HC Deb 04 November 1938 vol 340 cc545-50

Message to attend the Lords Commissioners.

The House went; and, having returned.

Mr. Speaker

(standing in the Clerk's place at the Table): I have to acquaint the House that the House has been to the House of Peers, where a Commission under the Great Seal was read. The LORD CHANCELLOR, being one of the Lords Commissioners, delivered His Majesty's Most Gracious Speech to both Houses of Parliament, in pursuance of His Majesty's Commands, as followeth:

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons:

My relations with foreign Powers continue to be friendly.

In response to an invitation from the President of the French Republic, the Queen and I paid a visit in July last to Paris. We were profoundly moved by the evident sincerity and spontaneity of the welcome extended to us by the French Government and people. Nothing could more clearly have demonstrated the strength of the bonds which so happily unite our two countries.

I have followed with deep anxiety the developments of the grave crisis through which Europe has just passed. Throughout the whole period My Government, in close accord with the French Government, made every endeavour both in Prague and in Berlin to ensure a lasting and peaceful settlement of the problem of the German minority in Czechoslovakia. Their efforts were ably assisted by a mission of investigation and mediation in Czechoslovakia, headed by Viscount Runciman.

In view of the increasing gravity of the crisis the Prime Minister on the 14th September decided to fly to Berchtesgaden in order to establish personal contact with the German Chancellor. This initiative was followed on the 22nd September by a further visit by the Prime Minister to Godesberg. At this stage the prospect of a peaceful settlement seemed almost to have vanished, but at the last moment the Prime Minister made a proposal to the German Chancellor for a Four-Power Conference. Signor Mussolini gave valuable support to the suggestion and on the 29th September the German Chancellor, the French President of the Council, the Head of the Italian Government and the Prime Minister met at Munich and came to an agreement. The settlement thus arrived at was accepted, with a dignity that has earned general admiration, by the Government and people of Czechoslovakia.

The cause of peace was powerfully aided by the timely action of the President of the United States of America. The desire of all peoples not to be drawn into war with one another is manifest and significant, and everywhere men and women share with Me, I am convinced, a feeling of deep thankfulness that the imminent peril was thus averted. I pray that, with the passing of this peril, a new era may have opened for Europe.

During this period of anxiety it became necessary to put into force certain measures, including the mobilisation of the Navy, the calling out of a considerable portion of the personnel of the auxiliary Forces and the initiation of certain precautions against air raids. All these arrangements were carried out with admirable promptitude. In every department of national life men and women alike came forward to serve their country. I was proud to observe the calmness and determination displayed by all My people and I thank them for their spirit of service.

In the spring of this year My Government concluded an Agreement with the Italian Government regulating a number of questions of mutual concern. My Ministers have now decided to bring that Agreement into full operation as soon as possible. They are confident that this decision will still further strengthen the good relations already existing between Italy and this country.

My Ministers have continued to participate in the work and deliberations of the League of Nations. They have taken the lead at the recent meeting of the Assembly in providing for the explicit recognition of the independent existence of the Covenant of the League, apart from the Treaties of Peace, and in securing a comprehensive and practical review of the obligations devolving on Members there under. It gave Me great pleasure to meet representatives of the Governing Body of the International Labour Organisation, which on the invitation of My Government, held their October meeting in London.

The civil war in Spain has continued to engage the earnest attention of My Ministers. They have maintained their efforts to make the international policy of non-intervention more effective and they have noted with satisfaction the recent decision of the Spanish Government to repatriate all its foreign combatants and the decision of the Administration at Burgos to dispense with a proportion of those on the other side.

I regret that the hostilities between China and Japan still continue with great loss of life to both combatants and with considerable damage to the rights and interests of third parties. I earnestly hope that this conflict will be brought to an early termination.

The cordial co-operation in matters of common interest between My Government and the Government of Egypt has been amply confirmed during the recent anxious months. Certain provisions of the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of Alliance, the cost of which, owing to the increasing complexity of Military and Air Force requirements, was found likely greatly to exceed the original estimates, have been revised in a Protocol, the text of which has been laid before you. It is My confident hope that this revision will strengthen the sincere friendship between My Government and the Royal Egyptian Government and will expedite the important work of construction of barrack and other accommodation for My Forces.

