When I first stood for parliament, political hustings mattered. Candidates appeared together, in meetings organised by chapels, civic groups and even town councils. Voter turnout could be several hundred. Candidates made five-minute speeches and answered a dozen questions.

In one meeting, without prior warning, we were asked what private member’s Bill would we introduce given the opportunity - a fair question to aspiring legislators.

Surprisingly, it caught some candidates unprepared. I answered “A Welsh Development Authority Bill”, which I had recently researched. But the question made me consider my personal legislative priorities.

At Westminster, MPs pass up to a hundred Acts of Parliament annually, the vast majority emanating from the government. A handful of days each year are allocated for Private Members Bills and backbench MPs ballot for time to introduce a bill. Only those in the top dozen stand a chance of becoming law.

In 27 years as MP, I only secured time once, when I came 10th in the ballot for 1981. To stand any chance of becoming law, I had to secure all-party support and acquiescence from the Thatcher government: a challenge to a party with two MPs.

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The Wilson government had created the WDA in 1976; we had secured the Pneumoconiosis Act in 1979; a devolution referendum had failed miserably, and the government wouldn’t support a new Welsh Language Act.

As 1981 was International Year of Disabled People, I introduced a Disabled Persons Bill, helped by veteran Labour campaigners Jack Ashley, Alf Morris and Lewis Carter Jones.

It was a modest Bill, providing for wheelchair access to buildings, safe mobility on pavements, disability parking and practical help for those with visual and hearing impairments – matters requiring legislation without being hugely expensive.

The government said it was neutral on my Bill; but at second reading, a backbench Tory shouted: “Object!” – enough to kill it stone dead.

My supporters were incandescent. With cross-party support, I tabled a Commons motion demanding the government facilitate the Bill’s progress. We needed a majority of MPs to sign it.

Twenty-seven disability organisations lobbied MPs across Britain. When they made sympathetic noises, they were given a copy of our motion and asked to sign it immediately.

We gained the support of 324 MPs – over half the House - putting it amongst the most widely supported Early Day Motions in parliamentary history. The government conceded and the Disabled Persons Act 1981 became law.

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This is a timely reminder, as the Paralympics highlight how disabled people can inspire us all, that those engaged in politics should examine how their parliamentary involvement can help people needing practical support.

Our Senedd has the power to legislate and every MS can participate. I was thrilled that newly-elected Mabon ap Gwynfor hopes to introduce new legislation to control the spread of second homes in Wales; the ballot takes place on September 20.

More power to his elbow, and to all those who seek to “make a difference”. They now have the opportunity to legislate; the challenge is how they respond.

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