David Cameron and Nick Clegg promised last night to deliver a “revolution” in pensions over the next year as they move to try to secure the coalition’s place in history.
The prime minister and his deputy both face doubts over their political futures as the final Queen’s Speech of this parliament is delivered by Her Majesty today.
Speaking on the eve of the official unveiling of the legislative programme at Westminster, they issued a joint statement recalling the uncertainty which surrounded their 2010 power-sharing deal.
“It is easy to forget when we first came together in the national interest just how sceptical people were about how long the coalition could last and how much change we could effect,” they said.
“Four years on, our parties are still governing together and still taking bold steps. Four years on, no-one can deny the progress we have made.”
The Conservative and Liberal Democrat leaders will hope that today’s announcements help turn around their political fortunes before next May’s elections, particularly Mr Clegg, who is under intense pressure.
The centrepiece of the legislative programme for the final 11 months of the coalition will be what they described as the “biggest transformation in our pensions system since its inception”.
The changes will include previously announced reforms allowing pensioners to take larger sums from their savings and shop around more easily for the best deals, as well as new plans for Dutch-style “collective pension” funds which people will be able to share with thousands of others.
The speech is also expected to feature confirmation of tax-free childcare plans, new rules for pubs in England and Wales, and a limited form of recall for MPs if they have been found to have broken the Commons code of conduct.
The SNP challenged UK ministers to include plans to devolve Air Passenger Duty to Holyrood, following its inclusion in the Conservatives commission on the future transfer of powers.
Shadow Scottish Secretary Margaret Curran said that Labour’s first Queen’s Speech after a return to power next year would freeze energy prices, use taxes on bankers’ bonuses to get young people back to work, and bring back the 50p tax rate.
Meanwhile, Alan Reid, Lib Dem member for Argyll and Bute, was one of more than 60 MPs to call for a cut to VAT on the tourism industry.
He said: “With many people struggling to make ends meet, price is an important factor in their choice of holiday, and Britain’s tourism businesses have to cope with a VAT rate double, or even more than double, the rate in Spain, Germany, France, Italy and the Republic of Ireland.”