He was a member of the Science and Technology Select Committee prior to the 2010 general election.
Medicine and Healthcare
In May 2008 in the abortion amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (now Act), Rob Wilson voted for the abortion time limit to be lowered to 20 weeks against scientific and medical consensus which is currently 24 weeks. After four separate parliamentary votes on varying time limits, the majority of MPs voted to keep the abortion time limit at 24 weeks, in keeping with scientific and medical consensus, hence no abortion amendments were added to the bill.
In September 2011 Rob Wilson voted for Nadine Dorries’s amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill, 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.
In January 2010, an article on Wilson's website stated that he had met with Dr J. Wu, president of the Dr & Herbs chain of Chinese medicine shops. Wilson is quoted as saying:
- "It has been extremely interesting listening to Dr Wu and learning about the treatments offered by Chinese medicine."
- "I am delighted to see a high street retailer recognising the huge importance of preventative medicine and measures."
Animals in Medical Research
In 2006, Rob Wilson 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".
Libel Law Reform
- "Thank you for writing to me about EDM 423 and libel law reform. As a general rule I do not sign EDMs but I am happy to give you my views.
- "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 in 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.
- "You may be aware that the Secretary of State for Justice, the Rt. Hon. Jack Straw MP, has recently announced that the Government is currently drawing up plans to alter liable [sic] 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, for example, scientists, academics and journalists."
Candidate Survey 2010
The following response was received to the Skeptical Voter Candidate Survey 2010.
1. Do you support the use of public funds to provide unproven health products such as homeopathy?
I am aware that there are differing views on the provision of homeopathic remedies, with some arguing that there is not enough evidence to support their availability via the NHS, while others argue that greater access to complementary therapies in the NHS might lead to widespread benefits.
Conservatives believe that the NHS should not rule out providing alternative therapies. Homeopathy and alternative treatments are a valuable resource for doctors to be able to draw upon when offering treatments. Where a doctor and a patient believe that a homeopathic treatment may be of benefit to the patient, I believe doctors should be free to prescribe that medicine. All therapies should be considered equally, and decisions on whether or not to provide them on the NHS should be evidence-based, as is the case with all other conventional medicines and treatments.
2. Do you think that abortion time limits should always be determined by the current scientific and medical consensus?
There has been ongoing discussion in recent years about reviewing abortion laws in light of improvements that have been made to care and neonatal facilities since the limit was lowered to 24 weeks in 1990. As you may be aware, the then Health Minister, Dawn Primarolo MP, told the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee that the Government does not believe that there is sufficient evidence to lower the legal abortion limit further.
This is an issue which has been debated in depth as the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill has progressed through Parliament. Abortion was discussed on the floor of the House of Commons on 20th May 2009, with all amendments to the current abortion laws being defeated.
3. Do you agree that testing on animals (within strict criteria) is a necessary part of the development of medicines?
As a general point, I would like to emphasise that I only condone any form of animal experimentation when it is necessary for advancement in medical science and all-round health. The Conservative Party’s long-term vision is for a gradual phasing out of animal testing. However, at this point in time it would be naive of us to assume we could abolish animal testing outright without potentially damaging consequences.
Despite progress, we are still not yet at a stage where alternative methods of experimentation are as reliable or comprehensive as those involving animals. However, that less than ten per cent of medical research involves experimenting on animals is testament to the fact that where the use of animals is avoidable, they are not used.
My party and I are committed to the 3 ‘R’s of “Refinement, Reduction and Replacement” and understand that the reduction and refinement have to come before the eventual replacement. With specific regard to the introduction of human biology-based testing and scientific comparison with animal testing is an interesting concept but, as I stated, such options are as yet not as reliable or comprehensive as animal testing.
As I have said we are committed to seeing the phasing out of animal testing over time but this cannot come before adequate alternatives are in place.
4. Should schools be allowed to teach creationism as an equivalent theory to evolution?
Schools should not teach creationism as if it is science. My colleague, Michael Gove MP told BBC1's Andrew Marr programme on 14th February that "fundamentalist groups" who taught in a way that undermined "democratic values" would be challenged, and if necessary, closed down.
He said the inspection regime would be crucial in challenging such schools.
"To my mind you cannot have a school which teaches creationism" he said. "And one thing that we will make absolutely clear is that you can not have schools that are set up which teach people things which are clearly at varience with what we know to be scientific fact."
"But critically, inspection is key here" he continued. "We do have some schools at the moment - independent schools - that have been set up by religious groups. You mentioned Islamic groups. Let's be clear, there are other fundamentalist groups as well which have schools in the private sctor. If those schools are properly regulated and inspected then we can ensure that anyone who teaches in a way that undermines our democratic values can be brought to public light, challenged, and if necessary, closed down."
5. Should religious courts such as Sharia and Beth Din be recognised as alternative systems within UK law?
Conservative leader David Cameron has rejected any expansion of Sharia law in the UK, saying it would undermine society and alienate other communities.
In a speech in London he said allowing two laws to work side by side would be dangerous adding: "All citizens are equal before the law."
6. Do you believe that religious belief should be legally protected from ridicule?
Freedom of speech should not be compromised, however comments that incite religious hatred cannot be condoned and result in prosecution.
7. Should religious leaders be entitled to vote in the House of Lords?
The Lords Spiritual normally do not vote on matters of law or state in the House of Lords and Conservatives have no plans at present to change this.
8. Should an independent government adviser whose views in their area of expertise conflict with government policy be able to express those views publicly without fear of being sacked?
If they are an independent advisor, I do not see why they should be sacked for having views that differ from the Government of they day's policies.
9. Should policy-makers trust scientific evidence even when it appears counter-intuitive?
This validates the reason why it is always a good idea to gather evidence from a wide range of sources. If scientific consensus is reached then action should be taken accordingly.
10. Do you support the reform of English and Welsh libel law to allow a stronger 'public interest' defence?
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 in 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.
You may be aware that the Secretary of State for Justice, the Rt. Hon. Jack Straw MP, has recently announced that the Government is currently drawing up plans to alter liable 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, for example, scientists, academics and journalists.
11. What are your views on the digial economy bill?
I would like to make it clear that this Bill is a piece of legislation introduced by the Labour Government, without prior discussion with my party. As the Labour Party was elected to Government in 2005, it dictates the legislative programme and has the mandate provided by the electorate to pass such bills – without opposition support if that is the case.
Conservatives took the decision to seek to remove those clauses of the Digital Economy Bill that we did not support or feel received proper legislative scrutiny. We were successful in several areas in this respect.
Even if every single Conservative and Liberal Democrat MP voted against the Bill, it still would have passed if every Labour MP had turned up to vote – regretfully it was Labour that was elected to Government back in 2005 with a majority of 66, not the Conservative Party.
My party has pledged that, if we are elected to Government on May 6th this year, we will revisit the Bill and look at alternative options for a balanced solution as part of a broader update of copyright.
Whilst I appreciate that this does not detract from the distasteful way in which this Bill was rushed through by Labour, I hope that it does offer some indication that we will not let matters rest.
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