Queen’s Speech: Politics live blog

Posted by MereNews On May - 9 - 2012

12.02pm: And here’s my colleague Alan Travis on the crime measures in the Queen’s Speech.

The bill to track everyone’s email, facebook, text and internet use has proved to be one of the most controversial within the coalition and has been slow-streamed in the government’s legislative timetable after last minute coalition talks.
The measure, which has been criticised by civil liberty campaigners as a ‘snooper’s charter’, has been taken out of a more general Home Office and Ministry of Justice-sponsored crime and courts bill which ministers need to get onto the statute book as fast as possible.
The decision to have a stand-alone bill follows Nick Clegg’s insistence that it must be accompanied by the “strongest possible safeguards”. They are expected to include oversight on a case by case basis by a surveillance commissioner, a review of existing measures to protect the security of everyone’s data that is to be stored, and the publication of a privacy impact statement.
Clegg has also promised that the internet tracking proposal will not be “rammed through Parliament” but instead open parliamentary hearings will be held to examine draft clauses of the legislation. The proposal has also attracted sharp criticism from the Tory libertarian right with the former shadow home secretary, David Davis, calling it an “unnecessary extension of the ability of the state to snoop on ordinary people.”
The measure is expected to require internet service providers to retain and store for 12 months the 25% of “traffic data” – who sent an email to whom from where and at what time – that they currently do not keep for their own commercial billing purposes. Overseas based internet companies, including gmail and hotmail, are currently excluded from the legal requirement to keep billing data for 12 months.
Security and police chiefs say that such communications data has played a significant role in every major security service counter-terrorist investigation in the past decade. But the rapidly changing nature of internet use means that they can no longer track communications between terrorist or criminal suspects.
The monitoring data will only be available to the police and security services in “real time” in cases involving active terrorist plots, and hostage or kidnapping situations where lives are at risk.
The bill will restrict access to the most sensitive types of data to the police, emergency services and intelligence agencies. However, local authorities, which were responsible for 1,800 out of the 500,000 requests for such data last year, will need the approval of a magistrate in future for such requests.
The separate crime and courts bill will set up the National Crime Agency from next April, and speed up immigration appeals and to strengthen the powers of UK Border Force officers. It will also include proposals to introduce television cameras into courts, reform judicial appointments and a radical scheme to allow magistrates sitting on their own to operate from community centres and police stations to deal with low-level uncontested cases within days or even hours of arrest.

12.00pm: And here’s a line from my colleague Rupert Jones about the public sector pensions bill.

Ministers are pressing ahead with their controversial reforms of public sector pensions ahead of a new strike tomorrow (Thursday) by tens of thousands of workers.
A public service pensions bill was included in the Queen’s Speech, despite continued opposition from unions, who say the changes mean millions of workers will have to “work longer, pay more and get less” at retirement.
Civil servants, lecturers, health visitors, Ministry of Defence staff, immigration officers and off-duty police officers will be among those staging walkouts and taking part in other forms of protest tomorrow.
The government paper said: “It would establish a common framework across public service pension schemes. The changes would also ensure provision is sustainable, and that costs and benefits between employers, workers and other taxpayers are balanced more fairly.”

11.56am: My colleague Jill Treanor has sent me this about the City measures in the Queen’s Speech.

There had been some expectation before the speech that there would a direct reference to handing shareholders more powers to tackle boardroom excess. I didn’t hear any direct reference to that but assume that the enterprise and regulatory reform bill will be the vehicle for any changes.

The lines on banking reform were expected. Early reaction comes in from PricewaterhouseCoopers. Kevin Burrowes, UK financial services leader at PwC, said: “The emerging risk is that as the banks become regulated utilities, some banking activities may be pushed into the largely unregulated shadow banking sector. Fixing one problem while another begins to emerge must be avoided.”

11.54am: ITV have put up some video of Dennis Skinner’s “Jubilee year, double-dip recession, what a start” moment. (See 11.29am.)

11.50am: I was sceptical about the groceries code adjudicator bill (see 11.35am), but Tim Farron, the Lib Dem president (and a rural MP – he represents Westmorland and Lonsdale) has just told the BBC that it’s very important. It will mean that British farmers get a fair deal, he said.

