The week at Westminster: Lillian’s Law in Queen’s Speech

ANDREW PELLING reviews the House of Commons work of the area’s MPs

So that’s the first extended session of this Parliament over. The Queen’s Speech comes tomorrow.

Lillian Groves, the New Addington teenager killed by a drug driver. A law is proposed in the Queen’s Speech which is tribute to campaigning by her family and local MP

Gavin Barwell, the Conservative MP for Croydon Central, can look forward with deserved satisfaction at the inclusion of an undertaking to introduce legislation to prohibit drug driving, popularly named “Lillian’s Law”, after the campaign of Lillian Groves’ parents for more effective testing and thus greater punishment of drivers for drug driving.

Lillian Groves was hit by a car near her home in New Addington and died later in hospital. The driver, who had been taking cannabis, was not tested for drugs until hours after the accident, so limiting the case to be made in court.

Now, thanks in some part to some genuinely strong, local campaigning journalism by the Advertiser Group, drug driving should soon be subject to comparable laws to drink driving.

In the last days of the parliamentary session last month, Richard Ottaway was also at the centre of affairs in the Croydon South MP’s role as chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, when he received a response from William Hague on whether the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had really followed the death in suspicious circumstances of British businessman Neil Heywood in China.

Hague’s letter suggests that the FCO did not take “an uncorroborated report” surrounding the circumstances of Heywood’s death very seriously. The letter is at pains to state that Heywood was not a British agent. Hague states that, “Mr Heywood was not an employee of the British Government in any capacity.”

By contrast, Ottaway was also involved in more domestic sporting matters when he supported a motion on lacrosse. This was a cross-party effort (no pun intended), with the likes of Labour front-bencher Andy Burnham, supporting the efforts of the English Lacrosse Association to host the 2017 women’s World Cup in Guildford.

Barwell continued to earn his spurs (but no extra cash – the job is unpaid) as a Parliamentary Private Secretary in providing supportive questions whenever the government had an omnishambles issue dragged to parliament by Speaker Bercow.

Appropriately supine questions were posed on Jeremy Hunt relationship with the Murdochs to both Hunt and to David Cameron. Damian Green was asked a patsy question on the lengthy queues at airport passport controls.

Barwell also asked junior Home Office minister James Brokenshire on the matter of how the Stephen Lawrence murder case was mishandled by the police, demanding “swift answers to these latest allegations in a way that instils public confidence, not just for the sake of Stephen’s family, but because of the urgent need to build confidence in our police among black and minority ethnic communities and because a single allegation of corruption or racism against one officer undoes all the good work that so many officers do on our streets”.

It was a question to which at least one of Barwell’s erstwhile colleagues on Croydon Council will have paid particular close attention.

LibDem MP Tom Brake: busy at Westminster

Tom Brake, Carshalton and Wallington’s Liberal Democrat MP, asked about the Lawrence inquiry as well, and on airport queues raised the sensitive issue of passenger profiling – which might entail waving through white families returning from Malaga but questioning south Asian ethnic families in more detail.

Brake also gave a speech on EU rules on controlling data appropriately used in such profiling and in criminal investigations. Brake posed a question on how many residents in Carshalton and Wallington would be taken out of the tax band altogether by government tax changes. He was to be disappointed. The civil servant drafting the answer would not speculate, so that’s one thing that will not be appearing on the latest LibDem Focus leaflet in Sutton. The best the civil servant drafted answer could give was that 30,000 Londoners will come out of the tax band this year and a further 97,000 next year.

Plenty of votes to wind up the session with our LibDem and Conservative representatives voting to open the door to extra Sunday trading during the Olympics, a move seen as leading to a complete secularisation of the Christian Sabbath soon.

Labour MPs voted against the timetabling motion on Sunday trading, but this did not include Malcolm Wicks.

The Croydon North MP is gamely fighting cancer and thus his attendances at Parliament are occasional, where he is reportedly finding many parliamentarians of all parties most supportive.

MPs activity (April 23- 26, April 30-May 1)
Votes (out of 15)/ Written questions/Speeches/Oral questions & interventions/EDMs
Barwell 11/0/0/4/0
Brake 15/1/1/4/14
Ottaway 14/0/0/0/2
Wicks 4/0/0/0/0

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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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