Tories warn Rishi Sunak tax cuts must come in weeks after he unveils King's ... trends now
Rishi Sunak was warned he must bring forward tax cuts within weeks today after he unveiled a pre-election King's Speech without 'big ideas'.
The PM insisted the government is 'rising to the challenge' after the monarch laid out the legislative package for the next year - and almost certainly the last before the country goes to the ballot boxes.
The plans includes pledges to crack down on crime and ease the Net Zero 'burden' on Brits.
But there was immediate focus on what was missing from the speech, with a ban on conversion therapy apparently dropped after a Tory revolt. A commitment floated by Suella Braverman to stop homeless people using tents was also nowhere to be seen, while no mention was made of Mr Sunak's push to end the 'war on motorists'.
Conservatives are also preparing to rebel over an 'illiberal' phased ban on cigarettes sales - with the age limit due to rise every year. And the prospect of hiking duty on vapes has been raised by the government, despite a growing clamour to reduce taxes.
Clashing with Sir Keir in the Commons debate after the speech, Mr Sunak said he was building for the 'future' and had 'turned the corner' on priorities such as stopping the Channel boats.
But Sir Keir said the government's programme was not 'anywhere near good enough' and the public wanted to 'turn the page'.
'After all the chaos they have unleashed... this is the policy agenda put to the working people of this country,' Sir Keir said.
He berated Mr Sunak for not being a 'serious PM'. 'It's been this way for 13 years now, a failure to seize the opportunities - perhaps even to see the opportunities,' he said.
One former minister told MailOnline there were 'no big ideas'. 'Still banging on about AI, which may be important but is hardly the basis of a strong retail offer to voters,' they said.
The MP warned that the Chancellor's Autumn Statement in a fortnight must be 'better' and include tax cuts. 'We need some pro-growth measures,' they added.
Among the main measures in the Speech were:Whole life jail terms to be the norm for most serious offenders, but more short sentences will be suspended; The worst criminals will be 'compelled' to attend sentencing, although it is not spelled out how; Sharing naked images without consent is to be made a criminal offence; Mr Sunak promised to create a 'smoke-free generation' with a law banning children currently aged 14 or under from ever buying cigarettes; Create an annual regime for licensing new oil and gas drilling the North Sea, something that has been rejected by Labour; Paving the way for driverless buses and delivery vans by 2035, including protecting passengers from being punished for crashes caused by computers; Curbing so-called 'subscription traps' that tie people into regular payments, and 'drip pricing' where companies bolt on costs to the up-front price they advertise; Public bodies will be prevented from taking part in BDS boycotts of Israel, as a law makes progress on creating an Holocaust Memorial.
Clashing with Keir Starmer (right) in the Commons debate after the speech, Rishi Sunak (left) said he was building for the 'future' and had 'turned the corner' on priorities such as stopping the Channel boats
The King and Queen on the thrones in the House of Lords as the monarch opens the new session of Parliament
King Charles paid tribute to his 'beloved mother' Queen Elizabeth as he gave the speech for the first time as monarch. It was also first time since 1950 that it has been delivered by a King
Whole life jail terms to be the norm for most serious offenders, but more short sentences will be suspended;
The worst criminals will be 'compelled' to attend sentencing, although it is not spelled out how;
Sharing naked images without consent is to be made a criminal offence;
Mr Sunak promised to create a 'smoke-free generation' with a law banning children currently aged 14 or under from ever buying cigarettes;
Create an annual regime for licensing new oil and gas drilling the North Sea, something that has been rejected by Labour;
Paving the way for driverless buses and delivery vans by 2035, including protecting passengers from being punished for crashes caused by computers;
Curbing so-called 'subscription traps' that tie people into regular payments, and 'drip pricing' where companies bolt on costs to the up-front price they advertise;
Public bodies will be prevented from taking part in BDS boycotts of Israel, as a law makes progress on creating an Holocaust Memorial.
King Charles paid tribute to his 'beloved mother' Queen Elizabeth as he gave the speech for the first time as monarch. It was also first time since 1950 that it has been delivered by a King.
Tougher justice is at the heart of the programme, made up of 20 Bills and a draft Bill, that Mr Sunak hopes can close the yawning gap in the polls.
It includes plans for killers convicted of the most horrific murders to get whole life orders - meaning they will never be released - while rapists and other serious sexual offenders will not be let out early from prison sentences. However, that is balanced by introducing a 'presumption' that sentences of a year or less will be suspended, with prisons already at breaking point.
