Tag Archives: same sex marriage

Summary notes of the meeting of the Parliamentary & Public Affairs Committee 13th May 2014

Correspondence

The Chairman had prepared a short summary of points from the last meeting for Archbishop Peter Smith, copied to his own Archbishop Bernard Longley, and also to the Cardinal via his sectary. There had been no acknowledgement, but he hoped to meet with Archbishop Longley and with the Cardinal’s secretary and find out if this was of any interest.

Catholic Medical Alliance Submission on Mitochondrial Donation

Both the PPAC and the CMA had made a submission to the consultation. This was basically about how it should be done, not whether it should be done. There were two possible methods of ‘mitochondrial engineering’:

  • Pronuclear transfer: a fertilised embryo is taken from an egg with faulty mitochondria and inserted into an egg with healthy mitochondria from which the fertilised embryo has been removed and discarded.
  • Maternal spindle transfer: The nucleus is removed from an egg with faulty mitochondria and inserted into an egg with healthy mitochondria from which the nucleus has been removed. This egg is then fertilised.
  • The first method kills an embryo while the second does not. However both involve alteration of the germ line and we did not know if it was safe. The Government’s committee said there was no evidence it was unsafe. The principal non-ethical objection was safety. The legislation is likely to be whipped and will open a Pandora’s Box on the subject.

Abortion

There had been a much recent debate on this and a number of Catholic MPs had spoken. There was a drive for legal action against 67 doctors using pre-signed forms. The DPP had pushed this across to the GMC which had told them it was illegal and they must not do it again. The GMC thought the practice was so common they couldn’t do anything except in the case of gendercide. This was in hand with the all-party life group led by Jim Dobbin MP, which is working with the Metropolitan Police and the DPP. Fiona Bruce MP was asking the attorney general what action he had taken. The Chairman had received letters from Baroness Knight who wishes to call a meeting in the Lords about the false nature of the form all pre-signed for category “C”, risk to themental health of the mother. There is probably no risk, but it is unclear whether this has been looked into.

Assisted Suicide

The document “Living and Dying Well” said the law deters but is flexible. Prosecutions are almost nil. Concern is not just for the terminally ill but for the suffering. The Nicklinson case would not be covered by the bill which is therefore not honest. The Court of Appeal has passed it to the Supreme Court but it won’t change the law; that is for Parliament to do. The DPP’s guidance falls into two classes. Class 1: where the assistor is a family member and the deceased is mentally capable. Class 2: Doctors and ‘strangers’, where the guidance is not sufficiently clear. This is now in the Supreme Court. The Royal Society of GPs stated this bill would spoil the relationship with patients and palliative care would lose funding; a neutral stance would be seen as acceptance. Sir Edward Leigh MP said that altough he always voted against, pressure was relentlessly growing and the state was increasingly concerned with the cost of rising numbers of elderly dementia patients.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference’s brief document “Sense and nonsense on assisted dying” (circulated) was a valuable contribution and would be distributed to the entire CU membership.

Same sex marriage Northern Ireland

This was defeated again 53 to 48. The subject of the consultation draft on “Applying Equality Law in practice for Catholics” was raised. Reactions and comments were to be submitted by the end of May.

“Safe at School” campaign

The latest bulletin for (not just Catholic) parents describes what is being taught in schools. The materials used in Catholic schools are usually less damaging than those in state schools,

but can still cause problems. Sex education must remain non-compulsory. There is a move to update the 2000 Guidelines; the consultation was for teachers and students but parents had been omitted and there was nothing about love and marriage. The Government is resisting this move. A good Catholic resource, “This is my Body” is available.

A Christian Country?

The prime minister claimed over the Easter that this country remains essentially Christian, but the Cardinal had countered by saying that with SSM, the country had lost the last vestige of the Judeo-Christian ethos. The chief Rabbi however had said “of course we are a Christian country”. The prevailing ethos seemed to be “I have the right to have what I want and to ignore your opinion”. Most people now think religion is not in the public interest.

Any Other Business

There was a debate on Catholic “Free” schools: would the Government give way on capping Catholic admissions at 50% as demanded by the Liberal Democrats? There were a large number of Catholic Academies – now more in thrall than ever to the DofE. Parents, school and parish working together gives stability.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary proceedings of the Parliamentary & Public Affairs Committee 8th April 2014

Chairman’s Announcements

The chairman welcomed a new member of the committee, Patricia Stoat as per last month’s announcement.

