HL Deb 16 December 1949 vol 165 cc1669-74

11.33 a.m.

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:

"The long Session which is now ending has been marked by a continuance of the economic difficulties with which we have been confronted since the end of the war. Fortunately there is work for all, and through the sustained efforts of My People a notable increase in production has been achieved. I pray that, under the guidance of Almighty God, we shall overcome the difficulties that still beset us and reach the goal of a stable and prosperous economy.

"During last winter our overseas account as a whole was brought into balance. Trade with North America still presented special problems, but the size of the gap between receipts and payments in respect of that area was being progressively reduced as the drive to increase direct and indirect dollar earnings gathered momentum. Thanks to generous assistance from the Governments and Peoples of the United States and Canada, together with the continued efforts of My People, there was every reason to believe that the gap would be closed.

"In the early part of 1949 a fall in demand for goods from the United Kingdom, and from the other countries linked with sterling, seriously affected our earnings of dollars and the resultant difficulties were much intensified by a widespread belief that there would be an alteration in the value of the pound sterling in terms of the United States dollar. My Ministers took prompt action to reduce imports and to initiate discussions on some of the wider aspects of the problem. In July, a meeting of Commonwealth Finance Ministers was held in London to exchange views on the urgent economic problems confronting us. In September, My Ministers in the United Kingdom and Canada met representatives of the United States Government in Washington, and discussed with them the trade and financial relations between the sterling and dollar areas. Complete understanding was achieved in these talks. There was recognition that the freer development of world trade required the sustained effort, not only of these three countries, but of all other countries which desired to promote a free exchange of goods throughout the world.

"Before the Washington discussions began My Minister; had reached the conclusion that a radical adjustment would be necessary in the rate of exchange between sterling and the dollar, and an alteration in the rate was announced on 18th September. In order to make the devaluation of sterling an effective aid in foreign trade, My Ministers decided upon substantial reductions in Government expenditure and capital investment, thus maintaining their policy of disinflation as well as encouraging an increase in exports, especially to the dollar and other hard-currency areas.

"An outstanding event during the Session was the conclusion of the North Atlantic Treaty, a defensive alliance of twelve Powers, each of whom has agreed, in harmony with the Charter of the United Nations, to give mutual assistance in case of armed attack. I am convinced that this Treaty will be a powerful aid to the preservation of peace and the defence of freedom.

"My Government, in association with the other Governments signatory to the Brussels Treaty, have strengthened and developed the various, organisations set up under that Treaty and My Navy and Air Force have taken part in joint Western Union exercises.

"Persuaded of the need for closer unity between European Nations, My Government also decided to join with other European Powers in the establishment of a Council of Europe. Members of both Houses of Parliament attended the first meeting of the Consultative Assembly at Strasbourg in August as representatives from the United Kingdom. I shall watch with close interest the progress of this venture in international co-operation.

"My Government have continued to play their full part in the work of the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation and have taken the lead, both in proposals and in action, to free a substantial part of international trade from import controls.

"My Government will continue to give whole-hearted support to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

"In Germany considerable progress has been achieved by My Government in close collaboration with the Governments of the United States and France. The German Federal Government has been established after free elections and a wide measure of responsibility has now been transferred to the German authorities. I welcome particularly the Petersberg Agreement recently concluded between the Allied High Commission and the Federal Chancellor. After Berlin had been sustained for eleven months by the Allied airlift, adequate transport services were restored and the city has established closer relations with the Federal Republic. My Government, together with the United States and French Governments, have continued, unhappily without success so far, their efforts to reach an agreement with the Soviet Union on fundamental problems affecting Germany.

"My Forces continue to bear throughout the world heavy responsibilities in maintaining order and preserving the peace. In Hong Kong, Malaya and elsewhere they are discharging their duties with their accustomed efficiency and devotion.

"The Queen and I greatly regret that it was not possible for us to visit Australia and New Zealand this year, as we had hoped: and I look forward to the time when I shall have an opportunity of meeting again My Peoples in those parts of the Commonwealth.

"A special conference of the Prime Ministers and other Ministers of the self-governing members of the British Commonwealth was held in London in April and I am happy to record the historic agreement then reached whereby India, whilst assuming the status of a sovereign independent Republic, will continue in full membership of the Commonwealth, with the good will of all its members. In con-sequence I have assented to an Act which will preserve to India and her citizens the privileges of Commonwealth status under the laws of the United Kingdom and Colonies.

"On 31st March, Newfoundland became a province of Canada. My good wishes attend this union of the two countries which I pray may bring them lasting prosperity and well-being.

"I have learned with pleasure of the further generous gift which My Government in the United Kingdom have received from My Government in Australia.

"The steady progress of My Colonial Peoples towards self-government within the Commonwealth has recently been demonstrated by the important proposals for constitutional advance in the Gold Coast. I warmly welcomed the success of the Colonial Month and Exhibition which I inaugurated in London last June.

"Members of the House of Commons:

"I thank you for the provision which you have made for the public services.

"My Lords and Members of the House of Commons:

"I have given My Assent to a measure to amend the Parliament Act, 1911, which reduces the period during which the House of Lords may delay legislative proposals in cases of disagreement between the two Chambers. I regret that it was not possible to secure agreement between both Houses on the provisions of this measure.

"Legislation has been enacted extending the housing functions of local authorities; providing financial assistance towards the improvement of housing accommodation by local authorities and by private persons; and providing for the control of rents of houses and flats let for the first time since the war and for the abolition of premiums.

"I have given My Assent to a Bill to establish in due course an Iron and Steel Corporation to which will subsequently be transferred the securities of certain companies extensively engaged in the iron and steel industry.

"There has been a further notable advance in the output of British agriculture, to which all those engaged in the industry have contributed. In this and other ways redoubled efforts are being made to lessen our dependence on food from areas to which we export less than we import.

"The general economic situation has required continued adherence to the policy of restraint in regard to personal incomes and limitation of dividends. The co-operation of employers and workers in giving effect to this policy deserves high praise.

"An Act has been passed to give My Government the necessary powers to implement the provisions of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea.

"Important changes have been made in the laws relating to patents for inventions and to registered industrial designs.

"Legislation has been passed for the better protection of the coast against erosion.

"I have given My Assent to an Act enabling National Parks to be established in England and Wales and nature reserves to be provided in Great Britain for the better protection of wild life.

"Preparations for the Festival of Britain, 1951, are now taking shape with the cordial support of local authorities and voluntary organisations in all parts of the United Kingdom.

"I have given My Assent to legislation to improve water supplies in Scotland; to protect the tenants of shops; and to amend the criminal law in Scotland and the law relating to education in that country.

"A measure has been passed to make further provision for the organisation of civil defence.

"The arrangements for dealing with Welsh affairs have been strengthened by the establishment of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire.

"An Act has been passed to improve the administrative and financial arrangements for magistrates' courts in England and Wales and to amend the law relating to justices of the peace. Provision has also been made for the payment of jurors and for the virtual abolition of special juries.

"I have assented to measures for schemes of legal aid and advice in England and Wales and in Scotland.

"Steady progress is being made in the consolidation of Statute law. The law relating to agricultural holdings and agricultural wages in Scotland, civil aviation, elections, marriage, patents, registered designs and taxation of vehicles has been consolidated in this Session.

"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 24th day of January next, to be then here holden, and this Parliament is accordingly prorogued to Tuesday, the 24th day of January next.

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

The Parliament was subsequently further prorogued to 14th February, but was dissolved by Royal Proclamation dated 3rd February, 1950.