Dr Evan Harris
Former Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament and Vice-President of the BHA
I am keen to see religion kept separate from the state and from public functions. So for example I do not think that state funded schools or hospitals should be run exclusively for certain religions or that religious organisations should have preferential treatment compared to non-religious ones.
Evan Harris was the Liberal Democrats’ Shadow Science Minister and a former Shadow Secretary of State for Health. He was on the House of Commons Innovation University Science and Skills Select Committee and the Joint Commons/Lords Select Committee on Human Rights. After his election as MP of Oxford West and Abingdon for the Liberal Democrats in 1997, he became a front bench spokesman on higher education and women’s issues.
Evan Harris was brought up in Liverpool, where he attended the Blue Coat School, and then went on to study physiological sciences at Wadham College, Oxford, and then medicine at the Oxford University Clinical School . He began his medical career at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital in 1991 as a House Officer, then went on to the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, becoming a senior house officer in 1992. An active trade unionist, he was local BMA representative and negotiator from 1992-1994, and was then elected to represent doctors in the Region on the National Council of the BMA. In 1994 he became a specialist registrar in public health with the Oxfordshire Health Authority where he remained until his election to Parliament.
Evan Harris’s political interests are strongly aligned with his Humanism: he has a long-standing campaigning record in anti-racism, refugee rights and civil liberties issues, with a particular focus on free speech, anti-discrimination and the separation of religion and the state. He is a forceful advocate for science, supporting experimentation on animals at Oxford University and GM crops, and against faith-based schools. He was at the forefront of the campaign to abolish the common law offence of blasphemous libel in 2008, and served on the Equality Bill committee where he supported humanist interests and amendments. He retains a particular interest in medical ethics, having served on Oxfordshire Health Authority’s Research Ethics Committee, and since 1999 has been an elected member of the British Medical Association’s Medical Ethics Committee. He has worked as a trained HIV/AIDS counsellor in Oxford, and is Honorary President of the Liberal Democrat Campaign for Lesbian and Gay Rights (DELGA). His pro-choice views on issues such as abortion and voluntary euthanasia have often brought him into conflict with religious leaders and spokespersons inside and outside Parliament. He lost his seat in Parliament in the may 2010 elections by a very small margin.
He is also Vice President of the BHA-affiliated Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA), and was Patron of the Oxford Secular Society.