UK announces tougher rules for migrants

LONDON - A fresh attempt to curb immigration is the centre piece the government's planned new laws, set out by the Queen at the state opening of Parliament.

Access to the NHS will be tightened, landlords forced to check immigration status and illegal migrants prevented from obtaining driving licences.

But alcohol pricing and monitoring web use were not among the 15 bills.

The Prince of Wales, joined by his wife the Duchess of Cornwall, attended for the first time since 1996.

The speech took place the day after it was announced Prince Charles would represent the monarch at the Commonwealth heads of government summit in Sri Lanka in November.

Setting out the government's legislative programme for the year ahead, in a speech written for her by ministers, the Queen said its "first priority" remains strengthening Britain's economy and it would.

"It will also work to promote a fairer society that rewards people who work hard," added Her Majesty.

She said an Immigration Bill will aim to "ensure that this country attracts people who will contribute and deter those who will not".

If passed, the bill would also ensure illegal immigrants cannot get driving licences, and change the rules so private landlords have to check their tenants' immigration status.

It would also allow foreign criminals to be deported more easily, as well as people who are in the UK illegally, after the government's repeated setbacks in its efforts to deport the radical cleric Abu Qatada.

Businesses caught employing illegal foreign labour would face bigger fines.

Migrants' access to the NHS would be restricted and temporary visitors would have to "make a contribution" to costs.

The planned immigration crackdown follows a surge in support for UKIP, which campaigns for a reduction in net migration, but the government insists the measures had been decided before last week's local election results.

Ofsted-style ratings for hospitals and care homes will be introduced and a new chief inspector of hospitals given more powers, in response to the Mid-Staffordshire health scandal.

Another bill would increase supervision and drug testing of offenders after release from jails in England and Wales and open up the probation service to private competition in an effort to cut re-offending rates.

There was also no place in the Queen's Speech for proposals to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes or legislation on minimum alcohol pricing, although Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has insisted both plans are still under consideration.

Demands by some Conservative MPs for legislation paving the way for a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU were ignored - as were calls from charities to enshrine in law David Cameron's pledge to spend 0.7% of national income on foreign aid.

The Queen's Speech had also been due to include a communications data bill, dubbed a "snooper's charter" by opponents, which would have allowed the monitoring UK citizens' online and mobile communications.

But the plans were blocked by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg on civil liberties grounds, despite warnings the legislation was needed to help detect terror plots.

The government is now considering forcing internet service providers and mobile phone companies to store more data about the devices from which emails, Skype calls and other messages are sent to help police identify the sender, if necessary.

The Home Office had previously rejected this option, which may not need new legislation to implement, on technical and cost grounds.

For Labour, Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: "The immigration measures in the Queen's Speech don't tackle important issues on exploitation and illegal immigration.

"The government is still not tackling the exploitation of foreign workers leading to the undercutting of local workers.

"Immigration is important for Britain and needs to be controlled and managed so it is fair for all."

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