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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 November, 2004, 11:36 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 be among more than 20 bills to be outlined.

The speech, which comes in the run-up to the next election, sets out the government's agenda for the year ahead and is delivered amid much ceremony.

Credit cards, road safety and schools are among other subjects being tackled.

The Conservatives say there will be more headline-grabbing "gimmicks" and accuse Labour of being "all talk and no delivery".

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

The Liberal Democrats accuse ministers of creating a "climate of fear".

The Queen arrived in Westminster by horse-drawn coach to open the new session of Parliament.

MPs have been ordered the House of Lords to hear her speech, which the Queen has now begun to deliver.

The speech will be dominated by Home Office measures, with up to nine Home Office bills expected to be announced.

Among them is a bill introducing national identity cards, including personal data on a microchip, in 2008 - although a decision on making them compulsory is not due until at least 2010.

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

New body

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

It does seem to me that, in the run-up to a general election, both the home secretary and prime minister are starting to talk up issues of fear and crime in this country
Mark Oaten
Lib Dem spokesman

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.

There will be new focus on drug abuse including compulsory drug testing for people arrested for some crimes, and the creation of a new offence of incitement to religious hatred.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said people would not feel free if they believed too little was being done against threats such as global terrorism.

"This is government properly responding to that threat and fear," he told BBC News.

But Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten said: "It does seem to me that, in the run-up to a general election, both the home secretary and prime minister are starting to talk up issues of fear and crime in this country.

"The British people are very mature and sensible. They recognise that we face some kind of terrorist threat. I don't think they would take kindly to politicians who work that fear up to try to win success at the ballot box in May."

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

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

The next general election is widely expected to be held in May 2005 - in which case many of the government's measures will not actually make it into law.

However, even if they do not become law, the measures are seen by many as setting the agenda for the run-up to polling day.

Other bills are believed to target graffiti and animal activists who threaten research company employees.

Referendum rules

The speech is also likely to include laws setting out the rules for a referendum on the draft new EU constitution, currently expected in spring 2006.

Conservative co-chairman Liam Fox said the speech offered only "more promises, more talk and more of the wrong priorities".

"They are not dealing with the things that the country expects them to deal with," he said.

Dr Fox said his party wanted better school discipline, more police, improved immigration controls, cleaner hospitals and a move towards lower taxes.

The Liberal Democrat version of the speech is topped with scrapping university tuition fees, replacing the council tax, modernising policing and boosting pensions for the over-75s.




The Queen's Speech 2004

KEY STORIES


ANALYSIS


MAJOR MEASURES

 

IN PICTURES

Pomp and pageantry

VIDEO AND AUDIO

Watch the speech
MPs debate the speech

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