Security dominates Queen’s speech

PinkNews logo with white background and rainbow corners’s Tony Grew analyses the final Queen’s speech under Tony Blair’s rule

The last Queen’s Speech of Tony Blair’s premiership has been dominated by security measures aimed at cutting crime, curbing anti-social behaviour and combating terrorism.

The Queen, sitting on the throne in the House of Lords, told peers and MPs summoned from the House of Commons that the government intended to take “further action to provide strong, secure and stable communities and address the threat of terrorism.”

The Speech lists government legislation for the coming parliamentary session. It is written by the government and formally read out to parliament by the Queen.

Among the 29 new bills unveiled this morning, Her Majesty announced a climate change bill, which aims to reduce carbon emissions by 60% by 2050, and will establish a new, independent Carbon Committee to work with the government on reducing carbon use. The Tories and Liberal Democrats have been calling for yearly carbon reduction targets.

The government intends to merge all terror legislation into one coherent bill, and will ask once again for 90-day detention without charge for terrorism suspects.

The controversial three-month detention was rejected by MPs in the last session.

Evidence obtained by wiretap will be admissible in court. ID cards will proceed. There have been six terrorism bills since 2001, and a new ‘super bill’ might not be debated until next year.

The police are getting new powers to deal with serious and organised crime. It will become easier to deport immigrants who break the law or commit immigration crimes.

There will also be new regulations for UK estate agents, who will be compelled to join a redress scheme. Energywatch, Postwatch and the National Consumer Council (NCC) are to be merged into a super-consumer watchdog.

In what will be a busy session for Home Office ministers, the Queen also announced tougher sentences for violent offenders and new powers to remove people who commit anti-social behaviour from their properties.

Pensioners and disabled people will receive free off-peak bus travel across England for the first time. From April 2008, concessionary passes issued by local authorities will be recognised in all parts of the country.

The controversial Child Support Agency is to be abolished and replaced with a smaller enforcement agency. Single parents will no longer be forced to apply for maintenance if they apply for benefits. People who repeatedly fail to pay maintenance could have their passport seized or be placed under curfew.

A new mental health bill will be introduced which will ensure that people with mental health problems receive treatment in the community. There will be a new, simpler definition of mental illness and an overhaul of the treatment regime.

The Queen also announced extended powers for the London Mayor and Assembly and a new independent board to enhance public confidence in government statistics.

The Turner report proposals on pensions will be implemented, including restoring the link with earnings and the introduction of compulsory contribution schemes. Millions of women who have been deprived the state pension will now be covered.

This year’s State Opening of Parliament was the 55th attended by the Queen. There had been some concern that a back injury might lead her to miss the ceremony, but in the event the Queen was strong enough to attend.

She has missed the State Opening on only two occasions, 1959 and 1963, when she was pregnant with Princes Andrew and Edward respectively.