11.49am: My colleague Rupert Jones has sent me a line about the pension plans in the Queen’s Speech.

Plans for a flat-rate state pension initially worth about £140 a week were included in the Queen’s Speech as part of a shake-up that will also bring forward an increase in the state pension age to 67 between 2026 and 2028.
Under the pensions bill, the basic state pension (currently worth up to £107.45 a week) and state second pension (also known as S2P, and formerly known as Serps) will be replaced by a single scheme, which the government says will cost no more than the existing system.
The reforms follow concerns that people are not being encouraged to save enough for their old age as they are being put off by the current system, which is too complex.
The government paper said it is “committing to ensuring that the state pension age is increased in future to take into account increases in longevity”.

11.44am: That’s it. All over the for the Queen for another year.

11.43am: The Queen is still speaking.

In the year of the Diamond Jubilee, Prince Philip and I will continue to take part in celebrations across the United Kingdom. The Prince of Wales and other members of my family are travelling widely to take part in festivities throught the Commonwealth.

Prince Philip and I look forward to the London Olympics and Paralympic Games and to welcoming visitors from around the world to London and venues throught the country.

At last, the Queen gets to mention something she might enjoy.

Other measures will be laid before you.

This is the get-out clause, which means the government can include extra bills if if wants to. Invariably, there will be other bills.

My lords and members of the House of Commons – I pray that the blessing of Almighty God may rest upon your counsels.

Any more talk of God and she’ll start to sound like George Galloway.

11.42am: The Queen is still speaking.

My government will seek the approval of parliament relating to the agreed financial stability mechanism within the euro area.

There will be a European Union (approval of treaty amendment decision) bill.

My government will seek the approval of parliament on the anticipated accession of Croatia to the European Union.

That’s the Croatia accession bill.

My government will work to support a secure and stable Afghanistan, to reduce the threat of nuclear proliferation, including in Iran, and to bring greater stability to the Horn of Africa.

In the Middle East and North Africa, my government will support the extension of political and economic freedom in countries in transition.

There’s always a foreign policy passage in the Queen’s Speech.

My government has set out firm plans to spend 0.7% of gross national income as official development assistance from 2013. This will be the first time the United Kingdom has met this agreed international commitment.

The goverment is committed to legislating to force governments to meet this 0.7% target. But there will be no bill this session. This concerns some aid campaigners.

My government will build strategic partnerships with the emerging powers.

The United Kingdom will assume the presidency of the G8 in 2013. My government will use this opportunity to promote international security and prosperity.

11.40am: The Queen is still talking.

My government will continute to work with the 15 other Commonwealth realms to take forward reform of the rules governing succession to the Crown.

This is the plan to ensure that, if Kate and William’s first child is a baby girl, she will become Queen and that she won’t be leap-frogged by a younger brother (as she would under the current rules).

Legislation will be brought forward which will introduce individual registration of electors and improve the adminstration of elections.

This is the electoral registration and adminstration bill. Individual voter registation is supposed to cut fraud, but there are fears that it will led to more people failing to register to vote.

A bill will be brought forward to reform the composition of the House of Lords.

This is the one that’s going to cause all the problems. More about it later.

My government will continue to work constructively and cooperately with the devolved institutions.

Up to a point. Ministers still want to stop Alex Salmond having his two-question referendum on Scottish independent in 2014.

Members of the House of Commons – Estimates for the public services will be laid before you.

That means it’s all going to cost money.

My lords and members of the House of Commons – My government is committed to reducing and preventing crime. A bill will be introduced to establish the National Crime Agency to tackle the most serious and organised crime and strengthen border security. The courts and tribunals service will be reformed to increase efficiency, transparency and judicial diversity.

That’s the crime and courts bill.

Legislation will be introduced to protect freedom of speech and reform the law of defamation.

Hooray. About time too. This is a reference to the defamation bill.

My government will introduce legislation to strengthen oversight of the security and intelligence agencies. This will allow courts, through the limited use of closed proceedings, to hear a greater range of evidence in natonal security cases.

This measure, the justice and security bill, is one of the most controversial items in the legislative programme.

My government intends to bring forward measures to maintain the ability of the law enforcement and intelligence agencies to access vital communications data under strict safeguards to protect the public, subject to scrutiny of draft clauses.

