Queen's Speech 2008/Speaker's statement: As-It-Happened


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10:59 - Good morning and welcome to the opening of parliament. Your appetite for today rests on your patience with pomp, but we won't just be covering the Queen's Speech itself. Also on our agenda today is the first day of debate and any trouble over the Damian green affair. The official procession begins at 11:30 GMT. Michael Martin makes his statement on the Green arrest at 14:30 GMT. We're expecting MPs to force a debate on the issue today.

11:09 - The Queen is due to arrive in six minutes. We wouldn't usually be so precise, but today is meticulously planned from start to finish. Once the speech begins we'll be bringing you articles on each of the areas it covers.

11:11 - The lord chancellor, Jack Straw, is making his way down the corridor. He looks, it hardly needs saying, supremely daft. But today is not a day to point out problems with people's clothes.

11:13 - The cavalry are marching towards parliament. There's a special name for them, of course, but as a political journalist I have no idea what it is. The Queen is nearly at the Palace of Westminster. Once she steps in the Union Jack will be replaced with the royal banner, indicating her presence in the Palace.

11:17 - Phillip helps her out the carriage and the Union flag is taken down. I just realised I called it the Union Jack earlier. Very naughty. Harriet Harman is in front of Jack Straw, leading the Queen in. The doors close behind her as she puts on the Crown.

11:22 - The Speaker, Michael Martin, is on his way. You can tell because someone shouts 'Speaker' along the corridors up to central lobby. "Hats off, strangers," a policeman shouts. The whole thing is just ridiculous, but still somehow weirdly charming. Maybe I'm just sentimental.

11:26 - The Mace is put in its place and prayers begin, like they do every day. Trumpeters signal the beginning of the Royal procession. The Queen shuffles past into the Prince's Chamber. I've spent many working days in parliament but I've never been to many of these rooms. The Queen and the Duke enter the House of Lords, and the members stand. They both sit on their thrones.

11:29 - "My Lords, please be seated," the Queen says. Black Rod knocks on the door of the Commons and enters. He commands MPs to get into the House of Lords. There's laughter as Dennis Skinner says something I can't make out.

11:32 - Gordon Brown and David Cameron chat as they walk. They despise each other, these two, on almost every level, but today they surely have much to discuss. It's always mildly painful though, to watch their forced friendliness. "Any Tory moles at the Palace," was what Dennis Skinner said, by the way. Black Rod replied: "We'll miss you Mr Skinner."

11:34 - "The strength of the financial sector is vital to the future vibrancy of the economy," says the Queen. There'll be more security for bank depositors. Savings gateway accounts will continue.

11:35 - There will be more attention to local economic development. She mentions welfare reform - improving incentives etc. More control and choice for disabled people. Policing will be made more effective and accountable and social disorder tackled. The justice system will be more transparent and effective for victims and witnesses. Increased support for bereaved families. A bill will be brought forward to strengthen border controls. Newcomers to the UK [must] earn the right to stay, she says. There will be a new equality bill. No surprises so far.

11:37 - The child poverty eradication target will be enshrined in law. The NHS constitution is going ahead, setting out principles and rights and responsibilities. Education will be reformed, as will training and apprenticeships. Work training will be made a right. Constitutional renewal is going ahead - that means votes on war etc. Bills for marine resources and public access to the coastline will go forward. There will be close work with the devolved regions and further securing of peace in Northern Ireland.

11:40 - European action on economic and normal security and the environment will be supported by the government. NATO work will continue. The UK will hold the next G20 meeting. The government will continue to work for Middle East Peace and stopping Iran getting a nuclear bomb. The Queen says, rather unconvincingly, that she looks forward to hosting the president of Mexico.

11:41 - The Speech is over. She gets up to leave. It's important to note she began with the economic policies, although frankly they're pretty lightweight. There were no surprises today at all. We already knew all of these bills, and it didn't sound like much was being added to them.

11:51 - Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, has just confirmed she will be making a statement to the House tomorrow outlining the Home Office's involvement with Green's arrest. That may be an attempt to stem any debate today.

11:55 - The Queen's carriage leaves Westminster and the national anthem plays. You now have a certain idea of what's going on in the year ahead in parliament, although the details have yet to be fleshed out properly. We'll be doing our best to bring those to you as the day goes on.

12:24 - Peers and MPs will now go have lunch until the debate begins this afternoon.