Correspondence

The chairman referred to a letter to the Daily Telegraph from Jim Dobbin, Sir Edward Leigh and others on the benefits of marriage to society.  He noted the government was, belatedly, introducing a modest transferable tax allowance which seemed an acknowledgement of marriage as a public force for good.

Euthanasia of children in Belgium

The cardinal archbishop of Malines and a rabbi had issued a strong statement condemning this.

40 paediatricians had written that in their experience no child had ever requested death. However, it was now suggested the law should be extended to allow the euthanasia of children at the decision of the parents alone. The law had been signed by Philippe I, nominally a Catholic monarch.

Abortion

 This is still a live issue in parliament. Baroness Knight asked if the law on abortion was beingupheld but did not receive a straight answer. Baroness Hollins, (past president of the BMA), Lord Alton, Lord Patten and Lord Mackay of Clashfern asked about gender based abortion. The Government said it was illegal and would examine the ratio of male to female births. Fiona Bruce MP asked about abortion on “Ground E” – disability- and gave examples of trivial cases. The Chief Medical Officer had sent a letter to doctors reminding them of their duties without publishing the Contents. The Government seems very casual about enforcement of the Act and was still considering relaxation of the law to allow nurse-only abortions. It said new guidelines were in draft but again not published. Gary Streeter MP was asking for a full debate on these guidelines. There will also be debate on the RSOP (Required Standard Operating Procedures for licencing premises for abortions).

A legal case in the north of England claimed that injury to a foetus was an assault; it was considered likely to fail since legally a person did not exist until born. However, the right of the unborn have never been defined. The chairman had written to Baroness Hollins, thanking her for her intervention and had included two papers showing that mental health problems as grounds for abortion were spurious.

Mitochondrial Donation

Lord Alton had made a strong statement about MD in so far as it alters the genetic composition of future generations, would be against international law and  he claimed would make the UK a rogue state.

There had been a campaign entitled “One of Us” aimed at limiting the misuse of embryos. It had sought a million signatures to trigger a debate in the European parliament. It had obtained 1.7 million and the debate would be on 9th April.

Falconer Bill on Assisted Dying

 This is likely to be brought back to the Lords after the Queen’s speech. Opposing such measures would best done as part of a coalition, ie with the“Care not Killing” group. There are now 193 new peers and their views on this issue were unknown. “Care not Killing” would approach these and try to elucidate their views without making any effort to persuade.  In general, public opinion appeared to be moving towards assisted dying. An assisted dying bill was likely to be brought forward in Scotland at year end, after the referendum. Baroness Butler-Sloss, formerly president of the family division of the high court, has warned that assisted dying would put many vulnerable people at risk. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference’s brief document “Sense and nonsense on assisted dying” (circulated) was a valuable contribution.

Modern Slavery Bill and Global Freedom Network

 The Bill was intended to consolidate and simplify existing legislation and to support victims. There had recently been a meeting in the Vatican of the Global Freedom Network, supported by Catholics, and other faiths. The meeting made the following declaration:  “Modern slavery and human trafficking are crimes against humanity. The physical, economic and sexual exploitation of men, women and children condemn 30 million people to dehumanisation and degradation”. There will be a high level meeting in Rome between police chiefs, church leaders and others to establish more ties between the Church and the police. The emphasis would move from punishing the offenders to helping the victims.

Any Other Business

Same Sex Marriage guidelines: the Equality and Human Rights web site stated that holding to the traditional view of marriage is not in itself an offence if expressed in moderation; teachers will be  allowed to teach what they feel is right with regard to their faith.

It was decided that in future selected items should be highlighted from each month’s minutes and sent to the appropriate member of the Bishops’ Conference, under the guidance of the Chairman.

Summary of the Parliamentary & Public Affairs Committee Meeting – 11th February 2014

Chairman’s Announcements

David O’Mahony, a CU Council Member, was elected a member of the Committee.

