Paul Burstow

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Paul Burstow was the Liberal Democrat MP for Sutton and Cheam from 1997 until he lost the seat at the 2015 general election.



Burstow was one of 206 MPs to sign the March 2007 Early Day Motion 1240 calling for the positive recognition of NHS homeopathic hospitals[1].

Food Supplements

In November 2004, Paul Burstow proposed Early Day Motion 44: Food Supplements and Medicinal Products[2]. The motion stated:

That this House notes that the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive and the Medicinal Products for Human Use Directive have recently been passed into European law; believes that these Directives and the Food Supplements Directive together place unnecessary restrictions upon the choice exercised by British consumers of vitamins and minerals; further believes that many restrictions are for the sake of European harmonisation rather than public safety; notes the misgivings of the British food supplements industry over the prohibitive costs of compiling complex dossiers defending their products from bans, which have been estimated by the Government to be between ú80,000 and ú250,000 per product; further notes that the Government must now translate the directives into British law by producing new legislation; and calls upon the Government when framing domestic legislation, to address the concerns of consumers, who continue to use food supplements safely, and of manufacturers, who fear debilitating restrictions placed upon their business.

Miracle Cures

In June 2008, the MP signed Early Day Motion 1770, protesting the uncritical promotion by the media of Dore, a claimed miracle cure for dyslexia, in the absence of scientific proof of its value. [3]


In May 2008 in the abortion amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (now Act), Paul Burstow voted to keep the current time limit of 24 weeks in line with the scientific and medical consensus[4].

Mitochondrial Donation

In February 2015 Paul Burstow voted in favour of allowing mitochondrial donation, which would allow women who carried mitochondrial diseases to have genetically related children who would not inherit the disease[5]. 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[6]. However, some religious groups had said that such procedures should not be allowed[7]. After clearing both Houses mitochondrial donation is now legal, regulated by the HFEA.

NHS Reforms

Following a Bad Science post by Ben Goldacre which criticised Andrew Lansley's claims about evidence in relation to NHS reforms, Mr Burstow wrote a letter to the Guardian stating that several sources of evidence had been overlooked[8]. Goldacre's next Bad Science post considered these sources but again concluded that the evidence did not support the government's claims. He stated that Burstow either misunderstood or misrepresented one paper, and that a government impact assessment ignored evidence and made unreferenced claims. A request to the Department of Health for the sources lead to a single document from which, according to Goldacre, results had been "cherry picked".[9].

Medical Innovation ("Saatchi") Bill

In February 2015 Mr Burstow was one of five MPs from Parliamentary groups related to medicine to sign a letter to the Telegraph on the subject of the Medical Innovation Bill that stated:

"We support the purpose of the Bill – to encourage responsible innovation in medical treatment – but the Bill itself is misconceived in fact and law.
"Parliamentary scrutiny demands evidence. There is no evidence that doctors are deterred from innovating by threat of litigation: nor is there case law where innovating doctors have been sued in negligence."[10]

Climate Change

In 2006, MPs were asked three questions by the Rough Guide's Mark Ellingham on how seriously they took climate change as politicians and as responsible, active citizens. Paul Burstow replied:

"There is no doubt in my mind that climate change is one of the most important concerns of our age. As the Stern report makes clear, the evidence is now overwhelming; something must be done in order to preserve our way of life for future generations. The Liberal Democrat have set out proposals for a range of targeted green taxes that will seek to penalise polluting behaviour while reducing taxes on hard work. It is imperative that we act immediately in order to prevent environmental disasters of the future."[11]

In February 2010, Paul Burstow 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"[12].

Libel Law Reform

In December 2009, Paul Burstow signed Early Day Motion 423 calling for a reform of the English libel law[13]. 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".

Christian Action, Research and Education (CARE)

Mr Burstow was one of a number of MPs who registered their employment of interns from the Christian charity group Christian Action, Research and Education (CARE). Described by the Independent as a 'right wing Christian group', CARE were investigated by the Charity Commission and the House of Commons standards watchdog for lobbying activities, specifically related to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.

CARE also campaigned against the repeal of Section 28, which banned the "promotion" of homosexuality in schools, and helped defeat laws on assisted dying in the House of Lords. Its work has been condemned in the Lords as "propaganda". [14]

Same-Sex Marriage

Paul Burstow voted in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill at both its second reading in February 2013[15] and its third reading in May 2013[16].


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