Security will be key to Blair's last Queen's Speech

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair will make "security and opportunity" the main themes of his final Queen's Speech next week before he stands down as Prime Minister later in the parliamentary session.

Mr Blair will try to project a "business as usual" message when he unveils a package aimed at wrong-footing the Tories on law and order and completing reforms of pensions, incapacity benefit and the troubled Child Support Agency. Opposition parties are expected to label Mr Blair a "lame duck prime minister" because he has promised to leave Downing Street next year - and to challenge him to say how many of the Bills in next Wednesday's Queen's Speech will become law before he quits.

Mr Blair will dismiss the criticism by saying the whole Government supports the measures, many of which were pledged in the Labour manifesto at last year's general election. Allies say he wants to stay on until after next May's elections to the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and English councils, allowing many of the Bills to be passed.

John Reid, the Home Secretary, will be the busiest minister in the new session with four major pieces of legislation. A Criminal Justice Bill will rebalance the system to give more rights to victims and reduce the automatic "discounts" on sentences when offenders plead guilty.

A Terrorism Bill is expected to tighten the control orders under which suspected foreign terrorists are kept under virtual house arrest and can use human rights laws to avoid deportation.

An Organised Crime Bill will target drug traffickers, fraudsters and smugglers and other "Mr Bigs" said to be above the law. They will face controls over where they travel, who they can contact by telephone and the amount of cash they can carry.

Another Home Office measure will shake up the probation service, allowing private firms and voluntary groups to bid for contracts.

Labour will accuse the Tories of being "soft" on crime after failing to support previous law and order proposals. But the Opposition will dismiss Labour's ideas as headline-grabbing "gimmicks" and argue that they have not worked.

Other measures to be announced will include a Climate Change Bill to set long-term goals for cutting Britain's greenhouse gas emissions, which are supposed to fall by 60 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050.

David Miliband, the Environment Secretary, may set an interim goal of a 30 per cent reduction in emissions by 2020. But the Government will stop short of the annual targets demanded by the Tories, Liberal Democrats and a total of 410 MPs. Ministers say they would not be enforceable in the event of unexpected circumstances such as bad weather..

Another Bill will implement the biggest changes to pensions since the post-war Labour government created the modern welfare state - after last year's inquiry headed by Lord Turner of Ecchinswell, the former CBI director general.

The changes will restore the link between the basic state pension and earnings after 2012, raise the state pension age to 68 by 2044 and boost the retirement income of millions of women who currently miss out on a full state pension because they have not paid enough national insurance contributions.

Other legislation includes a crackdown on rogue estate agents to protect buyers and sellers; enhanced powers for the Mayor of London and London Assembly and making the Office of National Statistics free from political interference by reporting to parliament rather than ministers.

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