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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 November, 2004, 02:41 GMT
Crime tops Queen's Speech agenda
The Queen's speech involves traditional pomp and ceremony
It is likely to be the last Queen's Speech ahead of an election
New measures to fight crime and drugs are expected to be at the heart of the Queen's Speech on Tuesday.

The creation of national ID cards, and new measures against anti-social behaviour and drug abuse, will feature.

Amid grand royal procession, the Queen opens Parliament's new session and sets out the government's programme in the run-up to the next general election.

Rules for the EU constitution vote and new laws on charities are also likely to be among more than 20 law plans.

Security - whether crime, terrorism or the economy - is set to be a key plank of Labour's campaign for the election expected in May next year.

ID cards
Creating Serious Organised Crime Agency
Drug tests for minor offenders
Offering schools more freedom
EU constitution referendum rules

With up to nine Home Office bills expected to be announced, Home Secretary David Blunkett insists he is trying to quell existing concerns.

But the Liberal Democrats accuse ministers of creating a "climate of fear" and the Conservatives say Mr Blunkett specialises in headline-grabbing "gimmicks".

New anti-terror laws, including the use of wire-tap evidence in courts, are not due until after the election.

But there will be legislation to introduce the controversial national ID card scheme.

Liberty fears

The biometric cards would be introduced in 2008 as part of efforts against terrorism, illegal working, misuse of public services and illegal immigration.

A decision on making them compulsory is not expected to be made until 2014 but Mr Blunkett says he is now thinking it could come sooner - perhaps between 2010 and 2012.

Civil liberties groups fear the scheme will enable officials to compile too much information about people and inflame race relations.

Parish councils could be able to impose fines for graffiti

Elsewhere, the speech is expected to include plans to allow police to drug test people arrested for minor crimes.

Addicts could also be forced into treatment and council tenants whose homes are used by drug addicts evicted.

There is likely to be a bill to create the new Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca).

Seen as Britain's version of the FBI, the new body will amalgamate some current squads to have 5,000 officers focused on drug smugglers, people traffickers and paedophiles.

A second key merger could bring together the probation and prison services in a Correctional Services Bill aimed at creating a single service to punish and rehabilitate offenders.

Animal rights protests

But ministers say one of the public's top concerns is lower level nuisance behaviour.

They plan to let town and parish councils issue on-the-spot fines for vandalism, graffiti and dropping litter.

Also expected is new action against militant activists who target those conducting research on animals.

An anti-vivisection protest
Animal rights protesters could be targeted if they threaten violence

The new laws could make harassing a worker at home an arrestable offence and enable courts to stop activists going to a particular address.

Away from law and order, the speech may pave the way for building the Crossrail link across London.

And union bosses also want to see plans to introduce a new offence of corporate manslaughter against bosses blamed for disasters killing their staff or customers.

On public services, there could be an Education Bill offering schools more freedom.

There have already been draft bills on updating the laws on charities, animal welfare and disability discrimination. Tuesday may see full-blown legislation promised.

Among the more controversial moves could be a continuation of the plans to shake-up the gambling laws and permit big new casinos to open.

'More talk'

Tony Blair has promised a referendum on the draft new EU constitution, possibly taking place in spring 2006.

The speech is likely to include laws setting the rules for the vote. The question will have to be vetted by the Electoral Commission and approved by Parliament.

Tory leader Michael Howard says the speech will offer the "same old talk" from Labour.

His alternative Queen's Speech promises cleaner hospitals, school discipline, more police, controlled immigration and moves towards lower taxes.

The Liberal Democrat version is instead topped with scrapping university tuition fees and replacing the council tax with a local income tax.

The party would also modernise policing, boost pensions for over-75s and introduce free personal care for the elderly.

The issues at the centre of the new parliament

The Queen's Speech 2004






Pomp and pageantry


Watch the speech
MPs debate the speech


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