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Monday, July 19, 1999 Published at 07:39 GMT 08:39 UK

UK Politics

MPs enter pro-life group row

Ann Widdecombe: Chair of the Pro-Life All Party Parliamentary Group

Anti-abortion MPs, including the shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe, will meet the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children this week to discuss a series of resignations from the pro-life group.

The talks follow the decision of the society's founder, Phyllis Bowman, and six other members to stand down.

The new chairman of the society, Chris Walsh, is expected to see MPs from the Pro-Life All Party Parliamentary Group. The politicians will raise their concerns over the direction of the SPUC.

Miss Widdecombe, the group's chairwoman, is expected to head the meeting alongside fellow Tory MP Ann Winterton and crossbencher Lord Alton.

Concerns over the direction of the anti-abortion group are being raised by seven former SPUC executives who have written to the society's national council members to tell them of their "extreme disquiet" at recent developments.

The stewardship of national director John Smeaton is being criticised by the former executives, who say he showed "hostility" towards staff who raise grievances against him.

Following the past week's resignations from the society, members of the parliamentary group wrote a letter to the SPUC voicing fears that the resignations had been sparked by a more strident approach to policy, which could alienate Protestant and atheist supporters.

Miss Widdecombe has confirmed a meeting is to take place between the SPUC and the parliamentary group but has not been drawn on the meeting's agenda.

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