It takes all sorts to fill the House of Commons, and while many backbenchers love the business of being a constituency MP, plenty of others toil in the hope they’ll soon be marked out for greater things by the whips, and picked for ministerial office.It seems to me, though, that too many backbenchers overlook the power that they have. In fact, if they’re determined, they can potentially get things done just as easily as many of their ministerial colleagues.Meet Nicola Blackwood, the MP vowing to tighten sex offenders law.The first ever elected female MP in Oxfordshire is launching a campaign to make it easier for the police to keep tabs on child sex offenders, after figures show only five of the 65,000 registered offenders are banned each year on average from travelling abroad. Cathy Newman reports.Photo: Paul Grover
One backbencher who’s realised this is the Conservative MP Nicola Blackwood. She’s a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee, and as I reported on Monday night’s Channel 4 News, she’s launching a campaign this week to tighten the law on sex offenders. And there’s every chance she may succeed.
The crux of her “Childhood Lost” campaign is to reform the current panoply of orders which ban offenders from travelling abroad or, in this country, having contact with children – for example at school gates or playgrounds. Police and lawyers have been arguing for years that the orders are too difficult to apply. There are nearly 65,000 registered sex offenders in the UK, yet just five a year on average are banned from travelling overseas.
Ms Blackwood told me she’s going to amend the anti-social behaviour bill to make it far easier for the police to keep tabs on offenders. At the moment, the courts can impose one of three orders only if an offender has been convicted of sex offences. The crucial change is that a new “child sexual abuse prevention order” – replacing the existing orders – could be issued if the defendant hasn’t been convicted of anything, providing there is evidence of the danger they pose to children.
The Childhood Lost petition can be found at childhoodlost.co.uk