This week, the Government announced that legislation to make upskirting illegal, will go before MPs ahead of the summer recess.
The decision to introduce the legislation came just days after a Government-supported Private Members’ Bill was objected to and effectively killed by just one MP who opposed the legislation.
Since then, there has been outrage from all sides that a single MP has the right to ‘object’ to a cross-party supported Private Members’ Bill, stopping it from passing a vote and ending months of hard work.
The absurdity is, that as MPs, we have to give notice if we want to amend a bill, but not if we want to kill it.
In this instance, it seems 649 MPs supported the bill and one objected and so it was stopped in its tracks.
Unfortunately, this is a common problem with Private Members’ Bills. In fact, my own bill, The Awards for Valour (Protection) Bill, aimed at preventing ‘Walter Mitty’ types from wearing medals they have not been awarded, was stopped in a similar way, despite Government and cross-party support. This practice is wrong. I don’t doubt there are plenty of Private Members’ Bills which should not make it in to law but the success of a bill should be determined on the merit of the proposal and not on the viewpoint of just one MP.
There are laws that currently prevent outraging public decency or causing harassment which can cover the practice of ‘upskirting’ but they do not adequately prevent it so I am fully in favour of the proposal to specifically outlaw upskirting.
Meanwhile, work needs to be done to improve the Private Members’ Bill system. Getting one of these bills heard in Parliament is not an easy task. First you enter a ballot and if you are one of the first to be picked out, you then go through months of work to create a bill which could be supported. We need to return to a system where each Private Members’ Bill is treated on its own merits. Private Members’ Bills are used around the world, they are not exclusive to the UK and they are a really useful way for an MP to bring in a specific piece of legislation.
I am really pleased the Government has said it will now introduce a bill which will outlaw upskirting. It illustrates the strong sense of feeling against this crime and widespread support for everyone to see it outlawed.