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Dear Members,
 
Catholic Union Head of Public Affairs James Somerville-Meikle writes: Parliament is due to return next week after the summer recess. For some MPs and peers, it will be the first time back in Westminster since lockdown. But it will not be a return to business as usual in the Palace of Westminster – a place that doesn’t lend itself naturally to social distancing, with small corridors and packed offices. The House of Lords will continue with its hybrid proceedings with peers taking part in person and online, and the Speaker of the House of Commons is continuing to advise MPs' staff to work from home where possible. Parliament will look and feel very different, but there is a busy agenda for the months ahead. Crucial Bills on Immigration and Domestic Abuse are due to be considered by the House of Lords, and MPs will want to scrutinise Ministers on the Government’s response to coronavirus. Concerns remain about the impact of the pandemic on the most vulnerable people in society, including the homeless, migrants, and others on the margins of society. The Catholic Union will continue to call for a response to these challenges from those in power.
 
COVID-19
 
Plea for homelessness strategy. Shadow Housing Secretary, Thangam Debbonaire MP, has said that the Government’s decision to extend the eviction ban to the end of September (announced last week) will have little effect if it is not supplemented by an action plan to tackle homelessness.
 
On scapegoating migrants. Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP, Vice-Chair of the Immigration Detention All Party Parliamentary Group, has accused the Government of using migrants as scapegoats. Writing in PoliticsHome, she said: “Inflammatory rhetoric around refugees travelling to the UK has become a horrifying constant in our political discourse.” The Government says it takes its responsibility for the welfare of migrant children very seriously and has stringent safeguards in place.
 
Financial impact of Covid on parishes. Catholic News Agency has published an article on the financial situation that parishes across the country are facing. The Catholic Union is calling for the Government to introduce an enhanced Gift Scheme to help churches and charities respond to the financial impact of the pandemic.
 
Wales’s approach to homelessness. Welsh Housing Minister, Julie James MS, has explained the Welsh Government’s homelessness strategy in an article for the Guardian.
 
EDUCATION
 
10-year anniversary of Papal visit. St. Mary's University, Twickenham, is organising a day of events on 17 September linked to the educational mission of the University to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to St Mary's. Among other events, there will be a Big Assembly with Cardinal Vincent Nichols and a panel event chaired by Bishop Richard Moth. More details.
 
FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND BELIEF
 
Protect Internet users from online abuse. Ten faith groups are pressing the Government to bring forward online harm legislation “to establish accountability for the social media companies when they facilitate abuse and hate online”.

LIBERAL DEMOCRATS

New Lib Dem leader. Sir Ed Davey MP has won the Liberal Democrat leadership race. Sir Ed secured 63.5% of the vote, compared to 36.5% for his leadership rival Layla Moran. You can read his profile.
 
LIFE
 
Assisted suicide gaining support in Parliament. Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell, Co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Choice at the End of Life, said that there was growing support in Parliament to reform the end-of-life regulation. Mr Mitchell said it could be “for someone who is within six months of the end of their life, with very strong safeguards, the decision being made by a high court judge, by two doctors – I think those limited proposals may command the support of parliament in the next four years.”
 
MIGRATION
 
Channel crossings significantly up on last year. PA Media has assessed that more than 5,000 boats carrying migrants have reached the UK so far in 2020 – compared to 1,900 in 2019.
 
Legal challenges against removal of asylum-seekers. The latest Home Office attempts to remove people seeking asylum from the UK territory are being challenged in the courts. Commenting, Detention Action, said: “It is to our national shame, that during a global pandemic our government has spent precious resources locking up self-harming torture and trafficking survivors and is now spending thousands more trying to remove them to EU countries.”
 
ALSO…
 
Saints, Scholars and Spiritual Masters. A series of online talks on Thursday evenings at 7.30pm starting on 3 September, organised by the Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst.  For more details see:
https://christianheritagecentre.com/event/saints-scholars-spiritual-masters/.
The Catholic Union News is compiled by Lisa Fraser with additional contributions from James Somerville-Meikle and Nigel Parker.

If you’re a Catholic charity, or if you work in parliamentary/public affairs, and you would like us to flag specific items in this newsletter, please send the information to: lisa.ingrid.fraser@gmail.com.
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