Category Archives: Parliamentary Affairs

Catholic Union responds to Queen’s Speech

The State Opening of Parliament and Queen’s Speech took place on Monday 14 October. 

Head of Public Affairs, James Somerville-Meikle, commented: “It’s good to see the Domestic Abuse Bill carried over from the last Parliament – this contains a number of important measures, but the Government must ensure that a Bill designed to help victims of domestic abuse, does not get hijacked by arguments about abortion. We will study Bills on divorce and sentencing carefully.

“Encouragement for EU nationals to remain here after Brexit is a step in the right direction. We know that many people from EU countries who have built lives in this country – and become a valued part of church communities across the country – have secured the right to remain. But many have not. Warm words from the Government need to be backed up by practical and pro-active policies to help people who want to stay.

“There was no mention of faith schools, tackling religious persecution or ending homelessness. We will be calling for manifesto commitments in these areas from all main parties ahead of the election, to make sure they are not overlooked.”

Lord Glasman delivers annual Catholic Union Craigmyle Lecture

The Catholic Union’s annual Craigmyle Lecture was delivered this year by the Labour peer and founder of Blue Labour, Lord Glasman.

Lord Glasman addressed Catholic Union members and friends at the University of Notre Dame’s London campus near Trafalgar Square on Thursday 10 October about “Catholic Social Thought and the Economics of the Common Good”

Lord Glasman said it was “extremely generous” for someone who is not Catholic to be invited to give a talk on Catholic social teaching. But he stressed the universal appeal of Catholic social thought, and reminded his audience of the role of the Church in the development of the Labour movement in Britain. “Catholic social thought is in exile in this country and it is time for it to come home”, he said.

The talk also touched on Brexit and Lord Glasman said that the “abandonment of Catholic values which had been at the heart of the EU” had helped to create a disconnect between people and politics in Europe. He described this moment as a time of change which was “disturbing and frightening to many people.”

Catholic Union Head of Public Affairs, James Somerville-Meikle commented: “This was a fantastic talk from someone who knows the Labour movement inside out in this country. It was a timely reminder of the importance of Catholic Social Teaching to people across the political spectrum, in our past and hopefully in our future. At a time when our politics can often be focused on the short term – this was good to be reminded about what our politicians should be striving to achieve: dignity in work, fair markets, and a more even distribution of wealth. We are extremely grateful to Lord Glasman for his insights into this fascinating time in politics.”

The text of Lord Glasman’s talk is available here: Catholic Social Thought and the Economics of the Common Good

Submission to Parliament on Abortion in Northern Ireland

This submission to Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee opposing the Westminster Parliament legislating on abortion for Northern Ireland was made on 8 December 2018 but was not published at that time due to the rules of the Committee.  The Committee’s Report has now issued and is on Parliament’s website (www.parliament.uk).  The Report contains within it a “minority report” proposed by Eddie Hughes MP which reflects some of the views in our submission.

Abortion in NI Submission to WEC

Scottish Assisted Suicide Bill lost by a substantial margin

The Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill has been defeated in a free vote by 82 votes to 36 in the Scottish Parliament.

The Bill proposed a system loosely based on that which operates in Oregon (USA) with trained licensed facilitators but with scope for mentally competent adults with a ‘terminal or life-shortening illness’ or a ‘progressive and terminal or life-shortening condition’ who have concluded that their ‘quality’ of their life is not worth living..

The Bill has been heavily criticised for its definitions, poor reporting provisions, minimal penalties, a ‘saving’ clause protecting doctors acting in ‘good faith’, no specification of ‘means’ of suicide and the absence of a conscience clause.

Oral evidence was taken earlier this year and Scottish First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon that she would not support the bill. In addition over 15,000 Scots signed a petition against it.

The Health and Sport Committee which scrutinised the Bill had previously written a damning view of its shortcomings.

Restoring Faith in Public Life Press release

The votes of faith communities could be decisive 

The Catholic Union of Great Britain has said that the run-up to the Election provides “a time for reflection and careful consideration of how public policy issues… impact upon our common welfare and good.”

In a leaflet called “Restoring Faith in Public Life”, which was sent out to nearly 1,500 parishes in time for Low Sunday (11th/12th April), the Catholic Union highlights several issues that should affect the way Catholics vote. The four-page document also seeks to help voters consider how they should cast their ballot on 7 May, by raising important issues, asking faith-led questions and suggesting points of reflection.

CU Election May 15 Press Release

Extract from the Parliamentary record; EDUCATION REGULATIONS AND FAITH SCHOOLS

Extract from the Parliamentary record;

