Sunday 19 October 2008

Please pray for Gordon Brown and for Michael Martin MP, the Speaker of the House of Commons

During the next 72 hours, please pray for Gordon Brown (pictured), the British Prime Minister, and for Michael Martin MP, the Speaker of the House of Commons.

Wednesday this week, 22nd October, will be one of the most significant dates in Britain’s history. That’s the day of the report stage and third reading of the government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) bill.

What Parliament decides that day will be a matter of life or death for possibly countless millions of unborn children. The power of these two men in deciding their fate, particularly in relation to the extreme abortion amendments tabled by pro-abortion MPs, cannot be underestimated.

Of course, how all 646 Members of Parliament decide to vote that day is crucial – and if you’re from Britain or Northern Ireland and you’ve not already written to your MP to ask him or her to vote against pro-abortion amendments on Wednesday, do so now without any further delay. Or phone your MP on 020 7219 3000.

All votes of MPs are, of course, equal. But – even in a democracy – on certain occasions, some MPs are more equal than others! And that’s certainly the case this week.

Firstly, the Speaker of the House of Commons has a pivotal role to play in deciding which New Clauses on abortion will be debated and voted upon by the House of Commons during the Report stage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. The Standing Orders give the Speaker the power to select or not select, the new clauses and amendments that have been tabled to the Bill at its report stage.

The Speaker, his three Deputies and senior officials meet every day to discuss the handling of business before the House. It is during this meeting (which in the case of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill will be held on either Tuesday or Wednesday) that the selection of New Clauses and other amendments will be decided.

The Speaker’s selection itself is expected to be made available on either Tuesday or Wednesday morning. The criteria for selecting amendments at the Report stage are more stringent than at committee stage, and amendments re-opening issues (such as the abortion issue) already dealt with in committee are not usually selected for debate but it remains to be seen whether the debate held during the Committee stage in May will influence the Speaker.

The Government of the day, headed by Gordon Brown, the prime minister, can – and have done so on occasions - make representations to the Speaker to offer him their advice on whether to select or not to select certain amendments. Ultimately, it is for the Speaker to decide, in consultation with his senior Clerks and advisers, but everyone knows the influence of the Government of the day under the British parliamentary system.

Finally, Gordon Brown’s and the Government’s position on the extreme abortion amendments tabled by pro-abortion MPs will be crucial in influencing the votes of Labour MPs. So, if you believe in prayer, start praying now for wisdom for Gordon Brown and for Michael Martin MP.