Simon Reevell's Notes From Westminster

Issue 637

I AM writing this piece in my office in Westminster in the short period of time between the Queen’s Speech and the start of the Queen’s Speech Debate. 

This morning Her Majesty accompanied by Prince Philip together with Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall arrived by horse drawn coaches with cavalry outriders and processed to the Chamber of the House of Lords.

In accordance with tradition the Members of the House of Commons were then commanded to attend.

This command was delivered by an official of the House of Lords called ‘Black Rod’ and, again by tradition, as he approached the chamber of the Commons the door to the chamber was slammed in his face. This is to symbolise the independence of MPs.

After banging three times on the door with the black rod that he carries he was allowed in and having delivered Her Majesty’s command the Members of the Commons, led by the Speaker, followed him back to the other end of the Palace of Westminster.

It was all very impressive with large crowds outside Parliament and live national and international TV coverage reminding the world once again that Westminster is the ‘Mother of Parliaments’.

It is also an occasion with a very practical purpose as during the speech itself proposals for the legislation to be discussed in the next session of Parliament are set out.

Legislation is always far-ranging. This time the subjects were as varied as laws to try and stamp out human trafficking and laws to compel supermarkets to charge for plastic bags. There was also a commitment to reducing further the burden of over-regulation.

This is a dividing point between the government and the opposition. The opposition have said that there are not enough new laws. They seem to prefer quantity to quality.

I think that they are wrong on this. Over the years Parliament has been far too quick to pass laws that have not been properly scrutinised and that then take years to either amend or repeal.

It is also worth remembering that today’s Queen’s Speech contained 11 bills. For all their bleating, the last Queen’s speech of the last government contained nine!

This afternoon the debate on the Queen’s Speech begins with the two main party leaders making their speeches.

The debate is always a little unusual because no one yet knows the details of all the new policies.

Politically the debate may also be overshadowed by the outcome of the Newbury by-election. But it is in the coming months that the detail behind the Queen’s Speech proposals will emerge and be debated.

As we consider all these traditions associated with our historic democracy it is worth remembering two pieces of history.

Firstly, 70 years ago on Friday was D-Day. The largest amphibious invasion in history was the beginning of the end for the German occupation of Western Europe and the start of the restoration of freedom in countries such as France, Belgium and Holland.

Secondly, 25 years ago tanks were rumbling into Tiananmen Square in Beijing in China to suppress pro-democracy activists whose cause is still outlawed despite all of China’s recent prosperity.

Very best wishes,

Simon

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