Illsley served as Labour MP from 1987 until 2010, however in May 2010, a few weeks after the general election, he was charged in connection with the Parliamentary expenses scandal and suspended from the Labour Party. In January 2011 he announced that he would stand down as MP after changing his plea to guilty.
In May 2008 in the abortion amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (now Act), Eric Illsley voted to keep the current time limit of 24 weeks in line with the scientific and medical consensus.
Eric Illsley 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.
Libel Law Reform
In December 2009, Eric Illsley signed Early Day Motion 423 calling for a reform of the English libel law. 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.
The motion was tabled following the recent formation of Libel Reform Coalition, which has the backing of Index on Censorship, English PEN and Sense about Science. Sense about Science have been campaigning in defense of a member of its board of trustees, author and journalist Simon Singh, who has been sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association. They issued a statement entitled "The law has no place in scientific disputes".
Eric Illsley was one of 79 MPs who signed Early Day Motion 377 noting the achievements of Charles Darwin, and calling for Darwin's birthday to be designated a public holiday to honour "one of the fathers of modern science and one of Britain's greatest, if not the greatest, scientific minds."
In January 2010, Eric Illsley signed Early Day Motion 524: Recognising Climate Change which states that "this House agrees that climate change is happening and is man-made" and calls this statement a "fact, which has the support of the overwhelming majority of the scientific community".
In September/October 2010, Eric Illsley signed Early Day Motions 707: Government Funding for UK Science, and 767: Science is Vital Campaign. Both motions supported investment in science in the face of cuts anticipated in the coalition government's forthcoming spending review, although Illsley only signed the second motion after the conclusions of the spending review had been announced.
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