LONDON — Tougher curbs on immigration, boosts to the private sector and further reforms to public benefits are all part of the legislative year ahead, Queen Elizabeth II announced at the official opening of Parliament today.
Of the many legislative bullet points laid out in the queen's speech – an annual preview of the legislative agenda written by the government and read aloud by the monarch – the promised restrictions on migrants drew the most attention.
Following the elective success of the anti-immigration UK Independence Party in local polls last week, the speech was expected to allude to a forthcoming bill that “will ensure that this country attracts people who will contribute and deters those who will not.”
More from GlobalPost: Queen to sign charter encouraging gay rights
Though the speech did not get into details, the soon-to-be-proposed bill will restrict EU migrants’ access to the National Health Service and other public benefits, and require private landlords to check their tenants’ immigration status.
The speech also touched on a number of other domestic issues, such as access to affordable childcare, high-speed rail and health care for people with asbestos-related cancer.
Word cloud of the queen's speech. GlobalPost
“Whoever drafted the speech kindly found a way of ensuring that the queen did not have to try pronouncing mesothelioma,” political correspondent, Andrew Sparrow, wrote in The Guardian.
“My government's first priority is to strengthen Britain's economic competitiveness. To this end, it will support the growth of the private sector and the creation of more jobs and opportunities,” read the queen, in a statement that would have made the late Baroness Margaret Thatcher proud. “My government is committed to building an economy where people who work hard are properly rewarded. It will therefore continue to reform the benefits system, helping people move from welfare to work.”
The government “will also work to promote a fairer society that rewards people who work hard,” said the queen, who obtained her job through family connections.
The opening of Parliament is one of the more elaborate annual ceremonies in Britain, replete with copious gold braid, ostentatious hats and carefully choreographed arcane rituals.
More from GlobalPost: The Queen's speech: Twitter reacts (STORIFY)
For the first time in 17 years, the queen’s son Prince Charles accompanied her to the opening of Parliament. Royal watchers interpreted his presence as further evidence that the next-in-line to the throne will be taking over more public duties as the 87-year-old monarch scales back her schedule.
Yesterday, the palace announced that the queen will skip this year’s meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government for the first time. Charles, 64, will take her place at the September summit in Sri Lanka instead. He is the longest-serving heir apparent in British history.
“She is approaching her 90s. She has extraordinary stamina for a woman of her age,” the Daily Mail quoted a “palace source” as saying. “‘But there is an increasing sense that she cannot go on as she has been.”