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House of Commons
Session 1997-98
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House of Commons Votes and Proceedings
Thursday 19th November 1998

The House met at half-past Two o'clock.
1Public Petitions,—A Public Petition from residents of the Coatbridge and Chryston constituency concerning the maintenance of adequate Post Office facilities in Muirhead was presented; and ordered to lie upon the Table and to be printed.
2Message to attend the Lords Commissioners,—A Message from the Lords Commissioners was delivered by the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod.
        Madam Speaker,
        The Lords, authorised by virtue of Her Majesty's Commission, for declaring Her Royal Assent to several Acts agreed upon by both Houses and for proroguing the present Parliament, desire the immediate attendance of this Honourable House in the House of Peers, to hear the Commission read.
        Accordingly the Speaker, with the House, went up to the House of Peers, where a Commission was read, giving, declaring and notifying the Royal Assent to several Acts, and for proroguing this present Parliament.
        The Royal Assent was given to the following Acts:—
          Statute Law Repeals Act 1998
          Waste Minimisation Act 1998
          Regional Development Agencies Act 1998
          Scotland Act 1998
          Northern Ireland Act 1998
          Registration of Political Parties Act 1998.
        And afterwards Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech was delivered to both Houses of Parliament by the Lord High Chancellor (in pursuance of Her Majesty's Command) as follows:
 My Lords and Members of the House of Commons:
        The Duke of Edinburgh and I were pleased to receive the State Visits of his Excellency the President of Brazil in December 1997 and of Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan in May this year. We remember with great pleasure our visit to Canada in June and our State Visits to Pakistan and India in October 1997 and to Brunei and Malaysia in September of this year. Likewise I remember my visit to France and Belgium on 11 November.
        My Government promised to govern for the benefit of the whole nation.
        In Northern Ireland, my Government have continued to work towards peace, stability and reconciliation. Their efforts to promote a comprehensive political settlement contributed to the Agreement reached in the multi-party talks. They have moved speedily to implement that Agreement, which was overwhelmingly endorsed by the people of Northern Ireland in a referendum. They have continued to foster the improvement of economic and social conditions through inward investment and other means. New measures for tackling terrorism have been introduced following the Omagh bombing.
        The education of young people has been my Government's top priority. Legislation has been enacted to help raise standards in schools and phase out the assisted places scheme. The money saved has been used to cut class sizes. An Act has also been passed to reform teacher training, create a General Teaching Council and introduce new student support arrangements. Green Papers have been published setting out plans to help those with special educational needs and promote lifelong learning.
        The process of modernising the National Health Service has begun. The largest ever capital programme is underway following the passage of the NHS (Private Finance) Act. My Government have appointed the first ever Minister for Public Health and outlined their strategy for reducing inequalities in health. Steps have also been taken to ensure that Health and Local Authorities work together effectively, particularly to improve the services for children in care.
        My Government have pursued economic policies aimed at delivering stable levels of economic growth, employment and opportunities for all.
        To that end, measures have been taken to put the economy firmly on course for steady growth with low inflation. Legislation has been enacted to give the Bank of England operational responsibility for setting interest rates, in order to deliver price stability and support the Government's overall economic policy within a framework of enhanced accountability.
        Tough fiscal rules have been introduced and firm action taken to meet them, by reducing public borrowing. The new fiscal policy framework including a Code for Fiscal Stability, underpinned by legislation, will ensure that decisions on the public finances promote Britain's long-term economic goals.
        My Government promised to attack youth and long term unemployment. They have already begun to expand employment opportunities and to make work pay. Reform of the tax and benefit systems to ensure that people are better off in work has begun, and the New Deal programmes are already extending new work opportunities to people who had been excluded from the labour market.
        An Act has been passed which begins the process of modernising the Social Security system, particularly in the areas of decision making appeals and National Insurance contributions. And proposals for further welfare reform have been presented to Parliament to promote work for those who are able to work and security for those who cannot.
        My Government have worked with business to promote sustainable growth. A wide range of measures have been introduced to encourage investment in industry, skills and new technologies and to increase productivity. To encourage entrepreneurship and to help create successful and profitable businesses, an Act to reform the framework for competition for business and industry has been enacted, and the structure of corporation taxes has been reformed.
        My Government are committed to fairness at work. Legislation has been passed which will lead to the introduction of a National Minimum Wage.
        My Government have completed a comprehensive review of public expenditure, reallocating spending to match priorities and eliminate waste and inefficiency. Within firm three year limits, additional resources have been provided for education, health and transport; and the new Investing in Britain Fund will double net public investment over the Parliament, providing for the renewal reform and modernisation of Britain's infrastructure.
        A White Paper has been published setting out plans for an integrated transport policy in England and Wales, aimed at providing better transport services, and reducing congestion and pollution from transport.
