A controversial plan to allow extraction companies to drill for shale gas under people’s properties without their prior permission was one of a raft of measures laid out by the British Queen on Wednesday.
The Scottish independence vote and the conflict between Russia and Ukraine also made the monarch’s much-anticipated speech as she opened the latest Parliament.
Promising that the coalition would “bolster investment in infrastructure and reform planning law”, the head of state said: “The Bill will enhance the United Kingdom’s energy independence and security by opening up access to shale and geothermal sites and maximising North Sea resources.”
The introduction of the Bill was anticipated and has led to angry calls from environmental groups for the Government to backtrack. On the morning of the speech, Greenpeace activists descended on Prime Minister David Cameron’s country cottage, making the area around it a mock fracking site. The protest was soon disbanded by police, however.
The Queen also alluded to the imminent Scottish independence vote in September, saying: “My Government will continue to implement new financial powers for the Scottish Parliament and make the case for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom.”
On recent tensions and conflict in Eastern Europe, she said: “The United Kingdom will work for peace and security on Europe’s borders and for stable relations between Russia and Ukraine based on respect for national sovereignty, territorial integrity and international law.”
Other laws the Queen announced that the coalition will look to push through include implementing major reforms in the electricity market, keeping mortgage and interest rates down, strengthening powers to tackle modern slavery, helping open more schools and charging £0.05 ($0.08) for plastic bags in shops.