Statement on the Queen’s Speech

Worcester’s Member of Parliament, Robin Walker, has today issued the following statement to constituents regarding the end of this Parliamentary session and the upcoming Queen’s Speech.

I have been contacted by a wide range of constituents with concerns regarding the new session of Parliament and I think, given the amount of mis-information that has been circulated on social media regarding the new session of Parliament, it is important for me to reassure you, and outline the technical details of what has been proposed by the Prime Minister. What is being proposed is the normal, brief adjournment before a new (overdue) session with Parliament returned and sitting ahead of the Brexit deadline of the 31st October.

Prorogation, which has historically usually occurred annually, brings an end to the proceedings in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords for the current parliamentary session. A new parliamentary session can provide procedural opportunities to revisit matters where legislation was unable to progress in a previous session. For example, if the House of Lords withheld its consent for a bill, a new session enables a UK Government commanding the confidence of the Commons to reintroduce the legislation in question. It also allows a Government to set out a programme of new legislation and seek the support of the House of Commons for that programme.

A parliamentary session always begins when the Queen opens Parliament (the State Opening). It ends with the prorogation, when the Queen’s representatives visit Parliament to announce its end. The next session then commences with another state opening. Throughout the twentieth century, the general pattern was for sessions to begin and end in October or November. From 2011, with the introduction of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, it was decided the new Parliamentary session should begin in May. The current parliamentary session has lasted more than 340 days and in almost 400 years only the 2010-12 session comes close, at 250 sitting days. Indeed it is notable that the Opposition have repeatedly called for a new session and a new Queen’s speech, with the shadow leader of the House having pressed for one in April, May and June of this year.

Key Brexit legislation has been held back to ensure it could still be considered for carry-over into a second session; but in recent months important domestic issues have seen little focus from Parliament, the Prime Minister feels this cannot continue. Therefore, the Government intends to bring forward a new and ambitious domestic legislative agenda for the renewal of our country after Brexit. This includes legislative commitments to the NHS, fighting violent crime, investing in infrastructure and sciences.

The plan put forward by the Prime Minister, as agreed by Her Majesty The Queen, is to request an end to the current parliamentary session in the second sitting week in September, before commencing the second session of this Parliament with a Queen’s speech on Monday 14th October. A central feature of the legislative programme will be the Government’s number one legislative priority, if a new deal is forthcoming at European Council, to introduce a Withdrawal Agreement Bill and move at pace to secure its passage before the 31st of October.

It is also worth remembering, that every year, the House rises around this time for the party conference season, and therefore Parliament not sitting for a few weeks is not out of the ordinary, on the contrary, the plans put forward by the Prime Minister mean only an extra few days against what was previously proposed. October 8th, 9th and 10th are at present the only three days of scheduled parliamentary time lost. I believe this is more than compensated for by the opportunity for Parliament to debate, scrutinise and indeed vote on the programme of the new Government.

It is important that the key votes associated with the Queen’s Speech and any deal with the EU fall at a time when MPs are best placed to judge the Government’s programme. Parliament will have the opportunity to debate the Government’s overall programme, and approach to Brexit, in the run up to the European Council, and then vote on this on the 21st and 22nd October, once we know the outcome of proceedings from the European Council.

The huge positive of the Prime Minister’s announcement is that it ensures MPs can debate the Queen’s Speech, which has to be voted on, and therefore ensure there will be an opportunity for Members to express their views on this Government’s legislative agenda and its approach to, as well as the result of, the European Council. Most importantly, MPs will be sitting towards the end of October, as we run up to the date that is set in law for our exit. Should the Prime Minister succeed in agreeing a deal with the EU, Parliament will then have the opportunity to pass the Bill required for ratification of the deal ahead of 31st October.

I was elected on a manifesto to respect the referendum result and leave the EU with a withdrawal agreement and a future relationship. I continue to support that commitment and will continue to support a deal that will deliver on it. I have voted to reject a ‘people’s vote’ or a second referendum and I am clear that we should leave the European Union in an orderly fashion as soon as possible. Over the last three years I have undertaken a huge amount of work within my capacity as a Minister at the Department for Exiting the European Union to secure the future relationship between the UK and the EU, and I regret the fact that votes in Parliament have consistently denied us the opportunity to move forward into delivering on the result of the referendum. As many of my constituents have made clear to me on the doorsteps, they want to see this situation resolved. I have voted on at least three occasions to leave the EU with a deal in place and it is for those who have voted against that to justify why no deal remains a possibility.

I have consistently backed leaving the EU in an orderly fashion and will continue to do so. The best and only way to rule out no deal is to vote for a negotiated agreement and this I have already done three times. It is notable that most of the people shouting loudest about the risk of no deal did not vote for a deal on each of those occasions. Part of my role as a Minister is to ensure that all parts of the UK are prepared for our exit from the EU and I take these responsibilities very seriously. I look forward to the sitting of Parliament in the coming weeks and to supporting a Queen’s speech in October to take our country forward.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

For the House of Commons Library briefing on prorogation, please see:
https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-8589

For the Shadow Leader of the House’s comments please see-
25th April 2019: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2019-04-25/debates/8C1CF3AF-A719-452C-A833-71A5A017CE78/BusinessOfTheHouse?highlight=%22we%20need%20a%20queen%E2%80%99s%20speech%20because%20we%20need%20to%20stop%20the%20department%20for%20work%20and%20pensions%E2%80%99%20failing%20system%20of%20assessments%22#contribution-17C0649E-9B85-4467-B311-C0FD4A618B37

2nd May 2019: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2019-05-02/debates/15D696DD-72D7-47DA-BDCF-E2EDE3741317/BusinessOfTheHouse?highlight=%22we%20are%20breaking%20records%20again%2C%20with%20the%20longest%20time%20without%20a%20queen%E2%80%99s%20speech%22#contribution-55BDF893-5716-45D7-BB27-2805BDDE3BAE

6th of June 2019: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2019-06-06/debates/546379CA-C7BD-4D1F-943B-8CE3C07B0584/BusinessOfTheHouse?highlight=%22%20i%20am%20sure%20that%20he%20has%20been%20briefed%2C%20but%20i%20will%20give%20him%20the%20figure%20again%3A%20it%20is%20715%20days%20since%20the%20queen%E2%80%99s%20speech.%20this%20is%20now%20the%20longest%20continuous%20parliamentary%20session%20since%20the%20acts%20of%20union%20in%201800%22#contribution-42D957A4-A754-4A0C-BA22-ABD2E792120F