Private members bills: Seni’s Law & Votes at 16

9 November 2017

Every year, 20 MPs are picked at random to propose a new law through a Private Members’ Bill.

Last Friday I supported my colleague Steve Reed MP who put forward a very important Bill in response to the death of Seni Lewis, a young man who grew up in Glossop.

Seni was just 23 when he died in a mental health hospital after being pinned, face-down by 11 police officers for over 30minutes until he stopped breathing.

The Bill to end the use of excessive force against mental health patients is a response to a campaign by Seni’s family who want to make sure that what happened to Seni would not happen to anyone else.

Seni’s family told me what a remarkable, talented and friendly young man he was, and how devastating his loss has been for them.  I was proud to pay tribute in Parliament to Seni and to his family’s courage and determination.

But they are not alone.  According to the charity INQUEST, there have been over 1500 deaths in custody since 1990.  The Bill will require hospitals to publish data on how and when physical force is used, and improve oversight and training so staff are aware of the risks of unconscious bias against minority groups such as young black men with mental ill health.

I was delighted the Bill passed its second reading on Friday, and I will continue to support it through Parliament.

The second Private Members’ Bill on Friday was to extend the vote to 16 and 17 year olds. I was sorry that Conservative MPs became so raucous that it was almost impossible to hear Oldham MP Jim McMahon, who was moving the Bill.  They set a very poor example to the young people watching the debate.

Hundreds of High Peak teenagers petitioned me to support votes at 16 and I would have been pleased to do so, but we were denied a vote on the Bill.

I have had many recent discussions with teenagers and found that – whichever political party they support – they are interested, well-informed and very rational in their views.

16 and 17 year olds are even more affected by political decisions than their elders.  They rely on a public education system and public transport.  In unskilled work, they need the protection of good employment rights.

The future of our country is their future – they have more to lose than any generation – and are more willing to look at the long-term solutions we need.  I will continue to support their right to vote and hope we can have a more grown-up debate in Parliament in future.