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QUEEN'S SPEECH - A SUMMARY

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With major Bills ranging from transport to the continuing reform of the welfare state, the government intends to bu...
With major Bills ranging from transport to the continuing reform of the welfare state, the government intends to build on the successes of the previous two sessions by bringing forward ideas to improve life in Britain across the whole range of government activity. The speech made clear that, while much had been achieved, there was much still for the Government to do, and it would continue to focus on its priorities of crime, transport, welfare, health and education.

Carrying forward the government's enterprise agenda will be Bills taking action to drive forward the concept that the public and private sectors can work closely and effectively together in the interests of consumers.

They will strengthen the financial services, assist the growth of e-commerce and make the utilities more competitive. They include proposals to help industry adapt to the internet age, and bring greater transparency and trust to the financial services.

The Postal Services Bill will create a public limited company wholly owned by the government. This will give the Post Office the greater commercial freedom it needs to meet its full potential and to compete more effectively at home and abroad. The reforms mean a better deal for consumers through more competitive pricing, innovation, variety and choice of services, and higher standards of service.

The speech recognised that enterprising business needs a better transport system. The Transport Bill announced today will establish a Strategic Rail Authority to give coherence to an industry disrupted by a rushed privatisation. It will make rail regulation more effective and accountable. It will also give local authorities the power to improve local bus services and to consider congestion and workplace parking charges if they make the funds generated available to extend transport choice. It will also pave the way for new investment in air safety.

After years of neglect, public transport is crying out for better investment, and these measures offer imaginative opportunities to communities to use a range of policies suited to local needs, shaped by local people.

Building on the government's fairness agenda will be reforms to child support and pensions, action on crime and justice to make communities safer, improvements in transport choice and quality and new improvements to training to help people become better equipped for the jobs of the future.

The legislative agenda continues the modernisation of government with the freedom of information legislation, reform of local government and by providing for fair and open conduct of elections and referendums.

The proposed changes to juries will continue to protect the rights of defendants to have fair access to justice, but will ensure that the jury system is not abused. The Freedom of Information Bill will give unprecedented access to public sector documents and gives wide powers to the information commissioner. The e-communications Bill promotes the use of the internetbut recognises that people need protection from potential abuses whether to do with crime or financial security.

Further modernisations will include the transformation of the Child Support Agency; the introduction of real access to the countryside; modernisation of the jury system; the opening up of politics to make it more transparent and accountable; and new steps to tackle racism and to promote equality of opportunity in the wake of the Stephen Lawrence report.

The Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Bill introduced in this Queen's Speech is the next stage in modernising the welfare state for the 21st century, eradicating child poverty in a generation and building the foundations for security in retirement. It will radically reform the poorly performing child support system to ensure that money gets to children more speedily and effectively - over 1 million children will gain. The Bill will also see the final stage of the Government's pension strategy, ensuring security for people with a lifetime of contributions.

The government's top priorities in the public services continue to be education and health. This is relected in in the extra£40bn in spending now coming on stream this year, next year and the year after.

The Learning and Skills Bill announced today will radically improve post-16 education and training to drive up standards. It will also address the skills needs of business and ensure greater coherence and opportunity as part of our commitment to building a learning society for all. The government wants to see a big increase in the numbers staying on in education beyond sixteen and intends to make lifelong learning a reality.

The Care Standards Bill will ensure tighter regulation of care homes in both the public and private sector, will introduce tough new checks on private health care and drive up standards in care services for the young and the elderly.

The Queen ended her speech by saying that the government believed this substantial programme addressed its real priorities, and that it would prepare Britain for the challenges of the next millenium.

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