Tories plan slim legislative menu

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Indy Politics
THE Cabinet will be recommended tomorrow to approve a slim and surprisingly uncontentious legislative programme drawn up for next year by government business managers.

Only about a dozen Bills figure in the current list circulating in Whitehall - which, if approved, will largely reflect a victory for so-called 'consolidators' in the Cabinet over 'radicals'.

The two most potentially controversial measures will be the Bills required to sell off a majority stake in the Post Office. But even those are uncertain since the Green Paper on the Post Office, expected this week, requires a summer consultation period before ministers take the final decision to push ahead with legislation.

Other Bills which could spark off at least a limited Tory revolt include the 'own resources' measure which will raise Britain's contribution to the European budget. A further Bill ratifying enlargement of the EU is still expected in this session. There will also be a measure to set an Environmental Protection Agency. The future of a further criminal justice Bill is also uncertain.

Prospects of measures to privatise Railtrack and to introducing road-pricing on motorways - both of which were strongly advocated by the Treasury - have receded. The required Bill for the setting up of the Channel tunnel link will also be included.

The general tone of what by any standards will be a light legislative programme is said to reflect anxieties to avoid internal Tory party controversy when the Government's majority is steadily declining due to by-elections.

The Green Paper on the Post Office is expected to recommend a 51 per cent sell-off of the Royal Mail, but has been redrafted on John Major's orders to give proper consideration of other options - including the possibility of keeping it in the public sector with enhanced borrowing freedom.