Queen's Speech cancelled. An abuse of power?

Coalition cancels 2011 Queen's Speech. Is this more than a matter of political convenience?

The Queen can look forward to an extended holiday next spring: the coalition has cancelled her annual address to Parliament. The government claims that the decision is part of its plan to permanently move the the state opening of parliament from the autumn to the spring, meaning the next Queen's Speech won't be until 2012.

Here's Sir George Young's explanation:

[T]he government believes that it would be appropriate to move towards five 12-month sessions over a parliament, beginning and ending in the spring. This has the advantage of avoiding a final fifth session [beginning in the autumn] of only a few months, which restricts the ability of parliament to consider a full legislative programme.

But it's far from clear why the next Queen's Speech couldn't be held in May 2011 (the last was held on 25 May) and Labour MPs smell a rat.

As Rosie Winterton, the shadow leader of the Commons, pointed out on the World at One:

Normally, a government has 12 months, maximum 18 months to get its legislation through. What the government has said is that, because we had got a difficult session ahead, we want two years to get our legislation through ... it's an abuse of power and parliament.

Meanwhile, Speaker Bercow has ordered Young to answer an urgent question from Labour MP Denis MacShane on the subject this afternoon. As in the case of the 55 per cent rule and the proposed boundary changes, it's hard to avoid the sense that this is another example of Cameron introducing political reform with little or no consultation. And given the divisive nature of much of the coalition's legislative programme, ministers have some way to go to convince Parliament that this is more than a matter of political convenience.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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The 5 things the Tories aren't telling you about their manifesto

Turns out the NHS is something you really have to pay for after all. 

When Theresa May launched the Conservative 2017 manifesto, she borrowed the most popular policies from across the political spectrum. Some anti-immigrant rhetoric? Some strong action on rip-off energy firms? The message is clear - you can have it all if you vote Tory.

But can you? The respected thinktank the Institute for Fiscal Studies has now been through the manifesto with a fine tooth comb, and it turns out there are some things the Tory manifesto just doesn't mention...

1. How budgeting works

They say: "a balanced budget by the middle of the next decade"

What they don't say: The Conservatives don't talk very much about new taxes or spending commitments in the manifesto. But the IFS argues that balancing the budget "would likely require more spending cuts or tax rises even beyond the end of the next parliament."

2. How this isn't the end of austerity

They say: "We will always be guided by what matters to the ordinary, working families of this nation."

What they don't say: The manifesto does not backtrack on existing planned cuts to working-age welfare benefits. According to the IFS, these cuts will "reduce the incomes of the lowest income working age households significantly – and by more than the cuts seen since 2010".

3. Why some policies don't make a difference

They say: "The Triple Lock has worked: it is now time to set pensions on an even course."

What they don't say: The argument behind scrapping the "triple lock" on pensions is that it provides an unneccessarily generous subsidy to pensioners (including superbly wealthy ones) at the expense of the taxpayer.

However, the IFS found that the Conservatives' proposed solution - a "double lock" which rises with earnings or inflation - will cost the taxpayer just as much over the coming Parliament. After all, Brexit has caused a drop in the value of sterling, which is now causing price inflation...

4. That healthcare can't be done cheap

They say: "The next Conservative government will give the NHS the resources it needs."

What they don't say: The £8bn more promised for the NHS over the next five years is a continuation of underinvestment in the NHS. The IFS says: "Conservative plans for NHS spending look very tight indeed and may well be undeliverable."

5. Cutting immigration costs us

They say: "We will therefore establish an immigration policy that allows us to reduce and control the number of people who come to Britain from the European Union, while still allowing us to attract the skilled workers our economy needs." 

What they don't say: The Office for Budget Responsibility has already calculated that lower immigration as a result of the Brexit vote could reduce tax revenues by £6bn a year in four years' time. The IFS calculates that getting net immigration down to the tens of thousands, as the Tories pledge, could double that loss.

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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