Correspondence

The chairman had written to Jane Spencer at the Department of Health about the dangers of mitochondrial donations and the lack of an ethical framework. He asked for details of the advice received by the government. He received a reply from a senior official, saying there was an expert committee that had met three times and which advised that was no great danger in mitochondrial donation. There was no reply on the ethical basis. There was however a reference to a web site Catherine Sampson (sic). This is in fact a high powered scientific committee which has met twice and is due to meet again. Parliament in 2008 effectively cleared the way for mitochondrial donation. It was concluded it was safe for [laboratory animals] and should be tested on primates.  If used on humans it should be followed up for a long time; this is not in fact a green light. There has been a public consultation, now finished. It looks as if the government are determined to introduce mitochondrial donation. In 2008 the government had removed the right for those born via IVF et al to know the identity of their biological parents. This would mean the subjects of mitochondrial donation could not be informed of this. There had been no answer on the subject of ethics.  Britain has no medical ethics committee. “Consequential ethics” now seems popular, that is, the end justifies the means.  Any action on this taken by the Bishops’ Conference is to be advised to the Committee in due course.

MSP Vote on SSM 4th February 2014

This vote in the Scottish parliament to redefine marriage was carried by 105 votes to 18 with supporters of traditional marriage subject to verbal abuse. Amendments to protect teachers, adopters, fosterers etc. were all defeated. Scotland is becoming very nearly a totalitarian society. Anyone who disagrees with same sex marriage will be called intolerant, discriminatory and hateful and may lose their position in public bodies. Further, the Children and Young Person’s bill introduces a “Named Person” imposed by the state on every child without consent and without opt-out whose function, according to the Bill “cannot be carried out by a parent of the child or young person”. People are regarding developments in Scotland as a social revolution. People now live in fear of being overheard in a public place, being reported to the police and arrested, in some cases held overnight. It was agreed the CU should revive an active committee to support John Deighan in presenting parliamentary developments to the Catholic public. The guidelines for sex education were being revised; this should be resisted because current guidelines give parents a very strong position to demand to know what was being taught. The Labour party had tried to introduce sex education into the primary curriculum but had been defeated.

The Lunacek road map for LBGT rights has been overwhelmnigly accepted by the European Parliament.  It calls for the criminalisation of homophobia throughout Europe, for same sex marriage in every country, for teaching of homosexual practice to all children from which parents may not dissent and people who speak out against are to be silenced.

 

Plight of Syrian Refugees

The government has now agreed to take in a limited number of Syrian refugees.  A Syrian Catholic Bishop warned against the possibility of a mass exodus of educated Syrians, who would be needed during the process of reconstruction and development in the hopefully near future.

Assisted Dying

The Falconer Bill is not being put before the House of Lords, although Lord Falconer denied claims in a Times article (20th January) that his Bill was about euthanasia, rather it was about allowing those terminally ill patients wishing to die access to drugs to enable them to do so.  Belgium and Dutch law covers the non-terminally ill.   A Bill on Assisted Dying is likely to be presented in the next session of Parliament, with input from Living and Dying Well, which will hopefully be better drafted than the Belgian and Dutch versions.

Sir Edward Leigh MP – Further Questions on Abortion

The government reported there had been an error in their previous reply. Sir Edward therefore asked the following questions:

i.      When the problem on the extraction of data had first started and what the government intended to do about it.

ii.     Is there any data on how many women seeking abortion had actually met the authorising medical practitioner;

iii.   How many of these practitioners have training in mental health issues.

A ComRes poll had found that 95% of the public felt it was wrong for a woman to have an abortion without seeing doctor.

Westminster Hall Speech on Marriage – Sir Edward Leigh MP

This speech was well received by the press.  The speech was part of a Westminster Hall debate about strengthening relationships among couples.

Any Other Business

Injunctions to prevent Nuisance and Annoyance replacing ASBOs had been defeated by the Lords and replaced by Injunctions against causing Harassment, Alarm or Distress.

A UN committee on the Rights of the Child severely criticised the Holy See for concealing child abuse by priests. In fact responsibility here lies with diocesan bishops, not the Holy See, who must act in accordance with the civil law of the local jurisdiction which subsists to Canon Law.

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.

Marriage Statistics in the United Kingdom

CU Vice Chairman John Barrie writes:

Dear Members

It was brought to my attention only yesterday, Monday 9th December 2013, that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has a consultation which expires next Tuesday 17th December 2013, concerning the desirability of merging statistics for same sex couples and for opposite sex couples and for civil partnerships.

