Queen's Speech to be dominated by Brexit says Theresa May
Theresa May has promised to work with "humility and resolve" as she prepares to set out her legislative programme for the next two years in a Queen's Speech expected to be dominated by Brexit.
The programme set out by the queen at Wednesday's State Opening of Parliament will feature "a number of bills" geared towards making a success of Britain's withdrawal from the European Union, the British prime minister said.
But she insisted that the rest of government business will not be put on hold during the Brussels negotiations, promising measures to build a stronger economy, protect consumers, tackle domestic violence and fix a "dysfunctional" housing market.
Downing Street sources declined to be drawn on reports that the speech will ditch headline promises from the Conservative manifesto, such as the scrapping of universal free school meals, means-testing of the winter fuel allowance and reforms to social care funding which were branded a "dementia tax" by critics.
For the first time in decades, a prime minister looks set to go into the event unsure of commanding the level of support among MPs needed to avoid defeat on a programme.
Almost two weeks after the election, Conservatives have failed to secure a "confidence and supply" agreement with the DUP to shore up Mrs May's minority administration.
The State Opening of Parliament has already been delayed two days following the inconclusive election, and will take place without much of its traditionally lavish ceremony.
In a mark of the importance of Brexit to Mrs May's agenda, the queen will set out plans not for the usual one year, but for a two-year period taking the government beyond the expected withdrawal date in March 2019.
Mrs May said the speech would be about "recognising and grasping the opportunities that lie ahead for the United Kingdom as we leave the European Union" and "delivering a Brexit deal that works for all parts of the UK while building a stronger, fairer country by strengthening our economy, tackling injustice and promoting opportunity and aspiration".
Having called a snap election in the hope of securing an increased majority to deliver Brexit in a "strong and stable" way, Mrs May acknowledged that the outcome was "not the one I hoped for".
"This government will respond with humility and resolve to the message the electorate sent," she promised.
"We will work hard every day to gain the trust and confidence of the British people, making their priorities our priorities."
But she insisted there would be no going back on Brexit, pointing out that more than 80 per cent of voters on June 8 backed parties promising to honour the referendum result.
"While this will be a government that consults and listens, we are clear that we are going to see Brexit through, working with Parliament, business, the devolved administrations and others to ensure a smooth and orderly withdrawal," she said.
Mrs May said last year's referendum vote amounted to "a profound and justified expression that our country often does not work the way it should for millions of ordinary working families".
In response, the government will bring forward measures to build a stronger economy, improve living standards, build a fairer society and fund public services, she said.
Bills expected on Wednesday include:
:: A Civil Liability Bill, designed to address the "compensation culture" around motoring insurance claims, with the aim of cutting the number and cost of whiplash payments, saving drivers an average of £35 a year on premiums;
:: A Financial Guidance and Claims Bill to create a single body to provide publicly funded financial advice and strengthen the regulation of claims management companies;
:: A Draft Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill, establishing a Domestic Violence and Abuse Commissioner to stand up for victims and survivors and monitor the response of the authorities;
:: A Draft Tenant's Fees Bill, banning landlords from charging "letting fees" which currently average £223 in the private sector.
Mrs May said: "This is a government with purpose. Determined to deliver the best Brexit deal. Intent on building a stronger economy and a fairer society. Committed to keeping our country safe, enhancing our standing in the wider world and bringing our United Kingdom closer together. Putting ourselves at the service of millions of ordinary working people for whom we will work every day in the national interest."
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron welcomed reports that the government had scrapped plans to get rid of free school meals.
But he added: "The government must go much further – it must use the Queen's Speech to cancel the cuts which are planned for our schools, our hospitals and our care system.
"We need to change the direction of our country. It is clear that there is no support for the Conservatives' cuts. Theresa May must now rethink her plans and cancel these cuts."