David Amess

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David Amess is the Conservative MP for Southend West. He entered Parliament in 1983.

Biographical background

He was born in Plaistow, London, and raised Roman Catholic. He attended St. Bonaventure Grammar School in Forest Gate and then Bournemouth College of Technology, where he earned a BSc degree with honours in Economics and Government.

Amess taught at the St John the Baptist Primary School in Bethnal Green for a year from 1970, and then spent a short time as an underwriter before becoming a recruitment consultant. He became chairman of Accountancy Solutions[1] from 1987-90, then Accountancy Group[2] from 1990-6.

In 1982, Amess was elected as a councillor to the London Borough of Redbridge. The sitting Conservative MP for Basildon, Harvey Proctor, moved to Billericay in the 1983 General Election, and Amess won the nomination to fight the Basildon seat. He was elected as the Member of Parliament for Basildon on 9 June 1983. In 1997, Amess moved to represent Southend West in Essex after the retirement of former Cabinet minister Paul Channon.

Climate Change

David Amess has consistently voted in favour of climate change bills [3]

In 2006, MPs were asked three questions by the Rough Guide's Mark Ellingham on how seriously they took climate change as politicians and as responsible, active citizens. David Amess replied:

"Climate Change should be one of the most dominant issues in contemporary political debate since it poses the greatest environmental, social and economic threats to our generation and the next."[4]

Homeopathy

Amess was one of 206 MPs to sign the March 2007 Early Day Motion 1240 calling for the positive recognition of NHS homeopathic hospitals[5].

Abortion

Mr Amess is a listed member of the House of Commons' All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group (as of September 2012)[6].

Amess is a Roman Catholic and his support for tighter abortion laws is in keeping with the official position of the Catholic Church.[7] The BBC describe Amess as one of Parliament's most dedicated "pro-life" activists.[8] According to Amess:

My views on abortion are a matter of public record since I was first elected to Parliament. I much regret when any abortion is necessary, let alone the huge numbers which are carried out today.[7]

David Amess was one of three MPs who supported the Prohibition of Abortion Bill which was an unsuccessful Private Members Bill introduced by Laurence Robertson MP in May 2005. The bill sought to outlaw all abortion except where the mother’s life is at risk or where the pregnancy was due to rape. The Bill would make it an imprisonable offence for someone to carry out an abortion in any other circumstances.[9] The Bill was described by abortion rights advocates as "extreme and outrageous".[9]

In May 2008 in the abortion amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (now Act), David Amess voted for the abortion time limit to be lowered to 12 weeks against scientific and medical consensus which is currently 24 weeks[10]. After four separate parliamentary votes on varying time limits, the majority of MPs voted to keep the abortion time limit at 24 weeks, in keeping with scientific and medical consensus, hence no abortion amendments were added to the bill.

Mr Amess voted for Nadine Dorries’s amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill on 7 September 2011, which was ultimately defeated by 368 to 118 votes. This amendment would have stopped BPAS and Marie Stopes from providing counselling for women with unwanted pregnancies and allowed ‘independent’ counselling including that provided by faith-based organisations.[11]

Mitochondrial Donation

In February 2015 David Amess voted against allowing mitochondrial donation, which would allow women who carried mitochondrial diseases to give birth to children who would not inherit the disease[12]. 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[13]. However, some religious groups had said that such procedures should not be allowed[14]. The majority of MPs voted in favour of allowing mitochondrial donation.

Sex Education

In May 2011 Mr Amess voted in favour of Nadine Dorries' Sex Education (Required Content) "10 minute" Bill[15]. The Bill stated that "such education must include information and advice on the benefits of abstinence from sexual activity"[16]. 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[17] (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[18], plus this new content on abstinence, with further content being up to the individual school)[19]. 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[20].

Brass Eye

Amess infamously appeared in the "Drugs" episode of the spoof current affairs television programme Brass Eye, and was fooled into filming an elaborate warning against the dangers of a fictional Eastern European drug called "cake".[21] He went as far as to ask a question about "cake" in Parliament, alongside real substances Khat and Gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid (GHB).

