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Queen's Speech: campaigners welcome anti-slavery Bill

06 June 2014


Train: the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh enter the House

Train: the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh enter the House

THE final Queen's Speech before next year's General Election was "unashamedly pro-work, pro-business, and pro-aspiration", the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister said on Wednesday.

In a joint statement, David Cameron and Nick Clegg said that the "guiding principle" behind the package of Bills was "to back everyone who wants to get on in life. . . Countries rise when their people rise." They highlighted "ground-breaking pensions reform" as "part of our wider mission to put power back in the hands of the people who have worked hard".

Also included is the Childcare Payments Bill, which will provide parents of children aged under 12 with up to £2000 a year to cover childcare. Poverty campaigners issued a cautious welcome.

Chris Goulden, head of poverty research at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: "This help should not be funded by cutting their help in other areas. "This is more important than subsidising childcare for very high-earning families. Most of the extra support will be going to families with higher incomes, including households where both parents are earning just below the additional rate tax threshold, set at £150,000."

Matthew Reed, chief executive of the Children's Society, said: "Too often families miss out on this crucial help because the system is too complex, pushing them and their children into poverty."

Campaigners welcomed the inclusion of the Modern Slavery Bill, which will provide compensation for victims and increase the maximum sentence for human traffickers from 14 years to life (News, 20 December, 2013).

Matthew Frost, the chief executive of Tearfund, welcomed the Bill, and said that it 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".

Mr Reed described it as a "huge step forward", but said that the Government must change the law "so that children who are trafficked are always treated as victims. It needs to extend guardianship for trafficked children to all children found on their own in the UK - including those fleeing war and torture."

The Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, said on Thursday that he was delighted that a slavery bill was planned. Bishop Redfern is a member of the parliamentary committee which drafted the Modern Slavery Bill.

"Such a serious crime requires legislation which will clarify our definitions of slavery, exploitation and human trafficking; provide support and help for victims; and encourage a proper partnership between the [...] the police, the local authority, and voluntary groups."

A summit to discuss how Derbyshire can respond to the challenges of modern slavery had been arranged for 23 June, Bishop Redfern added.

The Roman Catholic Bishop for Prisons, the Rt Revd Richard Moth, expressed disappointment that the Draft Voting Eligibility (Prisoners) Bill was not included in the speech. "Allowing prisoners to vote is not a move to be soft on crime: those who commit crimes are rightly punished and the punishment is the restriction of their liberty," he said. "A blanket ban on prisoner voting is disproportionate."

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