At the end of today’s Queen’s Speech, the Prince of Wales announced, “Her Majesty prays that the blessing of Almighty God may rest upon your counsels.” The Speech sets out the legislative agenda of the Government for the next parliamentary session.
Beyond the pomp and ceremony – and the fact that Prince Charles is opening Parliament today for the first time – the speech is one of those occasions when we hear words of prayer spoken in the life of the nation’s politics. Whatever you think about this, people of faith can be encouraged to pray for God’s blessing upon the politicians and officials who continue the work of Government in these turbulent times. As Paul writes in the New Testament,
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
At ECCR we have concerns about a number of the proposals in today’s Queen’s Speech, and we encourage you to join us in lifting them to the Lord in prayer and speaking up for change.
Failure to address the cost of living crisis: Spiralling energy and food costs, increased taxes and reduced benefits, alongside job insecurity and low wages, have created a perfect storm for some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Our Church Action for Tax Justice programme has been calling for the Government to introduce an initial one-off wealth tax on the country’s richest 1%, and to review the UK’s system of personal taxes in order to introduce an ongoing, progressive net wealth tax in the near future. But so far there is no sign of them heeding these calls.
Some positive signs on tackling dirty money: The Speech committed to introducing another Economic Crime Bill , which is expected to include long-overdue reforms to companies, new powers to seize assets, and better information sharing by the private sector. This is welcome news, but we also want to see further efforts to address the significant remaining gaps in the UK’s defences against dirty money. This should include measures to consolidate the UK’s anti-money laundering regime; transparency measures like requiring the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories to introduce public company ownership registers; and strengthening the law enforcement system (including increasing its funding) so that there is credible deterrent against economic crime.
Missed opportunity on regulating finance: The Financial Services and Markets Bill is expected to deliver a new regulatory framework for the finance sector. That sounds dull and abstract, but the UK finance sector is huge and has a vastly disproportionate effect on wider society and on the environment. For example, UK banks, asset managers and other financial institutions are responsible for nearly double the UK’s annual carbon emissions and have direct links to rainforest deforestation. The finance sector could also tackle inequality – many people on low incomes struggle to access financial services, paying more for credit and insurance, and 1.3 million adults in the UK do not even have a bank account. ECCR and our allies have been calling for the new regulatory framework to align finance with goals to protect the climate and nature and to promote financial inclusion, but the Government is putting competitiveness at the heart of the sector instead.
Worrying signs on criminalising protest: New laws are expected to criminalise peaceful protest, particularly the disruptive tactics of groups like Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain, like protestors ‘locking’ themselves on to infrastructure. The House of Lords prevented the Government from passing such laws in the Police Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill earlier in the year. Civil disobedience is an increasingly common tactic especially amongst those desperate to draw attention to the climate emergency and the Government’s failure to meaningfully address it.
What can we do? In the face of these missed opportunities and worrying proposals, it can be easy to give up hope and disengage. However, as Christians we are called to put our trust in God, to pray for our leaders, and to continue to seek justice through our actions and with our voices.
And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8).
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14)
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