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U.K. Legislative Program Said to Overhaul Banks, Job Laws

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron will set out his government’s new legislative program today, with bills to overhaul the banking sector, pensions and employment law, said three people with knowledge of the proposals.

A banking bill will map out plans to protect the retail units of banks, they said. A separate bill will seek to reform public-sector pensions so that workers retire later and save more, said the people, who declined to be identified because the bills haven’t been published. The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill will include ways to streamline employment tribunals and seek to place curbs on executive pay, they added.

Cameron is looking to shift attention away from his worst electoral setback since taking office two years ago. His Conservative Party and their Liberal Democrat partners lost hundreds of seats to the Labour opposition in municipal polls on May 4, triggering renewed tensions in the coalition.

“It’s a tough time in our country, it’s a difficult time in our country and we have got more work to do,” Cameron said yesterday during a questions session with manufacturing workers in Essex, north of London.

Queen Elizabeth II, as head of state, will read out to Parliament a speech listing the legislative plans agreed between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats at 11:30 a.m. The occasion marks the State Opening of Parliament.

The Treasury plans to implement in full recommendations of the Independent Commission on Banking by 2015, a spokesman for the department said. The monarch will announce the plans today.

Vickers Proposals

The solution proposed last year by the panel led by former Bank of England Chief Economist John Vickers is for banks to build firewalls between their consumer and investment operations and boost the amount of loss-absorbing equity and debt they hold to between 17 percent and 20 percent. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne intends the legislation to take effect no later than 2019.

The queen will also outline proposals to allow employment tribunals to have judges rule on dismissals without lay magistrates, in order to speed up cases, said one of the people. The same bill will have the scope to introduce rules to limit the pay of senior executives although no specific measures will be included today, one person added.

Reform of the House of Lords is set to be among the main proposals. The push for an elected upper chamber, a key objective for the Liberal Democrats, is opposed by many Conservatives who say it should not be a priority at a time of economic crisis.

‘Perfectly Sensible’

Cameron said yesterday the introduction of directly elected peers was “a perfectly sensible reform for Parliament to consider,” while his Liberal Democrat deputy Nick Clegg said he saw no reason why the government should not pursue it alongside other issues such as helping the low paid.

“A smidgen of democracy I don’t think will go amiss, since we’ve been talking about it for about 100 years,” Clegg said.

There will also be proposals to give both parents access to flexible parental leave, according to Cameron’s office.

The pageantry of the Queen’s Speech begins at 10 a.m., when the Yeomen of the Guard, the Royal bodyguards known as “Beefeaters,” will search the cellars of Parliament. The tradition dates back to 1605, when Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up the building and King James I with it.

The queen then travels by horse-drawn coach from Buckingham Palace to the Houses of Parliament, escorted by the Household Cavalry. As she arrives, the Union Flag of the U.K. will be lowered and her Royal Standard raised over Parliament.

Black Rod

At 11:30 a.m., the official who has the title Yeoman Usher of the Black Rod will march to the House of Commons, the lower, elected, chamber. His job is to summon lawmakers to hear the queen, who will be waiting in the House of Lords. The door of the Commons will be slammed in his face.

This ritual symbolizes the independence of the Commons from the Crown: no British monarch has entered the lower house since 1642, when King Charles I tried to arrest five members in the run-up to a civil war that ended with his execution in 1649.

After “Black Rod” has knocked on the door of the Commons, lawmakers process to the House of Lords. Seated on a gilded throne next to her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Elizabeth will read the speech from a goatskin parchment.

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