The document is entitled: Consultation Marriage Statistics Oct 2013

If you have a view on this topic you may care to complete and return the document to:

Lyn Hawkins, Consultations Co-ordinator  vsob@ons.gsi.gov.uk

Yours sincerely

John

UPDATE : 17th December 2013

Statement on ONS marriage and divorce statistics consultation

ONS would like to thank all users who have contributed so far to the consultation‘User requirements for marriage, divorce and civil partnership statistics given the introduction of marriage of same sex couples‘. ONS would like to clarify that it is not proposing to produce only total figures for marriages where the distinction between same sex and opposite sex couples is not available. ONS do intend to publish marriage and divorce statistics in the future where figures for opposite sex and same sex couples are shown separately. ONS are consulting on the characteristics of these marriages/divorces which are of particular interest so that published statistics meet user requirements.

Summary of the Parliamentary & Public Affairs Committee 22nd October 2013

Chairman’s Announcements

The Committee for 2013-2014 was announced.  The Officers of the Committee remain as before, although Angela Gracey has retired and Rosalind Bearcroft, together with Stuart Sexton, is vice chair.  There are presently three vacancies and names were sought to fill these.

Lord Falconer is now in the Shadow Cabinet so will not be advancing an assisted dying bill for now, although something akin to it might be put forward in Scotland.

Same Sex Marriage

C4M intend to keep the fight alive on this issue and not let politicians off the hook.  The Committee’s view was that this issue is now behind us.

End of Life Care

The Catholic Medical Association has put out a statement on end of life care and Dr Tony Cole was congratulated by the Committee for all his hard work in helping to bring about the demise of the Liverpool Care Pathway.  NHS Trusts are looking at end of life procedures.  An end of life care Bill of Rights is now under considerations by such groups as Living & Dying Well.  There was a discussion on gender-based abortion – in the majority of cases these are undertaken given the supposed unstable mental state of the mother.  Failure to prosecute for such abortions was felt to be an ethical, rather than a judicial matter.

All Party Group on international freedom of religion or belief

This group has written a letter signed by a number of MPs, asking the Government to appoint an ambassador for international freedom of religion or belief.

Proposed anti-slavery Bill

This welcome proposal seeks to disrupt gang trafficking amongst men and women and also to offer some form of help to the victims.  The Bishops would be meeting with Frank Field MP to discuss this further.

Parliamentary Lobbying Bill

“Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill 2013-14”. It was intended to limit the ability influence elections. It would limit spend and increase the scope of activities covered.

The Bill:

  • introduces a statutory register of consultant lobbyists and establishes a Registrar to enforce the registration requirements;
  • regulates more closely election campaign spending by those not standing for election or registered as political parties ;
  • Strengthens the legal requirements placed on trade unions in relation to their obligation to keep their list of members up to date. It could have a chilling effect on some charities.

“One of Us” Campaign

This campaign aims to acquire a million signatures with a view to opening a debate in the European Parliament on ending funding from research using embryonic stem cells (we can’t destroy embryos because they are “one of us”).

“The Narrow Gate” – A Reflection by the Archbishop of Westminster

Following the passing of legislation regarding same sex marriage, the Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Rev’d Vincent Nichols, has published a reflection on marriage and its true meaning, as well as the Church’s view on civil partnerships and the consequences of same sex marriage.

 

The full text is available here

Summary of the Parliamentary & Public Affairs Committee Meeting 16th July 2013

Chairman’s Announcements

An outline report was given of a meeting held in late June between the Catholic Union, represented by Robert Rigby and John Barrie and the Bishops’ Conference, represented by Mgr Marcus Stock and Charles Wookey. During the course of the meeting, it was suggested that the Catholic Union should consult other Catholic bodies to ascertain possible areas of alignment and synergy.  Introductions to a number of prominent Catholics in public life were offered, as the Catholic Union could play a role in bringing Catholics together.  Subsequent to the meeting a memorandum was received suggesting that the Catholic Union is out of step in today’s world. A measured response has been sent to the Bishops’ Conference.

The Chairman considered that the PPAC membership is a good example of linking with other organisations, given the scope of memberships and affiliations currently enjoyed by the PPAC members.

The Married Couples’ Tax Allowance has been accepted by the Government and will appear in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement

Same Sex Marriage

A letter had been received from Oliver Letwin MP regarding same sex marriage and safeguards for teachers who teach traditional marriage.  The letter made clear that Mr Letwin regards same sex marriage as nothing more than a ceremony and so has no idea of the wider ramifications and time-honoured role of true marriage in society.  The Prime Minister is understood to regard same sex marriage as merely a “relabeling” of the wedding ceremony.  With regard to the safeguards for teachers, this appeared to be seen as straightforward and of little issue.

