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Queen's Speech: Brexit bills dominate government agenda

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media captionNot got long? Here's the Queen's Speech in 90 seconds

A host of proposed new laws designed to prepare the UK for a "smooth and orderly" departure from the EU have been announced in the Queen's Speech.

Of 27 bills, eight relate to Brexit and its impact on immigration, trade and sectors such as fisheries and farming.

Prime Minister Theresa May urged MPs to "seize this moment of national change" to unite and work for a fairer country.

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said she had lost authority after axing a raft of manifesto pledges.

Proposals to scrap the winter fuel allowance for well-off pensioners, end automatic 2.5% pension rises, expand grammar schools and end free school lunches for all infants have been dropped, while reforms to social care funding will be put out to consultation and a cap on some energy tariffs considered further.

Amid continuing talks with the Democratic Unionists about them supporting Theresa May's government, Downing Street said it was confident the Queen's Speech could "command the confidence" of the House of Commons when MPs vote on it next week.

The DUP said it too was confident a deal would be place by next week's votes.

The main non-Brexit proposals of the speech include:

  • A Civil Liability Bill, designed to address the "compensation culture" around motoring insurance claims
  • A Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill, establishing a Domestic Violence and Abuse Commissioner to stand up for victims and survivors and monitor the response of the authorities
  • A Tenant's Fees Bill, banning landlords from charging "letting fees"
  • A High-Speed Two Bill to authorise the second leg of the rail link from Birmingham to Crewe
  • A Data Protection Bill to strengthen individuals' rights and introduce a "right to be forgotten".
  • An Armed Forces Bill allowing people to serve on a part-time and flexible basis

There was no mention of US President Donald Trump's proposed state visit to the UK later this year, appearing to confirm suggestions it has been delayed. Ministers said the reason it was not included was purely because no date had been set.

The Queen announced the government's legislative programme for the next two years at the State Opening of Parliament.

She was accompanied by the Prince of Wales, rather than the Duke of Edinburgh, after Prince Philip was admitted to hospital on Tuesday night. Buckingham Palace said it was a "precautionary measure" for treatment of an infection arising from a pre-existing condition.

The PM's ambitions culled

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By political editor Laura Kuenssberg

It was meant to be Theresa May's political coronation, but the Queen's Speech has confirmed the reality of her fall from grace.

The prime minister's ambitions for significant change at home have been culled, disappearing with her majority.

But the complexity of all the work the government has ahead administratively, as the UK prepares to leave the EU, is plain to see.

Eight bills on Brexit each requires no less than a redesign of systems that have been in place for decades. Each will require careful political handling, at a time when the government cannot be sure of its majority and a Labour Party with wind in its sails is determined to be a guerrilla opposition. Read more

As MPs began debating the government's plans, Mrs May said the country was split "between red and blue, young and old and Leave and Remain" and Parliament's challenge was to heal, not reflect those divisions.

She promised to work with "anyone in any party" in the national interest on Brexit and other issues.

"Not every problem can be solved by an act of Parliament but it is a step forward to building a more compassionate, united and confident nation," she said.

She also apologised for "the failure of the state, national and local" in its response to the Grenfell Tower fire, promising a new role of independent public advocate to represent bereaved families in the aftermath of disasters.

With Brexit talks now under way, the government has set out the laws needed to leave the EU - irrespective of the final deal agreed with Brussels.

media captionJeremy Corbyn: Austerity must come to an end

At the heart of this is the so-called Repeal Bill - which will repeal the 1972 European Communities Act and end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. It will also copy over all EU laws into UK law, with Parliament then deciding which bits to retain.

The government says "wherever practical the same rules and laws will apply after exit, therefore maximising certainty for individuals and businesses".

The bill would give the Parliament temporary authority, via secondary legislation, to amend laws that do not "operate appropriately" after Brexit while existing decision-making powers devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be maintained pending further discussion on a permanent solution.

As an indication of the scale of change which Brexit will bring, seven other pieces of legislation are proposed to anticipate the end of EU jurisdiction and introduce national policies in key sectors.

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image captionThe Queen was accompanied by the Prince of Wales - with the Duke of Edinburgh in hospital
image copyrightAFP
image captionThe ceremonial elements were scaled back - as the Queen did not wear the Imperial state crown
image captionParty leaders will debate the Queen's Speech over the next week

On immigration, a bill will legislate for the end of free movement from the EU and make the status of EU nationals and family members subject to UK law. Although there are no specific details about a new system, ministers say they will be able to "control" numbers while attracting the "brightest and the best".

A Fisheries bill will allow the UK to take on responsibility for "access to fisheries and management of its waters" while an Agriculture Bill will "provide stability" for farmers and ensure an "effective system" of support to replace the Common Agricultural Policy.

A new nuclear safeguards regime will be required after the UK leaves the EU and its nuclear agency Euratom, with new powers for the Office for Nuclear regulation.

Other measures will allow for a standalone domestic customs regime, giving the UK the scope to make changes to VAT and excise rates currently determined by the EU, to pave the way for an "independent trade policy" and to enable the UK to implement non-UN sanctions on its own or in conjunction with allies.

A dressed-down Queen's Speech

  • The Queen arrived at Parliament in a car, rather than horse-drawn carriage
  • There was no royal procession into the House of Lords chamber and the Queen wore "day dress" rather than robes
  • Her crown was driven to the Lords in its own car
  • It was the first state opening with "reduced ceremonial elements" since 1974
  • This was agreed because of timing issues caused by the snap election - rehearsals clashed with Saturday's Trooping the Colour event.

The government has cancelled next year's Queen's Speech, so this one will cover a two-year period to give MPs more time to debate all the Brexit legislation.

The remaining 19 bills - including three in draft form and three finance bills - are a mixture of new proposals and legislation carried over from the last Parliament, which was cut short by the snap election.

Among proposals that will not require immediate legislation, the government is to review its counter-terrorism strategy in the wake of recent attacks in London and Manchester and establish a new Commission for Countering Extremism to "stamp out extremist ideology in all its forms".

media caption"Get your skates on" - Labour veteran Dennis Skinner suggests someone is in a hurry to get to the races at Royal Ascot

While there are no proposed full laws on health and education, a review of mental health legislation is planned while a "digital charter" will seek to boost online safety and digital commerce.

Labour is putting forward an alternative version of the Queen's Speech, calling for an end to austerity and huge investment in public services.

media captionThe Queen's Speech - a beginner's guide

Mr Corbyn called it a "threadbare legislative programme from a government that has lost its majority and apparently run out of ideas altogether".

He said Labour would "use every opportunity to vote down proposals which do not have public support".

media captionPM chides Labour leader over poll result

Outgoing Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said his party would not support the Queen's Speech.

"Her Majesty has launched many ships in her time, never such an empty vessel as the one today," he said.

Green Party leader Caroline Lucas criticised the lack of Brexit legislation specific to the environment.

The CBI said there had been a "welcome change of tone" towards business but ministers should put "pragmatism before politics" over Brexit.

The TUC said promises to help working people were "vague".

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