In May 2011 Mr Elphicke voted in favour of Nadine Dorries' Sex Education (Required Content) "10 minute" Bill. The Bill stated that "such education must include information and advice on the benefits of abstinence from sexual activity". It was criticised for only applying to sex education for girls, not boys, with critics also pointing to evidence that abstinence-only sex education (which does not necessarily lead to abstinence itself) does not protect young people from unwanted pregnancies or STIs (although this was not a bill advocating abstinence-only sex education, it would have meant that the only required elements of sex education would be basic information on reproduction, plus this new content on abstinence, with further content being up to the individual school). The Bill passed its first reading by 67 votes to 61, but had little chance of becoming law and was withdrawn in January 2012 shortly before its second reading.
Religion and the Charity Commission
Mr Elphicke participated as a member of the Public Administration Select Committee in taking evidence for their report on the Regulation of the Charitable Sector and the Charities Act 2006. In October 2012 they questioned Elders of the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church, whose Preston Down Trust had been refused charitable status. The Charity Commission had stated that this was because "The evidence is [sic] relation to any beneficial impact on the wider public is perhaps marginal and insufficient to satisfy us as to the benefit to the community". The Charities Act 2006 had removed the automatic presumption that charities established for the advancement of education and religion are for the public benefit.
Mr Elphicke asked the question:
- "Moving to the Charity Commission and their dealings with you, the concern of many of us is that they are actively trying to suppress religion in the UK, particularly Christian religion, with a kind of North London, Hampstead secularist approach. Would you share those concerns that many of us hold?"
He later said to them:
- "I understand why you are being generous to the Charity Commission, because you hope to negotiate with them. You hope they will see the light and be converted on the road to the Upper Tribunal, and I have to say I do not think they will. I think they are committed to the suppression of religion. I do not believe they believe in the freedom of religious association."
There are a number of denominations under the banner of the Exclusive/Open/Plymouth Brethren with a shared history but differing doctrines. Some of the denominations have been described as practising extreme separation and hence regarded as having "cultic overtones". The representatives at the evidence session were asked in the Committee session for examples of how they act in the public benefit, to which they responded:
- "The provision of meeting rooms and gospel halls, which are places of public worship, are open to the public. We distribute gospel tracts and Christian literature; we have regular street preachings in towns and cities throughout the UK. There are over 500 street preachings each week with 1,800 preachers, and 30,000 gospel tracts are given away every week across the UK. There is maintenance and support of families; we care for young people, care for old and disabled people, visiting old people’s homes and nursing homes. There is employment of 4,500 non-Brethren. We have opened our hall in London. We have opened it twice for people to come in. The first time there were over 400 Bibles given away, over 200 people came. The second time there were 160 people; there was hot food and drinks, free Bibles and gospel booklets."
In reference to the case of the Preston Down Trust, the Charity Commission presented additional evidence to the PASC in December 2012 about why the group was not granted charitable status:
- "Preston Down Trust promotes particular beliefs and practices, in particular the doctrine of separation which is central to their beliefs and way of life and this has the consequence of limiting their engagement with non-Brethren and the wider public. The evidence we were given showed that the doctrine of separation as preached by the Trust requires followers to limit their engagement with the wider public, and there was insufficient evidence of meaningful access to participate in public worship. The Commission concluded that the evidence of beneficial impact on the wider public was not sufficient to demonstrate public benefit. This was a finely balanced decision."
In February 2015 Charlie Elphicke voted against allowing mitochondrial donation, which would allow women who carried mitochondrial diseases to give birth to children who would not inherit the disease. If allowed, mitochondrial donation would be regulated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) meaning that there would be ongoing assessment of the safety and efficacy of such procedures. An October 2014 briefing report by the HFEA, which had been investigating the issue for three years, stated that there was no evidence to show that mitochondrial donation was unsafe. However, some religious groups had said that such procedures should not be allowed. The majority of MPs voted in favour of allowing mitochondrial donation.
- http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmpubadm/c574-iii/c57401.htm Q258
- http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmpubadm/c574-iii/c57401.htm Q279
- http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmpubadm/c574-iii/c57401.htm Q245
- http://charliefordover.blogspot.com/ - old blog
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