Tim Farron

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Tim Farron is the Liberal Democrat MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale (since 2005). He was leader of the Liberal Democrat Party from July 2015 until he stepped down following the June 2017 general election.

Health

Homeopathy

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

On 11th March 2010, following the publication of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee's report "Evidence Check 2: Homeopathy", Mr Farron signed Early Day Motion 908: Science and Technology Committee Report on Homeopathy, which was critical of the report[2]. However, by 19th March he had removed his signature from the Motion.

In a post on Twitter of 15th March 2010 regarding the EDM, Mr Farron wrote:

...on homeopathy I take an evidence-based approach to medicine; signed edm at constituents' request as felt the ctte was bit 1-sided[3]

This came to the attention of a number of Twitter users, including science and medicine writers Andy Lewis and Ben Goldacre, who tweeted asking Mr Farron about his support for the motion[4][5]. However it is unknown why Mr Farron removed his signature.

In a Twitter exchange in January 2014 when Mr Farron was asked why he signed a pro-homeopathy EDM he said it was "at a constituents request". Then, responding to the comment "hopefully you'll be more sensible in future and ask a scientist about science things", he stated "Yes - lesson learned. I try to do that now" and "I now work with experts on science, IT and lots of issues where I don't have expertise".[6]

In a June 2015 exchange on Twitter Mr Farron stated "I do not support homeopathy. Its anti science."[7]

Abortion

In October 2006 Mr Farron voted in favour of Nadine Dorries's Termination of Pregnancy Bill[8]. The Bill, which was defeated in the vote, would have reduced the abortion limit from 24 to 21 weeks, introduced a 10-day "cooling-off" period, and required provision of counselling "about the medical risk of, and about matters relating to, termination and carrying a pregnancy to term" as a condition of consent to termination.

From February 2007: A magazine article, quoted in a 2013 blog post, used to indicate that Mr Farron thinks "Abortion is wrong. Society has to climb down from the position that says there is nothing morally objectionable about abortion before a certain time. If abortion is wrong, it is wrong at any time.": http://scottish-liberal.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/tim-farron-is-either-wrong-or.html (quote unconfirmed - unable to access magazine)

In October 2007 the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee published its report on abortion. The report looked at issues including foetal consciousness and improvements in viability, and found no good evidence supporting a reduction of the 24 week limit dating from the period since the 24 week limit was set in 1990.[9]

Mr Farron did not vote either for or against any of the motions to reduce the abortion limit that were proposed as amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill on 20th May 2008. However he did vote on amendments on other matters that were moved the previous day.[10]

In May and June 2015 Mr Farron responded to a number of queries on Twitter about his view on the current abortion laws. He responded "I would not change the limit"[11], "I think the abortion law is right as it is"[12], "on abortion I'm guided by the science so I would not change the limit"[13], and "On abortion....the current law is correct"[7].

Medical Innovation ("Saatchi") Bill

In June 2015 when Skeptical Voter asked on Twitter about Mr Farron's views on Lord Saatchi's Medical Innovation Bill, he responded:

"The Bill would have done serious harm, in my view, in the name of medical innovation."[14]

The skeptical medical blogger Andy Lewis had called the Bill a "quacks' charter" and stated "The Saatchi Bill is based on a false premise, shows no understanding of medical research and removes vital protections for patients"[15]. Medical and patient organisations including the British Medical Association, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Motor Neuron Disease Association, and the Patients Association had stated their opposition to the Bill, while others such as Cancer Research UK had stated that the Bill required significant modification[16]. For more information on the objections to the Bill see http://www.stopthesaatchibill.co.uk/.

Mitochondrial Donation

In February 2015 Tim Farron 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[17]. 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[18]. However, some religious groups had said that such procedures should not be allowed[19]. After clearing both Houses mitochondrial donation is now legal, regulated by the HFEA.

MMR Vaccine

Tim Farron 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.[20]

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. Tim Farron replied:

"Staggeringly important. Climate Change is a threat to civilisation as great as the threat of nuclear war that dominated the thinking of billions of people and the budgets of many countries for forty years. This threat won't be solved by a simple standing down of one side, it will only be solved by radical and sometimes painful action. Climate change will have and is already having a disproportionate effect on the poorest people on the planet. It is unconscionable that we fail to act."[21]

February 2015 article: http://www.libdemvoice.org/tim-farron-writes-climate-change-must-be-the-pressing-issue-for-liberals-44628.html
Associated publication: http://centreforum.org/index.php/mainpublications/716-economic-liberalism-climate-change-green-growth

The Geek Manifesto

June 2013: https://twitter.com/timfarron/status/300203898591928320

Libel Law Reform

In December 2009, Tim Farron signed Early Day Motion 423 calling for a reform of the English libel law[22]. 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".

