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Queen Elizabeth II has opened UK parliament but with less ceremony

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By Euronews
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles at the state opening of parliament, (2019)
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles at the state opening of parliament, (2019)   -   Copyright  Aaron Chown/AP

The Queen has unveiled the British Government’s plans for the next year in a formal event in London.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions the event went ahead without the usual pomp and ceremony.

The annual proceedings take place for the monarch to outline the policies of the government for the upcoming parliamentary session.

The speech is delivered by the Queen but it is written for her by the government.

There were more than 25 separate bills and pieces of legislation announced in her speech which were delivered from the throne at the upper chamber, the House of Lords.

The event began at exactly 12h CEST with the Queen's procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster, escorted by the Household Cavalry. It is the Queen's first official event since the death of her husband, `Prince Philip.

The Prince of Wales accompanied the Queen, who did not wear her usual regalia, in a procession behind the royal crown.

The House of Lords official known as Black Rod, a post currently held by Sarah Clarke, summoned the lower chamber, the House of Commons. The doors to the Commons chamber were shut in her face: a traditional practice dating back to the Civil War, symbolising the Commons' independence from the monarchy.

What is in the speech?

The Queen announced a Skills and Post-16 Education Bill, saying that the legislation will support a "lifetime skills guarantee to enable flexible access to high quality education and training throughout people's lives".

The speech also referred to a new Planning Bill aimed at overhauling the planning system in England. The government hope to set up a new zoning system intended to speed up planning application and help councils meet house building targets. The idea has been criticised by opposition parties. She also said her government wants to enhance the rights of people who rent.

The Queen mentioned plans for the government to commit to the introduction of a legal ban on so-called gay “conversion therapy” to apply in England and Wales.

There will be measures to tackle voting fraud, including the requirement for voters to show photo ID in order to cast their ballot and new rules to limit absent voting and voter intimidation

A Health and Care Bill will implement planned changes to the structure of NHS England. She added that her ministers will bring forward legislation to allow the NHS to "innovate and embrace technology". This would mean patients may receive more bespoke and preventative care closer to home.

The Queen announced the UK Government’s intention to introduce the controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which led to a number of protests when it was debated by MPs earlier this year.

On the environment, the Queen outlined the Environment Bill which focuses on protecting nature and tackling climate change after Brexit. It has seen lengthy delays so far but is a commitment to set new, legally-binding targets ahead of the international Cop26 climate change summit in Glasgow later this year.

Plans to overhaul the asylum system were announced in an attempt to stop migrants from crossing the English Channel from mainland Europe.

The Queen leaves Buckingham Palace to open Parliament

After the ceremony the Queen left and a new parliamentary session started. Each of the two houses continue the debate over the planned legislative programme for several days, looking at different subject areas. The Queen's Speech will then be voted on by the Commons, but rarely in the Lords.

Some traditions surrounding the State Opening and the monarch’s speech can be traced back as far as the 16th century but the current ceremony dates from the opening of a rebuilt Palace of Westminster in 1852 following a major fire in 1834.