I have to acquaint the House that this House has this day attended His Majesty in the House of Peers, to hear His Majesty's Most Gracious Speech to both Houses of Parliament, in pursuance of His Majesty's Commands, and of which I have, for greater accuracy, obtained a copy:—
My Lords and Members of the House of Commons,
During the last three months the Washington Conference on the question of Disarmament and the Far East has continued its Sessions. A Treaty designed to maintain peace in the Pacific has been signed by the representatives of the British Empire, the United States, France and Japan, and awaits ratification. While this Treaty replaces the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, I am happy to feel that the long-standing concord between the two countries will remain as cordial as ever under the arrangements thus concluded. At the same time our relations with the United States of America enter upon a new and even closer phase of friendship.
Agreement has also been reached on the question of disarmament and a Treaty has been signed providing a large measure of relief from the burden of armaments. In all these respects great results have been attained; and the success of the Conference, for which the world will owe a deep debt of gratitude to the initiative of the President of the United States of America, will be of the happiest augury for the future of international relations.
The problem of securing the payment of reparations by Germany in the manner most conformable to the general interest engages the continuous consideration of My Ministers and of our Allies. The German Government, at the request of the Allies, have themselves submitted proposals, which are now under consideration.
Discussions were recently initiated and are now proceeding between MyGovernment and the Governments of France and Belgium with a view to the conclusion of agreements for common action in the event of unprovoked attack by Germany.
The situation in the Near East continues to engage the anxious attention of My Government and it is My earnest hope that the forthcoming Allied discussions in Paris may result in an early solution, which will terminate the conflict in a manner honourable to all the parties concerned.
Members of the House of Commons,
The Estimates for the services in the coming year will be laid before you in due course. Every effort has been made to reduce public expenditure to the lowest possible limit, regard being had alike to the security and efficiency of the State, to public obligations and to the necessity of relieving our citizens to the utmost extent from the burdens which now rest heavily upon them. Retrenchment upon, so great a scale must necessarily involve hardship to individuals and postponement of public hopes. But in a time of great industrial depression such as that through which the world is at present passing it is a necessity of the situation that economy be practised by all and in every direction; and I look for your support in securing the economies which are essential.
My Lords and Members of the House of Commons,
The Articles of Agreement signed by My Ministers and the Irish Delegation, to which you have already signified your assent, have now been approved in Ireland, and the Provisional Government contemplated in that instrument is at the present moment engaged in taking over the administration of the country. The final establishment of the Irish Free State as a partner in the British Commonwealth is anxiously awaited throughout the world. You will, therefore, be invited at an early date to consider such measures as may be necessary, to give effect to the Agreement. A Bill of Indemnity will also be submitted to you.
The great and continued volume of unemployment among My people causes me the deepest concern, and will continue to receive the earnest attention of My Ministers. The only remedy for this distressing situation is to be found in the appeasement of international rivalries and suspicions, and in the improvement of the conditions under which trade is carried on all over the world. For these reasons I welcome the arrangements which are now being made for the meeting of an International Conference at Genoa at which, I trust, it will be possible to establish peace on a fair basis in Europe and to reach a settlement of the many important questions arising out of the pressing need for financial and economic reconstruction.
Proposals will be submitted to you for the Reform of the House of Lords and for the adjustment of differences between the two Houses.
Among the Measures which will be presented for your consideration the following Bills will be submitted: A Bill relating to the establishment of an International Trade Corporation; a Bill to enable the Government to give effect to the policy of co-operation in Empire settlement and Migration; a Bill to amend the Criminal Law Amendment Acts, 1885 to 1912; and a Bill relating to Allotments.
There will also be laid before you a Bill substituting yearly audit for half-yearly audit in the case of Rural District Councils and Boards of Guardians, and other Measures framed to give effect to the policy of retrenchment to which I have referred.
Proposals which were submitted to you last year will again be laid before you for the amendment of the law relating to real property and to the methods of land transfer.
And I pray that the blessing of Almighty God may rest upon your deliberations.