Brown unveils plans to meet 'aspirations'

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Indy Politics

Gordon Brown today laid out his first full programme for government, promising to respond to "the rising aspirations" of the British people.

A raft of 28 Bills and Draft Bills in the Queen's Speech contained no surprises, but promised to raise the education leaving age to 18, secure more apprenticeships and make more affordable housing available.

To tackle the terrorist threat a new Bill will include powers to question suspects after charge, a move already announced by both the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.

No fresh details were given in the speech on the Government's favoured option to extend the current 28 days detention without charge for terror suspects. Ministers will continue to seek a cross-party consensus.

In other moves, employers will be required to contribute to workers' pensions and employees are to have extended rights to request flexible working to look after children.

Mr Brown will flesh out the proposals this afternoon when MPs begin a debate on the measures announced amid traditional pomp by the Queen from her throne in the House of Lords.

The Prime Minister will be hoping today's announcements will give fresh heart to his MPs after opinion polls showing a resurgent Tory party under leader David Cameron.

Downing Street said the speech set out a programme "to provide the best chances for people to make the most of themselves and their potential" and for "a Britain that realises all the talents of all the people" .

It said the priorities reflected in the speech were education, the NHS, security, affordable housing, better balance between work and family life, and a strong economy.

One measure in the package not already flagged up by Mr Brown when he broke with tradition and outlined his draft programme in July is legislation to protect depositors and ensure confidence in the banking system, following the Northern Rock crisis.

On housing, a new Homes and Communities Agency will be set up to deliver affordable homes and promote regeneration of run-down areas.

Reforms to the planning system to speed up developments were also promised.

The speech also confirmed proposals will be brought forward to "renew the constitutional settlement" and strengthen the relationship between the Government, Parliament and the people.

A draft Bill will be published next year setting out plans for MPs to have a greater say in sending troops overseas, and taking over the Intelligence and Security Committee from Downing Street.

On the health service, the speech promised "a healthcare system organised around the needs of the patient" and legislation to create a health and social care regulator to ensure "clean and safe services and high-quality care".

There will also be a Bill to improve services for vulnerable children and young people, including those in care.

On pensions, legislation will be brought forward to place a duty on every employer to contribute to "good quality workplace pensions" for employees.

There is also the promise of legislation to tackle congestion and improve public transport.

That will include proposals to allow councils to introduce local road pricing schemes and to have more power over local bus services.

Councils will also get powers to run pilot schemes trialling "pay as you throw" bin taxes.

Following the collapse of cross-party talks on political funding, the Government promised only that proposals would be brought forward in due course.

The parliamentary programme will also include a Bill to make the UK the first country in the world to introduce a legally-binding framework to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

On foreign affairs, Mr Brown sets his face firmly against a referendum on the EU reform treaty.

"The reform treaty is an amending treaty like Nice, Amsterdam and Maastricht. Like those treaties it would be ratified by Parliament," said Downing Street.

A Bill to ratify the Lisbon Treaty was confirmed, raising the prospect of hours of lengthy parliamentary exchanges.

There were also renewed promises to continue working with the Iraqi and Afghanistan governments.

And the Government said it would continue to address international concerns over Iran's nuclear programme.

The Liberal Democrat acting leader Vince Cable said: "The anticipation was acute - but the anti-climax is deafening.

"The legislative programme is firmly rooted in the Blair era. There is very little new. No ideas, no vision. Is this what we have been waiting for?

"Perhaps, lurking in this Queen's Speech, is a genuinely big idea: a Conservative-Labour grand coalition of policies and ideas.

"The one-time editor of the Red Paper has penned a Queen's Speech in the bluest ink. Across wide swathes of policy his approach is indistinguishable from the Tories. On the important issues of the day it is the Liberal Democrats who offer a distinctive voice.

"The real issue and concern for the public is over the cumulative impact of repeated deepening and widening of the EU.

"No-one under the age of 50 has had a proper say on our membership. We will seek to amend the Bill to provide for a referendum on our membership of the EU.

"We can have as much legislative scrutiny as we like but, unless the public are persuaded that EU membership is in their interests, British politics will continue to be poisoned by this issue. We want the Prime Minister to join us in making the case for Europe."