Queen's Speech: David Cameron says plans will rebuild Britain
- 9 May 2012
- From the section UK Politics
David Cameron has hailed the coalition's plans for the year ahead as a "Queen's Speech to rebuild Britain".
They include flexible parental leave, breaking up the banks and exempting the UK from euro bailouts.
Lords reform is the most controversial measure in a slimmed down programme but the PM said boosting growth and cutting the deficit were his top priorities.
He denied Labour claims the plans include nothing to get young people into work or kick start the economy.
The prime minister told MPs: "Let me say exactly what this Queen's Speech is about. It is about a government taking the tough, long-term decisions to restore our country to strength.
"Dealing with the deficit, rebalancing the economy and building a society that rewards people who work hard and do the right thing."
Labour leader Ed Miliband said his party would support measures such as parental leave and a Green Investment Bank - but the Queen's Speech contained nothing for the young unemployed, working families and "millions of people who don't think the government is on their side".
"No change, no hope - that is the real message of this Queen's Speech," Mr Miliband told MPs.
The legislative programme - unveiled by the Queen in a speech to MPs and peers - contained 15 bills and four draft bills, a much slimmer programme than in previous years.
It had 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.
BBC Political Correspondent Norman Smith said it was a "hotch potch" of bills with "no over-arching theme", explicitly designed to prevent the government from becoming "bogged down" with difficult legislation when it should be focusing on the economy.
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 making inter-racial adoption easier
- Banking Reform Bill: Splitting banks into separate retail and investment arms
- Draft Communications Bill: Making it easier for police and intelligence 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.
In a joint statement, Mr Cameron and his Lib Dem deputy Nick Clegg said: "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."
But they insisted pushing ahead with Lords reform was in the best interests of the country.
"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."
Labour's Sadiq Khan said it was "not clear" how ministers planned to reform the House of Lords, or whether it remained a priority for the government. He also noted it made no mention of a referendum.
Proposals to give parents the right to request flexible working, such as fewer hours and job sharing, throughout their working lives also appear to have been dropped.
And there was no mention of legalising gay marriage, which will please some Conservative backbenchers who have criticised it as a distraction from fixing the economy, but the Home Office said it remained committed to introducing same-sex civil marriage "by the end of this Parliament" and a consultation was "still ongoing".
Planned reforms to adult social care in England also look a way off after the much-delayed publication of a government White Paper, which is now expected in the summer.
A bill to make it easier for the police and security services to intercept personal data has been published in draft form only, allowing for greater scrutiny before it becomes law, will please Lib Dem and Tory backbenchers angry at what they saw as plans for a "snooper's charter".
There is also a measure to deal with negative headlines generated by Chancellor George Osborne's decision to increase tax on charitable donations from the super rich, announced in last month's Budget.
A Small Donations Bill will provide a top up payment similar to Gift Aid to charities that receive small cash donations of £20 or less, enabling them to claim 25p for every £1 collected in the UK, on up to £5,000 of small donations.
In his Commons response to the speech Labour leader Ed Miliband also questioned why Lords reform was in the speech when senior ministers had said it was not a big priority.
He contrasted it with the absence of other coalition pledges, such as reforming adult social care, enshrining in law a commitment to spend 0.7% of national income on foreign aid and reform of lobbying rules.
He said Mr Cameron's proposals showed the government "just don't get it".