Who is Sir Christopher Chope? The man who blocked a bill making upskirting a criminal offence

Conservative MP has voted against same-sex marriage and opposed the minimum wage

Samuel Osborne,Conrad Duncan
Friday 15 June 2018 21:09 BST
Commons bill to make 'upskirting' criminal offence halted by Peter Chope objection

A bill banning upskirting was blocked on its journey to becoming law by a veteran Conservative MP.

Sir Christopher Chope announced he objected to the Voyeurism (Offences) Bill, which would have made it illegal for offenders to take a picture under someone’s clothing without their consent.

His objection was met with cries of “shame!” in the House of Commons, including from his fellow Tories.

Moments later, Sir Christopher also opposed Finn’s Law, which was intended to give police dogs and horses extra legal protections from attack.

Who is he?

Sir Christopher, 71 is a barrister and MP for Christchurch in Dorset.

He was elected as MP for Southhampton Itchen in 1983 and served until 1992 and has been MP for Christchurch since 1997.

He served in Margaret Thatcher’s government as part of the Department for Education and was a junior minister in the Department for Transport under John Major’s leadership.

Sir Christopher received a knighthood for political and public service in 2015.

Why is he in the news?

Sir Christopher did what all MPs present at the second hearing of a bill are allowed to do and shouted “object”, blocking the progress of the bill.

It would have progressed to the amendment stage before returning to the Commons and the Lords and, later, receiving Royal Assent.

But now the bill will have to return for another Friday Private Members Bill session, on 6 July, if it is to have any hope of becoming law this Parliamentary term.

Even then, it would only take one dissenting voice to put a stop to its progress again.

Why did he do it?

Campaigners welcome government pledge on upskirting

Sir Christopher has a long history of sabotaging Private Members’ Bills – sometimes by talking at length, known as filibustering, and other times by shouting his opposition as the bill is called.

The fact he also opposed another government-backed bill to change the law around attacks on police animals led to suggestions he opposed not the content of the voyeurism bill but the process of nodding it through without debate.

What was the reaction?

It was almost overwhelmingly negative.

Politicians on all sides, as well as campaigners and celebrities, reacted with disgust.

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, said he was “dismayed and appalled”, while Wera Hobhouse, the MP who introduced the bill, said she was “angry, frustrated and disappointed”,

Margot James, minister for digital and creative industries, tweeted: “The Goverment is determined that it becomes illegal to photograph people under their clothes without consent, Chope can delay, but not prevent, Wera Hobhouse’s bill from becoming law.”

During an interview on Channel 4 News Ms James was asked if Sir Christopher had brought the Tory party into disrepute, and said: “Well, he certainly has today. He is a maverick. He doesn’t speak for our party.”

The prime minister, Theresa May, said on Twitter: “Upskirting is an invasion of privacy which leaves victims feeling degraded and distressed.

“I am disappointed the Bill didn’t make progress in the Commons today, and I want to see these measures pass through Parliament – with government support – soon.”

Gina Martin, the campaigner, said she was “extremely upset and disappointed” but said Sir Christopher had agreed to discuss the bill with her at a later date.

How has Sir Christopher voted in the past?

Sir Christopher has consistently voted against legislation for human rights, equal pay, and same-sex marriage.

He has also voted against the hunting and smoking bans.

He voted to abolish the national minimum wage in 2009.

In 2013, he stalled a bill to give a statutory pardon to Alan Turing, who was prosecuted for “gross indecency” in 1952 for having a gay relationship. Mr Turing was later given a posthumous royal pardon in December 2013.

What else is he known for?

Along with stalling the Turing bill in 2013, Sir Christopher faced criticism when he referred to some staff members in the House of Commons as “servants” and did not correct himself when MPs objected.

In June of the same year, he was among MPs who supported an “Alternative Queen’s Speech”, which listed 42 policies including reintroducing the death penalty and conscription, privatising the BBC, and banning the burqa in public places.

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