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Queen's Speech 2012 - Don't Expect Many Surprises

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QUEENS SPEECH
The Quen's Speech Is Delivered On Wednesday Morning - Will Anyone Pay Attention? | PA

Wednesday sees the first Queen's Speech for two years, which is a fairly long time to go without a state opening of Parliament. Absence won't make the heart grow fonder though - the 2012 Speech from the Throne is going to be a fairly tedious affair, with all of the eye-catching stuff pre-announced.

Labour are going to say the government has run out of steam and ideas - oppositions always say that. They'll have a bit more ammo than usual though because the line-up of Bills we're expecting isn't glamorous.

Truth is that ministers spent much of the last two years putting major reforms of health, education and the justice system through Parliament, and now they've got to implement those reforms.

They don't have time to be shepherding new legislation through the Commons. The other reason is that eons of time will have to be given up for the Lords Reform Bill.

We know that there is going to be some kind of crime Bill from the Home Office - they revealed that they're to toughen up the laws on drug-driving at the weekend. The Telegraph says this will have the snappy title of Crime Communications and Court Bill. Why hasn't this been done before? The technology didn't exist to give an accurate reading for drugs. Now it does.

Another popular measure will be some kind of Banking Bill - which will implement in full last year's Vickers Report and create a "firewall" between high-street banking and the casino-style investment variety.

Other bits that we're expecting aren't very exciting, but they will potentially have quite a big effect on people's lives. We're expecting a Water Bill from Defra, and since a lack of water affects millions of people in England right now it should garner some interest.

The top line from this Bill is that people will be able to switch water provider, just as they do electricity provider. The regulator Ofwat will be able to fine companies that don't do enough to fix leaky pipes.

There'll definitely be some kind of Energy Bill which will look at reforming the UK's energy market. Will this mean lower bills? Probably not. It's about trying to take the greenhouse emissions out of our electricity - this normally makes bills more expensive.

There could also be some work done on the Green Investment Bank, the body which will "green the economy" and which is expected to start work sometime next year.

Which brings us back to Lords reform. The latest rumour is that Cameron is planning to row-back on his opposition to a national referendum, and hold it in 2015 on the same day as the general election.

This, it's thought, would mean the Tories were keeping their end of the coalition agreement, without having the issue dominate the rest of the parliament. It would help to get Labour off the Tories' back in the Commons, and might take some of the sting out of the Lords.

Cameron needs to detoxify Lords reform. As one tweeter observed on Tuesday morning:


Jonty Olliff-Cooper
Msg to Tory Right: you know what bloke in the street cares abt even less than HoL reform? MPs endlessly saying that it is the wrong issue

Nobody wins if Parliament gets clogged up with this. And then there's gay marriage, which is reportedly to be put on the back-burner. Downing Street has denied these reports vehemently, but they're being seen as a totemic issue by the sort of Tory MP which likes to make mischief for David Cameron.

Perhaps Cameron thinks he can delay gay marriage without losing too many votes. Opinion even among gay people seems quite muted, with many seemingly quite happy with civil partnerships and not exactly wild about adopting a heterosexual institution. If it was a choice between delaying gay marriage or abandoning Lords reform, the first option would be the easiest.

The risk is that losing either will make the PM look weak. Does he think for one minute that the sorts of Tory MPs who are moaning about him will suddenly shut up if he does what they say? This is the Conservative Party!

A run-down of the new Bills expected:

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