Queen Elizabeth II unveiled UK government’s agenda for the year on Wednesday, announcing plans for new counter-extremism legislation, measures to tackle corruption, money laundering and tax evasion.
The 90-year-old Queen made her 63rd speech to mark the State Opening of the British Parliament at the Palace of Westminster in London, nearly a month ahead of the crucial referendum on whether Britain should remain in the EU.
The Queen’s Speech, which sets of the UK government’s agenda for the year, included 21 bills on issues ranging from a crackdown on extremist preachers in Britain, charging foreigners for use of the National Health Service (NHS), a major shake-up of the prisons system, support for a spaceport and driverless cars.
“Legislation will be introduced to prevent radicalisation, tackle extremism in all its forms, and promote community integration,” she said in her speech addressed to both Houses of Parliament and delivered from her throne in the House of Lords.
The government will push ahead with controversial plans to monitor Internet use through its Investigatory Powers Bill and crack down on extremism, including stronger powers to disrupt radicals’ activities and to intervene in unregulated schools which are “teaching hate”.
Plans were also announced to fight international corruption.
David Cameron’s government plans to criminalise corporations who fail to stop staff facilitating tax evasion, while there will also be new rules tightening up Britain’s anti-money laundering regime.
The Queen made only the briefest of direct references to her government holding “a referendum on membership of the European Union”.
But, in a move that may be seen as an attempt to reassure voters ahead of the EU referendum, she added: “My ministers will uphold the sovereignty of Parliament and the primacy of the House of Commons.”
On the National Health Service, the Queen said, “My government will continue work to deliver NHS services over seven days of the week in England. Legislation will be introduced to ensure that overseas visitors pay for the health treatment they receive at public expense.”
The Queen used the lift to get to her throne for the first time this year, seen as the first public concession to her age yet.
She is believed to have avoided the 26 steps of the Sovereign’s Entrance staircase due to trouble with her knees.
As part of prison reforms, described as the centrepiece of this year’s Queen’s Speech, satellite-tagged inmates could be sent home on weekdays.
The tracking tags, which monitor the movements of offenders using GPS technology, will be piloted in eight police areas from September, in a move which could see prisoners become weekend inmates and spend the rest of the week at home and being able to take up a job.
In a statement released as the Queen delivered her address, British Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Because this government sees the potential in everyone, we finally undertake the long-overdue change that our prisons need.
“No longer will they be warehouses for criminals, we want them to be incubators of changed and reformed lives.”