Summary of the Parliamentary & Public Affairs Committee 17th December 2013

Chairman’s Announcements

Mrs Josephine Robinson, a former Chairman (sic) of the Association of Catholic Women was elected to the Committee.

Correspondence

A letter had been written to the Prime Minister and the Dept. of Health regarding the proposal to allow the production of embryos with two mothers and one father (hoping to prevent mitochondrial disease in the child). Two near identical replies had been received, referring to an imminent consultation and to a commission of “international experts” who said there was no concern for safety. However, IVF is known to increase the risk of birth defects, cancer and mental retardation. It is irresponsible to predict no risk with this even more radical procedure. The Chairman would write to Jeremy Hunt and to his own MP, questioning the safety of this procedure and seeking the identity of the “international experts”.

Same sex marriage in Scotland and Northern Ireland

The debate in the Scottish Parliament on this issue has been astonishingly abusive. It is expected that the SSM Bill will be approved by early March 2014. The Chairman is due to talk to the Political Officer of the Scottish Bishops conference. The Northern Ireland Assembly will not entertain SSM, but will accept as civil partners, those same sex couples married elsewhere in the UK.

Gender-based abortion

The Government stated that the law would be enforced, but has also said there are many grounds for seeking an abortion. It is unlikely that the Government will do anything in this regard.

Survey on Family Life

There had been 12,000 responses nationally to this Vatican survey. There was uncertainty about what the survey was intended to accomplish or what it was capable of accomplishing. It was thought it might be about how care is provided to people in family life, in particular, sacramental care from the Church.

Parliamentary Lobbying Bill

This Bill could obstruct free speech prior to General Elections. CAFOD is making a list of Part One Catholic lobbyists; Caritas Social Care of Part Two lobbyists with a view to joint approaches to the Government.

Extension of euthanasia in Belgium

The Belgian Parliament has passed legislation whereby children of 12 and below with terminal illness and unbearable pain could choose to die, or their parents and next of kin, where such consent is unavailable, could do so in their place When they are near to death, these children are claimed to increase in maturity. There were 1,132 cases of euthanasia in 2012; 25% up on 2011.We should note this lest attempts are made to introduce it in England. Other approaches to child euthanasia were the LCP and the Groningen protocol in the Netherlands.

Abortion on mental health grounds

The chairman had given a Parliamentary Question to Sir Edward Leigh. It said abortions were being carried out on Ground C (risk to the mother’s mental health) without mental health being assessed and by doctors not trained to assess mental health. There is a statement by the Academy of Royal Colleges that there is no difference to the mother’s mental health whether she has an abortion or gives birth What is currently going on is fraudulent.  It was suggested that the thrust of the argument should move away from time limits, to pointing out the number of fraudulent abortions being carried out in a local area, to make it real to people.  The late Phyllis Bowman (LIFE) used to say she would be perfectly content if the Abortion law were honoured. However, it would be necessary to convince juries that there is no risk to mental health. The CU and others should continue to raise awareness and press that Ground C be removed or at least observed.

Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill

This Bill provides that if a nuisance or annoyance is caused to any person, they can apply for an Injunction to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance (or IPNAS). The Christian Institute has pointed out this could conceivably cover carol singing, street preaching, children playing football in the street. Local Authorities, police and private security firms can also hand out Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) in order to restrict any activity deemed to have a “detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality”.  It was hoped that common sense would prevail in such cases.

Persecution of Christians – Westminster Hall Debate 3rd December

This debate was initiated by Jim Shannon MP (DUP). He said Christianity is the most persecuted religion at the present time. One Christian dies for their faith every eleven minutes. Persecution starts with discrimination in business, in civic life, education and politics. In some countries it was illegal to possess a Bible and there was forcible conversion to Islam. Sir Edward Leigh MP said that the worst crisis no one had ever heard of is in Pakistan. Western intervention could make things worse (lecturing by former colonial masters). However many countries persecuting Christians receive money from the UK Government.

Any other Business

Assisted Dying Bill – This had been shelved for now, but a more comprehensive version will be introduced in the next session of Parliament.  The Supreme Court is considering Article 8 rights to respect for private life for Nicklinson/Lamb.

Protection of the Vulnerable – NHS England had set up the LACDP (Leadership Alliance for the Care of Dying People) to advise the Secretary of State for Health by 6th January 2014, on what should replace the LCP. Dr Cole had met its chair, Dr Bee Wee, and had agreed that anyone entering hospital should have confidence that they would receive evidence-based treatment compassionately and ethically applied. “More Care Less Pathway” had been set up to counter it and seek a meeting with Norman Lamb MP, minister for health, to slow the process and give time for the counter views (now accepted by the BCEW) to be considered.