Thursday, April 08, 2010

2010 General Election Questions for Andrew Murrison


With the General Election on 6th May looming I thought it would be good to quiz the candidates from the three main political parties standing in the South West Wiltshire Constituency; Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour. The idea is to enable Christians and others who might be interested in the matters discussed here to make an informed choice at the ballot box. As with the wider electorate Christian believers will want to engage with a broad range of political and social issues. I expect that in this General Election campaign certain areas will be given extensive media coverage: How the parties propose to cut the national debt without harming essential public services like health and education, law and order, the overly intrusive CCTV State, cleaning up politics in the wake of the expenses scandal, the conduct of the war in Afghanistan, and so on. No doubt all these matters and more will also be discussed in the televised Prime Ministerial Debates.

In this questionnaire I have chosen mainly to focus on issues that are of special concern to Christians. We believe that marriage is the bedrock of a strong society and that human life should be respected and valued from womb to tomb. Recent legislation has had an adverse effect on Christian believers in this country. Christian adoption agencies have been forced to close for refusing to offer children to homosexual couples. Christian registrars have lost their jobs for asking to be exempted from presiding at Civil Partnerships. See here for a recent BBC documentary by Nicky Campbell which asks, Are Christians Being Persecuted? (Available until Sunday 11th April). With these concerns in mind, I put the following questions to the Conservative MP for Westbury, Dr. Andrew Murrison:


1. Do you believe that Christian values have a beneficial role to play in contemporary society?

A. I should firstly declare an interest as a practising Christian and as Patron of the West Wilts Interfaith Group. I do indeed think there is a beneficial role for Christian values  in contemporary society. I would add that the teachings of the main monotheistic faiths have more in common than many in the world today would admit. We should celebrate what binds us rather than what sets us apart.

2. Do you believe that marriage is for a man and a woman alone and that it is the duty of the State to do all it can to strengthen and encourage the institution of marriage?

A. The questions you have put to me major on sex and marriage and on this my understanding of Scripture is that sex (hetero and homo) outside marriage is wrong. Whilst the Bible also tells us that marriage is a union between a man and a woman, I respect and acknowledge civil partnerships as a longstanding and legally binding compact between same sex couples.

Marriage for most means families and I am proud that my party has made clear its intention to support families through the fiscal system.

3. Do you accept that people who believe that heterosexual marriage is the only proper context for a sexual expression should be free to say so without falling foul of the law or loosing their jobs?
4. Do you believe that churches should be free only to employ people whose beliefs and lifestyle are in accordance with Christian teaching?

A. We have previously corresponded on some of the issues you have raised around the time of the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 which, if you recall, I voted against on a free vote because I had previously listened to the concerns of various faith groups locally, yours included, that they would not be able to express their beliefs or profess them without falling foul of the law.

I want to tackle discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, gender and sexual orientation but equally desire freedom of conscience and speech to be upheld. I also want to ensure that faith based organisations are able to continue to operate and you will recall that this was especially relevant in 2007 when there was a challenge to the ethos of the Catholic Children's Society, an organisation credited with much good work among the most disadvantaged of children. It was this that led me to oppose the 2007 Regulations. However, I should make it plain since the matter has recently cropped up again that I do not think it is reasonable for people carrying out a B&B business from their home to discriminate on the grounds of what they presume might be happening behind closed doors. I would also point out that there is an inconsistency in refusing gay couples whilst accepting without question that a man and woman wishing to hire a room are married (to each other). The Regulations are now passed into law and I uphold the law.

5. Should school governors be given discretion over the contents of sex education lessons and should the concerns of parents be taken into account when deciding what children are taught?*

A. On sex education and I cannot be alone in being a bit surprised by some of the graphic material that my own children have been exposed to in primary school. I do respect the need to ensure that our young people are adequately prepared for adulthood but believe that the State is too often a poor parent and that actual parents should have the ultimate say in what their child should be taught in sensitive areas like this. As for content, we need to be careful about normalising promiscuity and, although it may be unfashionable, I would like to see more emphasis on abstinence.

6. Do you believe that the law on abortion is too lax, too restrictive or about right?
7. Do you think that the law on euthanasia should be changed?

A. Turning to euthanasia and abortion, I again have to declare an interest as a licensed medical practitioner. I cannot accept that euthanasia is right if vulnerable people are to be safeguarded - the potential for abuse is significant. I would prefer to rely on high quality end-of-life care. That said, doctors have a duty to relieve suffering and I am quite sure that the medication used to do so can, as an undesirable side effect, shorten life in the terminally ill. Most doctors will have been involved in the administration of drugs which may have done just that but at no time did I or would I deliberately set out to terminate life. As for abortion, I was put off obstetrics having witnessed them and supported reducing the maximum gestational age for terminations to 20 weeks from the current 24 weeks during the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill in May 2008. I believe that would have reconciled the rights of women with what we now know about the foetus.

8. Given the closure of the Westbury Hospital and the mooted closure of the Westbury Swimming Pool, what more can be done to promote the health and well-being of the people in this town?

A. Firstly on the subject of the pool, I can tell you that I was in it earlier this week and will be taking part in the Westbury Swimathon next week. I would advise people to use it or lose it. I strongly opposed the closure of Westbury hospital and have said consistently that the PCT's strategy on community hospitals is wrong and at odds with its neighbours.

9. How does your Party propose to protect the environment both at the local and international level?

A. The scientific consensus is that man is contributing to it and that reasonable action now will have an moderating effect. The Copenhagen conference on climate change was a disappointment. In contrast my party has signed up to the challenging target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 34% by 2020. We have every reason to develop alternative means of generating the energy we need - addressing climate change, ensuring Britain is in a good position to benefit from 'green jobs' and reducing the leverage energy rich, often unstable countries are able to exert on us. Individually we should what we can to save energy and reduce waste. My party is offering a 'green deal' which will allow energy efficiency improvements to domestic homes to be paid for from future energy savings.

10. Is British society broken, and if so how does your Party hope fix it?

A. Can I refer you to Iain Duncan-Smith's good work on social justice which I think will strike a chord with many of your readers ( A large number of IDS's Centre for Social Justices' proposals have already been incorporated into conservative party policy.

11. Why should the people of Westbury give you their votes at this General Election?

A. The choice at this election is five more years of Gordon Brown or change under David Cameron. I live in the constituency with my wife and five children and for me being local and using services locally is important. I hope to be given the opportunity of continuing to serve the community.

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions, Dr. Murrison.    

* Q. 5: It was announced yesterday that due to pressure from Opposition parties the Government has withdrawn its controversial sex and relationship education plans from the Children, Schools and Families Bill. The proposals would have involved children being taught that civil partnerships are equal in value to marriage - see here.


Anonymous said...

I sent some of your questions to the top 2 candidates for Bath. Conservative candidate Fabian Richter's response is here:

Anonymous said...

sorry, the link is actually:

Guy Davies said...

Good on ya, Steve.