Pomp and pageantry returned to the streets of London on Wednesday as the Queen laid out a package of reforms at the State Opening of Parliament, highlighting a continued path towards energy independence for the country.
The historic ceremony at the Houses of Parliament marked the formal start of the political year. In a speech written by the government, the Queen outlined the legislative program for the coming months which included plans to bolster investment in infrastructure, reform planning laws and opening up sites for potential hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking.
These investment plans, seen as controversial by some campaign groups, will enhance the United Kingdom's energy independency and security, she said, by opening up access to shale and geothermal sites and maximizing North Sea resources.
The process of fracking has helped lead a revival in the manufacturing industry in the U.S. with cheaper oil prices, also helping the country to rely less on foreign nations for oil and gas. The U.K. coalition government has seized upon the idea in recent years, using the crisis in Ukraine on Wednesday to show why the country must "urgently diversify" its energy.
The plans have come up against fierce resistance in some areas with campaigners concerned at the demolition of the natural landscape as well as highlighting allegations that it can contaminate water supplies. Greenpeace used the Queen's speech on Wednesday to launch a protest against the fracking laws. It set up security fences outside Prime Minister's David Cameron's country home in a mock "fracking site" and reinforced its claims that firms will now be allowed to drill under people's land and property without their permission.
The speech was the last one of its kind before next year's General Election and Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg called it "unashamedly pro-work, pro-business and pro-aspiration." The Queen, speaking in front of the House of Lords, said that new laws would make the U.K. the "most attractive place for business" and would promote fairness for low paid workers.
"My government's legislative program will continue to deliver on its long-term plan to build a stronger economy and a fairer society. To strengthen the economy and provide stability and security, my ministers will continue to reduce the country's deficit, helping to ensure that mortgage and interest rates remain low," she said.