British parliament reconvenes after Cameron's victory

AFP , Monday 18 May 2015

House of Commons
House of Commons (Photo: Reuters)

British lawmakers are expected to appoint a speaker on Monday as they convene at parliament for the first time after a general election that handed Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives a surprise majority.

The former speaker of the House of Commons chamber, John Bercow, is expected to be re-selected unopposed and hundreds of newly-elected Members of Parliament will be formally sworn in starting from Tuesday.

The decision on the speaker will be presided over by 84-year-old Gerald Kaufman, who as parliament's longest-serving MP is "Father of the House".

Kaufman will put forward Bercow's name in a ceremony starting at 1330 GMT and only if the candidacy is opposed would a vote have to be held on Tuesday. Cameron is expected to speak afterwards.

Bercow has been a reforming and at times controversial speaker -- in March, the government tried to change the rules so his position would be elected by a secret ballot in a move seen by critics as an attempt to oust him.

But some of his most vocal critics say they will not now oppose his re-election amid recent press reports of marital problems.

Cameron was re-elected in the May 7 election, proving wrong pollsters who had predicted a much closer race against his centre-left challenger Ed Miliband.

Miliband resigned as leader of the Labour Party the next day, along with Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg, a former junior partner in a coalition with Cameron.

Both Clegg and Miliband were re-elected to parliament as lawmakers despite their parties' crushing defeats and are to be sworn in as MPs, as their respective parties embark on tortuous and months-long contests to replace them.

Among the new faces in parliament will be most of the pro-independence Scottish National Party's 56 MPs, who will be a powerful voice of opposition.

Joining them in parliament on the governing benches will be London Mayor Boris Johnson, a bombastic politician with unruly hair who is seen as a potential future leader of the Conservative Party.

In his first major policy speech since the victory, Cameron on Monday set out plans to boost funding for the state-run National Health Service and allow more access to family doctors seven days a week.

The NHS is "safe in our hands," Cameron said.

But nurses warned they could go on strike if the government threatens the extra payments that they receive for working at weekends and holidays.

The substantial business of parliament starts next week when Queen Elizabeth II will deliver a speech in parliament outlining the new government's programme at the traditional State Opening.

Debates on the policies outlined in the speech are expected to last for several days before a vote seen as a vote of confidence in the new government.

The next key date in the parliamentary calendar is in July when finance minister George Osborne is set to put forward his first budget since the general election to implement key campaign promises.

He has said he will strip out £12 billion (16 billion euros, $19 billion) a year from Britain's welfare bill to balance the nation's books, but has not given full details on where the cuts will fall.

Osborne has said it will be a "budget for working people" that would protect the National Health Service, make savings in government administration and improve British productivity.

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