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UK's new govt to forge 'enhanced ties with India'

May 25, 2010 21:04 IST

Britain's new Conservative- Liberal Democrat coalition government in its first policy pronouncement on Tuesday promised to "enhanced partnership" with India, but said that restrictions will be imposed on the entry of non-European Union immigrants.

Amidst royal pageantry and pomp, Queen Elizabeth II set out the new Prime Minister David Cameron-led government's legislative plans in the House of Lords, saying, "My government looks forward to enhanced partnership with India."

Outlining the government's priorities, the Queen sporting 2,000 diamonds in her crown told the Parliament that the new coalition government's priority will to be to reduce Britain's deficit and restore growth to the struggling economy.

The Queen's speech confirmed that the new government will introduce fixed five-year parliamentary sessions as part of far reaching political reforms.

"My government will propose parliamentary and political reforms to restore trust in democratic institutions and re-balance the relationship between the citizen and the state, the Queen said.

Referring to the sensitive issue of immigration, she said, "My government will limit the number of non-European Union economic migrants entering the United Kingdom and end the detention of children for immigration purposes."

The UK government has agreed that there should be an annual limit to the number of non-EU economic migrants admitted into the UK to live and work, which could come as a major blow to immigrants from Asia, including India.

The mention about enhancing ties with India in the Queen's speech reiterated the commitment in the coalition agreement to forge a 'new special relationship' with India.

But for the British Monarch it was for the first time since the World War II that she outlined plans of a coalition government, thrown up by the country's recent fractured mandate.

She also came out with new government's major plans to reform schools, police, welfare and on making the voting system proportional, a major demand from the coalition partner Lib-Dem.

The new government has also axed Labour's proposals for ID cards, going in for next generation biometric passports. Cutting the budget deficit and restoring growth would be the new government's "first priority".

The new government has drawn up an 18-month programme that includes steps to reduce Britain's record 163-billion-pound budget deficit.

The Queen's speech confirmed that the new government will introduce fixed five-year parliamentary sessions, hold a referendum on making the voting system more proportional and change the House of Lords from an appointed to an elected chamber. But no date was indicated for the referendum on the voting system.

Britain's government will also introduce legislation that will ensure that public must be consulted on any future transfer of national powers to the European Union.

It is the 56th time that the Queen has opened a new session of Parliament during her reign and the first time that she has outlined a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition programme for government.

Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg walked together from 10 Downing Street to the Commons, ignoring security fears to tread the streets with the public.

Prime minister's pregnant wife, Samantha was in the gallery above the House of Lords with the Peers. The Queen also announced majors to part privatise the Royal Mail.

There were few surprises in the 22 new bills and one draft bill introduced in the new House, which include a complex and controversial bill to cover parliamentary reform, a subject on which all parties converge that action is needed after last year's expenses scandal.

Each session of Parliament begins with this royal address and covers the following year.

Usually, the Queen's speech takes place in November, but every time there is a general election, Parliament is dissolved and the Queen's speech takes place shortly after the government comes to power.

Referring to immigration, the Queen said, "While it is important that the UK attracts the brightest and the best people who can make a real difference to the country's economic growth, immigration is too high."

In the long term we should up-skill British workers so that we do not need as many economic migrants to fill jobs.

"The government will consult with business and other interested sectors before taking final decisions on the implementation mechanisms for these limits and the level at which they should be set."

Image: Britain's Prince Philip (R) listens as his wife Queen Elizabeth speaks during her address to the House of Lords, at the State Opening of Parliament in Westminster, London on Tuesday

Photograph: Leon Neal / Reuters

H S Rao and Prasun Sonwalkar in London
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