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Queen to set out coalition government's plans

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 25 May 2010

David Cameron's coalition government sets out its programme for the coming 18 months today, with a Queen's Speech paving the way for hundreds of new academy schools in the state system.

The Queen

A late draft leaked at the weekend suggested the monarch's address at the State Opening of Parliament would unveil an ambitious programme of at least 21 parliamentary bills setting the Conservative/Liberal Democrat administration's new course for Britain.

According to the leaked draft, the Queen will state the government's priority will be to "reduce the deficit and restore economic growth" and to "accelerate the reduction of the structural budget deficit", with five bills led by the Treasury.

A bill to be published within days of the speech is expected to fulfil a key plank of the Conservative manifesto by offering around 600 highly-rated secondary schools and 2,000 primaries academy freedoms from council control.

And early legislation will roll back Labour's "surveillance state", including the scrapping of ID cards and regulation of the use of CCTV cameras and DNA.

Treasury bills will block the planned rise in employers' National Insurance contributions; return supervisory powers over the City to the Bank of England; and set up an Office of Budget Responsibility to remove the power to make economic forecasts from the hands of politicians.

The main themes of the address are expected to be "freedom, fairness and responsibility", with a "great repeals bill" to get rid of Labour legislation opposed by the Tories and Lib Dems when they were in opposition.

A Parliamentary Reform Bill is expected to usher in a shake-up of the political system, with measures to provide for fixed-term parliaments and powers to enable voters to get rid of MPs found guilty of serious wrongdoing.

And the same bill could also be the vehicle for delivering a referendum on voting reform for Westminster elections - a key demand of the Liberal Democrats in the coalition negotiations.

Public service reforms are expected to include an overhaul of the benefits system to cut payouts for claimants who refuse to work, a bill to reduce health inequalities and a second education bill to introduce Education Secretary Michael Gove's Swedish-style "free schools" plan to open up the state system to new providers.

The draft is also said to list an energy security and green economy bill, and a police reform and social responsibility bill, which could introduce elected police commissioners.

As an apparent gesture to Tory Euro-sceptics - many of whom are deeply unhappy at the alliance with the Lib Dems - the speech is also said to promise a bill to ensure that "this Parliament and the British people have their say on any proposed transfer of powers to the European Union" by requiring referendums on future treaties.

The text states the government's reforms "restore trust in democratic institutions and rebalance the relationship between the citizen and the state", while "legislation will be brought forward to restore freedoms and civil liberties".

A pensions and savings bill is thought likely to restore the link between pensions and average earnings.

Other legislation is expected to provide compensation for victims of the collapse of Equitable Life, block the creation of single-tier councils in Norwich and Exeter, decentralise power to local communities, cut back on quangos and provide support for armed forces families.

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