Conservative MP Christopher Chope blocks bill to protect girls from FGM
Politician lambasted as ‘embarrassment to humanity’ as Labour calls for Tories to remove whip
Conservative MP Sir Christopher Chope – the politician widely condemned for objecting to a bill to outlaw upskirting – has blocked legislation designed to protect children from female genital mutilation (FGM).
The 71-year-old member for Christchurch was heavily criticised for obstructing the legislation on Friday, and was called an “embarrassment to ... party and humanity” by leading anti-FGM campaigner Nimco Ali.
Sir Christopher blocked a bill tabled by crossbench peer Lord Berkeley to allow courts to issue protection orders if a child is at risk of FGM. He objected to the bill ahead of its second reading in the House of Commons this afternoon.
Ms Ali, founder of the anti-FGM charity Daughters of Eve, told The Independent that the private member’s bill was effectively at an end because of the Tory MP.
“He’s going to keep objecting, so it will now have to be included in a government bill,” she said. “That means the whole proceess will take longer.”
Ms Ali added: “You can’t give up – we need stronger protections for girls.”
The campaigner said she had reached out to Sir Christopher to “act with decency” before the bill’s reading, in text messages she has since posted on Twitter.
“Please just be honest you don’t care about the rights of girls who will be subjected to the most horrific form of abuse,” she concluded. “You are an embarrassment to your Party and Humanity.”
The Tory MP replied: “Verbal abuse and insults cannot be a substitute for debate in our Parliamentary democracy.”
Lord Berkely responded to Sir Christopher’s latest obstruction by urging the government to take the proposed legislation – which would amend the Children’s Act 1989 – forward in parliament.
“Yes, he has now wiped any chance of it improving our legislation unless the Gov’t steps in. Will it?”
Home Secretary Sajid Javid said he was “very disappointed” in Sir Christopher’s objection and pledged that ministers would “do all we can” to prevent FGM.
“FGM is child abuse. I am determined to stamp out this despicable and medieval practice. We will do all we can protect girls at risk.”
Dawn Butler MP, shadow minister for women and equalities, said Sir Christopher should have the whip removed by his party.
“It’s unacceptable that this dinosaur of a Tory MP consistently gets away with blocking new laws to protect the safety and rights of women,” she said.
“This makes it even more shocking that he was given a knighthood by Theresa May last year. Christopher Chope is causing shame and embarrassment for the Tories but also for the country and it’s time for the Tories to show they really care about these issues by stripping him of the whip.”
Sir Christopher does not believe private members’ bills are the proper way to amend legislation because he does not think they receive proper scrutiny.
He has previously argued that it is the government’s job to introduce its own FGM bill.
Yet the government had supported the proposed legislation, keen to see it pass as a private member’s bill. Government whips reportedly held conversations with Sir Christopher in an effort to persuade him to drop his objections.
Zac Goldsmith questioned his fellow Tory MP’s motivations, asking on Twitter: “If he is acting on principle, as he wants people to believe, why does he often allow Bills put forward by his friends to pass through unchallenged?”
Sir Christopher did not object to private members’ bills sponsored by fellow Tory MP Peter Bone in the Commons this afternoon.
In June last year Sir Christopher blocked the upskirting prevention bill – since adopted as a governmental bill and expected to pass in the coming months – for the same stated objections.
The World Health Organisation says there is no medical justification for FGM and the procedure violates the human rights of women and girls.