In a report into the situation of unaccompanied migrant children published this week, the Joint Committee on Human Rights has recommended a series of measures to improve the care given to trafficked children and victims of trafficking more generally.
Most notably the Committee has recommended that the Government should set up pilot guardianship projects for all unaccompanied migrant children based on the successful Scottish scheme. Under the scheme each child would be provided with a person to accompany, support and advocate for them through the rehabilitation, asylum, investigation and prosecution processes. CARE has long been calling for the provision of an advocate or guardian for children who have been trafficked in line with the requirements of the EU Anti-trafficking Directive and we welcome the recognition from the Committee that such provision is needed.
Among the more general recommendations it is also encouraging to see the Committee recognise the need for an independent anti-trafficking coordinator to analyse the extent of trafficking in the UK which is another provision of the EU Directive which CARE believes the UK has failed to implement fully.
The Committee also recommended an independent review of the National Referral Mechanism (through which care is provided to adult victims), extension of the pilot safe accommodation scheme for trafficked children, and removal of the UK Border Agency from the decision-making process about whether or not a person has been a victim of trafficking.
On Tuesday evening the House of Lords decided to allow the Same-Sex Marriage Bill to progress to Committee Stage.
Whilst the result of the vote is disappointing a large number of Peers voted for the Bill but highlighted their concerns about it and said they would continue to pursue these concerns during Committee and Report Stage.
A number of excellent speeches were given by Peers from across the political parties during the two day Second Reading debate:
Lord Dear, former Chief Constable of West Midlands police, who has led the campaign against the Bill in the House of Lords remarked:
“…we find ourselves in a world where an ill considered Bill seeks to overturn centuries of tradition, heedless of public opinion and the views of religious leaders and blind to the laws of unintended consequences. It seeks to alter totally the concept of marriage as we have always known it, it seeks to divide a nation with an argument that hides behind the concept of equality when in reality it is about sameness, and it stands on its head all considerations of electoral mandate.”
Former Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay said:
“Marriage has developed over the years. No previous development is anything like this. This is not a development; this is a new creation. The express purpose of the Bill is to open the institution of marriage to same-sex couples, including those in a platonic relationship.”
Former Home Secretary, Lord Waddington noted:
“Throughout history, in all countries and cultures, marriage has been the union of a man and a woman; and although not every married couple have or want children, the core function of the union has always been the procreation and joint care of children.”
Baroness O’Loan, who has in the past chaired the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s human rights enquiry, spoke of the way in which the Bill creates two different institutions:
“What is proposed will result in two different types of union that will bear the same name: marriage. The first will involve traditional legal marriage between a man and a woman. The second, legal marriage between same-sex partners, will be significantly different from opposite-sex marriage. Non-consummation will not be a ground on which such a marriage can be declared void. There will be no presumption that a child born to the family is a child of the family, and sexual infidelity with another same-sex partner will not constitute adultery. The formal proposed legal relationships of married same-sex couples cannot therefore be construed as being identical to those of married opposite-sex couples. There will be different consequences, not only for the couple but for any child who may be born to such a relationship.”
Former Head of the British Army, General Lord Dannatt, commented on the absence of any mandate for change:
“A Bill such as this did not feature explicitly in any of three major parties’ manifestos at the general election. It did not appear in either of the last two Queen’s Speeches. The formal consultation process, as we have heard, was purely on the basis of how this redefinition of marriage was to be conducted, not whether it should be conducted.”
Baroness Cumberlege, former businesswoman and Health Minister said:
“Adopting an ancient word in the belief that same-sex marriage is the same as heterosexual marriage is false; it is patently different. This false premise on which the Bill is founded undermines its rationale. We should reject this flawed Bill and have a rethink.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby made no attempt to hide his firm opposition to the Bill:
“The new marriage of the Bill is an awkward shape, with same-gender and different-gender categories scrunched into it, neither fitting well. The concept of marriage as a normative place for procreation is lost. The idea of marriage as a covenant is diminished. The family in its normal sense, predating the state and as our base community of society, as we have already heard, is weakened.”
“This is not a faith issue, although we are deeply grateful for the attention that the Government and the other place have paid to issues of religious freedom. However, it is not at heart a faith issue. It is about the general social good. Therefore, with much regret—but entire conviction—I cannot support the Bill as it stands.”