It was with great satisfaction that I gave My assent to a Bill confirming certain Agreements with Eire. I welcome these Agreements, and I hope that they will promote closer co-operation and good feeling between the two countries.

I have been deeply distressed by the continuance and recent intensification of violence and lawlessness in Palestine, which have necessitated the despatch in the past few weeks of strong military reinforcements. The Technical Commission have now completed their labours, and their Report is being carefully studied by My Ministers.

The conditions prevailing in the West Indies have given Me concern, and I have appointed a Commission to visit certain of the Colonies in that area and to make recommendations with regard to the social and economic position in them.

Members of the House of Commons:

The continued strengthening of our defences has required additional taxation, which has been accepted as necessary by the country.

I thank you for the provision you have made for the Public Service.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons:

Defence requirements have engaged the unremitting attention of My Ministers, and are being reviewed in the light of recent experience.

I have given My assent to a Measure requiring local authorities to prepare schemes of air-raid precautions for their areas. Such schemes are an essential part of the defence organisation of the country.

The development of the national health services has continued and steps have been taken with success to make those services more widely known and to encourage their use.

Active progress both in house building and in the clearance of the slums has been maintained and the abatement of overcrowding is proceeding. Acts have been passed amending the financial provision in England and Wales for slum clearance and for the abatement of overcrowding and making further provision for the improvement of agricultural housing.

My assent has also been given to Bills providing medical care for young persons who have left school and entered employment, reducing the age limit for the award of pensions to blind persons, enabling further information to be obtained for the study of the population problem and continuing, with modifications, for a further period the statutes relating to rent restrictions.

Acts have been passed amending the Unemployment Insurance Acts; regulating wages and conditions in the road haulage industry; enabling certain wage-fixing authorities to require the grant of holidays with pay; regulating the hours of employment of persons under the age of eighteen in certain previously unregulated occupations; and enabling officers in the Merchant Navy to assign part of their wages for the purpose of paying pensions contributions.

Measures have been enacted providing for the better organisation and development of the bacon and pig producing industries and for certain important matters relating to sea fisheries, including the re-organisation of the white fish industry, and the improvement of conditions in the herring fishing industry. An Act has also been passed continuing assistance to the dairy industry.

The administration of justice in the Supreme Court has had My careful consideration, and the numbers of the judges in the Probate Division of the High Court and the Court of Appeal have been increased. Greater facilities having been given for the appointment of legally qualified persons as chairmen of the Courts of Quarter Sessions, provision has been made for enlarging the jurisdiction of those Courts where the chairman is legally qualified.

Acts have been passed providing for the setting up of a Coal Commission to unify coal royalties under national control and to further the re-organisation of the coal mining industry; requiring local authorities throughout Great Britain to provide fire brigade services and containing various provisions for improving the fire brigade organisation of the country; and continuing the assistance afforded to the British film industry by previous legislation.

Progress in the improvement of housing conditions and of public health in Scotland has been maintained, and among the Bills relating to Scotland to which My assent has been given has been a Measure to facilitate the better housing of the agricultural population.

A number of other Measures of public utility have been added to the Statute Book.

I pray that the blessing of Almighty God may attend you.

Then a Commission for Proroguing the Parliament was read in the House of Lords.

After which the LORD CHANCELLOR said:

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons; By virtue of His Majesty's Commission, under the Great Seal, to us and other Lords directed, and now read, we do, in His Majesty's Name and in obedience to His Majesty's Commands, prorogue this Parliament to Tuesday, the eighth day of November, one thousand nine hundred and thirty-eight, to be then here holden; and this Parliament is accordingly prorogued until Tuesday, the eighth day of November, one thousand nine hundred and thirty-eight.

End of the Third Session (opened 26th October, 1937), of the Thirty-Seventh Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in the Second year of the Reign of His Majesty King George the Sixth.