HC Deb 11 February 1919 vol 112 cc47-51

I have to acquaint the House that this House has this day attended His Majesty in the House of Peers, and His Majesty was pleased to make a most gracious Speech to both Houses of Parliament, of which, for greater accuracy, I have obtained a copy, which is as followeth: —

My Lords, and Gentlemen,

The dissolution of the last Parliament, followed almost immediately upon the collapse of Germany under the ceaseless blows of the Allied Armies. Since that date the terms of the Armistice, which have been more than once renewed, have been perseveringly enforced. The enemy forces have retired behind the Rhine, and have surrendered much of their armament. The Allied Armies have occupied the bridgeheads across that river, thus laying open the road into Germany should she attempt to renew the war. During the same period the might of the German Navy has been shattered by the surrender of the enemy's submarines and the internment of his main fleet in My ports.

These great results, which give practical securities that the struggle between German tyranny and European freedom is at an end, and. that a new era has dawned, has been achieved by the vigilance and disciplined efficiency of the British and Allied Fleets, and by the courage, the endurance, and the determination of My Armies and the Armies of the many Nations fighting with them. Among the resolutions to be submitted to you will be one asking you to give solemn expression to the gratitude of My People for the achievements and sacrifices of those who have suffered for the Country's cause by land, and sea, and air.

In order to reap the full fruits of victory and to safeguard the peace of the world an adequate Army must be maintained in the field, and proposals which will be necessary to secure the forces required will be submitted to you in due course.

For the last month a Conference of My Plenipotentiaries and of the Representatives of all the Allied and Associated Powers has been assembled in Paris to deliberate upon the terms of a just and lasting peace. Their discussions have been marked by the utmost cordiality and goodwill and by no disagreement. They have made good progress with the examination of the numerous and varied problems which will require settlement in the Terms of Peace, and I trust that before the Session is far advanced Preliminaries of Peace will be signed. I rejoice particularly that the Powers assembled in the Conference have agreed to accept the principle of a League of Nations, for it is by progress along that road that I see the only hope of saving mankind from a recurrence of the scourge of war.

I took an early opportunity to visit France and to convey to the President of the Republic the heartfelt enthusiasm with which My People acclaimed the final liberation of her territories and the vindication of the national unity of our faithful friend and ally. I was deeply moved by the demonstration of cordial affection which I received during My visit.

It has also given Me great pleasure to receive in this country the President of the United States of America. The enthusiastic welcome accorded him is a proof of the goodwill which all sections of My People feel towards the great Republic of the West, and an earnest of the increasing understanding with which I trust they will act together in the future.

For the last few months the Imperial War Cabinet has been in continuous session, and My counsels in regard to the War and external affairs have been both strengthened and enlightened by the presence of the leading Ministers of My self-governing Dominions, and of representatives of My Indian Empire. The inspiring sacrifice and the invaluable service which have been rendered by the Peoples of the Dominions and of India during the War have won for them an important place in the counsels of the world, and it has been a source of especial satisfaction to Me that their title to representation has been fully recognised in the Paris Conference.

I trust that the Reports of the Committees which are now enquiring into matters connected with Indian Constitutional Reform will be received in time to enable a Bill on the subject to be presented in the course of the Session.

The position in Ireland causes Me great anxiety, but I earnestly hope that conditions may soon sufficiently improve to make it possible to provide a durable settlement of this difficult problem.

Gentlemen of the House of Commons,

You will be asked to make further provision for meeting the permanent charges resulting from the War, and the new expenditure required for purposes of reconstruction.

My Lords, and Gentlemen,

The aspirations for a better social order which have been quickened in the hearts of My people by the experience of the War must be encouraged by prompt and comprehensive action. Before the War, poverty, unemployment, inadequate housing, and many remediable ills existed in our land, and these ills were aggravated by disunion. But since the outbreak of War every party and every class have worked and fought together for a great ideal. In the pursuit of this common aim they have shown a spirit of unity and self-sacrifice which has exalted the nation and has enabled it to play its full part in the winning of victory. The ravages of War and the wastage of War have not yet, however, been repaired. If we are to repair these losses and to build a better Britain, we must continue to manifest the same spirit. We must stop at no sacrifice of interest or prejudice to stamp out unmerited poverty, to diminish unemployment and mitigate its sufferings, to provide decent homes, to improve the nation's health, and to raise the standard of well-being throughout the community. We shall not achieve this end by undue tenderness towards acknowledged abuses, and it must necessarily be retarded by violence or even by disturbance. We shall succeed only by patient and untiring resolution in carrying through the legislation and the administrative action which are required. It is that resolute, action which I now ask you to support.

A large number of measures affecting the social and economic well-being of the nation await your consideration, and it is of the utmost importance that their provisions should be examined and, if possible, agreed upon and carried into effect with all expedition. With this object in view, My Government will invite the consideration of the House of Commons to certain proposals for the simplification of the procedure of that House which, it is hoped, will enable delays to be avoided and give its Members an increasing opportunity of taking an effective part in the work of legislation. You will be asked to approve a Bill for the creation of a new Ministry to deal with public health, with a view to the establishment throughout the land of a scientific and enlightened health organisation to combat disease and to conserve the vigour of the race; also a Bill to establish a Ministry of Ways and. Communications with a view to increasing and developing the industrial and agricultural resources of the country by improved means of transport. You will be asked to consider measures for effecting a speedy increase on a large scale in the housing accommodation of the country, for the fulfilment of the pledges given to Trade Unions, for the prevention of unfair competition by the sale of imported goods below their selling price in their country of origin, and for increasing industrial and agricultural output, without which a considerable and permanent betterment in the national condition cannot be effected. Proposals will also be laid before you for encouraging settlement on the land, particularly by those who have been in the fighting forces of the Crown, for providing suitable men with the necessary agricultural training and for enabling them to stock and equip their holdings, and for the reclamation of land and the promotion of a comprehensive scheme of a forestation.

Finally, I commend to your earnest consideration the industrial problems of the time. That the gifts of leisure and prosperity may be more generally shared throughout the community is My ardent desire. It is your duty, while firmly maintaining security for property and person, to spare no effort in healing the causes of the existing unrest, and I earnestly appeal to you to do all that in you lies to revive and foster a happier and more harmonious spirit in our national industrial life.

I pray the Almighty God may vouchsafe His Blessing on your Labours.