Queen's Speech: Immigration Curbs Dominate

Queen's Speech: Immigration Curbs Dominate

New measures to tackle immigration were among the Government's priorities outlined in this year's Queen's Speech.

In its legislative programme for the year ahead, the coalition also set out plans to cap bills for social care, introduce a flat-rate pension, cut the regulation burden on small businesses and extend consumer rights.

At the heart of the Government's agenda, a new Immigration Bill was unveiled to regulate migrant access to the NHS as well as introduce stiffer fines on businesses which exploit illegal labour.

Foreign criminals and illegal immigrants also face a crackdown with a new bill making it easier to deport them - including powers to prevent the abuse of human rights laws.

The Queen told MPs and peers that the bill will aim to "ensure that this country attracts people who will contribute and deter those who will not".

Meanwhile, a £72,000 cap will be introduced from 2016 on the amount people in England have to pay for social care, to end a situation where pensioners have to sell their homes to pay for care in their final years.

And millions of people caring for elderly and disabled relatives in England will be given the right to receive support from their local councils.

A Pensions Bill will introduce a single-tier pension, worth around £144 a week at today's prices, and will bring forward to 2026 the date at which the retirement age rises to 67.

And consumers are to receive greater protection when using offshore gambling sites with new measures to ensure all operators in the local market hold a UK licence.

Amid all the traditional pomp and ceremony in the House of Lords, Her Majesty made clear that the Government's "first priority" remains restoring Britain's economic health, something which cannot simply be legislated for.

She announced paving legislation for further necessary measures for the £33bn construction of the high-speed rail link between London, Birmingham and the north of England, keeping the controversial project on track. 

Businesses will be assisted through a bill to create a £2,000 annual employment allowance to reduce National Insurance bills for every company and charity.

And a Deregulation Bill will aim to reduce the burden of excessive red tape on business, public bodies and individuals by repealing legislation that is no longer of practical use, and placing a duty on regulators to have regard to the impact of their actions on growth.

Self-employed people whose work activities pose no potential risk of harm to others will be exempted from health and safety law.

The Queen also said the Government would protect the Falkland Islanders' right to self-determination as she opened the new session of Parliament.

Measures to reduce crime and disorder will include tougher controls on dogs which are dangerously out of control, a new "community trigger" to ensure action is taken on persistent anti-social behaviour, larger fines for illegal importation of firearms and making forced marriage a criminal offence.

Meanwhile, there will be new measures to encourage the rehabilitation of prisoners after they leave jail.

Plans to make it easier for victims of asbestos-related cancer to claim compensation were also unveiled.

But the Queen's Speech, which featured 20 bills, including some in draft form or carried over from the previous session, was also notable for what was omitted - such as the so-called snoopers' charter to monitor internet and social media use, opposed by the Liberal Democrats, and any further moves on an EU referendum in the wake of the success of UKIP at last week's local elections .

Sky News Political Editor Adam Boulton said the failure to do any more about the referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union would pile yet more pressure on the Prime Minister to act from his eurosceptic backbenchers.   

There was also no place for mooted health protection measures to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes and minimum unit prices for alcohol - although Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt earlier insisted that no final decision had been made to kill off the proposals.

Mr Hunt told Sky News that no decision over introducing the plans had been made yet, adding: "We don’t want to do something that is damaging to industry unless it’s going to have those health benefits."

In an introduction to their legislative agenda, Prime David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the Queen's Speech was "all about backing people who work hard and want to get on in life".

They said: "In May 2010, we came together to govern in the national interest. We knew the road ahead would be tough and so it has proved to be.

"But three years on, our resolve to turn our country around has never been stronger. We know that Britain can be great again because we've got the people to do it. Today's Queen's Speech shows that we will back them every step of the way."

But Labour leader Ed Miliband said: "Today's Queen's Speech should respond to the deep problems the country faces. On the evidence so far, it is not up to the scale of the task."

Unions also attacked the speech. Public and Commercial Services union general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "With its policies causing untold damage to our economy and our communities, it is shameful of the Government to try to stoke up even more fear and suspicion of migrants.

"This is not so much 'dog whistle' politics, more a shrill and desperate cry to satisfy the extremes of the Tory Party."

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis added: "There is little comfort in this programme for the young, the unemployed, the working poor, the sick, the vulnerable or the millions who have seen their living standards fall drastically since this coalition Government came to power."

It was the first time in 17 years that the Prince of Wales attended the State Opening of Parliament, in a move indicating his growing role supporting the Queen in her official duties.

Charles has previously accompanied the Queen to the occasion at the Palace of Westminster 11 times, but not since 1996.

His appearance, together with the Duchess of Cornwall, comes after it was announced that the Queen will miss the Commonwealth summit later this year for the first time in 40 years as part of a review of her long-haul travel.