Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised on Tuesday to “level up” Britain by tackling inequality and driving an economic recovery from the pandemic with a raft of laws presented to parliament by Queen Elizabeth.
In a ceremony pared back because of COVID-19, the queen, who wore a day dress instead of the usual robes and crown, read out the bills the government hopes to pass during the next year on everything from job creation and healthcare to stripping away post-Brexit bureaucracy.
At her first major public appearance since the death of her husband Prince Philip last month, the queen travelled to parliament by car rather than the traditional horse and carriage, addressing socially distanced ermine-clad lords.
“My government’s priority is to deliver a national recovery from the pandemic that makes the United Kingdom stronger, healthier and more prosperous that before,” the 95-year-old monarch said, addressing members of the upper chamber of parliament from the throne in the House of Lords.
“To achieve this, my government will level up opportunities across all parts of the United Kingdom, supporting jobs, businesses and economic growth and addressing the impact of the pandemic on public services.”
In the 18 months since Johnson’s Conservatives were re-elected with a big parliamentary majority, his agenda has been eclipsed by the pandemic, which caught his government off guard and has absorbed many of its resources for making policy.
With Britain’s vaccination programme now far ahead of many other countries and the spread of the virus at low levels, Johnson, 56, is keen to revive his “levelling up” agenda and re-set a premiership also clouded by accusations of cronyism, which he denies.
Addressing parliament as his latest lawmaker took her place in the chamber for the first time after ousting the opposition Labour Party from a former stronghold in northeastern England, Johnson said it was time for change.
“We must use this opportunity to achieve a national recovery so that jabs, jabs, jabs becomes jobs, jobs, jobs,” said an upbeat Johnson who drew laughter as he mocked Labour.