I am a stickler for policy and procedures, just ask my team. That said I was dismayed that, less than a week after the UK landmark first FGM conviction, Conservative MP Sir Christopher Chope objected to the Private Members Bill on FGM. Progress of the Bill, which would have allowed the courts to make interim care orders under the Children Act in cases where children are believed to be at risk of FGM, was blocked for a second reading by the MP. (Under parliamentary rules, it only requires one MP to shout ‘object’ to a Private Member’s Bill which is listed for a second reading but not debated to block its progress).
From his comments it appears Chope’s objection to the bill, which had already cleared the House of Lords, was not made with regard to its content but to promote his own agenda around ensuring parliamentary debate. What’s so very disappointing is that the Member for Christchurch places more importance on his own agenda than measures that can safeguard children. In an article in The Telegraph, Chope cites his reason for blocking the bill. Namely that the same principle of one-day debate, which happens at second reading of HM Government Bills, should apply to Private Members Bills. But here’s where I’m confused- if indeed his actions were taken on procedural principle then surely he should be objecting to all Private Members Bills. This is the second time the MP has objected to safeguarding legislation- last year he used the same process to block a ban on upskirting.
Despite condemnation of Chope’s action from colleagues across the House, sadly it is unlikely the bill will now become law unless it is attached to another piece of legislation. Let’s hope the widespread condemnation of Chope’s conduct will prompt HM Government to take action.