By Mark Wallace
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Today's Telegraph reports that, having camped out in the Public Bill Office for several days, a group of Conservative MPs have tabled a raft of Bills intended to form an Alternative Queen's Speech. The backbenchers involved are all familiar rebel faces – Chris Chope, Peter Bone, Philip Hollobone and David Nuttall.
Bone describes the move as "an attempt to show that it is only the Conservatives who are on the common ground of British politics and represent the views of the electorate'".
Getting their Bills tabled first was no mean feat – apparently Hollobone drew the short straw and did the night shifts, sleeping outside the Office on a camp bed for four nights running, an experience he described to me as "strange, but an interesting view of what goes on at all hours".
The Telegraph writeup states that 42 Bills have been tabled, but the official Order Paper only shows 40. In fact, 43 were put forward but three have for one reason or another not made the cut – some of which will be appearing elsewhere as Ten Minute Rule Bills.
The three Bills which didn't get through the tabling process are:
- Freedom of Information (Identity of Applicants) – Bill to make provision about the identity of applicants under the Freedom of Information Act 2000; and for connected purposes.
- Coalition Annulment – Bill to make provision for the ending of the coalition in an orderly fashion, no later than 31st October 2014.
- Gypsies and Travellers (Same Planning Rules as Everyone Else) Bill to make provision for local authorities to enforce planning laws on gypsies and travellers in the same way as they do to other citizens and to remove preferential provisions for gypsies and travellers.
With those three removed, the programme contains a number of proposals which tap into heated debates within the backbenches, like wind farms and married couples' tax breaks, but also features a few more tongue in cheek ideas. The Prime Minister (Replacement) Bill actually deals with constitutional arrangements should a PM be injured while in office, but the jokey title is unlikely to raise much of a laugh on Downing Street
The 40 Bills which compose this Alternative Queen's Speech are:
1) Face Coverings (Prohibition) – Bill to prohibit the wearing of certain face coverings; and for connected purposes.
2) National Service – Bill to provide a system of national service for young persons; and for connected purposes.
3) European Communities Act 1972 (Repeal) – Bill to repeal the European Communities Act 1972 and related legislation; and for connected purposes.
4) Young Offenders (Parental Responsibility) – Bill to make provision for the parents of young offenders to be legally responsible for their actions.
5) Foreign National Offenders (Exclusion from the United Kingdom) – Bill to make provision to exclude from the United Kingdom foreign nationals found guilty of a criminal offence committed in the United Kingdom.
6) Asylum Seekers (Return to Nearest Safe Country) – Bill to facilitate the transfer of asylum seekers to the safe country nearest their country of origin.
7) Prisoners (Completion of Custodial Sentences) – Bill to require prisoners to serve in prison the full custodial sentence handed down by the court.
8) Fishing Grounds and Territorial Waters (Repatriation) – Bill to make provision for the Government to designate certain fishing grounds and territorial waters as sovereign territory of the United Kingdom outside the control of the Common Fisheries Policy.
9) School Governing Bodies (Adverse Weather Conditions) – Bill to require school governing bodies and headteachers to make provision to keep schools open in adverse weather conditions.
10) Capital Punishment – Bill to allow for capital punishment for certain offences.
11) Government Departments (Amalgamation of Scotland Office, Wales Office and Northern Ireland Office) – Bill to make provision for the amalgamation of the Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland Offices.
12) Residential Roads (Adoption by Local Highways Authority) – Bill to require the handover of residential roads built by developers to local highways authorities within certain time periods; and for connected purposes.
13) Equality and Diversity (Reform) – Bill to prohibit the use of affirmative and positive action in recruitment and appointment processes; to amend the Equality Act 2010 to remove the special provision for political parties in relation to the selection of candidates; and for connected purposes.
14) Sentencing Escalator – Bill to provide that a criminal reconvicted for an offence on a second or further occasion receives a longer sentence than for the first such offence.
