Corbyn taunts May as she backs down on election pledges in Queen’s speech
PMs programme focuses on Brexit, but omits grammar schools expansion, winter fuel payment cuts and foxhunting vote
Jeremy Corbyn insisted Labour is a government-in-waiting as he taunted Theresa May over the loss of her parliamentary majority, promising to vote down unpopular austerity measures and offer strong and stable leadership.
The Labour leader was warmly cheered from the packed Labour benches, as he responded to a slimmed-down Queens speech, which set out a legislative programme dominated by Brexit and was stripped of a series of controversial manifesto policies.
Corbyn called Mays minority administration a government without a majority, without a mandate, without a serious legislative programme, led by a prime minister who has lost her political authority, and is struggling to stitch together a deal to stay in office.
May herself said the general election campaign showed that, as we face the big challenges of our future, our country is divided: red versus blue; young versus old; leave versus remain.
As I said here last week, the test for all of us is whether we choose to reflect divisions or help the country overcome them. With humility and resolve, this government will seek to do the latter.
Earlier, the Queen had set out the 27 bills the government intends to pass in what the prime minister hopes will be a two-year session of parliament.
Eight of these were the pieces of legislation the government believes are necessary for Brexit including bills allowing Britain to determine its own immigration, customs and trade arrangements.
But plans to scrap free school meals, ration winter fuel payments for pensioners, repeal the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, and introduce what became widely known as the dementia tax for funding social care have been swept away by the election result.
Grammar schools were not mentioned; nor was the promised free vote on repealing the foxhunting ban, which enraged many younger voters during the campaign.
The fragility of Mays position was further underlined on Thursday as it emerged that her director of policy, John Godfrey, had left No 10 the latest in a string of departures by powerful figures around her since the election result.
The prime minister was forced to sacrifice her two chiefs of staff, Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy, in the weekend following the election, amid widespread complaints from cabinet colleagues about their controlling management style and poor judgment during the campaign.
Philip Hammond, the chancellor, has since publicly criticised the conduct of the campaign in a swipe against May and her team, saying he would have liked it to be more focused on the economy and insisting jobs and the economy must come first as the government negotiates Brexit.
MPs will vote on the Queens speech next week and senior Conservative sources have repeatedly said they believe it will command the confidence of the House.
But even if MPs fall into line, it became clear on Thursday that May could face a series of battles in the House of Lords over Brexit legislation.
Lib Dem chief whip Alistair Carmichael said he did not believe the eight Brexit-related bills would be covered by the so-called Salisbury Convention, which usually obliges the Lords to back legislation promised in the governing partys manifesto, and passed by the Commons. What we are seeing now is the opportunity for Parliament to control the government, he said.
The Lib Dems have more than 100 peers, with significantly more influence in the upper house than in the Commons, where the party has just 12 MPs.
The government is not only going to struggle to gets its business through the House of Commons, it is going to have one hell of a job to get stuff through the House of Lords, Carmichael said.
The Queens speech included a series of pro-consumer measures that the government hopes will command popular support among MPs, including a surprise pledge that tenants will not have to pay more than one months rent as a deposit.
But May appeared to back away from plans to cap energy bills for 17 million families on the worst-value tariffs. A spokesman said the government was still committed to tackling the worst rip-off price rises, and was discussing with the regulator Ofgem the best way to achieve that.
Instead of an across-the-board cap, the government appeared to be preparing to extend the existing ceiling on bills for 4 million households on prepayment meters to a further 2.6 million vulnerable customers: a compromise that would be exactly what the industry had been lobbying for.
With May yet to conclude the confidence and supply deal with Northern Irelands Demoratic Unionist party she hopes will commit them to supporting her on key measures, Corbyn made clear Labour was preparing to fight against the government, vote by vote.
We will use every opportunity to vote down government policies that failed to win public support and we will use every opportunity to win support for our programme,. he said.
The Queen was accompanied by the Prince of Wales to the ceremony in the House of Lords, after Buckingham Palace announced the Duke of Edinburgh had been admitted to hospital as a precaution on Tuesday night.
After the Queens speech, the prime ministers spokesman stressed that the government will reflect on the election result; and underlined the fact that which manifesto measures make it into law will depend on the balance of support among MPs.
Broadly, it is about governing with humility, and you also have to bear in mind bringing forward measures which can command a majority in parliament, he said.
May, who began her term as prime minister last July by sacking a series of high-profile colleagues, including George Osborne and Nicky Morgan, and embarking on a controversial drive to expand grammar schools, struck a conciliatory note, conscious of the need to command all her colleagues backing.
Corbyn insisted: Labour is not merely an opposition: we are a government in waiting, with a policy programme that enthused and engaged millions of people; many for the first time.
We are ready to offer real strong and stable leadership in the interests of the many not the few. And we will test this governments Brexit strategy, and what legislation comes forward, against that standard.
Conservative sources said talks with the DUP over a confidence and supply deal were ongoing. DUP and airline sources in Northern Ireland confirmed on Wednesday that one issue on the agenda is the abolition or radical slashing of air passenger duty.
DUP and the sources in Northern Ireland confirmed on Wednesday that APD tax is one of the demands the Ulster party is making in its discussions with both Downing Street and Treasury officials.
All three of the regions airports Belfast International, George Best/Belfast City and City of Derry airport have to complete with Dublin airport, where the tax is not levied as it has been abolished in the Irish Republic.
Airline industry sources believe the total abolition of APD would bring a million new passengers through local airports and create more than 1,000 new jobs.
The DUP is also expected to secure increased investment in infrastructure in Northern Ireland as a result of the negotiations; and has pledged to use its leverage to soften the impact of austerity policies on the UK as a whole.
During Mays speech, Labour MPs heckled the prime minister with shouts of resign. LaboursKevin Brennan called May the interim prime minister, asking how she could negotiate Brexit with the EU if she could not clinch a confidence and supply agreement with 10 DUP MPs to acquire a majority.