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 You are in: Special Report: 1998: 11/98: Queen Speech  
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EDITIONS
Queen Speech Tuesday, 24 November, 1998, 19:22 GMT
The notable omissions
food
Plans for a Food Standards Agency failed to win a firm place
The conventional wisdom is that the Queen's speech is as important for the proposals not mentioned as those that are.

This year, a number of measures contained in Labour's election manifesto and initially expected by this stage continue to be notable by their absence.

Heading the list is the lack of a freedom of information bill. Despite having been a Labour commitment for more than 20 years, those urging greater openness in government will have to continue to wait.

The Queen's Speech
Instead, like campaigners in a number of areas, they had to be content with a vague promise of future legislation.

Freedom of information

"My government believe in open government," the Queen told parliament.

David Clark: Still waiting for freedom of information bill
"Consultation on draft legislation is a contribution to this. They propose that a draft freedom of information bill be give pre-legislative scrutiny in both Houses."

But this is unlikely to placate the growing band of MPs, including the former minister David Clark who drafted a white paper on the subject before being sacked from the cabinet, demanding more urgent reform.

Food Standards Agency

The monarch also announced the government "will be taking forward proposals for the Food Standards Agency".

The day after the European Union decided to lift its ban on the export of British beef, it may seem the momentum of an independent body to monitor food safety has passed.

But campaigners point to more than a decade of scares, such as salmonella, E.coli 0157 and BSE, and insist the food industry cannot be left to regulate this area alone.

The sticking point appears to have been the cost of such an agency, though, which the government proposed passing on to food producers and retailers.

Under pressure from the supermarkets and amid fears the true cost would ultimately be passed to the consumer, the proposals would seem to have been temporarily shelved.

Transport reform

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott's much heralded an integrated transport policy equally appears to be stuck in traffic.

It too features in the Queen's speech only as a draft bill to establish a strategic rail authority.

This would aim to link together the disparate companies currently running various section's of the UK's rail network and ensure the system works as a whole.

Anti-fox hunt campaigners have failed to obtain a Bill
A "shadow strategic rail authority" is promised by the spring, but further reaching changes to get cars off the roads are not mentioned.

Party funding

The government has promised to compel all political parties to declare donations of more than 5,000.

This was thought to have been a relatively straightforward piece of legislation once the Neill Commission offered its verdict on the subject.

But the commission's recommendations on referendums - suggesting the government should not be allowed to campaign on either side - led ministers to retreat, saying change could have to wait two years.

Political funding is mentioned in the Queen's speech, as another draft bill, which would also provide for the establishment of an independent electoral commission.

Fox hunting

As expected, there is no mention of a bill to ban fox hunting, despite overwhelming support in the House of Commons for a previous Private Member's Bill.

Links to more Queen Speech stories are at the foot of the page.


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