Children Act 1989 (Amendment) (Female Genital Mutilation) Bill [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:36 pm on 11th March 2019.

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Photo of Simon Hoare Simon Hoare Conservative, North Dorset 8:36 pm, 11th March 2019

I can assure the House that I am not.

I echo entirely the comments that my right hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke made about the all too demonstrable need for reform of how we deal with private Members’ legislation. As my hon. Friend Zac Goldsmith said, this is a simple Bill of just two clauses, but it is terribly important, and it beggars belief that a Bill of such importance was blocked for no particular apparent reason. It reminds me of the dictum of the late Ronald Reagan—if the 11th commandment is, “Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Conservative,” my hon. Friend Sir Christopher Chope stretches that almost to the point of breaking.

My hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park rightly praised the work of Nimco Ali. I do not want to interject a moment or two of partisanship, but I will pause to make this point. I thought it was heart-warming—absolutely heart-warming—to see the pictures on social media last week of Nimco and our right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, at the very heart of Government, discussing FGM and other women’s issues. For my party, which all too often allows itself to be painted as out of touch or not interested in such issues, if we wanted a startling picture showing why that is not the case and how our party is able to deal with these important issues, that was the picture. The fact that my hon. Friend has taken up this issue and run with it with such passion and so authoritatively—he is too modest, I know, and he may blush—is so important. He has added not only to a public health issue, but, I suggest, to the profile of our party on this issue.

I rise to speak in this debate as the father of three daughters: Imogen who is 10, Jessica who has just turned nine and Laura who is six. At least, that is what Laura’s birth certificate says; from the way she talks to me, she is six going on 26. When a parent sees the little, fragile bodies of small children, we do have to wonder where on earth somebody came up with the idea of FGM. As others have said, this is not a medical procedure and it is not the religious requirement of one faith or another; it is quite simply child abuse. If it was a practice in which a young girl’s arm had to be broken or some fingers or toes removed, we would have been in a state of uproar. However, over the years, there has been a squeamishness among politicos about dealing with some of the issues that have masqueraded or hidden under the cloak of cultural sensitivity. I could not care less who, if anybody, is offended by this Government and this united Parliament standing up and saying, “It is wrong, it is abuse, it has got to stop, and if you do not agree with us in that analysis, then the full weight of the law will be brought to bear upon you.”