Photo: (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
LONDON (AP) — Queen Elizabeth II says Britain’s government plans to finally reform the centuries-old House of Lords and introduce direct elections for its members.Attempts to overhaul the unelected 700-year-old upper chamber — which does not make laws but can amend legislation — have frustrated British leaders for decades, with peers reluctant to agree to changes.
Announcing the government’s new legislative program Wednesday in an opulent pageant of pomp and politics, the queen said planned laws would introduce a smaller, mainly upper elected chamber.
Following a return to recession last month, she also said Prime Minister David Cameron will prioritise economic stability and that he plans to separate banks’ retail operations from riskier investment arms.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
LONDON (AP) — Queen Elizabeth II is setting out the British government’s legislative program in traditionally opulent style on Wednesday — an agenda focused on kick-starting stalled economic growth amid painful austerity measures and a slide back into recession.
Hundreds of people are expected to crowd along the streets outside Parliament to see the monarch’s horse-drawn carriage parade from Buckingham Palace in a lavish ceremony featuring glittering coaches, sparkling diamonds and canon fire.
As the queen dons the Imperial State Crown studded with almost 3,000 diamonds for the annual pageant of power, pomp and politics, labour union members will march on the House of Commons to protest the government’s program of sharp spending cuts.
From a gilded throne in the House of Lords, the queen will read aloud the new legislative package, which sets out the work of Parliament over the next 12 months. However she has no role in drafting its content, which is written by Britain’s government.
Prime Minister David Cameron will prioritise new bills to cut regulation for businesses — which could make it harder for workers who allege unfair treatment — to trim public sector pension payments and to safeguard Britain’s banks by separating high street retail operations from riskier investment divisions.
The legislative slate is also expected to confirm a new attempt to modernize Parliament’s unelected upper chamber, the House of Lords, and may include contentious plans to snoop on emails and website use to combat terrorism.
The package also was expected to confirm plans to allow TV cameras into some court hearings for the first time, to establish a new FBI-style crime fighting agency, and to restrict the number of libel claims by foreigners lodged in Britain’s courts.
Britain is carrying out a four-year program of about 81 billion pounds ($130 billion) of cuts to government spending, and Treasury chief George Osborne has already acknowledged a further two-year austerity package will likely be needed after a scheduled 2015 national election.
Last month, Britain’s economy slumped back into recession for the first time since 2009 amid stalled growth.
“We can’t let up on the difficult decisions we’ve made to cut public spending and to get the deficit and debt under control,” Cameron said Tuesday, addressing factory workers in Essex, southern England.
“I know it’s hard, I know it’s difficult, but when you’ve got a debt problem the one thing you mustn’t do is keep adding endlessly to that debt,” he said.
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