London, Nov 7 (PTI) Britain's King Charles III on Tuesday delivered his first King's Speech, a tradition steeped in tradition and accompanied by royal pomp and ceremony, to lay out Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s plans for his government for the next parliamentary year.
The 74-year-old monarch was joined by Queen Camilla for the ceremonial State Opening of Parliament, which symbolises the independence of the House of Commons through its royal pageantry in the House of Lords.
The speech, which Charles began with a tribute to his late mother, Queen Elizabeth II, marked several firsts – including the first under the premiership of Sunak, Britain’s first Prime Minister of Indian heritage. It also marks the first time a King has opened the British Parliament in more than 70 years, the last being Charles' grandfather and Queen Elizabeth II's father George VI in 1950.
And, though the speech is delivered by the King, it is actually put together by the Prime Minister of the day to set out his legislative agenda for the coming months.
"It is mindful of the legacy of service and devotion to this country set by my beloved mother, the late Queen, that I deliver this, the first King's Speech in over 70 years," said Charles.
"My ministers' focus is on increasing economic growth and safeguarding the health and security of the British people for generations to come. My government will continue to take action to bring down inflation, to ease the cost of living for families and help businesses fund new jobs and investment," he said.
He went on to address the Israel-Palestine conflict, condemning the "barbaric acts of terrorism against the people of Israel".
"My ministers will work closely with international partners to support Ukraine, strengthen NATO and address the most pressing security challenges. This includes the consequences of the barbaric acts of terrorism against the people of Israel, facilitating humanitarian support into Gaza and supporting the cause of peace and stability in the Middle East," he said.
On the legislative agenda of the government, the King laid out Sunak's plan to support the future licensing of new oil and gas fields, “helping the country to transition to net zero by 2050 without adding undue burdens on households”.
He highlighted that laws will be introduced by the government to stop “new or complex crimes” such as digital-enabled crime and child sexual abuse, with a bill to ensure tougher sentences for the most serious offenders. Other bills to be tabled include a ban on the sale of cigarettes to young people and to promote trade and investment with “economies in the fastest growing region in the world”.
"My ministers will continue to negotiate trade agreements with dynamic economies, delivering jobs and growth in the United Kingdom,” he said.
The UK is currently negotiating a free trade agreement (FTA) with India, which is currently in the thirteenth round of talks.
Besides, the introduction of the Advanced British Standard to bring technical and academic routes into a single qualification was among the 21 bills that will be the government's priority over the coming year covered in the King’s Speech. Charles also confirmed that a bill to ensure a national Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre is built next to the Houses of Parliament will be among those tabled in the Commons.
“I look forward to welcoming His Excellency the President of the Republic of Korea and Mrs Kim Keon Hee for a State Visit later this month,” said the monarch.
Concluding his address in the House of Lords, the King reiterated Sunak’s focus on “long-term decisions in the interests of future generations”.
“My ministers will address inflation and the drivers of low growth over demands for greater spending or borrowing. My ministers will put the security of communities and the nation ahead of the rights of those who endanger it. By taking these long-term decisions, my government will change this country and build a better future,” he said.
The House of Commons will now kick start its new parliamentary schedule with a debate on the contents of the address later on Tuesday.
Earlier, the King travelled from Buckingham Palace to the Houses of Parliament in the ornate Diamond Jubilee State Coach, escorted by members of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment. He was preceded by a coach carrying the royal regalia – the crown, the Cap of Maintenance and the Sword of State. During the ceremony, Charles wore the Robe of State as per tradition, with Queen Camilla paying tribute to her late mother-in-law by wearing Queen Elizabeth II's diamond headband known as diadem. PTI AK ZH AKJ ZH ZH