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Northern Ireland - Decommissioning of Weapons

Northern Ireland ministers denied they were holding back the legislation on decommissioning of IRA and Loyalist terrorist weapons. The Prime Minister told the Conservative conference the Government "will" introduce legislation but the Queen's Speech said the Government would "stand ready" to introduce the Weapons Decommissioning Bill.

It will implement Mitchell Commission report recommendations to give immunity to terrorists handing in weapons, exempting them from forensic examination, and make inadmissible in court evidence obtained from decommissioning. The Bill will be published in draft form, but it remained unclear when it would be enacted. Ministers are waiting for movement in the cross-party talks, but the Unionists are keen to see legislation on the statute book as evidence that the Government will insist on the IRA decommissioning its weapons.

Civil Procedure Bill and Commonhold Bill

The most radical attempt to rid the civil-justice system of excessive costs and delays will get the go-ahead in a paving Bill to implement proposals drawn up by Lord Woolf, the Master of the Rolls. Root-and-branch changes to the legal-aid scheme, which have provoked widespread criticism, never stood much of a chance of making this autumn's Queen's Speech.The planned Commonhold Bill, which would create a new form of freehold ownership for owners of flats, secured mention in the speech and would be popular across the political spectrum. But the measure will only be introduced if "if time allows" and therefore may not make it onto the statute book."

Merchant shipping and maritime safety

Laws for tougher controls on foreign-registered ships follow the wreck of the Braer, which caused one of the nation's biggest oil spills. The merchant shipping and maritime safety bill would allow the Government to charge shipowners for emergency pollution control work if a vessel began to spill its load, and also to charge for safely inspections of their vessels in British ports. The legislation would also enable the Government to insist that owners all ships operating in British waters had third party insurance.

The Heritage Lottery Fund Bill

To be introduced by Virginia Bottomley, National Heritage Secretary could be controversial, because it will allow grants for stately homes where the owners allow access to the public. It will also allow lottery money to be used for heritage skills, education and training.

The Transfer of Crofting Estates (Scotland) Bill

Will allow transfer of publicly owned crofting estates to crofting trusts.

Compensation Recovery Bill

Will put onus on employers to repay the Department of Social Security for benefits paid to workers for injuries at work.

Identity Cards Draft Bill

Will provide a voluntary identity card combined with the planned photocard driving licence and a separate voluntary identity card for non-drivers.