Last updated: June 4, 2014 6:37 pm

Coalition injects life in to final acts

Reform of pensions, changes to fracking regulation and a shake-up of the Highways Agency will be enacted in law in the coming year, it was announced in the Queen’s Speech on Wednesday.

Supermarkets will be made to charge 5p for plastic bags and employers who abuse zero-hours contracts or fail to pay the minimum wage will face a government crackdown.

Labour sought to portray the initiatives as the last gasp of a “zombie parliament”, but David Cameron and Nick Clegg insisted the coalition had not run out of energy or ideas.

In a joint statement, Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg said they were still working together to “take Britain forward to a brighter future”.

However, behind the show of unity, the Conservative leader and his Lib Dem counterpart are already working on their strategies for the run-up to May 2015 when their parties will fight a general election as rivals, rather than partners.

The Lib Dems privately claimed they had prevented the Tories from introducing a new immigration bill to allow the deportation of unemployed EU migrants after six months.

As Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg were drawing up their joint statement, advisers were briefing that key policies were a victory for one party or another.

The Lib Dems cited pensions reform and a new code of conduct for pub tenants as proof that they have influence, despite being the junior coalition partner.

They have also sought to claim credit for the extension of free school meals for the first three years of school, and free childcare being made available to the 40 per cent most disadvantaged two-year-olds. The costs for these two measures will reach nearly £800m in the next financial year.

The party endured the loss of most of its MEPs in last month’s European elections while Mr Clegg had to face off a rebellion by scores of hostile activists.

The Tories sought to take the credit for a range of pro-business policies, including measures to make it easier for fracking companies and turning the Highways Agency into an arm’s-length company.

Measures announced in Queen’s Speech 2014

The bills announced in the Queen’s Speech, which will be legislated in the coming parliamentary year

Continue reading . . . 

These policies were set out in an infrastructure bill, which also exempts housebuilders from new environmental controls, while encouraging more “zero-carbon homes” from big developers.

That same bill simplifies the process for ministerial intervention in the planning system.

Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg said two pension bills would amount to “the biggest transformation in our pensions system since its inception”. One will introduce Dutch-style “collective pension” funds, and a second will enact the Budget promise to allow pensioners to withdraw their savings as a lump sum rather than having to buy an annuity.

A “modern slavery bill” will give tougher sentences to people traffickers, including an increase in the maximum sentences from 14 years to life.

Q&A: proposed collective pension plan

LONDON - MAY 19: In this photo illustration a pensioner holds GBP84.25 in their hand, the equivalent of 1 weeks pension based on your own, your late husband?s, wife?s or civil partner?s NI contributions on May 19, 2006 in London, England. A deal on pensions has been agreed between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and an age rise for when the pension can be taken, from 65 to 68 is likely to be enforced by the year 2050. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

Collective pension schemes already operate in the Netherlands and Canada and are thought to deliver a more stable retirement income. Josephine Cumbo, FT’s pensions correspondent, asks some answers some pertinent questions

Other fresh legislation is designed to crack down on the abuse of the minimum wage and bring in a new criminal offence to protect children from emotional neglect.

A serious crime bill will give crime agencies new powers to stop British citizens who fight in Syria from returning to the UK and carrying out terror attacks.

Ministers are gearing up for a fight over their plans to allow voters to vote down sitting MPs.

Zac Goldsmith, a Conservative backbencher, has long called for any MP to be put up for recall if 20 per cent of their constituents sign a petition calling for this to happen. The government’s proposals, however, would mean that only MPs who receive a jail sentence become eligible for recall.

Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, said the public needed a programme of government equal to the scale of the challenge faced by Britain.

“We would have a Queen’s Speech with legislation that would make work pay, reform our banks, freeze energy bills and build homes again in Britain,” he said. “A Queen’s Speech which signals a new direction for Britain, not one which offers more of the same.”

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