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7 pm

Sitting suspended.

30 Nov 2000 : Column 1231

7.32 pm

On resuming--

Message to attend the Lords Commissioners:

The House went; and, having returned:


8 pm

Mr. Speaker: 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, authorising the Royal Assent to the following Acts:

Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000

Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000

Freedom of Information Act 2000

Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000

Transport Act 2000

Insolvency Act 2000

Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act 2000

Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000

Disqualifications Act 2000

Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000

Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2000


Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech

Mr. Speaker: I have further to acquaint the House that the Lord High Chancellor, one of the Lord Commissioners, delivered Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech to both Houses of Parliament, in pursuance of Her Majesty's Command. For greater accuracy, I have obtained a copy and also directed that the terms of the speech be printed in the Journal of the House. Copies are being made available in the Vote Office.

The Gracious Speech was as follows:

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons

My Government has taken action to secure economic stability and steady growth, based on its long-term objectives for monetary and fiscal policy. The goal is high and stable levels of growth and employment. My Government has sought to secure the conditions which enable it to increase investment in public services.

Improving education continues to be my Government's highest priority. An Act has been passed to establish a new Learning and Skills Council to secure high standards for post-16 education and training and a new emphasis on securing skills needed in the economy

Legislation has been passed to improve health and social care, reforming the system for protection of vulnerable people.

My Government has published an NHS Plan, setting out a programme of investment and reform for the health service. The Plan will redesign NHS services to focus on the needs of patients, and will be supported by a sustained increase in NHS funding.

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To ensure high levels of employment, my Government is continuing the New Deal to help more young people and the long-term unemployed, and announced the creation of a new Working Age agency to continue the progress made on developing Welfare to Work policies.

My Government is continually looking for ways to improve productivity, including in the public sector. The spending plans announced in July were accompanied by Public Service Agreements setting out targets for service improvement. An Act has-been passed to introduce the latest accounting methods in Whitehall.

My Government is committed to delivering a competitive and well-regulated economy. An Act has been passed which reforms the regulatory framework for the gas and electricity sectors in England and Wales. Legislation has been enacted to transform the Post Office into a plc owned by the Government. Legislation has also been passed to improve the regulation of financial services and markets, establishing the Financial Services Authority as the single statutory regulator. An Act has been passed to remove legal barriers and create a framework of trust to make it easier for commercial transactions and Government services to take place electronically.

An Act has been passed to reform the child support system. It also reforms the State Earnings Related Pension Scheme through the introduction of a State Second Pension and provides for the withdrawal of benefits from offenders who fail to complete community sentences.

Measures have been put forward to reduce crime. An Act has been passed to improve the protection of children from violent and sex offenders and to strengthen community sentences. Legislation has been enacted to provide new powers for the police and courts to tackle disorder connected with football matches.

An Act has been passed to put in place permanent UK-wide legislation against terrorism. Legislation has also been passed to update and regulate law enforcement capabilities to address changes in technology and the introduction of the Human Rights Act.

An Act has been passed which fulfils my Government's promise to legislate on a range of transport issues. This reforms air traffic control, railways and local transport services. My Government has published a ten-year plan for the modernisation of the country's transport system.

My Government has continued its plans for the reform of local government. An Act has been passed to improve its accountability and innovation. An Act has been passed to give the public a new right of access to open countryside. It also improves the law on rights of way and the management of Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Areas of Outstanding National Beauty and strengthens the enforcement of wildlife law.

My Government has continued its programme of constitutional reform. Legislation has been enacted which will give the public a statutory right of access to information held by public authorities.

An Act has been passed to regulate the funding of political parties and campaign expenditure and to ensure the fair conduct of referendums. My Government is determined to improve equality of opportunity. An Act has been passed outlawing race discrimination in certain public functions and placing a duty on specified public authorities to promote race equality.

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My Government has continued to co-operate with the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the interests of all of the people in the United Kingdom. In Northern Ireland my Government has worked closely with the Irish Government to secure full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. It has fulfilled its commitment to transfer powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly in accordance with the wishes of the people as expressed in a referendum.

An Act has been passed to implement recommendations of the Report of the Independent Commission on policing in Northern Ireland. My Government will continue to implement other parts of the Good Friday agreement within its responsibility.

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

The Duke of Edinburgh and I were pleased to receive the State Visit of Her Majesty Queen Margrethe of Denmark and Prince Henrik in February.

We recall with pleasure our visit to Australia in March. Similarly we were delighted to pay a State Visit to Italy and a Visit to the Holy See in October.

My Government has continued to take a leading role in the European Union. The Special European Council in Lisbon signalled new developments in Europe' s approach to economic and social reform.

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Preparing for enlargement is a challenge for the European Union, and my Government is playing a key role. My Government has worked for practical measures to strengthen the European Union's foreign and security policy and continues to work with our allies to strengthen and modernise NATO.

My Government has made a large political, military and financial commitment to build peace and stability in the Balkans. It has played a leading role in helping to rebuild Kosovo.

My Government has taken decisive action in support of the UN operation in Sierra Leone, and continued to support the UN in bringing self-determination to the people of East Timor.In the G8 and other forums my Government has taken a leading role in tackling issues of poverty eradication, debt relief and the causes of conflict.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons

I pray that the blessing of Almighty God may attend you.

A Commission was also read for proroguing this present Parliament, and the Lord Chancellor said:

End of the Third Session (opened on 17 November 1999) of the Fifty-Second Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in the Forty-Ninth Year of the Reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second.

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