Boris Johnson will not resign if British MPs hand him another defeat by voting down his legislative agenda set out in the Queen’s Speech, Downing Street has said.
Number 10 also made it clear the British Prime Minister could plough on to introduce all the Bills announced, even if the British Parliament rejected his Government’s programme.
Mr Johnson today used his first Queen’s Speech as PM to insist the Government’s priority is delivering Brexit by the October 31 deadline.
A raft of anti-crime Bills also dominated the state opening of Parliament, which also saw legislation proposed on immigration and the environment.
Opposition leaders accused the PM of using the speech as a pre-election stunt to win over voters, while Jeremy Corbyn branded it a “farce”.
With Mr Johnson commanding no majority in the Commons after expelling 21 rebels who defied him over a no-deal Brexit, there is every chance his set piece announcement is defeated.
Asked if Mr Johnson would resign if he is handed such a blow, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman flatly replied: “No.”
He later added: “If MPs do choose to vote against the Queen’s Speech it will be up to them to explain to the public why they are voting against greater support for our public services, including police, schools and hospitals.”
He also ruled out a defeat on the Queen’s Speech being a matter of confidence, which could pave the way for an early general election.
And asked whether the PM could continue to progress the bills through Parliament even if the speech is defeated, his spokesman replied: “Yes, you can.”
When that vote will take place depends on how quickly debates take place and whether a special sitting of Parliament is held on Saturday for a showdown over Brexit.
But typically the speech is debated for six days, according to the House of Commons.
With the PM pushing for a snap general election, the legislative programme presented was being seen as a bid by Mr Johnson to set out his campaign agenda.
The Labour leader told the Commons: “There has never been such a farce as a Government with a majority of -45 and a 100% record of defeat in the House of Commons setting out a legislative agenda they know cannot be delivered in this Parliament.”
He also suggested he could shortly back calls for a general election, saying “we may only be just weeks away” from a Queen’s Speech under a Labour government.
Ahead of the speech, the pre-election atmosphere intensified as Chancellor Sajid Javid announced a Budget on November 6 – just six days after the UK’s scheduled exit date from the EU.
In a heavily-previewed package of 26 Bills, seven related to crime and justice.
These included legislation to keep serious criminals in prison for longer, impose tougher sentences on foreign offenders who return to the UK and provide better protection for victims of domestic abuse.
A Sentencing Bill will change the automatic release point from halfway to two thirds for adult offenders serving sentences of four years or more for serious violence or sexual offences.
The Queen made the short trip to the Palace of Westminster from Buckingham Palace in the Diamond Jubilee State Coach accompanied by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.
On Brexit, she said: “My Government’s priority has always been to secure the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union on October 31.”
Ministers are preparing to rush through a Bill to ratify any Brexit deal Mr Johnson is able to agree this week in Brussels in time for Britain to leave on schedule.
Other measures outlined in the speech include strengthening environmental protections, improving the NHS, ending free movement of labour from the EU and raising living standards through increasing the national living wage to £10.50 an hour.
On adult social care, the Government has pledged to “bring forward proposals” for reform, but the lack of a specific Bill dealing with the situation is likely to draw fire from the opposition.
Mr Corbyn was among those accusing the Government of trying to “stifle democracy” by restricting access to voting with proposals on the use of photo ID.
“Eleven million people in this country don’t have a passport or a driving licence. There are huge risks the legislation being proposed, which will disproportionately affect working class, ethnic minority and young voters,” he told the Commons.
The law and order package includes a Bill to “drastically” increase the sentences for foreign criminals who return to the UK in breach of a deportation order, a move ministers say will help disrupt the activities of international crime gangs.
Proposed legislation aims to make it easier for police to arrest internationally wanted fugitives who are the subject of an Interpol Red Notice without the need to apply for a UK arrest warrant, a process that can take a minimum of six to eight hours.
The programme includes a “Helen’s Law” Bill, named after 22-year-old Helen McCourt who was murdered in 1988, to deny parole to murderers who withhold information about their victims.
The Government will also bring back the Domestic Abuse Bill which fell as a result of Mr Johnson’s unlawful suspension of Parliament last month.
Other measures in the speech include:
– Environment Bill setting legally binding targets to reduce plastics, restore biodiversity, improve water quality and cut air pollution.
– Immigration and Social Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill to end freedom of movement and introduce a points-based immigration system from 2021.
– Railway reform with a white paper setting out proposals to overhaul the current system of franchising and creating a new commercial model.
– Action on building standards in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire with the establishment of a new regulator with powers to impose criminal sanctions for breaches of building regulations.
– The NHS Health Investigations Bill will create a new independent body with legal powers to ensure patient safety.
– Mental health reform to reduce the number of detentions under the Mental Health Act by ensuring more people get the treatment they need.
– The Employment (Allocation of Tips) Bill to ensure all tips are paid to waiting staff following an outcry that some major restaurant chains were keeping as much as 10% of tips paid by card.
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