Queen's Speech To Feature 'Family Friendly' Policies, Lords Reform

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The unveiling of legislative plans for the coming year is a key part of an attempted government relaunch | PA

A package of "family-friendly" policies will feature in the Queen's Speech today as the coalition Government steps up its bid to recover from a catalogue of problems and a local election mauling.

More flexible leave for parents, speedier adoptions, better help for special needs pupils and improved access arrangements for divorced fathers will all be included in a wide-ranging Bill, Downing Street sources indicated.

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The unveiling of legislative plans for the coming year is a key part of an attempted government relaunch amid bleak economic news and backbench pressure for a change of course.

David Cameron and Nick Clegg defended the two-year-old power-sharing deal yesterday - insisting it was more important than ever in the fight to cut the state deficit and balance the country's books.

But they were accused by Labour leader Ed Miliband of continuing to put the interests of the rich before ordinary voters and of presiding over a "crisis" of public faith in politics amid poor turnout at the polls last week.

Among measures expected to feature prominently in the programme to be formally revealed by the Queen are binding votes for shareholders on executive pay - bolstering a growing revolt against boardroom excess.

Public sector pension reform and efforts to slash business red tape are anticipated as part of what the Prime Minister said remained a clear focus on cutting debt and stimulating growth.

Energy market regulation, the creation of a National Crime Agency, tougher regulation of supermarkets and a new ban on driving while under the influence of drugs are all expected.

And there will detailed plans for the splitting up of banks to avert a repeat of the 2008 crash.

But the Government will also signal its intent to press ahead with reform of the House of Lords - a key Liberal Democrat demand but the focus for anger among many Tory MPs, including senior figures.

They complain that with the UK back in recession it is "barmy" to devote parliamentary time to a constitutional shake-up and are threatening a full-scale rebellion.

In an "alternative Queen's Speech" published at the weekend, they urged Mr Cameron to prioritise instead issues such as more grammar schools, an EU referendum, a Bill of Rights and tax cuts.

Mr Cameron insisted a move to directly elected peers was a "perfectly sensible" decision and Mr Clegg said there was no reason not to do so alongside higher-priority issues.

A Number 10 source said the inclusion of a Bill covering a range of family policies would demonstrate that the premier was "passionate" about giving children a good start in life.

Among its provisions will be ending what Mr Cameron calls "absurd" barriers to mixed-race adoptions by making speed a more important factor than race in the process.

It will also confirm the intention to consult on changing the law to give divorced fathers better access to their children - despite an official review recommending it should not happen.

Care proceedings in court will also be subjected to a time limit of six months and the system of providing support for special needs pupils speeded up and simplified.

And there will be moves to provide access to "flexible parental leave" - reported to include the chance for new mothers to transfer more of their maternity leave to fathers.

"Dealing with the deficit and getting the economy growing remains the coalition's number one priority," the source said.

"But we're also grappling with some long-term issues around adoption, the care system, and children with disabilities, to make life better for some of the most vulnerable children in society. The PM is passionate about making sure that these children get the best start in life that they can, and this Bill will help us to do that."

A Labour Party spokesman said: "No relaunch is going to persuade Britain's families that this Government is on their side.

"There is nothing family friendly about a Tory-led Government that has delivered record female unemployment, stripped back Sure Start and, and taken away childcare support for thousands of families."

Mr Cameron used an interview with the Daily Mail to urge restive Tory MPs not to wreck the coalition - insisting he shared their frustrations with the restrictions imposed by sharing power with the Lib Dems.

Human rights law, reform of workplace rights and support for marriage were all on a "growing list of things that I want to do but can't", he said.

In a message to those demanding a refocus on traditional Conservative policies, he said: "I completely understand your frustrations, but let's be clear: we've taken on some areas like reforming student finance, reforming public sector pensions, freezing public sector pay.

"These are things that previous Conservative governments weren't able to do.

"Hell, I even vetoed an EU treaty. So I would say to Conservatives, I know it's frustrating. I share your frustration. I want a Conservative-only government.

"But don't let's waste the chance we have now to help get this country out of the mess it was left in. We have got the mandate and the policies and the team to do it.

A run-down of the new Bills expected:

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