The British State Opening of Parliament starts tomorrow with the BBC’s coverage at 10.30am – the more overtly political coverage is on BBC News, while a more light-hearted look at the ceremonial generally takes place on BBC Parliament at the same time.
I’ve done a post with video from previous State Openings, both in the UK and abroad.
This Queen’s Speech is special, however. This marks the resumption of yearly sessions which were halted so that the government could get through some particularly massive bills reforming the NHS, welfare, and legal aid implementing spending cuts. Incredibly, that last session was the longest since at least 1688! This session is expected to see fewer big bills announced for introduction, and indeed fewer bills altogether. The BBC has the low-down on some of them, and I’ve added in the other ones which are expected to be in the programme for the next session.
- Banking Reform Bill: A controversial bill which is meant to implement the Vickers report on ringfencing retail and investment banking to stop banks being too big to fail, though quite how much watering down will have happened is up for discussion.
- House of Lords Bill: An extremely controversial measure which aims to set up elections for 80% of the House of Lords; despite having received pre-legislative scrutiny this last session, it is likely to run aground with ministers now sounding distinctly lukewarm.
- Crime, Communications and Courts Bill: This will presumably contain provisions to criminalise drug driving, set up the National Crime Agency, allow some filming in courtrooms and allow the security services to intercept communications; some of this bill may be subject to pre-legislative scrutiny before introduction.
- Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill: This bill will aim to restrict employees rights (implementing some of Beecroft report) to claim unfair dismissal, reform top executive pay, and cut red tape generally – perhaps even implementing some of the changes that Lord Young of Graffham suggested in his report.
- Pensions Bill: Another pensions bill this session to implement the controversial changes to public sector pensions.
- Defamation Bill: Another bill which received pre-legislative scrutiny last year, it will liberalise libel law in England and Wales.
- Draft Water Bill: Pre-legislative scrutiny will commence on this measure to force water companies to plan for the longer term and set up controls on taking water out of rivers, but no bill is expected this session.
- Grocery Code Adjudicator Bill: This also had pre-legislative scrutiny and will attempt to ensure fairness between big supermarkets and their suppliers.
- Finance Bill: It’s obvious, but the finance bill which was before the Commons last session will be carried over to this session so that the government gets some money at the end of all this.
- Financial Services Bill: It received pre-legislative scrutiny last year and was introduced, this bill is also expected to be carried over to this session so that further regulation of the financial services sector can be implemented.
- Local Government Finance Bill: Brought forward last year to give MPs something to do while their Lordships waded through the swamp of big bills in the Spring, this bill will be carried over to reform local government finance.
Other bills will, no doubt, be introduced too but these are the ones that I’ve seen mentioned or know of. Nothing’s been heard about the Recall of Elected Representatives Bill which was published in draft, and individual voter registration may not be brought in this session either because of worries across party lines. Certainly, the Social Care Bill (implementing the Dilnot report) isn’t expected to be in this session because of the time taken up by the House of Lords Bill and the same has happened to the Higher Education Bill to allow more private universities to be set up.
Enshrining the overseas aid funding in law and a bill to allow gay civil marriage have been at least temporarily dropped, but that is apparently because of threatened rebellions from within the Tory party. High-speed rail was never meant to be introduced this session anyway, so I’ve no idea why that’s been thrown around as another victim of Lords reform.