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Queen’s Speech ‘a sham’ if held before election

A constitutional expert said the Prime Minister would be using the Queen for a ‘Conservative Party political broadcast’.

The Queen reading the Queen’s Speech in the House of Lords (PA)
The Queen reading the Queen’s Speech in the House of Lords (PA)

By Patrick Daly, PA Political Correspondent

Holding a Queen’s Speech before a general election would be a “sham” and akin to asking the Monarch to read a “trailer for the Conservative Party’s election manifesto”.

That is according to constitution expert at University College London, Professor Robert Hazell, who said Boris Johnson would be deploying the Queen to “make a Conservative Party political broadcast” if he goes ahead with his plans to prorogue Parliament on Tuesday.

The Government has announced it will suspend proceedings next week in order to prepare the Palace of Westminster for a Queen’s Speech on October 14.

The Queen’s Speech is used by government to set out its legislative agenda for the upcoming parliamentary session.

If it is swiftly followed by an election, then the Queen’s Speech will be not so much the Government announcing the legislative programme for the next session, but more of an election manifesto Professor Robert Hazell

The Prime Minister has said he wants to start work on his domestic agenda, but he lacks a majority in the House of Commons to pass the laws to enact his plans.

Mr Johnson has called on Opposition parties to approve an election, but they have so far declined until the danger of a no-deal Brexit has been taken off the table.

In a blog post on The Constitution Unit’s website, Prof Hazell said: “A Queen’s Speech usually follows an election, rather than preceding one.

“If it is delivered in mid-October, and is swiftly followed by an election in November, then the Queen’s Speech will be not so much the Government announcing the legislative programme for the next session, but more of an election manifesto.

“The Queen will have been used to make a Conservative Party political broadcast.”

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The Queen pictured meeting Professor Robert Hazell (second from right) (PA)

The former director of the unit – who was closely involved with helping the Cabinet Office draft the Cabinet Manual setting out the rules and conventions for the country’s top ministers – said calling the Queen to Westminster a week on Monday could be an “abuse” of her position as Head of State.

He said: “Boris Johnson has already caused the greatest constitutional controversy of her reign. He should not further abuse her position.”

Last month, the Supreme Court ruled that Mr Johnson’s advice to the Queen – imparted by Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg at Balmoral – to prorogue Parliament for five weeks had been “unlawful”.

Mr Johnson apologised to the Monarch, who is meant to remain neutral in political matters, following the issuing of the judgment.

“The Queen will not have been amused when the Supreme Court concluded that ‘when the Royal Commissioners walked into the House of Lords (to announce the prorogation) it was as if they walked in with a blank sheet of paper’,” said Prof Hazell.

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The Supreme Court Justices ruled the initial five-week prorogation to be unlawful (Jonathan Brady/PA)

“Her Majesty will be even less amused if in mid-October she is required to walk into the House of Lords with an equally blank sheet of paper, purporting to be a legislative programme, but in fact being a trailer for the Conservative Party’s election manifesto.”

The Government took legal advice on its decision to prorogue on October 8, with the six-day suspension thought likely to comply with the judges’ ruling on the timescale permitted for prorogation.

Both Labour and powerful backbenchers have accused the PM of choosing the new date in order to avoid scrutiny on Brexit.

Labour urged him to delay suspension until Wednesday so he could take Prime Minister’s Questions, while Sarah Wollaston MP, the chairwoman of the liaison committee of senior MPs, said it was “not acceptable” that Mr Johnson would not agree to appear before the panel until October 24.

Mr Johnson has faced just one session of PMQs since entering Number 10 in July.

PA

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