May 24, 2010 3:00 am

Bill to sell stake in Royal Mail to go ahead

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Ministers will press ahead with a bill enabling the sale of a stake in the state-owned Royal Mail despite its omission from a draft of the Queen's Speech leaked over the weekend.

While the bill will not be pushed through parliament this summer, the coalition still intends to legislate for the controversial part-privatisation by next summer.

The Communication Workers Union, which is bitterly opposed to the move, will debate a motion on the issue at its annual conference today. The union will pass a motion late in the morning dedicated to rejecting the move and campaigning against it.

Tomorrow's Queen's Speech, which heralds the state opening of parliament, is a chance for the new coalition to prioritise which measures from last week's five-year agreement are likely to reach the statute books first.

That 33-page document, announced last Thursday, gave the most definitive statement of what the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition intends to do with the coming parliamentary term. While the two parties have found common ground on a number of issues, such as accelerating the cutting of the deficit, they have sidestepped the more controversial by either allowing the Lib Dems a free vote or putting issues under review.

Those policies that will be legislated for in the coming year emerged yesterday as a draft list of 21 bills was published in The Sunday Telegraph and Sunday Mirror. Those to be introduced immediately will: allow more schools to become academies; halt a local government shake-up in Exeter and Norwich; and scrap identity cards - a key plank of the two parties' commitment to greater civil -liberties.

That will be followed by a programme of political reform that could include a parliamentary reform bill, with measures to provide for five-year fixed-term parliaments and powers to enable voters to get rid of MPs found guilty of serious wrongdoing.

The bill could also be the vehicle for delivering a referendum on voting reform for Westminster elections - a key demand of the Liberal Democrats in the coalition negotiations. The two parties have agreed to whip this law through parliament while allowing their MPs to campaign on different sides of the debate during the run-up to the referendum itself.

The leak of the Queen's Speech - even if it is not the final draft - is potentially hugely embarrassing to the new government, which is still trying to "bed down" its internal lines of communication.

The main theme, which was first used last Thursday at the launch of the coalition's joint five-year programme, is "freedom, fairness and responsibility".

Bills to be introduced before the summer recess include one to set up the new Office of Budget Responsibility, another ("the Great Repeals Bill") to scrap DNA databases and review the use of closedcircuit television cameras and others to compensate Equitable Life victims, freeze the assets of more terrorism suspects and part-reverse next year's rise in national insurance.

When MPs return from the summer recess, the government will enact key reforms to banking regulation in a financial services regulation bill to be published by the Treasury. It will put more powers for macroprudential oversight in the hands of the Bank of England and may also be the vehicle for a banking levy and curbs on bonuses.

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