LONDON (Reuters) – Queen Elizabeth will on Monday announce several new pieces of legislation to reform Britain’s justice system, in a ceremonial speech setting out Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit plans.
The so-called Queen’s Speech is the highlight of a day of elaborate pageantry in Westminster and is used to detail all the bills the government wants to enact in the coming year. It is written for the 93-year old monarch by the government.
But, with Brexit unresolved, and any plans beyond even the next seven days likely subject to an unpredictable election, rival parties said Johnson was misusing the politically-neutral Queen for political gain.
The speech will lay out 22 new bills – pieces of proposed legislation – including several covering tougher treatment for foreign criminals and sex offenders, and new protection for victims of domestic abuse.
“Keeping people safe is the most important role of any government, and as the party of law and order it is the Conservatives who are cracking down on crime and better protecting society,” a statement from Johnson’s office setting out some details of the speech said.
It will almost certainly include a section on a law to enact a Brexit deal. But, while any deal is still in the balance, new details are unlikely. The speech will also touch on election campaign issues like the health service and living standards.
“Having the Queen’s Speech and the State Opening of Parliament tomorrow is ludicrous, utterly ludicrous,” Corbyn said in a Sky News interview broadcast on Sunday. “What we’ve got in effect is a party political broadcast from the steps of the throne.”
The Queen delivers the speech from a throne in parliament’s gilded House of Lords debating chamber.
The speech is subject to several days of debate, concluding with votes to approve it. While not an official vote of confidence, these could be used to further destabilise Johnson’s minority government.
The Queen’s Speech is already surrounded by controversy.
In September, Johnson tried to suspend parliament for about five weeks before the speech, only to be told by the Supreme Court the move was unlawful after opponents said he was trying to shut down debate on Brexit.
Johnson was accused of dragging the Queen into the Brexit crisis by asking her to suspend the legislature for longer than usual.
Having been forced back to parliament by the court ruling last month, Johnson has maintained he needed a Queen’s Speech to allow him to set out his plans for government – even while trying, and failing, to call an early election.