Lords Reform and the Bishops

Today, the Lord Speaker’s committee on the size of the House of Lords recommended that the House be reduced to 600 Members, and its size capped at that number, in a move that would – for the first time in history – establish a maximum size of the House of Lords and link its composition to general election results. The committee believe this system, which is driven by the House’s desire to reduce its numbers, would result Continue reading

Nuffield Foundation report calls for no-fault divorce

Today, the Nuffield Foundation has published a report, Finding Fault, which calls for the introduction of no-fault divorce in England and Wales: there is a summary version here.

Divorce affects more than 100,000 families in England and Wales every year. Under the current law, the sole ground for divorce is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.  S.1 Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 sets out the position as follows: Continue reading

Northern Ireland, discrimination and fair employment: Scott

In Scott v Stevenson & Reid Ltd [2017] 82/15 FET 2577/15, Ms Scott worked at the Prince Regent Road, Belfast, branch of Stevenson & Reid Ltd, a firm which supplies bathrooms and heating systems. She was the only Roman Catholic working in the showroom, though Mr Kevin Kerr, a Roman Catholic director, was also based at the premises. She claimed that she had been constructively unfairly dismissed and had suffered discrimination on the basis of religion and/or political opinion, harassment on the ground of her religious belief and/or political opinion and discrimination by victimisation after her line-manager had shouted a Republican slogan at her during an altercation [2]. Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 29th October

An incredibly busy week, but at least everyone’s had an extra hour in bed…

(Un)protected beliefs

In a judgment of 13 October, Mr S T Uncles v NHS Commissioning Board and others [2017] UKET 1800958/2016, an Employment Tribunal held that a “philosophical belief in English nationalism” was not a protected characteristic in the terms of s10 Equality Act 2010. The ET applied the test in Grainger Plc & Ors v Nicholson [2009] UKEAT 0219/09/0311 and concluded that, though the views expressed were genuinely held, were a belief about a weighty and substantial aspect of human life – namely national identity – and were serious, cohesive and important, they were nevertheless incompatible with the human dignity and fundamental rights of others. The claim failed: we noted it here. Continue reading

Recent queries and comments – 28th October

More answers to queries and comments

Below are further responses to queries and comments that have been made over the past couple of weeks or so; however, they may not provide the answer sought as in a number of cases, the search terms were more cryptic than normal and our response is based on a “best guess” This post also includes some Q&A from Fr Z’s blog, “Clear, straight commentary [from the US] on Catholic issues, liturgy and life by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf”.  Continue reading

Second Church Estates Commissioner’s questions, 26 October

Yesterday, 26 October, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Dame Caroline Spelman, answered oral questions in the House of Commons [links available from here].

In answer to a question from Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab) on the vexed issue of the closure of the Heritage Lottery Fund strand for listed places of worship, she said that the Church still regretted the decision by the HLF to close the Grants for Places of Worship Scheme but that the Church Buildings Council was in close discussion with the HLF about a way forward. Continue reading

Opposite-sex partnerships and the ECHR: Ratzenböck and Seydl


In Ratzenböck and Seydl v Austria [2017] ECHR 947, the applicants, Helga Ratzenböck and Martin Seydl, complained that, as a heterosexual couple, they were denied access to a registered partnership, a legal institution only available to same-sex couples.

In February 2010, they had lodged an application to become registered partners under the Registered Partnership Act 2009 [Eingetragene Partnerschaft-Gesetz] but the Mayor of Linz had refused their application because the registered partnership was reserved for same-sex couples only; and their appeal, alleging discrimination based on their sex and sexual orientation, was dismissed by the Upper Austrian Regional Governor. Continue reading