Religion

May 2015: Interview with Pink News (at this time Mr Farron was campaigning to be Leader of the Liberal Democrats). Mr Farron mentions church schools, the disestablishment of the Church of England, and conscience protections for religious groups.

Christian Action, Research and Education (CARE)

Tim Farron was one of a number of MPs who registered their use of interns sponsored by the Christian charity group Christian Action, Research and Education (CARE)[23][24]. 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".[25]

On 12th April 2010, Mr Farron responded to a question posted on his Facebook wall about CARE: "Care help provide me with an intern. Currently only 1% of MP's pay all their interns. Working in London is VERY expensive. I can promise you CARE have never lobbied me or affected my views in any way... As a Christian I also feel strongly about the immense value of human life - so I believe that abortion is wrong, but I would never judge or condemn anyone who chooses an abortion. I have voted to reduce the number of abortions, but I have never voted to ban abortion. On euthanasia, I feel that too much emphasis is placed on the ending lives rather than making lives live-able. To legalise euthanasia in my view would put lots of people at risk - you'd get situations where older people could be pressured in to thinking that they're 'a burden' and feeling obliged to end their lives as has happened in other countries where euthanasia has been legalised. The website [www.timfarron.com] says I'm anti-gay, which is utter rubbish - I supported equalisation of the age of consent and also the legalisation of civil partnerships."[26]

On "The God Delusion"

In an interview about books with the Total Politics website, Mr Farron said that his least favourite book was:

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. I'm a Christian, but I don't object to people criticising my faith or even trying to 'disprove' it. However, I do object to bright people like Dawkins writing uncritical and abysmally researched polemic and then parading it as a respectable work.[27]

ASA Ruling on Healing Prayers

In February 2012 the Advertising Standards Authority ruled that the group "Healing on the Streets - Bath" could not claim to be able to heal various diseases through prayer[28]. In March Mr Farron was one of three MPs to sign a letter to the chair of the ASA:

"We are writing on behalf of the all-party Christians in Parliament group in Westminster and your ruling that the Healing On The Streets ministry in Bath are no longer able to claim, in their advertising, that God can heal people from medical conditions.
"We write to express our concern at this decision and to enquire about the basis on which it has been made. It appears to cut across two thousand years of Christian tradition and the very clear teaching in the Bible. Many of us have seen and experienced physical healing ourselves in our own families and churches and wonder why you have decided that this is not possible.
"On what scientific research or empirical evidence have you based this decision?
"You might be interested to know that I (Gary Streeter) received divine healing myself at a church meeting in 1983 on my right hand, which was in pain for many years. After prayer at that meeting, my hand was immediately free from pain and has been ever since. What does the ASA say about that? I would be the first to accept that prayed for people do not always get healed, but sometimes they do. That is all this sincere group of Christians in Bath are claiming.
"It is interesting to note that since the traumatic collapse of the footballer Fabrice Muamba the whole nation appears to be praying for a physical healing for him. I enclose some media extracts. Are they wrong also and will you seek to intervene?
"We invite your detailed response to this letter and unless you can persuade us that you have reached your ruling on the basis of indisputable scientific evidence, we intend to raise this matter in Parliament."[29]

(As an aside, an example of scientific evidence against the medical effectiveness of prayer: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16827626)

Shortly afterwards Mr Farron posted a short article on the LibDem Voice website explaining his views:

"I completely understand why some of you are concerned. It’s not a well-worded letter – the reference to the ASA providing indisputable evidence is silly, and the implication that people should seek faith healing at the expense of medical intervention is something that I just don’t believe in. For what it’s worth, I also think that the Fabrice Muamba reference is crass. So on all those fronts, I should just say sorry and not bother defending myself. I shouldn’t have signed that letter as it was written, so I apologise for putting some of you in quite a difficult position.
"However, my reasons for agreeing to raise a concern with the ASA are simply these:
"a) The ASA genuinely do a brilliant job, but they really aren’t appointed to be the arbiter of theological matters, I think they’ve overstepped their remit
"b) As a Christian I believe that prayer helps – although my belief is that God mostly heals through medicine, surgery and human compassion and ingenuity.
"c) Freedom of speech – an organisation that makes a faith based claim that is clearly subjective (in the same way that a political party makes subjective claims) should be able to make those claims within reason.
"To be honest with you, the ASA decision offends my Liberalism far more than it bothers me from a Christian perspective."[30]

National Prayer Breakfast

In June 2013 Mr Farron attended the National Prayer Breakfast, an event sponsored by the Bible Society and held in Westminster Hall in the Houses of Parliament. At the event John Lennox gave a speech, in which the Bible Society reported that he claimed that the new atheism was responsible for "the moral drift" in today's society.[31]

LGBT Rights

May 2015: Interview with Pink News (at this time Mr Farron was campaigning to be Leader of the Liberal Democrats)

Same-Sex Marriage

Tim Farron voted in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill at its second reading in February 2013[32]. However he then voted against a programme for the Biil - a proposed timetable for its progress through Parliament - along with many who opposed the Bill[33].

