HL Deb 13 September 1948 vol 157 cc1339-46

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:

During the Session which is now ending economic difficulties have gravely delayed the recovery of all the countries of the eastern hemisphere. Through the sustained energies of My people in achieving a great and continuing expansion of exports and their resolute acceptance of a prolonged period of inevitable difficulty, progress has been made in redressing the adverse balance of payments. But world circumstances—including a persistent rise in the price of many commodities essential to our economy—have proved unfavourable, and further effort and sacrifice will be needed if the problem is to be surmounted. A great contribution towards lessening our dependence on imports has been made by our agricultural industry, all sections of which have responded to the call for increased production. In the face of world shortages My Ministers have vigorously sought both to establish new sources of supply of foodstuffs and to safeguard the future by entering into long-term agreements with overseas countries.

The way before us is still hard, and it is only with courage and endurance, and by intensifying our present efforts, that we can, under God, overcome our difficulties and attain to that degree of prosperity and well-being for which we all hope.

In these anxious times we have all been encouraged by the far-sighted and generous action of the United States of America in extending financial assistance to the United Kingdom and other European countries. It is the policy of My Government to work with the Government of the United States and with other European Governments to bring about the fullest possible measure of European recovery by the wise use both of our own resources and of the aid afforded us. To this end they have entered into the Convention for European Economic Co-operation, and have signed the Economic Co-operation Agreement with the United States.

Close links have been forged with our neighbours in Western Europe. A Treaty of Economic, Social and Cultural Collaboration and Collective Self-Defence has been signed with the Governments of Belgium, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands; permanent machinery for the co-ordination of defence with those countries has been established; and satisfactory progress is being made with the other matters dealt with in the Treaty. It is My prayer that out of these hopeful beginnings there will develop an increasing degree of union between all the countries of Western Europe; and that ultimately, in furtherance of the aims of the United Nations, they may, with their common heritage of culture and freedom, constitute an area of peace, prosperity and ordered progress, in association with the peoples of My Commonwealth overseas and with the United States of America.

My Government, together with the United States and French Governments and in co-operation with the heads of the Governments of the Western German States, have taken political, economic and financial measures to enable Western Germany to play her part in the community of European nations. My Government are still doing their utmost to reach agreement with the Soviet Union on fundamental problems affecting Germany as a whole.

My beloved daughter, Princess Elizabeth, together with the Duke of Edinburgh, paid an official visit to the French Republic in May. The affectionate reception which they were accorded formed a heartening demonstration of our good relations with our nearest Continental neighbour.

I have been happy to welcome to the United Kingdom the Prime Minister of Australia. My Ministers in the United Kingdom greatly valued this opportunity of personal discussions with him. These have already led to economic arrangements of advantage to both countries, and I have learned with pleasure of the gift which My Government in Australia have made to My Government in the United Kingdom.

I am gratified that arrangements have been made for a general meeting of My Prime Ministers to be held in London in October.

A comprehensive trade agreement between the United Kingdom and Eire has recently been signed. This agreement will, I am confident, prove to be of benefit to both countries, and will further contribute to the growth of friendly relations between them.

My Government in the United Kingdom have concluded mutually satisfactory agreements on financial matters with My Governments in India and Pakistan.

During the past year, Ceylon has become a fully self-governing Member of the Commonwealth. I wish her people all happiness and prosperity and I trust that her relations with the other nations of the Commonwealth will be close and cordial.

My Government have continued to press ahead with the economic development of the Colonial territories, in order to provide a firm foundation for the social and political advancement of My Colonial peoples and to increase the world supply of essential foodstuffs and raw materials.

I have given assent to Constitutional Instruments designed to facilitate the operation of essential common services in the East African territories.

The new Federation of Malaya has been inaugurated and the new Legislative Council of the Colony of Singapore has met. My Ministers are determined to restore law and order in these territories and to suppress the outbreaks of violence which have so unhappily disturbed the peace of the Federation; and to that end the police forces have been greatly strengthened and military reinforcements have been sent to Malaya.

I note with satisfaction the measures taken by the Governor-General of the Sudan to set up in that territory an Executive Council and an elected Legislative Assembly as a first step towards self-government, and I regret that the Egyptian Government have so far felt unable to join in assisting this advance.