14:29 - We're back in the Commons for the speaker's statement. This will set the tone for the Green affair in the days to come. Remember it starts its second week tomorrow. Look out for whether the Tories force an immediate debate. They probably will, but nothing is set in stone.

14:32 - "I wish to make a statement to the House," he says, admitting the arrest raises a subject of "grave concern".

14:33 - His tone is severe and serious as he reads - carefully I might add - from a sheet of paper. He says he waited until the House returned to comment. That gets a small, grave cheer. "Parliamentary privilege has never included the operation of criminal law," he says. He calls order - on himself - at the mild commotion this creates. "There is no special restriction on the police searching the parliamentary precincts... nor has there ever been."

14:34 - The police, he says, told the serjeant at arms but didn't mention which member they were going for. He was told "a member" would be searched but got no further information. Later, police explained to the serjeant at arms the identity and possibility of a search. She called the speaker. He was not told the police didn't have a warrant. Gasps in the House.

14:36 - He didn't know a warrant could have been insisted upon. He "regrets" a consent form was filled out by the serjeant at arms without consulting the clerk of the House. He says he was not asked the question of whether consent should be given or a warrant should be insisted upon. "I did not personally authorise the search." He only found out later in the evening the search went ahead only on the basis of a consent form. He was only told later of the arrest.

14:37 - "From now on a warrant will always be required," he promises. Lots of noise. He shouts order. He says some MPs have had the luxury of going on TV, unlike him. Now they can shut up and listen to his statement, is the basic message.

14:38 - He has decided to refer the seizure of Mr Green's stuff to senior members "appointed by me". He expects that committee to form a report on the subject, and for the House to debate it.

14:39 - Michael Howard, former Tory leader, gets up to speak. "You sir, of course, will readily appreciate the outrage felt on all sides of the House for the ability of one of its members to do the job he was elected to do," Howard says. "This attack was entirely without precedent," he says. Much noise. The Speaker interrupts him. "These are things that can wait for the debate on Monday," he tells Howard. He does mention he made sure police would return Greens computer and mobile phone. He stresses Howard needs to make a point of order, not have a debate. Howard asks if members in the debate will be able to question the conduct of government minister, House authorities and civil servants. "It's up to the government to table the motion," the Speaker replies.

14:42 - Sir Ming Campbell, former Liberal Democrat leader, gets up to ask about the remit of the committee. He says the speaker is correct to say no-one is above the law, but that "applies to the police" as well. Loud cheers. The mood is intensely serious and sombre, more so than it has been for a long time. The only immediate comparison that springs to mind, and I'm not exaggerating, is after the 7/7 bombings. The speaker says the committee will have as much power "as I can possibly allow". A couple of jokes from the speaker do serve to lighten the tone a little.

14:44 - Former home secretary John Reid gets up. He is more sympathetic to the police. Some of the points raised over the Green affair would carry "a little more weight" if they were raised during the investigation into cash-for-honours too. When he tries to mention the "neutrality of the civil service" he is unable to finish for the ironic reaction.

14:46 - Former Europe minister Dennis McShane: "The systematic breach of confidence in a minister's office" destroys faith in the democratic institutions," he says. The Speaker points out that MPs keep on using their points of order to start a debate, but says - and this is very interesting - he will continue to allow them because of the extent of "anger" in the House. Iain Duncan Smith, another former Tory leader, warns the committee must listen to arguments from all sides of the House.

14:49 - The speaker is applauded for waiting to make his comments to the House, says David Winnick, Labour MP. He says everything he has heard so far has made him even angrier. That gets very loud cheers. Douglas Hogg, former foreign office minister, says: "Can you confirm the police are not above the law?" He calls the police action "a scandal".

14:51 - At what time was the clerk informed of the action, an MP asks. The Speaker says the member cannot question his statement and leaves it at that.

14:53 - The speaker warns he's not going to allow points of order all day. A Labour MP calls on him to express support for the idea that those in government should be loyal to their minister and not leak. He is drowned out in outrage from the Tory benches.

14:55 - The speaker ends the points of order to move on to the Queen's Speech debate. We'll leave it there for today. The last few moments have been some of the most remarkable seen in the Commons for quite some time. What occurred just now was not far short of a declaration of war between politicians and the police. Stay with politics.co.uk for all the latest coverage. As-It-Happens will be back next Wednesday for prime minister's questions.


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