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Monday, 23 May 2011


Nadine Dorries's Ten-Minute-Rule Bill to include teaching on abstinence for girls in sex education, has run out time and will not now become law, one of our members has discovered.

The Government have said that there is not enough time for the Bill and that this was known three weeks ago, when the Bill was debated.

Minister of State for Health Simon Burns MP (Chelmsford) was asked by a constituent to support the Bill and help it become law.  He replied:

Thank you for your email but I am afraid you are almost 3 weeks too late. The Ten Minute Rule Bill was debated on 4th May and I am sure you will be pleased to know that it past (sic) the first hurdle but it will not become law as Ms Dorries has named 12 January 2012 for a second reading debate and there is not enough time in this session for the Bill to progress to the statute book.

Yours sincerely,

The Rt Hon Simon Burns MP

I apologise for misleading members by suggesting they write to their MPs asking them to support the Dorries Bill in the hope that the Government would give it time.  Another Christian lobby group proclaimed 'Victory' and said Nadine Dorries' 'proposals are unlikely to become law without the Government’s backing.'  I took that to mean that all that was lacking was Government time.  My mistake.

If Simon Burns MP is correct, and he is a government minister after all, the proposals in the form in which they exist in the Bill will not become law at all.  If we are three weeks too late that takes us back to before the Bill was even debated.  Her Bill is dead.

We need to be clear that the only way for Nadine Dorries's proposals to become law now is for the Government not merely to back them but to adopt them by including them - or being forced to include them by Parliament - in a Bill of its own.

If that is to happen, then either the Government must frame its own clause to put the proposals into effect, or - more likely - a backbencher, and Nadine Dorries would be the obvious candidate, will have to put them down as an amendment to a Government Education Bill.

The perfect Bill in which to table the proposals was the Government's Education Bill, which is wide enough in scope to deal with the matter, and which had its Report Stage on 11th May, a week after Nadine Dorries' Bill had its Second Reading.

The Hansard record shows that although Nadine Dorries voted at Second Reading, and at the Report Stage and Third Reading of the Education Bill, she did not speak at any stage nor was she a member of the Bill's Committee

Why, we must ask, did Mrs Dorries not speak on such an important issue during the progress of this Bill?  Why, following her Ten Minute Rule Bill debate, did she not immediately table her proposals as an Amendment to the Governments' Education Bill?  Not for the first time, Christians working in Parliament have missed an opportunity which we can be sure the other side, in similar circumstances, would have jumped at.

I was involved in the successful campaign to get Section 28 on to the Statute Book in 1988.  Dame Jill Knight MP (now Baroness Knight of Collingtree) agreed to put down the amendment to the Government's Local Government Bill at Report Stage as it passed through the Commons.  The Government opposed it (as they do) and it failed.  When the Bill went to the Lords, the Earl of Halsbury was encouraged by the debate in the Commons to table the same amendment.  The Government still opposed it but this time it passed and became part of the Bill.  The Government made a half-hearted attempt to throw the clause out in the ping-pong stages (where Lords and Commons have to agree) but there it stayed. 

That is what should have been done this time.  It is possible that one of their Lordships may adopt the Dorries proposals but a significant element of the momentum for that would have been a tabling of the amendment and a further debate in the Education Bill at Report Stage in the Commons.

Sadly, Christian Voice does not have the resources to mount lobbying, research and support campaigns in Parliament at the moment.  We can only pray for wisdom for those who do and pray the Lord will release the resources to us to mount these sort of campaigns in the future.

Content of Nadine Dorries's Ten-Minute-Rule Bill:

Sex Education (Required Content) Bill

A Bill to require schools to provide certain additional sex education to girls aged between 13 and 16; to provide that such education must include information and advice on the benefits of abstinence from sexual activity; and for connected purposes.

The text of her Bill has not been published on the Parliament website.

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