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Queen's Speech outlines UK election themes

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Queen addresses excessive pay
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Britain's Queen Elizabeth delivers annual speech to mark state opening of Parliament
  • Climate change and strengthening financial regulation highlighted as government's main priorities
  • Speech is effectively manifesto for ruling Labour Party with election due by June next year
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London, England (CNN) -- Britain's Queen Elizabeth on Wednesday delivered the annual speech to mark the state opening of Parliament, highlighting climate change and strengthening financial regulation as the government's main priorities.

Though delivered by the monarch, the speech is always written by the government and outlines its agenda for the next parliamentary session.

This year's speech is also an election-year manifesto for the ruling Labour Party, because Prime Minister Gordon Brown is required under British law to call a general election by June.

But with parliamentary time fast running out, few of the package of bills are likely to make it into law before the election.

"My government will continue to reform and strengthen regulation of the financial services industry to ensure greater protection for savers and taxpayers," the queen said in the speech. "Legislation will be brought forward to enhance the governance of the financial sector and to control the system of rewards."

The resulting Financial Services Bill would put tougher requirements on "systemically important financial firms" when they set up recovery plans, making it easier for the government to act in the event of a future financial crisis.

The bill also would ban credit card companies from sending unsolicited blank checks to their customers "to prevent financial institutions from encouraging customers to borrow more than they can afford."

"As the economic recovery is established, my government will reduce the budget deficit and ensure that national debt is on a sustainable path," the queen said in the speech. "Legislation will be brought forward to halve the deficit."

Brown's government also is seeking global and European collaboration on climate change ahead of next month's Copenhagen Climate Conference, according to the speech.

At home in Britain, "legislation will be brought forward to support carbon capture and storage and to help more of the most vulnerable households with their energy bills," the queen said in the speech.

The measures follow a plan set out in July that outlined actions to cut 1990 emission levels by 34 percent by 2020 and by at least 80 percent by 2050.

The queen's speech also promised to introduce legislation to protect communities from flooding and improve the management of water supplies.

The government also plans to strengthen a law against bribery, and introduce a law to promote equality and tackle discrimination in the workplace. The bill would also address pay differences between men and women.

Internationally, the government pledged to work for security, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan and Pakistan and for peace in the Middle East.

The British government will bring forward legislation to ban cluster munitions and "work towards creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons, including addressing the challenges from Iran and North Korea."

Under British law, a Parliamentary general election must take place by June 3. Observers have said a likely date for the election is May 6 because many local councils have elections on that date.

Five years is the maximum amount of time for a Parliament, according to Britain's Electoral Commission. The last general election was held in May 2005, and the current Parliament was first summoned May 11 of that year.