The Queen's Speech: Omissions: Short speech shuns controversy

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The Independent Online
JOHN MAJOR'S desire to kick off the parliamentary session on an uncontroversial note is revealed by a shorter than usual Queen's Speech as noteworthy for its omissions as for its contents, writes Patricia Wynn Davies.

But the period of relative political calm is likely to be short-lived.

With no mention of Post Office privatisation, the deregulation of London Buses or the equalisation of state pension age, yesterday's relatively unsensational package will have wide appeal to the Tory rank and file, with MPs relieved to be able to unite behind themes of law and order, teacher training and deregulation.

The sole privatisation measure - of the dwindling coal industry - is unlikely to provoke backbench revolts. Most coal rebels view the sale of the remaining pits either as desirable in itself or as representing the only possible salvation.

The first two omissions fly in the face of repeated ministerial enthusiasm, while the third, state pensionable age, means a measure Britain is legally obliged to implement under European rules has again been put off.

The average Queen's Speech includes 15 or 16 measures but never identifies all those that might be brought before Parliament. The Queen's penultimate remark that 'other measures will be laid' is significant. Future controversies are likely over the Bills to make employers contribute more to statutory sick pay and to tighten up invalidity benefit by introducing an objective medical test.

The passage of the more Draconian provisions in the criminal justice and deregulation Bills may also face a rough ride.