UK gov't agenda focuses on immigration, economy
Britain's Queen Elizabeth delivers her speech during the State Opening of Parliament at the House of Lords, alongside Prince Charles in London Wednesday May 8, 2013. The State Opening of Parliament marks the formal start of the parliamentary year, the Queen delivered a speech which set out the government's agenda for the coming year. (AP Photo/Toby Melville, Pool)
LONDON (AP) — The message was one of thrift and austerity, but the messenger was opulence incarnate.
Britain's Conservative-led government on Wednesday announced a modest program of legislation to tighten immigration rules, curb welfare expenses, encourage business and invest in infrastructure — in a speech read by a monarch on a gilded throne wearing a crown studded with 3,000 diamonds.
The contrast was part of the state opening of Parliament, an annual pageant of pomp and politics centered on the Queen's Speech, a legislative program written by the government but read out by the monarch before a crowd of lawmakers, ermine-robed peers and ceremonial officials in bright garb evoking centuries past.
The event's mix of extravagant surroundings and prosaic content was starker than usual at a time of spluttering economic growth. Britain's economy has been through two periods of recession since the global financial crisis hit in 2008, and grew by only 0.3 percent in the first quarter of this year.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth, rear centre left, delivers her speech at the State Opening of Parliament, in the House of Lords in London Wednesday May 8, 2013.. The State Opening of Parliament marks the formal start of the parliamentary year, the Queen delivered a speech which set out the government's agenda for the coming year. (AP Photo/Toby Melville, Pool)
Prime Minister David Cameron told lawmakers that the measures in the speech would make Britain more competitive and "back aspiration and those who want to get on."
But Ed Miliband, leader of the opposition Labour Party, called it "a no-answers Queen's Speech from a tired and failing government."
The leaders were kicking off a lively six-day debate in the House of Commons on the proposals.
In a ritual she has enacted dozens of times during her 61-year reign, the queen was driven from Buckingham Palace to Parliament in a horse-drawn carriage, escorted by mounted members of the Household Cavalry in scarlet tunics and gleaming breastplates.
Dressed in an ivory gown and wearing the diamond-encrusted Imperial State Crown, she delivered the speech from a gilded throne in the House of Lords.