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Catholic Union reviews recent reshuffle

The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has carried out a major reshuffle of his ministerial team. The Catholic Union looks at some of the key changes and how these affect Catholic interests.

Arguably the biggest move in the reshuffle was the return of David Cameron to serve as Foreign Secretary. To do the job, he will be given a peerage and become Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton.

He has been a strong advocate for international development spending and as Leader of the Conservatives secured his party’s commitment to spend 0.7% of GDP on international aid – a commitment the current Government scrapped in 2021 by reducing the budget to 0.5%.

Some prominent Catholics, including Lord Alton of Liverpool, have highlighted David Cameron’s close links to China and warned that this risks undermining UK efforts to challenge human rights abuses in the country, including the persecution of Christians.

Hi former aide, Baroness Sugg, is expected to go with David Cameron to the Foreign Office as a Special Adviser. Baroness Sugg was instrumental in maintaining the policy of ‘pills in the post’ for abortions, which had been introduced as a temporary measure during the pandemic.

James Cleverly replaces Suella Braverman as Home Secretary. He will have the task of delivering the Government’s pledge to stop small boats crossing the Channel following the Supreme Court’s ruling that the Government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda is unlawful.

Suella Braverman was understood to be considering guidance for the police on the powers in the new Public Order Act relating to the introduction of so called ‘buffer zones’ outside abortion clinics. James Cleverly will need to decide whether and how to introduce guidance that respects religious freedom.

Victoria Atkins becomes the new Health and Social Care Secretary, replacing Steve Barclay who has been moved to DEFRA. While her focus will be reducing NHS waiting times, she will also be the lead minister for matters concerning the end and beginning of life.

Her voting record shows that she is strongly in favour of abortion. Indeed, she was one of only 17 Conservative MPs to back an amendment to ‘decriminalise’ abortion in 2017. Right to Life have more here.

As Secretary of State, Victoria Atkins will help to shape the Government’s response to the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee report into assisted suicide once this is published, and lead the Government’s work on palliative care.

At the Department for Education, Gillian Keegan remains Secretary of State. Following Nick Gibb’s decision to leave Government, Damian Hinds becomes the new Schools Minister. He is one of 10 Parliamentary Patrons of Catholics in the Conservative Party.

Damian Hinds is no stranger to the Department, having previously served as Education Secretary under Theresa May. He resisted calls to lift the faith-based admissions cap on new free schools last time he was in the Department. Let’s see if he is prepared to listen to the Catholic Union’s latest campaign to ‘scrap the cap’.

One of the longest serving Catholics in Cabinet, Therese Coffey, has left the Government. She had held a Government job since 2014 and briefly served as Deputy Prime Minister under Lizz Truss.

Another Catholic MP, Simon Hoare, who had been Chair of the House of Commons Northern Ireland Committee has been made a Minister in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

The Catholic Union will continue to engage with all relevant ministers and opposition spokespeople to make sure that the voices of Catholics are heard in Westminster.