Tory MP who blocked upskirting bill halts FGM protection law

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Christopher Chope’s decision to object described as ‘appalling’ by Zac Goldsmith

The Conservative MP Christopher Chope, who gained notoriety after he blocked a bill to make upskirting a criminal offence, has used the same parliamentary tactic to halt a planned law making it easier to protect girls from female genital mutilation (FGM).

The Tory backbencher shouted “object!” when the bill was presented to the Commons for its second reading.

Under Commons procedure, a series of such bills are read out at the end of business without debate, and pass to the next stage only if no MP present verbally objects. If they do, the bill has to be presented again for second reading, in this case on 15 March.

The amendment, co-drafted by the Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith and crossbench peer Michael Berkeley, does not have government support, meaning it will struggle to find parliamentary time.

Chope has obstructed a series of bills in this way, including a bill to allow a women’s conference to be held in the Commons.

The Christchurch MP argues that even if he backs the intent of such bills he objects to them because he does not support the procedural principle of legislation being passed without debate at second reading.

As Commons officials read out a series of bills on Friday afternoon, Chope and fellow backbencher Peter Bone objected to a series of them, including another proposed by Goldsmith, to help the finances of Kew Gardens.

Chope did not object to two private members’ bills proposed by Bone, although other MPs did.

The FGM proposal, called the Children Act 1989 (amendment – female genital mutilation) bill, is intended to improve the 2003 law that prohibited the practice by allowing family courts to make interim care orders about children deemed at risk, simplifying the process.

Goldsmith called Chope’s decision to object “appalling”. In another tweet, he said: “In case anyone is tempted to believe he has a principled objection to private members’ bills, please note that once again he did NOT object to those put forward by his friends.”

The home secretary, Sajid Javid, tweeted that he was “very disappointed” by the outcome.

Chope’s actions had been expected. Earlier on Friday the Huffington Post printed a text message exchange between the MP and Nimco Ali, the founder of the anti-FGM charity Daughters of Eve, in which she said she begged him to not do it.

Chope told her he believed the bill should be fully debated at second reading.

Amid a furore following his objection to ban a law to make upskirting a specific criminal offence, Chope told his local newspaper he was “a bit sore about being scapegoated over this”.

He told the Bournemouth Echo: “The suggestion that I am some kind of pervert is a complete travesty of the truth. It’s defamatory of my character, and it’s very depressing some of my colleagues have been perpetuating that in the past 48 hours.”

Both the upskirting bill and the women’s conference were later given government support, and passed the Commons.

Dawn Butler, Labour’s shadow equalities minister, said: “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.

“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.”

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