Over the last few weeks there have been successive ‘Sitting Fridays’ in Parliament. These are days when backbenchers can propose and debate new laws. This is separate from the Government’s programme of legislation or issues raised by opposition parties for formal debate.
The most recent Friday sitting debated a new law on funding and prescribing medical cannabis. This was made lawful in 2018. Even so, families with children who suffer from epilepsy still cannot get the medical cannabis they need on the NHS. One of my first constituency surgery cases after I was elected was the case of little Teagan Appleby, who lives in Aylesham. Teagan relies on this medicine to manage her epilepsy. Teagan’s mum Emma has long been battling to ensure Teagan gets the help she needs. I spoke up in support of Emma being able to get this vital medicine for Teagan on the NHS.
Another Friday sitting saw a debate to help menopausal women – by reforming prescription charges for medicines like hormone replacement therapy. This was part of a national campaign supported by celebrities like Davina McCall, who I met in Parliament. It’s made a real difference, with the Government now making changes to prescription charges to help women in menopause – helping make hormone replacement therapy more affordable.
More recently, I took part in a debate on births and death registration. The administration of death is far too cumbersome and bureaucratic. It adds to stress and upset for grieving relatives and friends. I would like to see this process modernised – and for it to be made possible to upload wills to a secure Government portal. Astonishingly some 30 million people are thought not to have an up-to-date will, or even a will at all. Modernising wills and death administration would make a real difference.
Pensions were also debated recently in a Friday debate. The issue was whether there were adequate protections for guaranteed pension amounts in occupational pensions which are transferred to other types of schemes. I took the opportunity to raise a constituent’s surgery case and spoke up to back a change in the law.
Another Friday debate was on a fair deal for musicians. Advances in technology mean they don’t get the royalties they should for things like streaming. In our area, there are a lot of individual composers, song-writers and musicians. Updating contractual arrangements and rights for a modern digital age is vital. I spoke about how this issue can affect even big name artists like Dame Vera Lynn, as much as artists who are not so well known.
When people think of Parliament they often think of the “box office” events like Prime Minister’s Questions. The private members bill debates on Fridays showcase a more thoughtful side of the Commons. It’s a chance to speak up for the many people I meet in my constituency surgeries, on the issues that affect our community as well as to support important campaigns that would make a real difference to people’s lives up and down the land.