Speech heralds start of big decisions on Europe
PUBLISHED: 08:33 26 May 2015 | UPDATED: 08:33 26 May 2015
From a vote to decide whether we stay in the European Union to a new Bill of Rights, Political Editor Annabelle Dickson looks at what could be in David Cameron’s first Queen’s Speech as the head of a majority government.
What is the Queen’s Speech?
The State Opening begins with the Queen’s procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster, escorted by the Household Cavalry.
She will arrive at the Sovereign’s Entrance and head to the Robing Room. She will wear the Imperial State Crown and the Robe of State as she leads the Royal Procession through the Royal Gallery, packed with 600 guests, to the chamber of the House of Lords.
The House of Lords official – Black Rod – is sent to summon the Commons. The doors to the Commons chamber are shut in his face: a practice dating back to the Civil War, symbolising the Commons’ independence from the monarchy.
Black Rod strikes the door three times before it is opened. Members of the House of Commons then follow Black Rod and the Commons Speaker to the Lords chamber, standing at the opposite end to the Throne, known as the Bar of the House, to listen to the speech.
Although the Queen reads the speech, it is written by the government. It contains an outline of its policies and proposed legislation for the new parliamentary session.
When the Queen leaves, a new parliamentary session starts.
Traditions surrounding State Opening can be traced back as far as the 16th century. The current ceremony dates from the opening of the rebuilt Palace of Westminster in 1852 after the fire of 1834.
The Prime Minister is poised to spend a great deal more time in mainland Europe negotiating our terms and conditions with the European Union as an in/out referendum becomes the centrepiece of tomorrow’s Queen’s Speech.
The promise to give the nation a say over whether we remain in the European Union by 2017, set out in black and white in his manifesto, looks set to pass into law fairly easily with Labour now backing the plans for a referendum, but pledging to campaign to keep Britain in the EU.
Our relationship with the institution has come to a head with voters increasingly showing their Eurosceptic colours. Three out of seven of our Euro MPs in the East are UK Independence Party politicians, and some Conservatives are also keen for a so-called “Brexit”.
But while there is now a political consensus between the Conservatives and Labour over a referendum, there is disquiet about the impact of the bill.
Richard Ross, managing director of Norwich-based financial advisor Chadwicks, said the referendum presented a “real danger that we will leave the EU”.
“The popular view is that Europe is terrible and we are better off out of it. The popular view is that we will do just as well on our own in a world, which is increasingly made up of very large trading blocs. People are fighting to get into one of those trading blocs, and we must be the only country in the world fighting to get out of one of those trading blocs.”
He hit out at the anti-European rhetoric, adding: “It just embarrasses me the things we say about our neighbours. We are throwing away goodwill as if it has no value at all. I’m sure there will be a time when it comes back to bite us.
He said the region had very strong links because of it proximity to Europe. “We have strong links with Amsterdam, we have strong shipping links with Rotterdam. It is bound to have an effect. There is lots of inward investment and there is a real risk they will look elsewhere.”
But Eastern region Euro MP Vicky Ford said she was optimistic about the chances of renegotiation.
“People are listening and they are open to discussion. They are more open to discussions than they would have been three or four years ago.
“What I am seeing is a lot of different members from different countries saying we want to keep the UK in, partly because of the relationship with the single market, but also, compared to two or three years ago across the continent, and especially along the Eastern borders, there is an increasing security concern. They want a close relationship with the UK because they feel we are a strong friend when it comes to security and defence issues.”
She acknowledged that many businesses wanted the UK to stay in the European Union, while also wanting reform.
“They want to have votes. They all want reform and they want a pro-competitiveness-type reform. This discussion has got a long way to go. From my point of view, I want to see detailed reforms to meet concerns about border controls, the independence of our currency and economy, because we are not in the euro, and also the independence of our courts and justice system.”
Chand Chudasama, manager of the strategy and corporate finance team at East Anglian chartered accountancy firm Price Bailey, said small businesses were struggling to understand how the EU referendum bill would affect them.
