HAYES IN THE HOUSE: Free Speech and Maternity Bill
Parenthood is a fundamental feature of our humanity, as family life nurtures those who will form all our futures.
As such, it is right that we reflect on how as a nation we treat families, and, in particular, support mothers.
How should we recognise and reward the service and sacrifice required to raise a child from birth to maturity, to shape the intricacies of a human soul with kindness, commitment, discipline and restraint?
Surely, a woman must be supported emotionally and financially from the moment her baby is conceived, for we have a shared communal duty to nurture children, and indeed adults at every stage of life, from the first heartbeat before birth to the final breath.
The Maternity Allowances Bill, which was considered in the House of Commons last week, provides an example. For if we in Parliament get this wrong, how can we
expect others to get it right?
Sadly, however, those who drafted the Bill made a significant error by attempting to replace the words motherhood and woman with ‘gender neutral’ language. Is it now considered embarrassing to be described as ‘a woman’ and to admit to being ‘a mother’? Are we now assuming that the concepts of ‘motherhood’ and ‘womanhood’ are so radical that they must be censored?
This otherwise laudable Bill will, in effect, extinguish the ordained particularity of human types. I do not know whether that is as a result of artlessness or heartlessness, but whichever, it anonymises and dehumanises. Which is why, in solidarity with every woman and mother in South Holland and The Deepings and beyond, I tabled amendments designed to rectify this dangerous error.
As George Orwell grasped, when extremists define what words we use, soon after, only those words become permissible. In his novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, protagonist Syme explains the objective of Newspeak:
“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thought-crime literally
impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.”
Words matter; for it is through language that we understand, express, consider, challenge and articulate.
Through language, we breathe life into sentiment.
We must be permitted to think and speak freely. English having the richest vocabulary of any language in the world, it should not be truncated or distorted by those who fear free thought and favour spiteful ‘political correctness’. Ironically, the institutions in which ideas should flourish are often stifling free speech.
Just last week a student at Kings College London told me that anyone there refusing to conform to a narrow range of left wing views is ostracised.
Thankfully, in the wake of work by the Common Sense Group of Conservative MPs, which I chair, Government ministers are now taking the threat to freedom of speech seriously.
Changes to the law will ensure that universities, are obliged to promote free speech, with the appointment of a ‘Free Speech Champion’ – given powers to impose fines on student
unions that restrict speech unlawfully and to order redress if individuals have been dismissed or demoted for their views.
Meanwhile, the Maternity Allowances Bill is an important step, on a long journey, to affirm the role of women in public life and the role they play in families and wider society.
So, let us be unafraid to speak proudly and freely of motherhood, in the Mother of Parliaments and in every corner of our Kingdom.