HC Deb 25 October 1973 vol 861 cc1622-6
Mr. Speaker

I have further to acquaint the House that the Lord High Chancellor delivered Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech to both Houses of Parliament, in pursuance of Her Majesty's Commands, as follows:

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons:

My Husband and I recall with pleasure our visits to Canada and Australia. We also had the pleasure of welcoming to this country the President of Mexico and Senora de Echeverria; and the Head of the Federal Military Government of Nigeria and Mrs. Gowon.

I was particularly glad to be present in Ottawa for the meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government. My Ministers actively participated in the very useful exchanges of views at this meeting, They welcome the Bahamas as a new partner in the Commonwealth.

Following the accession of the United Kingdom to the European Community, My Government have played a full and constructive part in developing the policies and activities of the Community. Good progress has been made in carrying out the programme laid down at the European Summit in October 1972.

My Government have made a major contribution to the preparation of the Community's approach to the reform of the international monetary system. to the forthcoming multilateral trade negotiations and to the positive European response to the United States' Government initiative for the improvement of transatlantic relations.

My Government have continued to place great value upon the North Atlantic Alliance. They have worked for an improvement in East/West relations and for a successful outcome to the conference on security and co-operation in Europe.

My Ministers have had fruitful contacts with their counterparts in Japan and were pleased to welcome Mr. Tanaka on his official visit to this country. My Government have built steadily on the improvement in relations with China. While My Government have maintained traditional diplomatic ties with the Government of the Republic of Vietnam at Saigon, diplomatic relations have been established with the Democratic Republic of Vietnam at Hanoi. Diplomatic relations were established with the German Democratic Republic. My Ministers have continued to work for the improvement of relations with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. For the first time two members of My Family have visited that country. The 600th Anniversary of the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance was celebrated.

My Government have supported the efforts of the international community to put an end to the hostilities in the Middle East. They profoundly hope that these efforts will open the way to the earliest possible achievement of a just and lasting peace in the area.

My Government have continued to seek an interim agreement on fisheries with the Government of Iceland and have recently considered new proposals.

The continued suffering in Northern Ireland has caused me deep distress.

The temporary arrangements for direct rule have been superseded by legislation creating a new constitution for Northern Ireland in which all citizens will have a share. A poll has been held under legislation enabling the people of Northern Ireland to express their views on the status of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom. Legislation has also been passed to enable serious crime and terrorism to be dealt with effectively in an emergency.

My Armed Forces and the Royal Ulster Constabulary continue to carry out their appallingly difficult duties in Northern Ireland with fairness, courage and skill. Their sacrifices and success are contributing towards the eventual return to peaceful conditions in Northern Ireland and deserve the highest commendation.

Members of the House of Commons:

I thank you for the provision which you have made for the public services.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons:

My Ministers have actively pursued policies to promote a high rate of economic expansion; and to bring inflation under control while providing help for the needy. They have published a consultative document on the next stage of counter-inflation policy, together with proposals to help pensioners; and they have had discussions with the building societies with a view to assisting those buying homes for the first time.

Tax reform has continued to be an important objective of My Government. Purchase tax and selective employment tax have been abolished and, following a period of thorough preparation and extensive consultation, a value added tax has been introduced and new systems of personal and company taxation have been brought into operation.

The Employment and Training Act will enable a Manpower Services Commission to be established for the improvement of training and other manpower facilities in association with both sides of industry.

Steps have been taken to strengthen the nuclear design and construction industry.

Legislation has been enacted to promote competition and fair trading and to regulate pyramid selling; and to protect the consumer in the supply of goods. An Act has been passed to improve the protection given to insurance policy holders.

Legislation has been enacted to reorganise the water industry in England and Wales. An Act has been passed to establish a Nature Conservancy Council.

The scope of rent regulation has been extended; the scheme for rent rebates and allowances has been improved; and rent allowances for people living in furnished accommodation have been introduced. The availability of of an exceptionally high rate of grant for house improvement in the development and intermediate areas has been extended for a further year.

An Act has been passed to confer new rights of compensation upon those whose property is affected by public works and to mitigate the effect of public works on their surroundings.

Legislation has been passed to facilitate the building of the Third London Airport at Maplin.

An Act has been passed to reform local government in Scotland.

Legislation has been enacted to reorganise the administration of the National Health Service in England and Wales and to establish Health Service Commissioners to deal with complaints.

Provision was made for lump sums to be paid to national insurance retirement pensioners and other beneficiaries over pension age. Following the annual review substantial increases were also made in the rates of national insurance retirement pensions and related benefits. The levels of family income supplements were also raised.

An Act has been passed to reform the finances of the national insurance scheme and to encourage a more widespread development and improvement of occupational pension schemes.

Plans for the expansion and development of the education service up to 1981 have been announced.

Legislation has been passed to confer on both parents equal rights over the custody and upbringing of their legitimate children. Further progress has been made with the reform and consolidation of the law, and with the administration of justice.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons:

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

Then a Commission for proroguing the Parliament was read; after which the Lord Chancellor said: My Lords and Members of the House of Commons: By virtue of Her Majesty's Commission under the Great Seal, to us and other Lords directed, we do, in Her Majesty's Name and in obedience to Her Majesty's Commands, prorogue this Parliament to Tuesday, the thirtieth day of October next, to be then here holden; and this Parliament is accordingly prorogued to the thirtieth day of October next.

End of Third Session (opened on 31st October, 1972) of the Forty-fifth Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in the Twenty-second Year of the Reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second.