15) Leasehold Reform (Amendment) – Bill to amend the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993 in relation to the permitted signatories of notices; and for connected purposes.
16) BBC Licence Fee (Civil Debt) – Bill to make provision to decriminalise the non-payment of the BBC licence fee.
17) Smoking (Private Members’ Clubs) – Bill to make provision to allow smoking in a separate ventilated room in a private members’ club if a majority of the members of the club so decide.
18) Margaret Thatcher Day – Bill to make provision that the annual Bank Holiday Monday in late August be known as Margaret Thatcher Day.
19) Department of Energy and Climate Change (Abolition) – Bill to make provision for the abolition of the Department of Energy and Climate Change and for its functions to be absorbed into the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
20) Married Couples (Tax Allowance) – Bill to make provision for a tax allowance for married couples.
21) Foreign Aid Ring-Fencing (Abolition) – Bill to make provision for foreign aid and development not to be linked to a specific percentage of Gross National Income, but to be set yearly, by Parliament, in relation to need.
22) Charitable Status for Religious Institutions – Bill to make provision for a presumption that religious institutions meet the public benefit test for charitable status.
23) Same Sex Marriage (Referendum) – Bill to make provision for a referendum on whether same sex marriage should be allowed.
24) Wind Farm Subsidies (Abolition) – Bill to make provision for the cessation of subsidies for the development of wind farms.
25) Withdrawal from the European Convention of Human Rights and Removal of Alleged Terrorists – Bill to make provision for an application to the Council of Europe to withdraw from the European Convention of Human Rights and to deport alleged terrorists subject to approval by the British courts.
26) Romanian and Bulgarian Accession (Labour Restriction) – Bill to make provision for restrictions on the residence in the UK of Bulgarian and Romanian nationals to continue.
27) BBC Privatisation – Bill to make provision for the privatisation of the British Broadcasting Corporation by providing shares in the Corporation to all licence fee payers.
28) Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Abolition) – Bill to make provision for the abolition of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, and its responsibilities to be allocated to other Departments of State.
29) Prime Minister (Replacement) – Bill to make provision for the appointment of a Prime Minister in the event that a Prime Minister is temporarily or permanently incapacitated.
30) United Kingdom (Withdrawal from the European Union) – Bill to make provision for the Government to give notice under Article 50 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union; and for connected purposes.
31) Asylum (Time Limit) – Bill to require that asylum claims in the United Kingdom be lodged within three months of the claimant’s arrival in the United Kingdom; and that persons who have already entered the United Kingdom and wish to make an asylum claim must do so within three months of the passing of this Act.
32) Benefit Entitlement (Restriction) – Bill to make provision to restrict the entitlement of non-UK Citizens from the European Union and the European Economic Area to taxpayer-funded benefits.
33) Illegal Immigrants (Criminal Sanctions) – Bill to make provision for criminal sanctions against those who have entered the UK illegally or who have remained in the UK without legal authority.
34) Sexual Impropriety in Employment – Bill to require that claims by employees alleging sexual impropriety be limited to cases where the alleged misconduct is contrary to the criminal law and has been reported to the police.
35) Collection of Nationality Data – Bill to require the collection and publication of information relating to the nationality of those in receipt of benefits and of those to whom national insurance numbers are issued.
36) Foreign Nationals (Access to Public Services) – Bill to restrict access by foreign nationals to United Kingdom public services for which no charge is made.
37) House of Lords (Maximum Membership) – Bill to provide for a maximum limit on the number of Peers entitled to vote in the House of Lords, and to provide for a moratorium on new appointments.
38) Control of Offshore Wind Turbines – Bill to restrict the height, number, location and subsidies of wind turbines situated offshore within 20 miles of the coast.
39) Employment Opportunities – Bill to introduce more freedom, flexibility and opportunity for those seeking employment in the public and private sectors; and for connected purposes.
40) EU Membership (Audit of Costs and Benefits) – Bill to require an independent audit of the benefits and costs of UK membership of the European Union.