Abortion is a subject which one instinctively avoids. It arouses passions which have a tendency to produce intemperate debate and on both sides of the argument protagonists adopt positions that brook no sense of reasoned and reasonable debate. In the USA it even inspires people to try and kill doctors who carry out abortions.

It is the warped religious thinking behind the latter tendency that ought to warn ordinary people off. In order to protect the unborn and ostensibly in pursuit of the sixth commandment, extremist elements of the anti-abortion tendency have killed or tried to kill those engaged in the provision of abortions, in breach of the self-same commandment. It smacks of that same hypocrisy whereby those who are anti-abortion in the USA also tend to be enthusiasts for the death penalty.

It is thus with diffidence that I dip my toes into the issue. I am aroused to do so not so much because of the debate itself but of the utterly undemocratic way in which The Science and Technology Committee has chosen to conduct its debate and the role which Mr. Speaker Martin has played in that debate.

That Committee has just produced a report which, in broad terms, favours the process of having an abortion being made easier. This comes as a surprise to most of us who rub along in life thinking of abortion as a necessary evil the rules on which ought to be tightened given advances in modern medicine and who are concerned by the very high level of abortions being carried out for reasons of social convenience rather than anything else. That report was published at midnight last night.

Midnight? What possible reason can a democratic body have for publishing a document in the wee hours of the night? This should immediately tell you that dirty deeds have been done at the crossroads and so it transpires. It will come as no surprise to those who view Mr. Speaker Martin as incompetent, chippy and partial to the Government to discover that he is at the heart, yet again, of an effort to conceal from the public gaze something which appears to be unsatisfactory and discreditable about the conduct of the democratic affairs of the House and therefore the nation.

The complaint about him is that he has gone out of his way to block requests by MPs to disclose information about the nature and course of the committee’s deliberations. This is a disgrace. The public is entitled not just to the fruits of a committee’s deliberations but also to see how the growing season went as well so that it might properly judge the worth of that report. We no longer accept such things as Tablets of Stone brought down from the mountain. Instead we wish to be able to see for ourselves what led a committee to its conclusions and how those conclusions were arrived at. It is that process which Mr. Speaker Martin does not want you, the voter, to see. One is entitled therefore to ask: why?

Does it, one wonders have anything to do with the suggestion that the committee was extremely partial in what evidence it was prepared to hear, let alone accept? If that was the case it strongly suggests that it knew what conclusion it wished to reach long before it came to its conclusions and was not prepared to listen to any other point of view.

Or does it have anything to do with the baleful influence of the Honourable Member for Oxford West and Abingdon, Dr. Evan Harris, who is such a pro-abortion fanatic that he has apparently acquired the sobriquet “Dr. Death”, who, according to the Daily Mail was able to propose and have adopted no fewer than 126 amendments to the committee’s report which prompted Labour MP Jim Dobbin, chairman of the Pro-Life Group, to remark:

The abortion inquiry report is now the Evan Harris report. Anyone who successfully puts forward 126 amendments means that it is essentially his report.


But this fact is one which Mr. Speaker Martin would not have you know, yet knowledge of it immediately changes one’s perception of the worth of the report and also enables us to judge the character of the majority of MPs who allowed this process to happen. By refusing to lift the curtain on the committee’s deliberations, Mr. Speaker Martin is, therefore, guilty of a serious degree of anti-democratic behaviour.

I was brought up greatly to respect the Speaker of the House of Commons. Incumbents in my lifetime have always managed to slough off the mantle of political partisanship to achieve, especially in the age of radio and television broadcasting of proceedings, the considered respect of the public who may well be able to recognize that a Speaker is not merely someone who ensures that the opposition’s voice is heard in The House but also plays a considerable part in protecting the honour and status of Parliament and the public’s view of it.

This Speaker routinely fails to live up to those high standards. Whether it is telling the leader of the opposition that he cannot ask about Tony Blair’s intended date for giving up leadership of the Labour Party on the utterly specious grounds that that was to do with party matters not his work as PM, allowing Brown to get away with accusing Mr. Cameron of ‘misleading’ the people (and by implication The House) or doing what he could to facilitate a Bill’s passage through the House (as he did in relation to David Maclean’s odious attempt to conceal from prying eyes details of MPs expenses), this Speaker has shown himself to be utterly partisan, narrowly sectarian and a disgrace to the office of Speaker of the House of Commons.

We should not be surprised by any of this. Labour ensured Mr. Speaker Martin’s election, which overturned a forty year tradition of the post alternating between the two main parties, in the belief that he would be ‘their man’. And so it has proved in yet another striking demonstration of Labour’s anti-democratic and gerrymandering tendencies and inclinations.

Meanwhile we should salute Dr. Bob Spink and the inestimable Nadine Dorries for their courage in writing a minority report to this committee’s efforts and doing their best to bring to the attention of the people the unsatisfactory nature of the way in which the business of this committee has been conducted. Their efforts have ensured that this nasty piece of behaviour has seen the light of day that we may properly judge it.

I leave you with these observations of Dr. Spink on the process:

Dr Spink said Michael Martin had stopped publication of the committee’s discussions over the report.

“Those would have helped reveal the stupidity of Parliamentary secrecy,” he said. “Unless I want to end up in the Tower, I must not comment on the report process; or even say how many amendments were tabled and how massive and convoluted some of them were, or how little they were considered as the report was railroaded through a committee, riven apart by a clear abuse of time-honoured process.

“The public are denied the facts, democracy is the loser,” he added.

The Telegraph report is here and that of the Daily Mail here.