David Cameron will attempt to reassure British voters that his government will do more than argue about Europe as he sets out a domestic legislative program focused on tax cuts before setting off on a round of diplomacy.
The Queen’s Speech, to be delivered Wednesday during the state opening of Parliament by Elizabeth II following Cameron’s May 7 election victory, will feature draft laws guaranteeing cuts in income tax, promising business deregulation and forcing non-profit housing associations to sell homes to tenants. These are aimed at balancing another promised bill, paving the way for a referendum by the end of 2017 on leaving the European Union.
“Behind this Queen’s Speech is a clear vision for what our country can be, a country of security and opportunity for everyone, at every stage of life,” Cameron said in a statement released by his office. “We will not waste a single moment in getting on with the task.”
Once the speech has been delivered and Parliament begins debating its content Wednesday afternoon, the prime minister will set off to visit five EU countries in two days, at the start of an effort to renegotiate Britain’s EU membership ahead of the referendum. Cameron promised the vote in 2013, as part of an effort to pacify lawmakers in his Conservative Party who want to leave the EU.
The referendum bill will specify that the electorate for the vote will be the same as for general elections, excluding most EU citizens resident in Britain. Its passage through Parliament will be eased after the main opposition Labour Party reversed its stance on Sunday, saying it will support the legislation.
The program will also feature a “tax lock” to guarantee the government can’t raise income tax, value-added tax or national insurance during the five-year parliamentary term. Together, those levies account for two-thirds of government revenue. The threshold for paying income tax will rise so that no one working 30 hours a week on the minimum wage will be subject to it.
Business Secretary Sajid Javid has pledged to cut red tape as part of an Enterprise Bill to be included in the legislative program, generating savings for business of as much as 10 billion pounds ($16 billion.)
Other policies for inclusion in the Queen’s Speech include a promise to devolve powers over transport, housing, planning and policing to Manchester and other cities; extending “right-to-buy” incentives to let 1.3 million tenants of not-for-profit housing associations purchase their homes, and a replacement of the Human Rights Act with a new British Bill of Rights.
The pageantry of the state opening begins at 10 a.m., when the Yeomen of the Guard, the royal bodyguards known as Beefeaters, search the cellars of Parliament. The tradition dates back to 1605, when Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up the building and King James I with it.
The queen, 89, then travels by horse-drawn coach from Buckingham Palace to the Houses of Parliament, escorted by the Household Cavalry. As she arrives, the Union Flag of the U.K. will be lowered and her Royal Standard raised over parliament.
At 11:30 a.m., Lieutenant General David Leakey, who has the title Yeoman Usher of the Black Rod, will march to the House of Commons, the lower, elected, chamber. His job is to summon lawmakers to hear the monarch, who will be waiting in the House of Lords, the upper, unelected chamber. The door of the Commons will be slammed in his face.
This ritual symbolizes the independence of the Commons from the Crown: no British monarch has entered the lower house since 1642, when King Charles I tried to arrest five members in the run-up to a civil war that ended with his execution in 1649.
After Black Rod has knocked on the door of the Commons, lawmakers process to the Lords.Queen Elizabeth will then read the speech, seated on a gilded throne.