Update: 1 June 2015: The Government has today announced that the 30 hours of free childcare for three- and four-year-olds will actually roll out in September 2016 in some pilot areas, ahead of the full expansion in September 2017.
Measures to ban rises in income tax, VAT and national insurance over the next five years have been announced in the first Conservative-only Queen's Speech in almost two decades.
The Queen's Speech, which was delivered to MPs and peers by the Queen today, sets out the Government's policies and proposed legislative programme for the new parliamentary session.
The 26 bills – plus one in draft form – make up an agenda that aims to enact many of the promises made by the Conservatives during the general election campaign. Here are some of the key plans:
On the Government's 'tax lock commitment': under the 'national insurance contributions bill' and finance bill, there will be no rises in the rates of income tax, VAT or national insurance over the next five years. The legislation will also bar the Government from extending the scope of VAT or raising the national insurance upper earnings limit. There is no provision, however, to fix the thresholds at which the various rates become payable. This will apply UK-wide.
- On income tax: legislation has been promised to ensure no one working 30 hours a week on the minimum wage – currently £6.50 an hour – will have to pay income tax. The speech also confirmed the Government's intention to raise from £10,600 to £12,500 the threshold at which earnings become liable for income tax. This will apply UK-wide.
- On childcare: from 2017 a childcare bill will provide working parents in England with 30 hours a week of free childcare for three- and four-year-olds for 38 weeks a year – the length of the school year. Currently, three- and four-year-olds in England, along with the poorest two-year-olds, are entitled to 15 free hours of nursery or childcare each week of the school year.
- On benefits: a 'full employment and welfare benefits bill' will freeze most working-age welfare payments, including tax credits and child benefit, for two years from 2016-17. It will also cut the annual cap on a household's benefit payments from £26,000 to £23,000 and remove automatic entitlement to housing benefits for 18- to 21-year-olds. This bill will apply to England, Scotland and Wales with Northern Ireland expected to make mirroring arrangements.
- On housing: a housing bill will give 1.3 million housing association tenants the right to buy their homes, while requiring councils to sell off high-value properties and invest the proceeds into building affordable homes. This legislation, which is expected to receive royal assent by next summer, will cover England and Wales, although it will initially only be applied to England as it's up to the Welsh Government to decide to apply it there.
Prime Minister David Cameron says the "One Nation" package is a "clear programme for working people, social justice and bringing our country together".
For a full roundup of what today's speech means for you, see the Government's The Queen's Speech 2015 document.
Additional reporting by Helen Knapman.