Vera Baird DBE KC

Writer, Lecturer, Parliamentary Consultant and Co-Director of Astraea: Gender Justice

Why MP Chope was wrong…….

As June comes to a close, we have seen the Tories losing control through the actions of Sir Christopher Chope MP – he shouted out the word “object” which stopped the bill to make upskirting a specific sexual offence under English law. His reason for stopping the bill, was that he wasn’t aware of the detail. That’s his problem, Chope is a prolific objector to Private Members Bills – this particular bill had the support of his own government, however,he used the feeble excuse that as a Minister supported the bill, it didn’t need to be brought to the House through a private members’ bill.

I’m afraid that Chope is wrong, the second reading of a bill is the stage at which the Commons should approve its general principles, with scrutiny on its detail at a later stage. Of course, there may be discussions to be had about the precise drafting of the bill, but the general principle of criminalising upskirting is not is dispute. Chope should hang his head in shame and offer every woman an apology for his actions – thankfully there is another opportunity for the bill to progress in July, let’s hope Chope is on constituency business that day!

Not content with scuppering one bill, he continued to do it to five or six others – including “Finn’s Law”. I wrote to the Justice Secretary back in March urging him to support “Finn’s Law”, which the Environment Secretary had agreed to do. The bill would protect police horses, police dogs and guide dogs from attack and ensure those who attack service animals are jailed for up to five years. However, the bill was blocked as Chope stated his objection – only he knows his logic in taking this action. Thankfully, fingers crossed, it will pass on July 6th.

Mental health is something that can affect us all at some stage and it’s important that support is in place for those who may need extra help. I wanted my office to show a positive attitude to employees and job applicants with mental health issues, I was therefore delighted to sign up the OPCC to become a mindful employer.

At least 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their life. A survey by Mind revealed that nearly 9 in 10 (87 per cent) emergency services staff and volunteers surveyed have experienced stress, low mood and poor mental health at some point while working for the emergency service.

As a signatory of the Mindful Employer charter, organisations should work towards ensuring that all staff involved in recruitment and selection are briefed on mental health issues and The Equality Act 2010, and given appropriate interview skills. Equally, all line managers should have information and training about managing mental health in the workplace.
Even though we are a relatively small office, it’s important that we make an ongoing commitment to the well-being of our team and those who apply to work with us. That’s why we’ve signed up to the Mindful Employer charter. I’m serious about giving our employees access to help and support they may need, when they need it.