Queen's Speech: Cameron reveals radical agenda

Prime Minister's one nation pledge 'could look like the bleakest of ironies' by the end of the parliament


The first all-Conservative Queen's Speech in 19 years was delivered today, setting out a radical programme of change for Britain.

Sitting on the throne in the House of Lords, the Queen read out the speech outlining the policies and legislation proposed for the parliamentary year by David Cameron's new government.The Tories' slim majority of 12 will enable the party to pursue many of its manifesto policies, as well as some of the bills vetoed by its Coalition partner over the last five years.Plans to cut welfare and limit strike action immediately highlighted the new government's "freedom from Lib Dem shackles", says Iain Watson, political correspondent for BBC News. But, politically, the Conservatives are focused on consolidating any ground taken from Labour, he says. Cameron borrowed the opposition's language of "one nation" and defied Ed Miliband's predictions that a Tory government would increase VAT and cut child benefit.Nevertheless, if a Tory majority is maintained, Britain will be "transformed in ways which are likely to be controversial", says Watson. "The size of the state will reduce. Working age benefits will be less generous. The deficit will be eliminated. And, if successful, the idea of a 'Northern Powerhouse' will help re-balance the economy away from the south-east."Stephen Pollard at the Daily Express describes it as a "huge and radical programme of change", while the Daily Telegraph's Mary Riddell says it may even go down as the "most dangerous Queen's Speech in living memory".By the end of this parliament, Britain may have exited the EU and scrapped the Human Rights Act, she says. "Two such momentous issues require a deft government and a valiant opposition. Britain can rely on neither."But George Eaton at New Statesman thinks the greatest danger is that the death of one union could lead to the death of another. "Were Scotland to vote to remain in the EU and the rest of the UK to vote to leave, the SNP would cite this as grounds for another independence referendum," he warns. "By the end of the parliament, should the Union fracture into two nations, [Cameron's] promise of 'one nation' could look like the bleakest of ironies."Here's what else was announced in the Queen's Speech:


Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Measures on work were at the heart of the Tory's first legislative programme, with the employment bill set to be "fast-tracked" through parliament. This will push for two million more jobs and three million more apprenticeships over the next five years with the aim of achieving the highest employment rate of any major economy.


The government is hoping to fast-track a new counter-terrorism bill that will impose greater restrictions on extremists trying to radicalise young people. Proposals include new powers to close premises, including mosques, where extremists are attempting to build influence. The controversial bill was previously vetoed by the Liberal Democrats but was revived in the Tory manifesto.


Chancellor George Osborne has pledged to devolve greater powers to English cities if they agree to be governed by a directly elected mayor. The cities devolution bill is seen as a balance to the powers that Cameron has promised to the Scottish parliament and is expected to offer elected city mayors the opportunity to control health, transport, housing and planning.


Cameron has named Thatcherite Sajid Javid as Business Secretary, with plans to cut red tape and boost exports. The Financial Times says the appointment is "emblematic of Mr Cameron's plan to lead a government with free market instincts allied to a series of measures to show the Conservatives are on the side of aspiring working families". Ministers have said they will push ahead with plans to make public sector striking illegal unless it is backed by at least 40 per cent of all workers entitled to vote on industrial action.


To pay for the three million apprenticeships, the employment bill also plans to reduce the annual benefit cap from £26,000 to £23,000 per household. Returning as Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith will oversee the implementation of the party's welfare plans.


Another bill to be "fast-tracked" through parliament concerns childcare. The Tories want to double the amount of free childcare for working families with three and four year olds to 30 hours a week.


Cameron has promised that "early legislation" will be introduced to provide for an in/out referendum on the UK's European Union membership before the end of 2017. He has also pledged to "bring forward proposals" for a British Bill of Rights. More solid plans to scrap the Human Rights Act appear to have been put on hold following opposition from senior Tory MPs.


Cameron wants to introduce legislation to freeze income tax, rates, value-added tax and national insurance for the next five years. He will also try to raise the earnings threshold for income tax from £10,600 to £12,500 during this parliament and legislate for a permanent tax-free minimum wage for people working at least 30 hours a week.


