Queen’s Speech 2012

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. Following the introduction of fixed five year parliamentary terms, it’s been nearly two years since the first Queen’s Speech of this Government. The Speech today set out a legislative programme with a relatively small number of government bills.
Government sources have briefed that this Speech refocuses the Government’s attention on “core issues” – the economy and business regulation, family cohesion, pensions and crime prevention. Ministers have been keen to avoid criticism that the Government is “out of touch”, and they hope to recapture the political centre ground. They also hope to dispel persistent criticism that the Coalition focuses too heavily on political fixing – reform of the House of Lords and support for gay marriage. The marriage Bill is missing from the headlines of the Queen’s Speech, but Lords reform remains. It should be noted that the Speech never contains all the Bills the Government plans to introduce. A total of fifteen Bills were announced. In comparison, the last Queen’s Speech in May 2012 contained twenty two bills. The Queen also announced the publication of four draft Bills for this parliamentary session. There were few surprises in the Speech. Bills covering: energy market reform, public sector pensions, employment regulations and House of Lords reform, executive pay and banking reform were all expected and announced. As the Coalition Government enters its third year in office, and with a backdrop of poor performance in the recent local elections and Mayoral referendums, Ministers will be hoping that today’s Queen’s Speech sets them back on track for the 2015 General Election. The Government has opted for a narrower focus in this mid-term year. With fewer bills, the Government is taking a more considered approach to their legislative programme, which they hope will give them a sharper focus on the political ramifications, which have blindsided them in recent months.

Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill The wide ranging measures in this bill include: 1. Creating a single Competition and Markets Authority by bringing together the Competition Commission and the competition functions of the Office of Fair Trading. 2. Extending the Primary Authority scheme, and strengthening the legal framework for sunset clauses on regulation. 3. Overhaul of the employment tribunal system. 4. Strengthening the framework for setting executive pay. 5. Providing new powers for the Green Investment Bank. 6. Reducing inspection burdens on business by extending the 7. Removing unnecessary legislation that will help save businesses time and money. Pensions Bill The Government will reform the state the pension system. The Queen said, “My Government will bring forward measures to modernise the pension system and reform the state pension, creating a fair, simple and sustainable foundation for private saving.” Children and Families Bill Measures will be proposed to make parental leave more flexible so both parents may share parenting responsibilities and balance work and family commitments. This bill will also include measures to improve provision for disabled children and children with special educational needs and establish new family law court arrangements. Energy Bill This Bill will reform the electricity market to enable greater investment in low-carbon generation and clean energy. Banking Reform Bill Following the Vickers’ report, the Government will split retail and investment functions of banks. These measures have been expected and are part of wider process to ensure banking is more robust to financial shocks. Public Services Pensions Bill The Bill would implement changes to public service pension provision, in line with the Final Proposed Agreements reached with trades unions for the three largest schemes in March. It would establish a common framework across public service pension schemes.

Crime and Courts Bill The Bill will establish the National Crime Agency to tackle the most serious and organised crime and strengthen border security. The courts and tribunals service will be reformed to increase efficiency, transparency and judicial diversity Charity Donations Bill A Bill will be introduced to reduce burdens on charities, enabling them to claim additional payments on small donations. Defamation Bill Following a draft bill last year, this bill will reform Britain’s libel laws. “Legislation will be introduced to protect freedom of speech and reform the law of defamation.” Justice and Security Bill The Bill will strengthen oversight of the security and intelligence agencies. It will also allow courts, through the limited use of closed proceedings, to hear a greater range of evidence in national security cases. House of Lords Reform Bill As expected, the Government has defied the right wing of the Conservative party and introduced a bill to reform the upper chamber. The Government’s focus on constitutional reform will cause them political problems and they risk looking out of touch by focusing on an issue which does not resonate with the electorate. Groceries Code Adjudicator bill Introduced as a draft bill last year, this will now be introduced as full legislation. It will enact measures to ensure suppliers receive a fair deal from supermarkets. Electoral Registration and Administration Bill The Bill would reduce electoral fraud by speeding up the introduction of individual electoral registration. European Union (Approval of Treaty Amendment Decision) Bill The Bill would provide for Parliamentary approval of the change of Article 136 of the EU Treaty, confirming that Euro area Member States may establish a permanent stability mechanism.

Full list of Bills announced: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. Banking Reform Bill Children and Families Bill Crime and Courts Bill Croatia Accession Bill Defamation Bill Electoral Registration and Administration Bill Energy Bill Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill European Union (Approval of Treaty Amendment Decision) Bill Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill House of Lords Reform Bill Justice and Security Bill Pensions Bill Public Services Pension Bill Charity Donations Bill

Draft Bills announced: 1. 2. 3. 4. Draft Water Bill Draft Communications Data Bill Draft Care and Support Bill Draft Local Audit Bill

Draft Water Bill This Bill would allow businesses and public sector bodies to obtain more competitive prices and improve their efficiency, as set out in the Water White Paper. Draft Communications Data Bill This Bill would allow law enforcement and intelligence agencies to access private communications data. Draft Care and Support Bill This Bill would reform adult care and support. Draft Local Audit Bill A draft Bill to close the Audit Commission and establish new local government audit arrangements.

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