HL Deb 09 December 1924 vol 60 cc6-11

The KING being seated on the Throne, and the Commons being at the Bar with their Speaker, His Majesty was pleased to make a most gracious Speech to both Houses of Parliament, and then retired.

His Majesty's Speech was as follows:—

"My Lords and Members of the House of Commons,

"My relations with foreign Powers continue to be friendly.

"The campaign of hostility to British rights and interests in Egypt and the Sudan, inspired rather than discouraged by the Government of Zaghlul Pasha, culminated in the murder of Sir Lee Stack in the streets of Cairo and obliged My Government to demand redress.

"Their demands, which the present Egyptian Government have accepted, are designed to secure respect for those interests which are of vital concern to My Empire and which My Government specifically reserved to their absolute discretion when My Protectorate over Egypt was withdrawn.

"I follow with deep interest the important deliberations of the League of Nations. My Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has proceeded to Rome to act as British representative at the meetings of its Council. He is taking the opportunity of this journey to meet the Prime Ministers of France and Italy.

"My Government have not yet had time to study, in consultation with the Governments of the Dominions, the Protocol for the pacific settlement of disputes drawn up at the last Assembly of the League of Nations with the attention which its character demands. They have already begun to examine this weighty question.

"My Government are unable to recommend to your consideration the Treaties with the Government of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics, signed on the 8th August. It is My desire that normal intercourse between the two countries shall not be interrupted. I trust that the attainment of this object will be made possible by the strict fulfilment of those conditions of friendly international intercourse which have been repeatedly placed before the Soviet Government, and accepted by them, particularly at the moment of the establishment of diplomatic relations. The Trade Agreement of the 16th March, 1921, does all that is at present possible to foster mutual trade.

"I have concluded a Treaty of Commerce and Navigation with the President of the German Reich in order to put the commercial relations of the two countries on a stable footing. You will be invited to give legislative effect to its provisions.

"A Bill will be laid before you for giving approval to the Treaty with Italy signed in July for the cession of a portion of the province of Jubaland, in the Kenya Colony and Protectorate.

"The visit of My eldest son, the Prince of Wales, to South Africa, which was unavoidably postponed this year, has now been arranged to take place in the spring of next year. In the course of his journey he will also visit My possessions in West Africa and St. Helena. I have no doubt that the happy results which attended his previous visits to other parts of My Dominions will be repeated on this occasion.

"I have received an invitation from the President and Government of the Argentine Republic for the Prince of Wales to visit the Argentine next year. I have gladly accepted this invitation on behalf of My son.

"It is the firm conviction of My Government that in the closest co-operation with the Governments of My Dominions and of India in all matters of mutual concern lies the key both to industrial progress and to the increasing unity and strength of the Empire, and this will be a guiding principle of their administration.

"The policy of encouraging Empire settlement and mutual trade between the various parts of My Empire is one which My advisers deem to be of the greatest importance, and to which they will steadfastly adhere. Proposals based upon the recommenda- tions of the Imperial Economic Conference of last year will be submitted for granting further preferences on goods imported into this country from the Empire.

"My Government propose, in accordance with the resolution of the last Imperial Conference, to proceed with plans already made for enlarging the Naval Base at Singapore.

"Members of the House of Commons,

"Estimates for the public services will be laid before you in due course. Every effort will be made to reduce public expenditure to the lowest possible limit consistent with the security and efficiency of the State. The present heavy burdens of the taxpayer are a hindrance to the revival of enterprise and employment Economy in every sphere is imperative if we are to regain our industrial and commercial prosperity.

"My Lords and Members of the House of Commons,

"While I am glad to note the signs of improvement in the state of trade and industry, the present extent of unemployment continues to cause Me grave concern and will receive the constant attention of My Ministers. More stable economic and political conditions throughout the world, and the greater development of facilities for inter-Imperial commerce, will, I hope, promote the growth both of our internal and our overseas trade. A Bill is under consideration, and will be submitted to you at an early date, for safeguarding employment in efficient industries where, after inquiry, the need for such exceptional action is established.

