Page last updated at 13:14 GMT, Monday, 16 November 2009

Cancel Queen's Speech, says Clegg

Nick Clegg MP: "It's a complete waste of everybody's time"

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has called for the Queen's Speech to be cancelled and replaced with emergency reforms to "clean up politics".

The speech this Wednesday will be used to set out the government's legislative programme for the coming year.

But Mr Clegg said there was not enough time for most bills in it to become law before an election - and it was merely being used as a Labour manifesto.

Labour said "most" measures would become law and were "very important".

But Mr Clegg accused Labour of "hijacking" the Queen's Speech for "political ends".

He said it was being used as a "displacement activity" by the government to create the impression of action when it "must know in its heart of hearts that the vast majority of measures it will be proposing on Wednesday won't even make it into law".

Scandal 'fear'

The Lib Dem leader said that what he claimed were the 70 days of parliamentary business remaining before a general election should be used by MPs to bring in measures to reform politics, in order to "hand on a legacy to the next Parliament".

"Even though many people think the expenses issue is being dealt with, many of the problems at the heart of our political system are still there," said Mr Clegg.

I don't think it is right that we should be clocking-off now before a general election
Harriet Harman, Commons leader

These included the voting system, curbing the power of the party whips and party funding, argued Mr Clegg, adding that without further reform "my fear is that some sort of scandal will just re-erupt in a few years time".

But Harriet Harman, who as Commons leader helps decide which bills are given parliamentary time, said "most" of the measures in the Queen's Speech would have time to be made into law.

She told BBC News: "There is very important work ahead and that's why the Queen's Speech this week is going to be very significant."

'Glitz and glamour'

She said the speech would include measures to boost financial stability, curb "excessive risk taking" in the City, crack down on gang violence and give more help to families caring for elderly relatives.

She told the BBC News channel: "I don't think it is right that we should be clocking-off now before a general election, which probably won't be until next year."

Written by the government and delivered by the reigning monarch, it sets out the legislative agenda for the year ahead and is the centrepiece of the state opening of Parliament
The Queen normally attends in person at the state opening of Parliament and delivers the speech from the grand throne in the House of Lords
Doesn't include everything- the Budget and pre-Budget report are also increasingly used to set out strategy and announce new measures

And she denied this year's Queen's Speech would be a "party political manifesto", saying it was "the responsibility of government and we are going to get on with it, even if Nick Clegg thinks we should just clock-off".

The prime minister's spokesman said the Queen's Speech would include a "very focused programme" but the government had a "very full agenda" for the coming Parliamentary session.

In an article for The Independent, Mr Clegg said he wanted Parliament to quickly adopt new powers to sack corrupt MPs and to abolish hereditary peers.

He also called for the immediate adoption of a report - due this week - on reducing the power of whips in Parliament, whom he said "ride roughshod over the views of" MPs.

He said the "glitz and glamour" of the Queen's Speech - which also involves the state opening of Parliament - would be "based on a complete fiction" because there were only 70 sitting days left and he said laws took, on average, 240 days to pass from the first to last stage.

He also used the newspaper comment piece to call for the establishment of a Committee on Electoral Reform, made up of 100 citizens, to consult on a new electoral system and take its proposals to a referendum.

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