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Queen Speech Wednesday, 25 November, 1998, 08:39 GMT
Queen announces Lords shake-up
MPs and Lords
MPs muttered approvals when the Queen announced Lords reform
Radical reform of the House of Lords, the welfare state and education are among the package of new laws set out by the Queen at the UK's annual state opening of Parliament.

Amid the pomp and circumstance of a ceremony with traditions in the 16th century, the Queen announced an end to the rights of hereditary peers to vote in the upper chamber.

The Queen's Speech
Though still one of the most colourful pageants in the political calendar, some of the ceremony's pomp has been cut down in line with the government's modernising zeal.

The reform of the Lords came in the middle of the speech, which outlines Tony Blair's government's second legislative programme.

The Queen told Parliament that "like the first, it will focus upon the modernisation of the country, its institutions, its public services and its economy".

The widely-expected reform of the Lords is the most radical of the proposals and could pave the way for a year of confrontation between the two Houses of Parliament.

The Queen said: "It will be the first stage in a process of reform to make the House of Lords more democratic and representative."

It was greeted by an unprecedented rumble of noise, including some "hear hears" from MPs.

The government will publish a white paper setting out arrangements for a new system of appointments of life peers and establish a Royal Commission to review further changes and introduce proposals for reform.

The constitutional upheaval follows the establishment of regional assemblies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to which Her Majesty referred.

Black Rod
MPs were summoned to the Lords by Black Rod
The Queen went on to announce legislation to modernise local government, create a new Greater London Authority, as well as measures to tackle transport problems.

Education continues to be the government's top priority, the Queen said, and one of its greatest challenges.

"To raise standards in our schools, we must raise standards in teaching.

"As part of my government's drive to raise achievement in schools, a consultation paper will be brought forward on the most far reaching reforms of the teaching profession in 50 years.

"These will enhance the status of teachers and reward high performance to secure the delivery of high standards."

In health, the government wants partnership and efficiency to replace the internal market and competition, announced the Queen.

Changes to the welfare state formed a core part of the speech, with the announcement of Bills to reform benefits, introduce new tax credits and create a Disability Rights Commission.

Queen
Pomp had been cut down
The package would give "greater help to those in need", the Queen announced.

The improved relations between government, employers and unions would be built upon to promote fairness at work.

Earlier in the speech, the Queen announced the government would "continue to pursue sound public finances and abide by its fiscal rules".

The Queen said: "Productivity will be improved by measures addressing competition, investment, entrepreneurship and improving the skills of British people."

Parliament will also be given an opportunity to vote on the age of consent - a repeat of the vote on reducing the age of homosexual consent to 16 in the summer which was defeated in the Lords.

No room for food standards

There was no place in the programme for a Freedom of Information Bill, or a specific Bill to create a Food Standards Agency - although the Queen said the government would take forward its proposals.

In an unusual move, the Queen announced the government intended instead to publish some Bills - including one on freedom of information - in draft form.

Other drafts would address the controversial issue of party funding, improving councils' conduct of business, and establishing a Strategic Rail Authority to oversee the privatised railways.

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 ON THIS STORY
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The Queen's speech: "A bill will be introduced to remove the right of hereditary peers to sit and vote in the House of Lords"
BBC News
BBC's John Pienaar: "Ministers have a fight on their hands"
See also:

24 Nov 98 | Queen Speech
24 Nov 98 | Queen Speech
24 Nov 98 | Queen Speech
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