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The Queen's Speech Briefing No 73
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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.

Energy Bill

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 (Pilots) Bill

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 voting.

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.

Pensions Bill

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 Enterprise) Bill

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.

Further information

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.



Further Information

The full text of the Queen's speech can be viewed at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/

The Labour Party is also using the Queen's speech to launch its 'Big Conversation' consultation exercise. http://www.bigconversation.org.uk/