The Bill has been scheduled for two days of scrutiny by a Committee of the Whole House on Monday 17 and Wednesday 19 June. It is expected that a considerable number of amendments will be tabled which will both get to the heart of the Government’s intention behind the Bill and improve the safeguards that are in place for churches, ministers and public sector employees. It is quite possible that additional days of Committee will be added if there are a large number of amendments.
You can see how Peers voted by clicking here. Those voting ‘content’ were voting to accept the amendment tabled by Lord Dear that “this House declines to give the Bill a Second Reading.” Those voting ‘not content’ opposed this amendment and therefore granted the Bill a Second Reading and approved its passage to Committee.
Find below a video message from CARE’s Chief Executive, Nola Leach, which can also be viewed here:
It has been a rather hectic week, balancing the demands and encouragements of participating in the European Leadership Forum and a busy week working in the various parliamentary bodies.
The week began with the disappointing news from Strasbourg that the European Court of Human Rights decided to refuse leave of appeal to the Grand Chamber for the recent British Christian conscience cases. The cases of Lillian Ladele, Shirley Chaplin and Gary McFarlane primarily concerned the issue of whether certain rights should trump others – in this case, non-discrimination rights for homosexuals and moral conscience rights (freedom of conscience or belief) of Christians and others not wishing to contravene their conscience in the workplace. The decision not to grant leave to appeal in these cases effectively means that the Court considers such actions or debates to be for individual Member States to determine and that they do not wish to interfere. This again highlights the need for adequate safeguards using the principle of ‘reasonable accommodation’ to now be written into UK law.
On Wednesday afternoon, the European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health & Food Safety Committee voted to accept the recommendations of their appointed Rapporteur, Glenis Willmott MEP (Lab/UK), to strengthen the ethical standards for future clinical trials of new medicinal products on humans in Europe. The European Commission’s original proposal for this new law removed the specific requirement for a role for Ethics Committees in vetting proposals which is contained in the current Directive. A key ethical prohibition to prevent trials being authorised which target inheritable alterations in the human germ line was also left out. CARE lobbied for these key safeguards to be reinstated as well as the tightening up of provisions in relation to other aspects such as informed consent of trial subjects. This amended proposal will now go on to a vote in a full plenary session of the European Parliament and then to the Council of Ministers.
A second Committee – the European Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee – voted yesterday (Thursday) morning to put the protection of vulnerable consumers first with regard to the future of online gambling regulation in the EU. This vote came following a recommendation from Rapporteur, Ashley Fox MEP (UK/Conservative). The Committee’s Report includes key principles which CARE has been lobbying for namely recognition that:
This week, two countries in Eastern Europe have followed a growing trend for putting in place safeguards to protect early human life and the traditional definition of marriage. This is despite ongoing pressure from institutions and NGOs in the west for there to be compromise in these matters.
In Lithuania the national parliament has voted by 46 to 19 with 25 abstentions to begin consideration of a new law to get rid of the Communist era free-for-all on abortions and follow the example of neighbouring Poland in restricting access to abortion to cases of rape, incest and when the mother’s life is in danger. This small country of only three million people currently experiences 10,000 abortions a year.
In Croatia (which becomes the EU’s 28th Member State in one month’s time) an NGO, “Parents’ Voice for Children” (GROZD), has just won a constitutional court ruling overturning a new compulsory government sex education syllabus which both promotes promiscuous behaviour and pornography, as well as teaching that all kinds of sexual relationships are equal. By contrast, GROZD has drafted and campaigns for a sex education syllabus putting lasting relationships first, encourages abstinence before marriage and is supported by the vast majority of school parents. Among the Court’s reasons for upholding GROZD’s case was that the Government had failed to involve several educational advisory bodies and institutions in the preparation of the syllabus and it “did not respect the free will of parents to choose the programme for their children”. GROZD is now collecting petition signatures (already over 500,000 in a country with an electorate of only 3.75 million) to trigger a referendum to enshrine the traditional definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman in the national constitution (following the example of nearby states like Hungary and Romania).
Thus ends a busy week! Do look out for further updates in the future – thank you for your prayers and support!
David Fieldsend, CARE for Europe
On Wednesday 15 May, Lord Falconer will table a Bill in the House of Lords in an effort to legalise assisted suicide. This is not surprising news, but it does mean that we have the opportunity, responsibility and duty to advocate the value of human life, speak up for the vulnerable and expose the dangers of changing the law.
