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Wednesday, November 17, 1999 Published at 11:32 GMT


UK Politics

Queen's Speech: At a glance



The Queen's Speech
A quick guide to the 28 bills unveiled by the Queen during the state opening of Parliament:

Electronic Communications
To allow net users to sign message electronically and introduce a "kitemark" for minimum standards of quality and service. Follows from last year's draft bill.

Financial Services Authority (carried over)
Intended to create a modern framework for regulation of financial services under a single regulatory authority. The bill is currently under consideration by the Commons committee.

Regulatory Reform
This legislation should simplify over-complex regulation and decrease the regulatory burden on businesses.

Postal Services
This is the bill to transform the Post Office into a public limited company, which the government says will bring it greater commercial freedom.

Utility Regulation
To force regulators to put consumers first and handing them powers to fine utility companies breaching their contractual requirements.

Insolvency
This bill would change the law to introduce a moratorium for small companies in financial difficulty and speed up the process of disqualifying unit directors.

Post-16 Education and Training
To establish the executive Learning and Skills Council body, which would be responsible for all further education in England and work with schools.

Care Leavers
The bill would place a new duty on local authorities to meet the care needs of 16 and 17 year olds coming out of care, creating Pathway Plans and Young Person's Advisers to help.

Welfare Reform
To change the formula for calculating child support so it is based on non-resident parents' net income and new measures to force reluctant absent parents to pay. It would also establish stakeholder pensions, introduce measures to remove benefits from people who fail to complete community sentences and try to make it easier to detect benefit fraud.

Special Educational Needs
The bill would put a duty of Local Education Authorities to offer a parent partnership service and provide schools with information about special needs services available. New measures would target discrimination.

Care Standards
To set up independent arrangements to regulate residential and nursing homes for the elderly and other groups and establish a General Social Care Council for England and a Care Council for Wales.

Crime and Probation
Compulsory drug testing under this bill would be extended across the criminal justice system, including anyone arrested. The bill would also extend the use of electronic monitoring in England and Wales.

Criminal Justice (Mode of Trial)
A controversial bill that would allow courts to decide whether certain defendants who currently would be offered the option get a trial before a magistrate or jury.

Sexual Offences (Amendment)
To bring the law for the homosexual age of consent into line with that for heterosexuals. There will be a free vote on the bill in the Commons, but the government will use the Parliament Act to force it through if the Lords reject it for the third time. An abuse of trust offence would also be created.

Prevention of Terrorism
The bill would replace the current counter-terrorism legislation, which has to be renewed every year and led to embarrassment for the home secretary when sections of it were inadvertently allowed to lapse. It would define "terrorism" to include domestic and international acts.

Regulation of Investigatory Powers
This would bring the UK into line with Europe by strengthening the regulation of covert surveillance, but it would provide for lawful access to encrypted data.

Race Relations (Amendment)
This bill is a direct response to the recommendations of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry report. It would extend the Race Relation Act to cover the police, something Jim Callaghan backed away from doing when he was home secretary.

Countryside
To provide the "right to roam" on open country such as mountain, moor and common land, taking account of the need for conservation and land management. The bill would also introduce new protection for wildlife through custodial sentences for some offences.

Transport
Another controversial bill, this giant piece of legislation would allow a public-private partnership for National Air Traffic Control, bring in new safety measures for the railways, allow local authorities to introduce road charging and change bus regulation.

Government Resources and Accounting
To ensure the full economic cost of government activities are measured by including in other costs not reflected in cost-based accounts.

Limited Liability
This bill would create an additional form of business entity with limited liability in the United Kingdom.

Trustee
To remove the restrictions in current legislation that impede trustees from taking advantage of current best investment practices.

Northern Ireland Policing
Building on the recommendations of the Patten commission into policing in Northern Ireland, this would bring in a number of highly sensitive changes, many of which are opposed by unionists. Consultation is continuing until November.

Political Parties and Referendums
This bill would set up an electoral commission to regulate the funding and spending by political parties and other related organisations. It would ban foreign donations and require the names of large donors to be published. Spending limits would be set for parties at elections and for referendum campaigns.

Representation of the People
Intend to stimulate falling turnout at elections, this would make it easier for people to register and vote through measures such as mobile and electronic polling stations.

Local Government
This bill would reform local government with the intention of making it more innovative and accountable.

Freedom of Information
This would create a statutory right to information for the public, but the many exemptions set out by Home Secretary Jack Straw means campaigners regard it as less than satisfactory.

Armed Forces Discipline
Independent judicial officers would be given the right to decide whether officers facing disciplinary charges are held in custody, instead of their commanding officers taking the decision. New appeal procedures would also be introduced.


Bills introduced under other measures:

Fur Farming
This bill would prohibit the keeping of animals for the purpose of slaughter for the sale of their fur.

Prosecutions Inspectorate
To create an independent Crown Prosecution Service inspectorate reporting to the attorney general

Nuclear Safeguards
To allow a new international agreement to strengthen nuclear safeguards to proceed.


Three draft bills have also been published:

International Criminal Court

Water

Commonhold / Leasehold



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