Tom Harris

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Tom Harris was the Labour MP for Glasgow, Cathcart (2001–2005) and Glasgow South (2005–2015).

Mr Harris was a member of the Science and Technology Select Committee from 2001 until 2003.

Abortion

In May 2008 in the abortion amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (now Act), Tom Harris voted for the abortion time limit to be lowered to 20 weeks against scientific and medical consensus which is currently 24 weeks[1]. 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.

Mitochondrial Donation

In February 2015 Tom Harris 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[2]. 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[3]. However, some religious groups had said that such procedures should not be allowed[4]. After clearing both Houses mitochondrial donation is now legal, regulated by the HFEA.

MMR Vaccine

Tom Harris 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.[5]

Religion

Creationism

Harris has written comments critical of Creationists and expressing disappointment that the anniversary celebrations on Charles Darwin's acheivements may have been overshadowed by the controversy surrounding Creationism, which he dismissed as a fad from the United States.

"Christianity is about faith, but it’s primarily about an individual’s relationship with God. If that relationship is stronger for believing in the literal truth of the whole Bible, well, knock yourself out, mate. But most people don’t need to believe in six-day creation to have faith in God.
[..]When it comes to matters of faith, the Bible can’t be beaten. When it comes to science, I will trust the judgment of someone who prefers a sliderule over a Bible every time."[6]

Same-Sex Marriage

In August 2012 Mr Harris wrote an article titled Confessions of a Recovering Evangelical[7]. Some quotes outlining his views:

"The vast majority of opposition to the idea of equal marriage comes from the Church and the followers of the other non-Christian religions."
"I should say at the outset that I consider myself a Christian. Not a very good one, I admit, but a Christian nonetheless. In a former life I was very evangelical and spent a lot of time studying the Bible and trying to “convert” my less enlightened, hellbound friends. These days I am what a parliamentary colleague rather wonderfully described as a “recovering evangelical”. I’ll settle for that."
"...it’s all about the Bible. You see, there’s no getting away from the fact that there’s enough in there to justify the “God hates gays” rhetoric. And not just the Old Testament."
"So, they start with the conclusion – gayness is bad – and look around for empirical evidence to justify that conclusion. Except, since the empirical evidence doesn’t exist, they make statements like “the gay lifestyle results in earlier deaths for men” and rely on dodgy anecdotes to back them up."
"...it is not the job of politicians – even Christian politicians – to legislate for the saving of others’ souls. It is our job, in a secular society, to legislate for that society. We don’t live in a theocracy, thank God!"

Mr Harris subsequently voted in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill at its second reading in February 2013[8] and its third reading in May 2013[9].

Libel Law Reform

In December 2009, Tom Harris signed Early Day Motion 423 calling for a reform of the English libel law. 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".

Sacking of Professor David Nutt

In November 2009, Harris published a blog post on the sacking of Professor David Nutt[10]. In it he stated:

"Advisers advise – ministers decide. It’s a fundamental principle of democracy. We cannot and should not farm out every policy decision to unelected advisers. Ministers should treat the advice they receive seriously, of course. But then they should apply their own political judgment. Some will be horrified at the suggestion that politics should even come into it, but that’s what democracy is about – elected politicians being paid to exercise their political judgment on behalf of their constituents and the country."

Science Funding

In October 2010, Tom Harris signed Early Day Motion 767: Science is Vital Campaign. The motion stated that the house "believes that continued investment in research is vital in order to meet the technological and social challenges of the 21st century, and to continue to attract high-tech industries to invest here; further believes that large cuts to science funding are a false economy, due to evidence that research investment fuels economic growth".[11]

References

  1. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmselect/cmsctech/1045/104502.htm
  2. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2015-02-03&number=147&mpn=Tom_Harris
  3. http://www.hfea.gov.uk/docs/2014-10-01_Mitochondrial_donation__an_introductory_briefing_note_-_final.pdf
  4. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-31063500
  5. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2008-09/754
  6. http://www.tomharris.org.uk/tag/charles-darwin/
  7. http://www.thecsm.org.uk/Articles/321633/Christian_Socialist_Movement/Articles/Articles_from_CSM/Society_and_inequality/Confessions_Of_A.aspx
  8. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2013-02-05&number=151&mpn=Tom_Harris
  9. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2013-05-21&number=11&mpn=Tom_Harris
  10. http://www.tomharris.org.uk/2009/11/01/the-nutt-case/
  11. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2010-12/767

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