The House Lords did not feel that they should frustrate the will of the elected chamber (from where many of their number have come).  10 Amendments were moved – these were moderate and well-phrased – all were defeated.  The legislation has been rushed through and is badly drafted.  The law will be tested in the Courts.  There were a total of 55 Lords Amendments.  The campaign against same sex marriage will have to be carried on from a Catholic perspective.  The position for teachers and others will be extremely difficult, since they will be tied by both SSM legislation and the Equality Act.  It was pointed out that although the Bill has been passed, pressure against the law should be maintained by members of the Union and by the public, so that David Cameron is not allowed to forget the opposition this measure has generated. This pressure should be maintained until the 2015 General Election at least.

Neuberger Review – The Liverpool Care Pathway

The final report is extremely welcome.  The Liverpool Care Pathway is to be terminated with immediate effect and replaced with individual care plans in consultation with patients and relatives.  The CMA has put together a list of 6 key questions that families and patients can ask, which include, how near to death is the patient, what is the effect of the drugs likely to be and will they suffer thirst.  The Falconer Bill on Assisted Dying is due in the autumn.  There has been a softening of language and a gradual change in attitude.

Embryology – Question by Lord Alton in the Lords

The Government is set to introduce regulation by 2014 so that Medical Research Council guidelines become standard practice.  It was noted that germ line medical procedure is extremely risky. The Committee was advised that Josephine Quintavalle is taking the lead on countering this with a meeting in October to gather one million signatures in order to procure a debate on the matter in the European Parliament.

School Governors and Local Councillors

The position of local councillors and school governors as Catholics working at a local level “on the front line”, trying to ensure compatibility between their beliefs and what is asked of them.  The case of the Plymouth Brethren, a narrow, yet extremely law abiding Protestant sect, who do not wish to engage with the secular agenda and thereby risk losing their charitable status, was given as a case in point.  The secular agenda is increasingly incompatible with Christian belief and mores

Persecuted Christians

The general feeling is that this is a very low priority for the FCO.  President Assad protects the Christians as part of the pluralist society in Syria.  Arming the rebels would be unhelpful in this regard.  The exemplary work of Baroness Cox in working against Christian persecution globally was cited.

Summary of the Parliamentary & Public Affairs Committee, 18th June 2013

Chairman’s Announcements

The Chairman congratulated Sir Edward Leigh MP, upon his Knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours earlier in the month. He also mentioned that he had been advised of the names of three Catholic MPs, Paul Maynard, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Sarah Teather whom it would be helpful to invite to PPAC meetings and/or receive the papers from these.

Liverpool Care Pathway

The Neuberger Report is expected in the third week of July. Baroness Neuberger had been taken aback by the volume of complaints from unhappy relatives. She is expected to be critical of the implementation and to recommend more monitoring, as well as the offer in every hospital to negotiate with the patient and/or relatives.

Commons and Lords Debate on Marriage (same sex couples) Bill

As this Bill has now been passed in the Lords, it is accepted that it will pass into law. The issue now is how best to put forward amendments that would best protect freedom of speech and belief for religious and other dissenters. Given the law’s poor drafting, some of these issues would only be settled in court.

Heterosexual Civil Partnerships

This had been put forward as an extension of equality. The Government has decided to consider it separately from the Marriage (same sex couples) Bill, possibly because in part because it could add billions to Government expenditure. The effect overall is to weaken the institution of marriage still further, and as such is not supported by the Committee.

Assisted Dying Bill (Lord Falconer)

This Bill is due to come up for First Reading in the autumn. The Royal College of Nursing is ambivalent towards the issue. An anonymous poll has reported that, in the Netherlands between 8 and 9% of doctors admitted to carrying out euthanasia on patients without their consent.

Homosexual bullying in Catholic Schools

It was agreed that the question of who should be invited to talk on this subject in schools is a matter for Governing bodies. Stonewall is in fact well-disposed towards Catholic schools who adopt zero tolerance towards bullying.

The case of the Scottish midwives

The Scottish Health Board has refused to accept the judgement in this matter and is going to take it to the Supreme Court. The final judgement will be of supreme importance to freedom of conscience.