The government looks likely to press ahead with plans to extend Margaret Thatcher's controversial right-to-buy scheme, which would allow housing association tenants to buy their homes with similar discounts offered to council tenants.


Government will increase the health budget, integrate health and social care and ensure the "NHS works on a seven-day basis". Measures will also be introduced to improve access to GPs and to mental healthcare.

Cabinet reshuffle: David Cameron reveals ministers

11 April

Prime Minister David Cameron has spent the weekend drawing up his all-Conservative Cabinet, with many familiar faces returning to their desks.

The Tory leader has shown "remarkable loyalty" to senior ministers who served in his first administration, says the Financial Times, with George Osborne, Theresa May and Philip Hammond returning to their posts as Chancellor, Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary respectively.

The Conservatives gained 35 seats in last week's election, giving the party a 331 out of 650 majority in parliament. And with more than two dozen coalition ministerial posts vacated by the Liberal Democrats, Cameron has had "more room for manoeuvre" when it comes to appointing his Cabinet, says the FT.

So which posts have been announced so far?

George Osborne returns as Chancellor. He was also named First Secretary of State, a title that is not always in use and implies seniority over the rest of the Cabinet.

Theresa May returns as Home Secretary.

Philip Hammond returns as Foreign Secretary.

Michael Fallon returns as Defence Secretary.

Iain Duncan Smith returns as Work and Pensions Secretary, with a remit to oversee £12bn of welfare cuts and the roll-out of universal credit.

Nicky Morgan returns as Education Secretary to continue the Conservative's programme of reform.

Michael Gove has been promoted from Chief Whip to Justice Secretary, where he will take responsibility for reforming prisons and legal aid, as well as scrapping the Human Rights Act.

Chris Grayling has moved from Justice Secretary to Leader of the House, where he will try to introduce reforms to stop Scottish MPs voting on English issues in parliament.

Mark Harper, who stood down as immigration minister after it emerged that his cleaner was not allowed to work in the UK, has been promoted to Chief Whip.

Baroness Stowell, already Leader of the House of Lords, is being promoted as a full Cabinet member.

Amber Rudd has been promoted from climate change minister to Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

Priti Patel is to be minister for employment at the Department for Work and Pensions and will be attending Cabinet.

Boris Johnson, the new MP for Uxbridge, has been given a non-departmental brief so he can "devote his attention to his final year as Mayor of London". He will be allowed to attend Cameron's political Cabinet.

Robert Halfon, known for his campaign against fuel duty increases as MP for Harlow since 2010, has been given the role of deputy chairman of the party.

John Whittingdale, who has chaired the Culture, Media and Sport Committee since 2005, has been appointed as Culture Secretary.

Sajid Javid has changed from Culture Secretary to Business Secretary, replacing Liberal Democrat Vince Cable, who failed to retain his seat last week.

Liz Truss returns as Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. She is likely to play a role in negotiating on the UN's sustainable development goals in September.

Patrick McLoughlin returns as Transport Secretary, with the busy task of introducing more trains, roads and cycle routes over the next parliament.

Anna Soubry, MP for Broxtowe since 2010, will become minister for small business after a year as minister of state at the Ministry of Defence. She will attend Cabinet.

Greg Clark has been appointed the new Secretary of State at the Department of Communities and Local Government, replacing Eric Pickles. Most recently, Clark held the position of minister for universities, science and cities.

Justine Greening returns as Secretary of State for International Development.

Theresa Villiers will remain as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Jeremy Hunt returns as Health Secretary, with plans to increase NHS spending by a minimum of £8bn over the next five years.

Oliver Letwin, a strong advocate of privatisation, has been put in charge of the Cabinet Office. He was previously minister of state for policy.

Stephen Crabb, MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire since 2005, will remain Secretary of State for Wales.

Greg Hands, former deputy chief whip, will become chief secretary to the Treasury, replacing the Liberal Democrat Danny Alexander, who was ousted from his Inverness seat last week. Hands will attend Cabinet.

David Mundell, the only Conservative MP representing a Scottish constituency, will become Secretary of State for Scotland, replacing Alistair Carmichael, who is now the only Liberal Democrat MP north of the border.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.