Tory’s Bible quote on Brexit ‘deeply offensive to Christians’

Mark Francois. Photograph: Sky News.

Mark Francois. Photograph: Sky News. - Credit: Archant

A Conservative MP has been accused of using language 'deeply offensive' to Christians after he quoted the Bible to attack those supporting a Bill to block a no-deal Brexit.

Labour's Barry Sheerman, MP for Huddersfield, criticised Mark Francois, Rayleigh and Wickford MP, for his comments in the run-up to Easter.

Shortly after legislation put forward by Yvette Cooper passed its final Commons hurdle late on Wednesday, Francois called it a 'constitutional outrage'.

The leading Eurosceptic said the Bill had been 'rammed through in four hours', then quoted from the Gospel of Luke in the New Testament, adding: 'The public won't be impressed by this. Forgive them father, they know not what they do.'

He was criticised by some MPs in the chamber at the time but not by the Speaker John Bercow, and on Thursday morning at Business Questions, Sheerman called for a debate on 'the way we treat each other, the respect, the language that we use'.

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He said to Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom: 'Could she particularly bear in mind something that was very offensive said last night by the member for Rayleigh and Wickford, when at this time we are in Lent and approaching Easter, when he said, 'Forgive them father for they know not what they do'.

'To a Christian, and a former parliamentary church warden, it was deeply offensive to use that phrase in the context of a debate on Brexit.

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'It was offensive, and I do hope that we can have discussion about what is and what isn't appropriate to say in this House.'

Leadsom agreed that it was 'vital that everybody in the place treats each other with courtesy and respect', saying: 'Behaviour in the chamber is a matter for the chair.'

She added: 'But on the other hand, I'm sure Mr Speaker will agree that it's vital that everybody is treated with courtesy and respect.'

Bercow replied that was 'absolutely fair and reasonable', before explaining why he did not intervene on Francois at the time.

'The right honourable gentleman felt extremely strongly and he expressed himself with force, and I respect that right honourable member's sincerity and integrity, I make no bones about that,' he said.

'But moderation in the use of language and the importance of trying to keep the temperature down can hardly be overstated.'

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