        Legislation was enacted to strengthen the local authority capital finance system.
        Measures have been put forward to combat crime. Legislation has been passed to provide for radical reform of the youth justice system, local partnerships to cut crime and disorder and measures to reduce offending. Legislation has also been enacted to prohibit the private possession of all handguns.
        To ensure that as many people as possible have access to the benefits of the National Lottery, an Act has been passed to extend the scope of Lottery distribution to encompass health, education and the environment. It also included measures to improve regulation.
        Decentralisation is essential to my Government's vision of a modern nation. An Act has been passed to enable people in Scotland and Wales to vote on proposals for a devolved Scottish Parliament and the establishment of the National Assembly for Wales. These have been approved in Referendums in Scotland and Wales and Acts have been passed to implement them. My Government have also taken a first step towards decentralising decision-taking to the English regions.
        A White Paper has been published setting out a 10 year programme for the reform and renewal of local governance in England and an Act has been passed which enabled the people of London to vote in a referendum on my Government's proposals for an elected Mayor and Assembly for London. These proposals were approved in a referendum on 7th May, and a Bill is to be introduced to implement them.
        An Act has been passed to establish Regional Development Agencies in England to bring a regional focus to the economic development and regeneration of the English Regions.
        My Government are committed to open and transparent Government. Legislation has been passed to strengthen the data protection controls over the use of personal information about individuals and an Act has been passed to give full effect in the United Kingdom law to the rights and freedoms guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights.
 Members of the House of Commons
        I thank you for the provision you have made for the work and dignity of the Crown and for the public service.
 My Lords and Members of the House of Commons
        My Government have taken a leading role in the European Union. They negotiated and signed the Treaty of Amsterdam which included provisions enabling the UK to opt into the social chapter. The United Kingdom has now ratified the Treaty. They took part in initial negotiations on the European Commission's Agenda 2000 proposals which included reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.
        During the United Kingdom's Presidency of the European Union, efforts were made to promote employment and to improve competitiveness. Negotiations on enlargement were opened and good progress was made on key Presidency priorities for co-operation in the European Union, including the fight against drugs and crime, an effective external policy, economic reform, and an agreement to a code of conduct on arms export. My Government oversaw the historic decision confirming that eleven Member States met the conditions for joining the single currency, as well as the establishment of the European Central Bank.
        My Government have allocated additional resources to tackle global poverty and to promote sustainable development. They are implementing the policies set out in the White Paper on International Development.
        In May this year, the G8 Summit in Birmingham agreed measures to promote employability at home and the development of poorer countries abroad, help the environment and tackle international crime. They also successfully hosted an Asia-Europe meeting in April 1998 and the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Edinburgh in October 1997.
        Vigorous action has been taken to protect the environment, and against terrorism, drugs, money laundering and organised crime. My Government played a leading part in securing agreement at the Kyoto Conference on Climate Change to commitments to binding reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions.
        The United Kingdom played a full part in the negotiations which led to the agreement in July to establish the International Criminal Court.
        My Government put human rights at the centre of foreign policy and published the first Annual Report on Human Rights. They ratified the two Additional Protocols to the Geneva convention on the Protection of Victims of War, adopted an abolitionist stance on the death penalty, and took steps to prevent the export of torture equipment. They hosted a conference on Nazi Gold, and helped set up a relief fund for victims of Nazi persecution.
        As evidence of their commitment to international peace and security, my Government passed legislation enabling the United Kingdom to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the Ottawa Convention banning anti-personnel landmines. They will continue to urge all those who have not done so to adhere to these treaties.
        Progress has also been made to reform and strengthen the United Nations.
        My Government have worked to modernise our defence capability so that it matches the changing strategic setting. The Strategic Defence Review—the most far reaching reform of our armed forces since the war—reassessed our security interests and defence needs and provided the Armed Forces and all those who work in defence with a clear long-term vision. Arrangements for strong and modern defence based on the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation have been maintained and my Government played a major role in the decisions taken at NATO's Madrid Summit and in the steps taken to strengthen NATO's relationships with Russia, and they have notified the UK acceptance of the accession to the Alliance of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland.
 My Lords and Members of the House of Commons
        I pray that the blessing of Almighty God may attend you.
        After which the Lord Chancellor said:
        My Lords and Members of the House of Commons:
        By virtue of Her Majesty's Commission which has been now read we do, in Her Majesty's name, and in obedience to Her Majesty's Commands, prorogue this Parliament to Tuesday the twenty-fourth day of this instant November, to be then here holden, and this Parliament is accordingly prorogued to Tuesday the twenty-fourth day of this instant November.
Betty Boothroyd

