New session of British parliament may be delayed

Westminster was rife with speculation that the new session of the British parliament may be delayed, after the Prime Minister's official spokesman declined to confirm it would go ahead on the scheduled date of June 19.

There was no immediate confirmation of BBC reports that it understood the date of the Queen's Speech, which sets out the government's legislative programme for the coming year, was being put back by a few days.

The uncertainty came as Theresa May's Conservatives continued talks with the Democratic Unionist Party to secure the support of the party's 10 MPs to get its agenda through Parliament, following an election result which left the Tories short of an absolute majority in the Commons.

The Britsh PM's spokesman told reporters it was not for him to confirm the date - which has been in the Queen's diary since April - and that new Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom would be providing an "update" shortly. Ms Leadsom's office made no immediate announcement in response to press queries.

But the BBC reported: "The BBC understands the Queen's Speech will be delayed by a few days. It had been due to take place next Monday."

Any delay would risk affecting the Queen's attendance at Royal Ascot next week.

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire said the Queen's Speech "remains on track".

He told BBC Radio 4's The World at One: "As I'm here today, I'm very firmly of the standpoint the Queen's Speech remains on track.

"We are very firmly proceeding on the basis as we have been on the timeline for the Queen's Speech, on getting it finalised, on making it happen and getting on with the job of running the government."

Additional delay may be caused by the fact the Queen's Speech is written on goatskin parchment paper, which requires several days for the ink to dry.

The paper does not contain any goatskin but is high-quality archival paper guaranteed to last for at least 500 years.

Pen cannot be put to paper until the exact contents of the speech are finalised, which may be dependent on the outcome of Tory talks with the DUP.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said she would use her influence responsibly to secure "outcomes that are beneficial for all".

Writing in the Belfast Telegraph, she said: "When I meet with the Prime Minister in London tomorrow, I will be mindful of our responsibility to help bring stability to the nation at this time of challenge.

"We will be working to agree arrangements that can provide the whole nation with good government."

The Tories and DUP are considering a "confidence-and-supply" deal which would see the Northern Irish party back the Government to get its Budget through and on confidence motions.

Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams said he would not call a Tory-DUP coalition "stable".

"It's a coalition of chaos", he added.

Speaking from Stormont where talks aimed at restoring powersharing are due to resume on Monday, Mr Adams warned he did not believe any deal between "the DUP here and the English Tories would be good for the people (of Ireland)".

He added: "Any deal which undercuts in any way the process here or the Good Friday Agreement is one which has to be opposed. That puts a huge onus on the Taioseach."

Mr Adams also said he hoped Mrs Foster would not get "too mesmerised by what's happening on our nearest off-shore island."

A Labour spokesman said: "Number 10's failure to confirm the date of the Queen's Speech shows that this Government is in chaos as it struggles to agree a backroom deal with a party with abhorrent views on LGBT and women's rights."

KEYWORDS: brexit, uk, election.


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