Monarchy: Pomp and smoke: King Charles announces anti-tobacco course

Pomp and smoke: King Charles announces anti-tobacco course

King Charles III of Great Britain speaks during the opening of Parliament in the House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster. photo

© Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA Wire/dpa

It is probably one of the most pompous dates in Great Britain’s political calendar: with the heavy state crown on his head, King Charles presents his government’s plans.

Hard tobacco for smokers: In a magnificent ceremony, King Charles III announced strict anti-tobacco laws on behalf of the British government. According to the plans, children and young people who turn 14 this year should never be able to legally buy a cigarette in their lives. To this end, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak wants to increase the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products by one year every year, following the example of New Zealand.

The announcement is probably the only one of the 21 proposed laws from the “King’s Speech” in the British Parliament that the government and opposition – and probably also the monarch himself – can agree on. An overview of the most important plans:

Kippen: His government will “introduce legislation to create a smoke-free generation,” Charles said in London on Tuesday. According to government figures, smoking costs the UK around £17 billion a year, more than tobacco tax revenues of around £10 billion. The sale and advertising of e-cigarettes should also be restricted. The number of smokers has been falling for years; in 2022 it was 12.9 percent of adults. But the plan for England to become “smoke-free” by 2030 is still in danger. Hence the new, more radical plans: According to estimates, the proportion of smokers among 14 to 30 year olds could be close to zero by 2040.

Crime: The conservative Prime Minister Sunak wants to use a “law and order” course to make up for the poll deficit with the opposition Labor party before the next election, which will probably take place in 2024. A new law requires criminals to be present when they are sentenced – previously they could refuse to attend. This had caused outrage in cases such as that of baby murderer Lucy Letby. Rapists are no longer allowed to be released from prison early. Serious criminals should lose parental rights and the right to marry behind bars. For less serious crimes, criminals should now take on work for the community instead of being imprisoned. This is intended to relieve the overcrowded prisons.

Climate: The first announcement that Prime Minister Sunak put into the king’s mouth was most eagerly awaited. With a stoic expression, Charles, known as an environmentalist, then announced that “my government” would massively expand the production of new oil and gas fields in the North Sea. One or two observers claimed to have observed that the monarch looked particularly stern.

Traditionally, the head of state is not allowed to interfere in politics and has no influence on the speech given to him by the prime minister. Climate activists warn that the funding plans would damage the environment and dilute Britain’s climate goals. The government rejects this. However, the government recently had to admit that while the measures will increase energy security, they will not lead to lower consumer prices.

What else?: There were no surprises in the 1,223-word speech, the longest at the opening of parliament since 2005. It was about tenant and consumer rights, a ban on the export of cattle for slaughter, a legal framework for self-driving cars and supervision of English professional football. Sunak presented the fewest laws by a prime minister in years. “Lots of words. Minimal actions,” commented Sky News reporter Tom Larkin. The journalist Pippa Crerar from the “Guardian” emphasized that what was particularly exciting was what had not been announced: such as regulation of artificial intelligence or a reform of “A Levels”, the British equivalent of the Abitur. Observers agreed that Sunak did not achieve the big success he had hoped for at what was probably the last “State Opening of Parliament”.

Crown, king and carriage – the pictures: The content of the “King’s Speech” is often known in advance. The most memorable thing about the speech is the magnificent images of the crown, king and carriage. Accompanied by his wife Queen Camilla (76), Charles was driven to Parliament in the “Diamond Jubilee State Coach” a week before his 75th birthday. While the monarch was dressed in the state robe, the Queen wore her robe from the coronation in May and, for the first time, the state tiara from the time of King George IV.

What particularly caused a stir was the state crown weighing one kilogram on Charles’ head. It was the first time in seven years that a monarch donned the Imperial State Crown, set with more than 3,000 diamonds, pearls and sapphires, for the occasion.

In general, it was a historic occasion. After all, it had been more than 70 years since a male monarch had given a “King’s Speech.” But it was not the first time that Charles presented the government statement. At the previous opening of Parliament in May 2022, he was still heir to the throne and read the speech on behalf of his mother Queen Elizabeth II, who was in poor health and has now died. Not everyone liked the spectacle: opposite Parliament, several people protested against the monarchy with chants, flags and banners.


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