Queen Elizabeth II Attends The State Opening Of Parliament. Photo: Getty Images
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Queen’s speech at a glance

A round-up of the legislative agenda announced for the coalition's last Parliament.

PENSIONS

The pension reforms are the centrepiece of the Coalition’s last legislative programme. The first bill introduces collective defined pension contributions, popular in Canada and the Netherlands.

The second lays out pensioners’ new freedoms, allowing them to withdraw cash freely from their pension pots and making the purchase of annuities optional rather than mandatory.

Drawn up by pensions minister Steve Webb, the reforms will be seen as chiefly Lib Dem offerings. Since this pensions overhaul was announced in the budget in March, the Coalition has left itself open to Labour’s charge that it is presiding over a “zombie Parliament” that makes few new laws.

 

CHILDREN

A bill introducing free childcare of up to £2,000 a year for parents of children under 12, which was set out earlier this year.

 

PLANNING AND INFRASTRUCTURE

New legislation relaxing planning laws and empowering new locally led garden cities to provide housing.

High-value government land is to be sold off to encourage development and increase housing provision. Help to Buy promoted in the speech, despite recent Bank of England warnings about its contribution to an over-heating housing market.

Reforms to speed up infrastructure projects, including new freedoms for the Highways Agency.

 

FRACKING

Modification of trespass laws to allow fracking companies access to run shale gas pipelines deep under private land without getting prior permission.

 

MODERN SLAVERY

Setting out terms of reparations from traffickers to victims of slavery, compensating exploitation and loss of dignity.

 

CORPORATE OWNERSHIP

Increasing the disqualification period for directors who neglect their responsibilities and break the law, and introducing compensation for victims.

The bill will also introduce a public register of beneficial ownership. Shares which do not reveal the owner – so-called "bearer shares" – are to be scrapped and new restrictions on corporate directors, the practice of naming companies rather than people as directors.

 

SERIOUS CRIMES

New measures against child neglect, and powers to disrupt criminal gangs and strengthen powers to seize the proceeds of organised crime.

 

MP RECALL

Empowering constituents to recall an MP found guilty by the standards committee of breaching the members’ code of conduct. First promised by ministers in 2010 in a bid to curb public outrage at MPs who kept their seats despite involvement in the expenses scandal in 2009. Recalled MPs will face a by-election.

  

HEROISM

Legal protection for individuals who act heroically, responsibly or for the benefit of others. Courts to take such actions, performed in good faith, into account and “heroic” individuals to be safeguarded from negligence claims.

 

SMALL BUSINESS

Promise to cut red tape and help small businesses access finance. The bill will force ministers to set and report a deregulation target for each Parliament.

 

PUBS

Introduction of a new statutory code and dispute adjudicator for pub landlords.

 

EMPLOYMENT

High penalties on employers who fail to pay their staff the minimum wage. Reduction in employment tribunal delays and improvement in fairness of contracts for low paid workers pledged.

Legislation to tackle avoidance of national insurance contributions and simplify collection from the self employed.

 

LIMIT ON PUBLIC SECTOR PAYOUTS

Preventing highly-remunerated NHS executives and civil servants from taking redundancy and then going back to the same place of work within a year. 

 

SCHOOLS AND EDUCATION

 

All children to receive free school meals. Help for more schools in England to become academies. GCSE and A level reform to raise standards in schools and prepare school pupils for employment.

Raising the number of apprenticeships to 2 million by the end of the Parliament.

 

... AND THE REST

SCOTLAND:  More financial powers to be granted to Holyrood.

WALES: The Welsh government given greater powers over taxation and investment.

ARMED FORCES WATCHDOG: Creation of an ombudsman to handle complaints in the armed forces.

PLASTIC BAGS: 5p charge for bags, as announced at Lib Dem conference last year

PARKS: Direct elections to national park authorities in England.

Lucy Fisher writes about politics and is the winner of the Anthony Howard Award 2013. She tweets @LOS_Fisher.

 

Photo: Getty
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The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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