Queen's Speech 2010: Lib-Con bills in full

Coalition's legislative agenda in full
Coalition's legislative agenda in full

Your easy-to-read guide to the legislation coming up in the year ahead.

Office of Budget Responsibility bill

The OBR, which formed a prominent part of the Liberal Democrats' approach to reforming the financial regulatory system, seeks to depoliticise political decisions by providing forecasts separately from the Treasury. The chancellor would accept the forecasts for the Budget and Pre-Budget Report, preventing what the Tories believe has been 'tinkering' with the figures from No 11.

An interim body has already been established. This has been tasked with assessing the long-term sustainability of the public finances and the public sector balance sheet.

Not many countries have an independent fiscal agency; the bill would enshrine the interim body in law.

National insurance contributions bill

This legislation would rush through the proposed changes to national insurance after the issue became a key battleground during the general election campaign. The bill will increase national insurance contributions from April 2011, raising £9 billion to finance an increase in the income tax personal allowance and an increase in the national insurance threshold.

The government says under the full changes most people would be better off relative to the previous government's plan. National insurance for employees will be going up - but the government says overall all low and middle income employees would pay less tax overall.

Welfare reform bill

A major shake-up to the benefits system headed by new work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith will take place in this bill. It will seek to simplify the system, improve work incentives and reduce the scope for fraud and error. The government believes people are often afraid to change their circumstances, creating a barrier to moving from benefits to work.

Pensions and savings bill

The state pension age is probably going up. A review is set to re-examine the current timetable - increasing the retirement age to 66 between 2024 and 2026 - may find that the timetable may have to be brought forward. In any case, the full restoration of the link between earnings and the basic state pension will be completed by 2012.

This bill is likely to amend the Pensions Act 2007, which lays out the current three-stage timetable for raising the state pension age to 68.

Financial reform bill

This bill will destroy the tripartite system of regulation set up by New Labour after 1997. The legislation will give the Bank of England control of "macro-prudential regulation" but only oversight of "micro-prudential regulation".

Its purpose, the Queen said, is to "learn from the financial crisis". The government believes the Bank is best placed to monitor and manage the risks and imbalances in the economy which could undermine financial stability in the future.

Equitable Life bill

The government has spent years resisting giving compensation to policyholders at Equitable Life, which collapsed in 2000 leaving over one million people with reduced retirement savings. The parliamentary ombudsman has called on the government to give compensation for regulatory failures, but it has so far resisted these calls. Now the Treasury will be given statutory authority to incur expenditure in making payments to Equitable Life policyholders.

Airport economic regulation bill

After finally ending all hopes of a third runway at Heathrow the coalition government is turning its attention to improve the aviation industry as it stands at present. It wants to reform the framework for the economic regulation of airports in a bid to "sharpen incentives" on airports to improve their performance.

There are few details about what this process will involve, although there are the usual pledges about reducing unnecessary bureaucracy and regulation. The bill will include plans to replace the existing system for setting price caps at airports; a more flexible framework "focused on the outcomes that matter to passengers" will be put in its place.

Postal services bill

The part-privatisation of the Royal Mail, favoured by Peter Mandelson but abandoned amid fears it would have triggered a massive Labour rebellion, will get the go-ahead under the new government.

It clears the way for a stake in Royal Mail to be sold to the private sector, fuelling improvements to the company which union leaders fear will result in job cuts.

The bill will also seek to address Royal Mail's pension deficit, potentially change the regulatory framework for the postal network and explore options for employee engagement at Royal Mail.

Post Office Ltd will remain in public ownership, as the government recognises the "important social and economic role" post offices play in communities.

Energy bill

This weighty piece of legislation is unified by the desire to improve energy efficiency - both at home and at work.

It will implement a 'green deal' which will provide incentives to suppliers and households along the lines of a 'pay as you save' approach.

A range of other measures are also expected to be featured. Coal-fired power stations may be regulated; energy markets may be reformed; a smart grid development framework may be created; and energy companies may be required to provide more information on bills to help customers.

Academies bill

Education secretary Michael Gove's plans to enable many more schools to become academies will be a major part of the government's agenda in its first year. The bill will give Mr Gove the power to issue an academy order requiring the local authority to give up its control over the school. Councils will not have to be consulted; all kinds of schools will be allowed to become academies; and academy trusts will be deemed exempt charities.

This represents a huge shake-up in Britain's education system. It aims to provide schools "with the freedoms to deliver an excellent education in the way they see fit". Academies will receive the same level of funding as maintained schools.

Education and children's bill

The Queen did not quite say the word "discipline" in her speech, but could easily have done in relation to this bill. It will give as-yet undetermined powers to teachers and heads to improve behavior in schools, as part of a wider relaxation of restrictions on the curriculum in a bid to give educationalists more freedom.

The legislation will reform Ofsted, seeking to help it close the gap between rich and poor as well as ensure headteachers are held to account "for the core educational goals of attainment". A reading test for children leaving primary school will help improve governmental awareness of literacy problems.

Health bill

The government wants to create a "sustainable national framework" for the NHS and will do so through this legislation. It will establish an independent NHS board which will allocate resources and provide commissioning guidance. The Care Quality Commission's role will be strengthened. Health quangoes will be targeted.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley hopes these changes will create an NHS which is led by clinical decision-makers. He wants the focus to be more on patients by giving them "more choice and control".

