Summary Proceedings of the Parliamentary and Public Affairs Committee June 2014

Announcements

The Vice Chairman (standing in for the Chairman who was absent), asked whether the Committee’s discussions were effective outside its immediate environs. There has been an increase in coverage of the Catholic Union in the Catholic press, but none in the secular press. It was suggested that there should be a group of doctors and lawyers who could write pertinent briefing papers on specific issues, which will both inform and persuade.

Mitochondrial Donation

Three Catholic MPs had spoken out against this. The “One of Us” campaign had attracted 1.9 million signatures, well above the one million threshold from seven countries required to propose legislation in the European Parliament. Nevertheless, it had been ignored. The Chairman would write to his MEP on this subject.

Abortion by Midwives

There had been a missive from the Department of Health which stated that midwives should be able to use abortifacients if authorised by a doctor. This was an update of the RSOP (Required Standard Operating Procedures for licensing premises for abortions), loosening the protections in the original abortion act. The approval by two doctors was being replaced by “multi-disciplinary teams”. This could foster mistrust of midwives by mothers. “The Times” commented that this was abortion on demand and reflected a shift in the nation’s culture. Some now say abortion should be a human right. It was becoming more and more difficult for a Catholic to be a midwife or gynaecologist. The Duggan case (administration of abortions) would be going to the Supreme Court. The CU Chairman had written to the Prime Minister about abortion by midwives.

Assisted Suicide and the Falconer Bill

The revised Falconer Bill is due on the 18th July and is identical to its predecessor. The makeup of the House of Lords has altered, so defeat is no longer certain. There is never a vote on the first reading. Speeches on this subject had often urged “let sleeping dogs lie”. It currently works well with prosecutorial discretion. Some think a bill on this controversial subject needs to start in the Commons, although Parliamentary debate seems to be thinning.

Applying Equality Law in Practice

It was announced that the responsible office in the Bishops’ Conference (E&W) had received the replies to this consultation. In consequence, the words on gender reassignment had been changed. It was still a forbiddingly long document to read. Possibly it could be advertised by posters in the back of churches. It was announced that three précis documents were being prepared; one for employers, one for employees and one for service providers. It was hoped to distribute these widely – including through parishes.  The  CTS might be persuaded to publish these in due course.

The Queen’s Speech

The vice Chairman introduced a general discussion on this, in particular the proposal to recognise marriage in the tax system, by means of the married couple’s allowance.