The ceremony could be the first and last chance for Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to unveil his legislative agenda to the public.
The British King Charles III. made his first opening speech in Parliament since taking the throne, setting out the government’s policy priorities in areas such as the economy, foreign policy and criminal justice.
The annual address – known as the “King or Queen’s Speech” – is a centuries-old tradition marking a new session of Parliament. The remarks are prepared by the government and read by the monarch.
Charles became monarch when his mother died in September 2022 after a 70-year reign.
“I am conscious of the legacy of service and devotion to this country left by my beloved mother, the late Queen, that I deliver this, the King’s first speech in over 70 years,” Charles said at the start of the speech on Tuesday.
The ceremony could be the first and last time for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to present his legislative arguments to the people. His Conservative Party will face a tough test in next year’s general election from rival Labor, which is ahead in the polls and could unseat him.
Charles spoke about government initiatives to curb inflation, strengthen energy security and protect consumers from hidden prices, and outlined what Sunak hopes will be vote-winning reforms for the Conservatives.
The monarch also expressed strong support for allies Ukraine and Israel in their ongoing wars. He condemned “barbaric acts of terrorism against the people of Israel” but said the UK would work to facilitate humanitarian aid to Gaza.
The British King Charles III. and Queen Camilla appear in the House of Lords during the State Opening of Parliament in London on November 7, 2023 [Kirsty Wigglesworth/Pool via AFP]
What was in the king’s speech?
The 10-minute speech touched on a range of topical issues, from privacy to criminal sentencing guidelines and tobacco regulations.
Several proposals have been touted as “Brexit freedoms” that would be made possible by Britain’s exit from the European Union, such as less stringent data protection rules.
The speech discussed plans to impose life sentences without parole for serious murderers and harsher sentences for serious sex offenders.
The government also announced it would continue its efforts to cut environmental regulations after Sunak lifted a moratorium on oil and gas development in the North Sea in July. A proposed law would require new oil and gas drilling licenses to be awarded every year in the North Sea, which the government says will protect jobs, reduce Britain’s dependence on foreign fuel and increase energy security.
“My ministers’ focus is on increasing economic growth and protecting the health and safety of the British people for generations to come,” the king said.
The economic proposals offered few details, but included plans to expand and regulate new economic sectors such as artificial intelligence and self-driving cars, as well as legislation to open the UK market to a group of Pacific Rim countries as part of a trade deal known as Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, which the United Kingdom agreed to join in July.
There was also a law that phased out all tobacco sales in England.
The plan stipulates that people born on or after January 1, 2009 will never be allowed to legally purchase cigarettes.
Several bills were carried over from the last session, including one to strengthen protections for renters and a controversial plan to ban public entities from conducting “politically motivated boycotts against foreign countries” – a law aimed at stopping boycotts against Israel.
The speech, delivered a month after the annual conference of the two largest Conservative and Labor parties, heightens anticipation for a campaign that has not yet officially begun.
Labor currently has a 20-point lead over the Conservatives ahead of the vote, which must take place by January 28, 2025.
Although a defeat for the Tories at the next election is by no means a given given their sizeable parliamentary majority, defeat would mean that much of the legislation set out in the King’s Speech would never see the light of day.
“The problem for Sunak is that he is running out of time. “The public is both bored and angry with Conservative governance,” said Richard Carr, associate professor of public policy and strategy at Anglia Ruskin University.
Source : www.aljazeera.com