Politicians must focus on the most vulnerable, say churches

By staff writers
November 19, 2009

Following the Queen's Speech, three of Britain's largest denominations have urged the UK's politicians to “focus their concern on those who made little out of the good economic years so that the public services they rely on are not cut in the bad years”.

In a joint statement, the Baptist Union, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church also warned that the government must make progress with its plans before they are distracted by the general election, due to take place in June 2010 at the latest.

The three churches said that they welcomed several proposals in the Queen's Speech, which sets out the government's legislative programme for the coming months.

But they suggested that time would run out if politicians devoted more energy to their election campaigns than to measures that would serve the “common good”.

“I hope they have the courage to do what is right, even if it is not universally popular” said David Bradwell, Public Issues Policy Advisor for the three Churches.

They particularly welcomed the Bribery Bill and Cluster Munitions Bill, which have both attracted interest from Christians and others campaigning against the arms trade.

The Bribery Bill would incorporate into British law certain aspects of the international anti-bribery convention, which UK authorities were accused of breaking in 2006 after cutting short a criminal investigation into arms deals between BAE Systems and Saudi Arabia. The Cluster Munitions Bill aims finally to ban the production of cluster weapons.

The three denominations also described the Constitutional Renewal Bill as “an important step towards greater accountability in politics”. Amongst other things, the Bill would pave the way for a more democratic upper house to replace the unelected House of Lords.

“We have a duty to hold politicians accountable for their policies and promises” said Bradwell, urging churches “to think about how they can engage with politics and build relationships with politicians”.

He pointed out that “Many churches hold hustings meetings during election campaigns, but the election should be seen as the start of a relationship with an MP, and not the end of it”.

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