Queen's Speech - coalition’s last chance

This is the coalition's last chance to spell out the laws it wants to pass before a general election which is now less than a year away.

When Her Majesty reads out what is, in effect, Parliament's "to do list" she's expected to quote her government's oft repeated promise to continue with its "long-term plan" - which may well produce a groan or two from some opposition MPs and peers.

David Cameron and Nick Clegg are desperate to answer the charge that they have run out of ideas which their two parties can sign up to and are simply running down the clock until polling day.

In a joint statement they say the Queen's Speech will show that their parties "are still taking bold steps" which are "unashamedly pro-work, pro-business and pro-aspiration".

The highlights they point to are:

  • Plans for what's being dubbed "the biggest transformation of the pensions system since its inception" - it will allow workers to pool their money into Dutch-style "collective pensions" as well as allowing people free access to draw down money from their pension pot
  • An Infrastructure Bill to make fracking for gas easier and to improve Britain's roads
  • Measures to implement the coalition's promise of up to £2,000 worth of tax free child care

Other legislation likely to cause a stir is the introduction of a new right for voters to recall their MP; the outlawing of "modern slavery"; new powers to target lawyers and other professionals who help criminal gangs; and measures to tackle the abuse of zero-hours contracts.

There will only be 11 new bills - the fewest since the year before the last general election - which will allow Labour to repeat its claim that this a "zombie parliament".

Ministers will respond that with only 299 days until this session winds up and six other bills carried over from the last parliamentary session MPs and peers will have plenty to do.

Ed Miliband is expected to claim that this is a programme not equal to the scale of the problems the country now faces.

He will insist that there should instead be bills to break up the banks, freeze energy prices, control rents and stop British workers being undercut by imported labour.

The question that will hang over the pomp and the ceremony is - how much of this will be enough to excite those who refused to back any of the main parties in the recent elections or chose not to vote at all?

Finally, spare a thought for the Queen. This will be her 63rd speech. At least, though, she has a new carriage to take her back and forth from the palace today - and, whisper who dares, it comes complete with built-in heating and electric lights.