Cabinet ministers vow to confront Tory MP over blocking FGM law

‘This could have saved girls’ lives’: Cabinet ministers vow to confront Tory MP Christopher Chope after he uses obscure Commons procedure to block genital mutilation law

  • On Friday Tory Christopher Chope  blocked law protecting children from FGM
  • The veteran Conservative MP prevented the same Bill from progressing last year
  • Sir Christopher condemned by ministers who vowed to confront him for actions
  • Sir Christopher also stopped legislation banning ‘upskirting’ from going through 

Cabinet ministers today vowed to confront veteran Tory Sir Christopher Chope over his ‘appalling’ decision to block tougher laws against female genital mutilation (FGM).

Treasury Chief Secretary Liz Truss said she would be ‘looking for’ the backbencher to take him to task.

Housing Secretary James Brokenshire made clear he was pleased Sir Christopher’s local Conservative association is investigating his actions.

On Friday Sir Christopher shouted ‘object’ to prevent the progress of a Bill allowing the courts to issue protection orders if they think a child is at risk from FGM. 

Tory MP Christopher Chope (pictured in the Commons on Friday) is facing more anger over blocking legislation protecting girls from genital mutilation

Treasury Chief Secretary Liz Truss told Sky News she would be ‘looking for’ Sir Christopher to take him to task over his action

It was the second time he had moved against the law – sparking howls of protest from fellow MPs.  

Speaking on Sky News’ Ridge on Sunday programme, Ms Truss said: ‘I was just absolutely appalled because we know there has only been one conviction against somebody for female genital mutilation.

‘This is an action that harms the lives of girls, this is happening in our country in the 21st century.

‘I find that appalling and we need to do much, much more to stop it, and when I see one of my colleagues opposing a measure that could have saved girls’ lives, could have saved girls from that horrendous experience, I am absolutely appalled by that.’


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She went on: ‘I will be looking for him round the Commons and I think Conservatives do need to put peer pressure on our colleagues who are stopping these types of things happening.’

Mr Brokenshire told BBC’s Andrew Marr Show Sir Christopher’s actions were ‘really shocking on such a serious issue’.

‘It is hugely disappointing that this Bill is not able to proceed,’ he said.

‘That’s why we are now looking urgently to get government time for legislation to make this happen.

Who is Sir Christopher Chope and why did he block the new law?

Christchurch MP Sir Christopher Chope has made a career out of blocking back bench legislation in Parliament.

The Tory MP, 71, has halted progress on laws about the Hillborough disaster, a pardon for Alan Turing and wild animals in circuses.

He frequently cites a lack of debate, faulty drafting or duplication of law.  

Among dozens of Bills he had blocked, Sir Christopher has also opposed: 

  • Free hospital parking for carers
  • Making revenge evictions a crime
  • Laws on same-sex marriage 
  • Protecting police dogs 
  • Careers advice for sixth formers
  • National standards for taxi licenses  

Sir Christopher, first elected in 1983, has repeatedly criticised the ability of MPs to make small changes to the law from the backbenches.

Despite his opposition to many backbench bills, the father of two is also the architect of dozens of his own – typically as a way to take up time and block other proposals.

He was knighted last year for ‘political and public service’. 

‘Obviously, Sir Christopher’s own association is investigating this, I think that’s the best place for this to be dealt with, but we are determined to take action to confront and combat FGM, that’s why we saw this legislation as really positive, had cross party support and why we’re determined to take further action.’

Chief Whip Julian Smith has said he is working to find a way to bring the Children Act 1989 (Amendment) (Female Genital Mutilation) Bill back to the Commons in government time, meaning it could not be so easily blocked.

But Sir Christopher has accused his critics of ‘virtue signalling’ and defended his actions, arguing they were aimed at ensuring proper parliamentary scrutiny. 

Sir Christopher is notorious for using arcane House of Commons procedures to stop measures put forward by backbenchers despite them having widespread support.

He often argues that the government should make time for such laws so they get more detailed scrutiny, and previously stood in the way of a ban on ‘upskirting’ and a posthumous pardon for mathematician Alan Turing. 

Under Commons procedures, MPs take part in a ballot to decide the priority given to their Private Members’ Bills.

Specific Fridays are earmarked for dealing with the legislation. However, laws that are not high enough on the list to have been debated by 2.30pm are then vulnerable to being derailed by lone opponents.

If anyone shouts ‘object’ when they are proposed, a second reading is denied and they go back into the queue to be considered at a later date.   

The new law would have given councils preventative powers to protect young girls at risk of FGM.

It went through the House of Lords unopposed, but was prevented from progressing by Sir Christopher in November – and again on Friday. 

Under Commons procedures, MPs take part in a ballot to decide the priority given to their Private Members’ Bills

 

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