Plastic bags, transport and have-a-go-heroes - Your five minute guide to the Queen’s Speech
12:15 04 June 2014
Shoppers will be charged 5p for plastic bags as part of a host of new measures announced in the Queen’s Speech today. Here’s your guide to what was said.
Voters are to be given powers to boot misbehaving MPs out of Parliament under new legislation included in the Queen’s Speech.
The new power of recall - promised in the coalition agreement in 2010 - will be triggered only if MPs are given jail sentences of less than 12 months or if the House of Commons resolves that they have engaged in “serious wrongdoing”. Voters would then have to collect the signatures of 10% of constituents to force a by-election.
The provision is included in a relatively light legislative programme of just 11 new bills for the last year of the coalition Government before the 2015 general election, unveiled by the Queen amid traditional pomp and ceremony at the state opening of Parliament.
In a statement issued alongside the Speech, David Cameron and Nick Clegg insisted it showed the coalition was “still taking bold steps” to “take Britain forward to a brighter future”. But Labour’s Ed Miliband said that it failed to live up to the scale of the challenges faced by Britain.
Centrepiece of the programme are pension reforms which Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg promised will deliver “the biggest transformation in our pensions system since its inception”, abolishing the requirement for pensioners to buy an annuity to provide a dependable income during retirement and allowing workers to join Dutch-style collective pension schemes.
Describing the changes as a “revolution” in pension provision, the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister said that the changes will give people “both freedom and security in retirement”.
Here are some of the key points:
New anti-litter measures will extend the 5p charge for single-use plastic bags already in operation in Wales and Northern Ireland to England from October 2015. Scotland is expected to introduce a similar charge later this year.
It follows initiatives such as one in Aylsham, which banned plastic bags six years ago. The town became the first in the country to go plastic-bag free, in 2008, as part of its Cittaslow status, which works to make it a greener, happier slower place to live.
Legislation to enable tax-saving changes to the way England’s major roads are managed has been announced in the Queen’s Speech.
Part of the Infrastructure Bill, the changes will see the Highways Agency (HA) transformed into a Government-owned company.
The Government reckons the move, covering England’s motorways and major A-roads, will save taxpayers at least £2.6 billion over the next 10 years
It is also designed to make the new company more accountable to Parliament and to road users.
The plan is for the new company to come into being by April 2015.
The Government has committed more than £24 billion to upgrade England’s strategic road network between 2010 and 2021 - part of a £56 billion investment in the country’s transport infrastructure designed to keep the economy moving.
Her Majesty also unveiled a bill designed to protect people who find themselves in court after acting heroically, responsibly or for the benefit of others - for instance if they are sued for negligence or breach of duty after intervening in an emergency or volunteering to help others.
Direct elections could be introduced to the authorities which run England’s national parks, as well as the Broads, under a bill published in draft form as part of the Queen’s Speech.
Ministers said the move would improve local accountability and address a “democratic deficit” in the areas protected by national park status.
Under the Draft Governance of National Parks (England) and the Broads Bill, the Environment Secretary would be given the power to order direct elections, enabling local residents to votefor the first time for some of the authority members who have responsibility for running parks and taking planning decisions.
A Small Business Bill will set a deregulation target to be met by every future Parliament, provide measures to help companies get credit from banks and crack down on expensive delays in the employment tribunals. Measures will also be brought forward to end the “revolving door” culture of big pay-offs for senior public servants taking redundancy and to tackle abuse of zero-hours contracts and failure to pay the minimum wage.
An Infrastructure Bill will support the development of shale gas by the controversial “fracking” process and maximise the exploitation of North Sea reserves in the hope of making the UK “energy independent and in control of its own future and not reliant on foreign countries for oil and gas”. The Bill also seeks to boost house-building by selling off unused public land for development and to guarantee long-term investment in the road network.
Planning reforms will enable the construction of new garden cities and support small building firms in a bid to ease the housing crisis.
Legislation will be brought forward to make good on promises of tax-free childcare worth £2,000 a year per child and free school meals for all infant pupils.
A Serious Crimes Bill will extend the definition of child cruelty to ensure it covers the most serious cases of emotional neglect and psychological harm, in a so-called “Cinderella law”. The Bill will also outlaw written paedophile material. Members of the armed forces will enjoy a strengthened complaints procedure, overseen by a new Service Complaints Ombudsman.
A Slavery Bill will make the reporting of human trafficking a legal duty, introduce an Anti-Slavery Commissioner and increase sentences for those found guilty of trafficking people into the country, often for prostitution or illicit work.