THE Government has allayed fears that its new Education Bill would seriously affect the rights of Catholic parents to send their children to Catholic schools outside their own areas. The news has been welcomed by the Catholic Education Council.
Critics of the Bill had protested at the proposal to repeal the provision of the London Government Act, which lays down that a child cannot be refused admission to a school because he comes from another authority area either in Greater London or next to it.
But during the Bill's second reading last week, Mrs Shirley Williams, Secretary of State for Education promised to bring forward amendments to protect the rights of parents who wanted denominational education.
"I am urgently looking into this matter," she said. "Its effect on voluntary schools is quite inadvertent since it is not my intention in any way to limit parents' wishes in regard to denominational education."
Mr Gordon Oakes, the Minister of State, said: "I must make it quite clear that it is not our intention in any way to reduce the existing rights of parents in the area to which the London Government Act applies to seek education for their children in a school maintained by another authority."
Later he added: "It is not our intention in any way to deprive any parent of religious choice in regard to the denominational nature of the school."
Mr Oakes assured MPs that the Government would be flexible in Committee, when the Bill was examined in detail for possible defects. Any proposed amendments which would improve it would be listened to carefully, he said. The Committee Stage will take place early next year.
Mr R. F. Cunningham, secretary of the Catholic Education Council, said this week: "The assurances given in the debate provide a satisfactory basis for the further consideration of the Bill."
Both Mrs Williams and Mr Oakes had made it very clear that they recognised the faults in the Bill, he said.
During the debate, Mr Oakes said he was grateful to the Catholic Education Council for raising the matter.
Local officials vote against abortion The Lanark Division of the National and Local Government Officers Association has voted to disaffiliate from the National Abortion Campaign and to urge the association to do the same.
The motion was moved by Mr David Parry and seconded by a member of the St John Ogilvie School, Hamilton. Written support also came from the clerical staff of the Holy Cross School, Hamilton.