By Judith Mora
London, Nov 7 (EFE).- The United Kingdom Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Tuesday unveiled his legislative priorities for the new parliamentary term, including new licenses for North Sea hydrocarbon extraction, ahead of a general election in the coming months.
As tradition dictates, Charles III read the government’s program in his King’s Speech to Parliament, which opened the 2023-24 session, the last before elections scheduled for 2024.
Although some bills had already been announced and others might not be passed, Sunak, who came to power on Oct. 25, 2022 without going to the polls, wanted to introduce measures with which he hopes to win over the electorate.
In one of the most noteworthy initiatives, Charles III announced a new system of annual licensing for oil and gas production in the North Sea, despite the fact that, according to experts, these fields are in decline and will not guarantee the country’s energy self-sufficiency.
The government, which previously called for tenders, aims to “strengthen the UK’s energy security and reduce reliance on volatile international energy markets and hostile foreign regimes,” Charles III said in his first King’s Speech.
As it announced last weekend, the government hopes that the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), the sector’s regulator, can open an annual licensing round for oil companies.
The King also announced tougher sentences for the most dangerous criminals, such as rapists and murderers, and more powers for the police and secret services to confront “complex crimes” such as those that make use of technology.
Another government bill will ban the sale of tobacco progressively, so that people who are now 14 years old will never be able to buy cigarettes, and a regulator for professional soccer will also be created.
In the 11-minute speech, the first by a King since that of George VI – the late Elizabeth II’s father – in 1950, Charles III pointed out that “the impact of Covid and the war in Ukraine have created significant long term challenges for the UK”, which Rishi Sunak’s Conservative government wants to confront.
The prime minister has defended that his program represents his vision for “a better UK”, although the Labour opposition has called it a “pretty pathetic set of tweaks”.
Labour Party leader, Keir Starmer, the favorite to win the next elections, declared that “the Conservatives cannot fix the country because they have already failed” during the past 13 years in power.
The opening ceremony of the legislative year, full of traditional pomp and circumstance, was met with protests by republican demonstrators outside the Houses of Parliament in central London.
The protesters, called by the Republic organization, raised their distinctive yellow banners as the royal procession, led by King Charles and Queen Camilla in a lavish carriage, passed by from Buckingham Palace.
One of those present, Steve Allan, told EFE that he was protesting because Charles III “is not their king”, given that “they did not elect him”.
“The monarchy is a legacy of the past that has no place in a democracy”, he said, adding that he hoped that “protests like this will attract more people” to defend republicanism. EFE