he Prince of Wales will read the Queen’s Speech for the first time as the monarch misses the State Opening of Parliament for the first time in almost 60 years.
The Queen, 96, pulled out of the ceremonial occasion – when she reads out the Government’s legislative programme for the forthcoming parliamentary session – as she continued to experience “episodic mobility problems”.
In her absence, Charles will take on the head of state’s major constitutional duty, in a the move which will be interpreted as a significant shift in his responsibilities as a king in waiting.
The Duke of Cambridge, also a future monarch, will attend the State Opening, the first time he has done so, with the royal function of opening a new parliament delegated to both Charles and William by the Queen.
At the same time, the event is an important moment in the political calendar as Boris Johnson seeks to regain the initiative after the rows over lockdown parties and the heavy losses suffered by the Tories in the local elections.
The speech will include a new crackdown on “guerrilla protests” with jail sentences of up to six months and unlimited fines for those who glue themselves to roads or “lock on” to public transport infrastructure.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said the measures were necessary to prevent protest groups like Insulate Britain and Extinction Rebellion from bringing the country to “a grinding halt”.
Ministers had originally tried to introduce them through the now-passed Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, but were blocked by the House of Lords.
In a sign of the Government’s determination to drive them through now, officials said the legislation could be introduced in Parliament as early as Wednesday.
In all, the speech will include 38 bills, including seven measures scrapping EU regulation – covering areas from data reform to gene-editing to financial services – as ministers seek to capitalise on the benefits of Brexit.
Mr Johnson said it was part of a wider programme to get the country “back on track” after the pandemic while addressing the cost-of-living challenges.
“In spite of everything we have been through, we are going to ensure that over the two years we have left in this parliament, we spend every second uniting and levelling up this country, exactly as we said we would,” he said.
“We will get the country through the aftershocks of Covid, just as we got through Covid, with every ounce of ingenuity and compassion and hard work.”
Underlining the sense of change, the Queen’s throne in the House of Lords will remain empty for the speech with Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, who will accompany him, taking their usual places.
The only previous occasions during her reign when the Queen missed the State Opening were in 1959 and 1963 when she was pregnant first with Prince Andrew and the Prince Edward. On each occasion speech was read by the Lord Chancellor.
Buckingham Palace said in a statement said that Queen had “reluctantly” decided not attend this year following advice from the royal doctors.
“At Her Majesty’s request, and with the agreement of the relevant authorities, The Prince of Wales will read The Queen’s Speech on Her Majesty’s behalf, with The Duke of Cambridge also in attendance,” the statement said.
Other measures in this year’s speech are expected to include a British Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act which enshrines the European Convention on Human Rights in UK law.
A Schools Bill for England will crack down on truancy, beef up the powers of education watchdogs and reform the funding system, while a media bill will enable the privatisation of Channel 4.
A Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill is expected to give local leaders powers to rejuvenate high streets, by forcing landlords to rent out empty shop units.
A draft mental health bill will overhaul of existing powers to protect patient liberty and prevent those with learning difficulties from being detained without their consent.