“The EU referendum for small businesses is a source of nervousness, but we need clarity on why people are nervous. A referendum doesn’t mean anything. It is testing the pulse of the electorate against a single question.”
British Bill of Rights
Sold in the Conservative manifesto as a bid to “restore common sense”, plans to scrap the Human Rights Act and introduce a British Bill of Rights is another pledge likely to be set out by the Queen tomorrow.
The manifesto claims that the bill will remain “faithful to the basic principles of human rights”, but will “reverse the mission creep” which they claim has seen the law used for more and more purposes, and often with little regard for the rights of wider society.
The manifesto claimed the bill would stop terrorists and other serious foreign criminals who pose a threat to our society from using spurious human rights arguments to prevent deportation.
But its passage through Parliament is not likely to be a smooth one, not least because the Conservatives are sitting on a wafer thing majority.
Andrew Mitchell, the former chief whip, and Dominic Grieve, who was Mr Cameron’s Attorney General for four years, have warned they are gravely concerned about moves to water down human rights legislation.
The party is unlikely to find allies on the opposition benches, with their old coalition partners strongly opposed to the plans.
North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said the Tories must not “trample all over” human rights laws, as his party, the Liberal Democrats, launched a campaign to stop the bill.
“They have stopped the state spying on us, supported peaceful protest and guarded against slavery. They have helped rape victims, defended domestic violence victims and shielded press freedom. The Liberal Democrats blocked David Cameron from scrapping the Human Rights Act in government and we must stop him again now.
“That is why we are urging everyone to get behind our campaign to stop the Tories riding roughshod over our freedoms and rights.”
Counter Terrorism Bill
Plans to give police powers to limit the “harmful activities” of extremist individuals which create a “threat to the functioning of democracy”, are likely to be included in the Queen’s Speech.
Another part of the Conservative manifesto, the plans, which were vetoed by the Liberal Democrats, have been revived.
They would include a ban on broadcasting and a requirement to submit to the police in advance any proposed publication on the web and social media or in print.
It will also contain powers to close premises, including mosques, where extremists seek to influence others.
But the proposed move has reportedly already divided opinion in the cabinet.
Business secretary Sajid Javid has already attacked the Home Secretary Theresa May’s plans to beef up the watchdog’s powers as a potential infringement on free speech.
But the Prime Minister insisted Ofcom “has got a role” to play in ensuring extremist messages are not broadcast after the emergence of the leaked letter.
The Enterprise Bill
The Government is to move to end six-figure “golden parachutes” for high-earning public sector bosses who are made redundant.
The Queen’s Speech will include legislation to enact the Conservatives’ general election manifesto pledge to cap the amount public sector employees can receive if they lose their jobs.
Ministers say the measure – to be included in the Enterprise Bill – could save the taxpayer millions of pounds.
According to officials, more than 1,800 public sector employees received pay-offs of more than £100,000 in 2013.
The Government will consult on the detail – including whether it will cover the BBC – but ministers are said to be “minded” to set the cap at £95,000.
At the same time, the Government will go ahead with the implantation of new rules agreed in the last Parliament to claw back pay-offs to public sector workers who return to work in the same part of the public sector after only a short time.
Recommendations to give Scotland greater tax and welfare powers will be included in the Queen’s Speech, which will be listened to by the influx of new Scottish National Party members.
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, has already hinted the draft bill does not go far enough, and the Prime Minister has said he could add extra powers to Scotland – nearly full control over income tax, air passenger duty and housing benefit.
This is set to be a highly contentious part of the Queen’s Speech, with nearly all of Scotland’s constituencies represented by the Scottish Nationalist Party.
Prime Minister David Cameron promised to offer MPs a free vote on a Government Bill to repeal
the Hunting Act passed by the former Labour administration in 2004 if he won the General Election.
The law currently bans the use of dogs to hunt foxes and other wild mammals in England and Wales.
While it is not likely to be a bill in the Queen’s Speech, David Cameron could allude to plans for a free vote before the end of the year.
Opposition from the Liberal Democrats prevented Mr
Cameron delivering on a similar pledge made in the Conservative manifesto for the 2010 general election.
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