New tactic offers hope for abortion bill
by Brian Dooley PRO—LIFE MP Ann Widdecombe has been thrown a surprising lifeline in her bid to reduce the legal time limit on abortion
through a private
The Conservative member for Maidstone came seventh in the ballot for private legislation, but most experts believe only the first six MPs have any real chance of changing the law due to the limited time available for such
However, Ms Widdecombe has since drawn first place on the list for private members' motions, to be debated on January 20.
She is therefore putting forward a motion to make time available for the crucial second reading her bill looked certain to be denied.
Her January 20 motion states that her "Abortion (Amendment) Bill may be proceeded with until any hour". This would mean that no amount of filibustering by opponents of the bill could prevent a vote on the issue.
"If my motion of January 20 passes, there should be a vote on March 3 after about three hours' debate, and I'm confident we have a majority to send it into committee", she told the
She admitted that until the surprise development there appeared to be "little hope" for her bill which "only seventh in line and so was guaranteed a second reading". The January 20 vote is far from a formality. "It really depends on what the
opposition gets up to", said Ms Widdecombe.
"They could filibuster it if they get organised enough. The debate will begin officially at 9.30 am but they can bring forward petitions for tip to two hours
which no-one can do anything
about. Theo they can raise
umpteen points of order to waste more time. As the motion is such an unusual one, there will probably be a lot of discussion about its suitability. The whole thing must be completed by 2.30 pm, but if by that time the speaker doesn't think there has
been enough debate on the motion, he won't call for a vote, and the motion isn't carried".
Ms Widdecombe believes she has the necessary support among MPs to win a vote, but that a well-orchestrated time-wasting campaign could frustrate her aims.
"I am fairly hopeful of winning the motion despite that possibility", she told the Catholic Herald, "because there's not much time to go and it takes a lot of organising to produce hours of filibustering". As well as that, there is a growing pressure from many MPs to see an end to this matter one way or the other so they might just want to let it have a full airing." The all-important motion debate in a fortnight falls
almost exactly a year to the day
since David Alton's second
reading victory which sent his bill
into committee stage. Now Ms Widdecombe's chances of successfully reviving the Alum Bill will probably depend on the January 20 motion.
"It is absolutely crucial that between now and then as many people as possible contact their MPs and tell them to be there for the vote on the motion", she said.
"We may not have any trouble at all in getting it through, of course. The opposition might decide that there would be so little time for it anyway by the time it goes through the committee stage and then the third reading that the extra time on March 3 won't make any difference in the long run."
"Now we've been given the extra chance we're going to make the most of it". she said.