In May 2008 in the abortion amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (now Act), Mark Harper voted for the abortion time limit to be lowered to 12 weeks. After four separate parliamentary votes on varying time limits, the majority of MPs voted to keep the abortion time limit at 24 weeks, hence no abortion amendments were added to the bill.
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 Mark Harper 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.
Libel law reform - letter from Mark Harper, 19 Jan 2010
- Thank you for writing to me about EDM 423 and libel law reform.
- I understand your concerns on this issue. It is important that those who contribute so much to research and culture in this country do not feel restricted from publishing intellectually challenging and informative articles. Fear of libel action should not curb debate by scientists, academics and journalists. Freedom of expression is the hallmark of a free society, and must be strongly protected.
- If libel cases do succeed, the costs are often so crippling to defendants that even large newspapers are in difficulty resisting some claims. It is evident that Britain has become an attractive place for individuals to bring about speculative libel action since lawyers will often bear the brunt of the costs in exchange for the potential awards available to winning litigants.
- I do believe, however, that we must be careful when changing libel law itself. People have the right not to be defamed unless necessary; any changes to this law should not risk this principle. I believe that the burden of proof should remain on individuals who make defamatory claims about other people to justify their assertions about others. For this reason, I do not feel that I can sign EDM 423.
- You may be aware that the Secretary of State for Justice, Jack Straw MP, has recently announced that the Government is currently drawing up plans to alter libel law. Let me assure you that my colleagues on the Shadow Justice Team will continue to press the Government on this issue, to ensure that any changes to the law adequately protect individuals without placing too great a burden on scientists, academics and journalists.
- Thank you for taking the time to write to me.
Childhood leukaemia and power lines
Harper signed in October 2007 Early Day Motion 1784 calling for housebuilding near power lines to be stopped. The evidence for this motion is in a British Medical Journal report and appears to be statistically sound. The report itself concludes however, that the relation may be due to chance or confounding. They estimate that, if their results reflect a real causal relationship then of the 400-420 cases of childhood leukaemia occurring annually, about five would be associated with high voltage power
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