Queen's Speech recognises 'brutal realities' of sexual violence; 'People will often go first to local church for help,' says Tearfund

Published 05 June 2014  |  
PA

The Queen yesterday opened the new session of Parliament, outlining the British government's legislation proposals for the coming year.

Though an unfortunate page boy fainted several minutes into proceedings, prompting concerned Royals to call for help, the focus of her majesty's speech was on the slightly less dramatic 5p charge on plastic bags, fracking and measures to offer the opportunity for MPs to be recalled by voters.

The Queen also noted that "A bill will be introduced to strengthen the powers to prevent modern slavery and human trafficking whilst improving support for victims of such crimes".

The Modern Slavery Bill, which has been welcomed by anti-trafficking charities and campaigners, seeks to put an end to the plight of an estimated 27 million people living in conditions of slavery around the globe, including at least 10,000 in the UK.

Chief Executive of Tearfund, Matthew Frost, has commended the government's renewed commitment to "eradicating" slavery in the UK, but has insisted that efforts must also be made to expand that commitment overseas.

"The scourge of human trafficking is a twenty-first century scandal...Traffickers often prey on families living in desperate poverty who try to give their children a better life by sending them halfway across the world in good faith, only to find they are caught up in horrendous slavery," he said in a statement.

"This Bill must reach beyond our borders, incentivising aid recipients to fight modern slavery and mandating supply chain transparency if we are to win the battle against trafficking," he added.

In response to the Queen's assertion that "The United Kingdom will lead efforts to prevent sexual violence in conflict worldwide," Frost noted that it is encouraging that "the brutal realities" of those in such war-torn areas as South Sudan, Syria and the Central African Republic have been recognised by Parliament, and highlighted the importance of the local church in providing vital support and humanitarian assistance to those in need.

"It's crucial that this government continues to fight for access so that we can provide urgently-needed aid in disaster zones," he said.

"We're encouraged that this Queen's Speech recognises the brutal realities of life for men, women and children who experience horrendous sexual violence in conflict areas...where people will often go first to their local church for help."

Christian Aid has also welcomed legislation highlighted in the Queen's speech, most specifically plans for greater transparency in business and the establishment of "a public register of company beneficial ownership".

"The move will make life much harder for criminals who currently hide their roles in companies used to commit tax evasion, fraud, money laundering and corruption. It also sets a welcome standard for other countries to follow," a statement from the organisation reads.

"The UK's new register is good news for people living in poverty in the UK and poor countries alike, because they pay the price for tax evasion and corruption," Senior UK Political Advisor Barry Johnston has noted, adding that it will set "a critically important lead" for the global community.

Holding the esteemed title 'Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England,' the Queen concluded yesterday's address with a prayer.

"My Lords and Members of the House of Commons. I pray that the blessing of Almighty God may rest upon your counsels," she declared.

Labour leader Ed Miliband has criticised yesterday's speech as "more of the same," signalling that under his leadership the government would offer "a new direction for Britain".

PM David Cameron and his coalition partner Nick Clegg, however, released a joint statement last night in which they praise the Queen's address as marking "the next big step in our long-term plan for Britain. Its aim – to secure the recovery for our country".

"We want a Britain that earns its keep and makes its way in the world with a strong economy, a fair society and peace of mind for all that live here," the statement adds.

"Our parties are still governing together and still taking bold steps."

Tearfund's Frost, however, has underlined a belief that actions speak louder than words, and has indicated that the British population will be looking for the government to make real change in accordance with the ideals set out in legislation.

"The rhetoric must become reality," he declared.

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