Fiona Bruce

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Fiona Bruce is the Conservative MP for Congleton. She entered Parliament at the 2010 general election, the previous MP, Ann Winterton (Conservative), having stepped down.

Abortion

Ms Bruce is a vice-chair of the House of Commons' All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group (as of September 2012)[1].

She 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.[2]

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[3].

In June 2014 Ms Bruce proposed EDM 122: Professor Robert Winston and Three-Parent Embryos[4] which stated:

That this House notes the comments of Professor Robert Winston reported in the Independent on Sunday on 15 June 2014 on the premature introduction of mitochondrial replacement techniques; urges the Government to heed his warning that a great deal more research in as many animal models as possible ought to be undertaken prior to such techniques being approved; further notes his view that full and far-reaching assessments must be conducted as to the potential risks to children born as a result of the procedures; and calls on the Department of Health to delay bringing the relevant regulations before Parliament until the international scientific community and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority have declared the techniques safe.

The Independent article mentioned is here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/lord-winston-criticises-jungle-world-of-british-fertility-treatment-9537859.html

In September 2014, Ms Bruce led a parliamentary debate on Mitochondrial Replacement (Public Safety). The full debate including her contributions can be read at: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2014-09-01a.93.0 or http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmhansrd/cm140901/debtext/140901-0003.htm#column_93

Note that following the debate Professor Winston indicated that he had not been consulted on the wording of the debate, and that the EDM (presumably EDM 122 above) had quoted him out of context: https://twitter.com/ProfRWinston/status/506721950023294976

Ms Bruce subsequently voted against allowing mitochondrial donation in February 2015[5]. 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[6].The majority of MPs voted in favour of allowing mitochondrial donation.

Sex Education

Ms Bruce was one of the co-presenters of Nadine Dorries' Sex Education (Required Content) "10 minute" Bill, and voted in favour of it in the only Parliamentary vote on the Bill in May 2011[7]. The Bill stated that "such education must include information and advice on the benefits of abstinence from sexual activity"[8]. 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[9] (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[10], plus this new content on abstinence, with further content being up to the individual school)[11]. 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[12].

Same-Sex Marriage

In February 2012, Ms Bruce 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."[13]

The Coalition for Marriage describes itself as "an umbrella group of individuals and organisations ... backed by politicians, lawyers, academics and religious leaders"[14]. They are supported by the Evangelical Alliance[15] and former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey[16], and have connections with other Christian groups[17].

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"[18].

Ms Bruce subsequently voted against the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill at its second reading in February 2013[19] and its third reading in May 2013[20].

Religion

Plymouth Brethren and the Charity Commission

In July 2012 Ms Bruce signed Early Day Motion 398: Brethren Churches and the Charities Commission, which stated:

"That this House notes the decision of the Charity Commission to revoke the charitable status of a trust that is part of the Brethren Christian Church, which does a lot of good work for charity and community groups; believes that this is an extremely important test case because it has widespread implications for all Christian charitable trusts; and therefore calls on the Government and all parliamentarians to express their belief to the Charities Commission that Christian groups who are serving the community have the right to charitable status and should not be subject to politically correct bias."[21]

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.

In June the Charity Commission had stated that the Preston Down Trust of the Plymouth (or Exclusive) Brethren was not granted charitable status 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"[22].

In November 2012 Ms Bruce called a Westminster Hall debate on the effect of the 2006 Charities Act on religious charities[23]. The Act meant that there was no-longer a presumption of public benefit for organisations established for the advancement of religion. Particular reference was made to the case of the Preston Down Trust of the Plymouth Brethren which had been refused charitable status.

In December 2012 Ms Bruce, with 52 other MPs, signed a letter to the Daily Telegraph calling for a review of the public benefit test of the Charities Act, stating that it was "being used by officials in the Charity Commission to deny charitable status to a small Christian church hall"[24]

The same month, December 2012 the Charity Commission presented additional evidence to the Public Affairs Select Committee 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."[25]

National Prayer Breakfast

In June 2013 Ms Bruce attended the National Prayer Breakfast, an event sponsored by the Bible Society and held in Westminster Hall in the Houses of Parliament. At the event John Lennox gave a speech, in which the Bible Society reported that he claimed that the new atheism was responsible for "the moral drift" in today's society.[26]

References

  1. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmallparty/register/pro-life.htm
  2. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm110907/debtext/110907-0002.htm#110907-0002.htm_div339
  3. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-31063500
  4. http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/business-papers/commons/early-day-motions/edm-detail1/?session=2014-15&edmnumber=122
  5. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2015-02-03&number=147&mpn=Fiona_Bruce
  6. http://www.hfea.gov.uk/docs/2014-10-01_Mitochondrial_donation__an_introductory_briefing_note_-_final.pdf
  7. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm110504/debtext/110504-0001.htm#stpa_o51
  8. http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2010-12/sexeducationrequiredcontent.html
  9. http://www.thetwentyfirstfloor.com/?p=2325
  10. http://www.drpetra.co.uk/blog/what-do-we-want-from-sex-and-relationships-education/
  11. http://educationforchoice.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/abstain-from-abstinence-please-dorries.html
  12. http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/jan/20/nadine-dorries-sexual-abstinence-bill-withdrawn
  13. http://c4m.org.uk/signatures/
  14. http://c4m.org.uk/aboutus/
  15. http://www.eauk.org/articles/coalition-for-marriage-launched.cfm
  16. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-17102352
  17. http://bengoldacre.posterous.com/thinking-out-loud-who-are-the-coalition-for-m
  18. http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/the-lay-scientist/2012/feb/20/1
  19. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2013-02-05&number=151&mpn=Fiona_Bruce
  20. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2013-05-21&number=11&mpn=Fiona_Bruce
  21. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2012-13/398
  22. http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/Library/about_us/Preston_down_070612.pdf
  23. http://www.theyworkforyou.com/whall/?id=2012-11-13a.36.0
  24. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/letters/9753703/A-small-Christian-church-hall-should-be-allowed-charitable-status.html
  25. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmpubadm/writev/charity/m63.htm
  26. http://www.biblesociety.org.uk/news/christians-need-to-have-courage-to-talk-up-the-bible/

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