This is the draft communications data bill, another hugely controversial measure. You can tell that these two bills are going to be tricky because the Queen is stressing their limitations, with phrases like “limited use” and “strict safeguards”. It makes her sound like a politician.

With every Queen’s Speech, lobby correspondents try to work out who are the winners and who are the losers. A colleague suggests that this time MI5 and MI6 are the main beneficiaries.

The line about “subject to scrutiny of draft clauses” is interesting too. All draft bills are subject to scrutiny. But this seems to have been included at the behest of Nick Clegg, who is facing a Lib Dem revolt over these measures.

11.37am: The Queen is still speaking.

A draft bill will be published to reform the water industry in England and Wales.

That’s the draft water bill.

My government will bring forward measures to modernise the pension system and reform the state pension, creating a fair, simple and sustainable foundation for private saving.

That’s a reference to the pensions bill. You probably won’t be reading a great deal about the groceries code adjudicator bill over the next 12 months, but the pensions bill is a major piece of welfare reform.

Legislation will be introduced to reform public service pensions in line with the recommendations of the independent commission on public service pensions.

And this is another biggie. There will be a lot of talk about the public service pensions bill during this session of parliament because it’s the bill that will cut public service pensiosn. But the Lib Dems and the Tories are reasonably united on this, and so it should get through parliament reasonably easily.

A draft bill will be published setting out measures to close the Audit Commission and establish new arrangements for the audit of local public bodies.

That’s the draft local audit bill.

My government will strive to improve the lives of children and families.

That’s nice to know. This line is in the speech to link the next bills being mentioned.

My government will propose measures to improve provision for disabled children and children with special educational needs. New arrangements will be proposed to support children in family law cases, reform court processes for children in care and strengthen the role of the children’s commissioners.

These measures will be in the children and families bill, which will implement measures in set out in a special needs green paper last year.

Measures will be proposed to make parental leave more flexible so both parents may share parenting responsibilities and balance work and family commitments.

That’s also in the children and families bill.

A draft bill will be published to modernise adult care and support in England.

Significantly, the care and support bill will only be a draft bill. When Andrew Dilnot published his proposals for reform of social care last year, he said that he wanted a white paper to appear before Easter 2012. That white paper still hasn’t arrived.

11.35am: The Queen is still speaking.

My government will introduce legislation to reform competition law to promote enterprise and fair markets.

That’s the enterprise and regulatory reform bill.

My government will introduce legislation to establish a Green Investment Bank.

That’s also in the enterprise and regulatory reform bill.

Measures will be brought forward to further strengthen regulation of the financial services sector and implement the recommendations of the Independent Commission on Banking.

That’s the banking reform bill, which is going to implement the findings of the Vickers commission.

My government will introduce legislation to establish an independent adjudicator to ensure supermarkets deal fairly and lawfully with suppliers.

That’s the groceries code adjudicator bill, which is not one I’ve heard of until today, I’m afraid. I’ve been trying to think of a snappy title for the new supermarket regulator, but Ofgrocer doesn’t really do it. Any better ideas anyone?

A bill will be introduced to reduce burdens on charities, enabling them to claim additional payments on small donations.

That’s the small donations bill.

My government will propose reform of the electricity market to deliver secure, clean and affordable electricity and ensure prices are fair.

This will be contained in an energy bill. The government wrote the Queen’s Speech, but this line could have been written by Ed Miliband. Last month he identified five bills that would be in a Labour’s Queen’s Speech, and one of them was an energy bill “to would break up the dominance of the Big Six power companies and require them by law to offer 4 million elderly people the lowest rate available”.

11.34am: The Queen is starting.

My government’s legislative programme will focus on economic growth, justice, and constitutional reform.

So Nick Clegg can say that he’s got Lords reform into the first line.

My ministers’ first priority will be to reduce the deficit and restore economic stability.

That’s a bit ominous. In the last Queen’s Speech, two years ago, she said: “The first priority is to reduce the deficit and restore economic growth.” The government has now replaced restoring growth with restoring stability. Expectations are being lowered.

Legislation will be introduced to reduce burdens on business by repealing unnecessary legislation and to limit state inspection of businesses.

That’s a reference to the enterprise and regulatory reform bill.

