In May 2008 in the abortion amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (now Act), Hilary Benn voted to keep the current time limit of 24 weeks in line with the scientific and medical consensus.
In February 2015 Hilary Benn 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. 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. However, some religious groups had said that such procedures should not be allowed. After clearing both Houses, mitochondrial donation is now legal, regulated by the HFEA.
In 2007, the Labour Humanist Group questioned candidates for the Deputy Leadership position on their views regarding faith schools.
Question: What do you say to; (a) parents who can’t send their children to a their nearest school because that school discriminates against them on the basis of their religion or belief; (b) to teachers who are discriminated against and barred from thousands of teaching jobs on the basis of their religion or belief?
Hilary Benn responded:
- "I was comprehensively educated and my mother was great campaigner for comprehensive education. I am a firm supporter and there are many comprehensive faith schools which reflect what some parents wish to have. The shortest suicide note in history would be an election manifesto promising to abolish faith schools, and I’ve seen in my own constituency how much good the best faith schools do.
- What’s important is that our education system promotes tolerance, inclusion and cohesion between communities. It’s right that we’ve made sure that faith schools have to accept at least a minimum proportion of pupils from another faith, and we should look carefully at reforms that take us further."
Question: Will you support giving all schools more freedom to determine their ethos by repealing the requirement that all schools, including community schools, must carry out collective acts of Christian worship?
Hilary Benn responded:
- "No. We live in a Christian state, and I think any changes to school practice in this way put the cart before the horse: they should be preceded by a more open and larger discussion about the relationship of the state to faiths."
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