Blair puts schools, hospitals and crime at heart of Queen's Speech

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Reform and overhaul of key public services, the criminal justice system and the House of Lords are at the heart of the Government's new legislative programme, outlined in the Queen's Speech this morning.

The speech contains proposals for 20 bills and four draft bills. Tony Blair said after this month's General Election that the electorate expected Labour to use its second term to deliver on promises to improve public services.

Proposals for the new session include the creation of more City Academies and the introduction of standard contracts to allow private firms, voluntary groups and religious organisations to run their own schools.

In the National Health Service, doctors, nurses and other health professionals will be given control of 75 per cent of all health service spending under an NHS Reform Bill.

One of the most controversial bills will abolish the "double jeopardy" rule in murder cases, meaning someone acquitted of a killing would face trial again if new evidence emerged.

It has been suggested that this could be used to try again suspects in the murder of Stephen Lawrence.

Further reform of the House of Lords will be pushed through, abolishing the remaining hereditary peers, allowing for others to be appointed by a special commission and the remainder of the second chamber to be elected.

The legislative programme also includes measures trailed by Chancellor Gordon Brown to boost enterprise and the economy.

But a Bill to establish a single regulator for the media and communications industries and reform broadcasting rules will be published only in draft form.

MPs will be given another free vote on hunting with dogs, though the question of how to resolve the impasse with the House of Lords on the issue remains to be tackled. The Government promised only to "look at how the disagreement can be resolved".

Most of the crime measures unveiled in the speech have been widely trailed. They include greater power to seize criminals' assets and moves against corruption and sex offenders.

A Police Bill will "reform and modernise the police service", including the practice of officers retiring early on what they suspect are spurious health grounds.

A draft Bill will be published to give legal force to Lord Cullen's recommendations on rail safety, if ministers decide to press ahead after consultation.

The Government plans to change the law to make all–women shortlists for political parties legal – after Labour fell foul of the practice in the run–up to the 1997 General Election.

There will be further welfare reforms including creation of a new Jobcentre Plus agency and proposals to require partners of those claiming out–of–work benefits to attend work–focused interviews to discuss their options and help them return to work.

An Adoption and Children Bill will ensure that the interests of the child become paramount in adoption proceedings. Mr Blair also wants to encourage more couples to adopt by giving local councils a duty to provide better support services.

Among other measures are moves to equalise the age for concessionary travel fares at 60 for both men and women, a reform of the land registration system to promote electronic conveyancing, reform of the leasehold system for tenants and the extension of the Football (Disorder) Act.

The Act, which would have lapsed automatically in 2002 if not renewed, gives courts the power to make banning orders against suspects with no history of violence and allow police to prevent fans travelling abroad while they sought such an order.

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