Emily Thornberry

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Emily Thornberry is the Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury. She entered Parliament at the May 2005 general election.


Emily Thornberry was one of 206 MPs to sign the March 2007 Early Day Motion 1240 calling for the positive recognition of NHS homeopathic hospitals[1].

In a 23/3/2010 letter to an inquiring skeptic constituent, Ms. Thornberry replied as follows:

Dear XXX

Thank you for contacting me about access to homeopathy. I take your point about the danger of assuming the homeopathic treatments might be effective against life-threatening conditions, and you can be assured that I am not intending to sign the EDM in question.

However, I know that many patients are happy with the treatment they receive from homeopaths, and it seems to me that making people with chronic conditions feel a bit better is a worthwhile endeavour for the NHS. So in the past I have been willing to support patients who were seeking to continue their treatment at the Royal National Homeopathic Hospital.

It is clear that the Science and Technology Select Committee is tasked with taking a less anecdotal view of value for money in the NHS, and they came up with a different view from my own on this topic. Whilst I do not intend to sign the EDM, my view is that the Select Committees should consider carefully how they select witnesses to avoid any possible imbalance.

I have therefore asked the Chair of the Committee to provide further detail on how witnesses were selected, and I enclose a copy of my letter. I will be back in touch when I receive a reply.

Best wishes, Emily Thornberry MP Islington South and Finsbury

She also included a copy of her letter addressed to Phil Willis MP dated 22/3/2010:


A number of my constituents have contacted me recently about the Committee's report of 22/02/10 on Homeopathy. Some of my constituents feel that the Committee has been unfair in its assessment of the evidence underpinning the current level of access to Homeopathy through the NHS, although others strongly support the line the Committee has taken on this issue.

As you probably know, my own view is that there is a high enough proportion of patients who feel they gain some benefit from homeopathic treatment to continue current levels of access - providing sufficient safeguards are in place to ensure that those with life-threatening conditions are actively encouraged to access conventional treatment.

However, I appreciate that this point of view is based on anecdotal evidence, and I know that your Committee is obliged to take a more objective view. I think it would be helpful for both groups of constituents to have some further comments on how the Science and Technology committee decided on the witness list for your evidence check.

Thank you for your help in this matter, I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Emily Thornberry MP Islington South and Finsbury

A different inquiring skeptic constituent[2] received exactly the same reply as above, continued the correspondence and received this 09/04/2010


Thank you for your thoughtful comments on the homeopathy debate. I enclose a copy of the response I have recevied from the Committee chair, which outlines the reasoning behind the decision to undertake the evidence check, and gives some information on the selection of witnesses. [There was nothing in that response that wasn't available on the website.]

I appreciate that some people feel very strongly that it is wrong to continue to provide complementary therapies through the NHS, and that you therefore feel that we should cease to offer homeopathic treatment, even to those who have found it very helpful. I can see why you feel like this, and I can see why the Select Committee reached the decision it did.

However, you don't disagree with me on the perceived benefits of seeing a homeopath [which the inquiring sceptic had attributed to the placebo effect] for some people with long term [sic] conditions, and I still think this is an important point. In the future, I would like to see better access to a wider range of personalised therapies aimed at helping people with long-term non-life-threatening conditions feel better. I am keen to see more emphasis on properly regulated talking therapies, but I still feel that there should be some room for other complementary therapies, including homeopathy.

Thank you again for letting me know your views on this issue, and please feel free to contact me in the future if there are any additional points you wish to raise. I am always interested to hear from my constituents, and happy to help if I can.

Best wishes Emily Thornberry MP Islington South and Finsbury

Pharmaceutical Trials

June 2013: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-22973825

Medical Innovation ("Saatchi") Bill

In December 2014 Ms Thornberry replied to a constituent's communication regarding the Medical Innovation Bill. Ms Thornberry wrote:

"Fundamentally the bill aims to change the law around medical negligence however it could have much wider implication on many areas of medical practice and I am concerned that insufficient safeguards have been included to protect against abuses.
"I agree with you that allowing more experimental treatments without proper monitoring in a research or trial environment is not the best way to promote innovation in medical treatment. We need to improve the platform for scientists and doctors to share results on medical trials to promote development of new treatments and drugs. This bill however does not include any provisions to improve the quality of development of medical research and does nothing to address the real obstacles to responsible medical innovation, such as overzealous bureaucracy and scarcity of resources.
"The bill also could also encourage irresponsible innovation and could therefore cause unnecessary suffering or harm to patients and their families especially given that the provisions do not just apply to patients who are already dying of their conditions."[3]


Emily Thornberry is a joint vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Choice and Sexual Health Group[4].