Assisting or encouraging suicide is currently illegal in the UK despite several attempts to change the law in recent years – in the House of Lords in 2006 and 2009 and in the Scottish Parliament in 2010. Lord Falconer’s proposal is for mentally competent, terminally ill adults with six months or less to live to be able to ask a doctor to provide a lethal dose of drugs upon request. The individual would then take the concoction provided.
The Bill may have a Second Reading as soon as the summer (i.e. late June) or not until the autumn and there will, of course, be opportunity for all the arguments to be expounded in the coming weeks and months.
However, for the time being it is interesting to briefly reflect on the fact that the closer individuals get to the issue of assisted suicide, the lower the level of support for a change in the law.
Six out of ten Members of Parliament – who debated the Director of Public Prosecutions’ (DPP) guidelines on assisted suicide as recently as March 2012 – oppose or strongly oppose legalising assisted suicide for mentally competent terminally ill people according to a ComRes poll published in September 2012. This is despite recent high profile court cases given significant, largely sympathetic media coverage.
Additionally, the vast majority of clinicians are opposed to legalising assisted suicide. The British Medical Association opposes assisted suicide and rejected motions to adopt a neutral stance on the issue in June 2012. They are joined in their opposition by the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Royal College of Physicians, the British Geriatric Society and the Association for Palliative Medicine.
The courts have consistently rejected attempts to change the law ‘through the back door’, asserting that any change in the law must come from democratic debate in Parliament.
Why should this be the case? Are these three groups comprised of people so markedly different from the population that it is only natural that there should be such a divergence of opinion? This seems unlikely. How often do we see MPs reject policies favoured by an apparent majority of the population? In addition, people cost the NHS more in the last 6 months of their lives – the period that Lord Falconer aims to cover – than throughout the rest of the lives, so money may be saved if assisted suicide was legalised. What is the problem?
Having thought long and hard about the issue following debates in the Commons in January and March of 2012, MPs remain unconvinced that public safety concerns have been dealt with. Even with the very best safeguards, the pressure on vulnerable people – imagined or real – will remain. Ultimately, for MPs, the current law is clear and does not need to be meddled with. Assisted suicide is illegal and punishable by up to 14 years’ imprisonment – a powerful deterrent – and the DPP’s guidelines provide for discretion and the tempering of justice with mercy in particularly hard cases.
Any clinician will readily admit that diagnosis and prognosis is not an exact science and would recognise that it is incredibly difficult to determine how long a person has left to live. Additionally, whilst palliative medicine may not be a panacea able to alleviate all pain and suffering, it can effectively tackle many of the drivers for assisted suicide, namely fear of dying badly, worries about a loss of control and concerns about quality of life.
Our point of departure as Christians is that the intrinsic value of human life makes support for assisted suicide incompatible with our faith. However, it is understandable – if not condonable – that, from a quick scan of the papers, the view of the public (some suggest even the Christian population) leans towards legalising assisted suicide. Yet Christian love extends beyond mere compassion for individual circumstance as we recognise a Creator God who knit us together in His image and first loved us.
The Bill proposed by Lord Falconer is unnecessary and dangerous. Particularly in a time of recession, with an aging population and a stretched health service, it should be given short shrift ensuring that the vulnerable remain protected as they currently are.
On Monday, the Irish Supreme Court delivered another defeat for those seeking to legalise assisted suicide. Marie Fleming, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, had sought permission for her partner to be able to her to end her life without facing prosecution for doing so. However, the Supreme Court ruled against her.
Mrs Fleming had argued that, as suicide is legal, she was discriminated against as a disabled person who is unable to avail herself of the choice freely available to others. However, as others have pointed out, to legalise something does not result in an automatic right to it – in this case suicide (read more about this in an excellent summary from Care Not Killing’s Dr Peter Saunders).
Compassion for an individual and/or their circumstances – however tragic – does not require that we disregard our moral compass nor accept their desired outcome as a ‘right’. Compassion does not always lead to an acceptance of another’s desires; in fact, the loving outcome may be profound disagreement with the course of action someone is set upon. The intrinsic value of human life as made in the image of God is such that, whilst we might not like suffering, we accept that it is part of what it means to be human and do not take steps to end life prematurely.
Two cases appealing earlier decisions will be heard by the Court of Appeal in London on 13 May. Both cases are addressing the law on murder, rather than the Irish case which focused on amending the law concerning assisted suicide. Paul Lamb, a man who was almost entirely paralysed following a road accident twenty years ago, will have his case heard at the same time as Jane Nicklinson, the wife of Tony who suffered from locked-in syndrome and died last year.