Other measures include giving police the power to enter a property without a warrant to seize stolen goods, such as phones, when they have reasonable proof that a specific stolen item is inside. And there will be action to tackle the use of tech in crime, such as 3D printing templates for firearms.
The number of Bills in the Speech was the lowest since 2014, and included seven carried over from the previous session.
Mr Sunak said the public wants a Government that is more ambitious for the future, adding: 'With this historic King's Speech, we are rising to that challenge. We are changing our country for the long term, delivering a brighter future.'
What was not in the speech was also revealing.
Downing Street declined to say whether action to tackle people sleeping on the streets in tents would eventually be included in the Criminal Justice Bill.
The Bill, as set out in the King's Speech, did not feature a proposal from Ms Braverman to ban charities from handing out tents to the homeless.
Asked whether that could still be added, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: 'It's not for me to get into setting out the details of what will or will not be included.
'We've set out our focus for this Bill already.
'As with all these Bills, there will be further details set out when they are brought to the House.
'We've said that no-one should be criminalised for having nowhere to live and we are repealing the outdated Vagrancy Act. We want to go as far as possible to ensure that those who are vulnerable can get the support they need and obviously at the same time cracking down on anti-social, intimidating or indeed criminal behaviour.'
There was also no inclusion of a Bill to ban so-called conversion therapy for LGBT+ people after Mr Sunak faced a backlash from some quarters of the Tory party.
Rail reform measures after Mr Sunak scrapped the HS2 leg to the North only made it as far as a draft in the speech setting out the Government's legislative priorities.
Mr Sunak chatted happily with Sir Keir as they walked from the Commons to the Lords.
But they resumed hostilities in the House afterwards.
Sir Keir said: 'What we have before us is a plan for more of the same, more sticking plasters, more division, more party first, country second gimmicks, and no repudiation of the utterly discredited idea that economic growth is something the few hand down to the many.
'In fact, today we reached something of a new low, because they are not even pretending to govern any more. They have given up on any sense of service.
'They see our country's problems as something to be exploited, not solved and in doing this they underestimate the British people, because what Britain wants is for them to stop messing around and get on with the job.'
But Mr Sunak hit out at Labour's spending plans as 'dangerous' and 'inflationary', and warned the 'British people would pay the price in higher interest rates and higher taxes'.
He pointed out that Sir Keir and the Labour front bench had campaigned to put Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street.
Black Rod went through the tradition of having the door of the Commons slammed in his face, before summoning MPs to hear the speech in the Upper chamber.
The routine underlines the supremacy of the lower House over the monarch, which was settled in the Glorious Revolution.
Black Rod Sarah Clarke, walks through the Members' Lobby at the Palace of Westminster ahead of the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords. The role has been held by Sarah Clarke since February 2018, making her the first female Black Rod in the 650-year existence of the role. The doors to the Commons chamber are shut in the king's face, in a practice dating back to the Civil War, to symbolise the Commons' independence from the monarchy
The royal couple walked into the House of Lords hand-in-hand for their first experience of opening the Parliamentary session
Britain's King Charles and Queen Camilla return to Buckingham Palace after the State Opening of Parliament
The chamber of the Lords as peers wait for the King this morning
Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer chatted happily as they walked through to the Lords from the Commons
The Princess Royal arrives at the Sovereign's Entrance at Parliament today
Gentlemen at arms otherwise known as the 'nearest guard' take up positions in preparation for the arrival of the King
Senior Tories believe a focus on 'bread and butter' Conservative issues can help Mr Sunak as he seeks to overturn Labour's massive opinion poll lead.
Mr Sunak's allies think Sir Keir's record as director of public prosecutions – something the Labour leader has often highlighted as a positive – could also be a point of weakness.
One No10 insider pointed at his 2010 support for a US-style system of first and second degree murder charges, the latter of which might not have attracted a mandatory life term.
The King's Speech ran to 1,223 words, making it the longest at a State Opening of Parliament since 2005.
A handful of noisy Republican protests took place outside of Parliament today
The Yeomen of the Guard arrived at the House of Parliament by coach this morning
Due to the late Queen's long reign, it will be the first State Opening speech delivered by a King since George VI opened Parliament in 1950
More prison time for the worst violent and sexual offenders and new powers to haul criminals to court to face victims
The announcement comes after serial killer neo-natal nurse Letby refused to attend her own sentencing for murdering babies in the summer. Many other criminals have also shunned key hearings because judges have few powers to compel them to leave their cells.