11.34am: Kenneth Clarke, the Lord Chancellor, is presenting the Queen with a copy of her speech.

11.33am: MPs are arriving in the Lords.

11.29am: Black Rod (aka lieutenant General David Leakey) is banging on the door of the Commons. As Huw Edwards reminds us, the door is slammed in his face as a sign of the independence of the Commons.

But then they open it.

Black Rod summons MPs to attend the Queen

Then Dennis Skinner comes out with his traditional quip.

Jubilee Year. Double-dip recession. What a start.

Some Tory MPs seem to be jeering at him.

(The Skinner joke at the arrival of Black Rod is almost part of our constitution now.)

11.28am: Gold Stick in Waiting. That’s a great job title, isn’t it. The Princess Royal is doing the job at the moment.

Wonder how she got that? I don’t suppose they advertised it in the Guardian.

11.26am: The Queen is processing into the Lords chamber now. Here’s an extract from the official description of the ceremony.

Her Majesty, having put on the Royal Robes and wearing the Imperial State Crown, enters the Royal Gallery and proceeds in State to the Chamber of the House of Lords. The Heralds and Pursuivants, the Serjeants at Arms, Clarenceux King of Arms, Norroy and Ulster King of Arms and the Ladies in Waiting enter the Chamber through the doorway on the left, the remainder of the Procession entering through the doorway on the right.

11.23am: John Bercow, the Commons Speaker, is going into the Commons chamber. It’s already packed with MPs.

11.14am: The Queen is getting out of her coach. As usual, she looks faintly bored by it all. After it, according to the BBC, this is her 69th Queen’s Speech.

11.09am: In the Lords Kenneth Clarke, the Lord Chancellor, is all dogged up in his ceremonial outfit. He is holding a pouch containing the Queen’s Speech. On the BBC, Huw Edwards seems to think he’s carrying it in rather a casual manner. He was supposed to check that it contained the speech, apparently. But he did not bother.

11.01am: The Queen is leaving Buckingham Palace. Not long to go now.

10.51am: The Queen’s crown has just arrived at Westminster.

10.45am: Here’s some State Opening tradition.

10.13am: Last week, in an interview with the Evening Standard, David Cameron gave the impression that he would be happy for the coalition to continue after 2015. This is what he said.

When it comes to the next election, do you want a Conservative-led government, or to go backwards with Labour or waste your votes on one of these other parties, that is the key question.

The reference to a “Conservative-led” government infuriated some Tory MPs and today, in an interview with the Daily Mail, Cameron has tried to repair the damage. He repeatedly mentioned his desire to see a “Conservative-only” government and he blamed the Lib Dems for the fact that his programme wasn’t more Tory.

‘There is a growing list of things that I want to do but can’t, which will form the basis of the Conservative manifesto that I will campaign for right up and down the country,’ the prime minister said. ‘Be in no doubt, I want a Tory-only government’ …

Directly addressing senior Conservative MPs who unveiled an alternative Queen’s Speech featuring traditional Tory policies at the weekend, the prime minister declared: ‘I completely understand your frustrations, but let’s be clear: We’ve taken on some areas like reforming student finance, reforming public sector pensions, freezing public sector pay.

‘These are things that previous Conservative governments weren’t able to do.

‘Hell, I even vetoed an EU treaty. So I would say to Conservatives, I know it’s frustrating.

‘I share your frustration. I want a Conservative-only government.’

Cameron seems to have spoken to the Daily Mail shortly before he went to Essex with Nick Clegg to “renew the coalition wedding vows”. I suppose the interview is the political equivalent of Cameron ringing up an old girlfriend on his wedding night to tell her that she’s still his true love.

10.00am: David Cameron and Nick Clegg have been telling us in recent days that they are not obsessed with Lords reform. Unfortunately for them, the BBC keeps mentioning Lords reform right at the start of all its news items about the Queen’s Speech. Number 10 aren’t spinning this very successfully.

9.49am: The Queen’s Speech used to take place at the end of the year, normally in November. But the government has moved it to May so that the parliamentary year is now in synch with the electoral calender. Under the Fixed Term Parliament Act, general elections are always supposed to be held in May. Previously a May election normally resulted in the session of parliaement beforehand being very short and the first one of the new session being very long.

