In today’s Queen’s Speech, the Government included both an Energy Bill to fund Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and a Floods and Water Management Bill to allocate responsibility for floods in addition to action on a high speed rail link between London and Scotland, although opposition MPs claim the legislative timetable is unrealistic.
Gordon Brown today published his opening election gambit at the annual opening of Paliament, in the Queen’s Speech.
Only 13 Bills and two draft Bills were published.
Of interest are two key Bills:
- The Floods and Water Management Bill, designed to implement the recommendations of Sir Michael Pitt’s report into the 2007 floods, and
- An Energy Bill to fund experimental CCS technology.
The Queen said: “My government’s overriding priority is to ensure sustained growth to deliver a fair and prosperous economy for families and businesses, as the British economy recovers from the global economic downturn.
“Through active employment and training programmes, restructuring the financial sector, strengthening the national infrastructure and providing responsible investment, my government will foster growth and employment.”
She went on to say: “Legislation will be introduced to support carbon capture and storage and to help more of the most vulnerable households with their energy bills.
“Legislation will be introduced to protect communities against flooding and to improve the management of water supplies.”
Consultants praised the inclusion of the Floods Bill. principal engineer at Royal Haskoning, Granville Davies said: “The passing of this bill will enable local authorities to take the lead in local flood risk management in the UK and brings an essential EU directive into UK legislative frameworks.
“With 3.8M properties in England alone at risk of surface water flooding, the bill will also facilitate essential surface water management planning activity. This will enable greater understanding of surface water flood risks, the identification of flood risk management assets, and improved collaboration between stakeholder groups to implement preventative measures.”
However, developers have been critical of the lack of additional funding for the Environment Agency in the Floods Bill. Chief executive of the British Property Federation, Liz Peace, said: “Landlords and insurers are still likely to have reservations over the government’s funding commitment for flood defences.
“While the proposals will go some way to reducing risk, what we need to see an end to this obsession with consultation and some real action to pass these quite urgent measures.”
Interestingly, in her speech, The Queen also said: “My Government will respond to proposals for High Speed Rail services between London and Scotland.”
The High Speed 2 group was formed a year ago to look at possible routes from London to the West Midlands and is due to report to government next month.
The speech also outlined a legal obligation to halve government debt within four years in the Fiscal Responsibility Bill.
Other Bills of interest include:
- The Digital Economy Bill will allow OFCOM to promote the construction of new wired and wireless digital infrastructure
- The Bribery Bill, which will make it an offence to pay, offer or accept a bribe either here or abroad, and companies could be penalised if they fail to prevent bribes being paid, unless “adequate procedures” are in place.
However, with only 70 days of Parliament left to pass this legislation, many believe the timetable is unrealistic.
Liberal Democrat Shadow Scotland Secretary Alistair Carmichael said: “We will see is the kind of empty spin that has made the country so sick of this Government.
“This amounts to little more than political posturing by Gordon Brown, as we can expect few of the measures to become law ahead of an election.”
Conservative peers have also pledged to block the majority of these Bills in the House of Lords, hampering their progress towards Royal Assent.
2009/10 Legislative Agenda:
- Financial Services Bill - to promote stability, efficiency and competition in financial markets, and reduce the frequency and impact of systemic financial crises
- Fiscal Responsibility Bill - commits the Government to halve government debt within four years
- Personal Care at Home Bill - to provide free personal care to those with the most needs in their own homes
- Children, Schools and Families Bill - to guarantee tailored tuition for each primary and secondary school child, abolishing national literacy and numeracy strategies
- Crime and Security Bill - to make parents responsibe for their child’s antisocial behaviour
- Digital Economy Bill - to expand the digital economy and to improve the communications infrastructure
- Energy Bill - to introduce a £9.5bn fund for ‘up to four’ CCS demonstration projects and encourage households and businesses to reduce carbon emissions
- Flood and Water Management Bill - to clarify flood and coastal risk responsibilities
- Equality Bill - to encourage a culture of equality
- Child Poverty Bill - sets targets relating to the eradication of child poverty
- Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill - to establish statutory management of the civil service
- Draft House of Lords Reform Bill - to create an 80 -100% elected House of Lords
- Bribery Bill - to provide a new, comprehensive scheme of bribery offences
- Cluster Munitions Prohibitions Bill - to introduce new arms control agreements
- Draft International Development Spending Bill - to commit to spending 0.7% of gross national income on official development assistance by 2013