HL Deb 20 July 1988 vol 499 cc1301-3

Her Majesty's gracious Speech in reply to the Addresses, delivered to the Members of both Houses, was as follows:

"My Lords and Members of the House of Commons,

"I thank you for the loyal and dutiful Addresses which on your behalf the Lord Chancellor and Mr. Speaker have presented to me on this Tercentenary of the Glorious Revolution.

"In celebrating the Glorious Revolution with you, I too give thanks to Almighty God and pray that we may here rededicate ourselves to the principle of freedom under the law which animated the authors of that constitutional settlement 300 years ago.

"My Lords and Members of the House of Commons,

"It is fitting that the whole Parliament should assemble in this place to celebrate the events of 1688 to 1689. It was here, as the Lord Chancellor reminded us, that we met to commemorate the 700th anniversary of Simon de Montfort's Parliament of 1265. The four centuries which separated that Parliament and the Glorious Revolution saw some turbulent and violent episodes, but it was the momentous events of the 17th century that brought the fundamental constitutional issues to a head. The successive swings between the arbitrary rule of The King and arbitrary rule of Parliament became intolerable and it was by their acceptance of the Declaration of Rights and assent to the Claim of Right in Scotland, that King William and Queen Mary ended almost a century of constitutional turmoil and uncertainty in the two Kingdoms.

"Their peaceful joint accession symbolises the friendship which has so long flourished between the British and Dutch people. The warm and generous reception we received on our recent visit to the Netherlands was ample evidence that the three hundred years since William and Mary have only deepened that friendship, which we in Britain greatly treasure. It is therefore with especial pleasure that I welcome His Royal Highness the Prince of Orange, the Presidents of the two Houses of the Dutch Parliament and our other Dutch guests.

"It is an irony of history that James 11, by uniting the major political interests in opposition to him, unwittingly produced a balanced Government not of King nor of Parliament but of the Crown in Parliament. Thus King William reported to the Convention which was to become Parliament, `there is no sure Foundation of a good Agreement between a King and his people, but by a mutual Trust. When that is once broken, a Government is half dissolved.'

"That mutual trust formed the basis of the constitutional monarchy, and may well have spared this country a more violent revolution. The Revolution Settlement put into practice the cardinal principles of the sovereignty of the Crown in Parliament and the separation of powers, ushering in an epoch of freedom under the law in which, happily, we still live. Experience has taught that peoples can enjoy the full fruits of liberty, security and justice only when they are represented in a sovereign legislature whose laws are interpreted by an independent judiciary.

"The Bill of Rights and the Scottish Claim of Right of 1689, still part of statute law, are the sure foundation on which the whole edifice of Parliamentary democracy rests, and had great influence abroad, especially in the United States of America and in the Commonwealth. I am particularly pleased, therefore, to join in the welcome to the Chancellor and a delegation from William and Mary College, Virginia, with their wives, who attend by a Resolution of Congress, approved by the President.

"I also welcome most warmly the Speakers and Presiding Officers of the Commonwealth and their wives, and the officers of their Parliaments, and offer my best wishes for the Ninth Conference of Commonwealth Speakers and Presiding Officers. May the principles of freedom and tolerance inspire your conference.

"The Glorious Revolution won its title because it was initially achieved without loss of life, and with wide popular support. It was the beginning of a political process which has continued to the present day. More people were admitted to the active political life of the Kingdom, a trend which culminated in the introduction of universal franchise. It also marked the beginnings of a new era of religious tolerance. No one could claim even today that that state has been perfected. In multi- cultural Britain, there is still a long way to go. But after 1688 there were signposts to point the way.

"At the ceremony on 13th February 1689 in the Banqueting House, at which William and Mary accepted the Crown and the Declaration of Rights, the constitutional monarchy was set on the course which it has followed for 300 years. I look forward to visiting the Banqueting House with The Prince of Orange to see the exhibition which illustrates those events. Earlier this year, whilst in Canberra. I was delighted to open the new Parliament Buildings, which enshrine, in a handsome modern edifice. the same principles of the Crown in Parliament. However, this Hall, as the first and enduring symbol of our constitutional development, is of all places the most appropriate in which to celebrate the Glorious Revolution and to remind ourselves of the responsibility which rests on all of us to uphold the Parliamentary democracy which it put in place."

The House was adjourned during pleasure.

The House resumed at half-past two clock: The Lord Chancellor on the Woolsack.