DAVID Cameron has been forced to defend efforts to renegotiate Britain’s European Union membership even as he prepares to unveil the Bill which will usher in the 2017 EU referendum.
France and Germany were yesterday said to have struck a deal to integrate the core eurozone group more closely, including joint corporation tax plans, without the need for fundamental treaty change, news that emerged as the Prime Minister was putting the finishing touches to today’s Queen’s Speech and the laws to be included in it.
The PM’s official spokesman confirmed that Mr Cameron still believes treaty alterations will be needed to secure welfare and other reforms he has demanded.A decision by the European leaders to push ahead without a new treaty was widely seen as a major snub to the PM who is set to spend the week lobbying for change in the EU.
Mr Cameron’s legislative programme will include a flagship Bill to hold an in/out EU referendum by 2017, as well as proposals for replacing the Human Rights Act with a Bill of Rights.
The Queen’s Speech also sees Nick Clegg’s return to front line politics, with the outgoing Liberal Democrat leader set to respond to Mr Cameron in the Commons. The former Deputy Prime Minister is expected to hit out at Conservative proposals on welfare, the Human Rights Act and Europe.
Mr Clegg will say: “The human rights we hold dear, our right to privacy in an online age, our future as an open-minded, outward-looking country, are all hanging in the balance again because of the measures being announced by the Conservative Government.”
As well as starting the EU referendum process, the Queen’s Speech will also see the Tories push through a series of previously announced commitments, including a move to ensure anyone working 30 hours a week on the National Minimum Wage does so tax free.
The Government has already committed to raising the income tax personal allowance to £12,500 by 2020.
Downing Street said the Government will also bring forward legislation for a five-year tax lock which means there will be no income tax, VAT or National Insurance rises in this Parliament.
Last night Mr Cameron said: “Behind this Queen’s Speech is a clear vision for what our country can be. A country of security and opportunity for everyone, at every stage of life.
“That is our ambition. To build a country where whoever you are and wherever you live you can have the chance of a good education, a decent job, a home of your own and the peace of mind that comes from being able to raise a family and enjoy a secure retirement.”
Elsewhere sweeping reforms contained in the Housing Bill will extend the Right to Buy to England’s 1.3 million housing association tenants, giving them the same opportunities as council housing tenants to buy their homes at a discount.
Bills to extend childcare support, reform strike laws and curbing benefits are expected to feature in the speech.
The Conservative Party manifesto on which the Queen’s Speech is based also includes a commitment to finding time for a free vote on repealing the Hunt Act, though it is unclear if this will be in the speech.