Next week, MPs will debate and vote on the Criminal Justice Bill at its Report stage. 

The 2019 Conservative Party Manifesto on which I was elected pledged to back our police and criminal justice system with tougher sentences, and more powers to tackle knife and drug-related crime. This Bill delivers on these promises.

These measures include:

  • New criminal offences relating to items used in serious crime, theft or fraud, such as 3D printer firearms templates, electronic devices for use in theft, SIM farms, knives and offensive weapons.
  • The introduction of a broader offence of encouraging or assisting serious self-harm and new offences relating to the taking of intimate images without consent.
  • The expansion of existing police powers to test suspects in police detention for drugs, to seize bladed articles, and to search for and seize stolen goods.
  • Powers for courts to order the attendance of offenders at sentencing hearings and punish them if they do not attend.

While the Criminal Justice Bill contains several provisions to this end, I know a cause of acute interest locally is in the various amendments which have been tabled regarding abortion. I am grateful to all the local people who contacted me to outline their views.

I am, of course, acutely aware of the extreme sensitivity of these matters on all sides. This is an issue where good people can hold vastly different yet defensible positions. It is for this reason that, as with other matters of conscience, the Government adopts a neutral stance on abortion and allows Conservative MPs to vote freely according to their moral, ethical, or religious beliefs.

As I know there has been great interest locally in how I intend to vote on the various New Clauses if MPs are given the opportunity to, I will run through all four of the relevant amendments in turn.

New Clause 1 and New Clause 40 are both aimed at the decriminalisation of abortion.

New Clause 1:

This new clause would disapply existing criminal law related to the accessing or procurement of abortion care from women acting to their own pregnancy at any gestation, ensuring no woman would be liable for a prison sentence as a result of seeking to end her own pregnancy. It would not change any law regarding the provision of abortion services within a healthcare setting, including but not limited to the time limit, the grounds for abortion, or the requirement for two doctors’ approval. 

New Clause 40:

This new clause would decriminalise abortion up to 24 weeks, avoiding the need for some of the requirements of the Abortion Act. It would ensure that late term abortions outside the Abortion Act do not result in custodial sentences, and that future regulations have regard to the recommendations of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. 

In a world of complexity and imperfect morality, I accept there must always be a role for conscience in the early stages of pregnancy.

However, the decriminalisation of abortion to term is a radical departure from the law as it stands currently. I fear this would lead to terminations which I believe would be unconscionable, not to mention the risks posed to pregnant women who undergo late-stage abortions.

New Clause 15:

This new clause would reduce the upper limit for abortion in most cases from 24 to 22 weeks. 

I am minded to support New Clause 15, guided by scientific evidence.

New Clause 41:

This new clause would mean that terminations would not be allowed beyond 24 weeks where any risk is purely on the grounds of a diagnosis of Down syndrome. 

I have seen a great outpouring of support locally for the amendment tabled by Dr Sir Liam Fox MP regarding abortions which have taken place after the 24-week upper limit, but where a diagnosis of Down syndrome has been made.

My postbag over the past few weeks has served as a powerful reminder of the reasons New Clause 41 was tabled, and the reason it has received support from across the House.

I agree fully that it is time the law reflects equality, regardless of disability, which is why I will be proud to support the amendment tabled by Dr Liam Fox.

If you would like to get in touch with me, please email: If you would like my help with a particularly urgent issue, please phone my constituency office on 01494 448408.

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