Briefing No. 73 Nov. 2003
The Queen's Speech –
UK Legislative Programme
The Queen's speech sets out the UK Government's
legislative programme for the next session. 23 bills and 7 draft
bills in what is likely to be the last full session before the
next General Election.
Many of the bills do not apply to Scotland. Most
of the controversial headlines also relate to English bills most
notably tuition fees for English universtities.
Bills with a Significant Scottish Element
Civil Partnership Bill
The Civil Partnership Bill would enable same
sex "civil partners" to sign a document entitling them to the
same legal rights as married couples. There is a separate Scottish
consultation on this dealing with the devolved issues.
Includes plans to set up a Nuclear Decommissioning
Authority that will be responsible for cleaning up Britain's nuclear
installations. Also measures that will impact on Scotland's energy
structure including the introduction of BETTA and provisions to
secure future energy supplies.
Scottish Parliament (Constituencies) Bill
Proposals to safeguard the number of MSPs (129)
in the Scottish Parliament. Welcome confirmation of the consultation
outcome and supported by UNISON Scotland. Still unpopular with
a number of Scottish MPs as their numbers are still to be reduced.
Whilst this will be a tightly drawn bill it is likely to be a
platform for raising procedural changes in the Commons covering
the rights of Scottish MPs to vote on English bills. The 'West
Lothian' question as it is known was highlighted recently during
the foundation hospitals vote.
European Parliamentary and Local Elections
A short bill that allows for a variety of innovative
voting methods to be used in pilot schemes for next year's European
elections. We hope Scotland will be the test bed for total postal
Constitutional Reform Bill
The historic position of Lord Chancellor will
be abolished and the House of Lords will be replaced as the highest
court in the land by a supreme court. Some Scottish legal issues.
UK Bills covering 'Reserved' issues
European Union Bill
This bill paves the way for the proposed EU constitution
to be ratified by the UK if and when European leaders agree it.
Employment Relations Bill
This bill includes a number of measures aimed
at improving the rights of workers and offering better protection
against unfair dismissal. However, it is unlikely to cover all
the measures we would wish to have included and fails to respond
to the International Labour organisation's criticisms of the UK's
anti-trade union laws.
This aims to protect the retirement savings of
British workers. Progress in the right direction but not the comprehensive
reform we would be looking for.
House of Lords Bill
This will remove the final hereditaries from
the Upper House and create a fully-appointed chamber. Other options
will no doubt be proposed.
Civil Contingencies Bill
Police and ministers are to get new powers to
deal with terror incidents and other emergencies. There are likely
to be serious civil liberties issues.
Immigration and Asylum Bill
A new single tier of appeal against asylum application
decisions is intended to streamline the system. This is the third
such bill further limiting the rights of those fleeing from persecution
Companies (Audit, Investigations and Community
The government wants to introduce tough new laws
aimed at preventing Enron-style corporate abuses in the UK. Doubts
about how tough given business lobbying and unlikely to be as
tough as US legislation.
Draft Disability Discrimination Bill
Includes provisions to extend the Disability
Discrimination Act to cover people with HIV and cancer from the
point of diagnosis.
Draft Single Currency (Referendums) Bill
This would allow for a UK-wide referendum on
British membership of the euro in the event the chancellor's five
economic tests are met.
The full text of the Queen's speech can be viewed at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/3236220.stm
Detailed government briefings on the bills are available from
the P&I Team.
The Big Conversation
The Labour Party is also using the Queen's speech
to launch its 'Big Conversation' consultation exercise. http://www.bigconversation.org.uk/.
The launch document will be published on Friday. We will be setting
out UNISON's approach to this consultation in the next few weeks.