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At the Summit meeting in Rome last November, NATO agreed a new Strategic Concept and set up the North Atlantic Co-operation Council, which at its Ministerial meeting on 10th March formally admitted republics of the Commonwealth of Independent States as members following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
My Government welcomed President Yeltsin to London on his first official visit as President of the Russian Federation. They are contributing directly to international efforts to dismantle weapons of mass destruction in the .former Soviet Union and to economic reform programmes there. The European Community have agreed emergency food aid grants and credits worth over £1·5 billion.
My Government contributed significantly to the successful outcome to the European Council at Maastricht. Negotiations were concluded in the Inter-Governmental Conferences on Economic and Monetary Union, and on Political Union. The Treaty was signed on 7th February. My Government have continued to work within the Community to complete the Single European Market; to promote budgetary discipline; and to reform the Common Agricultural Policy; and for the conclusion of the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations. Agreement in principle has been reached to extend the Single Market to the European Free Trade Area from 1993.
The Community have also moved to consolidate relations with the new democracies to the East. Three Association Agreements, which were originally proposed by the United Kingdom have been signed with Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland, and the trade liberalisation provisions of these Agreements have now come into effect.
In Yugoslavia, My Government have strongly supported the European Community's peace conference under Lord Carrington's chairmanship. They recognised the independence of Croatia and Slovenia. They participated fully in discussions leading to the adoption of a United Nations' Security Council Resolution to authorise the deployment of a peace-keeping force.
My Government have continued to pursue, within the framework of the Exchange Rate Mechanism, firm financial policies which have successfully reduced inflation. They are committed to maintaining the conditions necessary for sustained growth, the promotion of enterprise and training and the improvement of the working of the economy.
Action has been taken to improve quality, choice and opportunity in education. Legislation has been enacted to reform funding of further education and sixth form colleges and to reform higher education in England and Wales. An Act has been passed to provide parents with more information about the performance of schools and to improve school inspection.
My Government have continued to work for the regeneration of our cities, developing the new partnerships between local authorities, the private sector and local communities within the City Challenge framework. They have continued to promote diversity of choice in housing, and have taken steps to extend and improve the stock of social housing. Legislation has been passed to enable income support in relation to mortgage interest payments to be paid directly to lenders. An Act has been passed to increase temporarily the threshold for payment of stamp duty on house purchase.
Measures have been enacted for England and Wales to create an offence of prison mutiny, to increase the maximum penalties for aiding prisoners to escape and for harbouring escaped prisoners, and to ensure that anyone guilty of taking a vehicle without consent is liable to a more severe sentence in aggravated circumstances.
Thereafter, a Commission proroguing this present 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 Monday the twenty-third day of this instant March, to be then here holden, and this Parliament is accordingly prorogued to Monday the twenty-third day of this instant March.