NEWS
12/06/2017 14:04 BST

Queen's Speech 'Could Be Delayed'

Westminster was rife with speculation that the State Opening of Parliament may be delayed, after the Prime Minister's official spokesman declined to confirm it would go ahead on the scheduled date of June 19.

There was no immediate confirmation of BBC reports that it understood the date of the Queen's Speech, which sets out the Government's legislative programme for the coming year, was being put back by a few days.

The uncertainty came as Theresa May's Conservatives continued talks with the Democratic Unionist Party to secure the support of the Northern Irish party's 10 MPs to get its agenda through Parliament, following an election result which left the Tories short of an absolute majority in the Commons.

The PM's spokesman told reporters it was not for him to confirm the date - which has been in the Queen's diary since April - and that new Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom would be providing an "update" shortly. Ms Leadsom's office made no immediate announcement in response to press queries.

But the BBC reported: "The BBC understands the Queen's Speech will be delayed by a few days. It had been due to take place next Monday."

Any delay would risk affecting the Queen's attendance at Royal Ascot next week.

 

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire said the Queen's Speech "remains on track".

He told BBC Radio 4's The World at One: "As I'm here today, I'm very firmly of the standpoint the Queen's Speech remains on track.

"We are very firmly proceeding on the basis as we have been on the timeline for the Queen's Speech, on getting it finalised, on making it happen and getting on with the job of running the government."

Additional delay may be caused by the fact the Queen's Speech is written on goatskin parchment paper, which requires several days for the ink to dry.

The paper does not contain any goatskin but is high-quality archival paper guaranteed to last for at least 500 years. 

Pen cannot be put to paper until the exact contents of the speech are finalised, which may be dependent on the outcome of Tory talks with the DUP.

Brexit Secretary David Davis has indicated elements of the Conservative manifesto agenda may have to be "pruned away" due to the election result.

Mr Davis told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We are being given an instruction by the British people and we've got to carry it out.

"That may mean that some elements of the manifesto will be pruned away, shall we say."

He sidestepped questions on whether controversial social care plans, branded a "dementia tax" by opposition parties, would be among items ditched.

The lack of a majority and her diminished authority means it would be impossible for Mrs May to push through controversial measures that do not command the full support of her party.

Uncertainty over the timing of the Queen's Speech emerged as Mrs May chaired her first Cabinet meeting following the general election.

The PM was later due for a Westminster showdown with Conservative MPs angry over the conduct of a campaign which resulted in the party losing its overall majority in the Commons.

The Prime Minister sought to stave off another Tory civil war ahead of her appearance before the backbench 1922 Committee by bringing former justice secretary Michael Gove in from the cold less than a year after she sacked him.

His appointment as Environment Secretary came after former chancellor George Osborne branded her a "dead woman walking", warning she could be ousted from No 10 in a matter of days.

Despite concerns about both her leadership style and the campaign, there is thought to be little appetite for an immediate attempt to oust her.

Mr Davis described leadership gossip centred on Boris Johnson as a possible replacement as "unbelievably self-indulgent".

He also insisted he had no ambition on taking the top job, telling Good Morning Britain: "I am not interested."

Foreign Secretary Mr Johnson used an article in The Sun to stress his support for the Prime Minister: "To those that say the PM should step down, or that we need another election or even - God help us - a second referendum, I say come off it. Get a grip, everyone."

Other senior Tories - including Graham Brady, influential chairman of the 1922 Committee - predicted MPs would rally round, insisting there was no mood in the party for a damaging leadership contest which could see them plunged into a fresh general election.

Speaking on Good Morning Britain, Mr Brady accepted the Tory election campaign was "one of the worst that I can recall", but added: "I think we have a job to do and the job is try to provide the most steady government we most possibly can."

DUP leader Arlene Foster said she would use her influence responsibly to secure "outcomes that are beneficial for all".

Writing in the Belfast Telegraph, she said: "When I meet with the Prime Minister in London tomorrow, I will be mindful of our responsibility to help bring stability to the nation at this time of challenge.

"We will be working to agree arrangements that can provide the whole nation with good government."

The Tories and DUP are considering a "confidence-and-supply" deal which would see the Northern Irish party back the Government to get its Budget through and on confidence motions.

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said Labour will "harry" Mrs May's government by putting down amendments setting out an alternative vision to the Queen's Speech and asking MPs to support them.

"Her manifesto didn't win, people don't have confidence in her, she is a wounded Prime Minister, she's not really going to be able to do anything," the shadow foreign secretary told BBC2's Victoria Derbyshire programme.

"She's going to have to do it with the DUP, which causes all sorts of problems in terms of the peace process in Northern Ireland.

"Exactly how they are going to patch this together. Who knows? And in the meantime, there's Brexit going on and that's really important to get right.

"We have a really different idea about what kind of Brexit negotiations we should be having than Theresa May seemed to be envisaging."

Ms Thornberry made clear she expected an early election, which she said Labour could win.

"If you look at the polling, we continued to get even more popular after the General Election, and if an election was called today, we would win," she said.

"I've been saying to people, 'Don't put your posters away, put them in the top drawer, because there will be another election, I'm afraid'. People may not want to have it but it looks like that's the way we'll have to go."

Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams said he would not call a Tory-DUP coalition "stable".

"It's a coalition of chaos", he added.

Speaking from Stormont where talks aimed at restoring powersharing are due to resume on Monday, Mr Adams warned he did not believe any deal between "the DUP here and the English Tories would be good for the people (of Ireland)".

He added: "Any deal which undercuts in any way the process here or the Good Friday Agreement is one which has to be opposed. That puts a huge onus on the Taioseach."

Mr Adams also said he hoped Mrs Foster would not get "too mesmerised by what's happening on our nearest off-shore island."

A Labour spokesman said: "Number 10's failure to confirm the date of the Queen's Speech shows that this Government is in chaos as it struggles to agree a backroom deal with a party with abhorrent views on LGBT and women's rights."