State Opening of Parliament: Coalition 'fizzing with ideas'

 
The Queen and Prince Philip at the State Opening of Parliament The Queen delivered her speech at the State Opening of Parliament

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With the usual pomp and ceremony the Queen arrived for the annual State Opening of Parliament - this time in a brand new coach, gifted to her for her Diamond Jubilee.

But the other traditions - Black Rod knocking on the Commons door which is then slammed in his face - remained the same.

There was criticism even before she'd read the speech that is was "weak" and the speech of a "zombie government" - one with no life left in it.

A charge denied by the business minister and Conservative Sevenoaks MP Michael Fallon, who insists the Coalition is fizzing with ideas.

In all it contained 11 new bills.

Among the measures were a compulsory 5p charge for supermarket plastic bags in England, fresh action on pensions that will also remove the need for retirees to buy annuities with their savings, tax free childcare and a crackdown on zero hours contracts.

'Energy independent'

But perhaps the most controversial measure is the Infrastructure Bill.

It includes plans to change the law so that companies would not need permission from homeowners to drill under houses and land for shale oil and gas.

The government says it will give the UK greater energy security making it "energy independent and less reliant on foreign countries for oil and gas".

Anti-fracking protesters block lorry at Balcombe on 12 September 2013 Fracking protesters from around the country gathered at Balcombe last year

It's likely to particularly controversial in the South East - just cast your mind back to the scenes of protestors at Balcombe in West Sussex last summer.

One of those protestors, the Green MP Caroline Lucas, is warning this will be damaging for the environment and won't help lower energy prices.

She raised the issue directly with the prime minister in the debate which followed the Queen's Speech.

'Grow the economy'

She asked David Cameron if he would "recognise that his plans to strip property owners of their right to refuse permission for fracking under their homes is hugely unpopular and opposed by 75% of the population".

She also accused him of ignoring not only the public but the science which she said shows that in order to avoid climate change, 85% of the known fossil fuel reserves need to remain in the ground.

Mr Cameron responded by saying: "We should look at the empirical evidence form around the world, including the United States, where being able to access shale gas is making energy prices competitive, industry competitive, helping to grow the economy."

David Cameron at state opening of Parliament Mr Cameron said it would not be legal to go on to someone's property and frack against their will

He said those who are opposed to shale gas are claiming that somehow it will be legal to go on to someone's property and frack against their will.

"That is simply not the case and the legislation we are setting out will make that extremely clear," he said.

I'm not sure that will be enough to reassure those who oppose fracking.

The two camps - those who support it and those against - seem bitterly divided.

Anti-fracking protestors targeted the prime minister's home in his Oxfordshire constituency even before they'd heard the Queen's Speech.

It looks likely as the government tries to progress the legislation, there could be many more protests ahead.

 
Louise Stewart Article written by Louise Stewart Louise Stewart Political editor, South East

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