Labour pounces on 'thin' legislative programme in Queen's speech
Queen unveils mostly minor legislation from fractious coalition in run-up to general election
Reuters in London
Queen Elizabeth unveiled yesterday Britain's last legislative programme before the next national election, citing mostly minor new laws and fuelling criticism that the coalition was out of ideas.
In a ceremony in the upper house of parliament rich in pomp and pageantry, it took the queen less than 10 minutes to list 11 new pieces of legislation Prime Minister David Cameron's government plans to enact before a May 2015 general election.
With the exception of legislation overhauling Britain's pensions system, much of what she announced was already known and many of the measures were relatively minor in scale.
She confirmed plans to give people more control over their pension savings, with new measures including the introduction of collective pension schemes that allow members to pool risk.
Incumbent governments have often used such pre-election occasions as an opportunity to try to woo voters with eye-catching measures. But Cameron's government, a sometimes fractious tie-up of his right-leaning Conservative Party and the centre-left Liberal Democrat Party, cannot agree on how to tackle many of the bigger policy issues such as European integration and immigration.
Angela Eagle, an opposition lawmaker and Labour spokeswoman, said the paucity of new legislation showed the government was struggling to function.
"This is a zombie government fast running out of steam and ideas," she told BBC radio before the speech.
Other measures included plans to support the development of oil and gas from shale and a measure giving voters powers to petition for their member of parliament to be replaced.
Cameron's Conservative Party tweeted that the total number of bills in the speech, 16 when draft and carried-over bills were included, was three more than Labour had included in their final Queen's Speech before the 2010 national election.
A spokesman for Cameron denied the government's programme was thin. "He (Cameron) would completely reject the opposition's line," the spokesman said.
At one point during the speech, a page boy standing less than 8ft from the Queen fainted as the Duchess of Cornwall looked on with concern.
He was carried out of the chamber, while the three remaining boys assisted the Queen as she left the Lords after she completed the speech.