Edward Leigh

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Edward Leigh is the Conservative MP for Gainsborough. He entered Parliament in 1983.

Biographical background

Leigh was born in 1950, and was educated at The Oratory School, the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle (the French school in London), before going up to University College, Durham where he read History.

Before entering politics, Leigh qualified as a barrister of the Inner Temple, and practised in arbitration and criminal law as a member of Goldsmiths Chambers. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. Leigh was elected a member of Richmond Borough Council and then of the Greater London Council, serving as Councillor between 1974 and 1981.

An ardent supporter of Margaret Thatcher, Leigh served as a Minister in John Major's Government but was sacked in May 1993 over his opposition to the Maastricht Treaty. Whilst in office at the DTI he was a keen advocate of privatisation of the Post Office.

Healthcare

Abortion

Mr Leigh is a treasurer of the House of Commons' All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group (as of September 2012)[1].

In May 2008 in the abortion amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (now Act), Edward Leigh voted for the abortion time limit to be lowered to 12 weeks against scientific and medical consensus which is currently 24 weeks[2]. 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.

He 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.[3]

Embryo Research

In May 2008, in a further debate on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, Leigh opposed hybrid embryo research on the grounds that "There is no overwhelming, or indeed any large-scale body of scientific evidence to suggest that this research that does cross this ultimate boundary between humans and animals will actually cure anything.". He backed this up with a display of his scientific credentials, stating "I don't believe in my soul or my brain I'm 80 per cent a mouse or 30 per cent a daffodil. But I do think that we are special and, therefore, as the human race is special it is different from the animal race and I think that we should take this very seriously." [4]

Mitochondrial Donation

Mitochondrial donation or mitochondrial transfer (or, in newspaper headlines, "three-parent babies") covers a number of related medical procedures carried out as part of IVF to allow women who carry mitochondrial diseases to give birth to children whose cells contain mitochondria from a donor and hence would not inherit the disease. Some religious groups had said that such procedures should not be allowed[5].

Edward Leigh was one of the signatories to an October 2013 declaration that said "the creation of children with genetic material from more than two progenitor persons, as is being proposed by the United Kingdom Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, is incompatible with human dignity and international law."[6]

He subsequently voted against allowing mitochondrial donation in February 2015[7]. 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[8].The majority of MPs voted in favour of allowing mitochondrial donation.

Homeopathy

Edward Leigh was one of 206 MPs to sign the March 2007 Early Day Motion 1240 calling for the positive recognition of NHS homeopathic hospitals[9].

In March 2010, following the publication of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee's report "Evidence Check 2: Homeopathy", Leigh signed Early Day Motion 908: Science and Technology Committee Report on Homeopathy, which was critical of the report[10].

Nomination of David Tredinnick for Health Committee Chair

In 2014 Mr Leigh was one of 20 MPs to nominate David Tredinnick (an outspoken advocate of alternative medicine) for the position of Chair of the Health Select Committee[11][12]. It is not known if Mr Leigh subsequently voted for Mr Tredinnick, who only received nine votes in the anonymous ballot.

Religion

Cornerstone Group

Edward Leigh is the president of the Cornerstone Group, a group within the Conservative Party which 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."[13]. Their website includes articles on Conservative and Christian political issues.

In November 2008, Leigh invited prominent American Christian and Republican politician Sarah Palin to address the Cornerstone Group at a dinner in the House of Commons. Palin was unable to accept the invitation.[14]

Faith based Adoption Agencies

In 2007, Edward Leigh 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.[15]

Blasphemy

In May 2008, in a free vote, Leigh voted against the abolition of the the common law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel[16]. In the preceding debate he said that "...people indulge in self-censorship of any criticism of the Mohammedan religion — rightly, because we should not criticise it — but they feel free to pour abuse and vitriol on, and make comedies about, Christianity. Getting rid of the blasphemy law sends a message that that is okay, but it is insulting to many Christians."[17]

Religion in politics

During a 2009 debate on the role of religion in public life, Leigh bemoaned the perceived reluctance of MPs to discuss their religious beliefs:

"There is also a view, is there not, that politicians should keep out of the Church and out of religion? Was it not rather depressing when the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, said that he could not talk about religion when he was the Prime Minister for fear of being called a nutter? Is that view changing? The current Prime Minister mentioned the story of the good Samaritan in his speech to Congress, and Delia Smith is doing a blog on the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development website. Does my hon. Friend think that politicians should speak out and talk about their faith in a natural way, as he is doing?"[18]

