Thu, 26 May 2022

Britain's heir to the throne replaced his 96-year-old mother Queen Elizabeth II at Tuesday's formal opening of the UK parliament, marking the first time since 1963 that the monarch misses the ceremonial event, which sets out the government's legislative plans.

With the queen forced to withdraw on Monday due to a recurrence of mobility issues, 73-year-old Charles arrived at the Palace of Westminster to read out the government's legislative agenda.

Charles, who had attended the opening of parliament alongside his mother in recent years, started reading out each bill by saying: "Her majesty's government will...".

The State Opening of Parliament is an event of huge pomp and pageantry which traditionally sees the queen travelling to the assembly in a State Coach, escorted by mounted soldiers in ceremonial uniform, while the Imperial State Crown and other regalia travel ahead in a carriage of their own.

The monarch dons the Robe of State before leading a procession to the House of Lords upper chamber where she sits on a throne and formally opens a new session of parliament, reading a speech written by the government outlining its legislative plans.

The queen had to issue a 'Letters Patent' to authorise Charles and William to carry out her role at the constitutional event, which she missed only twice during her 70-year reign - in 1959 and 1963, when she was pregnant with sons Andrew and Edward.

Queen Elizabeth has missed a number of public engagements since she was hospitalised for a night last October for an unspecified illness. She has complained of difficulties standing and working, as well as a bout of Covid.

Johnson vows to 'deliver on the promises' of 2019 election

In the traditional Queen's Speech, written by the government, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his Conservative administration would "deliver on the promises" made ahead of the 2019 general election.

But there was little to comfort the millions of people struggling with higher fuel and food costs, with the government reiterating that it would "repair the public finances" rather than channel money to cushion the blow.

"Her Majesty's government will drive economic growth to improve living standards and fund sustainable investment in public services. This will be underpinned by a responsible approach to the public finances, reducing debt while reforming and cutting taxes," Charles said, reading the text.

The Queen's Speech set out 38 bills, including measures to revitalise Britain's high streets, crack down on illicit finance and make the City, London's financial district, more attractive to global investors after the country left the European Union.

Johnson and his government are keen to return the focus on what they call the "real issues" and turn the page on scandals after months of reports of Covid-19 lockdown-busting gatherings at the prime minister's Downing Street office and residence.

After Johnson and his finance minister, Rishi Sunak, were both handed fines for one such gathering, Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party, stepped up the pressure when he pledged to resign if police found he had also broken the rules.

Neither Johnson nor Sunak have stepped down, and Downing Street is still awaiting the results of a police investigation into other gatherings.

Johnson was punished in last week's local elections, when voters in southern England abandoned his party over the scandals and the rising cost of living. This prompted some in his party to urge Johnson to return to a more traditional Conservative agenda of tax cuts and preventing housing from encroaching on rural areas.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

Originally published on France24

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