HC Deb 15 January 1924 vol 169 cc77-81

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 Members of the House of Commons,

MY relations with Foreign Powers continue to be friendly. I am glad to be able to record definite progress in the solution of questions which have hitherto blocked the pathway of mutual understanding and have retarded the recovery of the world.

The Reparation Commission has set up two Committees, on which Experts from the United States of America will co-operate with others from. Great Britain, France, Italy and Belgium in examining the very serious financial questions involved in the position of Germany.

The future status of the Tangier zone of Morocco, which has been a longstanding source of trouble, has been the subject of an Agreement between the delegates of the Powers principally concerned, which provides for the creation of an international régime and for the promotion of communications and trade.

A Bill will be introduced to give effect to the Lausanne Treaty with Turkey. As soon as it has been passed, the Treaty will be ratified, and a new era of peaceful relations with Turkey will open.

My Ministers, in common with the Dominion representatives, have been anxious to remove the difficulty with regard to the illicit importation of liquor into the United States, and have made proposals for an agreement which is on the eve of conclusion, and which should further strengthen the happy relations prevailing between the two countries and peoples.

It will continue to be My object to support by every means in My power the steady growth in influence of the League of Nations.

The recent series of murders on the North-West Frontier of India by criminals who have sought refuge in Afghan territory or are Afghan subjects, has caused Me much concern. My Government have made vigorous representations to the Government of His Majesty The Amir, and I earnestly trust that these persons will be punished, and more satisfactory relations on the frontier be established, at a very early date.

The recent Imperial Conferences marked a very definite progress in Imperial co-operation. More particularly was it found possible, without departure from the existing fiscal system in this country, to meet the wishes of the Dominions by a substantial extension of the principle of Imperial Preference established by the Conference of 1917 and in force since 1919. Proposals to give effect to the conclusions of both Conferences will be submitted to you.

I welcome the opportunity that will be afforded by the British Empire Ex- hibition to increase the knowledge of the varied resources of My Empire and to stimulate inter-Imperial trade.

Members of the House of Commons,

Estimates for the public services will be laid before you.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons,

While I am glad to note that the schemes for providing employment now in operation have had an appreciable effect during the last year in reducing the numbers of those actually unemployed, the number still unable to find work causes Me the gravest concern. My Ministers recently laid before the country proposals which, in their judgment, would have contributed materially to a solution of this problem by affording to industry a greater measure of security in the home market and an improved outlet for its products in My Dominions overseas and in foreign countries; but these proposals were not accepted by the country.

In these circumstances your assent will be invited to an extension and amendment of the Trade Facilities and Export Credit Schemes, to the proposal of the imperial Economic Conference for expediting and assisting the execution of certain public enterprises throughout the Empire by the grant of financial aid from public funds, and to an extension of the contributions towards the cost of Public Utility Works, whether undertaken by local authorities or promoted by statutory and private corporations.

You will also be asked to assist in providing work in the shipbuilding industry by the immediate construction of cruisers and auxiliary craft in anticipation of the Naval Programme.

Steps will be taken to develop the existing system of Juvenile Unemployment Centres and to provide increased facilities for general and technical education.

The condition of agriculture remains a source of serious anxiety. My Ministers propose to summon a conference representative of all those interested in agriculture, and of the various political parties, with the object of arriving at an agreed policy, by which the acreage of arable land may be maintained, and regular employment at an adequate wage secured for the agricultural worker.

Bills will be introduced to improve the position of pre-War pensioners, and to deal with the discouragement of thrift involved in, the present means limitation to the grant of Old Age Pensions.

You will be asked to develop the probationary system of dealing with offenders. Bills will be introduced to amend and consolidate the Factory and Workshop Acts, to legitimize children born out of wedlock whose parents have subsequently married, and to amend the law relating to separation and maintenance orders.

Under the Housing Act of last Session My Ministers have approved the erection of a large number of houses, both by local authorities and by private enterprise. The local authorities are being approached with a view to increased activity under those sections of the Act which enable the working population to become the owners of their homes.

Measures will be laid before you to complete Land Purchase in Northern Ireland, and to guarantee the principal and interest of bonds issued by the Government of the Irish Free State under the Land Act recently passed in that Dominion.

The obligation to alleviate hardship caused by the former disturbances in Ireland is one which is recognised by My Government and will continue to engage their active attention.

Proposals will be submitted to you for the expansion of the Royal Air Force in connection with Home Defence.

Preparations have also been made for measures dealing with the property and endowments of the Church of Scotland, the 'improvement of the road traffic of London, for the reform of the system of valuation and rating in England and Wales, and of rating in Scotland, for the improvement of the administration of civil and criminal justice, for making valid certain charges imposed during the War, and for the ascertainment of costs and profits in connection with the distribution of milk.

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