What the next Queen’s Speech may tell us about this government

27th April 2022

Yesterday’s I newspaper had this interesting front page about the upcoming Queen’s Speech:

The article supporting the front page told us:

“At least a dozen Government bills which were promised at the Queen’s Speech a year ago will not become law in time for the next speech which takes place on 10 May. Downing Street is seeking to push through another 10 pieces of legislation in the next few days.”

What is especially interesting about this front page is its timing.

We are more-or-less at the midpoint of this parliament.

The last general election was on 12 December 2019, and the latest date for the next election, it would seem, is 24 January 2025.

The next Queen’s Speech – which has been set for 10 May 2022 – will mark the start of the last full parliamentary session where there would be adequate time for any significant reforms to be properly carried through after enactment.

In other words: if the government was to attempt major changes through legislation, this is the time.


This government does not appear to have the appetite for major reforms.

Promised overhauls of, for example, our complex systems for planning or procurement will again not be put forward.

The (impartial) House of Commons Library provides the following list of Bills promised in the last Queen’s Speech that are yet to be introduced:

(‘Procurement Bill’ sounds like a bloke who works in supplier management in a less exciting sequel to Postman Pat.)

The library also lists the bills ‘foreshadowed’:

But as any decent scriptwriter will tell you, foreshadowing is not character (or story) development.

And it would seem that this government finds it easier to announce fundamental reforms than to actually take them forward and implement those reforms.

The ultimate reason for this is simple.

Reform is hard, policy is hard, law-making is hard.

Getting one’s thoughts together to the extent of actually having a Bill ready to introduce to parliament is hard.

The first reading in parliament of a Bill is not stage one of a process, but about stage seven or eight.

The hard work takes place on the departments and with parliamentary drafters.

Handing a Bill to ministers to pilot through parliament is not to be done lightly.


The former Downing Street adviser Dominic Cummings had – regardless of his other merits and otherwise – ambitious plans to shake our planning and public procurement regimes.

No sensible person with knowledge of planning or public procurement would say the current arrangements are perfect.

An ambitious, reforming government would now be ready to grapple with fundamental reforms in planning, public procurement, and many other areas.

And this government would be in a strong position to do – on paper.

For this government has the greatest prize that the constitution of the United Kingdom can bestow: a large working majority in the House of Commons.

This means the government not only has all the advantages of extensive executive power (under the royal prerogative and otherwise), and access to the government legal service and the treasury panel of barristers for fighting cases in the courts.

It also means that the government can be confident of passing legislation through the House of Commons and, if necessary, forcing it through the House of Lords too.

Few Prime Minsters win this prize.

Clement Attlee had this prize, and used it to drive through welfare state legislation; Thatcher did with trade union and privatisation legislation; and even Tony Blair, in his first term, was able to get the Human Rights Act and other legislation on the statute book.

And our current government?

Here is a challenge: take a moment to name one flagship Act of Parliament passed since the general election.

Yes, there has been Brexit and Covid legislation – but this would have to have been passed whoever won the last general election.

Can you think of one?

I am a law and policy commentator – and I can can only think of a possible few – though various nasty laws on borders and protests are about to come enacted.

Of course: Brexit and Covid have taken a lot of government and parliamentary time, as have Afghanistan and Ukraine.


At this mid-term moment, a government with a large working majority should be raring to go.

Yet it is not.

It a government that cannot even be confident to block or amend a reference to the privileges committee about the Prime Minister.

As Norman Lamont once said of then Prime Minister John Major, we have a government in office but not in power.

And that was when Major government had a very small majority, not the working majority of nearly eighty of Boris Johnson.

So this could be a significant Queen’s Speech – but its true significance may be about what it does not contain, rather than what it does.


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What the next Queen’s Speech may tell us about this government