This year’s Queen’s Speech has reportedly been delayed because of how long it takes to write it out on goat skin.
Known for its pomp and pageantry, the Queen’s Speech is the centrepiece of the state opening of Parliament.
It had been due to take place on June 19 but the bizarre tradition of writing it out on goat skin amid ongoing hung parliament negotiations has caused a delay of a few days.
Here’s what you need to know about the event…
What is the Queen’s Speech?
The Government sets its stall for the year ahead, announcing a list of laws that it wants Parliament to approve. Convention states the Queen announces the plans in a speech to MPs, peers and other dignitaries in the House of Lords. It marks the start of the Parliamentary year and is a particularly significant occasion when there is a new government.
Who writes it?
Despite the name, it is in fact ministers who write the speech for the Monarch, who reads it on behalf of her Government after signing it.
So what is likely to make it into the speech?
The slimmed-down agenda is expected to focus on the most pressing issues facing the country, such as Brexit, and new measures to tackle the wave of terror the UK has suffered. Unpopular manifesto pledges, including the so-called ‘dementia tax’ and a promise to bring back fox hunting are expected to be scrapped. Plans to drop the triple lock on pensions and introduce means-testing for the winter fuel allowance are also likely to be ditched, along with an introduction of new grammar schools.
Why is a delay expected?
The event had been due to take place on Monday 19 June but ministers are said to need more time to negotiate with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) as to what exactly will go into it. However, one more slightly interesting reason for the delay is thought to be because the speech has to be written on goat’s skin parchment paper – known as vellum – which takes several days to dry. With negotiations still ongoing, the writing can’t take place until deals have been reached. The Queen reads out a paper version in Parliament but the real one requires vellum.
…it’s goatskin parchment no longer vellum but the general point about it taking days to make and form remains one of the factors for delay
— Faisal Islam (@faisalislam) June 12, 2017
Is there a Queen’s Speech every year?
Yes. One exception to this was in the second year of the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition government. A Queen’s Speech was delivered in 2010 but skipped in 2011 after the parties argued that their extensive legislative programme would need two years to implement.
Does everything announced in the speech happen?
Not necessarily. Once the speech has been given, MPs settle down for days of debate on the contents, with both the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition given a chance to ‘sell’ and oppose it. A vote takes place at the end to approve the speech, although it is largely symbolic.
Can the Government lose the vote?
Usually no – whoever is in power would command a majority in the House of Commons. However, things are slightly different this year. Theresa May fell short of a majority in the election and is relying on the support of the DUP to see it passed. Once Sinn Fein’s seven non-sitting MPs and the Speaker and deputy speakers have been taken out of the mix, Mrs May needs to secure 320 votes for the programme to pass. With the support of the DUP’s 10 MPs and all of her MPs, the PM would have 326 votes. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has vowed to opposed the contents, and will hope to shore up some rebels in an attempt to not let it pass.
If Mrs May loses the vote, does that bring down the Government?
Possibly. Under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, an early general election can only be held if more than two-thirds of the whole House backs such a move or a motion of no confidence is passed. In reality, the political implications of failing to pass the programme for Government would make it almost impossible to cling on to power.
Top pic: Rex