Editor’s note: Why does she keep referring to them as ‘my government’? I thought it was the people’s government…
Reforms to pensions and planning laws and a new 5p charge for plastic bags are among new legislation included in this year’s Queen’s Speech.
As Head of State, it is the Queen’s duty to formally open each new session of Parliament with a statement of her government’s proposed new laws.
This year’s Queen’s Speech is the last before the 2015 general election and includes a relatively light legislative programme of just 11 new bills.
Among the announcements in the brief Speech, is an Infrastructure Bill that will support the development of shale gas by the controversial “fracking” process in the hope of making the UK “energy independent and in control of its own future and not reliant on foreign countries for oil and gas”.
The Bill also seeks to boost house-building by selling off unused public land for development and to guarantee long-term investment in the road network.
Planning reforms will enable the construction of new garden cities and support small building firms in a bid to ease the housing crisis.
Centrepiece of the programme are pension reforms which Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg promised will deliver “the biggest transformation in our pensions system since its inception”, abolishing the requirement for pensioners to buy an annuity to provide a dependable income during retirement and allowing workers to join Dutch-style collective pension schemes.
Legislation will be brought forward to make good on promises of tax-free childcare worth £2,000 a year per child and free school meals for all infant pupils.
And a Serious Crimes Bill will extend the definition of child cruelty to ensure it covers the most serious cases of emotional neglect and psychological harm, in a so-called “Cinderella law”. The Bill will also outlaw written paedophile material. Members of the armed forces will enjoy a strengthened complaints procedure, overseen by a new Service Complaints Ombudsman.
A Slavery Bill will make the reporting of human trafficking a legal duty, introduce an Anti-Slavery Commissioner and increase sentences for those found guilty of trafficking people into the country, often for prostitution or illicit work.
New anti-litter measures will extend the 5p charge for single-use plastic bags already in operation in Wales and Northern Ireland to England from October 2015. Scotland is expected to introduce a similar charge later this year.
A new power of recall – promised in the coalition agreement in 2010 – will be triggered only if MPs are given jail sentences of less than 12 months or if the House of Commons resolves that they have engaged in “serious wrongdoing”. Voters would then have to collect the signatures of 10 per cent of constituents to force a by-election.
Her Majesty also unveiled a bill designed to protect people who find themselves in court after acting heroically, responsibly or for the benefit of others – for instance if they are sued for negligence or breach of duty after intervening in an emergency or volunteering to help others.
A Small Business Bill will set a deregulation target to be met by every future Parliament, provide measures to help companies get credit from banks and crack down on expensive delays in the employment tribunals. Measures will also be brought forward to end the “revolving door” culture of big pay-offs for senior public servants taking redundancy and to tackle abuse of zero-hours contracts and failure to pay the minimum wage.
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