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Cameron hits back at zombie jibe after 10-minute Queen's Speech

DAVID Cameron hit back at Labour taunts that the Coalition had become a "zombie government", insisting that the last Queen's Speech of this UK Government was busy and radical.

REGAL: The Queen is accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh at Westminster as she reads out her government's programme. Picture: Carl Court/Reuters
REGAL: The Queen is accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh at Westminster as she reads out her government's programme. Picture: Carl Court/Reuters

Yet the programme contained only 11 Bills and the speech, like the Gracious Address, lasted barely 10 minutes, prompting criticism that the Lib-Con partnership was simply marking time until the next General Election in May 2015.

At the heart of the proposed legislative package was pension reform, which the Prime Minister and his deputy Nick Clegg described as a "revolution", that would bring about the most radical transformation ever of the system of support for the elderly, by abolishing the requirement for them to buy annuities and allowing workers to join Dutch-style collective schemes.

Other legislation planned for the next 10 months includes UK-wide tax-free childcare worth £2000 a year per child for working parents, cuts in red tape for small businesses, support for shale gas "fracking" and moves to outlaw modern-day slavery; the latter two applying south of the border only.

Also unveiled, using current legislation, were plans for a 5p charge for plastic bags in England; already in existence in Wales and Northern Ireland with a similar charge expected to come about in Scotland later this year.

Asked if he was now part of a zombie government, Alistair Carmichael, the Scottish Secretary, said: "You've got a government that was created to regrow and rebalance the economy and in the fifth year we are still doing exactly that."

He insisted what mattered to ordinary people was not the length of time the Queen spent reading out the programme for government but that the British economy was now the fastest growing in the G7.

During Commons speeches, Mr Cameron declared that the Queen's Speech represented "a packed programme of a busy and radical government".

He issued a clear plea to be returned to office next year to continue his "long-term economic plan", telling MPs: "It will take the rest of this Parliament and the next to finish the task of turning our country around. That is the enormity of the challenge we face but it is matched by the strength of our commitment to sorting it out."

But Ed Miliband noted that after the eurosceptic surge in the recent Euro poll, the UK Parliament was facing "a battle for relevance, legitimacy and standing in the eyes of the public". He warned: "We need to rise to this challenge, but this Queen's Speech doesn't do it."

The Labour leader said his party in government would have had a Queen's Speech with legislation which "would make work pay, reform our banks, freeze energy bills and build homes again in Britain, a Queen's Speech which signals a new direction for Britain, not one which offers more of the same".

Angus Robertson for the SNP decried what he called the "absence of Scotland from Westminster's mind" in the speech, saying the lack of any plans was extraordinary.

TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady claimed the programme was not for working people, saying: "It is missing anything that will allow them to share in the recovery with a proper wage increase."

But Simon Walker, Director General of the Institute of Directors, welcomed the Coalition's focus on a relatively small number of priorities, noting: "The overall message appears to be one of innovation and help for people who want to start and grow a business."

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