This week’s activities ranged from internet safety to the armed forces but were dominated by the debate over same gender marriage.
Last Wednesday, I met Britain’s leading internet service providers to hear more about their plans for family-friendly filters.
The good news is that the industry has made huge progress in recognising the problem and by the end of this year they will all offer products that allow us to protect all internet-enabled devices in the home with ‘one-click’ filtering which will be a massive step forward.
Much more needs to be done on age verification and access but there is a real willingness to move forward that is very welcome.
On Friday, I spent the day at Trenchard Lines, Upavon, discussing plans for Army 2020, reviewing the local military-civilian partnership and seeing the exceptional kit and training now offered to support our ISTAR efforts (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance).
From there it was off to an advice surgery in Great Bedwyn where the issue of marriage came up again. There have been so many myths propagated about the proposal that it has been quite difficult to have a real debate about the heart of the matter and so I have posted a ‘myth buster’ on my website to try and sort out the facts.
This proposal is to allow couples of the same gender to marry in a civil setting, not in church and churches cannot be compelled to marry such couples under UK law. There is no facility under European law to allow Europe to overrule us on this. No teacher can be sacked for refusing to endorse this change or for refusing to tell pupils about this form of union. But ultimately it comes down to fairness and I think it is fair to allow as many people as possible to marry regardless of race, colour or sexual orientation.
Marriage is the bedrock of our society and anything that strengthens it is to be supported and this move will strengthen, not weaken, marriage. I reach this view as a practising Christian and it is one shared by our Bishop, the Rt Rev Nicholas Holtam.
I support this legislation, although the irony of the matter is that urgent Government business required me to miss the vote on the Second Reading of the Bill on Tuesday. I have appreciated the communications from my constituents on this issue – both sides of the argument have been represented without rancour and helped me reach my decision.