmother, the hatred passed on to one of his younger siblings, who was only removed two years later.
All in all, a much more sensible package of measures. If you want these to have any chance of success, it'll be down to lobbying MPs and government ministers to give them support and time, so get to it.