LONDON: Queen Elizabeth unveiled yesterday Britain’s last legislative programme before the next national election, citing mostly minor new laws and fuelling opposition criticism that the coalition was out of ideas.
In a ceremony in the upper house of parliament rich in pomp and pageantry, it took the queen less than 10 minutes to list 11 new pieces of legislation Prime Minister David Cameron’s government plans to enact before a May 2015 general election.
With the exception of legislation overhauling Britain’s pensions system, much of what she announced was already known and many of the measures were relatively minor in scale.
She confirmed plans to give people more control over their pension savings, with new measures including the introduction of collective pension schemes which allow members to pool risk.
The yearly Queen’s Speech is regarded as a major fixture of political life when governments can unveil up to about thirty new laws. Incumbent governments have often used such pre-election occasions as an opportunity to try to woo voters with eye-catching measures.
But Cameron’s government, a sometimes fractious tie-up of his right-leaning Conservative Party and the centre-left Liberal Democrat Party, cannot agree on how to tackle many of the bigger policy issues such as European integration and immigration.
As next year’s election draws closer, both are also keen to differentiate themselves from one another to appeal to their traditional voters, further undermining any incentive to coordinate policy-making.
However, the introduction of fixed five-year parliaments in 2011 and both parties’ desire to appear responsible in voters’ eyes means that in practice the government is obliged to hold together even if ideological differences prevent the coalition partners from agreeing a fuller legislative programme.