The Prince of Wales has opened Parliament and delivered the Queen’s Speech for the first time in history.
Heir to the throne Charles, in his Admiral of the Fleet uniform, took on the monarch’s constitutional duty in the House of Lords amid the pomp and ceremony of the State Opening.
It is the first time in nearly 60 years that the Queen, 96, has missed the occasion. She pulled out on the advice of royal doctors due to her continued mobility problems, but watched the proceedings on television from Windsor Castle.
So what did the speech contain?
Boris Johnson billed his legislative agenda as a blueprint to get the country “back on track” after the coronavirus pandemic, and will hope it can bolster his troubled premiership.
But attention will quickly turn to what the Queen’s Speech lacks, with the Prime Minister saying he cannot “completely shield” everyone from the cost-of-living crisis.
Essentially there are 38 Bills in the programme, but nothing to alleviate consumers’ soaring household expenses right now.
Here’s a guide to what was revealed today (Tuesday).
- Ministers will try to force through a crackdown on “guerrilla protests”, with jail sentences and unlimited fines for those who disrupt key national infrastructure.
- A series of measures will seek to take advantage of Brexit, including tearing up EU regulations and implementing free trade deals with Australia and New Zealand.
- A Bill of Rights to reform human rights laws will be introduced, the sell-off of Channel 4 will be enabled, and plans will be introduced to deal with the legacy of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
- Amid the drawn-out invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the security services will get extra powers to tackle foreign spies and efforts to influence British democracy, with a reference to Chinese interference.
- A Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill will seek to drive local growth and regenerate towns and cities across England, including by enshrining the Government’s levelling up “missions”. It will also include reforms to the planning system to “give communities a louder voice”, after previous plans were paused amid Conservative resistance.
- Ministers will try to deter companies repeating P&O’s mass firing of staff by giving ports powers to refuse access to ferries not paying the UK minimum wage.
- An Energy Security Bill seeks to transition to cheaper and greener energy while aiming to minimise fluctuating bills, including by extending the price cap beyond 2023.
- And a UK Infrastructure Bank with £22 billion of financial capacity is among the plans to grow the economy and get it “back on track” after the pandemic, as Mr Johnson put it.
What critics say
Labour critics and possibly those on the Conservative backbenches too are bound to seize on the absence of any measures to immediately alleviate the pain of spiralling prices.
This is despite inflation being forecast to hit a 40-year high later in 2022 at 10%.
There is no windfall tax on the soaring profits of energy giants, which has been demanded by opposition parties and others campaigning to ease the cost-of-living crisis.
Instead, ministers highlighted a £22 billion package already announced while hinting at further support in the future.
Referring to the Russian invasion and the “aftershocks” of Covid-19, Mr Johnson said: “No country is immune and no government can realistically shield everyone from the impact.”