King Charles III ventured to the House of Commons today to deliver his first speech to the members of parliament, where he laid out key pieces of legislation to be carried over into the next parliamentary session. Many of the proposed legislations have been discussed prior to today, but the King’s speech lays out these plans more solidly. Below, we’ve rounded up highlights from the event.
What Is The King’s Speech?
Part of the State Opening of Parliament ceremony, the King’s speech is often dubbed a ‘landmark moment in the life of parliament’ where the prime minister lays down their mission for government. Told through a speech from the reigning monarch, it outlines the laws that will be passed by the government to achieves its goals.
King Charles III addressed the members of parliament on 7 November 2023, where he opened his speech with the following: ‘My Lords and Members of the House of Commons, it is mindful of a 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. The impact of COVID and the war in Ukraine have created significant long term challenges for the United Kingdom. That is why my government’s priority is to make the difficult but necessary long term decisions to change this country for the better.’
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The King’s Speech 2023: What Was Discussed
Cutting Down The Cost Of Living
Beginning the list of legislation with economics, the King laid out the government’s primary focus for the next year: the economic wellbeing of the nation. ‘My ministers focus is on increasing economic growth and safeguarding the health and security of the British people for generations to come,’ said Charles. ‘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. Ministers will support the Bank of England to return inflation to target by taking responsible decisions on spending and borrowing. These decisions will help household finances, reduce public sector debt and safeguard the financial security of the country.’
Small Steps For Climate Change
As it currently stands, the UK is not on track to reach its targets to reduce its CO2 emissions to net zero by 2050 – making upcoming climate legislation a huge point of concern for many onlookers. The mention of climate policy in the King’s speech, although brief, emphasised government action with the goal to be an international role model. ‘My government will continue to lead action on tackling climate change and biodiversity loss, support developing countries with the energy of transition and hold other countries to their environmental commitments,’ he said.
Domestic Energy Sourcing
The above concerns go hand-in-hand with legislation surrounding energy sourcing in the UK, with the announcement of the government’s intention to expand oil and gas fields domestically sparking fierce debate between MPs.
The King’s speech revealed that these plans will be going ahead under the Conservative government, with a focus on independent sourcing – which Charles noted would ‘help the country to transition to net zero by 2050 without adding undue burdens on households.’ Policies will also be geared towards investing in renewable energy sources, as part of the UK’s decarbonising plans.
‘Legislation will be introduced to strengthen the United Kingdom’s energy security and reduce reliance on volatile international energy markets and hostile foreign regimes. This bill will support the future licencing of new oil and gas fields,’ he said in his speech.
Relief For The NHS
One of the key ongoing challenges presented to the UK government has been the NHS, which has faced intense working conditions, staff shortages and strike action. As part of the King’s speech, it was announced that, ‘[By] Working with NHS England, my government will deliver its plans to cut waiting lists and transform the long term workforce of the National Health Service. This will include delivering on the NHS workforce plan – the first long term plan to train the doctors and nurses the country needs – and minimum service levels to prevent strikes from undermining patient safety. Record levels of investment are expanding and transforming mental health services to ensure more people can access the support they need.’
A Smoke-Free Generation
Following in the steps of New Zealand, King Charles announced that a smoking ban will come into effect for future generations to improve the general health of the nation and lessen the strain of smoking-related health issues on the NHS. ‘My government will introduce legislation to create a smoke free generation by restricting the sale of tobacco so that children currently age 14 or younger can never be sold cigarettes,’ said the King. The legislation will also restrict the sale and marketing of e-cigarettes to children to create a smoke-free generation.
Artificial intelligence, or AI, has been on the lips of the nation all year it seems (so much so, that it was recently announced as Collins Dictionary’s word of the year). The government seem to want to take this in stride by becoming a leader in AI’s development: ‘The United Kingdom will continue to lead international discussions to ensure that artificial intelligence is developed safely,’ announced the King. This includes supporting these developments at home, as ‘ministers will introduce new legal frameworks to support the safe commercial development of emerging industries such as self driving vehicles, introduce new competition rules for digital markets and encourage innovation in technologies such as machine learning.’
Our Place On The World Stage
As for international relations, the King outlined a number of upcoming events that the UK is set to host, including the Global Investment Summit, the European political community and the Energy Conference, to demonstrate the UK’s ongoing leadership role in global policy-making.
Support of countries in conflict will also continue, as the King highlighted: ‘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.’
Featured image: Marcin Nowak, Unsplash