I’m keen to write about all the excellent ideas that have been blogged, tweeted and Facebooked about the content of #LBBill, but I thought the priority was to say something more about the process and timeline as this has generated lots of questions.
Bearing in mind the anger and disappointment about the exclusion of disabled people and families from the Bubb group my hope is that we can make the often murky process of working on a Parliamentary Bill as transparent as possible. This post is intended both to provide information and stimulate debate about whether we are going about things the right way.
The deadline we are all working towards is June 2015, when the ballot for Private Members Bills takes place (I wrote a little about this in my first post). We don’t know the date yet so let’s assume it is 1 June.
By that date there are two key objectives that we need to have achieved as I see it:
1. Have a Bill which has the widest possible support from the disability community, with everyone concerned having had a proper opportunity to have their say about what it should contain.
2. Get as many MPs as possible signed up to support the Bill – in particular those who will be entering the ballot to have the chance to introduce their own Private Members Bill.
It seems to me that it is sensible to try to achieve these objectives in stages. We are much more likely to get MP support for a Bill which is ‘ready’ or close to ready than if we approach MPs with a less clear set of ideas. However there is nothing to stop anyone alerting their MPs now if the chance arises – as some supporters of #JusticeforLB are already doing. If you get any feedback from MPs please let us know.
So, the first job is to work on making sure everyone has the chance to have their say on the Bill. I am very grateful to all the wonderful people who have volunteered to work on easy read materials – and to Anne at Barod CIC for producing the easier read versions of my posts which are already online. Mark Neary is doing amazing work with the Facebook group and we will I’m sure all keep tweeting about #LBBill til the cows come home.
We have no budget for work on the Bill, so are relying on everyone concerned with it to make the process as inclusive as possible. If you have any ideas for events or communications in relation to the Bill please contact me through the comments here, by email firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @stevebroach – or contact the main Justice for LB account.
This phase of the process I think will last until roughly the end of October. Hopefully in September there will be a very rough draft of a Bill for people to discuss as it seems to me that this would provide a helpful focus.
Then around end October we will need a better draft of the Bill. After this is produced those interested in the detail can then work together on the drafting and there will need to be properly inclusive consultation as the text gets closer to being finalised.
I would like to see a final draft of the Bill which as many people as possible feel able to sign up to by Christmas. It still won’t be set in stone then, indeed whichever MP adopts it may wish to change it, but it will be clear set of ideas we can all advocate for.
Then in January we move on to objective 2, getting MP sign up. There will be lots of ways to do this – we can have an email campaign, template letters, constituency meetings for local groups, a Parliamentary event if we can scrape together the cash. In my view we want to generate as much noise as possible – one reason MPs say there is not enough focus on disability issues in Parliament is because people care more about the roads, the animals and the trees. Let’s prove them wrong.
Our work is complicated by the rather significant point that there is a general election in May. As we are not a charity I don’t think we will be prevented in any way from campaigning about the Bill in the run up to the election. However we will need to collect pledges from all candidates to support the Bill, not just the sitting MP for each seat, which increases the workload. Also, current Ministers may well find themselves as backbench MPs after the election, so there is no-one who should be ‘off limits’ in terms of supporting the Bill.
During this phase we will also need to have conversations with the political parties and officials at the relevant government departments, particularly the Department of Health. It is not realistic to think that we could get the Bill through into law without the formal support of at least one major party and we would most likely need some degree of government backing. However I think the first priority is to get as many individual MPs (or in our case candidates) signed up to support the Bill as we can.
So that’s my initial thoughts on the process and timeline for #LBBill – as ever all comments welcome. Next post should be thoughts on what might happen after the ballot next June before some further thoughts on content.