Murderers who kill for sadistic or sexual thrills will die behind bars and violent criminals forced to face their victims in court under measures announced in today's King's Speech.
A new sentencing bill would force judges to hand down whole-life orders for the most gruesome killings. Rapists and other sexual offenders would also have to serve their entire sentence behind bars, instead of half on licence.
Other measures include giving police the power to enter a property without a warrant to seize stolen goods, such as phones, when they have reasonable proof that a specific stolen item is inside - such as data from a GPS tracker.
Judges would also be able to force convicted criminals into court for sentencing. A new Criminal Justice Bill would allow the use of 'reasonable force' to get them into the dock, with the option of adding two years to their sentence if they refuse.
Yet controversially, criminals handed a sentence of less than 12 months are set to receive a suspended sentence and carry out unpaid community work instead as part of efforts to tackle the prison overcrowding crisis.
This will be expected to cover most of the 37,000 offenders jailed each year for a year or less and include burglars, shoplifters, drug dealers and drink drivers but exclude criminals convicted of any sex, violent or terror offences.
The Tories have put crime and sentencing at the heart of their legislative programme for 2024, as they seek to make law and order a key dividing line with Labour.
As part of measures to tackle violence against women and girls, ministers plan to criminalise the sharing of sexual images without consent.
The Sentencing Bill will mean a whole life order will be handed down in the worst cases of murder, with judges having discretion to impose a shorter tariff only in exceptional circumstances.
The legislation would also ensure that rapists and serious sexual offenders serve the whole of their sentence behind bars, without being released early on licence.
It would make being in a grooming gang an aggravating feature for sentencing, meaning tougher punishments for ringleaders and members.
A Victims and Prisoners Bill is set to give ministers the power to block parole for the worst offenders and ban them from marrying in prison.
Today the mother and aunt of murdered schoolgirl Olivia Pratt-Korbel welcomed plans to punish anyone who refuses to attend their sentencing hearing in court.
Reacting to the change in law, Cheryl Korbel, whose nine-year-old daughter was killed in a shooting last year, told Good Morning Britain: 'It is a very important step forward. It will bring a little bit of comfort knowing that no other family will go through what we've been through.'
Cheryl and Olivia's aunt Antonia Elverson set up the campaign 'Face the Family' to petition for a change in law after Olivia was killed.
Asked by Susanna Reid whether she backed calls for visiting rights to be denied, should prisoners refuse to listen to the sentencing, Cheryl said: 'Too right. I can go visit my daughter, but all I've got to look at is a [head]stone. They can still see their families. It's not right.'
Olivia died in August 2022 after Thomas Cashman opened fire when he chased another man into her home in Dovecot, Liverpool.
Justice Secretary Alex Chalk today said the planned criminal justice reforms, due to be set out in the King's Speech, were about 'head as well as heart'. He told Times Radio: 'It's something that I've been talking about for a long time because I'm a barrister by background, I've seen this stuff.
'This is about head as well as it is about heart. This is about ensuring that I don't want you, I don't want your family, I don't want my family, to be victims of crime.
'So what I want to ensure is that people who are the greatest threat to you and your family are kept out of circulation for longer... but those who are capable of being rehabilitated should be rehabilitated. And that seems to me to be smart.'
The pledges come against a backdrop of soaring prison populations that have forced ministers to ask courts to delay sentencing hearings.
In October the prison population hit a record high for modern times, leaving just over 550 spare places in the system.
Figures showed there were 88,225 inmates behind bars in England and Wales in the middle of the month, up more than 200 in a week. It beat the previous peak of 88,179 set in late 2011, and is the highest total since modern records began in 1900.
The Government has promised the largest prison building programme in 100 years to create more than 20,000 more places.
Driverless buses and lorries could be on UK streets by 2035
Driverless buses and lorries could be on the UK's streets by the end of the decade under a new law ministers say could create almost 40,000 and improve road safety at the same time.
The King unveiled plans for an Automated Vehicle Bill that will ease restrictions on new computer-controlled vehicles where humans are mere passengers.
It will seek to over-ride fears about safety, arguing that by removing 'human error' to blame for many crashes it will actually make the roads safer.
And the legislation will include specific legal protection for passengers, with the company that owns the vehicle responsible for the way it drives.
It could lead to a major expansion in driverless vehicle use, with applications in areas including grocery deliveries, farming and public transport.
A spokesman for the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) for self-driving cars said: 'It could mean AV (automated vehicle) companies operating commercial services to the public by the end of the decade, as regulations go through consultations and testing processes.'
