HC Deb 15 February 1921 vol 138 cc13-5

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, as followeth:—

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons.

My relations with Foreign Powers continue to be of a friendly nature. Conferences will be held at an early date in London, which will be attended by Our Allies in the late War, and also by representatives of Germany and Turkey. I earnestly trust that by this means further progress will be made in giving effect to the Treaties of Peace, in re-establishing concord in Europe and in restoring tranquillity in the Near East. It is My hope that the negotiations for a trade agreement with Russia will also be brought to a successful conclusion.

The Duke of Connaught has inaugurated the new Councils in India, and I pray that the assumption by My subjects in India of new political responsibilities may secure progress in administration and an early appeasement of political strife.

The policy of My Government in regard to Egypt, following upon the investigations of the Special Mission appointed in 1919, will be laid before you.

I am glad to say that arrangements have been made to renew that personal consultation between My Ministers here and their colleagues overseas, which produced such good results during the last two years of the War and during the Peace settlement. I hope that the Prime Ministers of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa and Newfoundland, as well as representatives of India, will be able to visit this country during the coming summer. I am confident that the discussions to take place during their visits will be of the utmost value in bringing about co-ordination both in the external and internal policy of the Empire.

Members of the House of Commons.

The Estimates for the Services in the coming year will be laid before you in due course, and these Estimates will reflect the determination of the Government to reduce expenditure to the lowest level consistent with the well-being of the Empire. The War has left upon the nation liabilities which can only be met by heavy taxation, but it is imperative in the interest of an early revival of trade and industry that this burden should be reduced to the utmost.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons.

The situation in Ireland still causes me distress. A misguided section of the Irish people persist in resorting to methods of criminal violence with the object of establishing an independent Republic. Neither Irish unity nor Irish self-government can be attained by this means. The arrangements for bringing into force the Government of Ireland Act are now well advanced, and I earnestly trust that in the near future the majority of the, people will show their determination to repudiate violence and to work an Act which confers upon them the responsibilities of self-government and provides the machinery whereby they can attain to Irish unity by constitutional means.

In view of the onerous programme of legislation which was set before you during last year, it is the intention of My Ministers to lighten as far as possible the business of the coming Session. The most pressing problem which confronts you is that of unemployment, consequent upon a world-wide restriction of trade, and this may be alleviated, but cannot be cured, by legislative means. This problem, with its acute and distressing consequences for hundreds of thousands of our fellow-citizens, is receiving the constant and anxious attention of My Ministers with the object both of reviving trade and prosperity and in the meantime of assisting those who are unfortunately unemployed. You will be invited to pass a Bill extending the provision which is made for the unemployed under the Unemployment Insurance Act. A Measure will also be introduced into the House of Commons to deal with the safeguarding of essential key industries of the country and with certain aspects of unfair and abnormal industrial competition. I earnestly trust that these efforts will be seconded by loyal and frank co-operation between employers and employed, for it is through the co-operation of capital and labour in a spirit of mutual trust and confidence that an early solution of this grave problem is to be found.

It is proposed that the forthcoming removal of control over the home price and export quantities of coal shall be followed at the earliest possible moment by the complete restoration of the industry to its normal condition of freedom.

In accordance with the intention expressed in the Ministry of Transport Act, a Bill will be submitted to you for the reorganisation of the railways of Great Britain.

Bills will be laid before you dealing with the completion of land purchase in Ireland, and also for facilitating Church union in Scotland.

A Bill will also be presented dealing with the sale of alcoholic liquor in the light of the experience gained during the War.

My Ministers further trust that the work of the Committee now examining the question of the Reform of the Second Chamber will be finished in time to permit of proposals being submitted to Parliament during the course of the present Session.

And I pray the blessing of Almighty God rest upon your deliberations.

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