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Queen's speech targets bankers, unemployed, and immigrants

Welfare to work plan for UK.plc

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The government put overhauling the financial sector and underpinning the British economy at the top of the agenda in the Queen's speech today.

As expected, legislation to support the development of the government's massive comms database was iced - not that this will affect the state's development of the technology.

The Queen kicked off her speech with a references to the dire state of the UK's economy, and "my goverment's" plans to "ensure the stability of the British economy during the downturn".

Gordon Brown has already kicked this off with the Banking Bill, which overhauls the regulation of the banking and financial services sector. The Queen said the government would be "helping families and business through this difficult time". This has been interpreted as heralding legislation to prevent banks from capriciously calling in loans and cancelling credit facilities - thus pitching more businesses and individuals into the poorhouse and worsening the downturn.

Any overhaul of financial regulations would continue the well-worn tradition of slamming the door after the horse has bolted, but perhaps the government will have more success in regulating the financial sector now that it owns a large chunk of it.

More prosaicly, deposit protection will be overhauled and the government will put in place an incentivised savings scheme for lower-income workers. So we have the ironic situation of a government that owns a large proportion of the UK banking sector recapitalising it by persuading the lowest earners in society to save.

Second on the list was legislation covering policing and airport security. The draft Transport Security Bill, unveiled earlier this year, promised more cooperation between agencies responsible for airport security, consistent funding for police activities at airports, and a provision that police authorities will be reimbursed by airport operators for "agreed policing costs". But what is really likely to grab public attention is an expected overhaul of laws governing alcohol and lapdancing clubs.

Legislation bringing together the customers and border security and overhauling immigration will also be put before MPs. The government has long wanted a single, simplified border control force. This same agency will be enforcing the simplified immigration regime the government plans, which among other things promises the ability for "newcomers to earn the right to stay".

Welfare reform is once again on the agenda, with measures promised to help, encourage or force the unemployed back into work, with a particular emphasis on the disabled. Pre-speech speculation has focused on a broadening of the use of supposed lie-detecting technologies to catch benefit cheats, after initial trials in areas such as Harrow.

Other bills on the agenda cover health, education, and children.

The legislation covering policing, welfare, security, borders and immigration can all be guaranteed to provoke fears of more big brother-style initiatives on the government's part.

But one bill that didn't make the cut was the Communications Data Bill. This would have provided the legislative cover for the development of the government's massive wiretapping database. However, as early as September The Register reported that the government would drop its attempt to get legislative cover for the database, with the security services carrying on development of the system regardless. This left not much else for the bill to do except transpose European data regulations into UK legislation, but the government will now do this via secondary legislation instead. ®

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