Human Dignity and Westminster Politics: a short briefing note by Michael Sherry

The debates of the topics below are moving fast and Michael has kindly offered to keep abreast of things so we, as parishioners and voters can be better informed.

(This note reflects Michael’s research and personal views and should not necessarily be taken to reflect the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church or anybody other than him.)


The Criminal Justice Bill is before Parliament, currently having reached its third reading stage, in the Commons, having been through Committee. 

Here is the version of the Bill, as it stood before the Committee stage of its process through Parliament is as it stood at 31st January, 2024:


While the Bill was in the Committee stage (post 31st January) there were amendments tabled:

  • (by Stella Creasy supported by 20 more MPs) to make abortion lawful for the mother, at any time within the pregnancy; my understanding is that this would only apply to self induced abortion using the pills that can be ordered over the internet.  It appears this was debated with some other amendments but was not put to a vote – so effectively withdrawn – see 

So, if you are in agreement with the Church’s teaching on abortion, and would like to see it happen less often, this modest reduction in what is allowed maybe what you want your MP to vote for when it comes up.  Of course, if an election is called the bill or parts of it may fall anyway.

I guess that Caroline Ansell’s amendment will come up for debate at Report stage but can’t be sure  – a free vote at Report stage.  After Report stage  the Bill will  be given its ‘3rd reading’ and will then go to the Lords …….

I have written to my MP, David Rutley, the MP for Macclesfield.  His email address is

You might like to include some or any of the following

“We rightly consider the killing of unwanted babies as murder.  The motto above the door at the Old Bailey is 

Defend the children of the poor & punish the wrongdoer’.

At 24 weeks a foetus can survive.  It is, in effect, a baby.

If we say the mother has the right to abort a foetus that could survive outside the womb, we are denying a baby the protection it deserves from a civilised society, as well as risking huge harm to the mother.

Decriminalisation of some abortions in 1967 did not simply end the few illegal abortions then taking place; it changed attitudes fundamentally and for the worse.  Many now think abortion is simply a matter of choice for the mother and no-one else, and that it is a matter of a right rather than medical need.  If abortion is a choice, infanticide will next be viewed as OK and we will have stepped further backwards as a society – no longer giving respect to the right of the defenceless to have their life protected.  This is a really big thing for society and its mental health and well being.

Please do all you can to support the proposal to reduce the 24 week limit to reflect the viability of the foetus at that stage of development.  Do not let the hard cases make bad law.


Euthanasia was last considered by Parliament in the 2014-15 session when a private members Bill to legalise “Assisted Dying” was  introduced in the Lords but got no further than Committee stage – presumably for lack of sufficient support.  It was introduced by Lord Falconer.  (Lord Pannick successfully sought to add supervision by the Family Division of the High Court in Committee which would have effectively made it very rare.)

However my understanding is that Labour/Sir Kier Starmer have currently committed to allowing a free vote on the issue should they form a government: 

see  and 

Denominational Schools and the 50% cap.

Currently there is a rule that any new state funded school which is denominational cannot reserve more that 50% of its places on a denominational basis.  I may be wrong but I think this was motivated by issues to do with sectarian schools in Northern Ireland and also certain other non-Christian religions in parts of the UK.  The effect however has been to deter/prevent any Catholic Free Schools being opened since the policy was adopted in 2010.

For an explanation of the cap and how it is designed to work see (This is the UK Humanist society’s web site so not necessarily unbiased, but on the bare facts appears to be reasonable.)

The difficulty is that the cap operates so that once 50% of the places have been allocated on a denominational basis the balance of the allocation cannot use that criteria.  Thus, the ‘cap’ rule only applies if the school is otherwise oversubscribed. A Catholic child from a Catholic family might be turned away from an oversubscribed school, in favour of a child who better satisfies the other criteria for admission e.g. distance from the school etc etc

A consequence of the Cap: since its implementation in 2010 there have been no new Catholic Free Schools/Academies established.  

The Catholic Union is promoting a campaign “Scrap the Cap”. It believes it is gaining some traction and that  now is the time to write to your MP about this. Personally, I think we (by that I mean the Catholic church) should accept the Cap but make sure that there is lots of Catholic evangelisation in our schools (both new and old) – good for the Catholics and for others. Parents and pupils should be required to sign up to a written commitment to support and adhere to the school’s Catholic ethos. .  (Perhaps a religious knowledge exam could be put in place and/or the child/parent asked to commit to the school’s ethos?)  And we should not be deterred by the Cap from opening new Catholic schools.  But if you want to join the Catholic Union’s campaign to Scrap the Cap

see the Catholic Union’s website for more information:  

or write to your MP; the email address for David Rutley, the MP for Macclesfield, is: .