NEWS
08/02/2019 14:48 GMT | Updated 08/02/2019 17:01 GMT

Tory MP Christopher Chope Does It Again – Blocks Bill To Protect Women At Risk Of FGM

His actions have been called "appalling" by campaigners.

Tory MP Christopher Chope has blocked a bill that would have aided the prevention of female genital mutilation of children. 

There was an audible groan from MPs in the Commons on Friday when the 71-year-old MP shouted “object!” to the bill getting a second reading.

Parliamentary rules mean it only requires one MP to block a bill’s progress once time for debate has concluded.

It is the second time Chope has moved to halt the progress of anti-female genital mutilation (FGM) legislation.

The bill, tabled by Lord Berkeley, would amend the Children Act to allow the courts to issue protection orders if they think a child is at risk of FGM.

It is supported by the government and Theresa May restated her commitment to end the practice earlier this week when she invited anti-FGM campaigners to Downing Street.

His actions were also met with criticism from both campaigners and MPs on both sides of the Commons, as well as ministers,

Matt Hancock, the secretary of state for health and social care, tweeted that he was “outraged”.

“His actions are wrong, pure and simple,” he said.

Nimco Ali, founder of Daughters of Eve, a UK campaign charity dedicated to ending violence against women and girls, in particular FGM, told HuffPost UK that she was “heartbroken”.

In the past, Chope has defended himself against criticism by saying he is against private member’s bills, but Ali points out that he has tabled private member’s bills himself and doesn’t object when his friends table them.

“It’s hypocrisy. The ones that he objects to are ones that he sees as progressive,” she said. 

“I can’t criticise his party because they literally couldn’t have done any more to try and stop him. He was called into the Whips’ office. He said he had been speaking to people who said that the bill was racist and would make living in the community harder for them.

“A senior Tory asked me to appeal directly to him in the hope he would see some sense if he heard the other side of the story.” 

Ali tried to call Chope several times before resorting to a text message begging him not to block the bill and to listen to her point of view as a survivor of FGM.

In his response, the MP told her the bill should be fully debated. Ali said she pointed out it was not going to become law overnight and there would be further scrutiny, but he reportedly continued to refuse.

She said: “I told him he was an embarrassment to his party and to humanity. He replied that vulgar language wasn’t going to stop him from upholding democracy. He’s a fucking wanker, and you can quote me on that.”

She added: “We have the government’s support and the public on our side. As disappointing as this is to young girls at risk of FGM or who have had it, the message is that the public are on your side. And those who are perpetrators should know that the government is watching.”

Earlier she tweeted screenshots from the conversation and added that she hoped his knighthood would be taken from him.

Tory MP Zac Goldsmith had also tweeted a thread ahead of the bill’s reading anticipating that Chope would “object”.

He later added: “As anticipated, Chope objected to the FGM Bill. Just appalling.”

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

Meanwhile the Labour Party called Chope a “dinosaur of a Tory MP”.

Dawn Butler MP, shadow minister for women and equalities, 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.

“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.”

On Twitter, Labour MP Rosena Allin-Khan asked Brandon Lewis, the Tory party chairman, why Chope was allowed to get away with it.

She said: “We’ve spoken in the lobby about this sort of behaviour. Why is he continuously allowed to get away with this without reprimand?”

David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, said: “First he blocks making upskirting a criminal offence, now he objects to laws to protect children from genital mutilation.

“Why get into politics to do this? Christopher Chope embodies a brand of thoughtless, regressive conservatism which can ruin lives.”

Chope was previously heavily criticised for deploying the same tactic to prevent a bill aimed at making upskirting a criminal offence.

The MP for Christchurch argued he was blocking the legislation because there was not enough debate on the issues – rather than necessarily objecting to the proposed law.

Chope and the Conservative Party have been approached by HuffPost UK for comment.