POLITICS

Queen's Speech 2012: Lords Reform In, Gay Marriage Dropped

09/05/2012 11:43 | Updated 09 May 2012

The Queen has formally opened the new session of Parliament and - as expected - has outlined plans to reform the House of Lords and replace the appointed peers with a largely elected second chamber.

But the government has backed off from introducing a Bill for same-sex marriages. Although George Osborne downplayed expectations of it appearing on Sunday, gay rights groups will be dismayed to find there is no mention of it in the Queen's Speech.

The Lords Reform Bill, which is expected to be introduced in a matter of weeks, would see the Lords 80% elected with the remainder being appointed as they are now. But the government remains hazy on the details of how the reformed Lords would interact with the Commons. Many Tory MPs remain likely to oppose the plans unless ministers explain how this new relationship would work.

Briefing notes issued by Number 10 to accompany the Queen's speech offer no further detail of a deal to appease Tories, but most Westminster commentators expect the government to offer concessions, possibly watering down plans to reduce the number of MPs by 50 and reshape the boundaries of constituencies.

Both of these measures would see many Tories losing their seats, and there is talk of a trade-off - abandoning these measures in exchange for allowing Nick Clegg to get his cherished Lords reform plans through the Commons. But this seems unlikely to avoid lengthy rows among MPs and peers in the months to come.

The result is that the Queen's Speech is fairly short - certainly much shorter than the one she delivered after the last election. The subtext is that time will be needed to get Lords reform through the Commons, and space has been saved for any potential financial shocks involving the Eurozone, which might require emergency legislation.

The other flagship piece of law the government will try to pass is an Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, which ministers hope will cut red tape and make British businesses more competitive. The government will press ahead with its plans for a Green Investment Bank - lending money for low-carbon projects including windfarms and nuclear power stations.

In a bid to appease Tory backbenchers on the right of the party, there's also measures to speed up the employment tribunals service, with a hint that there'll be measures to make it easier for firms to hire and fire staff.

Another measure which Tories will like is a reform of parental leave - with a possible overhaul of the maternity and paternity leave arrangements. Ministers say the changes will allow mums and dads to take their leave "in a way which best suits their needs."

Many of the other Bills will sound complex and won't seem like bread-and-butter issues to taxpayers. They reform the architecture of government and will ultimately affect people's daily lives in various ways.

There will be a Bill which will implement the pensions reforms outlined in the Budget in March - no surprises here, it's already been announced. The highlights (or lowlights) are the increase in the state pension age to 67 in around 15 years' time, plus the creation of a standard basic pension, reducing the complexities in the system.

A separate Bill would implement the government's plans to reform public sector pensions, something ministers are pressing ahead with despite many of the trade unions still opposing the plans.

Ministers will introduce more help for kids with special needs, including giving their parents control over the care they receive. Parents and young adults would get their own budget, to choose the support they get themselves.

There's to be a National Crime Agency set up, which will merge various existing bodies into one large one. The government wants to put tackling of child sex offences, cyber crime, border security and other serious organised crime under one roof.

One Bill which will spark a lot of debate is the Justice and Security Bill, which would allow closed-courts to hear evidence from the security services, which currently is not admissible. It would potentially allow the use of intercept evidence in court, something the intelligence agencies have resisted because it would reveal the methods use to gather the evidence. The government clearly thinks it's found a work-around for this.

There's a Groceries Bill which aims to protect food producers from alleged strong-arm tactics by the big supermarkets - there'll be an ombusdman set up to rule over alleged foul play.

There's also a Water Bill, designed to make it easier for businesses (but not households) to switch their water supplier.

On balance there'll be a lot in the speech to make both Tories and Lib Dems happy. But as always these are just rough outlines.

Tories will be interested to see whether the plans to cut red tape and regulation will really make a difference, and they'll want to see if the Lords reforms have been altered to allay concerns that the new elected chamber would challenge the supremacy of the Commons.

State Opening Of Parliament 2012

09/05/2012 16:59 BST

Labour was 'hyper-active', according to George Eustice

Conservative MP George Eustice has told the BBC that the problem with Labour was its "hyper-active legislation"

"They spent ages bringing in bills that were badly thought through sand then they needed to use sessions to undo what they’d done and reverse the mistakes they’d made," he said.

“I think this government had a full session, a very long session – two years – some very big pieces of legislation went though, and I actually think it’s right that you don’t just jam the programme with endless legislation for the sake of it.”

09/05/2012 16:24 BST

Zac Goldsmith fears retreat on MP recall

The government has been accused of quietly rowing back on political reform by omitting plans to introduce the power to recall MPs mid-term from the Queen's Speech.

Tory backbencher Zac Goldsmith questioned why a Bill was not mentioned in the list of legislation announced on Wednesday morning.

"So where was the promised Recall Bill in the Queen's speech? How can Government expect to 'rebuild trust' if it so casually drops key promises?" he said.

09/05/2012 16:07 BST

Is Cameron saying lobbying reform has been delayed till next year?

@ ChrisMasonBBC :

David Cameron dismisses lack of bill on lobbying in the Queen's Speech, saying there will be another Queen's Speech next year.

09/05/2012 16:03 BST

PM: My government is doing what this country needs

The Prime Minister has mounted a robust defence of his government in the House Of Commons.

He said:

"This is a government that confronts the long-term challenges that we face, and that is what our country needs. A government that rolls up its sleeves to deal with the deficit, not an Opposition that thinks you can borrow your way out of debt."

"A Coalition government that is determined to unleash the private sector, spread growth around our country, sort out our financial services. Not a Labour one that bloated the public sector, sat back while an unregulated banking sector brought our country to its knees."

"A government that is backing hard-working people, not an Opposition that says it’s on their side but refuses to make work pay, refuses to cap welfare and wants to heave debts onto our children."

"This is a government that is taking the tough decisions to help families who work hard and do the right thing. Acting for the long term, governing in the national interest, this is a Queen’s speech to rebuild Britain, and I commend it to the House."

09/05/2012 15:53 BST

Graham Jones MP says Cameron is 'dying on his feet' in the Commons

@ GrahamJones_MP :

Cameron dying on his feet talking about the Queens Speech. Uninspiring. Punch drunk from the omnishambles.

09/05/2012 15:48 BST

Andrew Gwynne MP thinks Cameron is just waffling...

@ GwynneMP :

The PM's response to the Queen's speech debate is waffle. Ed M is obviously still buzzing from the elections. He was at his very best today!

09/05/2012 15:41 BST

Chi Onwurah MP attacks Cameron's 'emptiness'

@ ChiOnwurah :

@Ed_Miliband really nailed the emptiness of a Queen's Speech which doesn't mention jobs & does nothing to create them

09/05/2012 15:35 BST

Cameron summarises his government's agenda...

"It is about a government taking the tough long-term decisions to restore our country to strength, dealing with the deficit, rebalancing the economy and rewarding people who do the right thing."

09/05/2012 15:35 BST

Cameron defends the 'Snoopers' Charter'

Speaking in Parliament, the Prime Minister has defended proposals that have caused controversy for their apparent invasiveness.

“What we are trying to do here is not look at the content of people’s telephone calls, but just to update the measures for finding out who called who and when

“I say to people, of course let’s look at the detail, but I don’t want to be the Prime Minister standing at this despatch box saying ‘we could have done more on terrorism’.”

09/05/2012 15:22 BST

Miliband - endorsing Nadine Dorries?

@ IanDunt :

Miliband wants Nadine Dorries on the government's remuneration committee http://t.co/y9vH2Nro #QueensSpeech

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