Queen’s Speech: State of play

What will and won’t be in this year’s Queen’s Speech?

By Ian Dunt

This year’s Queen’s Speech will be the most political for a long time. Nick Clegg’s call for the Speech to be cancelled due to the pitiful amount of parliamentary time available to push the bills through received a pretty critical reception, but it contained a sharp kernel of truth. There simply isn’t enough time for proper bills. The prime minister’s spokesman admitted as much on Monday morning when he said the bills would be “short” and the government’s agenda “focused”.

Some bills certainly will get through. Others will be used to smoke out the Tories on a range of issues, and force them to plant their flag in the ground on policy areas which Gordon Brown believes he has fine-tuned the ‘dividing lines’.

Bankers’ bonuses will face a far tougher time than we had previously supposed, with the Financial Services Authority (FSA) being given new enforcement powers in tackling excess and wrongdoing. It will be given a legal right to tear up employment contracts for bankers if the terms encourage excessive risk taking or include multi-year guarantees.

Executives will be held personally responsible for misconduct, with the regulator being given four, rather than two years, to bring cases against individuals.

Plans to provide free care at home for around 350,000 of the neediest sectors are also expected to feature, as will a bill setting down in law the government’s duty to reduce the deficit.

The equality bill, not completed in the last parliamentary session, will carry through to the final parliamentary session, but will be turned into law relatively quickly.

NHS patients will have their right to see treatment 18 weeks after their GP appointment enshrined in law, and cancer patients will see a specialist within two weeks of being diagnosed.

Parents and children will be given clear rights to one-to-one tuition. Meanwhile, all councils will have to provide annual surveys of parents concerning the provision of secondary schools.

It wouldn’t be a New Labour Queen’s Speech without something on criminal justice. Parenting assessments will be introduced for parents of those aged between ten and 15 who are being considered for an Asbo. Changes to DNA retention will mean those not charged of or convicted of a crime will have their DNA wiped after six years.

Electrical suppliers will face a £9.5 billion levy to subsidise carbon capture and storage demonstration plants. Ofgem will be strengthened.

Internet service providers will be forced to act against those downloading materially illegally from the internet – a long-term demand of record companies and film studios. There will almost certainly be a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ aspect to this, although don’t expect mass switching off of broadband anytime soon.

The civil service will be put on a statutory footing. The Commons will then be able to approve treaties and the hereditary principle in the Lords will finally go the way of the dodo.