The Queen's Speech: What to expect

Queen Elizabeth delivers her speech, during the State Opening of Parliament, in the House of Lords within the Palace of Westminster 2009
Queen Elizabeth delivers her speech, during the State Opening of Parliament, in the House of Lords within the Palace of Westminster 2009 Photo: Reuters

The Queen's speech is expected to cover a raft of 'family-friendly' policies today when Parliament is officially re-opened.

The family focus comes as the coalition Government steps up its bid to recover from a catalogue of problems and a local election mauling.

More flexible leave for parents, faster adoption processes, better help for special needs pupils and improved access arrangements for divorced fathers will all be included in a wide-ranging Bill, Downing Street sources indicated.

The unveiling of legislative plans for the coming year is a key part of an attempted government relaunch amid bleak economic news and backbench pressure for a change of course.

Nick Clegg and David Cameron relaunch the coalition
Nick Clegg and David Cameron relaunch the coalition Credit: Reuters

David Cameron and Nick Clegg defended the two-year-old power-sharing deal yesterday - insisting that it was now more important than ever before in the fight to cut the state deficit and balance the country's books.

Among the measures expected today are

  • Binding votes for shareholders on executive pay - bolstering a growing revolt against boardroom excess
  • Public sector pension reform
  • Efforts to slash business red tape
  • Energy market regulation
  • The creation of a National Crime Agency
  • Tougher regulation of supermarkets
  • A new ban on driving while under the influence of drugs

And there will detailed plans for the splitting up of banks to avert a repeat of the 2008 crash.

But the Government will also signal its intent to press ahead with reform of the House of Lords - a key Liberal Democrat demand but the focus for anger among many Tory MPs, including senior figures.

A Number 10 source said the inclusion of a Bill covering a host of family policies would demonstrate that the premier was "passionate" about giving children a good start in life.

Among its provisions will be ending what Mr Cameron calls "absurd" barriers to mixed-race adoptions by making speed a more important factor than race in the adoption process.

It will also confirm the intention to consult on changing the law to give divorced fathers better access to their children - despite an official review recommending it should not happen.

Care proceedings in court will be subjected to a time limit of six months and the system of providing support for special needs pupils speeded up and simplified.

And there will be moves to provide access to "flexible parental leave" - reported to include the chance for new mothers to transfer more of their maternity leave to fathers.

Dealing with the deficit and getting the economy growing remains the coalition's number one priority

But we're also grappling with some long-term issues around adoption, the care system, and children with disabilities, to make life better for some of the most vulnerable children in society. The PM is passionate about making sure that these children get the best start in life that they can, and this Bill will help us to do that.

– Downing Street source

Labour leader Ed Miliband set out his own priorities for the next year yesterday as he warned the coalition was presiding over a "crisis of politics" that was turning off voters.

What would we be doing in the Queen's Speech tomorrow? We'd be saying, 'Let's take different choices on taxation, let's help working families and pensioners, not cut taxes for millionaires.

'Let's tax the bankers' bonuses and put our young people back to work, let's stand up to the energy and train companies, to make a difference to living standards'.

We need an economy that works for working people; instead, we've got one that works for a few at the top and the Government is making it worse.

– Ed Miliband, Labour leader