World Bulletin/News Desk
Queen Elizabeth unveiled on Wednesday Britain's last legislative programme before the next national election, citing mostly minor new laws and fuelling opposition criticism that the coalition was out of ideas.
In a ceremony in the upper house of parliament rich in pomp and pageantry, it took the queen less than 10 minutes to list 11 new pieces of legislation Prime Minister David Cameron's government plans to enact before a May 2015 general election.
With the exception of legislation overhauling Britain's pensions system, much of what she announced was already known and many of the measures were relatively minor in scale.
She confirmed plans to give people more control over their pension savings, with new measures including the introduction of collective pension schemes which allow members to pool risk.
The yearly Queen's Speech is regarded as a major fixture of political life when governments can unveil up to about thirty new laws. Incumbent governments have often used such pre-election occasions as an opportunity to try to woo voters with eye-catching measures.
But Cameron's government, a sometimes fractious tie-up of his right-leaning Conservative Party and the centre-left Liberal Democrat Party, cannot agree on how to tackle many of the bigger policy issues such as European integration and immigration.
As next year's election draws closer, both are also keen to differentiate themselves from one another to appeal to their traditional voters, further undermining any incentive to coordinate policy-making.
However, the introduction of fixed five-year parliaments in 2011 and both parties' desire to appear responsible in voters' eyes means that in practice the government is obliged to hold together even if ideological differences prevent the coalition partners from agreeing a fuller legislative programme.
Angela Eagle, an opposition lawmaker and a senior Labour spokeswoman, said the paucity of new legislation showed the government was struggling to function.
"This is a zombie government fast running out of steam and ideas," she told BBC radio before the speech.
Labour sources said it was "staggering" the government programme did not contain major new measures on immigration or the country's health service, two of voters' top priorities.
But business organisations welcomed the government's focus on securing Britain's economic recovery and praised the lack of new red tape introduced.
Proposals to help encourage house building were also set out as the government said it would continue to promote the Help to Buy mortgage guarantee programme, which some critics have said is helping to fuel a housing bubble.
Other measures included plans to support the development of oil and gas from shale and a promise to introduce charges for supermarket plastic bag use in England.
A measure giving voters powers to petition for their member of parliament to be replaced was also announced.
Cameron's Conservative Party tweeted that the total number of bills in the speech, 16 when draft and carried-over bills were included, was three more than Labour had included in their final Queen's Speech before the 2010 national election.
A spokesman for Cameron denied the government's programme was thin.
"He (Cameron) would completely reject the opposition's line ... There is a very full legislative programme for this final session," the spokesman told reporters.Last Mod: 05 Haziran 2014, 00:01