But Lord Knight, a Labour peer, has spotted a problem.

9.38am: The Times has got a cracking story today: the revelation that David Cameron sent a text to Rebekah Brooks shortly before she resigned as chief executive of News International telling her to keep her head up. My colleague Patrick Wintour has filed a story with full details. The Times story comes from an updated version of a biography of Cameron. Here’s an extract from their story (paywall).

The book, Cameron: Practically a Conservative by Francis Elliott of The Times and James Hanning of The Independent on Sunday, details how Mr Cameron and Mrs Brooks would often “pop round to one another’s houses” in south Oxfordshire.

“The wider public might have liked to know too of the text message that Charlie Brooks told friends Cameron sent to Brooks at the beginning of the week in which she resigned, telling her to keep her head up and she’d get through her difficulties,” the authors add.

“Such contact came to an abrupt halt soon afterwards, with Brooks not wanting to embarrass Cameron and he wanting to be able to say, hand on heart, that they had not been in touch.

“But it was claimed that Cameron did send an emissary to Brooks to mitigate his sudden coldness towards her. The gist of the message was, ‘Sorry I couldn’t have been as loyal to you as you have been to me, but Ed Miliband had me on the run’.” …

In May 2011, Mr Cameron asked Scotland Yard to open a review into the Madeleine McCann case, a cause supported by The Sun, also owned by News International. The authors suggest that a debt was being repaid for The Sun’s decision to back the Conservatives at the 2010 general election.

“There was definitely a feeling that Rebekah felt the PM owed them,” the authors quote someone intimately involved.

9.23am: The government is saying it wants to reach consensus on Lords reform. On the BBC News, Lord Richard, the Labour former leader of the Lords, has just said that this amounted to the bill being kicked “into the long, long grass”. There is no chance of getting the Lords and the Commons to agree, he said.

9.15am: For the record, here are the YouGov GB polling figures from last night.

Labour: 44% (up 1 points from YouGov in the Sunday Times)
Conservatives: 31% (no change)
Lib Dems: 8% (down 1)
Ukip: 8% (no change)

Labour lead: 13 points

Government approval: -43

As Anthony Wells says at UK Polling Report, 13 points is as large as Labour’s lead has ever been in YouGov polls since the general election. Labour has had a 13-point lead only twice before, both times in April.

8.50am: In America the key political speech setting out the executive’s programme for the year is the State of the Union address. It’s delivered by the president and it usually contains some soaring rhetoric. In Britain the equivalent is the Queen’s Speech. It’s called a speech, but actually it’s just a very short list of measures, glued together with some platitudes. They are extraordinarily boring. If you don’t believe me, you can read some of the old ones here, going back almost 20 years.

So why are we getting all excited? Because it’s a statement about what parliament is going to be doing for the next 12 months. It is easy to exaggerate the importance of this – although we will get a list of bills this morning, we will get precious little detail about them, and there is nothing to stop the government introducing new legislation not mentioned in the Queen’s Speech as this session of parliament goes on – but, in drafting the Queen’s Speech, the government has had to take decisions about what to put in and what to leave out. We will learn something about its priorities.

But, to be honest, it’s also a bit of fun. The Queen speaks at 11.30am and at 2.30pm MPs begin the debate on the loyal address. It starts with speeches from two backbenchers, and then Ed Miliband and David Cameron open the debate properly. They are big political speeches but, in footballing terms, it’s more of a friendly than a cup final. The speeches are expected to be quite funny, and for a day MPs can wallow in the silly traditions, the hats, the frocks, Siliver Stick, the Cap of Maintenance, all that ceremonial nonsense, and even the traditional Dennis Skinner joke when Black Rod turns up in the Commons to summon MPs to the Lords to hear the Queen.

Here’s our preview of what the Queen’s Speech is going to contain.

I’ll be focusing on the Queen’s Speech and the subsequent debate today, but I’ll also be looking at the papers and covering any other breaking political news. I’ll post a summary at about 1pm and another after Cameron’s speech in the Commons this afternoon is over.

If you want to follow me on Twitter, I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

And if you’re a hardcore fan, you can follow @gdnpoliticslive. It’s an automated feed that tweets the start of every new post that I put on the blog.

Article source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/blog/2012/may/09/queens-speech-politics-live-blog

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