LONDON -- Queen Elizabeth II opened a new session of Parliament yesterday with pomp and pageantry and her required reading of the reigning government's "back to basics" legislative program.
Enthroned in the House of Lords with Prince Philip bemedaled at her side, the queen, in her diamond-encrusted imperial crown, read a concise, condensed version of the proposed legislation in about 10 minutes. Her voice rang out firm and high and thin in the Gothic hall.
Arrayed before her were the lords in scarlet and ermine, the judges of the realm bewigged and robed, the ambassadors to the Court of St. James's in morning coats and striped pants and, in the back, members of the House of Commons.
The speech contained no surprises, except perhaps a bill, which came somewhat sooner than expected, that would make Britain's traditionally highly secretive intelligence services respond to Parliament with greater openness.
Particular emphasis was placed on Northern Ireland both in the queen's speech and in addresses by Prime Minister John Major and by the opposition Labor Party leader, John Smith, during the subsequent debate in the House of Commons.
"We seek both a permanent end to violence and a political settlement," the prime minister said.
He repeated his statement earlier this week that Sinn Fein, the political voice of the Irish Republicans, could enter the peace process if the Irish Republican Army ended violence "for good."
"The democratic process is there for all who can show they abide by the rules," he said. "But there will be no rewards for terrorism."
Labor's Mr. Smith said the government must grasp a "window of opportunity" to achieve a lasting settlement in Northern Ireland.
The Conservative government proposals include tougher criminal laws, removal of many industrial regulations, sharp changes in local governments in Scotland and Wales and even liberalization of Sunday trading laws.