Mr Hemming studied Natural Sciences at Oxford University, specialising in atomic, nuclear and theoretical physics. He subsequently worked in the IT industry.
When asked by journalist Tom Whipple what evidence the MP had used in deciding to support the motion, Hemming responded:
- "A good question, one that it is right to answer and one which I don’t have a proper answer to. In part that is because in common with other MPs I don’t spend a lot of time researching EDMs before signing them.
- What I can say is that I am aware of constituents who are of the view that they have been cured by a homeopathic remedy. Even if you take the perspective that it only acts much like a psychological treatment if then it is effective in those situations.
- I am, therefore, comfortable in accepting - whilst fully understanding that the theory behind homeopathy is not accepted by mainstream medicine – that there is a role for homeopathy within the health service.".
In February 2010, following the publication of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee's report "Evidence Check 2: Homeopathy", Hemming signed Early Day Motion 908: Science and Technology Committee Report on Homeopathy, which was critical of the report. However, by 10th April he had removed his signature from the Motion.
The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report of October 2007 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.
In February 2015 John Hemming voted against allowing mitochondrial donation, which would allow women who carried mitochondrial diseases to give birth to children who would not inherit the disease. 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. However, some religious groups had said that such procedures should not be allowed. The majority of MPs voted in favour of allowing mitochondrial donation.
John Hemming 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.
Animals in Medical Research
In 2006, John Hemming 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".
In May 2011 Mr Hemming voted in favour of Nadine Dorries' Sex Education (Required Content) "10 minute" Bill. The Bill stated that "such education must include information and advice on the benefits of abstinence from sexual activity". 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 (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, plus this new content on abstinence, with further content being up to the individual school). 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.
John Hemming 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 November 2010, John Hemming signed Early Day Motion 767: Science is Vital Campaign. The motion stated that the house "believes that continued investment in research is vital in order to meet the technological and social challenges of the 21st century, and to continue to attract high-tech industries to invest here; further believes that large cuts to science funding are a false economy, due to evidence that research investment fuels economic growth".
EDM 767 was proposed before the results of the October 2010 comprehensive spending review, which was expected to contain significant cuts to science funding. However, by the time Hemming signed the motion, the Conservative/LibDem coalition government had already announced the spending review's conclusions and cuts to science were significantly less than anticipated, with the government apparently echoing some of the language of the Science is Vital Campaign.
Libel Law Reform
In December 2009, John Hemming 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".
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