Papers presented or laid upon the Table:
Papers subject to Affirmative Resolution:
1Police,—(1) Draft Police Act 1997 (Authorisation of Action in Respect of Property) (Code of Practice) Order 1998
        (2) Draft Police Act 1997 (Notification of Authorisations etc.) Order 1998
    [by Act] [Mr Secretary Straw].
Papers subject to Negative Resolution:
2Commercial Agents,—Commercial Agents (Council Directive) (Amendment) Regulations 1998 (S.I., 1998, No. 2868), dated 19th November 1998 [by Act] [Mr Secretary Mandelson].
3National Health Service,—National Health Service (General Medical Services) Amendment (No. 2) Regulations 1998 (S.I., 1998, No. 2838), dated 18th November 1998 [by Act] [Mr Secretary Dobson].
Other Papers:
4Financial Regulation (Crown Dependencies),—Review of Financial Regulation in the Crown Dependencies [by Command] [Cm. 4109-I, II, III and IV] [Mr Secretary Straw].
5Parliamentary Papers,—Alphabetical Index to the Bills, House of Commons Papers and Command Papers in the House of Commons set of parliamentary papers with notes on the volume arrangement and summary of legislation, Session 1997-98, Fifty-second Parliament, First Session, 46th and 47th Elizabeth II, 7th May 1997 to 19th November 1998, to be printed [No. 1203] [The Speaker].
Reports from Select Committees
1European Legislation,—Minutes of Evidence taken before the Select Committee on European Legislation on 10th December 1997 and 11th February 1998 [Tobacco Advertising]; to be printed [No. 1204] [Mr Jimmy Hood].

Thursday 19th November 1998
 The Speaker has appointed the following Members to serve for the duration of the present Parliament on the committee to advise the registrar of political parties established under section 10 of the Registration of Political Parties Act 1998: Mr Alan Beith, Mrs Virginia Bottomley, Mrs Gwyneth Dunwoody, Mr Derek Foster, Mrs Llin Golding, Sir Alastair Goodlad, Mr Barry Jones, Mr Gerald Kaufman and Mr Peter Viggers.

 In the Votes and Proceedings for Wednesday 18th November:
        (1) in page 1262, item 41, the printing number of the Minutes of Proceedings of European Standing Committee A should have been [No. 1195] rather than [No. 1185]; and
        (2) in Appendix II, page 1267, item 7 (2) (relating to the Committee of Public Accounts) should have read "Sixty-ninth Report from the Committee [The Performance of the NHS Cervical Screening Programme in England]" rather than "Seventieth Report from the Committee [The Performance of the NHS Cervical Screening Programme in England]".

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Revised 20 November 1998