Police reform and social responsibility bill

Creating directly-elected individuals to hold the police to account and establishing a border police force are the main elements of this legislation. The latter is a controversial measure opposed by many police officers who fear the politicisation of policing. The government says having someone responsible for keeping the police scrutinised will make it easier for the police to meet the needs of the local community.

The bill is also tasked with tackling alcohol-related violence and anti-social behaviour. The Licensing Act is set to be overhauled to give more powers to local authorities. Health and safety laws restricting police officers will be cut back. There will also be extended collaboration between police forces in a bid to improve value for money.

Public bodies (reform) bill

The quangoes bonfire starts here. This legislation will give ministers the powers to abolish, merge or transfer functions as they wish. The purpose is to cut the number of public bodies and cut bureaucracy, helping make year-on-year savings of £1 billion.

By March 31st there were 766 non-departmental public bodies, spending over £46 billion a year. The bill will ensure a review of their functions takes place every three years, as opposed to every five years as takes place at present.

Decentralisation and localism bill

Communities secretary Eric Pickles has been tasked with handing as much power as possible back to local authorities and communities. This bill will do so by scrapping many of the measures introduced by the Labour government. Regional spatial strategies, the centralised Infrastructure Planning Commission and the Standards Board regime are for the axe. Regional development agencies will be replaced with local enterprise partnerships. Decision-making powers on housing and planning, in particular, are to be handed back to local councils, who will be given a more general power of competence.

Going even further, councils will find power is being devolved below them too. Residents will be given the power to trigger referendums on any local issue and the power to veto council tax increases. Home information packs will be scrapped. And plans to give greater financial autonomy to local government and community groups will be rolled out.

Local government bill

The last government had planned to make Norwich and Exeter unitary councils, but these are opposed by the Conservatives and the plans will be revoked. The government argues that the bill will save £40 million, avoid disruption and give "certainty and stability" about local government structures for their financial settlement. Critics will say the Tories oppose the plans on party political grounds as they stand to gain from the shift.

Parliamentary reform bill

This hugely significant piece of legislation will make real changes to Britain's constitution. Fixed-term parliaments will be enshrined in law for the first time, removing the prime minister's traditional ability to call an election whenever he likes. A referendum on alternative vote will be voted through. And constituents will be handed the right to recall their MPs where they are found guilty of "serious wrongdoing".

The size of the Commons will be removed and constituencies will become more equally sized through changes to boundary rules. But the big change is on fixed-term parliaments; the relevant pieces of legislation here are the Septennial Act 1715 and the Parliament Act 1911.

Draft parliamentary privilege bill

This draft bill is a direct counter to the defence offered by the three Labour MPs being tried in court on charges relating to their expenses claims. Their use of parliamentary privilege as a defence would be scuppered by this bill, which will clarify the extent and application of the law on parliamentary privilege.

The draft bill will be published in the course of this session in a bid to "restore faith in parliament by ensuring the law which enables MPs to do their job is fair and adapted to modern circumstances".

Freedom (great repeal) bill

Originally a Liberal Democrat idea, the freedom bill will roll back reams of New Labour legislation which have undermined freedoms and civil liberties. The scope of the DNA database will be restricted, rules around protest will be relaxed and the use of CCTV will be regulated. Internet and email records will only be stored when there is good reason to do so.

The measures have been welcomed by civil liberties campaigners; from the abolition of identity cards onwards, the measures represent a significant rebalancing of the tension between protecting people's security and their freedoms.

Identity documents bill

Also part of the civil liberties legislation is this specific bill scrapping ID cards and destroying the national identity register. In addition to the civil liberties benefit the moves will also save around £86 million and avoid over £800 million of ongoing costs over the next ten years.

All ID cards will be cancelled within one month of the bill receiving royal assent. The Office of the Identity Commissioner will be closed.

Scotland bill

This legislation will implement the proposals of the Calman Commission, which worked to move devolution on after a decade of power in Holyrood. The bill will increase the financial accountability of the Scottish parliament by giving it greater taxation powers and renew the policy responsibility split between the UK and Scottish parliament. Further details are yet to be announced.

European Union bill

This bill has potential to fuel huge tensions within the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition. Eurosceptics will be broadly pleased by plans to legislate to ensure the 'referendum lock', meaning any future transfer of powers to the European Union requires a vote. The same applies to Britain joining to the euro, while primary legislation will be required for every passerelle clause which modifies the treaties.

The moves are supposed to provide "real protection for our democracy" but the euro-friendly Lib Dems will find many of these measures difficult to accept.

Armed forces bill

There are few details about this bill, which defence secretary Liam Fox will use to drive forward his aim to improve the military covenant. The bill will re-establish the legal basis for the armed forces by renewing existing legislation. Service police matters, changes to court martial powers and provisions relating to service personnel policy are expected.

Terrorist asset-freezing bill

This bill was not mentioned in the Queen's Speech but forms part of the government's agenda. A supreme court decision earlier this year quashed secondary legislation used to implement terrorist asset freezes, creating the need for the government to make temporary legislation swiftly passed afterwards permanent.

The bill will seek to balance national security with civil liberties and United Nations obligations. It will set out the legal test for freezing assets, the process for making decisions, the scope of the prohibitions and other details.


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