EDUCATION REGULATIONS AND FAITH SCHOOLS

SIR EDWARD LEIGH (GAINSBOROUGH) (CON): I beg to move,

That this House believes that Ofsted should respect the ability of faith
schools to teach their core beliefs in the context of respect and
toleration for others.
Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing the time of these debates, and
a number of colleagues, including the hon. Members for Southport (John
Pugh) and for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Tristram Hunt), would have liked
to have taken part in this important debate, but they have unmissable
commitments in their constituencies. I am grateful to those of my
colleagues who are here to support me.
Faith schools do a marvellous job. That is why parents love them, and I
am one of those parents. Of course, when we say faith schools, we are
overwhelmingly talking about Church schools. In the state sector there
are almost 7,000 faith schools, of which 4,500 are Church of England,
almost 2,000 are Catholic, 48 are Jewish, 18 Muslim, eight Sikh and four
Hindu. Last year, of the 693 best-performing state primary schools, 62%
were faith schools—a staggering percentage—even though they account
for only a third of primaries nationally.
Church schools are great motors of social mobility. They perform well
whatever the background of the pupils. Faith schools are ethnically
diverse. About a quarter of pupils of faith schools have an ethnic
background other than white British. In my son’s school it is over
60%. Far from preaching intolerance, these schools, because of their
strong, unifying, religious ethos, do more for social cohesion than a
thousand Home Office initiatives.
Many people’s experience of the Church of England or Roman Catholic
school at the end of their road is that it is a delightful haven of
well-behaved pupils from all backgrounds and highly motivated teachers
putting their heart and soul into the school and its community. But it
is faith schools that are under attack from the forces of intolerance,
so we must recognise their great contribution and encourage them to
carry on doing what they are doing so well.
Groups such as the British Humanist Association would like to ban faith
schools. They do no seem to care how much parents and pupils love them
or how well they perform—the very definition of intolerance. They try
to smear faith schools with what happened in Birmingham with the Trojan
horse scandal, but we all know that none of the Trojan horse schools was
a faith school. Faith schools should hold their heads up high and not
engage in the pre-emptive cringe and kowtow to the latest fashion. They
should stand by the principles that have made them such a success: love
of God and neighbour, pursuit of truth, high aspiration and discipline.
We do not want any dumbing down. Jewish schools should teach the Jewish
religion, and Christian schools should teach the Christian religion.
That is likely to give their pupils a better idea of their place in the
world, of their potential and of their obligations to others. Yes, they
should learn about other religions, which is necessary not only for
being a good citizen, but for being culturally aware, but that can take
place in the context of the school’s faith ethos. Of course pupils can
accept or reject the school’s world view, whether religious or
> secular. There are plenty of Christians in secular schools and plenty of
atheists in Christian schools. The law guarantees freedom of conscience.
But by the same token, governors, teachers, parents and pupils who want
a religious education also have freedom of conscience, and we must guard
their freedoms carefully.
MRS MARY GLINDON (NORTH TYNESIDE) (LAB): I congratulate the hon.
Gentleman on securing the debate. Does he agree that what is important
is the teaching of religious education in all schools so that all
children can understand religions and non-religions as they progress
through school? We should have proper RE teachers to give young people
the wide breadth of knowledge they need to understand everyone else in
the country and all those who live in their communities.
SIR EDWARD LEIGH: Yes, of course I agree. It is very important that RE
is a rigid academic discipline. Children must be aware of other faiths
and of comparative religion, but they must also have a firm grounding in
their own faith’s teachings, because that gives them a sense of
belonging and place.
KEVIN BRENNAN (CARDIFF WEST) (LAB): The hon. Gentleman rightly talks
about the need for a firm grounding. Is not the line that must be drawn
that no taxpayer-funded school should ever be involved in proselytising
or indoctrination?
SIR EDWARD LEIGH: I absolutely agree. I mentioned the thousands of
Church of England and Roman Catholic schools. I do not think that there
is any evidence that any of those schools are creating Christian
jihadists. I have six children, and they have attended faith schools in
the state and private sectors. The thought that any of those primary
schools in the maintained sector, whether Catholic or Anglican, is
teaching intolerance is completely absurd.

SEX-SELECTIVE ABORTION

 MPs VOTE FOR ACTION ON SEX-SELECTIVE ABORTION

On Tuesday 4th November 2014 MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of a Bill seeking to clarify the law on sex-selective abortion.

The Abortion (Sex-Selection) Ten Minute Rule Bill, was approved by 181 votes to 1.

The Bill, promoted by MPs Fiona Bruce, Fiona MacTaggart, Kate Hoey, Caroline Noakes, Mary Glindon, Angela Watkinson, Tessa Munt, Sarah Teather, Sheryll Murray, Naomi Long, Pauline Latham and Rosie Cooper, was motivated by a desire to clear up an ambiguity in the law.

While the sex of the unborn child is not a ground for an abortion under the 1967 Act the British Medical Association and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service have argued that the law permits sex-selective termination in certain circumstances.

The Government has always disagreed, making clear that “abortion on the grounds of gender alone is illegal”.

The Abortion (Sex-Selection) Bill was designed to clear up the confusion, confirming the Government’s line and requiring the Secretary of State for Health to consider ways in which help can be offered to women who are under pressure to have sex-selective abortions.

Deciding that they wanted a vote on this issue, MPs ensured that a division was called.

The Bill’s Second Reading is set for 23rd January, though it is unlikely to be given time for debate in this Parliamentary session.

A growing body of case studies have put beyond doubt that women have obtained sex-selective abortions in the UK. However, some still argue that there is no evidence for the practice.

In response to these critics, Rani Bilkhu, director of Jeena International and spokeswoman of www.stopgendercide.org said:

Saying that there is no evidence is tantamount to saying that the women we work with are lying and that my organisation is making things up”

In the House of Commons, Fiona Bruce outlined the need for clarification and cited some case studies that have recently come to light.

Responding to the vote, Mrs Bruce said

That we are having this discussion is testament to how liberally the Abortion Act has been interpreted. Today Parliament agreed that more legislation is needed to silence those claiming that sex-selective abortion can be legal. Never would Parliamentarians in 1967 have imagined that 47 years on, there would be dispute about whether their Act permitted abortion where the baby was the a boy or a girl. If the social clause of the Act permits sex-selective abortion, the time to revisit it is long overdue. Until then, today’s vote has given a clear signal that MPs are united in working towards a time when the words “it’s a girl” are met with celebration rather than despair.”