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Volume 955: debated on Tuesday 24 October 1978

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Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech

2.45 p.m.

Message to attend the Lords Commissioners:

The House went:—and, having returned:

(in the Clerk's place at the Table): I have to acquaint the House that the House has been to the House of Peers, where a Commission under the Great Seal was read. The Lord High Chancellor, being one of the High Commissioners, delivered Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech to both Houses of Parliament, in pursuance of Her Majesty's Command, as follows:

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons:

It was with great pleasure that My Husband and I received the State Visit of the President of the Socialist Republic of Romania and Madame Ceausescu in June of this year. We also look back with much pleasure on our visits to the Federal Republic of Germany and Berlin in May, and to Canada in July and August where I opened the Eleventh Commonwealth Games at Edmonton.

My Government welcomed the independence of the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu and their decision to join the Commonwealth.

Agreement has been reached with the Government of Brunei to replace the 1959 Anglo-Brunei Agreement, as amended in 1971, by a new treaty under which Brunei will assume its full international responsibility as a sovereign and independent State at the end of 1983.

My Government played an active and constructive part in the work of the European Communities and in European political co-operation. There were three meetings of the European Council. An Act was passed to provide for the election of United Kingdom members of the European Assembly, and the first direct elections to the Assembly, in the United Kingdom and in other Community countries, will take place in June 1979.

The United Kingdom has also played a full and positive part in the dialogue with the developing world and in international discussions designed to lift the world out of economic recession, notably the Summit Meeting in Bonn in July of the leaders of the seven major industrialised countries. My Government have taken action to relieve 17 of the poorest developing countries of the burden of their outstanding aid loan repayments, and have substantially increased their programme of aid directed towards the poorest countries of the third world.

My Government regard the achievement of a peaceful and constructive relationship with the Soviet Union and the countries of Eastern Europe as a matter of great importance for international stability. With other members of the North Atlantic Alliance they have taken a leading part in discussions relating to the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, and have worked towards agreement on mutual and balanced reductions in the forces in central Europe. In the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament and elsewhere they have sought to achieve disarmament agreements which promote international security. They played a constructive part in the United Nations Special Session on Disarmament.

At the same time, My Government recognise that it remains necessary to maintain an adequate level of defence. They have played a full part in measures designed to strengthen the North Atlantic Alliance.

They have constantly striven to bring about a satisfactory settlement in Rhodesia, through negotiations involving all the parties.

The United Kingdom has played a full and active part in the work of the United Nations.

My Government have played a positive role in the search for a settlement in Namibia that will meet with international acceptance. They will continue to work for the implementation of the proposal for a settlement drawn up by the five Western members of the Security Council which has received the support of the international community. My Government have continued their efforts to promote a negotiated peace in the Middle East, acceptable to all the parties.

Members of the House of Commons:

I thank you for the provision which you have made for the honour and dignity of the Crown and for the public services.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons:

My Government have continued, with general support, to give high priority to the reduction of inflation. They have achieved their immediate objective of single-figure inflation, and a guideline has been announced for the growth of earnings in the current pay round. Legislation has been passed to extend statutory control of dividends for a further 12 months.

Measures were introduced to maintain firm control of monetary conditions and to expand output and employment. A wide-ranging programme of employment and training measures has been maintained in operation, designed to assist those who have suffered because of the high level of unemployment during the present recession, and to prepare for economic recovery.

My Ministers have continued to give full support to the tripartite industrial strategy in their efforts to improve the international competitiveness of British manufacturing industry. Special attention has been given to developments in new technology and schemes of support have been introduced for microelectronics manufacture and for the application of microprocessors in industry.

A White Paper has been issued on industrial democracy, and nationalised industries have been invited to put forward schemes for extending industrial democracy within their areas of responsibility. Employees are now represented on the boards of the Post Office and the British Steel Corporation.

Legislation has been passed providing for the establishment of directly elected Assemblies with wide-ranging responsibilities for the domestic affairs of Scotland and Wales, while retaining the essential unity of the United Kingdom.

In Northern Ireland the community has again demonstrated its determination to reject violence, and progress continues to be made towards stability. My Government have taken steps to stimulate discussion of a possible basis for an interim stage of devolved government. An Act has been passed to reorganise the administration of the courts. Some major industrial projects have been attracted to the Province.

