Queen's speech: More Scottish autonomy, EU referendum and tougher immigration on Tories' agenda

London: Britain's first Conservative-only government in nearly two decades on Wednesday unveiled its legislative agenda, confirming plans for tougher immigration policies, a referendum for the EU membership by the end of 2017 and more autonomy for Scotland.

In a speech to mark the official reopening of Parliament after the 7 May general election, Queen Elizabeth II read out a list of bills that Prime Minister David Cameron's government will attempt to pass through Parliament over the coming session.

The 89-year-old Queen laid out plans for an in-out EU referendum by the end of 2017 among other key policies drafted by Cameron's team after his surprise victory in polls.

 Queens speech: More Scottish autonomy, EU referendum and tougher immigration on Tories agenda

The Queen delivered a speech setting out the agenda of the Conservative Party. AP

It is now official that the UK government will try to reform Britain's relationship with the European Union (EU) and then offer the public a yes or no referendum on leaving the union.

Titled as a "One Nation" programme, the British monarch read out the 26-bill package from her throne at the House of Lords as part of an elaborate royal tradition which involves a lot of pomp and ceremony.

"My government will legislate in the interests of everyone in the country. It will adopt a one nation approach, helping working people get on, supporting aspiration, giving new opportunities to the disadvantaged and bringing different parts of our country together," she said.

Other important bills include a proposal to devolve more power to England, Wales and Scotland from Westminster, where the national Parliament sits.

The government said it would introduce legislation to transfer significant powers to the Scottish Parliament, making it one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world.

The home secretary will have new powers to ban extremists groups, and law-enforcement and local authorities will be able to close down premises that they deem are used to support extremism. Employers will also be able to ban suspected extremists from working with children.

A new immigration bill will allow police to seize the wages of anyone employed unlawfully.

Many of the proposed new laws were promised by the Conservatives during the general election campaign but Cameron will be able to press ahead with plans previously blocked by coalition partners Liberal Democrats after winning an overall majority on 7 May.

These include an Investigatory Powers Bill, dubbed snooper's charter by the British media, to give intelligence agencies new tools to target Internet data.

Cameron described his first legislative programme as the head of a Tory government as an agenda for "working people", with three million more apprenticeships promised over the next five years and a new law to ensure the minimum wage remains tax free.

"There should be a job for everyone who wants one – in other words, full employment," said the British Prime Minister in his introduction to the Queen's Speech.

Cameron said that after the British economy was hauled back from the brink of disaster in 2010, the UK now stands "on the brink of something special".

He said: "We have a golden opportunity to renew the idea that working people are backed in this country; to renew the promise to those least fortunate that they will have the opportunity for a brighter future; and to renew the ties that bind every part of our United Kingdom.

"We now have the mandate to deliver that renewal. And it starts with this Queen's Speech."

His plans also include more free childcare, an income tax freeze and the right-to-buy for housing association tenants.

However, he delayed plans to scrap the Human Rights Act to avoid a potential confrontation with his own backbenchers.

Instead, the government will bring forward proposals for a British Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act, with legislation expected following consultation later in the parliament.

Cameron's flagship policy of giving 1.3 million housing association tenants in England the right to buy their homes at a discount, is in the Queen's Speech.

Another key priority for the new government is Chancellor George Osborne's Northern Powerhouse plan, with a bill paving the way for HS2 and another piece of legislation enabling cities to bid for an elected mayor, with more powers over transport, planning, policing and health.

There is also a Trade Unions Bill, imposing a 50 per cent turnout threshold on strike ballots, with a further requirement in essential public services for strikes to be supported by 40 per cent of those entitled to vote.


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Updated Date: May 27, 2015 18:38:27 IST