In May 2008 in the abortion amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (now Act), Emily Thornberry voted to keep the current time limit of 24 weeks[5].

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report of October 2007[6] had found no good evidence of change since the limit was set in 1990, and hence no new reason for a reduction. However, it acknowledged that this was only one of many factors to be taken into account when legislating, and did not make any recommendations as to how MPs should vote.

Thornberry has been critical of the restrictions on abortion which remain in Northern Ireland. During a commons debate on the matter, Thornberry stated:

"If we cannot grab back the power that we are about to devolve to Northern Ireland, the least that we can do is allow women from Northern Ireland to have access to abortion under the national health service. I do not want that smutty compromise; it is not right. I believe that women in Northern Ireland should be allowed to walk into a hospital as I could in London, and as a woman from Northern Ireland's sister could if she lived in my constituency. It is not right, but it is the best that we can offer. I wish that we could at least do that before handing over these powers in Northern Ireland to gentlemen such as the hon. Member for South Antrim (Dr. McCrea), whose views do not represent those of everyone in Northern Ireland. At the moment, such people do not have a voice."[7]

Mitochondrial Donation

In February 2015 Emily Thornberry voted in favour of allowing mitochondrial donation, which would allow women who carried mitochondrial diseases to give birth to children who would not inherit the disease[8]. An October 2014 briefing report by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which had been investigating the issue for three years, stated that there was no evidence to show that mitochondrial donation was unsafe[9]. However, some religious groups had said that such procedures should not be allowed[10]. After clearing both Houses mitochondrial donation is now legal, regulated by the HFEA.

MMR Vaccine

Emily Thornberry signed the February 2009 Early Day Motion 754: MMR Vaccine and the Media supporting the use of the MMR vaccine. The motion expressed disappointment with the reporting of the vaccine by Jeni Barnett on her LBC radio show in January 2009, and expressed the hope that future reporting of the issue of MMR would be less sensationalist and more evidence-based.[11]

Animals in Medical Research

In 2006, Emily Thornberry signed Early Day Motion 1850: Animals in Medical Research which noted that "animal research is only permitted where there is no better alternative and that pain and suffering are minimised and balanced against the potential benefit to humans and animals", supported "the building of the new state of the art biomedical research laboratory at Oxford University", condemned "unlawful animal rights extremism, including any violence, harassment or intimidation of those associated with lawful animal research", and supported "the well-regulated use of animals in medical research".[12]

Libel Law Reform

In February 2010, Emily Thornberry signed Early Day Motion 423 calling for a reform of the English libel law[13]. 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.

Same-Sex Marriage

Emily Thornberry voted in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill at both its second reading in February 2013[14] and its third reading in May 2013[15].

Climate Change

Emily Thornberry was a listed member of the All-Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group whose purpose is "To raise awareness of the threat of climate change and to promote policies to counter that threat".[16]


  1. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2006-07/1240
  2. http://wbentinck.blogspot.com
  3. https://twitter.com/Mortuseon/status/563440892976332800
  4. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmallparty/register/memi274.htm
  5. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2008-05-20&number=203&mpn=Emily_Thornberry
  6. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmselect/cmsctech/1045/104502.htm
  7. http://www.emilythornberry.com/news/2950.html
  8. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2015-02-03&number=147&mpn=Emily_Thornberry
  9. http://www.hfea.gov.uk/docs/2014-10-01_Mitochondrial_donation__an_introductory_briefing_note_-_final.pdf
  10. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-31063500
  11. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2008-09/754
  12. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2005-06/1850
  13. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2009-10/423
  14. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2013-02-05&number=151&mpn=Emily_Thornberry
  15. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2013-05-21&number=11&mpn=Emily_Thornberry
  16. https://web.archive.org/web/20150502061628/http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmallparty/register/climate-change.htm

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