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MP month of the

Gavin Barwell

The MP for Croydon Central’s success in spearheading the Mental Health Discrimination Bill wins him this month’s title


onsidering Gavin Barwell’s support and determination in repealing and amending three pieces of “stigmatising and discriminatory” law, it comes as little surprise that the bill he has piloted reached the report stage and passed through the third reading unopposed. Now on its way to the Lords, the Mental Health Discrimination Bill is the private member’s bill being successfully spearheaded by the MP for Croydon Central. Barwell certainly has reason to be pleased with the success of the Bill so far, which has progressed to this stage with the support of both the government and the opposition. Certainly no mean feat for a backbencher, particularly given the usual modus operandi for government backbenchers is to accept a hand-out bill and make the best of it. The London MP and PPS to Michael Gove felt that this would not suffice for him; instead he claims he “deliberately took some time to look through all the options before coming to a decision”. He arrived at the Mental Health Discrimination Bill for a number of reasons both personal and professional: “I have several close friends who suffered with mental health issues, including a teacher whose interest was formative in me getting involved in politics in the first place”. In his duty as a constituency MP, he has also been faced with some “pretty harrowing cases of people who are really struggling.” A reality, Barwell states, that many MPs are similarly confronted with. However, the most influential factor in his decision to choose this Bill came from one of his peers: “Charles Walker MP came to talk to me about this and was lobbying me about this and was just an incredibly powerful advocate for this cause.” Standing firm, Barwell presented the Bill, which seeks to repeal and amend three key areas of the law. As it stands, an MP who is sectioned under the Mental Health Act for more than six months loses his seat - a practice some believe to be fair,

‘I have several close friends who suffered with mental health issues, including a teacher whose interest was formative in me getting involved in politics’

but, as Barwell astutely highlights, “there’s no equivalent law in relation to people who have a physical health problem that stops them doing their job... you can be sent to prison for up to twelve months and still not lose your job.” This legislation that Barwell sees as discriminatory not only applies to MPs – company directors are faced with much the same: “If people have got mental health problems, they’re removed,” something he sees as unnecessarily stigmatising.

Finally, he is seeking an amendment to the current law stating that someone cannot serve on a jury if they are receiving on-going treatment for cases that could range from post-natal depression to bereavement. When these laws are then criticised as being archaic, it takes little imagination to understand why. Clearly delighted by the success of the Bill, Barwell is a notable MP who can claim he has united the coalition and the official opposition on policy. All three of the main parties have shown

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support for the Bill, a key reason for its swift passage through Parliament so far: “We’ve had sort of unanimous support for it. I’ve been really delighted with the response that we got. I think it’s been a really good year for Parliament on this issue.” The popular backbencher can claim success for more than just this issue though, illustrating that he’s not a one trick pony. The mayor of London Boris Johnson has given support to his cross-party group Migration Matters, which seeks to shine a different perspective on migration to the UK than is often peddled by the public and press. Speaking about what the group hopes to achieve, Barwell states that the UK needs to look past the deficit to see the potential benefits of controlled migration: “If we continue to have some migration at a more sensible level, it can smooth the process and make it much easier for us to deal with an ageing population.” Gavin Barwell is a shining example that more can be stirred from the backbench than just dissent, “if you pick the right subject, if you lobby effectively and get the right people on side.” ■

Honourable mentions

Margaret Hodge Labour MP for Barking

As chair of the public accounts committee (PAC) which worked continuously to investigate multinational

companies that avoided paying proportionate corporation tax, Margaret Hodge receives a welldeserved nomination. Since the discovery of these tax avoidances, Hodge campaigned tirelessly to ensure that these corporations were held to account. The PAC released its report on tax avoidance by multinational

companies, including Google and Amazon, on the 3 December 2012, which attracted a lot of media attention and triggered much public outrage. With calls to boycott, Starbucks announced it would pay “in the range of £10m” in UK corporation tax for the next two years, a mere three days after the report was published.

From the editor Gavin Barwell has demonstrated that he is one of the most notable and talented members of the 2010 Conservative intake, due not to constant media appearances but to a tireless and quiet enthusiasm for the difficult task of pushing his private member’s bill towards becoming law. Barwell has spoken passionately of his Bill in the Commons and has been teaming up with fellow mental health advocates like Charles Walker MP to finally bring Parliament’s perception of nonphysical conditions into the twenty-first century. The removal of the bar on MPs who have been sectioned for more than six months from returning to Parliament is particularly welcome and laudable. For this, and further acts of modernisation, we have Barwell to thank. It is to be hoped that the Lords approve his Bill without further ado. Ben Duckworth

Gordon Birtwistle Liberal Democrat MP for Burnley

Gordon Birtwistle, the MP for Burnley, would have been happy to hear Osborne’s autumn statement, with the an-

nouncement that capital allowance would see a tenfold increase, taking it from £25,000 to a rather more substantial £250,000. As chair of the Lib Dem committee on business, innovation and skills, Birtwistle has been campaigning for the government to return to 100 per cent capital allowances for capital purchases.

With the chancellor’s autumn statement indicating the government’s intention to do precisely this, a jubilant Birtwistle stated: “It’s fantastic the chancellor has recognised the importance of manufacturing to the British economy and is supporting businesses by introducing 100 per cent on capital purchases up to £250,000.”

Rob Wilson

Conservative MP for Reading East

As the Jimmy Savile scandal continues to unfold, the Conservative MP for Reading East has led calls for all

those public bodies with prior knowledge of Savile’s proclivities to come forward. The scandal has proved a major cause of concern for the public and a point of contention for organisations such as the BBC, which, it is claimed, was aware of some of the allegations. “It is essential that Parliament gets the government’s view

on whether it believes the BBC’s response is adequate or whether a fully independent public inquiry is needed, and gets the chance to scrutinise the government, before it is too late.” Wilson’s continued demands for greater transparency, understanding and actions in the Savile case have gained him this nomination.

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'Total Politics' MP of the Month  

January 2013