Lawmaking at speed

A huge triumph for the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on stalking, and its chair, Elfyn Llwyd.

The prime minister marked International Women's Day by announcing plans to build an updated anti-stalking law, based on its work, into the Protection of Freedoms Bill, which is currently before the Lords. The amendments will go down on Monday.

Of course the devil's in the detail - and both the APPG and other MPs will be looking carefully at what the government proposes. But, wow! In their wildest dreams the MPs who spent months taking evidence from victims of stalking, bereaved relatives of murdered victims, police, lawyers and support groups, might just have hoped for some result in the new legislative programme to be announced in May, in the Queen's Speech.

Now a new law will probably be on the statute book before April is out.

There will be a specific offence of stalking which could attract sentences of up to five years in prison. There will be training on stalking issues for the police, advocacy services for victims and provisions dealing with cyber-stalking (one of the most complex areas) and treatment will be available to try to cure those perpetrators who can be cured.

Lawmakers who normally operate at snail's pace have suddenly turned into Usain Bolt. There will doubtless be e-mails and phone calls flying through the weekend to agree the final details - and it may be that campaigners are not satisfied with the result; we shall see.

But it is impossible to imagine this kind of response to an APPG report in any recent Parliament. Backbench groups pushing legislation tended to be seen as at best impertinent and, at worst, bonkers. So, in its way, this is as impressive a display of backbencher power as anything that has happened since the Commons began to perk up from its 2009 nadir.

And I'm sure that the assortment of APPGs working on issues as diverse as special educational needs, pornography and rail capacity will have taken note.

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