HC Deb 10 February 1920 vol 125 cc5-9

I have to acquaint the House that this House has this day attended His Majesty in the House of Peers to hear His Majesty's Most Gracious Speech to both Houses of Parliament, in pursuance of His Majesty's Commands, and of which I have for greater accuracy obtained a copy.

My Lords, and Members of the House of Commons,

I am thankful that since I last addressed you the final ratifications of the Peace Treaty with Germany have been exchanged in Paris, and that the Hate of war with that country which has lasted for more than five years has been finally brought to an end. I have accordingly despatched to Berlin a representative to act as Chargé d' Affaires at that capital, and I am about to receive a German representative at My Court of St. James's.

I intend shortly to accord My ratification to the Treaties for Peace which have been signed with Austria and Bulgaria, and proposals Will be laid before you for giving effect to these Treaties.

I trust that it will be possible to conclude peace both with Hungary and Turkey at an early date. The negotiations concerning the Turkish peace which have already commenced are being pressed forward with all possible speed.

A number of Meetings between my Ministers and representatives of the Great Associated Powers have recently taken place in London and Paris and have confirmed the excellent relations which exist with all our Allies. I earnestly trust that, as the result of these meetings, a settlement of the long-continued Adriatic dispute will shortly be reached. In order, however, to assure the full blessings of peace and prosperity to Europe, it is essential that not only peace but normal conditions of economic life should be restored in Eastern Europe and in Russia. So long as these vast regions withhold their full contribution to the stock of commodities available for general consumption, the cost of living can hardly be reduced nor general prosperity restored to the world.

I have had great pleasure in assenting to the proposal that the Prince of Wales should visit Australia and New Zealand and, should take the opportunity on his return voyage of seeing some of My West Indian possessions. He will, I feel confident, receive a cordial welcome everywhere both from old comrades in arms and from all classes of the community.

Members of the House of Commons,

The estimates for the service in the coining year will be laid before you in due course.

My Lords, and Members of the House of Commons,

The war has shaken to its foundations the economy of the national life, and the transition from war to peace has presented problems of unprecedented difficulty. I believe that Our country and the Empire are making rapid strides towards stability and prosperity. The price of foodstuffs and other necessary commodities is causing anxiety to all the peoples of the world, but I am glad to say that prices in these islands are appreciably lower than they are elsewhere. This fact and the condition of trade with the outside world, especially of the export trade, serve to show that My people are proving no less successful in dealing with the troubles which war has left behind it than they were in enduring the war itself.

If, however, we are to insure lasting progress, prosperity and social peace, all classes must continue to throw themselves into the work of reconstruction with goodwill for others, with energy, and with patience, and legislation providing for large and far-reaching measures of reform must be passed into law.

The condition of Ireland causes Me grave concern, but a Hill will immediately be lard before you to give effect to the proposals for the better government of that country which were outlined at the end of the last Session. A Hill to make further provision for education in Ireland will also be submitted to you. The absence of facilities for education for a considerable part of the child population in certain districts makes the question one of urgency, but care will be taken to make the measure compatible with the Home Rule Bill.

It is imperative that the difficult problems which have arisen in connection with the coal-mining industry should be settled on an enduring basis. These problems will demand your anxious and early attention. In addition to an emergency measure to adjust the financial arrangements of the collieries to meet the abnormal economic conditions at present prevailing in the industry, you will be asked to consider proposals for the acquisition of coal royalties by the State, for the improvement of conditions in mining areas, and for the future ordering of the industry in the best interests of the community as a whole.

Experience during the war showed clearly the injurious effects upon national efficiency of the excessive consumption of strong drink and the amelioration both in health and efficiency which followed appropriate measures of regulation and control. A Bill will accordingly be presented to you providing for the development of a suitable system for the peace-time regulation of the sale and supply of alcoholic liquor.

Despite the increase of agricultural production during the war, the population of these islands is still dangerously dependent upon the supplies of food from Overseas, and the financial burden of purchasing such supplies in foreign markets against an adverse rate of exchange is very great. Uneasiness has also been caused by the unprecedented sale of landed property since the war. Measures will accordingly be proposed to mitigate any hardship which this operation may cause to the occupier, and to stimulate and develop the production of essential foodstuffs within the United Kingdom. A Bill will also be introduced to encourage and develop the Fishing Industry.

A Bill will also be submitted to you for the after-war organisation of the regular and territorial armies and for regulating the navigation of the air.

Among other important Bills which you will be invited to pass are measures dealing with Insurance against Unemployment, the regulation of hours of employment, and the establishment of a minimum rate of wage, and with the amendment of the Health Insurance Acts. Bills will also be introduced providing against the injury to national industries from dumping and for the creation of an adequate supply of cheap electrical and water power.

Proposals will also be laid before you during the present Session dealing with the Reform of the Second Chamber, and it is hoped that time will permit of their being passed into law.

And I pray that Almighty God may bestow His blessing upon your deliberations.