King's Speech: Wakefield Council leader responds to King Charles' first State Opening of Parliament
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King Charles has delivered his first King's speech in the Houses of Parliament today - the first 'King's Speech' for 70 years, with a focus on tougher sentencing for serious crimes and a smoking ban.
The speech is the official State Opening of Parliament, which opens the latest parliamentary session and outlines the legislative plans for the government over the next year.
In the first moments of his speech, the monarch paid tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth's "legacy of service and devotion" to her country.Speaking on upcoming government policy, the King said that oil and gas licences will be awarded annually in order to “strengthen the United Kingdom’s energy security and reduce reliance on volatile international energy markets and hostile foreign regimes”, adding that this will allow the country to move towards net zero by the target of 2050 without putting pressure on households.
He added that the government will seek new investment in renewable energy sources in a bid to decarbonise the UK as quickly as possible.
As previously mentioned during Rishi Sunak's Tory party conference speech, the accessibility children have to tobacco products will also be targeted. Legislation in which the minimum age to buy tobacco products increases by one year every year will ensure that "children currently aged 14 or younger can never be sold cigarettes".
E-cigarettes, such as disposable vapes, will see the marketing and sale restricted in a similar move.
King Charles also spoke about plans to "keep communities safe from crime, anti-social behaviour, terrorism and illegal migration”. Tougher sentencing is set to be introduced for "the most serious offenders".
He told the chamber: “My ministers will introduce legislation to empower police forces and the criminal justice system to prevent new or complex crimes, such as digital-enabled crime and child sexual abuse, including grooming.”
He also made mentions of the plans to scrap A-Levels and T-Levels in favour of the new Advances British Stand qualification in England, as well as pledges to introduce new legal frameworks around self-driving cars and similar technology.
Other plans for the forthcoming parliamentary session include cutting NHS waiting lists, ensuring the protection of the public from terrorism in venues such as the Manchester Arena, close international ties with Ukraine and "supporting the cause of peace and stability in the Middle East".
Commenting on the Government plans outlined in today’s King's Speech, Coun Denise Jeffery, Leader of Wakefield Council, said: “People across the country are crying out for long-term change. They want to see decisions being taken which genuinely make their life better, and which support the aspirations in their community.
“But what we’ve seen today is a tired Government which has run out of ideas. Rather than focusing on the major structural challenges we face as a country, including in our Councils, the Government prefer short-term political tactics aimed at generating headlines.
“We need a Government which is open about the issues facing our economy and our public services. One which demonstrates it’s on the side of hard-working people, coming up with practical solutions to those problems. And which has a clear plan to deliver the change we so desperately need in our country.”