This week I received an email from someone with concerns about a Private Member’s Bill.
These bills are suggestions for new laws put forward by MPs. Usually they are really a means of highlighting a particular cause.
They rarely get to become law, either because there is insufficient time for them to be debated or because there is insufficient support amongst MPs.
Occasionally government picks up on the purpose of the bill and then it can become law.
The current Private Member’s Bill to guarantee a referendum of our EU membership is backed by the government and may well become law, but it was not that bill that was of concern to the person who contacted me.
Their concern was about the Face Coverings (Prohibition) Bill.
You can perhaps work out from its title what the bill is about. It is designed to stop the wearing of a veil.
The lady who contacted me wears a veil in public and was concerned that this might be prevented were the law to be changed.
In her email she was quite clear that she would never criticise the right of others to dress as they see fit and she set out her own reasons for choosing to wear a veil.
The bill will not become law for the reasons that I have mentioned, but I was delighted to see both sides of this debate.
That may seem an odd thing to say, but think about it. For years things like this couldn’t even be mentioned.
Some people were so quick to shout ‘racist’ if topics like banning the veil were even mentioned that people who wanted to raise it felt that they couldn’t. The absence of any sort of discussion led to resentment.
But, just as it is good that the topic can be raised, it is also positive that I am then contacted by a women wanting to retain her right to dress as she pleases, whilst at the same time recognising that others have the same right to dress as they please, even if they chose to dress very differently to her.
This is the start of a debate in which people are entitled to make their views known and in which the difference between genuine concerns and prejudice can be tested.
As with almost everything there are arguments for and against. But thank goodness that we have moved on to a point where we can have a discussion.
Very best wishes,