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13 September 2010

Queen’s Speech cancelled. An abuse of power?

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

By George Eaton

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.

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

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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.