"The various schemes which have already been initiated for the relief of unemployment, including those relating to juvenile unemployment, will be examined with great care, and you will be asked to make provision for the continuance and extension of all such measures as are likely to alleviate the present distresses.

"But no less important for the prosperity of My country than the action of Parliament is that there shall be among all parties concerned in the industrial life of the nation increased good will, frankness and mutual confidence, without which full advantage cannot be taken of any improvement in other conditions.

"My Ministers are deeply impressed by the continued shortage of housing accommodation. They are convinced that the encouragement of the private builder and the occupying owner is an essential element in the successful treatment of the problem, and substantial progress has been made in this direction. My Ministers will devote their attention to overcoming the rising cost of houses and the shortage in the available supplies of skilled labour. With this object they will endeavour to supplement the building resources of the country by encouraging new methods of construction calculated to promote the rapid production of houses of approved design and moderate cost, and, at the same time, to assist in the reduction of unemployment.

"The housing problem is not merely one of overcrowding, but also of the existence of large numbers of houses which fall below modern standards of propriety and sanitation. Something is already being done under existing legislation to clear the worst areas and to remedy sanitary and structural defects in those which remain. As new building increases it will be possible largely to develop this process, and My Government will take every opportunity of pressing it forward with vigour.

"My Ministers are engaged upon inquiries into the possibility of combining with existing systems of insurance, provisions for improved old age pensions and pensions for widowed mothers.

"They will also endeavour, in cooperation with the Local Education Authorities, to promote the steady and continuous development of the public system of education.

"A Conference of representatives of landowners, farmers and workers has already been invited to consider whether an agreement can be arrived at by these different interests which might provide the stable basis of a national agricultural policy. Meanwhile, measures will be laid before you to give effect to the proposals of the late Government for the encouragement of the sugar beet industry; to provide where practicable for the marking of imported foodstuffs and for dealing with the readjustment and redemption of Tithe Rentcharge.

"Steps will be taken to carry out the principal recommendations of the Committee on the use of preservatives and colouring matter in food and for the ascertainment of costs and profits in the distribution of milk.

"In view of the prevalence of high food prices and their adverse effect upon the cost of living, I have appointed a Commission to investigate the extent and causes of the differences between the prices received by producers of foodstuffs and those paid by consumers.

"Measures will be presented for the consolidation of the Law of Property and of the enactments relating to the procedure of the Supreme Court, for the reform of the system of rating and valuation in England and Wales and of rating in Scotland, for the prolongation of the Rent Restrictions Act and of the Agricultural Rates Act, 1923. You will be asked to facilitate the completion of Land Purchase in Northern Ireland and to guarantee the principal and interest of bonds issued by the Government of the Irish Free State under the Land Act recently passed in that Dominion.

"Bills will be introduced dealing with legitimation by subsequent marriage, separation and maintenance orders, guardianship of children and the improvement of the probationary system.

"Preparations are being made for legislation dealing with the Property and Endowments of the Church of Scotland and with the foundation of a National Library for Scotland.

"Bills will also be laid before you to give effect to three International Conventions dealing with wages in the case of shipwreck and with medical examination and stoke-hold employment of young seamen, to validate certain charges imposed during the war, and to amend and consolidate the Factory and Workshop Acts and the law with regard to the use of road vehicles.

"My Government are hopeful that, with the support of the community at large, they may be able, on the lines here indicated and to be developed as time proceeds, to expedite the solution, in a spirit of unity, of many of the problems that are weighing heavily on the national life, and in this way to remove some of the obstacles that have not ceased, since the termination of the war, to retard the industrial and economic recovery of My people.

"Your labours upon these and all other matters I humbly commend to the blessing of Almighty God."

House adjourned during pleasure.

House resumed at a quarter before four of the clock. The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Several Lords—Took the Oath.

The Lord Gainford—Affirmed.

Several Lords—Took the Oath.

His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales—Singly, took the Oath.

Several Lords—Took the Oath.