An Act has been passed to bring the United Kingdom's civil nuclear facilities within the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and to provide for compensation in respect of the early ordering of the second stage of Drax power station. My Government have announced their decision on the reactor systems which will form the basis of our continuing nuclear power programme.

Opportunities have continued to be provided for the orderly exploration and development of our offshore oil and gas resources. My Government are concerned to ensure that, in the development of energy policy, environmental considerations are given full weight. To this end a standing Commission on Energy and the Environment has been established.

After a full public inquiry, and debate in Parliament, outline planning permission for the construction of an oxide fuel reprocessing plant at Windscale was granted by means of a special development order.

Important steps have been taken to save energy in industry, commerce and the public and domestic sectors. An Act was passed to extend assistance to loft insulation for private dwellings.

My Government have entered into a planning agreement with the National Coal Board on the development of the coal industry.

Greater account has been taken of the needs of the consumer in the application of the common agricultural policy. Negotiations have continued for the revision of the common fisheries policy and measures have been taken to conserve fish stocks.

An Act has been passed to transfer the cost of aviation security from the Exchequer to the industry, and to clarify and extend the powers of aerodrome authorities to deal with aircraft noise.

An Act has been passed to secure the co-ordinated planning of public transport and the improvement of services to meet social needs and to reconstruct the finances of the National Freight Corporation. The aims and methods of the trunk road programme in England have been reviewed, and arrangements have been announced for widening the range of information available about trunk road proposals and for establishing the fairness of public inquiries into them.

Provision has been made for increases in retirement and war pensions, for a substantial increase in child benefit, and for an extension of the scheme to provide help with fuel bills for those on low incomes. An Act has been passed to provide for payments from public funds to redundant workers in the shipbuilding industry.

Legislation has been passed to provide financial help to those saving to buy their first home, and to give additional support to the work of housing associations. An Act has been passed to establish a Co-operative Development Agency to promote the principles and further the interests of the cooperative movement.

My Government have established partnerships with selected local authorities to tackle the serious problems of inner city areas. Additional resources have been provided under the urban programme, and legislation has been enacted to enable selected local authorities to help local industry and commerce and to improve the environment.

My Government have taken action to strengthen law enforcement in the community. Their decision to implement the recommendations of the Edmund-Davies Committee has laid a sound basis for increasing the strength of the police service.

Legislation has been passed providing for changes in the composition of the General Medical Council and giving it new powers for the maintenance and improvement of standards of medical practice.

Provision has been made for increased resources for the National Health Service, including the opening of new hospitals, improved community services and the expansion of medical and nursing staff.

My Government have presented a White Paper on a single system of secondary school examinations in England and Wales to replace GCE O-level and CSE and have committed themselves in principle to a statutory system of awards for those aged 16–18. They have introduced a scholarship scheme in association with industry to encourage more very able young people to seek careers in the production of the country's wealth, and have initiated a study of ways of increasing the numbers of young people who receive vocational preparation in employment.

The report of the committee of inquiry into the education of handicapped children has been received, and widespread consultations about it have begun. My Government have announced their broad agreement with the report of the committee on the management of higher education in the maintained sector.

Legislation has been passed to reform family law in magistrates' courts so as to help the parties to a marriage and their children during a period of marital breakdown.

Acts have been passed to reform public sector housing subsidies in Scotland and to enable Scottish courts to require offenders to undertake unpaid work for the community.

Proposals were laid before you for legislation to reform section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911.

An Act was passed to enable the United Kingdom to ratify without re-

servation the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism and so make a further contribution to international co-operation in that field.

An Act has been passed to reform the law governing the immunity of other States and Heads of State in legal proceedings in the United Kingdom, and to enable the United Kingdom to ratify the European Convention on State Immunity.

My Government have made further progress with the reform of the law in other fields.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons:

I pray that the blessings 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 Her Majesty's Commission which has now been read, we do, in Her Majesty's Name, and in obedience to Her Majesty's Commands, prorogue this Parliament to Wednesday the first day of November, to be then here holden, and this Parliament is accordingly prorogued to Wednesday the first day of this instant November.

End of the Fourth Session (opened on 3rd November 1977) of the Forty-seventh Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in the Twenty-seventh Year of the Reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second.