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Immigration, extremism, Europe and tax cuts: Key promises from the Queen's Speech

The Conservative government has unveiled its first wave of post-election promises in the first Tory-only Queen's Speech in almost two decades.

The speech packed in 26 proposed new bills, including moves to tackle immigration, cut tax for low earners, devolve further powers to other UK nations and major cities, and plans for a referendum on membership of the EU.

Read more: Queen's Speech promises new laws 'for working people'

The Queen's Speech was held at the opening of Parliament today Credit: ITV News

Key measures announced today include:

  • EU Referendum Bill

The bill - one of the government's flagship promises - will set out a plan for an in-out vote on Britain's membership of the EU by the end of 2017.

This controversial issue was one of the main talking points of the election campaign, and the details of when the vote will happen, who can take part, and other details are likely to be fiercely debated.

  • Bill of Rights

A British Bill of Rights would, in theory, replace the Human Rights Act, which enshrines in law the UK's committment to the European Convention on Human Rights.

Critics claim the law has been exploited by foreign criminals and has given power to European judges to overrule those in Britain.

But supporters argue that an international agreement on human rights is essential to prevent politicians "picking and choosing" which rights they wish to honour.

  • National Insurance Contributions Bill and Finance Bill

Personal allowance will rise from £10,600 to £12,500, directly benefitting 30 million workers. The bill also ensures that no one working 30 hours a week on the current minimum wage of £6.50 an hour will ever have to pay any income tax at all.

The government's "tax lock commitment" will mandate that there are no rises in the rates of income tax, VAT or National Insurance over the course of the next five years.

It will also prevent the government from adding VAT to new items, or from raising the National Insurance upper earnings limit.

However, there will be no set threshold at which the various rates become payable, which some have warned means Chancellor George Osborne could still fiddle with rates to boost tax revenues.

£12,500
personal tax allowance, up from £10,600
  • Scotland Bill

The Conservatives have pledged to honour the Smith Commission's recommendations on giving more power to the Scottish Parliament, including the power to set their own income tax levels.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has pushed for further powers.

The House of Lords was packed for the speech Credit: ITV News
  • Wales Bill

This bills will devolve new powers over energy, transport and local government to the Cardiff Assembly.

  • Northern Ireland Bill

Last year's Stormont House Agreement will be set in stone under this bill, including the launch of an historical investigations unit to take forward inquiries into unsolved Troubles-related deaths.

  • Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill

Major cities in England with elected mayors will have much greater power over the way they are run, in a gesture towards helping to revive areas outside of London - particularly in the north of England.

Powers are expected to include running local transport, housing, schools, and healthcare, as well as support from the government in plans to boost the local economy.

  • Childcare Bill

Working parents will be able to claim 30 hours of free childcare a week for three- and four-year-olds, doubling the current allowance of 15 hours.

30
hours of free childcare for three- and four-year-olds
  • Housing Bill

The Right to Buy scheme will be extended to 1.3 million housing association tenants, giving them the opportunity to buy their homes at a discount. It currently only applies to council housing tenants.

Councils will also be required to sell off high-value properties and invest the proceeds into building affordable homes.

The Queen unveiled the government's plan for the coming five years Credit: ITV News
  • Enterprise Bill

At least £10 billion will be cut from business red tape over the next five years in a bid to help small businesses, along with plans to create two million jobs and hundreds of thousands of new apprenticeships.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid has said the government wants to "sweep away burdensome red tape, get heavy handed regulators off firms' backs and create a Small Business Conciliation Service to help resolve disputes".

  • Full Employment and Welfare Benefits Bill

Most working-age benefits, including tax credits and child benefit, will be frozen and a benefits cap of £23,000 benefits cap introduced, down from £26,000.

Automatic entitlement to housing benefits for 18-21-year-olds will be removed.

This bill will also impose a legal duty for government ministers to report to Parliament on how plans to achieve the goal of full employment is progressing, along with the creation of three million new apprenticeships.

£23,000
New proposed benefits cap
  • Trade Unions Bill

The reform of strike laws will toughen up restrictions on ballots, preventing public sector strikes from going ahead unless they have won the support of 40 per cent of workers who are eligible to vote.

Furthermore, there will have to be a minimum turnout of 50 per cent of those entitled to vote for a strike to go ahead.

The bill also expected to prioritise proposals to allow employers to hire agency staff to fill gaps left by workers who have gone on strike.

  • Investigatory Powers Bill

After major opposition from the Liberal Democrats prevented plans going through under the coalition, the Tories have revived plans to give intelligence agencies new tools to keep track of communications data.

This means existing powers allowing agencies to track anybody's internet use could be extended, with a review examining whether that should include the ability to directly access the content of communications sent and received by certain 'persons of interest'. Currently, they are only be able to read specific texts and e-mails with a dedicated warrant signed off personally by the Home Secretary, but this is among the measures being reviewed.

The legislation, which has not yet been drafted, is designed to "modernise" the current laws on investigatory powers. A Home Office spokesman told ITV News that it would be informed by the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson, who will publish his recommendations in the coming weeks.

It has been branded a "snooper's charter" by critics, who say it violates the right to privacy.

  • Immigration Bill

This bill aims to control immigration by making the UK a less attractive option.

Deportation will be made easier with the introduction of a "deport first, appeal later" rule, while access will be restricted to bank accounts and rented homes.

It will also target illegal working and employers who exploit illegal immigrants.

  • Extremism Bill

New banning orders and extremism disruption orders will be created to tackle hate preachers, while closure orders will mean mosques and other premises which host "extremist" events can be shut down.

Broadcast watchdog Ofcom will also be given the power to shut down channels which transmit extremist content. A leaked letter from former Culture Secretary Sajid Javid appeared to suggest plans could include the vetting of all television programmes for extremist content before they go to air, which he was opposed to.

Employers will be able to check whether an individual has links with extremism, and they can be barred from working with children.

  • Education and Adoption Bill

This bill is set to pave the way for an extension of the government's free schools policy, with 500 new free schools expected.

It will also force "coasting" schools - ones which consistently under-perform - to become academies.

Critics say the bill needs to include details on funding arrangements and on recruitment of new teachers.

500
new free schools under government plans
  • Psychoactive Substances Bill

So-called "legal highs" will be outlawed.

  • Energy Bill

Local communities will be given the final say on wind farm applications, instead of the decision being handed to the Energy Secretary.

The bill also includes measures to increase energy security and boost domestic gas and oil production.

But there were measures to tackle climate change as well, pledging to work with other countries on a new global deal at international discussions in Paris in December.

  • HS2 Bill

This bill will allow work to continue on the proposed high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham. If all goes well, it is expected to receive Royal Assent at the end of next year, with work beginning in 2017 and finishing in 2026.

  • Votes for Life Bill

The current time limit which prevents UK citizens living abroad from voting in Westminster and European elections will be scrapped.

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