Transport bill to be centrepiece of Queen's Speech

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The Government was today setting out its plans for the new parliamentary session with a programme of 28 bills.

The Government was today setting out its plans for the new parliamentary session with a programme of 28 bills.

The Queen's Speech - which was being billed as a programme for "enterprise and fairness" - will contain more measures than the 17 in last year's speech or the 22 the year before.

In a party political broadcast to be shown later today, Tony Blair will say that, having got the economy "back on track", the Government could now concentrate on the rest of its programme.

"We have got a lot done but there is a lot more to do," he will say.

The programme's centrepiece is expected to be Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott's long-awaited transport bill with measures to ease traffic congestion and bolster rail safety in the wake of the Paddington disaster.

There will also be a raft of important Home Office measures to reform the criminal justice system and update the anti-terrorism and race relations laws as well as a freedom of information bill.

Measures to reform the insolvency laws, overhaul post-16 training, boost trading on the internet and cut red tape are expected to help business, building on Chancellor Gordon Brown's Pre-Budget Report last week.

On transport, a new Strategic Rail Authority with responsibility for setting safety standards, will be established while councils will be given powers to introduce congestion charges for drivers and office parking charges.

The Government is also expected to disclose plans for the National Air Traffic Service - the proposed 51% privatisation having come under fierce attack from Labour backbenchers and unions.

A criminal justice bill will curb the right of defendants to elect for trial by jury, permit the drugs testing of people under arrest and reform the Probation Service.

Race relations legislation will be updated in a bill adopting some of the main recommendations of the Macpherson report on the killing of Stephen Lawrence, bringing the police and other public services within the scope of the Race Relations Act.

Anti-terrorism legislation will be placed on a permanent footing, with the replacement of the existing emergency powers - introduced after the 1970s IRA bombing campaign - with a wide-ranging bill extending the definition of terrorism to cover animal rights groups and religious cults.

It is expected that an independent inspectorate will be established to scrutinise the Crown Prosecution Service which was heavily criticised in a damning report last year by the former judge, Sir Iain Glidewell.

The long-awaited freedom of information bill, extending the public's right of access to official information, is being published after months of bitter wrangling over its scope.

The age of consent for homosexuals will be lowered from 18 to 16, with safeguards to prevent the abuse of trust by adults, while it is also expected that Clause 28 - banning councils and schools from spending on gay education or publicity - will be repealed.

A "right to roam" on mountains, moors, downland and heath, is expected to be included in a countryside bill, which will also provide extended protection for important countryside areas.

The much-criticised Child Support Agency faces a major overhaul, with the introduction of a new, flat-rate system for assessing contributions made by absent parents.

Care homes for children and the elderly are to face scrutiny from a new inspectorate.

A bill will provide for the Post Office to be put on a more commercial footing, restricting its monopoly of mail deliveries while stopping short of full privatisation.

The regulators overseeing the privatised utilities are expected to be given wider powers, with an emphasis on developing competition.

Legislation is to be introduced to limit spending by political parties during election campaigns, with a ban on foreign donations and a legal requirement to name donors contributing more than £5,000.

Voting procedures in elections are to be updated with the introduction of polling booths in supermarkets and possible voting at weekends.

Local councils also face and overhaul with a bill permitting the replacement of the existing committee system by a cabinet-style administration, opening the way to directly elected mayors outside London.

An e-commerce bill will for the first time introduce regulations for trading on the internet.

New insolvency legislation will make it easier for former bankrupts to get back into business and there are also expected to be measures to reduce the burden of red tape on business.

Post-16 education and training will be reorganised with the abolition of the training and enterprise councils and the creation of a new learning skills council.

The remit of the schools inspectors, Ofsted, will be extended to cover child care as well as nursery education while another bill is expected to cover children with special educational needs.

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