Gavin Barwell, MP for Croydon Central, May 2012

GBarwellGavin Barwell, MP for Croydon Central, has been awarded a Road Safety Parliamentarian of the Month Award by the charity Brake and Direct Line for his work campaigning for 'Lillian's Law', making it an offence to drive on illegal drugs, and roadside drug screening equipment.

In June 2010 Lillian Groves, 14, was killed outside her home in New Addington by John Page, who had been smoking cannabis. He was convicted of causing her death by careless driving and sentenced to eight months in jail, reduced to four months for an early plea. He was released after just eight weeks.

Her family set up a campaign for calling for a new law making it a specific offence to drive on any amount of illegal drugs and calling for roadside drug screening equipment so police can conduct widespread testing. Currently it is only offence to drive while impaired by drugs, making prosecuting drug drivers difficult.

The Groves family created a petition, and worked with the Croydon Advertiser to rally support. In September 2011 they contacted Gavin Barwell, to ask for his help to push for change in Parliament.

Gavin raised the issue in Prime Minister's Questions in October 2011 and then asked the Prime Minister to meet the Groves. David Cameron accepted and Gavin and the Groves met him in November. The Prime Minister said he was committed to tackling drug driving.

In January the Department for Transport announced a new expert panel would investigate the technical aspects of a law against drug driving including possible drug drive 'limits'. Gavin and the Groves also met Road Safety Minister Mike Penning to discuss the specifics of a new law. They argued that any new law must be zero tolerance, making it illegal to drive on any amount of illegal drugs.

Throughout this period the Groves tirelessly campaigned in the media with support from Brake, appearing on The One Show, Lorraine and BBC Breakfast to raise awareness of the need for a change in the law.

In May's Queen's Speech, the government announced they will pass a new law making it an offence to drive under the influence of drugs in England, Scotland and Wales. Drivers breaking the law will face up to six months in jail, a maximum fine of £5,000 and an automatic driving ban of 12 months. Police will be equipped with handheld drug detector devices, which will take a saliva sample.

Brake welcomed the announcement but urged the government to work quickly to implement the change. Brake also reiterated its endorsement of zero tolerance within the new offence so it is illegal to drive on any amount of illegal drugs. Read Brake's response.

Gavin followed this announcement up with a speech in Parliament urging the government to accelerate the role of the expert panel and introduce legislation as soon as possible.

Julie Townsend, Brake deputy chief executive, said: "Gavin has brought together key players to build momentum in Parliament for this essential campaign to tackle drug driving. His work alongside the family of Lillian Groves has received widespread media coverage and public support. It has helped to raise awareness of the appalling consequences of drug driving as well as successfully push for action by government. Brake is proud to have worked with Gavin and the Groves family on this important campaign, and is pleased to award Gavin a Road Safety Parliamentarian of the Month Award for his efforts."

Gavin Barwell, MP for Croydon Central, said: "I am delighted to receive the award from Brake, and would like to dedicate it to the Groves family, whose campaigning work has been inspirational. This recognition will help to keep attention focused on the dangers of drug driving as we work towards new legislation. Driving under the influence of drugs is under-recognised as a cause of death on our roads, and it is time we made it as unacceptable as drink driving."

Tags: awards parliamentarian road deaths drug-drive