In accordance with plans announced some months earlier My Government relinquished the Mandate for Palestine on 15th May. At the same time the Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution setting up a United Nations Mediator for Palestine, thus putting into effect a. suggestion made by the United Kingdom representative. I deeply regret the loss of life caused by hostilities which broke out between the Arabs and Jews in Palestine. These hostilities have been brought to an end by the energetic action of the Mediator based on truce resolutions adopted by the Security Council. The last British forces have now been withdrawn from Palestine.

Our gratitude is due to the services rendered for so many years by the British civil administration in Palestine, by members of the Palestine Police Force and by the British Armed Forces who have served there. Amid conditions of great difficulty and danger they have discharged their tasks with an impartiality forbearance and skill deserving of the highest praise.

I have given My assent to the Burma Independence Act, by which Burma became an independent State on January 4, 1948. The Treaty previously concluded between my Government and the Provisional Government of Burma was ratified on the same date. I wish well to the Government and people of Burma.

My Government have become parties to the Protocol of Provisional Application of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. They have also taken part in Conferences at Geneva and Havana to draw up the draft Charter of the International Trade Organisation and have signed the Final Act of the Havana Conference.

Members of the House of Commons:

I thank you for the provision which you have made for the public services and for My beloved daughter, Princess Elizabeth, and her husband.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons:

My Forces have continued honourably to discharge the tasks assigned to them throughout the world.

I have assented to legislation under which women may be enlisted and commissioned in the Army and the Royal Air Force, and this, with the continuance of the Women's Services of the Royal Navy in their existing form, will enable women to maintain their high tradition of service with My Forces.

My Ministers are anxious to ensure the fullest possible growth of good industrial relations, on which efficiency in industry and the necessary increase in production so largely depend. To this end they have encouraged the extension of joint consultation between management and workers at all levels.

Acts have been passed to abolish the Poor Law and establish arrangements for assistance to all in need, and to make improved provision for children deprived of a normal home life. Thus has been discharged the great task, which it has fallen to this Parliament to undertake, of giving legislative effect to a comprehensive scheme of social security. That scheme, which has now been brought into operation, will promote the health and well-being of My people, provide a substantial resource in any periods of unavoidable unemployment, and relieve those anxieties which in the past so often attended sickness, disability or old age.

Steps have been taken to improve the facilities for the consideration of Scottish affairs by the establishment of a Scottish Economic Conference and by providing for the greater use of the Standing Committee of the House of Commons on Scottish Bills.

I have assented to legislation amending the financial relations between the Exchequer and local authorities, centralising the machinery of valuation for rating purposes, and amending the law as to the valuation of small dwelling houses in England and Wales.

In furtherance of the plan for the co-ordination of the fuel and power industries a measure has been passed to bring the gas industry under public ownership.

I have given My assent to measures to reform the administration of criminal justice in England and Wales, and to assimilate and reform the Parliamentary and local government franchise and electoral procedure and revise the distribution of Parliamentary seats. A measure has also been passed to enable a common national status to be maintained throughout the Commonwealth and to amend the law governing the national status of married women.

Legislation has been enacted to promote, in fulfilment of My Government's agricultural policy for the United Kingdom, the stability and long-term development of agriculture in Scotland; to establish River Boards in England and Wales; to enlarge the facilities for veterinary training and improve the status of the profession; and to provide assistance to the white fish and herring industries.

I have assented to Bills to encourage the exhibition of British cinematograph films, to provide for the payment of grants for the modernisation of cotton-spinning mills and to set up a body to develop and exploit inventions in the national interest.

An enactment has been passed enabling inquiry by an independent Commission to be made into restrictive business arrangements and monopolies, and authorising corrective measures where these are found necessary.

Substantial progress has been made with the work of consolidating and revising the Statute Law and I have given My assent to several Bills introduced for this purpose.

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 His Majesty's Commission, under the Great Seal, to us and other Lords directed, we do, in His Majesty's name and in obedience to His Commands, prorogue this Parliament to Tuesday, the 14th day of September instant, and this Parliament is accordingly prorogued to Tuesday, the 14th day of September instant.

End of the Third Session of the Thirty-eighth Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the twelfth year of the Reign of His Majesty King George VI.