Amid pomp and ceremony, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has published her government's policies in preparation for what is likely to be a general election to be held next year. The policies, outlined by Queen Elizabeth II in the traditional yearly speech from the throne to Parliament, amounted to an attempt to trip up Mrs. Thatcher's Labour and Liberal-Social Democrat opponents by placing the emphasis on a new effort to reduce taxation and to promote law and order.
Government ministers were confident that the pre-election package of measures was being revealed at a favorable time for Thatcher, who has held office continuously since 1979.
Recent public opinion polls have shown the Tory government edging ahead of the Labour Party and the Social Democratic-Liberal Alliance despite solid attempts by the government's opponents to give the impression that Thatcher has run out of new political and economic ideas.
The Queen's speech, written by the Prime Minister and her advisers, promised a new drive to reduce taxation, to hold down inflation, and to curb unemployment. It also promised help for crime victims, powers for the courts to confiscate profits of serious crime, and tougher penalties for criminals using guns.
Significantly, the speech promised that the government would continue to maintain Britain's defenses and play a full part in the Atlantic Alliance. This was directed at the Labour Party, which wants Britain to go nonnuclear and modify relations with NATO.
Through the Queen, Thatcher also served notice that in the run up to the general election, which insiders believe will be held within the next 12 months, she will reform the system by which schoolteachers negotiate their pay and conditions of service. For nearly three years, the teachers and the government have disputed these points. The government is likely to gain votes by instituting a system that may eliminate, or at least reduce, strikes and stoppages in the classroom.
The Queen's speech also promised a reform in trial by jury system. The reform aims to reduce the number of types of cases that juries need to hear. This drew immediate criticism from civil liberties groups. They said trial by jury was a longstanding right under British law that had steadily eroded over the past 20 years.
In all, 19 bills were foreshadowed in the speech. These were parceled into groups to be carried out in stages. This gives Thatcher the option of calling a general election next spring or in the autumn with a coherent body of new laws on the statute book.