Thu, Nov 08, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Queen Elizabeth II delivers symbolic speech from throne


Strong environmental measures, tougher anti-terrorist powers and containment of Iran's nuclear ambitions are among the British government's priorities for the next year, unveiled with pomp and pageantry on Tuesday by Queen Elizabeth II.

The annual Queen's Speech -- a lavish mix of ceremony, symbolism and political showmanship -- was a chance for neophyte British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to set his stamp on the legislative agenda after a rocky few weeks in which he considered, then rejected, an early national election.

Seated on a gilded throne before hundreds of lawmakers and ermine-clad peers, the queen read a speech outlining the government's program, which includes legislation to improve health care, build 3 million new homes by 2020 and require children to stay in education or training until the age of 18.

The government affirmed its commitment to nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan -- where Britain has thousands of troops -- and tackling the spread of weapons of mass destruction, "including international concerns over Iran's nuclear intentions." It did not go into detail.

The government also will set binding reductions on emissions of the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming -- 26 percent to 32 percent of 1990 levels by 2020 and 60 percent by 2050.

The speech also promised legislation to shore up faith in the banking system after the run on troubled mortgage lender Northern Rock in recent months, and to give lawmakers greater say in sending British troops to war.

The speech promised new anti-terror powers, including giving police the ability to question suspects after they are charged, and barring convicted terrorists from traveling overseas. But the government did not announce plans to extend the length of time terrorist suspects can be held without charge -- a proposal that has met stiff resistance -- saying it would seek consensus on the issue.

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