HL Deb 30 January 1900 vol 78 cc1-4

"My Lords and Gentlemen,

"The peace which had recently been broken in South Africa when last I addressed you has unhappily not been restored; but otherwise my relations with other States are friendly.

"In resisting the invasion of my South African Colonies by the South African Republic and by the Orange Free State my people have responded with devotion and enthusiasm to the appeal which I have made to them; and the heroism of my soldiers in the field, and of my sailors and marines who were landed to co-operate with them, has not fallen short of the noblest traditions of our military history. I am deeply grieved that so many valuable lives should have fallen a sacrifice. But I have witnessed with pride and with the heartiest gratification the patriotic eagerness and spontaneous loyalty with which my subjects in all parts of my dominions have come forward to share in the common defence of their Imperial interests. I am confident that I shall not look to them in vain when I exhort them to sustain and renew their exertions until they have brought this struggle for the maintenance of the Empire and the assertion of its supremacy in South Africa to a victorious conclusion.

"A treaty has been concluded with the German Emperor for the adjustment of rights claimed by the two countries in Samoa, Tonga, and other islands in the Pacific. To a portion of these stipulations the Government of the United States has also been a party.

"A Bill will be introduced at an early date to give effect to the scheme of Federation which has been adopted after the most careful consideration by five of my Australian colonies. I have watched with cordial satisfaction the gradual development of my greater colonies into self-governing communities. I feel confident that the establishment of the great Federation of Australia will prove advantageous, not only to the colonies immediately concerned, but also to the Empire at large.

"The brilliant courage and the soldier-like qualities of the colonial forces engaged in South Africa have already earned high admiration. Patriotic offers of assistance, which it was not possible to accept, have come from many other colonies with populations of various races.

"I have received from the ruling chiefs of Native States in India numerous offers to place their troops and the resources of their States at my disposal for service in South Africa. These proofs of their loyalty to myself and of their devotion to the cause of my Empire have afforded me much gratification.

"I regret that owing to insufficient rainfall in the autumn over a great part of Western and Central India the harvests and pasturage have failed to such an extent as to create a famine. Timely measures have been taken by my Government, and by the rulers of the Native States affected, to relieve suffering and to prevent starvation.

"I regret to add that the epidemic of plague continues, and that although its severity has not increased since last year, there is at present no prospect of its diminution.

"Gentlemen of the House, of Commons,

"The Estimates for the public service of the year will be laid before you. The provision for military expenditure must be largely increased on account of the charge for military operations in South Africa.

"The experience of a great war must necessarily afford lessons of the greatest importance to the military administrations of the country. You will not, I am convinced, shrink from any outlay that may be required to place our defensive preparations on a level with the responsibilities which the possession of so great an Empire has laid upon us.

"At a time when several other nations are perfecting their naval preparations at the cost of increasing efforts and sacrifices, the solicitude with which you have provided for the efficiency of our Navy and of our coast defences will assuredly not be relaxed.

"My Lords and Gentlemen,

"The time is not propitious for any domestic reforms which involve a large expenditure.

"Proposals, however, will be made to you for several important, changes which are not open to this objection. Amendments are required in the laws which govern limited liability companies, and in those which relate to agricultural tenancies. Measures for amending the law of ecclesiastical assessments, and in regard to education in Scotland, and for the relief of tithe-rent payers in Ireland, will also be laid before you. Your attention will also be invited to proposals for better enabling local authorities to aid secondary and technical education in England and Wales; for controlling the contracts of money lenders; for the amendment of the Factory Law, of the Law of Lunacy, and of the Housing of the Working Classes Act.

"The labours of the Commission appointed by me to inquire into the nature and causes of accidents to railway servants are now completed. A Bill, framed with the object of lessening the number of such accidents, will be laid before you.

"It appears that service in South Africa may have the effect of disfranchising those who are taking part in it. You will be asked to sanction a measure by which this injustice will be prevented.

"I commend your deliberations in this anxious time to the blessing and guidance of Almighty God."

Then the Commons withdrew.

House adjourned during pleasure.

House resumed.

Back to