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With pomp but no queen, the UK government sets the agenda of the year

LONDON –

Britain’s Conservative government has made sweeping promises to cut crime, improve health care and revive an economy threatened by the pandemic as it laid out its plans for next year in a meeting. traditional ceremony in Parliament – but without Queen Elizabeth II, who was absent for the first time in six decades.

The 96-year-old monarch withdrew from reading the Queen’s Speech at the ceremonial Opening of Parliament because of what Buckingham Palace called “episode migration issues”. Her son and heir, Prince Charles, stood up, delivering a brief speech setting out 38 bills the government plans to pass.

The speech, written by the government, promised Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s administration would “grow and strengthen the economy and help reduce the cost of living for families.”

But it includes some immediate measures to relieve households struggling with soaring domestic food and energy prices.

As well as bills on education, health care funding and “upgrading” economic opportunity for poorer regions, the speech promises laws aimed at pleasing the government’s far-right voter base. , including promises to win “free Brexit” by cutting red tape for businesses and overhauling financial services and data regulations now that Britain has left the European Union.

Some of the plans have been heavily criticized by opposition parties and civil liberties groups, including a controversial new law aimed at eliminating disruptive protest tactics favored by groups such as the Uprising. rise to extinction.

Human rights groups have also criticized plans for a British Bill of Rights to replace existing human rights laws based on the European Convention on Human Rights. Some environmentalists fear that the bill allowing “correctly bred plants and animals” would open the door to genetically modified foods, which are currently banned.

Johnson said before the speech that their measures would “get our country on the right track” and continue with “our mission to create high-paying, high-skill jobs that will spur driving economic growth across our UK.”

In a video message, he said the government’s focus was on “growing the economy to address the cost of living.”

But there are no new relief measures specifically for soaring electricity and grocery bills. Britain’s inflation rate has hit 7% and domestic energy prices have climbed even higher, as the war in Ukraine and Western sanctions on energy-rich Russia have increased disruptions. economic disruption from Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government has given most households a £150 ($185) tax refund, but has rejected calls by the opposition for a wind tax on the profits of big energy companies. says it may discourage them from investing in UK renewable energy projects.

The opening of a new session of Parliament comes days after Johnson’s Conservatives struggled in local elections across the UK, losing hundreds of city and regional council seats to opposition parties.

Johnson’s personal popularity has been marred by months of headlines about parties in his office and other government buildings violating coronavirus restrictions.

Johnson was fined £50 ($62) by police for attending his own surprise birthday party in June 2020 when lockdown regulations banned social gatherings.

Johnson apologized but denied knowingly breaking the rules. He faces the possibility of more fines than other parties, a congressional investigation into whether he misled lawmakers about his conduct and a possible vote of no confidence. responsibility from his own legislators.

The state opening ceremony itself is a spectacular show off the two sides of Britain’s constitutional monarchy: royal pomp and political power. Traditionally, the king traveled from Buckingham Palace to Parliament in a chariot and delivered a speech to legislators assembled from the throne, wearing a crown encrusted with 3,000 diamonds.

The Queen has only missed two previous state openings during her 70-year reign, in 1959 and 1963, when she was pregnant with sons Andrew and Edward.

This year, Charles arrived at Parliament by car, not by carriage, and without a crown, but with his own seat. But other symbolic elements are also present, including the Yeomen Guards in red robes and an official known as the Black Rod, who summoned lawmakers from the House of Representatives to the House of Representatives.

The ceremony took place in the House of Commons, whose upper house was not elected by Parliament, as the monarch was not allowed to set foot in the House of Commons. Ever since King Charles I attempted to arrest legislators in 1642 and was ultimately deposed, tried, and beheaded, the king has been barred from the chambers of the Commons.

In another symbol of the struggle between the Commons and the crown, a lawmaker was ceremonially held hostage at Buckingham Palace during a ceremony to ensure the safe return of the royal family.

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