Gordon Brown has said new government measures will offer "real help" to homeowners, families and businesses as he focuses squarely on the economy.
He told MPs planned new laws in the Queen's Speech would help the UK "in the downturn and the upturn" to follow.
In a slimmed down programme, ministers will attempt to prevent another banking crisis and protect depositors.
But David Cameron criticised the plans, calling it "last year's Queen's Speech from yesterday's prime minister."
The Tory leader said the programme of measures - which include forcing long-term jobless to do more to find work and to protect homeowners under threat of losing their homes - was driven by short-term political calculations not the need for long-term change.
The prime minister had failed to "be honest about the state of the country" and its economic position, he added.
The prime minister is wrong in a recession and he is wrong for a recovery
"The truth is that he is borrowing so much because he has spent so much," he said.
There was no commitment to public service reform nor any "recognition of how the world has changed" in the past year in terms of the problems facing business and families.
"The prime minister is wrong for a recession and he is wrong for a recovery."
But Mr Brown accused the opposition of failing to support measures to boost the economy and financial system and ignoring the reality that the economic downturn is a global phenomenon which requires global co-operation and solutions.
The Tories had shown they were "uncaring about the difficulties people face", he argued.
"In an era of yes, we can, only the opposition are saying no we won't."
Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said the package of measures was "meagre" from a "fag-end government running out of ideas".
Rarely has so much been promised and so little delivered
Nick Clegg Lib Dem leader
The measures were "no use and no help" to people facing "unprecedented" economic worries, doing nothing to cut household fuel bills or get banks to lend more freely.
"People have a right to expect something big from the government," he said.
"Rarely has so much been promised and so little delivered."
Earlier in a speech to MPs and peers, amid the traditional pomp and ceremony of the State Opening of Parliament, the Queen said: "My government's overriding priority is to ensure the stability of the British economy during the global economic downturn.
"My government is committed to helping families and businesses through difficult times."
Bills in the Queen's Speech include:
• Welfare Reform Bill: Plans to make the long-term unemployed in England, Scotland and Wales start training courses or face benefit cuts and to assess skills when people first claim.
• Citizenship, Immigration and Borders Bill: Brings together customs and immigration and introduces a new path to citizenship which rewards good behaviour but holds the process up "if migrants don't make an effort to integrate or commit even minor crimes".
• Banking Bill: Gives Bank of England statutory duty to ensure financial stability and allows the Treasury and FSA to intervene earlier to prevent another bank crisis. Was introduced early and has already started its passage through Parliament.
• Policing and Crime Bill: Increases accountability of police through directly elected representatives on police authorities. Tightens control of lap dancing clubs and cracks down on cheap alcohol sales.
• Equality Bill: for England, Wales and Scotland - Aims to streamline laws on sex, race and religious discrimination, improve enforcement and allow political parties to use all-women shortlists until 2030.
• Health Bill: Establishes an NHS Constitution outlining the rights and responsibilities of staff and patients.
• Child Poverty Bill: Will "enshrine in law the government's commitment to eradicate child poverty by 2020".
• Children, Skills and Learning Bill: New legislation to fulfil the government's pledge to eliminate weak schools by 2011.
There were 18 bills in the draft Queen's Speech, but this has been stripped down to 12, plus two carried over from the previous Parliamentary session, making it the shortest Queen's Speech since Labour came to power in 1997.
Plans to ban shops from displaying cigarettes in shops have been put on hold for further consultation amid fears they would hit small retailers.
But the Department of Health said new restrictions on the sale of tobacco aimed at protecting children, particularly those from a poor background, would be announced shortly.
The PM is aware that this Queen's Speech risks being overshadowed not just by Speaker Martin's statement but by virtually anything else
Pubs and bars are also likely to face a mandatory code of conduct banning "£10 all you can drink" deals and similar promotions and fines for drinking in public places where it is banned will go up from £500 to £2,500.
Among the bills not included is the Communications Data Bill, thought to include proposals for a giant database of all phone and internet traffic, which has been put out for further consultation.
Gordon Brown's much-vaunted Constitutional Renewal Bill - which would give MPs the final say over war and remove a ban on protests outside Parliament - has also been put on hold, to return when Parliamentary time allows.
Plans to extend the right to request flexible working to many more parents are included despite concerns about the impact on businesses during a likely recession.
Families on lower incomes are to be encouraged to save more through financial incentives.
And a voluntary code of conduct requiring banks to give customers notice if they plan to withdraw or alter credit facilities will be made mandatory, the government said, but this is not part of the Banking Bill.
Among the more eye-catching measures thought to be included in proposed welfare reforms are lie detector tests for people claiming benefits - already used by 25 councils - to try to reduce fraud.
But TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said the proposals looked like a "leftover from pre-recessionary times".
And the SNP said the Queen's Speech showed the "UK government has its head in the sand over the current economic reality".
And Plaid Cymru said there was need for much tougher controls on banks and energy companies to help hard-pressed families and businesses.
"I would like to see the banks coming under some form of regulation, to ensure that they do start lending to each other, but also, crucially, they start lending responsibly to individuals," said Elfin Llwyd, the party's leader at Westminster.
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