UK’s new Conservative government outlines EU referendum plan in pomp-filled Queen’s Speech

Pomp met politics as Queen Elizabeth II donned a diamond-studded crown Wednesday to read out laws planned by Britain’s new government, including more autonomy for Scotland and a referendum on whether to remain in the European Union.

LONDON — Pomp met politics as Queen Elizabeth II donned a diamond-studded crown Wednesday to read out laws planned by Britain’s new government, including more autonomy for Scotland and a referendum on whether to remain in the European Union.

It was the 62nd time the 89-year-old monarch has delivered the annual Queen’s Speech, but this year’s proposals have especially profound implications for the future of the United Kingdom she heads.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative administration said it would “renegotiate the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union” and hold an in or out referendum on membership by the end of 2017.

At home, it promised a “strong and lasting constitutional settlement” with major new powers for Scotland and — to a lesser extent — Wales.

The speech, delivered by the queen but written by the government, is the centerpiece of the ceremonial State Opening of Parliament. It follows a May 7 election that unexpectedly gave Cameron’s centre-right Conservatives a parliamentary majority — and with it the power to implement a political agenda without coalition compromises.

“This is the Queen’s Speech for working people, from a one nation government that will bring our country together,” Cameron told lawmakers in the House of Commons after the queen’s address. He vowed to create “a country that backs those who work hard and do the right thing.”

The speech promised laws to cut red tape for small businesses and freeze income and sales tax rates until 2020. There was also a right-to-buy plan to help thousands of tenants become homeowners.

The unemployed face a lower cap on benefits, while the government plans to make it harder for unionized workers to strike and to introduce new controls on immigration.

Cameron’s “one nation” may well have looser bonds. Scotland is getting more powers to raise and spend taxes, fulfilling a promise made by Cameron before last year’s Scottish independence referendum. Wales will also gain more autonomy, and there was a promise to reduce the say of Scottish lawmakers over policies that affect only England and Wales.

Details of that plan, known as “English votes for English laws,” are likely to prove contentious — one of several bills the government may struggle to pass with its majority of 12 seats in the 650-seat House of Commons.

New measures to limit extremist preachers’ public activities could prove contentious. So could a plan to “modernize the law on communications data,” reviving an attempt to broaden spies’ surveillance powers that failed in the last term of Parliament.

And an election vow to replace the Human Rights Act — which has a European court as its top arbiter — with a British bill of rights was reduced to a promise of “proposals” rather than legislation. The plan is opposed by some Conservatives as well as opposition parties.

Labour Party leader Harriet Harman said that if the Conservatives “seek to undermine basic human rights, take us out of the European Convention (on Human Rights) or undermine our ability to stand up for human rights abroad, we will oppose them all the way.”

The State Opening is an annual pageant steeped in symbolism of the historic power struggle between the monarchy and Parliament.

Since King Charles I tried to arrest members of the House of Commons in 1642 — and ended up deposed, tried and beheaded — the monarch has been barred from entering the Commons chamber.

As a result, the queen delivered her speech in the House of Lords — Parliament’s unelected upper house — to a tightly packed audience of lawmakers in ordinary clothes and peers in red robes trimmed with ermine.

She sat on a gilded throne wearing the velvet parliamentary robe and the Imperial State Crown, encrusted with almost 3,000 diamonds.

Lawmakers were summoned from the House of Commons by Black Rod, a security official — but only complied after first slamming the door in his face to symbolize their independence.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Samantha Sharpe, 25, was stabbed to death at Sunchild First Nation on Dec. 12, 2018. Chelsey Lagrelle was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for manslaughter in a Red Deer courtroom on Tuesday. Photo contributed
Central Alberta woman sentenced to 4 1/2 years for stabbing friend to death in 2018

Chelsey Lagrelle earlier pleaded guilty to stabbing Samantha Sharpe during argument

Alberta's chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw says Albertans need to keep making safe choices to start bending the curve back down. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
One new COVID-19 death in Red Deer, 257 additional cases province-wide

Red Deer sits at 459 active cases of the virus

Olds College logo
Olds College to host free, online agriculture celebration next month

Olds College will host a free live-streamed agriculture event next month. The… Continue reading

Alberta Health Services Logo
AHS upgrading online immunization booking tool

Alberta Health Services’ online booking tool for COVID-19 immunizations will be temporarily… Continue reading

Eric Rajah and Brian Leavitt were awarded with Meritorious Service Medals by the Governor General for co-founding the Lacombe-based charity A Better World. The agency’s goal is to reduce poverty and boost education in Africa and Afghanistan. (Contributed photo)
Co-founders of Lacombe-based charity receive one of Canada’s highest honours

Eric Rajah, Brian Leavitt of A Better World are honoured by the Governor General

Red Deer dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped save a missing pet recently. The two dogs have more than 80,000 followers on Twitter. (Contributed photo)
WATCH: Red Deer science dogs help save lost pet

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped rescue a missing pet… Continue reading

FILE - In this Oct. 28, 2020, file photo, FBI Director Christopher Wray speaks during a virtual news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington. Wray is set to testify for the first time since the deadly Jan. 6 deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol. (Sarah Silbiger/Pool via AP)
FBI chief warns violent ‘domestic terrorism’ growing in US

FBI chief warns violent ‘domestic terrorism’ growing in US

In this image from KYMA law enforcement work at the scene of a deadly crash involving a semitruck and an SUV in Holtville, Calif., on Tuesday, March 2, 2021. (KYMA via AP)
California crash kills 13 of 25 people crammed into SUV

California crash kills 13 of 25 people crammed into SUV

FILE - In this Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021 file photo, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny gestures as he stands behind a grass of the cage in the Babuskinsky District Court in Moscow, Russia. Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was transported to a prison 100km away from Moscow. Navalny was taken to a prison in Pokrov city after Moscow city court rejected appeal against his prison sentence on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)
US sanctions Russian officials over nerve-agent attack

US sanctions Russian officials over nerve-agent attack

Neera Tanden, President Joe Biden's nominee for Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), appears beofre a Senate Committee on the Budget hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021.(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)
Budget nominee Tanden withdraws nomination amid opposition

Budget nominee Tanden withdraws nomination amid opposition

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa on February 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Unanimous committee report calls on Trudeau not to trigger election during pandemic

Unanimous committee report calls on Trudeau not to trigger election during pandemic

Jahmil French arrives on the red carpet at the Canadian Screen Awards in Toronto on March 11, 2018. Canadian actor Jahmil French of "Degrassi: The Next Generation" fame has died. His agent, Gabrielle Kachman, confirmed the news to The Canadian Press through a statement. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Canadian actor Jahmil French of ‘Degrassi: The Next Generation’ has died, says agent

Canadian actor Jahmil French of ‘Degrassi: The Next Generation’ has died, says agent

FILE - In this Feb. 6, 2005 file photo, Bunny Wailer performs at the One Love concert to celebrate Bob Marley's 60th birthday, in Kingston, Jamaica. Wailer, a reggae luminary who was the last surviving member of the legendary group The Wailers, died on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in his native Jamaica, according to his manager. He was 73. (AP Photo/Collin Reid, File)
Bunny Wailer, reggae luminary and last Wailers member, dies

Bunny Wailer, reggae luminary and last Wailers member, dies

Eddie Murphy, left, and Arsenio Hall appear in a scene from "Coming 2 America." (Quantrell D. Colbert/Paramount Pictures via AP)
33 years later, Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall return to Zamunda

33 years later, Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall return to Zamunda

Most Read