It is likely to be “nasty, brutish and short”.
Tomorrow is the Queen’s Speech and I know no more than anyone else about what will be included, but in any event the reality is that few if any of the Bills announced tomorrow will make it in to law before Parliament is dissolved for the General Election.
Look at the arithmetic.
The House of Lords will in practice be the limiting factor. There are normally three sitting days each week in the Lords for Government business. (This rises to four in July and October, but that is not relevant to this calculation.)
After the Queen’s Speech debate finishes next week, there will be ten full days available for Government business before Parliament rises for the Christmas Recess on 16th December and one of these is already allocated for a full day of consideration of the Eames Report on reforms to the House of Lords Code of Conduct (and another day may also be lost to consideration of the Senior Salaries Review Board review of House of Lords allowances). At best, this means nine days before the end of December.
Parliament reassembles on 5th January and rises again for a “half-term” recess on 10th February. This provides another seventeen days for Government business.
Parliament then restarts on 22nd February and is unlikely to run past the end of March before the Easter break and the likely dissolution of Parliament for a May General Election. This gives at best another eighteen days for Government business.
No more than 44 days in total.
Most of the Bills in the Queen’s Speech will begin their passage in the House of Commons. This is the norm for controversial Bills and for “flagship” pieces of legislation (as most of the Bills to be announced tomorrow are likely to be). Such Bills cannot reach the Lords until they have completed their Commons’ stages. so as a result, nothing substantial is likely to be ready for Lords’ consideration until end-January at the very earliest.
Three Bills have been the subject of Carry Over motions and have already had some consideration in the Commons. In theory, these might reach the Lords a little earlier. However, none are likely to get a swift passage once they get there.
One is the Equality Bill, which is substantial and likely to receive particularly rigorous line-by-line consideration in the Lords. Another is the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill, which is also wide-ranging and because of some of the changes proposed in it for the House of Lords and, in particular, the remaining hereditary peers is also likely to attract especially thorough (and slow) Lords scrutiny.
So how many Bills will emerge from the 2009/10 Parliamentary Session as Acts? My guess is no more than a handful – and possibly none of the major ones.
They will all have to wait for a reinvigorated Labour Government to announce them in the Queen’s Speech next June ……