Parliament: Ten MPs win a shot at statute book

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The Independent Online
TEN BACKBENCHERS won an opportunity to introduce legislation on an area of their choice yesterday, when the result of the ballot for Private Members' Bills was announced.

They have until next month to choose a subject. Eric Clarke, MP for Midlothian, has pledged to make it easier for miners and their families to claim compensation for such diseases as bronchitis and emphysema. Gordon Prentice, MP for Pendle, and Mark Oaten, MP for Winchester, are considering legislation on the right to roam and the gazumping of houses respectively.

The Portman Group, which campaigns on behalf of the drinks industry for a sensible approach to alcohol, said it was looking for one of the MPs to take on a Bill to crack down on alcohol sales to under-18s.

Last year Mike Foster, the Worcester MP, tried to bring in a Bill banning fox hunting. It received cross-party support but ran out of parliamentary time.Backbench Bills often risk such a fate unless MPs can secure government support.

The MPs who came top in the ballot are: Debra Shipley (Lab, Stourbridge), Maria Eagle (Lab, Liverpool Garston), Eric Clarke (Lab, Midlothian), Andrew Robathan (Con, Blaby), Gordon Prentice (Lab, Pendle), Simon Burns (Con, Chelmsford West), Mark Oaten (Lib Dem, Winchester), Chris McCafferty (Lab, Calder Valley), Patrick McLoughlin (Con, Derbyshire West) and Christopher Fraser (Con, Dorset Mid and Poole North).

t An independent Scotland would have to more than double the basic rate of income tax to keep pace with current public spending, according to a study released today.

The report, by a firm of London accountants, claims an independent Scotland, taking into account North Sea oil revenues, would have a fiscal deficit of pounds 3.9bn. To plug the hole through income tax would mean a rise in the basic rate from 23p to 49p, the report said.