Today is the State Opening of Parliament and the Queen's
Speech, marking the first day of a new parliamentary session (i.e.
year). When there wasn't an election to interrupt the cycle,
the Queen's Speech used to be in November each year, but it has
been moved to May to coincide with the now fixed election date that
month. This means that there hasn't been a Queen's Speech
since 25 May 2010, so the last session of parliament unusually
lasted for nearly two years. The new session is officially the
second session of the 55th Parliament of the UK, which is dated
from 1801 and means there have been 55 general elections since
then. This is why Parliamentary bills will have '55/2' on
their front pages for the next year.
To demonstrate its independence from the Crown, it is supposedly
business as usual at the House of Commons until Black Rod bangs on
the door to summon members to the Lords hear Her Majesty. Given
that the House has been debating the first reading of the
Outlawries Bill since at least 1558, they aren't really
concentrating on the business at hand.
The Queen's Speech is written by the government of the day
and its principal job is to set out the bills that the government
intends to bring forward during the session, written in a slightly
coded way. The Queen's Speech from 2010 is here, starting at
column 31. That Hansard contains a useful list of Parliamentary
sessions, MPs elected that year, members of the government and
Parliamentary officials. The Hansard for today will too.
Less well known, there is also a Queen's Speech at the end
of the session, albeit not personally read by the Queen, summing up
what was enacted during the session. The speech from the last
session on 1 May this year can be found here, starting at
column 1372. Black Rod knocks on the door for that one too. The gap
between sessions is called prorogation.
Queen's Speech 2012
The full text of the Queen's Speech can be found here. I thought she
was reading the 2010 speech by mistake at first, since the opening
words of that one were "My Government's legislative
programme will be based upon the principles of freedom, fairness
and responsibility. The first priority is to reduce the deficit and
restore economic growth." and the first words of this one
were "My Government's legislative programme will focus
on economic growth, justice and constitutional reform. My
Ministers' first priority will be to reduce the deficit and
restore economic stability." Spot the difference.
The BBC has
identified 18 bills in the speech, and the Telegraph and FT think there
are 19. Some of these are described as 'draft Bills' which
means they will be published in draft for comment first, and may
not actually be published in final form and debated this
Of interest to infrastructure-watchers are the following
An Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill will include the
establishment of a Green Investment Bank, which we have already
been told will be in Edinburgh;
An Energy Bill will encourage investment in low carbon
generation and clean energy, put more restrictions on emissions
from new coal plants and will create the Office for Nuclear
Regulation. The Bill will also implement electricity market reform
(EMR). Apparently a draft is to be published on 22 May.
A draft Water Bill will allow greater freedom to choose water
supplier and will make water companies more responsive to
The Department for Communities and Local Government won't
have much to do, but it will introduce a draft Local Audit Bill to
abolish the Audit Commission, and increase local accountability and
transparency. A Bill to reform Special Parliamentary Procedure
didn't make it to the text of the Speech, but that doesn't
mean there won't be one.
There is not a great deal on infrastructure, then, but
electricity generation will be a focus. We can nevertheless expect
plenty of changes that do not require primary legislation over the
coming year - infrastructure was confirmed as a priority by Nick
Clegg in his joint
speech with David Cameron. Watch this space.
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