The Catholic Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg has called on the Education Secretary, Justine Greening, to lift the Government's 'damaging' cap on admissions to faith schools.
The influential backbencher highlighted that abolishing the policy was in the Conservative Party's 2017 manifesto, and said that it effectively prevents the Church from opening new free schools.
'This policy has been damaging to the provision of education to Catholics and non-Catholics alike,' Rees-Mogg wrote in an article for the ConservativeHome website entitled: 'Why won't the Education Department honour our manifesto pledge on Catholic schools?'
He wrote: 'The problem with the current rules is that they limit the number of places for Catholics in new schools to 50 per cent if other, non-Catholics, wish to attend. This policy was not introduced with Catholic schools particularly in mind, but has a greater impact on them because, unlike some religious schools which attract virtually no one from outside their own community, Catholic schools are popular with non-Catholics.
'However, under Canon law Catholic bishops have certain obligations which mean that places cannot be preferentially offered to non-Catholics at the exclusion of Catholics. As far as possible, a bishop is meant to provide a place at a Catholic school for every pupil in his diocese. They naturally could not agree to establish schools which had to turn away pupils because they were Catholic.'
Rees-Mogg's intervention adds pressure on the Government to drop the cap.
Last week, fellow Conservative MP Sir Edward Leigh wrote in the Catholic Herald describing the policy as 'harmful', adding: 'Removing the cap doesn't require a new law to be passed as it's only a policy. All we need, effectively, is the Education Secretary's signature.'
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales last month launched a petition urging an end to the policy. The bishops said: 'By forcing Catholic schools to turn away Catholic school children on the basis of their faith, the very principle of a Catholic parent's right to choose a Catholic education is under threat.'