HL Deb 21 January 1886 vol 302 cc32-6

The QUEEN being seated on the Throne, and the Commons being at the Bar, with their Speaker, the Lord Chancellor, taking directions from Her Majesty, delivered Her Majesty's most gracious Speech to both Houses of Parliament, as follows:—

"My Lords, and Gentlemen,

"MY relations with other Powers continue to be of a friendly character.

"The difference which existed, when I last addressed you, between my Government and that of Russia, on the subject of the boundaries of Afghanistan, has been satisfactorily adjusted. In pursuance of a Convention which will be laid before you, the English and Russian Commissioners, with the full concurrence of my ally, the Amir of Afghanistan, have been engaged in demarcating the frontier of that country. I trust that their work, which is already far advanced, may tend to secure the continuance of peace in Central Asia.

"A rising in Eastern Roumelia has given expression to the desire of the inhabitants for a change in the political arrangements under which they were placed by the Treaty of Berlin. My object, in the negotiations which have followed, has been to bring them, according to their wish, under the rule of the Prince of Bulgaria, while maintaining unimpaired the essential rights of His Imperial Majesty the Sultan.

"Under a Convention which has been concluded with the Ottoman Porte, Commissioners have been appointed on behalf of England and Turkey to confer with His Highness the Khedive, and to report upon the measures required for securing the defence of Egypt and the stability and efficiency of the Government in that country.

"Greatly to my regret, I was compelled in the month of November to declare war against Theebaw, the King of Ava. Acts of hostility on his part against my subjects and the interests of my Empire had, since his accession, been deliberate and continuous. These had necessitated the withdrawal of my Representative from his Court; and my demands for redress were systematically evaded and disregarded. An attempt to confiscate the property of my subjects trading under agreement in his dominions, and a refusal to settle the dispute by arbitration, convinced me that the protection of British life and property, and the cessation of dangerous anarchy in Upper Burmah, could only be effected by force of arms. The gallantry of my European and Indian forces, under Lieutenant-General Sir Harry Prendergast, rapidly brought the country under my power, and I have decided that the most certain method of insuring peace and order in those regions is to be found in the permanent incorporation of the Kingdom of Ava with my Empire. Papers on this subject will be immediately laid before you.

"The time which has elapsed since I assumed the direct government of India makes it desirable that the ope- ration of the Statutes by which that change was effected should be carefully investigated. I commend this important matter to your earnest attention.

"A protracted negotiation respecting the rights of the Republic of France on the coasts of Newfoundland under the Treaty of Utrecht has been brought to a satisfactory conclusion by an Agreement, which will be laid before you and before the Legislature of Newfoundland as soon as it assembles. An Agreement has also been made with Spain, securing to this country all commercial rights granted to Germany in the Caroline Islands.

"Your consent will be asked to legislative measures rendered necessary by a Convention on the subject of International Copy right to which I have agreed.

"Gentlemen of the House of Commons,

"The Estimates for the expenditure of the ensuing year, which have been framed with a due regard to efficiency and economy, will be submitted to you.

"My Lords, and Gentlemen,

"I regret to say that no material improvement can be noted in the condition of trade or agriculture. I feel the deepest sympathy for the great number of persons, in many vocations of life, who are suffering under a pressure, which I trust will prove to be transient.

"I have seen with deep sorrow the renewal, since I last addressed you, of the attempt to excite the people of Ireland to hostility against the Legislative Union between that country and Great Britain. I am resolutely opposed to any disturbance of that fundamental law, and in resisting it I am convinced that I shall be heartily supported by my Parliament and my people.

"The social no less than the material condition of that country engages my anxious attention. Although there has been during the last year no marked increase of serious crime, there is in many places a concerted resistance to the enforcement of legal obligations; and I regret that the practice of organized intimidation continues to exist. I have caused every exertion to be used for the detection and punishment of these crimes: and no effort will be spared on the part of my Government to protect my Irish subjects in the exercise of their legal rights and the enjoyment of individual liberty. If, as my information leads me to apprehend, the existing provisions of the law should prove to be inadequate to cope with these growing evils, I look with confidence to your willingness to invest my Government with all necessary powers.

"Bills will be submitted to you for transferring to representative Councils in the counties of Great Britain local business which is now transacted by the Courts of Quarter Sessions and other authorities. A measure for the reform of county government in Ireland is also in preparation. These measures will involve the consideration of the present incidence of local burdens.

"A Bill for facilitating the sale of glebe lands, in a manner adapted to the wants of the rural population, will also be submitted to you; as also Bills for removing the difficulties which prevent the easy and cheap transfer of land> for mitigating the distressed condition of the poorer classes in the Western Highlands and Islands of Scotland; for the more effectual prevention of accidents in mines; for extending the powers of the Railway Commission in respect to the regulation of rates; and for the codification of the criminal law.

"I trust that results beneficial to the cause of education may issue from a Royal Commission, which I have appointed to inquire into the working of the Education Acts.

"The prompt and effective dispatch of the important business which, in an ever-growing proportion, falls to you to transact, will, I doubt not, occupy your attention.

"In these and in all other matters pertaining to your high functions, I earnestly commend you to the keeping and guidance of Almighty God."

Then Her Majesty retired.

House adjourned during pleasure.

House resumed.

Several Lords—Took the Oath.

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