UK Markets closed

Queen's speech delivered by Prince Charles promises cheaper energy bills

·5-min read

Watch: Prince Charles says government will 'ease cost of living crisis' in Queen’s speech

Prince Charles promised cheaper energy bills for millions of households struggling with the rising cost of living as the heir to the throne stepped in to deliver the Queen's Speech at the state opening of parliament on Tuesday.

The historic moment marked the first time since 1963 that 96-year-old Queen Elizabeth II has not read out the Queen’s Speech after Buckingham Palace said that the monarch was suffering from "episodic mobility problems".

The Queen's Speech is written entirely by the government, and usually the Queen, as head of state, reads the outline of policies and laws proposed for the new parliamentary session.

The speech set out 38 bills that prime minister Boris Johnson's government hopes to push through parliament over the next 12 months.

The historic moment marked the first time since 1963 that Prince Charles stepped in to deliver the Queen’s Speech instead of Queen Elizabeth II. Photo: Parliament TV
The historic moment marked the first time since 1963 that Prince Charles stepped in to deliver the Queen’s Speech instead of Queen Elizabeth II. Photo: Parliament TV

In his first remarks on behalf of the Queen, Prince Charles said the government will extend the energy price cap beyond 2023 in a bid to help households cope with soaring costs. The measure forms part of a new Energy Security Bill aimed at setting the path to net zero emissions while keeping energy costs affordable.

"Protecting consumers from unfair pricing, the energy price cap is the best safety net for millions, preventing suppliers from overcharging consumers," Prince Charles said.

The cap was first introduced in 2019 as a temporary measure that would only stay in place until 2023 at the latest. The reforms mean the energy price cap could become a more permanent part of the market.

Watch: Queen's Speech - what you need to know

Energy industry experts said the Queen's Speech delivered a "clear direction".

"At a very difficult and pivotal time for consumers up and down the country, the Energy Bill provides a clear direction of travel to boost our clean home-grown energy, reduce reliance on global fossil fuels, and drive us towards a secure and carbon neutral future," said Ofgem CEO Jonathan Brearley.

Read more: Sunak hints more support for cost of living squeeze could be on the way

Speaking on the UK economy and rising inflation, Prince Charles said: "Her Majesty’s government will drive economic growth to improve living standards and fund sustainable investment in public services.

"This will be underpinned by a responsible approach to the public finances, reducing debt while reforming and cutting taxes. Her Majesty’s ministers will support the Bank of England to return inflation to its target."

However, analysts have called the government's legislative plans "cosmetic surgery for an economy facing a heart attack".

"The government has called this a Queen’s Speech to ‘grow the economy’ but there is disturbingly little in their legislative programme that will make a real difference," said Dr George Dibb, head of the IPPR Centre for Economic Justice.

"Faced with last week’s warning from the Bank of England that the economy will shrink later this year and throughout 2023, it beggars’ belief the government plan to take such limited action to prevent this."

Sam Tims, economist at the New Economics Foundation, said: "The agenda set out by the government this morning would be laughable if it weren’t so worrying. There is a growing likelihood that we will face a recession soon.

"If this happens, the government’s refusal to implement any policies to tackle the cost of living will mean low-income households will be hit hardest. To protect their income and keep local economies going, our benefits system should be given the major investment it urgently needs."

It comes after the Bank of England predicted inflation to have accelerated in April after the energy price cap jumped 54%, warning the jump in consumer prices could reach as high as 10% later this year.

Last week, Threadneedle Street hiked UK interest rates to a 13-year high of 1% to curb soaring inflation, which analysts say could force retailers to hike prices.

Inflation hit a fresh 30-year high of 7% in the year to March on the back of soaring energy, fuel and food prices, well above the Bank’s 2% target. Households across Britain are now under mounting pressure from soaring living costs, exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Read more: Bank of England raises UK interest rates and warns of 10% inflation

The Prince of Wales also delivered an optimistic outlook on what Brexit can bring in the future to Britain, saying the government will "continue to seize the opportunities" of the departure from the European Union.

He added that the Brexit Freedoms Bill will enable law inherited from the bloc to be "more easily amended", while the Procurement Bill will be simplified to "provide new opportunities for small businesses".

The Prince of Wales said the "continued success and integrity" of the UK is "of paramount importance" to the government, which will prioritise support for the Good Friday Agreement.

Read more: What if Bank of England fails to control inflation?

On the financial services sector, he said new legislation contained within the Financial Services and Markets Bill will strengthen the industry, referencing the Data Reform Bill which is expected to reform the UK's data protection regime.

The government will also introduce legislation to implement the UK's first new Free Trade Agreements since leaving the EU, Prince Charles said.

It comes as trade secretary Liz Truss is said to be preparing draft legislation that would see key parts of the Norther Ireland protocol scrapped, removing the need for checks on goods between the UK and Northern Ireland.

"The Queen’s Speech comes at a crucial time, with households and businesses facing significant economic headwinds," said Matthew Fell, chief UK policy director at CBI. "Firms looking for the government to address the cost-of-living crisis by growing the economy will be encouraged by the ambition in the Queen’s Speech."

Watch: How does inflation affect interest rates?