HL Deb 23 December 1920 vol 39 cc950-4

And afterwards His Majesty's most gracious Speech was delivered to both Houses of Parliament by the Lord Chancellor (in pursuance of His Majesty's Command) as followeth—

My Lords, and Members of the House of Commons,

My relations with foreign Powers continue to be of a friendly nature. Throughout the year external policy has been conducted in close co-operation with the Allies. The general appeasement of the passions engendered by the war has been assisted by a Conference with our late enemies at which certain matters in dispute were satisfactorily adjusted. The situation which has arisen with Greece will, however, require the earnest attention of My Government, who will, in conjunction with the Allies, endeavour to reach a solution compatible with our joint responsibilities.

In Russia the situation is still unsettled and obscure. I trust that trade will shortly recommence with Russia, and that this may lead to an era of peace greatly needed by the suffering peoples of Eastern Europe. It is of the highest importance, however, that Poland and her neighbours should compose their political differences, and devote their undivided energies to producing internal stability and to the task of economic reconstruction.

I have accepted Mandates, under the Covenant of the League of Nations, in respect of Mesopotamia, Palestine, certain parts of Africa and other German possessions in the Pacific Ocean south of the Equator. The Mandates for German South-West Africa and the German possessions in the Pacific will be severally administered by the Governments of the Union of South Africa, of the Dominion of New Zealand, and of the Commonwealth of Australia. It will be the high task of all My Governments to superintend and assist the development of these countries, according to their varying degrees of advancement, for the benefit of the inhabitants and the general welfare of mankind.

During the past year the League of Nations has come into effective existence. A long series of important measures has been initiated by the Council of the League and the Labour Bureau. The First Assembly of the League has shown its sense of the importance of including all nations in its membership by admitting two of our late enemies. It is My earnest hope that the spirit of harmony and good-will between nations manifested at the Assembly is an augury of the value of the League as a force making for conciliation and peace throughout the world.

Since I last addressed you I have had the happiness of welcoming My son, the Prince of Wales, on his return from his visit to Australia, New Zealand, and the West Indies. The enthusiastic affection with which he has been everywhere received has afforded me the liveliest gratification, and I am confident that he has done much to strengthen the mutual sympathy and trust which cement the Empire.

The measures required to bring into operation the Government of India Act have been taken, and the new constitution will be in general effect within a few days. It is a matter of great regret to me that the Prince of Wales will not be able to inaugurate the new Councils. But the Duke of Connaught is now on his way to fulfil that duty, and I am confident that the people of India, to whom he is well known as having filled the high office of Commander-in-Chief in Bombay, will accept His Royal Highness's visit on My behalf as proof of My earnest and unwavering hope that their legislators will so fulfil the responsibilities entrusted to them as to bring increased prosperity and contentment to all My subjects in India.

Members of the House of Commons,

I thank you for the provision made for the public service and for the redemption of debt. Obligations arising out of the Great War and the disturbed conditions still prevailing in a large part of the world have made very heavy expenditure unavoidable. These difficulties are common to the whole world, and have been nowhere so successfully met as in this country. I am conscious of the great sacrifices entailed by this heavy draft upon the national resources and of the vital need of economy in all Departments of the public service, and My Ministers will continue to make every effort to reduce expenditure.

My Lords, and Members of the House of Commons,

The state of affairs in Ireland grieves me profoundly. I deplore the campaign of violence and outrage by which a small section of My subjects seek to sever Ireland from the Empire, and I sympathise with the loyal servants of the Crown who are endeavouring to restore peace and maintain order under conditions of unexampled difficulty and danger. It is My most earnest hope that all sections of the people in Ireland will insist upon a return to constitutional methods, which alone can put an end to the terrible events which now threaten ruin to that country, and make possible reconciliation and a lasting peace. I have given my assent to a Bill for the better government of Ireland. This Act, by setting up two Parliaments and a Council of Ireland, gives self-government in Irish affairs to the whole of Ireland, and provides the means whereby the people of Ireland. can of their own accord achieve unity. sincerely hope that this Act, the fruit of more than thirty years of ceaseless controversy, will finally bring about unity and friendship between all the peoples of My Kingdom.

My Government are giving careful and anxious consideration to the question of naval strength as affected by the latest developments of naval warfare.

During the past session I have been glad to give My assent to a number of measures for the promotion of the well-being of the people. Among other Acts, I may mention the Act providing old age pensions for blind persons at the age of 50; the National Health Insurance Act, Which increased the general rates of benefits to contributors; the Juvenile Courts Act, which secures an advance both in the treatment of children and in the co-operation of women in public affairs; the Mining Industry Act, which recognises the importance of mining in the industrial life of the country by the constitution of a Mines Department in which all the powers and duties relating to the industry are now concentrated; the Act regulating the importation of dye-stuffs in order securely to establish the dye-stuffs industry in this country; the Agriculture Act, which will increase the production of food, promote good husbandry and improve the legal position of agricultural tenants; and the Unemployment Insurance Act, which makes an important extension of the provision against unemployment and enlarges the number of insurable workers from 4 to 12 millions.

A measure has also been passed whereby Local Authorities will be assisted in the maintenance and improvement of roads and bridges, thus facilitating the further development of the new methods of transport which are becoming every year of greater importance to the life of the community.

In the domestic sphere the past session has seen a steady return to normal conditions. I am glad to believe that the weariness and exhaustion which beset the people after their sufferings and efforts during the war are passing away, and that the difficulties thus caused, especially in industrial affairs, are giving place to a better general understanding of the problems of industry and to better relations between employers and employed. The darkest cloud on the horizon, the growing amount of unemployment, now springs, not so much from internal causes, but from the contraction of the export trade due to the poverty of other nations and to their inability to secure credits for the purpose of placing orders in this country. All nations equally with ourselves are affected by these conditions. The problem of restoring trade and of providing for those left without employment has for some time been engaging the close and earnest attention of Ministers, and various schemes, of which some are already in operation, have been prepared to alleviate the distress arising therefrom. It will be the duty of My Ministers to continue to give unremitting attention to this problem with a view to mitigating, as far as is humanly possible, the hardships of unemployment.

As a direct consequence of the industrial depression, My hope that men who served in My forces during the war, and particularly those Who are disabled, would by this time be absorbed in civil employment has been disappointed. No efforts have been spared by the Government to secure the resettlement to these men in civil life, but it has become more than ever necessary that these efforts should be supplemented by the active aid and co-operation of My people.

In bidding you farewell, I pray that the blessing of Almighty God may rest upon your labours.

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 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 Commands, prorogue this Parliament to Tuesday, the fifteenth day of February, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-one, to be then here holden; and this Parliament is accordingly prorogued to Tuesday, the fifteenth day of February, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-one.

End of the Second Session of the Thirty-first Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in the eleventh year of the Reign of His Majesty King George V.