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Key takeaways from Queen's Speech

10 May 2022
Charles

On Tuesday, the government's priorities for the coming year were read out in a ceremony known as the Queen's Speech. This year, Prince Charles led proceedings for the first time, due to the Queen's ill health.

At CARE, we're always interested in the content of this speech as it will shape our parliamentary focus for the next year. There were several bills announced yesterday that will merit our attention.

Please pray for us as we consider how to approach the next year of political life in the UK. We need God's wisdom and strength.

New Bills

Modern Slavery Bill: In the last couple of years, CARE has dedicated a huge amount of work to human trafficking and modern slavery. This new Modern Slavery Bill is designed to bolster efforts to spot criminal activity and improve support for victims. We will continue to make the case for robust and holistic victim support. This is incredibly important, particularly in light of the Ukraine conflict, which has put hundreds of thousands at heightened risk of exploitation.

Conversion Therapy Bill: The Government confirmed that a bill will be introduced to "ban conversion therapy". It has made clear previously that this will apply to sexual orientation only, not "gender identity". CARE agrees that harmful and abusive practices should be illegal, and that any gaps in legislation should be filled. However, we are concerned that an over-broad law banning conversion therapy could affect ordinary Christian activities such as preaching and prayer.

Public Order Bill: The government is revisiting the issue of protests after controversial plans to curb protesters were defeated in the House of Lords. Prompted by highly disruptive protests like Just Stop Oil and Insulate Britain, this bill would outlaw "guerilla tactics" by making it an offence for citizens to attach themselves to objects and buildings. We believe the right to protest is a fundamental right, and will oppose any disproportionate curbs.

Bill of Rights: The UK Government will fulfill its manifesto commitment to establishing a Bill of Rights for the UK, replacing the Human Rights Act. The government believes that current legislation falls short of protecting key freedoms and even undermines them. The new legislation is meant to "end the abuse of the human rights framework and restore some common sense to our justice system”. CARE will be closely monitoring this legislation to ensure free speech, expression and religious liberty is upheld in any new human rights framework.

Continuing Bills

Online Safety Bill: The Online Safety Bill, a sweeping piece of legislation intended to make the internet a safer place, has been carried forward into the next session. We have a nuanced position on this legislation. On one hand, we believe its provisions on pornography are vital to protect children and women. CARE has campaigned for many years for stricter curbs on online porn. On the other hand, we are concerned by the shape of provisions on free speech. Vague offences targeting 'legal but harmful' expression could chill public debate, and affect Christians.

Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill: This proposal seeks to defend free speech on university campuses amidst wide concern that certain views are being censored. The bill will involve stiff penalties for universities that fail to uphold free speech and expression, and enable students to bring legal action if they have been unfairly treated. Given our interest in protecting free speech, including the expression of Christian beliefs on campus, we will be keeping a close eye on this bill.

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