Wednesday, 22 October 2008

It's time to abort Harriet

Please allow me a moment of naive ideology. I think laws should be debated fully in Parliament so that all sides can be heard. Full debate results in better law because flaws can be isolated and ironed-out and the strength of opposition or support for particular aspects of a Bill can be identified.

Thank you. That's that out of the way. Now back to the real world.

Many people get excited about abortion. I don't, I really couldn't care less what the law is because the arguments against any given position always seem to be stronger than the arguments for. If I had to choose I'd probably give free rein to the quinine and knitting needle brigade just to irritate those who claim their god wants a raped 14 year-old to give birth to her father's child. Fortunately I do not have a vote. But MPs do. Oh, sorry, perhaps they don't.

Today the BBC reports that the ludicrous Harriet Harman has decided to impose limitations on the debate allowed on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. If there is ever a subject that should have absolutely no limitation on Parliamentary debating time it is the (literally and metaphorically) infant science of embryology. Simple Harriet has decided, in her capacity as Leader of the House, that embryology should be allowed some time for debate but amendments to the abortion laws currently contained in the Bill should not be debated. Those amendments will stand or fall on the vote for the stuff about embryology. Since that vote will be whipped, the abortion amendments will go through by government diktat.

Anyone with a general sense of fairness would recognise that issues which people care about are, well, issues which people care about. Regardless of the outcome of the vote, it is the debate that counts. I know not whether a single MP would be persuaded to change their mind on whether current English (and Welsh) law on abortion should be extended to Northern Ireland, but there is only one way to find out - let them hear the arguments and vote. It is rather different on an issue such as whether the number of doctors required to consent before an abortion can take place is reduced from two to one. That is an issue on which many MPs would have a legitimate wish to be heard and is such a fundamental change in a sensitive area of law that it should not be railroaded through without proper consideration.

Lack of Parliamentary time is no reason to curtail debate because there is plenty of scope to extend that time. The House of Commons normally sits for between eight and nine months of the year. Perhaps that made sense when government did not feel it necessary to legislate about everything that moves, these days it is ridiculous.

What is not just ridiculous but utterly inexcusable is limiting debate on a difficult issue simply because the government sees the Bill as a "flagship" measure. In fact the opposite should occur. Any measure the government considers particularly important should be given as much Parliamentary time as it needs because, almost by definition, such a measure is likely to be controversial and, therefore, to be most worthy of serious examination.

None of this will have any effect on someone like Simple Harriet. She is an unreformed, tunnel-visioned, student union politician of the very worst kind. She is not very clever, but so sure of her own importance that she wants to get her way no matter what. So blinkered and self-centered is her approach that she shows no sign of even beginning to understand that other people might have a better idea than her or might understand an issue more than she does. To her, duty to the Party is more important than ensuring that complex and sensitive legislation is subjected to close scrutiny.

No doubt we will have more and more examples of legislation being pushed through without debate over the dying months of the current fetid government. They have nothing to lose so they will want to pile up more and more of their pet Bills knowing it will be easier to push them through now than it will be for them to be repealed later. Fairness and respect for the opinions of others are nothing compared to promoting their pet projects. It could get very messy.


CharonQC said...

Enjoyed that.....

Simple Harriet... indeed. Apparently, she isn't very clever. It surprises me that there are, in fact, quite a few not very clever people in Parliament.

How did she get Silk by the way?

Surely not for contribution to the law of England & Wales?

Perhaps she just gave it to herself like someone else I know.

TheFatBigot said...

You will remember she was Solicitor General for a while and she was given silk to go with that office. I suppose we should count our blessings, the old convention was for solicitor general and attorney general to receive knighthoods; at least we aren't (yet) afflicted by Dame Harriet.