Nadine Dorries’ Sex Education Bill “Removed from Effective Orders”

From the Guardianyesterday:

Fridays are the day when private members’ bills are heard in the House of Commons and bills not sponsored by the government have a chance of becoming law. Today… Tory MP Nadine Dorries’s sex education (required content) bill is receiving its second reading.

Dorries’s bill proposes that girls aged between 13 and 16 are given sex education that includes information and advice on “the benefits of abstinence from sexual activity”.


Nadine Dorries’s sex education bill has been removed from today’s order paper – meaning it will not now be debated today, the Commons information office have confirmed to me.

It may be debated another day, but for now it has been “removed from effective orders”, a spokeswoman told me.

…The bill is likely to have been withdrawn by Dorries herself. “No one would be able to remove a private members’ bill without the permission of a member.”

…No one at Dorries’s office is yet able to explain why she has withdrawn the bill.

…My colleague Jessica Shepherd just got through to Dorries – but the MP said she “didn’t have time to talk”.

At least Shepherd got a civil response; according to the Huffington Post,

The bill was dropped from the order of business list for parliament on Friday, but Dorries’ office insisted the bill had not been withdrawn permanently.

“As the bill was so low down on the order paper, Nadine decided not to have hundreds of copies of the bill printed to save costs.”

Dorries herself refused to comment, hanging up the phone when Huffington Post UK attempted to contact her.

However, Andy McSmith at Independent Diary eventually managed to secure a quote:

She tells me: “The Bill is still live, but there was more chance of being struck by a meteor than getting it debated, so we told the Commons office not to bother printing a hard copy. What I didn’t realise was that if you don’t order it to be printed, it automatically comes off the agenda.

“Of course I wouldn’t withdraw it … a lot of people had paid train fares to come and protest. It would have been churlish.”

Dorries has made a few uninformative comments about the matter on her newly-revived Twitter feed, although she hasn’t posted anything to her blog (she announced early in December that “I will very shortly be closing my blog down and using wider outlets for comment”, although she has made made a few postings since).

The Bill could perhaps have avoided provoking a hostile response had the language been a bit different and had it been proposed by someone other than Dorries. As I wrote in May,  it seems sensible that in teaching young people how to navigate the sexual world, educators ought to include advice on how to resist media messages and peer pressure, and perhaps to raise awareness of saying no as an option. The special focus on girls can also be defended, given that biology means that girls suffer disproportionately when things go wrong, and that girls are more likely to have to deal with pressurizing or unwelcome requests for sex. It should be noted that the Bill does not commend the “abstinence only” position, along lines seen in parts of the USA and parts of Africa.

However, Dorries’ record of misrepresentation on a number of matters makes it very difficult to accept that anything she does is in good faith. Speaking on the Vanessa Show on 16 May, Dorries stated that she didn’t like the word “abstinence” in the Bill, but that she had been obliged to use it in Parliament as a piece of “legalese”. This seemed to me rather odd: what “legalese” requirement would this be? And why didn’t she make clear what expression she would have preferred instead? Further, what educational materials are there on “the benefits of abstinence”, besides those published by conservative Christian educators? (It should be remembered here that in 2010 Dorries misrepresented a Christian group opposing abortion as “neither pro-life nor pro-choice”) And if she only wants extra information to be provided, why did her pitch for the Bill at its First Reading include factually-inaccurate attacks on sex education?

I personally wouldn’t have gone along to a protest against the Bill (and some of the attacks, such as Chris Bryant’s “daftest piece of legislation” comment, have been excessive), but given that Dorries receives support and talking-points from conservative Christian groups, it is reasonable to be concerned about what kind of outcome Dorries’ Bill is strategically working towards.

One Response

  1. It was nice to see Nadine made it into C4’s ‘Factcheck Blog’ in the new year for her “porkies”.. ►

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