Today's entry reports on what the Queen's Speech means for infrastructure.
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 session.
Of interest to infrastructure-watchers are the following bills:
- 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 customers' needs
- 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.