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House of Commons debates Lillian's Law

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THE details of a drug-driving offence created following the Advertiser's Lillian's Law campaign were debated in Parliament this week.

Home Secretary Theresa May introduced the Crime and Courts Bill for its Second Reading in the House of Commons on Monday.

Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell stood up in the chamber to speak about Clause 37 of the Bill.

The debate focused on whether the new offence should take a zero-tolerance approach to drugs, one of the aim's of Lillian's Law, and an option which has been considered by an expert panel tasked with exploring the implication of new legislation.

Mr Barwell, who has been a supporter of the campaign since it was launched in August 2011, said: "Lillian's family feel strongly that the level for illegal drugs should be zero. They feel people should not be taking these substances and therefore not be driving under the influence.

"A decision needs to be made about whether the levels should be based as far as possible on similar levels of impairment to that caused by alcohol, or whether there is a case, as the family believe, for zero limits for some of the most serious substances."

Mr Barwell acknowledged the "strong counter-argument" that the decision should be led by science, with a system comparable to drink-driving.

The panel, chaired by Dr Kim Wolff, an expert in addiction science from King's College London, is believed to have found this issue particularly complex. It was due to publish its report last month but was delayed.

Cambridge MP Julian Huppert said: "I have seen comments from the Wolff panel suggesting that alcohol is far and away the most dangerous substance people can take, so although I support the Bill of reducing impairment, perhaps more work still needs to be done on drink-driving as well."

The debate follows Home Office approval of a testing kit to be used in police stations.

The police station kit, which is able to detect cannabis, will remove the need for police to call a doctor before demanding a blood sample. It is down to each police authority to purchase the devices.

If the Crime and Courts Bill becomes law, the penalty for the new offence will be a maximum of six months in prison and a fine of up to £5,000, with an automatic driving ban of at least 12 months.

Mr Barwell paid tribute to Lillian, who died after being hit by a speeding driver high on cannabis outside her home in New Addington, in June 2010, and to her family.

He said: "They took a terrible situation no parent would ever want to endure and, rather than be consumed by anger, they wanted to turn it into something positive."

Mr Barwell added: "They found a powerful and useful friend in our local paper."

House of Commons debates Lillian's Law


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