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Pensions reform at heart of Coalition's final year

TODAY'S Queen's Speech will be "unashamedly pro-work, pro-business and pro-aspiration", David Cameron and Nick Clegg insist, saying the pensions revolution signalled by the Chancellor in this year's Budget will be at the heart of the Coalition's final year of Government.

With less than a year to go before the next General Election, both halves of the Coalition are seeking to impress upon voters theirs is not a "zombie government" that has run out of steam.

In a joint statement, the Prime Minister and his deputy insist today's Government programme "marks the next big step in our long-term plan for Britain" with its guiding principle to help those who want to get on.

They explain the centre-piece of the programme will be pensions reform, which, they insist, amounts to the "biggest transformation in our pensions system since its inception".

The changes will give people freedom and security in retirement by no longer forcing them to buy an annuity.

Among other measures expected in the Speech are:

l Introducing Dutch-style collective workplace pensions to give bigger returns.

l Changing planning laws in England to make fracking easier.

l A right to "recall", ie sack, misbehaving or poor performing MPs.

l Giving tax-free childcare to working parents, worth up to up to £2000 per child

Ahead of today's speech and debate, Labour leader Ed Miliband, pointing to the "depths of discontent" made plain by the results of the recent European parliamentary and English council elections, insisted what Britain needed was not more of the same but a new direction.

Shadow Scottish Secret­ary Margaret Curran said a Labour Government in its first Queen's Speech would "freeze energy prices to help hardworking families, tax bankers' bonuses to get thousands of young people across Scotland back to work, bring back the 50p tax on people earning over £150,000 and pass more powers over tax, welfare and jobs to the Scottish Parliament. ".

Meantime, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has written to Chancellor George Osborne noting that, given the Scottish Conservatives had now joined others to argue for Air Passenger Duty to be devolved to Holyrood, he would "use the opportunity of the Queen's Speech to make a positive announcement that will be broadly welcomed in Scotland".

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