Queen outlines new British government's plans

25th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II will set out the new coalition government's legislative programme on Tuesday in a ceremony of pomp and history following the closest general election for decades.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg vowed the new programme -- written by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government, but read out by the queen at the traditional state opening of parliament -- would be "remarkably new".

A leaked draft of the Queen's Speech showed the coalition planned an 18-month programme of deep cuts to public services and government departments -- initial reductions were announced Monday -- and moves on political reform.

The reforms, already broadly outlined in a seven-page coalition agreement, include measures to provide for fixed-term parliaments and powers to enable voters to eject lawmakers found guilty of serious wrongdoing.

It could herald a referendum on changing Britain's first-past-the-post system -- a key demand of the Liberal Democrats when they agreed to go into coalition with Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives after the May 6 poll.

While the coalition is the first since World War II, some things will follow tradition -- seated in a throne, the monarch will make her address to MPs (Members of Parliament) and peers in the upper house of the legislature.

Within days, key school reforms and the scrapping of proposals to introduce a compulsory national identification cards would be brought in, according to the draft revealed in newspapers at the weekend.

Liberal Democrat leader Clegg said Monday the new government wanted to hand back power to the people after 13 years of Labour rule under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown which saw a large-scale expansion of the state.

He told the BBC that while previous Queen's Speeches had been "about governments grabbing more power for themselves", this one would be "something remarkably new".

"We are actually wanting to give people and families and pupils and parents and patients more say about how they run their lives."

The Queen's Speech will also include a "great repeals bill" to abandon laws introduced by the previous Labour administration but opposed by the coalition parties, according to reports.

The Treasury, or finance ministry, will be at the forefront of efforts to push through five bills, according to reports, which highlights the new government's priority of tackling Britain's record deficit.

Another proposal will aim to ensure that "this parliament and the British people have their say on any proposed transfer of powers to the European Union."

The move is an apparent gesture to eurosceptic Conservatives, many of whom are deeply unhappy at their party's alliance with the Lib Dems.

Ahead of the ceremony, an anti-war protester who maintains a round-the-clock demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament was arrested as police carried out security sweeps.

An eyewitness reported seeing Brian Haw being forcibly detained and handcuffed by officers at the camp, a collection of scruffy tents, opposite the building.

A police spokesman said two people were arrested for allegedly obstructing police.

In the state opening of parliament, the queen proceeds from Buckingham Palace to the Houses of Parliament -- the lower house of the legislature -- escorted by cavalry in a ceremony which attracts large crowds.

Traditions surrounding the ceremony trace their history back 500 years. In its current forms, it dates from the opening of the Houses of Parliament in 1852 after a huge fire.

© 2010 AFP

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