In his first Queen's Speech, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has set out his proposals for "long-term changes" within the UK.
The Prime Minister's programme contains a total of 29 Bills covering national insurance contributions, pensions, new anti-terror measures, climate change, health, nuclear power, education and housing. The programme of change is designed to "help prepare and equip our country for the future".
According to the BBC, the prime minister was hoping that his plans for the year ahead - delivered by the Queen in Parliament amid the traditional pomp and ceremony - would help him regain the political initiative after his decision not to call an autumn election. The package of measures was intended to meet "the rising aspirations" of the British people.
The proposed National Insurance Contributions Bill aims to harmonise the upper earnings limit (UEL) for national insurance contributions with the higher rate income tax threshold. The UEL will rise in phases, to match the higher rate income tax threshold by April 2009. The measure would extend across the UK.
On education, the Government has signalled moves to extend the right to request flexible working currently available to parents of children under six to parents of older children. Responding to this John Wright, Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses said:
"The Government needs to recognise that the reality in a business is that the employees need to be at work to enable the firm to make money, pay their wages and grow to employ others. The employer must continue to have the final say in granting flexible working to ensure that the business does not suffer. This way employees can benefit where appropriate from flexible working but the needs of the business will always be met."
The Pensions Bill, if passed would mean eligible workers are automatically enrolled into a pension scheme, with a minimum employer contribution introduced. Applies to England, Scotland and Wales. Responding to this announcement, John Wright said:
"We believe that the importance of individuals taking responsibility for their own retirement should be reflected in the new legislation. Any new scheme must be affordable, easy to administer and introduced carefully to minimise the burden on businesses least able to cope with sudden increases in costs and administration. The burden on small businesses would be reduced if the new scheme could be run through existing payroll structures, rather than setting up a whole new system for employers to work out."
The Sale of Student Loans Bill, applying to England and Wales, covers the proposal to sell the student loan book, announced by Gordon Brown in the 2007 Budget, which is expected to raise £6bn over three years.