Last year a trial of a driverless bus began in Scotland. There was chaos on the launch day of the vehicle nicknamed 'Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Driverless Machiney', when one of the electric shuttles got lost.
Ministers argue that the market could be worth £41.7billion by 2035, and sustain a net creation of 38,000 jobs.
They also point out that human error was a factor in 88 per cent of all recorded collisions in Great Britain in 2021.
'The bill gives immunity from prosecution when a self-driving vehicle is driving itself, given it does not make sense to then hold the person sat behind the wheel responsible,' a government briefing on the law said.
'Non-driving responsibilities however will still remain with that person, such as maintaining appropriate insurance for the vehicle and ensuring proper loading, as well as responsibility during any part of the journey where the person is driving.'
As well as safety fears over crashes, concerns have been raised about whether autonomous vehicles could be hijacked.
Last month the Local Government Association's Future Crime Horizon Scan said there was 'particular concern' about driverless vehicles.
It warned in a report that terrorists could hack into them to use them as weapons in horrific attacks.
Currently driverless cars are set to appear in 2025, but they will not be fully autonomous.
The UK became the first European country to allow drivers on public roads to let go of steering wheels in April, after the Government gave manufacturer Ford permission to activate its BlueCruise system.
Although users can take their hands off the wheel, an infrared camera checks they are keeping their eyes on the road in case human intervention is required.
Last year a trial of a driverless bus began in Scotland.
There was chaos on the launch day of the vehicle nicknamed 'Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Driverless Machiney', when one of the electric shuttles got lost.
The launch was delayed after 'technical glitches' that saw the service have to be manually driven on October 2023.
The missing shuttle was stuck in one place for more than hour as its radar - which has lasers that help it figure out where it is, malfunctioned.
The butts stop here: PM to outline plan for rolling total ban on smoking based on New Zealand model
If the law is eventually given the go ahead, kids born after 2009 will never legally be able to buy tobacco.
The Prime Minister has argued he is building 'a better future for our children'. Health campaigners, experts and charities have all commended the move, described as the 'biggest public health intervention in a generation'.
Yet the proposals, formally laid out in today's King's Speech, have been criticised as 'ludicrous' and 'anti-Conservative' by critics. A smoker's group labelled the sweeping ban as 'creeping prohibition'.
Meanwhile, Mr Sunak could also face a backlash action over the prospect of hiking duties on vapes, despite a growing clamour to reduce the tax burden. The government said it would be examining 'the affordability of vapes, including exploring a new duty on vapes as other countries have done'.
In his speech to Parliament, King Charles said that the Government would 'introduce legislation to create a smoke-free generation by restricting the sale of tobacco… and restricting the sale and marketing of e-cigarettes to children'.
The Government defended tackling 'the single biggest entirely preventable cause of ill-health' and wielded statistics claiming that smoking costs the economy £17billion a year through lost productivity and knock-on effects to the NHS.
Laying out its Tobacco and Vapes Bill, the Government said: 'If we want to change the direction of our country and build a better future for our children, that means tackling the single biggest entirely preventable cause of ill health, disability and death: smoking.
'The Bill will implement the hard but necessary decisions to get the country on the right path for the future.
'There is no more addictive product that is legally sold in our shops than tobacco.
'And four fifths of smokers start before the age of 20 which is why stopping the start of addiction is vital.'
But the plan, which Mr Sunak first unveiled at the Tory conference in September, has already faced fierce backlash from his own party.
How does tobacco damage the heart?
Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including tar and others that can narrow arteries and damage blood vessels.
While nicotine - a highly addictive toxin found in tobacco - is heavily linked with dangerous increases in heart rate and blood pressure.
Smoking also unleashes poisonous gases such as carbon monoxide, which replaces oxygen in the blood - reducing the availability of oxygen for the heart.
How many people does smoking kill?
Smoking is known to kill more than seven million people across the world each year, including 890,000 from breathing in second-hand smoke.
But many people are unaware that nearly half of those deaths, around three million, are due to heart disease, including heart attacks and strokes.
Former PM Truss — who demanded the Tories to 'stop taxing and banning things' — is set to vote against Mr Sunak's plans when he offers a free vote to MPs on the issue in the House of Commons.
Boris Johnson, meanwhile, slammed the 'barmy' proposals last month.
Writing in his Daily Mail column, he added: 'We are proposing to criminalise yet another variety of ordinary behaviour, with no