Council prayers

In January 2015, Leigh tabled an ammendment to the Local Government (Religious Etc Observances) Bill that to the effect that councils should "keep in mind the pre-eminence of the Judaeo-Christian tradition as the historical foundation of the United Kingdom" when exercising their proposed power to have religious observances at meetings.[19]

Same-Sex Marriage

In February 2012, Edward Leigh signed the Coalition for Marriage petition which stated:

"I support the legal definition of marriage which is the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. I oppose any attempt to redefine it."[20]

The Coalition for Marriage describes itself as "an umbrella group of individuals and organisations ... backed by politicians, lawyers, academics and religious leaders"[21]. They are supported by the Evangelical Alliance[22] and former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey[23], and have connections with other Christian groups[24].

The group claims it "draws upon a substantial body of evidence". Science and evidence-based politics blogger Martin Robbins described their argument as "confused, irrational and ultimately self-defeating"[25].

Edward Leigh subsequently voted against the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill at its second reading in February 2013[26] and its third reading in May 2013[27].

Sex Education

Mr Leigh was one of the co-presenters of Nadine Dorries' Sex Education (Required Content) "10 minute" Bill, although he did not vote in the only Parliamentary vote on the Bill in May 2011[28]. The Bill stated that "such education must include information and advice on the benefits of abstinence from sexual activity"[29]. 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[30] (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[31], plus this new content on abstinence, with further content being up to the individual school)[32]. 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[33].

Climate Change

In a Parliamentary speech in May 2013, Mr Leigh talked of local windfarms, and remarked on global warming: "if indeed there is global warming, if indeed carbon emissions are causing it and if indeed wind farms will make any difference"[34].

Libel Law Reform

In March 2010, Edward Leigh signed Early Day Motion 423 calling for a reform of the English libel law[35]. The motion noted that human rights activists, scientists, writers and journalists are currently prevented from publishing, and the public prevented from reading, matters of strong public interest due to the chilling effect of the law.

References

  1. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmallparty/register/pro-life.htm
  2. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmselect/cmsctech/1045/104502.htm
  3. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm110907/debtext/110907-0002.htm#110907-0002.htm_div339
  4. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/hybrid-embryo-research-given-goahead-by-mps-831008.html
  5. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-31063500
  6. http://assembly.coe.int/nw/xml/XRef/Xref-XML2HTML-en.asp?fileid=20204&lang=EN
  7. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2015-02-03&number=147&mpn=Edward_Leigh
  8. http://www.hfea.gov.uk/docs/2014-10-01_Mitochondrial_donation__an_introductory_briefing_note_-_final.pdf
  9. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2006-07/1240
  10. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2009-10/908
  11. https://twitter.com/julianhuppert/status/481110771217469440
  12. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmagenda/ob140618.htm
  13. http://cornerstonegroup.wordpress.com/about/
  14. http://cornerstonegroup.wordpress.com/2009/03/05/mrs-palin-regrets%E2%80%A6/
  15. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2006-07/742
  16. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2008-05-06&number=170&display=allvotes
  17. http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2008-05-06b.599.0#g638.6
  18. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmhansrd/cm090311/halltext/90311h0006.htm
  19. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2014-2015/0025/amend/pbc0251301a.1379-1381.html
  20. http://c4m.org.uk/signatures/
  21. http://c4m.org.uk/aboutus/
  22. http://www.eauk.org/articles/coalition-for-marriage-launched.cfm
  23. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-17102352
  24. http://bengoldacre.posterous.com/thinking-out-loud-who-are-the-coalition-for-m
  25. http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/the-lay-scientist/2012/feb/20/1
  26. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2013-02-05&number=151&mpn=Edward_Leigh
  27. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2013-05-21&number=11&mpn=Edward_Leigh
  28. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm110504/debtext/110504-0001.htm#stpa_o51
  29. http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2010-12/sexeducationrequiredcontent.html
  30. http://www.thetwentyfirstfloor.com/?p=2325
  31. http://www.drpetra.co.uk/blog/what-do-we-want-from-sex-and-relationships-education/
  32. http://educationforchoice.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/abstain-from-abstinence-please-dorries.html
  33. http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/jan/20/nadine-dorries-sexual-abstinence-bill-withdrawn
  34. http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2013-05-13a.349.3#g380.3
  35. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2009-10/423

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