Sir Edward: ‘The role played by backbench MPs like me is to scrutinise the Government...’

Sir Edward Leigh has served as MP for the Market Rasen and Caistor area since 1983 and next week celebrates his 70th birthday.

Sir Edward Leigh MP

In this week’s column, he talks of laws, holding the Government to account, exercise and the right to ramble.

‘Most of the laws that are passed in this country are initiated by the Government to fulfil the popular mandate they proposed to voters through their manifesto at a General Election.

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The role played by backbench MPs like me is to scrutinise the Government and hold the executive to account.

That means both trying to ensure they keep their promises and guiding them in a better direction if we think they’re making a mistake.

Central though backbenchers are, it’s rare for one of our Private Members Bills to become law.

The ballot for them is popular, only 20 are selected, and even then only a few are given days for actual debate in the House of Commons.

Thirty years ago I was successful in the ballot for a Private Members Bill and my bill made it to the law books as the Rights of Way Act 1990.

I had been contacted by local members of our Lincolnshire Ramblers Association, who showed me how difficult it was to access many of our ancient rights of way that were being ploughed and planted over or otherwise made difficult to use.

In fact, this bad situation often dated from the Second World War when existing laws were quite understandably relaxed to allow farmers to get the maximum production possible out of their land to help in the wartime effort and keep our people fed.

Like many ostensibly temporary provisions, it became permanent.

This is why we MPs are keeping a close eye on the Government to ensure that measures introduced to guard public health against the coronavirus do not become permanent.

The Lincolnshire Ramblers made me their honorary president as a token of thanks, which I have always considered a great honour.

We should also be doing more to improve our cycling paths here in Lincolnshire.

Like me, you’re probably suffering from virus-fatigue 
at the moment, but not every aspect of health is Covid-related.

There’s no better way to keep healthy than regular exercise, so I’m pleased to see that West Lindsey District Council has completed the new leisure centre in Market Rasen which has been designed and built in just over a year.

This 18,300 square foot facility will provide cardio and strength equipment, a spin studio, sports hall, all-weather pitch, changing facilities, and even the capability for instructors to deliver virtual classes to those who want to get fit from their homes or elsewhere.

I’m still hoping we’ll get a swimming pool eventually.

This is a remarkable accomplishment and, as ever, I’m impressed with the work our district council has achieved.’