Britain targets fracking and pensions in Queen`s Speech

Last Updated: Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - 21:17

London: The British government announced proposals today to bring in pooled pensions and back controversial fracking plans as Queen Elizabeth II opened the final session of parliament before the 2015 general election.

The Queen`s Speech set out the final batch of legislation proposed by Prime Minister David Cameron`s Conservative- Liberal Democrat coalition ahead of the May polls.

But they set out just 11 new bills - the second-lowest number in two decades - leading the Labour opposition to claim it was a "zombie government" that has run out of ideas on which the two coalition partners can agree.

The state opening of parliament, one of Britain`s set-piece occasions, sees the monarch spell out her government`s plans for the year ahead in a ceremony filled with tradition and pomp.

Wearing the Imperial State Crown and an ermine robe, the 88-year-old queen summoned both houses of parliament to the throne.

"My lords and members of the House of Commons, my government`s legislative programme will continue to deliver on its long-term plan to build a stronger economy and a fairer society," she began.

"To strengthen the economy and provide stability and security, my ministers will continue to reduce the country`s deficit."

Pension reforms will mean workers can join Dutch-style collective schemes, in what Cameron called the "centrepiece" of the speech.

In other measures, an infrastructure bill supporting the development of fracking - hydraulic fracturing for shale gas - will be brought forward.

Early fracking tests have sparked protests over its potential impact on the environment.

In political reform, voters will be able to trigger a by-election if their lawmaker is jailed or found guilty of serious wrongdoing by the House of Commons, the lower house of parliament.

A five pence (eight US cent, six euro cent) charge for plastic bags will be introduced in England in an attempt to reduce waste.

With the Scottish independence referendum looming in September, the monarch said her government would hand new financial powers to the Scottish parliament "and make the case for Scotland to remain a part of the United Kingdom".

On international affairs, the sovereign said Britain would strive to improve the humanitarian situation in Syria, ensure the ongoing withdrawal of combat troops from Afghanistan goes smoothly and try to reach a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran.

AFP

First Published: Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - 21:17

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