No room, No room – Government puts Parliament back in the tea pot

Today we were meant to debate and vote on our abortion laws. I have had a number of emails from constituents who think this is an important issue, expressing their strong views on the subject. There are pro life MPs wanting to put down amendments, and pro choice MPs ready with their proposals.

We now learn that the government intends to use its majority to prevent these amendments being discussed and voted on. They say there is not enough time. Could that be because we go home at 7pm today instead of 10pm? Could it be because we are being offered such a long Christmas holiday? I would be happy to stay until 10 tonight or later to get the job done.

These amendments are not being abandoned because there is no time. It must be because the government does not want Parliament to debate them, and wants constituents wishes thwarted when they write to us for changes to the law. They should tell us why they are against this debate. It was, after all, a free vote issue. It is a pity Labour MPs will not vote against the timetable proposals so they could get their free vote.

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9 Comments

  1. Blank Xavier
    Posted October 22, 2008 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    I could be wrong, but I think – I would expect, at any rate – that people in general also see the Governments actions in this way.

    As an aside, I fundamentally disagree with pro-life becase it means forcing other people, by the instrument of law and judicial penalty, to live their lives according to someone elses belief.

    If *you* are pro-life, that's absolutely fine – and it means *you* live *your* life by what *you* believe. It does *not* mean you get to *force* other people to live *their* lives by what *you* believe.

    As an extra aside, there was a fascenating study (published in Freakonomics) which indicates a number of highly relevant facts;

    1. if abortion exists, the birth rate doesn't change; women have the same number of kids, but have them later in life

    2. children which come into existance who would otherwise have been aborted are more likely to become criminals

    3. the increase in the death rate (of actual living adults, note, rather than just embryos) is greater than the number of abortions

    Essentially, women *know* when it's a good time to have a child. If you force them to have children when they're not ready, that child is growing up in a lower quality environment and is more likely (over the whole of the nation, over a number of years) to turn to crime.

  2. mikestallard
    Posted October 22, 2008 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    Actually, as a Catholic, I suppose I have very strong views on this. To me, of course, abortion is absolutely wrong. It is as wrong morally as the gas chambers.
    Hey – what if there had been a referendum on the gas chambers in Poland in 1941? Doesn't bear thinking about, does it!
    But that is simply not the point.
    Because the Government depends both on the Harriet Harman position as well as the Ruth Kelly position (lots of us Catholics in the North) it is not going to risk a vote.
    Simon Heffer in the Telegraph said it all today. We live in an elective (just) dictatorship.

    • adam
      Posted October 27, 2008 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

      Britains a great country. If you want to see dictatorial governance have a look at the EU and UN.

  3. John Ledbury
    Posted October 22, 2008 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    I agree absolutely. I see no point in electing MPs to troop through doors as required by whips or to go away on holiday instead of debating legislation. It brings the entire system into disrepute

  4. Acorn
    Posted October 22, 2008 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    Let's face it, our parliament does not add any value to our so called democracy. It is a talking shop and that's all. It has no power to hold the the "executive" to account; it changes nothing.

    It is time we recognised the fact and formalised the process of electing the "executive" separately from the commons. We need our own West Wing and a commons full of MPs who know how to do deals for the good of the nation. The nation needs to have a good think about the house of lords, do we actually need it; what value is it adding? If we had a written constitution, then it could be its defender as the supreme court; but, we don't have one of those.

    My mates in the thick of it say the UK is looking "a bit of a crock". But they are expecting the US Dollar to take a dive soon. "You guys should lock on to the Euro quick; have you bought your dollars for skiing".

  5. Stuart Fairney
    Posted October 23, 2008 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    I have long thought debates with three line whips are pointless. Now it seems there is no time to have a debate when there may actually be a point in having one! Although that said, if Mrs Harman behaves as she did last time, it may not be the case that the vote is entirely as free as we might perhaps hope. Another case of pure power politics.

  6. Anne Evans
    Posted October 23, 2008 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

    I'm sorry I bought into the New Labour lies about you, their description of you as Vulcan, etc.
    Now I'm older and wiser after making the grievous mistake of voting New Labour in 3 elections, now I know better. I've followed your blog, and I find you really reflect what most of us now say in private.
    Labour's attitude to abortion, faith and all of family life is no different from the attitude that existed in the USSR, I'm afraid. It's all about total ownership of all citizens by the state.
    I pray we're actually allowed to vote in a general election and the Civil Contigencies Act isn't invoked.

    • Stuart Fairney
      Posted October 24, 2008 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

      Why bother? our government is elective dictatorship, no more, no less. Tanks on the streets are not required unless the incumbent wants desperately to stay in power. If he is happy to have a general rotation of the reigns of power between the two parties (and despite differences* there are significant areas of agreement between the front benches anyway) then the status quo is more or less maintained.

      Under Mr Cameron we will likely still have state run schools and hospitals, public spending around 38% of GDP as opposed to 43% with the incumbents and a broadly interventionist approach to life in general. I still prefer the tories but the changes which need to be radical are in truth, marginal.

      * I exclude the blog author from this comment as he seems to be one of the few in Westminster with both understanding of the problems and vision to propose the solutions. This may explain why Mr Cameron excludes the most talented from his front bench.

  7. Martin C
    Posted October 24, 2008 at 12:05 am | Permalink

    The government was quite right to block this part of the bill. The bill in question is about genetic engineering and embryology; it has nothing to do with abortion but the self-styled "pro-choice" lobby saw it as an opportunity to quietly slip their desired leglislation through to liberalise (make easier) abortion.
    No. Abortion is a highly emotive issue, strong views are held on both sides, a good debate on the issue is badly needed before the law is changed. Let the "pro-choice" camp raise their own bill, maybe as a private members bill, or better still, campaign to have the issue inserted into the Labour manifesto where we can all vote on it at the next election.

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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