Normally a Prime Minister uses a Queen’s Speech to lay out their government’s legislative agenda for the year ahead. However, with the government currently boasting a working majority in the region of -40, few ministers expect Boris Johnson to be able to even pass his first Queen’s Speech as Prime Minister – let alone the individual bills. Instead, Johnson and his ministers hope Monday’s set piece event will provide a public platform for the things the government would do were they to win a majority in a forthcoming election.
Johnson plans to present an ‘optimistic and ambitious’ Queen’s Speech that would make the UK ‘the greatest place on earth’. There are 22 bills in total. The main piece of legislation will be the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, to be voted on if Johnson successfully agrees a Brexit deal with the EU. With Johnson’s Brexit team holding intensified talks with Brussels over the weekend, there is a chance that the Prime Minister succeeds and then tries to rush through such a bill after the EU council summit. Other bills will look at post-Brexit opportunities – opening up markets to ‘create jobs throughout the UK’ after Britain leaves the EU.
On domestic legislation, there will be bills that cover the Conservatives’ key focus areas in a general election campaign: the NHS, law and order and infrastructure investment. On crime, expect a focus on minimum sentencing for serious violence and sexual offences – and crimes involving police officers. Some of the pieces of legislation being included – from the environment to tackling domestic abuse – are issues that have cross-party support.
When the votes on the Queen’s Speech begin next week, the Tories will attempt to pressure some opposition MPs and independents to back their agenda on the grounds that there are measures they agree with. A number of the Brexit rebel Conservative MPs who have lost the whip are considering voting with the government. However, even if this strategy fails, the Tories won’t be too downhearted. The main point of this Queen’s Speech isn’t to bring in legislation immediately – it’s to tell voters what the Tories would do with the right Parliamentary arithmetic.