THE RETURN OF DEMOCRATIC SOVEREIGNTY
The Daily Telegraph, 10th May 2021
The Crown carried by the Lord Great Chamberlain, the Sword of State symbolising regal power, the Cap of Maintenance held aloft by the Lord Privy Seal – these will all display the authority of the Queen in Parliament at the state opening.
Yet the symbolism and reality are not always the same. The House of Lords sits in gilded splendour while the more powerful House of Commons has a subdued chamber. Equally, when the UK was in the EU, the democratic sovereignty represented in the ceremony of the State Opening of Parliament was diluted, for much authority was vested elsewhere. This has changed, and the ceremony we will see – though less flamboyant than normal because of Covid – will be a moment of profound consequence for a Parliament which now wields the full power of its sovereignty once again.
For the agenda unveiled tomorrow has the broadest scope of legislative action for many years, taking full advantage of powers returning from Europe. This is a Queen’s Speech which AV Dicey, the great Victorian constitutionalist, would have recognised as fit for a Parliament that is indisputably the nation’s supreme lawmaking body.
Before joining the Government, I did not fully appreciate the amount of work that goes into preparing any bill, let alone a programme of this depth and scope. After months of toil across Whitehall and beyond, the legislative agenda unveiled tomorrow will level up opportunities across the country.
Instead of accepting the open borders of the EU, we will regain control of immigration with legislation to reform our asylum system comprehensively. This was a key expectation of the decision to leave the EU and will improve our safety as well as restoring democratic choice. Instead of burdening businesses with a quagmire of needless EU bureaucracy, we will develop a new, streamlined subsidy control system which will allow our strategic industries to flourish by providing fast government support.
Instead of being locked into the EU’s restrictive trade and state aid policies, we will legislate to deliver dozens of freeports which will allow areas of the country which have been left behind economically to grow. Across the globe, freeports have brought dynamism to regions that have suffered under the dead hand of socialism.
Naturally there are priorities that do not relate to leaving the EU, including our commitment to keeping the public safe, which is why our flagship Policing Bill will return to ensure our officers have the tools they need. Across the full swathe of public policy, Parliament will be an engine of change once again for the advancement of this society and of its prosperity. Previously, MPs might have shrugged their shoulders and pointed to Brussels. Now they can tap the relevant minister on the shoulder, pass on their concerns and potentially change the law of the land.
Now the powers divested to Brussels have been restored to their rightful place, the time has come for MPs to do more for their constituents. There are no further excuses. It is a remarkable fact that issues raised in a constituency surgery at the weekend are regularly put to the head of government in Prime Minister’s Questions the following Wednesday. It shows the immediacy of this democracy and the importance of individual rights. All parliamentarians will surely now want to recognise their enhanced responsibility as lawmakers, scrutinising and improving the measures put before them.
Sir John Fortescue grasped this in his 15th-century masterpiece Commendation of the Laws of England, when he wrote that decisions should be taken by the monarch only with “the express consent and agreement of his whole realm in his parliament”. When this happens, it “hereby cometh to pass … that the men of that land are rich, having abundance of gold and silver and other things necessary for the maintenance of life”.
Prosperity follows democracy, and with this set of bills, taking advantage of the returned powers, it can be achieved through the Government’s plan to build back better. Doing so will strengthen the sinews of the nation and its most cherished democratic institution – ensuring the Queen in Parliament, fully sovereign once more, with the reality and symbolism of power reunited, makes the most of its refortification, its revivification, its regeneration.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of any assistance: .