British government lays out its plans

2013-05-08 14:18
Britain's Queen Elizabeth delivers her speech during the State Opening of Parliament at the House of Lords, alongside Prince Philip in London. (Toby Melville/ AP)

Britain's Queen Elizabeth delivers her speech during the State Opening of Parliament at the House of Lords, alongside Prince Philip in London. (Toby Melville/ AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

London — The British government announced a modest, austerity-sensitive programme of legislation intended to tighten immigration controls, reform pensions and reduce red tape for business as Queen Elizabeth II laid out plans for the next year at the ceremonial state opening of Parliament on Wednesday.

The Queen's Speech — a legislative agenda written by the government but read out by the monarch — included measures intended to stimulate a national economy that has flat-lined since the global economic crisis hit five years ago.

The speech promised "an economy where people who work hard are properly rewarded", with laws to "reduce the burden of excessive regulation on businesses" and enshrine consumer rights.

There was no hint of deviation from the government's commitment to cost-cutting austerity measures, but the speech announced infrastructure investment in energy and the water system, and a bill to start building a high-speed rail link from London to England's second city, Birmingham.

The government also threw a few nuggets to taxpayers wearied by rising prices and stagnating salaries. It promised better and cheaper childcare, a simpler state pension system and reforms to the way long-term care is paid for so the elderly don't have to sell their homes to meet care bills.

On immigration, the speech said the government would make Britain a country that "accepts people who will contribute and deters people who do not".

Pageant of power

New measures, which could limit new immigrants' access to healthcare and welfare, are intended to counter impressions that some migrants get a free ride on the welfare state — a perception that has fuelled support for the anti-Europe UK Independence Party, a threat to Cameron's Conservatives.

The legislative schedule was also notable for its absences.

There was no mention of contentious plans to allow police and spy agencies to snoop on e-mail traffic, web browsing and social media sites. The measures were announced last year in the draft Communications Data Bill, but sparked an outcry from civil liberties campaigners. Last month Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said they would not become law.

Instead, the queen announced unspecified new measures to fight crime in cyberspace.

The state opening is a pageant of power, pomp and politics rich in arcane traditions including a golden throne, a crown studded with 3 000 diamonds and an official known as Black Rod.

The queen was driven from Buckingham Palace to Parliament in a horse-drawn carriage, escorted by mounted members of the Household Cavalry in scarlet tunics and gleaming breastplates.

History of power struggle

Dressed in an ivory gown and wearing the diamond-encrusted Imperial State Crown, she delivered the speech from a gilded throne in the House of Lords to an audience of ermine-robed peers and lawmakers in ordinary clothes.

The annual pageant draws heavily on the history of the power struggle between the monarchy and Parliament. Lawmakers were summoned from the House of Commons to listen to the queen by Black Rod, a security official — but only complied after first slamming the door in his face to symbolise their independence.

Since King Charles I tried to arrest members of the House of Commons in 1642 — and ended up deposed, tried and beheaded — the monarch has been barred from entering the Commons.

In another symbol of the traditional hostility between Commons and crown, a lawmaker was held at Buckingham Palace as a "hostage" during the ceremony to ensure the monarch's safe return.

This year, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall attended the state opening alongside the queen.

It is being seen as another sign of the heir to the throne's increasingly prominent role as he takes over more duties from the 87-year-old monarch. Buckingham Palace announced on Tuesday that Charles would attend a Commonwealth heads of government conference in Sri Lanka in November in place of the queen, who is cutting back on long-distance travel.

Read more on:    prince charles  |  queen elizabeth ii

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.