In response the Home Office minister replied that "cake" was a name "we understand refers to 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-benzylamphetamine",[22] a real drug that is not covered by legislation or most anti-drug campaigns, either at the time of the question or since.

When Brass Eye was released on DVD in 2001, the "Drugs" episode ended with a brief disclaimer at Amess' request, acknowledging his complaint to the ITC and reiterating his disapproval of recreational drug use.

Religion

Cornerstone Group

David Amess is a member of the Cornerstone Group, a group within the Conservative Party that describes itself as believing in "the spiritual values which have informed British institutions, our culture and our nation's sense of identity for centuries, underpinned by the belief in a strong nation state."[23]. Their website includes articles on Conservative and Christian political issues.

Atheist Bus Campaign

Following the adverts bought by the Atheist Bus Campaign on public transport in January 2009, David Amess signed Early Day Motion 424 claiming that the rationale behind the adverts was that non-religious people can be less careful about their lifestyle choices and life's consequences[24].

Faith based Adoption Agencies

In 2007, David Amess signed Early Day Motion 742 calling on the government to exclude "faith based" adoption agencies from the Equality Act to avoid such agencies being forced to consider gay couples.[25]

Blasphemy Law

On 6th May 2008, David Amess voted against a Lords amendment to abolish the common law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel[26]. The amendment was nonetheless passed by a vote of 378 to 57.

Libel Law Reform

In response to an inquiry from a constituent about his stance on libel law reform and Early Day Motion 423, Amess wrote:

"Thank you for your letter regarding English libel law, which i have read carefully. I sympathise with your point of view and absolutely agree that medicine, science and journalism require a level of debate to flourish.
"My colleagues and i will continue to watch this issue very carefully and I will certainly bear your comments in mind in our future consultations."[27]

Later, in February 2010, Amess did add his signature to EDM 423 supporting libel reform[28].

Same-Sex Marriage

David Amess voted against the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill at both its second reading in February 2013[29] and its third reading in May 2013[30].

References

  1. http://www.asrecruit.co.uk
  2. http://www.accountancygroup.com
  3. David Amess voting record on Climate Change Bills from http://www.publicwhip.org.uk
  4. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/climate-change-what-mps-think--a-to-c-424376.html
  5. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2006-07/1240
  6. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmallparty/register/pro-life.htm
  7. 7.0 7.1 http://www.echo-news.co.uk/news/local_news/4460113.Revealed__Essex_s_abortion_figures/
  8. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/2173294.stm
  9. 9.0 9.1 http://www.abortionrights.org.uk/content/view/80/106/
  10. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmselect/cmsctech/1045/104502.htm
  11. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm110907/debtext/110907-0002.htm#110907-0002.htm_div339
  12. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2015-02-03&number=147&mpn=David_Amess
  13. http://www.hfea.gov.uk/docs/2014-10-01_Mitochondrial_donation__an_introductory_briefing_note_-_final.pdf
  14. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-31063500
  15. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm110504/debtext/110504-0001.htm#stpa_o51
  16. http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2010-12/sexeducationrequiredcontent.html
  17. http://www.thetwentyfirstfloor.com/?p=2325
  18. http://www.drpetra.co.uk/blog/what-do-we-want-from-sex-and-relationships-education/
  19. http://educationforchoice.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/abstain-from-abstinence-please-dorries.html
  20. http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/jan/20/nadine-dorries-sexual-abstinence-bill-withdrawn
  21. IMDB.com - Brass Eye: Drugs
  22. House of Commons Hansard - Written Answers 23 July 1996
  23. http://cornerstonegroup.wordpress.com/about/
  24. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2008-09/424
  25. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2006-07/742
  26. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2008-05-06&number=170&display=allvotes
  27. http://skepchick.org/blog/2010/01/libel-reform-which-mps-are-doing-their-jobs/
  28. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2009-10/423
  29. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2013-02-05&number=151&mpn=David_Amess
  30. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2013-05-21&number=11&mpn=David_Amess

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