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Thatcher to Stiffen Drive on Socialism : Queen Reads Her Legislative Proposals to Open Parliament

June 25, 1987|Associated Press

LONDON — Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, embarking on a third term, launched her toughest assault yet against socialism with a far-reaching legislative package read by Queen Elizabeth II at the glittering opening of Parliament today.

Measures included stringent curbs on left-wing city authorities--the main bastions of the opposition--and new curbs on labor unions.

The proposals are regarded by observers as the most far-reaching put forth by Thatcher in her bid to roll back socialism.

The 17 bills encompass some pledges of the Conservative Party platform on which Thatcher was swept to victory June 11, becoming the first British leader since 1826 to win three successive terms.

Local Councils Undercut

The program includes bills undercutting local councils in big cities--mostly strongholds of the socialist Labor Party--by curbing their powers to raise property taxes and run schools and state-subsidized housing.

"In all these policies, my government will have special regard to the needs of the inner cities," the queen said in the 10-minute speech written by Thatcher and her aides. "Action will be taken to encourage investment and to increase enterprise and employment in those areas."

Traffic stalled in parts of central London as the 61-year-old monarch, accompanied by her husband, Prince Philip, rode from Buckingham Palace to the Houses of Parliament in the horse-drawn Irish State Coach.

Traditional Pageantry

Small crowds clustered along the route in drizzling rain to watch the magnificent procession escorted by scarlet and gold-jacketed footmen and saber-carrying cavalrymen.

The queen wore a long white and gold gown and the State Imperial Crown encrusted with a giant diamond from South Africa and a ruby worn in the 15th Century by King Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt.

In accordance with tradition dating back centuries, the queen read the speech in the House of Lords, packed with unelected peers in ermine-trimmed scarlet robes and diplomats in formal dress. Members of the House of Commons stood crowded at the back of the chamber.

Commons' members, headed by Thatcher and Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock, were summoned to the Lords before the speech by an official dressed in black breeches, known as Black Rod.

Kinnock and Thatcher scarcely glanced at each other as they walked side by side to hear the queen read the government's program of legislation, which the socialists will bitterly oppose.

Thatcher, with a 102-seat overall majority in Commons, faces little difficulty in winning support for the controversial package. She hopes most of the bills will become law by fall of 1988.

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