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Charles III and Camilla at the Speech from the Throne

Photo: Leon Neal / Getty Images

It is one of the established traditions in British politics: the head of state opens the new session of parliament and presents the government's programme. This is what King Charles III has now done – for the first time as head of state. There were no surprises in the 1223,2005-word speech, the longest at a parliamentary opening since <>.

While still heir to the throne, Charles had given the traditional speech in May 2022 due to Queen Elizabeth II's health problems. At that time, Boris Johnson was still British head of government.

In the meantime, Rishi Sunak has taken over from Johnson's short-term successor Liz Truss. According to Charles' speech, Sunak holds out the prospect of a tougher course in home affairs and justice policy, among other things: According to his government programme, he plans to tighten the law for dangerous sex offenders and life imprisonment.

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The Tories have been in power in Britain for almost 14 years, but have lost significant support after various scandals and leadership changes. In recent polls, they are trailing the Labour Party by a wide margin.

Of note is the British government's plan to introduce legislation "to create a smoke-free generation," as the king said. According to the plans, children and young people who turn 14 this year will never be able to legally buy a cigarette in their lives. To this end, Prime Minister Sunak wants to raise the minimum age for buying tobacco products by one year every year, following the example of New Zealand. The announcement is probably the only one of the 21 bills from the "King's Speech" on which the government and the opposition can agree. It is estimated that the new plans could reduce the proportion of smokers among 14- to 30-year-olds to almost zero by 2040.

Sunak also wants to score points with new licenses for oil and gas drilling in the North Sea until the elections. In this way, he wants to reduce the UK's dependence on energy supplies from abroad and create new jobs.

Charles, who has been campaigning for environmental and climate protection for decades, presented the controversial plans of the British government – as is required of him as monarch – completely expressionlessly. Next to the 74-year-old sat Queen Camilla.

Charles said he was delivering this speech, the first King's Speech in more than 70 years, "in remembrance of the legacy of service and devotion to this country left by my beloved mother, the late Queen."