David Cameron has hailed the Queen's Speech as “a packed programme of a busy and radical government” amid claims the coalition has run out of steam.
He was defending the 11 new bills that make up the coalition's plans for its final year in power before an election. Highlights include pension reforms, new rights for fracking firms and limited power to recall misbehaving MPs.
Labour sources said it was “staggering” that the NHS and immigration were not mentioned in the Queen's Speech.
Ed Miliband said the speech failed to match the scale of the challenges Britain faces. The Labour leader told MPs: “We would have a Queen's Speech with legislation which would make work pay, reform our banks, freeze energy bills and build homes again in Britain.
“A Queen's Speech which signals a new direction for Britain, not one which offers more of the same.”
Mr Cameron said the government's “long-term economic plan is working but there is much, much more to do,” adding that it would “take the rest of this Parliament and the next to finish the task of turning our country around”.
He accused Mr Miliband of having a “rag bag, pick-and-mix selection of statist Seventies ideas”, describing them as a “revival of Michael Foot's policies paid for by (Unite union leader) Len McCluskey's money”.
Among the measures announced were:
- A bill implementing reforms to annuities allowing people to draw their retirement income in one go if they choose
- A separate bill to allow employees to pay into collective pension funds shared with other workers
- A new state-funded childcare subsidy worth up to £2,000 a year, replacing the existing employer-funded scheme
- A bill offering extra legal protection for people being sued for negligence if they acted heroically or in the public interest
- Curbs on “excessive redundancy payments” for highly-paid public servants
- Tougher penalties for employers who fail to pay the minimum wage and a crackdown on the abuse of zero hours contracts
- Plans for a 5p charge for plastic bags in England
- A bill allowing fracking firms to run shale gas pipelines deep under private land without getting prior permission
- Tougher powers to seize the assets of crime bosses, tackle cyber crime and make possession of written paedophilia a criminal offence
- A Modern Slavery Bill with tougher penalties for human trafficking
- Help for pub landlords including a statutory code and a body to adjudicate dispute
- Giving voters the power to trigger by-elections where MPs have committed serious wrong-doing
The Queen presided over the state opening of Parliament for the 63rd time, amid the traditional pomp and ceremony.