Summary of the Parliamentary & Public Affairs Committe Meeting March 2014

Chairman’s Announcements

The Chairman proposed Patricia Stoad as a member of the Committee which was unanimously accepted.

Correspondence

The chairman had received a letter from his MP about a possible replacement for the LCP. The Government will reconvene the Neuberger review to report next year. There should be international research into end of life issues, not just cancer. Dr Massimo Constantini, Regional Palliative Care Network, Azienda Ospedaliera Universitara Genoa and colleagues are willing to enter into partnership to undertake this research.

Catholic Education Service – Presentation to the Committee, Paul Barber Director

The CES is the education agency of the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales. It has two functions. The first is to be an agent of the bishops collectively and to speak on their behalf to government and to assist and advise the bishops on education policy. The second is to be a service to the dioceses giving specialist advice and support for schools. The CES doesn’t run schools and can’t tell schools or dioceses what to do. The CES will have an officer in Cardiff.

Having given an historical overview, Mr Barber went on to say that the Church is now the biggest provider of secondary education (RC 10%, C of E 7%) ,but for primary the C of E provides 20% and the RC 10%. The CES is different from the other agencies in that it does no campaigning but supports an enormous infrastructure and workforce. It works quietly at maintaining relationships with the Government in a complex educational landscape now with academies involving contract and company law. This is a sensitive political area; some would like to abolish RC schools and yet they always outperform normal state schools, whatever the measure. A requirement to teach community cohesion was introduced thinking this would target faith schools – RC schools turned out to be twice as good as average on community cohesion.

Free Schools: These are legally just academies with a particular route to establishment. There are now 250 RC secondary academies. The Government has a policy of imposing a cap of 50% on religious admissions, if oversubscribed, on all new free schools. This policy reneges on the policies established in 1944 and earlier. The Bishops will not accept this and are trying to persuade the government to drop the requirement. This policy is part of the coalition agreement aimed by the Liberal Democrats at Muslim schools. In theory one can start a new voluntary-aided school – in practice there is no grant funding available.

The bishops are responsible for faith teaching in school. Catechesis is between two people who share the faith. Up to the ‘80s, a certain amount of this was done in schools. The bishops now want this to take place in the parish. RE is a rigorous academic subject; it needs to be an exam subject to be taken seriously. There used to be RC papers and we are now seeking a Catholic option in the subject at GCSE and A level. Sex education is compulsory at secondary level but not at primary – yet. Parents may withdraw their children.

 

Replies to Further Questions on Abortion

The sexual health team at the Department of Health want to relax the licencing requirements for abortion clinics so that abortions can be performed by nurses only.  A ComRes poll had found that 92% of the public felt it was wrong for a woman to have an abortion without seeing doctor.

Euthanasia of children in Belgium and Holland

There had been a debate on assisted dying in the House of Lords on 5th March. Baroness Jay wanted Kier Starmer’s guidelines to be made into statute law. The motive for assisting in suicide must be compassion, not gain. 98 cases had been reported to the DPP; half were dropped straight away. Baroness Jay had said that we have amateur assisted dying, when we should have professional assisted dying. In the Netherlands the Groningen protocol was accepted for child euthanasia. However 40 Belgian paediatricians had written that in their experience no child had ever requested death.