House of Commons private Members’ ballot bills

The House of Commons private Members’ ballot bills were presented yesterday. Two of them may be of particular interest to readers:

  • [No 5]: Tim Loughton’s Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc.): “Bill to provide that opposite sex couples may enter a civil partnership; to make provision about the registration of the names of the mother of each party to a marriage or civil partnership; to make provision about the registration of stillborn deaths; to give coroners the power to investigate stillborn deaths; and for connected purposes”  – to be read a second time on Friday 2 February 2018 (Bill 11); and
  • [No 6] Geoffrey Robinson’s Organ Donation (Deemed Consent): “Bill to enable persons in England to withhold consent for organ donation and transplantation; and for connected purposes” – to be read a second time on Friday 23 February 2018 (Bill 12).

Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 30th April

Parliament was prorogued on Thursday ahead of dissolution on 3 May …

… but first, 

… there were several key pieces of legislation, of which there is a full list in Hansard, here.

Among the bills that survived the pre-Election frenzy, a truncated Finance Bill left out the trigger to start HMRC’s ‘Making Tax Digital’ initiative, no doubt to the relief of small charities everywhere. But it will almost certainly be back on the agenda in due course, whatever the election result.

Parliament also passed the Northern Ireland (Ministerial Appointments and Regional Rates) Bill: a piece of emergency legislation which retrospectively resets the “14-day clock” in the Northern Ireland Act 1998 that expired on 27 March and replaced it with a 108-day grace period ending on 29 June. The duty on the Secretary of State to set a date for a new Assembly election is therefore suspended, at least for a period, and he can continue negotiations over power-sharing. Continue reading

Urgent Commons question on CJEU rulings in Achbita and Bougnaoui

Visible Religious Symbols: European Court Ruling

This morning, 15 March, Mrs Maria Miller (Basingstoke) (Con) asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities “if she will make a statement on the recent Court of Justice of the European Union ruling allowing employers to ban workers from wearing religious dress and symbols in the workplace”. Following is a quick summary of the most important points.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities (Caroline Dinenage) replied as follows:

“The Government are completely opposed to discrimination, including on grounds of gender or religion, or both. It is the right of all women to choose how they dress, and we do not believe that the judgments change that. Exactly the same legal protections apply today as applied before the rulings. In both the Achbita case and the Bougnaoui case, the judgment was that there was no direct discrimination, but that there was some discrimination. A rule is directly discriminatory if it treats someone less favourably because of their sex, race, religion or whatever. A rule is indirectly discriminatory if, on the face of it, it treats everyone the same, but some people, because of their race, religion, sex and so on, find it harder to comply than others do. Indirect discrimination may be justifiable if an employer is acting in a proportionate manner to achieve a legitimate aim. Continue reading

Newsflash: Commons urgent question on religious clothing in the workplace

We understand that there is to be an Urgent Question in the Commons after Question Time today, 15 March, on the impact of the CJEU judgments in Achbita and Bougnaoui on wearing religious clothing in the workplace. We shall report it as soon as the uncorrected Hansard is available on the Commons website.

The House of Lords and “religious literacy”

In a brief exchange in the House of Lords this morning, Lord Singh of Wimbledon (CB) asked Her Majesty’s Government “what steps they are taking to combat religious extremism and to promote a cohesive society by enhancing religious literacy at all levels of government”.

The Minister of State at the Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con) replied: “My Lords, the Government are challenging all forms of extremism through our counter-extremism and Prevent programmes. We are working closely with faith groups to understand the impact of policies and to improve religious literacy in government. The Home Secretary and the Communities Secretary hosted a round table for representatives of all faiths last November”. Continue reading

National Secular Society report on freedom of and from religion

On 26 December, the National Secular Society published a report, Rethinking religion and belief in public life: a manifesto for change – which we missed at the time. In the Executive Summary, it argues that the purpose of its proposed reforms is not to drive religious people out of public life, but simply to establish a level playing-field for all:

“While we are of course particularly concerned with the privileges afforded to one denomination of Christianity, the Church of England, many of the points we make apply to some degree to other denominations and religions. The iniquity of having the Church of England favoured now could easily be used as a precedent for seats in the legislature to be distributed to other religions too, even more than they are in practice now, which we would see as a serious mistake. The levelling should take place by the withdrawal of any ex officio religious seats in Parliament. Continue reading