03 December 2008

Church hopes for long term improvement following Government's legislative programme

The Methodist Church envisages long term improvement rather than a quick fix to the economic crisis following the Queen's speech to Parliament.

The Church welcomed measures to empower around eight million people on low incomes through the Welfare Reform Bill and the Gateway Savings Bill, but added there were questions still to be answered on how they would affect lone parents.

David Bradwell, Methodist Policy Adviser, said: "In these challenging economic times it is crucial that the Government does all it can to support the least well-off and most vulnerable members of society. We mustn't expect this legislative programme to provide a quick fix, but we can hope that it will help ordinary people in the long term.

"The Welfare Reform Bill and the Gateway Savings Bill provide opportunities to empower about eight million people on low incomes to start saving, with the help of Government funded contributions, and to encourage unemployed people into work. There are questions, however, about how this might impact on lone parents with young children. We will also be interested to see the detail of proposed changes to housing, employment and banking practices. As members of the Get Fair campaign, the Methodist Church supports any measures designed to reduce inequality and provide financial stability."

The Church also said it would continue its commitment to tackle alcohol abuse by lobbying lawmakers. It also backed progress towards a fairer society as well as plans to repeal restrictions on protesting around Parliament.

"We hope to be able to engage lawmakers in a number of other areas of concern, such as alcohol abuse and the licensing of lap dancing clubs," said David. "We hope that there will be opportunity to place restrictions on irresponsible alcohol promotions, and to give local authorities more powers to take into account local feeling when considering lap dancing club licence applications.

"We warmly welcome the proposals in the Constitutional Reform Bill to repeal the restrictions on protesting near Parliament. This Bill will also strengthen the role of Parliament in approving international treaties.

"The new Equality Bill will present opportunities for our society to become fairer, in terms of gender pay difference and by introducing a single equality duty for public bodies. This legislation does throw up issues relating to religious belief, and we still need to resolve the tension between secular expectations about equality and religious traditions and understanding of the world.

"We will continue to work closely with ecumenical partners, Government departments and MPs on these topics over the coming months. We continue to hold MPs and Peers in our thoughts and prayers as the new Parliamentary session gets underway."

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