We hope that the Court will indicate – as it has done previously – that any change in the law regarding murder or suicide must be made by Parliament.
Moreover, we also anticipate a fresh push to legalise assisted suicide within parliament in the House of Lords. Lord Falconer, a keen supporter of changing the law who has attempted to do so previously and failed, intends to introduce a Bill in May or June 2013. Again, we will keep supporters informed and equip you to take action against this dangerous proposal.
This week CARE welcomed a report scrutinising the Government’s plans to regulate remote (online) gambling. The report issued by the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee gives full support for the principle of regulating gambling on a ‘point of consumption’ basis.
In December last year, the Government published a draft Bill with the intention of tightening up remote gambling by amending the Gambling Act 2005. We were very pleased with this development as we have been campaigning for greater regulation of internet gambling for a number of years.
The draft Bill will require overseas gambling operators to obtain a Gambling Commission licence if they want to offer gambling or advertise to British consumers. According to the report, currently around 80% of remote gambling is conducted with operators which are not licensed in the UK. Requiring gambling operators to obtain a licence means that firms must sign up to the Government’s conditions designed to protect consumers and children. This includes assisting people who are problem gamblers to self-exclude themselves from websites where they can gamble.
The Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s report makes a specific reference to CARE’s call for a ‘one-stop shop’ for self exclusion for problem gamblers; although disappointingly it stopped short of repeating a previous call it has made for the implementation of such a mechanism of self-exclusion.
The ‘one-stop shop’ initiative aims to support problem gamblers who are seeking to prevent themselves from accessing gambling websites by simplifying the exclusion process to just one request as opposed to contacting every gambling website individually. Ultimately, it aims to help problem gamblers control compulsive gambling in a far more effective and responsible way.
Giving evidence on behalf of CARE to the Committee in January, Lauri Moyle explained that this would be far easier to achieve if all companies providing remote gambling in the UK had to be licensed here. Moreover, once self-exclusion was made simpler then we believe more people with gambling problems would make use of it.
Lauri Moyle, CARE’S consultant on remote gambling, commented on the Committee’s findings:
“We are delighted that this latest report provides further support for the regulation of online gambling in the UK. However, if remote gambling becomes normalised in the UK then at the very least we need to ensure that those at risk of problem gambling are given help and support.”
“It is for this reason that we are disappointed the Committee did not repeat its recommendation for the development of a system of self-exclusion. We continue to call on the Government to adopt a ‘one-stop shop’ for self-exclusion to empower those who are actively seeking to control their gambling.”
Culture, Media and Sport Committee Report, Pre–legislative scrutiny of the draft Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Bill, Sixth Report of Session 2012–13, 01 May 2013
Culture, Media and Sport Committee Report, The Gambling Act 2005: A bet worth taking?, First Report of Session 2012–13, 24 July 2012
The Gambling (Licensing & Advertising) Bill – Commons Library Standard Note
This afternoon the Northern Ireland Assembly rejected a motion calling for the introduction of legislation to introduce same-sex marriage by 53 votes to 42. This was a greater margin of victory than was the case when this subject was debated six months ago, when the Assembly voted against the redefinition of marriage by 50 votes to 45.
MLA’s also rejected an amendment put down by the Alliance Party, which sought to introduce civil marriage for same-sex couples “provided that robust legislative measures permit faith groups to define, articulate and practise religious marriage as they determine.” This amendment was defeated by 51 votes to 46.
We want to thank supporters in Northern Ireland for writing to their MLA’s on this issue and all of those who prayed for the current definition of marriage to be maintained. We are glad that the Assembly has rejected calls to redefine marriage in the province and we will continue to work to uphold the traditional definition of marriage in the months and years to come.
We are very thankful to God for this positive outcome.
Click on the links below for further coverage of the debate:
I am delighted to be able to report that four good resolutions were adopted this week by the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly on several issues of concern to CARE. The Parliamentary Assembly, comprised of seconded members of national parliaments of the 47 Member States, has a plenary session every quarter which I attended in Strasbourg earlier this week.
