The Conservative MP for Shipley, Philip Davies, has intentionally blocked a proposed law to introduce free hospital parking for carers.
He spoke in the House of Commons for 93 minutes in order to use up the time allocated for the debate.
Conservative MPs Christopher Chope and David Nuttall, who spoke for another hour and 20 minutes between them, also contributed to underhandedly “talking out the Bill.”
The private member’s Bill was brought forward by Julie Cooper, Labour MP for Burnley, and set out a proposed exemption to controversial hospital parking charges for carers. At the moment hospitals have “discretionary powers” to grant exemptions to parking charges.
Davies used a tactic called filibustering – where MPs speak for so long that a vote is delayed or prevented – he spoke about his opposition to the bill for more than an hour and a half. This meant that MPs ran out of time to vote on the law, as backbench debates are time-limited.
The Shipley MP has been accused of profound hypocrisy, because he claimed £11.67 for parking in 2014-15 and £16 in 2013-14. Davies has also claimed parking fees for meetings with local councillors and constituents.
He argued that the proposals would mean “higher car parking charges for everybody else who visits the hospital in order to protect that revenue stream for the hospitals”. Though he stretched the point, talking so much that his lengthy monologue left no time for a democratic vote on the Bill.
Nuttall, the MP for Bury North, also said it was inevitable that one of the consequences of the bill would be to “divert part of the healthcare budget that could otherwise be used for front-line NHS services, potentially life-saving services, to cover car parking maintenance and all the associated costs”.
However, Labour MP Khalid Mahmood condemned the Conservative’s tactics by some on the government benches.
“Owing to the assassins on the government benches more than two hours of time has, bizarrely, been taken up, and I do not think that I will be able to go into all the important issues that I wished to raise,” he said.
It’s a slap in the face for carers, because the bill, effectively sabotaged during the debate, will now be delayed – as it will be placed at the bottom of the pile of private members’ bills. But health minister Alistair Burt said the guidance principles sent to hospital trusts by the government detailing who should be granted concessions or exemptions would now explicitly mention carers.
Julie Cooper, who introduced her hospital parking charges (exemption for carers) bill to the Commons for its second reading, said the charges placed an unfair financial burden on those caring for disabled, seriously ill or older friends and relatives.
She spoke about her experience of caring for her own mother when she was in hospital. “Each night when I left tired and distressed I queued up to pay for my parking,” she said.
“At that time it was costing me £40 a week. On one of those days driving out of the car park, it occurred to me that I was lucky because I could afford to pay this charge and I went on to reflect on the matter and I thought what about those people who can’t afford to pay?”
It’s not the first time Davies and the Conservatives have used filibustering to sabotage Bills, On July 3, 1998, Labour MP Michael Foster’s Wild Mammals (Hunting with Dogs) Bill was stymied and blocked in parliament by opposition filibustering.
And only last November (2014), Philip Davies and Conserative MPs Christopher Chope successfully filibustered a Private Member’s Bill that would prohibit retaliatory evictions. Davies’s speech however, was curtailed by Deputy Speaker Dawn Primarolo for disregarding her authority, after she ordered Davies to wrap up his then-hour long speech. A closure motion moved by the government, which was agreed to 60–0, failed due to being inquorate.
Recently Davies has also filibustered legislation to stop rogue landlords evicting tenants asking for basic repairs. He also tried to thwart legislation to enshrine the Government aid budget in law – despite the legislation having the support of all three main parties.
Previously, Davies has contributed in preventing attempts by backbenchers to get mandatory smoke detectors fitted in rented properties, regulate payday lenders and force councils to provide support to those who care for the disabled.
And earlier this month – using a different tactic – he managed to prevent a Bill banning the use of wild animals in circuses from even being debated in the Commons.
Among other things, Davies has objected to gay marriage, regulating lobbyists, allowing MPs to tweet in the House of Commons and banning smoking in cars with children. Last week he came out strongly in favour of the oppressive ban on sending books to prisoners.