Brighton MP to learn Commons verdict on his bill today

Posted On 09 Nov 2012 at 10:24 am

It falls to few people to be able to change the law. But the MP for Brighton Kemptown, Simon Kirby, has a rare chance today (Friday 9 November).

He would be the first to agree that he can’t do it by himself. But he looks as though he has persuaded fellow MPs – across all parties – that people are misusing the blue badges issued to disabled people to make it easier for them to park.

His draft law in response to blue badge fraud – the Disabled Persons Parking Badges Bill – looks likely to be passed by the House of Commons today.

Before it can become law it still has to be passed by the House of Lords.

Tanni Grey-Thompson

Usually, someone like Mr Kirby, a Conservative MP, would work with a fellow Tory to pilot it past peers.

There are about 760 members of the Lords but, on an issue like this, there is one whose voice matters more than most.

Tanni Grey-Thompson, one of Britain’s most successful Paralympians, has a great deal of influence and authority when she speaks about disability and the issues around it.

She is a crossbencher – she does not belong to a political party – and she backs Mr Kirby’s bill.

While this doesn’t guarantee that Lady Grey-Thompson’s colleagues in the Lords will go along with her, it does make it much more probable that the bill will be passed.

Mr Kirby said: “The blue badge scheme is incredibly important to many disabled people who rely on disabled parking facilities.

“However, abuse of the scheme is so widespread that genuine users often struggle to find available spaces.

“My bill will help local councils tackle that abuse and make life easier for disabled residents up and down the country who currently experience unnecessary difficulties due to the inconsiderate actions of those who fraudulently use blue badges.

“Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson will be well known to my constituents as one of our greatest ever Paralympic athletes and a strong voice for disabled people in the House of Lords.

“I am delighted that my bill has Tanni’s support and I look forward to working with her in the coming months to ensure the progress of this important legislation.”

Mr Kirby’s chance to change the law came about after a ballot which enabled 20 MPs to present a private member’s bill.

He came 17th in the ballot. The MPs who comes first, second or third usually have the best chance of succeeding by this method. Most fail.

By being pragmatic, Mr Kirby will probably enjoy a modest triumph.

It is not his only piece of good news over the past few months. In the government reshuffle he was made a parliamentary private secretary (PPS) to Hugh Robertson, the minister for sport and tourism.

These are areas close to Mr Kirby’s heart and, in the case of tourism, to his constituency interests.

He said: “Being a PPS enhances my ability to talk up Brighton and Hove.”

Being a PPS is also often regarded as the first rung on the promotion ladder.

At 47, Mr Kirby is young enough to harbour ministerial ambitions even if he wouldn’t dream of speculating about the possibility.

Simon Kirby

He may not be an old Etonian, like Prime Minister David Cameron and some of his colleagues. Or like London mayor Boris Johnson. He went to a state school in Hastings rather than a public school.

But he has tried to combine being a good constituency MP with pragmatic party loyalty.

He said that people can criticise the way he votes sometimes but that often it’s better to vote with his party and speak up behind the scenes.

And he knows that his constituency could change shape. A boundary review has recommended shedding the Mouslecoomb and Bevendean council ward, which is safe Labour territory, and adding wards in Seaford and Newhaven.

Most of the Seaford and Newhaven wards have a majority of Conservative or Liberal Democrat voters.

The end result could mean that a marginal seat becomes a little more comfortable for the incumbent.

Again, he is reluctant to say anything other than that he will continue trying to be the best constituency MP that he can be and put his trust in the voters.

Mr Kirby has sometime taken positions that set him apart from traditional Tories. He is, for example, an opponent of fox-hunting.

But then, given that Brighton Kemptown is not a typical Tory seat, perhaps it’s no bad thing if he’s not quite a typical Tory.


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