We lobbied for the adoption of four resolutions calling on the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers and the Member states to take action concerning:
- The fight against sexual exploitation of children
- The defence of religious liberty both in Europe and in dealing with ‘third countries’ – those countries which are outside Europe
- The exercise of proper ethical control over developments in science and technology
- Nanotechnology and associated benefits and risks
All four resolutions were adopted with overwhelming majorities. I am particularly pleased to be able to report that the text of the child sexual exploitation resolution (which CARE helped to draft) was passed unanimously with no amendments.
The text on religious freedom – ‘Safeguarding human rights in relation to religion and belief and protecting religious communities from violence’ – was adopted by 148 votes to 3 with 7 abstentions. Amongst other things, it reaffirms the right of conscience and of parents to have education for their children which reflects their personal religious and philosophical convictions. It also calls on States to change their legal regulations whenever these go against the freedom of association for groups (including churches) defined by their religion or beliefs.
Both texts on science and ethics call for stronger safeguards and better regulation of developments in science and technology to ensure compliance with ethical standards.
You can read the full text of the four resolutions below:
CARE in Northern Ireland was very pleased to see Sinn Fein overwhelmingly back a campaign to make buying sex a criminal offence at its Ard Fheis (Party Conference) on Saturday evening. Sinn Fein members voted to support the ‘Turn Off the Red Light Campaign’ – a coalition of organisations including political parties, Trade Unions, Christian Organisations and civil society groups seeking to criminalise the purchase of sexual services in the Republic of Ireland (http://www.turnofftheredlight.ie/). Its decision has made Sinn Fein the 67th organisation to join forces with the campaign.
Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, Sinn Fein’s spokesperson for Justice and Equality, said following the vote:
“There are as many as 1000 women and girls for sale for sex in Ireland today. Prostitution is not a real choice for the vast majority of these women. In countries, like Sweden, where the purchase of sex is illegal, there has been a massive decline in prostitution and a significant reduction in sex trafficking and organised crime.
“The ‘Turn off The Red Light’ campaign argues that the most effective solution is to tackle the demand for paid sex that fuels prostitution and trafficking. We also need to ensure that those in prostitution are supported to exit this life and make a fresh start by a range of government services working together in an integrated fashion.”
This expression of support by the second largest political party in Northern Ireland could have a significant impact on Lord Morrow’s ‘Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill’ which is due to come before the Assembly in the next few months. Amongst proposals to increase protection and support for victims of trafficking, the Bill contains a clause seeking to criminalise the purchase of sex. Lord Morrow’s Bill will require Sinn Fein support to succeed due to the cross-community design of the Northern Ireland Assembly, making this latest decision all the more important.
In the past five years, the number of people in the UK donating organs after death has increased by 50%, matching a target set by the Department of Health’s Organ Donation Taskforce in 2008. The number of transplants taking place over the same period has risen by 30% (this figure is lower as some organs may not be suitable).
This is fantastic news, but what is particularly interesting to CARE is that this increase has been secured as a result of government appealing to people’s altruism and respecting their consent.
In Wales, the Government has a Bill in the National Assembly which proposes to treat someone who has died, without expressly stating their desire to donate or not, as having in fact given their consent by default – their consent to donate is ‘deemed’ or ‘presumed’. To read a theological reflection on some of the problems which arise with this approach, click here. (PDF)
As a result of the Government’s Bill, there has been much public discussion of the need for more donations. However, rather than seeing an increase in organ donation, donation rates in Wales have actually fallen in the last 12 months.
CARE has always expressed concern that a move from respecting people as made in God’s image, appealing to altruistic natures and respecting consent to a more presumptive or ‘grabbing’ posture could backfire. In fact, although the Welsh Government’s Bill has not yet become law, some formerly willing donors have removed their names from the organ donation register in objection to the state becoming involved in the ‘taking’ of organs.
See, for example, this excerpt from evidence given by Dr Peter Matthew to the Health and Social Care Committee in Wales on 30 January 2013:
‘My own experience is that the British psyche has a particular view that what it should do is donate organs as an altruistic gift, and if it is felt that the state is going to take over the organs, then there is the potential that people who may have been willing to become a donor will not do so. We have seen two cases in Morriston where patients who were on the organ donation register, on hearing about this, said to their families that if the state was going to take their organs, they were no longer willing to give them. We lost two donations because of that. So, there is a potential backlash.’
CARE opposes the Bill, which will be debated in the Welsh Assembly next Tuesday, and does not believe it is the best way to boost organ availability.
If you have not signed up to the organ donor register, why not do so now by clicking here?