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Queen’s Speech 2013

Overview
The Queen’s Speech is an important event in the annual political calendar because it sets the tone and direction of debate – and often draws out battle lines – for the year ahead. No.10 is at pains to draw attention to the “centrepiece” of this year’s legislative programme – immigration reform. The headline grabbing measure is the Government’s attempt to tap into the electorate’s growing euroscepticism and frustration with immigration. The recent local election results make this measure all the more important for the Conservative Party ahead of next year’s European elections. Other measures include a draft bill on deregulation for businesses, energy market reform and a draft consumer rights bill.
The Queen began the 7.5 minute speech by stating, “My Government’s first priority is to strengthen Britain’s economic competitiveness. To this end, it will support the growth of the private sector and the creation of more jobs and opportunities. My Ministers will continue to prioritise measures that reduce the deficit – ensuring interest rates are kept low for homeowners and businesses. My Government is committed to building an economy where people who work hard are properly rewarded. It will therefore continue to reform the benefits system, helping people move from welfare to work.” A total of nineteen Bills were announced for the parliamentary session ahead, three of which are in draft form. There were few surprises in the Speech. Bills covering pension reform, social care, high speed rail and greater protection for intellectual property were all expected and announced. Bills on alcohol pricing, plain packaging of tobacco, and so called ‘snooper’s charter’ were notable by their absence. As the Coalition Government enters its fourth year in office, and with a backdrop of continued sluggish economic performance, the Coalition parties will be hoping that today’s Queen’s Speech sets them back on track for the 2015 General Election. Most recent projections suggest there could be another hung parliament 2015 with Labour failing to achieve a significant lead over the Conservatives.

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Legislation
Intellectual Property Bill This Bill is designed to simplify patent-protection laws. It will implement the Unified Patent Court, which will mean that a single patent application will be valid in almost all EU countries. The bill will introduce criminal penalties for breaching UK protected patents, and bring in measures to speed up the patent-application process. National Insurance Contributions Bill As announced in the Budget the Government wants to reduce cost for small businesses employing people. From April 2014 every business will be entitled to a £2,000 employment allowance. Immigration Bill This Bill is designed to make it easier to crack down in illegal immigrants and foreign nationals who commit serious crimes. Measures to prevent immigrants accessing services to which they are not entitled. Businesses that use illegal labour will face increased fines, and private landlords will be required to check the immigration status of their tenants. The right of appeal against immigration decisions will be restricted, and immigration officers will be given more powers. Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill This Bill will include measures to tackle anti-social behaviour, forced marriage, dangerous dogs and illegal firearms. The offence of being in charge of an out-of-control dog will be extended to cover private property, including people's houses. The Bill will allow police to prosecute uncontested minor offences of shoplifting. Pensions Bill This Bill will introduce a single-tier state-pension in April 2016. The Bill will also bring forward the increase in the retirement age to 67. The Bill will also make it a legal requirement for the pensions regulator to consider minimising the economic impact pension provision has on a company that provides it for its employees. Care Bill This bill will introduce a cap on the cost of social care and creates the legal right to support for carers. The Bill will also provide protection to people whose care provider goes out of business and give everyone a legal entitlement to a personal care budget. Offender Rehabilitation Bill This Bill will reform the rehabilitation system. Offenders who serve sentences of less than a year will be put under supervision for one year after release. Other supervision periods will be extended.

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Defence Reform Bill This bill will increase the size of the reserve forces and reform the defence procurement system. High Speed Rail Two Bill This bill will authorise the next round of funding required by the Government to build High Speed Rail Two. A High Speed Two Hybrid Bill will also be introduced to give the government the legal power to compulsorily buy land needed to construct the proposed rail line. Local Audit and Accountability Bill This bill will close down the Audit Commission and replace it with a new local audit framework. It will allow local council taxpayers to veto rises in council tax caused by bodies such as waste disposal authorities and integrated transport authorities. Water Bill This Bill will allow all businesses, charities and public sector bodies to switch their water supplier and make it easier for new companies to enter the water market. It will also become easier for water companies to trade water with each other, which should help manage drought situations better. Mesothelioma Bill This Bill will establish a payment scheme for people exposed to asbestos who cannot trace their employer or their employer's insurance company. Northern Ireland Bill This introduces institutional changes to the way the Northern Ireland Assembly operates including banning MLAs from sitting in other legislatures. EU Approval Bill This Bill authorises funding for European Union projects. Gambling (licensing and advertising) Bill Requires all providers of gambling services in the UK to hold a gambling commission licence regardless of where they are based.

Draft and carried over Bills
Draft Consumer Rights Bill This proposed bill will apply to whole of the UK and will update consumer protection laws. Trading Standards will be granted new powers, such as being able to get a court to order a trader to pay compensation when consumer law is breached. Draft Wales Bill This is a proposed bill to alter the way elections in Wales work and will prevent Assembly Members from holding a seat in the House of Commons at the same. It would also move the Welsh assembly to fixed five year terms. Draft Deregulation Bill This draft bill lays out how the government intends to reduce the amount of regulation with which businesses, individuals and public bodies have to comply. Reform of Health and Safety regulations are likely to be included. Energy Bill (carried over from previous session) The government will continue with the legislation initiated in the last Parliament to reform the energy sector. It will contain measures to ensure consumers are on the most suitable tariff. It will also reform Britain’s energy infrastructure.

Full details of the legislative programme can be found here.

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