The Queen has set out the government’s plans for the year ahead in a speech to both Houses of Parliament.
They include legislation to reform the House of Lords, plans to split up the banks and reform executive pay.
There are also moves to make parental leave more flexible and exempt the UK from future euro-zone bailouts.
But Prime Minister David Cameron and deputy Nick Clegg have stressed their top priority remains cutting the deficit and restoring economic growth.
It is the first Queen’s Speech – the grandest event on the parliamentary calendar – since shortly after the coalition was formed in 2010. The statement usually takes place each autumn.
The 14 bills and four draft bills – fewer than last time – have been billed as a fightback for the coalition after the Conservatives and their Lib Dem partners suffered heavy losses at last week’s local elections.
But some fear that the inclusion of House of Lords reform in the legislative programme will stoke tensions between the two governing parties, with some Tory MPs strongly opposed to the plans.
Key legislation in the Queen’s Speech includes:
- Children and Families Bill: Mothers in England, Scotland and Wales will be able to transfer maternity leave to their partners. There will be better support for special needs pupils and improved access arrangements for divorced fathers in England. The adoption process in England will also be reformed to end delays and place less emphasis on the ethnicity of the child
- Banking Reform Bill: Splitting banks into separate retail and investment arms
- Draft Communications Bill: Making it easier for police and other agencies to access, store and share data on private phone calls and email communications
- Crime and Courts Bill: Moving towards televised court proceedings and creating a specific offence of driving under the influence of drugs. Establishing a National Crime Agency
- Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill: Curbing the power of large supermarkets and ensuring suppliers are “treated fairly and lawfully” through a new independent adjudicator
- Electoral Registration and Administration Bill: Introducing individual voter registration to cut down on fraud
There is also a bill to establish a Green Investment Bank, make it easier for firms to sack workers by reforming the employment tribunal system and to strengthen shareholders’ ability to curb directors’ pay.
But Lords reform is likely to prove the most hotly-contested measure, with some Conservative MPs likely to fight plans for a smaller and mostly-elected second chamber.
Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg have stressed that the economy – rather than changing the composition of the Lords – is their top priority.
“The primary task of the government remains ensuring that we deal with the deficit and stretch every sinew to return growth to the economy, providing jobs and opportunities to hard-working people across Britain who want to get on,” said the two party leaders in a joint statement.
But despite fears among MPs on all sides that the House of Lords Reform Bill will eat up too much Parliamentary time, they insisted it was in the best interests of the country to press ahead with the plans.
“We believe that power should be passed from the politicians at Westminster back to the people of Britain, which is why we will keep the promise in our parties’ manifestos and reform the House of Lords, because those who make laws for the people should answer to the people.”
source – BBC News
Pictures of Queens Speech