We are now just over a month away from the next Queen’s speech. Speculation has been limited so far because of the upcoming EU referendum, but with a speech to write, and a legislative agenda to fill, increasing attention will be paid to this by ministers and officials in the weeks ahead.
It’s always worth reacquainting yourself with some of the traditions and procedures that mark the state opening of parliament, but it’s worth thinking about what’s going on at this stage, as departments seek to flesh out their agenda for the year ahead, and how charities can contribute to that discussion.
At this stage, speculation about what might actually be in it is still fairly thin on the ground, though DeHavilland has highlighted a few announcements and areas to look out for, including aspects which will be of interest to a number of charities, such as prisons reform, health devolution, and protections against discrimination.
Still looking for bills
Whatever the speculation, a number of bills and measures will already be pencilled in to the speech, but it’s likely that not everything has been finalised yet, and the government will be keen to avoid headlines suggesting they’ve run out of ideas.
Given that pressure, ministers and officials will often be on the lookout for ideas and themes, and this is a time that policy ideas of charities and other organisations could come under consideration. Brand new ideas might take a bit of time to work through the system, but if you do get any calls from officials who are suddenly interested in your proposals, don’t be surprised.
Not everything will be done this year
While the Queen’s speech is often presented as a definitive list of the government’s legislative agenda for the year, not everything will be high on the priority list. Most bills that make the list will be put forward at some point, but many will start as draft bills, and will need to be scrutinised in more detail before they become fully fledged bills.
Of the 25 bills contained in last year’s Queen’s speech, ten have so far received royal assent, though a further seven are close enough that they may well do so before prorogation, the end of the parliamentary session. Bills mentioned last year that may return include the extremism bill, the votes for life bill and the buses bill.
In fact, the Charities Act 2006 appeared in three speeches before it made the statute book.
Equally if something doesn’t make the list, it doesn’t mean it won’t be introduced.
There’s still a month to go until the goatskin parchment paper will be prepared, and Black Rod gets ready to bang on the door, so we will likely get a clearer picture of what could be included in the next few weeks. Charities will then have a better idea of the legislation they need to be focusing on.
But there is likely to be continuing uncertainty until after the EU referendum. In the event of a vote for Brexit it is likely that significant ministerial and civil service focus would need to be placed on negotiating the terms. There were reports that the Queen’s speech would originally be delayed until after the referendum had taken place, but it is now clear that a legislative agenda will be set out. How many of the bills announced on 18 May are given royal assent by this time next year remains to be seen.
Our latest political update for NCVO members, the Inside Track, has just been published. As well as keeping you up to date on the latest comings and goings in Westminster and Whitehall, this quarter’s update features the key announcements from the budget and thoughts on how Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation may have changed the debate on welfare.