Alex Hern details the effects that the extraordinarily late Queen’s Speech will have on legislation in the Lords.
Paul Waugh reports today that the Queen’s Speech has been provisionally set at May 9th, 2012.
Given that the last Queen’s Speech was on May 25 2010, the new date would mean a gap of nearly two years since the Monarch last sat on the Throne in the House of Lords.
As a result, we will have the longest Parliamentary session for more than 150 years.
The tradition of an annual Queen’s (and King’s) Speech, setting out legislation for the year ahead, survived through both World Wars, various Coalitions and Governments of national unity.
But this particular Coalition decided last year that it needed a longer session to get through its first programme of mammoth bills…
The May 9th date is unlikely to be made public for a while yet though. Rebel Lib Dem peers and Labour peers who have been staging guerilla operations on various bills may be kept guessing.
This extraordinarily late date means that the government can take their time with bills which previously looked like they might have to be rushed through the House of Lords with major concessions.
As we reported in December, there are at least four contentious bills working their way through the Lords: The health and social care bill; the legal aid, sentencing and punishment of offenders bill; the Scotland bill; and the welfare reform bill.
It was previously thought that there would not be enough time before the end of the parliamentary session for all four of those bills to be given the debate time the Lords and Commons would demand unless the most contentious measures were removed; now, that analysis is cast in doubt.
The timetable is still strict for these bills; as Waugh points out, the Lord’s business has to be finished by the end of March. As a result, concessions will have to be made. The chance of all of these bills being neutered is now slim, however.
If they are to be sanitised, or even scrapped altogether, the pressure is now unlikely to come from within Parliament. Campaigners working against these bills must step up their game, because the next five months will be crunch time.
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• Life in the Lords logjam may be death for the health bill – Alex Hern, December 2nd 2011
• The House of Lords ties itself in noble knots over the NHS bill – Jos Bell, November 12th 2011
• Life is already hard for cancer patients. Don’t make it harder – Alex Hern, October 25th 2011
• Ten reasons peers should vote against Lansley’s anti-NHS bill – Shamik Das, October 12th 2011
• A ‘protect the NHS’ clause needs to be introduced into Lansley’s bill – Cllr Joseph McManners, July 4th 2011