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In the UK Parliament, the Queen's Speech is generally seen as a confidence motion: if the government can't pass it, they don't have enough support in the House of Commons and will probably have to resign (though the requirements of the Fixed-Term Parliament Act complicate that somewhat).

Although they in theory have a majority at present (with DUP support), it's very small and many Conservative MPs appear willing to rebel on particular issues like austerity and Brexit.

The Opposition is planning to table various amendments to the Queen's Speech that might test Conservative MPs' loyalty. If any of those amendments were accepted, would that be seen politically as equivalent to failure to pass the Queen's Speech, as it would seem to formally indicate that the government can't control its own agenda?

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The Queen's speech is not a confidence vote. Neither the main vote at the end of the debate nor any amendments will automatically trigger the fall of the government if it loses a vote.

If the government were to lose the main vote on the Queen's speech, then there would almost certainly be a no confidence motion tabled. If Labour passes an amendment, then the PM must resign It would then be up to the opposition party to decide if they want to table a motion of no confidence.

There is the possibility of the Queen's speech not being passed, but a no-confidence motion also not passing. This would result in the odd situation of a government without a legislative programme. Again the result would almost certainly be the resignation of the PM and perhaps the senior members of the cabinet.

In May 2016 there was the possibility that rebel Tory MPs might have been able to get an amemdment opposing TTIP into the Queen's speech. This was seen as potentially "humiliating", but not a confidence matter.

In other circumstances, the government may accept an opposition amendment, if it is consistent with their overall stance, and has cross-party support. Better to accept than risk a show down. Again, this would not result in the government folding.

There was the odd sitution proposed in the New statesman of the Prime minister of a coalition government supporting an amendment to the Queen's speech, against the wishes of his coalition partner. Again the consequences of this were not tested.

These situations remain hypothetical, as they would require either a significant Tory rebellion on the Queen's speech, or the DUP reneging on an agreement they made this week - neither of which is remotely plausible.

  • The statement that "If Labour passes an amendment, then the PM must resign" a) rather muddies things, b) contradicts the notion that it's not a no confidence vote and c) isn't true (see, for example, that New Statesman article). – owjburnham Jun 29 '17 at 9:20
  • (Although in fairness, the logic in that article was somewhat muddled.) – owjburnham Jun 29 '17 at 9:22
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It's legally not a no-confidence vote since the Fixed-term Parliaments Act of 2011 has a clause for no-confidence votes, however, it can be viewed as such.

Some question whether other votes – including the Queen’s Speech and Budget – can still be viewed as confidence motions in the old tradition. However, the political reality is that if the Conservatives lost a vote on the Queen’s Speech, they would be under enormous political pressure to resign or would face an immediate vote of no confidence from Labour.

Legally, should the Queen's speech be voted down or an amendment is passed, the Prime Minister is not required to resign. However, he/she will likely face political pressure from within the party. Also, if the government continues on, the opposition can put forward a no-confidence motion using the FTPA as described below.

If the Conservatives struggled on, it would lead to Labour putting down a no confidence motion. This would provide a second opportunity for all Conservative MPs and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to reject it. Of course, this would prove controversial.


The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 states that should the government lose a specifically worded vote of no confidence, it would have 14 days to get another vote of confidence passed. It's unclear whether the current government can put forward another motion and try to get it passed or a new government must be formed (it's the first time that the FTPA is used to trigger the election this year, so there's no precedent.)

“That this House has no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government.”

If a confidence motion fails to pass within 14 days, another general election must be held.

(3)An early parliamentary general election is also to take place if—

(a)the House of Commons passes a motion in the form set out in subsection (4), and

(b)the period of 14 days after the day on which that motion is passed ends without the House passing a motion in the form set out in subsection (5).

  • My question is really about assuming that the Queen's Speech is a confidence measure in practice, and asking whether an opposition amendment being passed would imply no confidence. – GS - Apologise to Monica Jun 28 '17 at 6:47
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    @GaneshSittampalam "It's legally not a no-confidence vote since the Fixed-term Parliaments Act of 2011 has a clause for no-confidence votes, however, it can be viewed as such." – Panda Jun 28 '17 at 6:58
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    But is there a difference between the vote on the speech itself, and a vote on any opposition amendments to it? I've tried to clarify my question to make it clear what I'm asking. – GS - Apologise to Monica Jun 28 '17 at 7:25
  • @GaneshSittampalam There's seemingly no difference, i.e. neither would have (legal) effect now, and (historically) both (i.e. amendments to the Speech and voting down the Speech itself) were equally effective. In fact, from looking over Wikipedia's list of Motions of No Confidence it seems like all cases of the Government falling during the Queen's Speech debate were in fact due to amendments, rather than the Government losing the final vote. – owjburnham Jul 9 '17 at 13:47
  • @GaneshSittampalam Also, looking over the list, I wonder if the most recent two (1924 and 1892) might even have (almost) counted under the FTPA – they both contain wording to the effect that "confidence is not reposed in the present Advisers of Your Majesty" – owjburnham Jul 9 '17 at 13:49

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