Mr Farron did not vote at the Bill's third reading on 21st May 2013[34]. However he had voted on amendments presented the previous day, including voting in favour of allowing registrars to not carry out same-sex marriages if they object to them on the basis of sincerely held religious or other beliefs[35].

In a May 2015 interview, during his campaign to become Leader of the Liberal Democrat Party, Mr Farron was asked if he would make the same decision again and he replied "No, I would vote for equal marriage."[36]

Internet Surveillance

In December 2013 Mr Farron proposed EDM 869: Digital Bill of Rights, which stated:

That this House notes the recent open statement signed by Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Twitter and AOL calling for reform of government surveillance; welcomes their calls for reform to restore the public's trust in the internet; supports the five principles they identify about limiting governments' authority to collect users' information, oversight and accountability, transparency about government demands, respecting the free flow of information, and avoiding conflicts among governments; agrees that they form a sensible basis for reform of digital rights; and calls on the Government to support their statement and make reforms that ensure that government surveillance efforts are clearly restricted by law, proportionate to the risks, transparent and subject to independent oversight.[37]

December 2013: http://www.libdemvoice.org/tim-farron-mp-writes-liberal-democrats-must-stand-up-against-blanket-internet-surveillance-37555.html

March 2014: http://www.libdemvoice.org/tim-farron-and-julian-huppert-write-why-we-need-a-digital-bill-of-rights-38476.html

University Tuition Fees

In December 2010 Tim Farron voted against increasing the upper limit on university tuition fees from £3290 per year to £9000 per year[38]. The proposed increase was a response to the Browne Report, published in October of that year, which had proposed a complete removal of any upper limit on fees, together with other measures (largely adopted by the coalition government) to ease the burden of repayment.

References

  1. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2006-07/1240
  2. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2009-10/908
  3. https://twitter.com/timfarron/status/10563592970
  4. https://twitter.com/lecanardnoir/status/10563661501
  5. https://twitter.com/bengoldacre/status/10571475535
  6. https://twitter.com/timfarron/status/423957982624223232
  7. 7.0 7.1 https://twitter.com/timfarron/status/615264897971187713
  8. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2006-10-31&number=329&mpn=Tim_Farron
  9. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmselect/cmsctech/1045/104502.htm
  10. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/mp.php?id=uk.org.publicwhip/member/1923
  11. https://twitter.com/timfarron/status/606727064079724544
  12. https://twitter.com/timfarron/status/605489501947998208
  13. https://twitter.com/timfarron/status/602138925168230401
  14. https://twitter.com/timfarron/status/606070388909416448
  15. http://www.quackometer.net/blog/2014/04/the-saatchi-bill-a-quacks-charter.html
  16. http://www.stopthesaatchibill.co.uk/what-do-doctors-lawyers-and-medical-charities-say/
  17. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2015-02-03&number=147&mpn=Tim_Farron
  18. http://www.hfea.gov.uk/docs/2014-10-01_Mitochondrial_donation__an_introductory_briefing_note_-_final.pdf
  19. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-31063500
  20. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2008-09/754
  21. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/climate-change-what-mps-think---d-to-f-424395.html
  22. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2009-10/423
  23. http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/tim_farron/westmorland_and_lonsdale#register
  24. http://timfarron.com/
  25. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/exclusive-rightwing-christian-group-pays-for-commons-researchers-802607.html
  26. http://www.facebook.com/walltowall.php?id=595047737&banter_id=100000342872820&ref=nf
  27. http://www.totalpolitics.com/life/2623/brought-to-book.thtml
  28. http://asa.org.uk/ASA-action/Adjudications/2012/2/Healing-on-the-Streets_Bath/SHP_ADJ_158433.aspx
  29. http://www.totalpolitics.com/blog/314662/mps-try-to-overturn-and39god-can-healand39-ad-ban.thtml
  30. http://www.libdemvoice.org/tim-farron-mp-writes-the-asa-and-me-a-response-27864.html
  31. http://www.biblesociety.org.uk/news/christians-need-to-have-courage-to-talk-up-the-bible/
  32. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2013-02-05&number=151&mpn=Tim_Farron
  33. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2013-02-05&number=152&mpn=Tim_Farron
  34. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2013-05-21&number=11&mpn=Tim_Farron
  35. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2013-05-20&number=6&mpn=Tim_Farron
  36. http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/may/17/tim-farron-regrets-abstention-gay-marriage-vote
  37. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2013-14/869
  38. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2010-12-09&number=150&mpn=Tim_Farron

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