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Queen lays out Tory plans

May 27, 2015

Britain's Conservatives have unveiled their plans for the next five years. The queen read off Tory plans to hold a referendum on EU membership, give Scotland more autonomy and further toughen restrictions on migrants.

Queen Elizabeth II
Image: Reuters/A. Grant

In the Conservative-drafted Queen's Speech, delivered Wednesday, the 89-year-old Elizabeth II laid out David Cameron's plans through 2020, including the prime minister's long-threatened referendum on the UK's EU membership.

The queen also detailed plans to cap welfare, temporarily freeze some taxes and cut down on migration - all key Tory campaign promises.

Elizabeth said the government would adopt a "One-Nation approach, helping working people get on."

Some of the most important domestic talking points covered the economy, including a pledge not to raise income or sales taxes. Queen Elizabeth also confirmed plans to raise the minimum threshhold at which people start paying income tax to 12,500 pounds (17,700 euros, $19,200). That's the equivalent of working a 30-hour week at the UK's minimum wage.

The queen has delivered the speech 61 times since her coronation in 1952 - skipping only the 1959 and '63 State Openings of Parliament, when she was pregnant with the princes Andrew and Edward, respectively - in the House of Lords, Parliament's unelected upper house. Seated on a gilded throne, she wore the Imperial State Crown, encrusted with almost 3,000 diamonds, and the ostentatious red Robe of State.

Her husband, Prince Philip (right in photo), accompanied her at the ceremony. Some have criticized the ceremony's pomp and expense at a time when Cameron and other officials have called on Brits to accept less from the government in welfare and education assistance.

All Cameron's plans

Voters unexpectedly restored Cameron to power with a 12-seat majority on May 7, allowing him to govern without a coalition. Seekvoters from the UK Independence Party, Cameron had pledged a harder line with the European Union on the 28-nation bloc's policies.

Over the weekend, Cameron announced that most citizens of other EU member states residing in the United Kingdom would not be allowed to vote in the referendum, to be held before the end of 2017. The Bank of England has begun researching the potential economic fallout of a vote to leave the European Union.

The queen also said the government would grant "wide-ranging" powers to Scotland and Wales, two of the United Kingdom's four nations, alongside England and Northern Ireland. A more contentious plan, sometimes referred to as "English votes for English laws," would reduce the say of Scottish lawmakers over policies that affect only England and Wales; some expect the government to struggle to pass that one.

The Tories' promised freeze on tax covers income tax, VAT and national insurance contributions, and is expected to require cuts of around 12 billion pounds in spending. They say they will increase the National Health budget. The government would grant up to 1.3 million extra social housing tenants the right to buy their homes, and build 400,000 new units.

The unemployed face decreased benefits. Union workers could have a harder time striking.

The government will propose new powers against "extremist organizations." It will also propose a communications bill, dubbed a "snoopers' charter" by critics, that could oblige mobile phone companies and Internet service providers to hand individuals' browsing data to security services.

Cameron plans new anti-migrant measures, including authorizing law enforcement authorities to seize wages from black-market workers. He has called for a "deport first, appeal later" rule.

mkg/msh (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)