UK Politics

Queen's Speech 2013: Coalition focuses on core aims

David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband
Image caption The party leaders are aware an election is less than two years away

So, we are past the half way mark. The coalition has laid out its plan for the start of the second half. The general election is on the horizon.

But there is no sign that this is a prime minister and a deputy with an Alex Ferguson-like eye on life after the day job. Three years in there's still "building" to be done on the economy.

That and the d word - deficit - featured in the first minute of the speech.

The spin - what the government wants you to most remember - centred on immigration. New measures to restrict access to social housing and health care for some migrants will be introduced.

With an eye on the rise of UKIP, and the on-going strain on the public purse in these austere times, the government wants to "deter those who will not" contribute to the UK economy from coming here.

Tory relief

Some in the Tory ranks, who have suffered a bout of post local election shivers, will be relieved.

Measures to restrict foreign criminals using human rights legislation could be seen as a further round of euro-bashing. But the bills that the prime minister and his chancellor may be most anxious about are the ones which they hope will help kick start the economy.

A new National Insurance tax break and further deregulation for business have a lot riding on them. On infrastructure - actual, physical infrastructure - there are two big bills; HS2 and energy.

Neither will bring a short-term boost. In fact, the former is likely to ensure on-going internal strife for David Cameron from Tories whose constituencies stand to be affected.

But these are measures of huge significance for the future of the UK economy. There is little evidence of a government winding down in those measures. Little evidence too in the other infrastructure reforms; social infrastructure.

A new pension is coming, with a move to a new system based on individuals. Social care too - that ticking time bomb for any government of the past decade - is being addressed, with plans for a cap on what people will have to spend for their care in later years.

Success in legislating for that will be a triumph for a coalition, which in this case will include not just Conservatives and Liberal Democrats but also Labour.

Overall, there are 15 bills, two draft bills and one carried over from the last session. One of the most controversial issues from last time round - legalising same sex marriage - was not mentioned, but it is being continued.

Notable omissions

So that was what was in. What about what was not included in the seven minute address?

The omissions are just as interesting. No new law on minimum alcohol pricing for England. No new law on plain packaging for cigarettes. No new law to give more intrusive powers to the security service and the police to gather online evidence.

And no nod to those Tory Eurosceptics who wanted more than a prime ministerial promise on an EU referendum by 2017, with no new law to enable a national vote.

Ministers says some of those things are being consulted on, claiming they haven't been abandoned. They point to the penultimate line in the speech, "other measures will be laid before you".

But it is no accident that measures that do not seem to fit with the core aim - rebuilding the economy - did not make it.

And it was notable in this speech that the Queen unveiled a legislative programme for her government that made much of trying to help women. New pension provision, help for carers and plans for improved child care provision.

Just ahead of the speech there was the news that Manchester United's long serving manager Sir Alex Ferguson is to call it a day. Judging from today's Queen's Speech, there is little sign of the coalition - or Her Majesty for that matter - being ready to follow suit.

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