Pavement parking campaigners come to Parliament – an evening to remember

John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons, opening the eventTwas (almost) the night before the Pavement Parking Bill debate and in Speaker’s House… there were certainly creatures stirring, as Guide Dogs staff and volunteers congregated in Parliament for an exciting evening event with MPs! That’s right, on 3 December, we travelled to the House of Commons to host a special thank-you event for MPs who have supported the Pavement Parking Bill, before it was debated the next day. The location was the Speaker’s House, the state apartments situated beneath Big Ben which are used by the Speaker of the House John Bercow MP.

A picture of the Guide Dogs campaigns team and other staff and volunteers who attended the event

The evening began with speeches from the Speaker himself, from the sponsor of the Bill Simon Hoare MP and from Stephen Anderson, a campaigner with sight loss whose words gave a real insight into the experience of encountering pavement parking, the danger and distress it can cause, and the wide range of people who would benefit from the Bill.

We were also joined by visually-impaired pianist Matthew Horspool, whose playing lent the evening a magical atmosphere, and The VIPs, a visually-impaired choir based just across the river from Parliament at Guys and St Thomas’ Hospital, who kept us all entertained with a mixture of Christmas carols and well-known classics. Their performance of ‘the Lambeth Walk’ had the whole room singing along, while the highlight was undoubtedly a reimagining of the classic ‘Country Roads’ by John Denver, with lyrics all about pavement parking!

The VIP choir singing festive songs accompanied by the grand pianoIt was fantastic to have so many people with sight loss in Parliament, able to give MPs and their staff first-hand accounts of why the Bill mattered to them. The impact of these accounts, and all of the work from our tireless campaigners in the preceding months, was clear in the debate the next day, when MPs from across a range of political parties stood up to speak in support of a law on pavement parking. While the Bill was ultimately withdrawn by Simon Hoare MP, there was really positive news as the Department of Transport have decided to carry out research on the costs and benefits of introducing a law in England and Wales. This step gives the best chance of a law being agreed in the future, and we will be involved in shaping the research to ensure that the needs of people with sight loss are given full consideration.

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Ellen Buckerfield, Public Affairs Assistant
This blog was written by Ellen Buckerfield, Public Affairs Assistant