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Cardinal expects 'fair hearing' on election guidance

Cardinal Vincent Nichols said the guidance from the Catholic Bishop's Conference of England and Wales would cover many of the same topics in last week's letter from the Church of England.

The Anglican document came in for criticism from Conservative MP Nadine Dories who said it was too in favour of left wing parties.

But the Cardinal told Premier he was hopeful politicians would be more open to the issues raised in his document.

"We prepared well and I think our letter is clear and coherent. It covers quite a lot of the same ground as the longer piece from the Church of England but we've approached it in a different way," he said, "I expect we'll get a fair hearing."

Catholic Church in England and Wales

The letter outlines marriage and the family as the top priority for Catholics to consider before voting on May 7.

It also said issues like abortion, assisted suicide and "three parent babies" should be crucial factors for parishioners as they decided how to vote.

The document said: "There are many families in our communities who are financially vulnerable and struggle to make ends meet; housing and living costs are high. Many people do not have a living wage to support them and their families.

"Too many have to turn to the state for additional income and to external voluntary support such as food banks.

"Government policies should be assessed on the ways in which they impact those most in need, including who are homeless or hungry, and how they support and strengthen the family and its capacity to flourish."

Bishops also called for businesses to pay the living wage.

Asked by reporters if that was something the Catholic Church did, Cardinal Nichols said: "This organisation, the Bishop's Conference, certainly pays the living wage to all its employees. I can say for certain that every person on the payroll of the Archdiocese of Westminster is paid the living wage.

"Part of our parish audits are always to look at how anybody else, who is working at the parish and who might not be on the diocesan payroll, at what level they are being paid and to enhance that to the living wage.

"The campaign of the living wage is more complex than that because it also asks those who support it to ensure that all suppliers are also paying the living wage. I know that is being pursued here through the Bishop's Conference.

"In the diocese we are pursuing this but it's not simple. For example, we have over 300 school projects at the moment. To try and ensure that everybody who is employed by somebody else but supplying one of our schools is on a living wage is difficult, but that's what we are pursuing."

The letter also outlines the importance of the UK remaining in the EU.

When asked by Premier if the Catholic Church would campaign to stay in the EU if there was a referendum Cardinal Nichols said: "I think the principles that nations work together and that nations try and take whatever steps they can to ensure a continuing peace, that they look for structures that express solidarity between them... these I think are almost common sense now.

"So the notion that Britain could live as an island state is unrealistic."

The Cardinal also rejected the criticism of comedian Russell Brand who has urged people not to vote saying "I would ask them [Catholics] to pay more attention to me than to him."

He added: "We are talking about the future of our society. I would love to see politicians decline the temptation to appeal to fear."

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