Robert Halfon

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Robert Halfon is the Conservative MP for Harlow. He entered Parliament following the May 2010 general election, having won the seat from Labour.

Homeopathy

In June 2010, Robert Halfon signed Early Day Motions 284: BMA Annual Representative Meeting Motions on Homeopathy[1], 285: Effect of Homeopathic Remedies on Breast Cancer Cells[2], 286: Homeopathic Medicines in the Treatment of Moderate to Severe Depression[3], and 287: Homeopathy and Chronic Primary Insomnia[4]. A few days later he signed the additional EDM 342: British Medical Association Motions on Homeopathy[5].

In May 2011, Robert Halfon signed Early Day Motion 1820 which welcomed a campaign to "place homeopathy research on the national agenda as a credible scientific field of inquiry" and called for the Government to facilitate research into homeopathy[6].

Health and Abortion

In 2010, Robert Halfon was one of the MPs to nominate Nadine Dorries for the position of Chair of the Health Select Committee.[7]

Mr Halfon 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.[8]

Mitochondrial Donation

In February 2015 Robert Halfon 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[9]. 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[10]. However, some religious groups had said that such procedures should not be allowed[11]. After clearing both Houses mitochondrial donation is now legal, regulated by the HFEA.

Same-Sex Marriage

In 2012, Mr Halfon 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."[12]

The Coalition for Marriage describes itself as "an umbrella group of individuals and organisations ... backed by politicians, lawyers, academics and religious leaders"[13]. They are supported by the Evangelical Alliance[14] and former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey[15], and have connections with other Christian groups[16].

The group claims it "draws upon a substantial body of evidence". However, science and evidence-based politics blogger Martin Robbins described their argument as "confused, irrational and ultimately self-defeating"[17].

Mr Halfon subsequently voted against the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill at its second reading in February 2013[18] and its third reading in May 2013[19].

Plymouth Brethren and the Charity Commission

In July 2012 Mr Halfon proposed 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."[20]

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.

The Charity Commission has 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"[21]. The Charities Act 2006 had removed the automatic presumption that charities established for the advancement of education and religion are for the public benefit.

In December 2012 Mr Halfon organised 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". The letter was signed by 53 MPs.[22]

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."[23]

References

  1. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2010-12/284
  2. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2010-12/285
  3. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2010-12/286
  4. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2010-12/287
  5. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2010-12/342
  6. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2010-12/1820
  7. http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/Committee-Commons-Nominees.pdf
  8. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm110907/debtext/110907-0002.htm#110907-0002.htm_div339
  9. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2015-02-03&number=147&mpn=Robert_Halfon
  10. http://www.hfea.gov.uk/docs/2014-10-01_Mitochondrial_donation__an_introductory_briefing_note_-_final.pdf
  11. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-31063500
  12. http://c4m.org.uk/signatures/
  13. http://c4m.org.uk/aboutus/
  14. http://www.eauk.org/articles/coalition-for-marriage-launched.cfm
  15. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-17102352
  16. http://bengoldacre.posterous.com/thinking-out-loud-who-are-the-coalition-for-m
  17. http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/the-lay-scientist/2012/feb/20/1
  18. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2013-02-05&number=151&mpn=Robert_Halfon
  19. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2013-05-21&number=11&mpn=Robert_Halfon
  20. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2012-13/398
  21. http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/Library/about_us/Preston_down_070612.pdf
  22. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/letters/9753703/A-small-Christian-church-hall-should-be-allowed-charitable-status.html
  23. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmpubadm/writev/charity/m63.htm

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