UK

King booed by protesters after delivering speech to parliament

Tougher sentences for the country’s most serious offenders and a crackdown on grooming have taken centre stage in the first King’s Speech in decades.

The King struck a personal note when he began his speech – the first by a king in over 70 years – by acknowledging the “legacy of service and devotion to this country” shown by his “beloved mother, the late Queen”.

Reading out Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s agenda for the upcoming year, the King said the Sentencing Bill would be brought forward to “increase the confidence of victims”.

Further measures would also be introduced to give police more powers to “prevent new and complex crimes” and child sexual abuse, he added.

Follow latest: King’s Speech unveils Sunak’s plans

 King Charles and Queen Camilla leave Buckingham Palace for the State Opening of Parliament at the Houses of Parliament, in London
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The King and Queen on their way to parliament

The chamber of the House of Lords fills up ahead of the King's Speech at the State Opening of Parliament, in the Palace of Westminster in London. Picture date: Tuesday November 7, 2023.
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The chamber of the House of Lords fills up ahead of the King’s Speech

Despite the emphasis on crime, there was no mention of the recent pro-Palestinian protests that have been taking place across the UK, and which Ms Braverman has described as “hate marches”.

Her controversial plans to restrict the use of tents for people who are homeless were also not raised by the King.

Ahead of the speech, anti-monarchy protesters gathered outside parliament with placards which read: “Not my king!”.

At 1,223 words, the King’s Speech was the longest by a monarch at a State Opening of Parliament since 2005.

It began when the King noted that the COVID pandemic and the war in Ukraine had created “significant long-term challenges for the United Kingdom”.

He said Mr Sunak’s administration was focused on “increasing economic growth and safeguarding the health and security of the British people for generations to come”.

The King repeated the prime minister’s key pledge to bring down inflation, which currently stands at 6.7%, and said the government would support the Bank of England “in that goal” by taking “responsible decisions on spending and borrowing”.

Previously announced ambitions to create a “smoke-free generation” were raised, as the monarch said the government would restrict the sale of tobacco so that children currently aged 14 or younger can never be sold cigarettes.

The King – a lifelong environmental campaigner – also confirmed Mr Sunak’s plans to grant new oil and gas licences “helping the country to transition to net zero by 2050 without adding undue burdens on households” in the Offshore Petroleum and Licensing Bill.

Elsewhere, he reaffirmed the prime minister’s plans to introduce an Advanced British Standard, a “new Baccalaureate-style qualification” for 16 to 19 year-olds that will combine and replace A-Levels and T-Levels while also carrying out a crackdown on “poor quality” university degrees in favour of more young people taking high quality apprenticeships.

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‘Not My King!’ protest

Turning to housing, the government will bring forward the Leasehold and Freehold Bill to make it easier and cheaper for leaseholders to purchase their freehold and, it is hoped, tackle the issue of punitive service charges.

The long-awaited Renters Reform Bill, under which no-fault evictions are set to be banned, is designed to increase security for renters – but it has come under criticism after Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said he would not enact the policy until courts have been reformed.

Concluding the speech, the King said: “My government will, in all respects, seek to make 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.”

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