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House of Lords

Friday, 21st March 1997.

The House met at eleven of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers--Read by the Lord Bishop of Ripon.

Royal Commission

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern): My Lords, it not being convenient for Her Majesty to be personally present here this day, she has been pleased to cause a Commission under the Great Seal to be prepared for proroguing this present Parliament.

Then, the Lords Commissioners (being the Lord Chancellor, the Viscount Cranborne, the Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, the Lord Ampthill and the Lord Richard) being present and the Commons being at the Bar, the Lord Chancellor said: My Lords and Members of the House of Commons, Her Majesty, not thinking fit to be personally present here at this time, has been pleased to cause a Commission to be issued under the Great Seal, and thereby given Her Royal Assent to divers Acts and a Measure which have been agreed upon by both Houses of Parliament, the Titles whereof are particularly mentioned, and by the said Commission has commanded Us to declare and notify Her Royal Assent to the said several Acts and Measure, in the presence of you the Lords and Commons assembled for that purpose; and has also assigned to us and other Lords directed full power and authority in Her Majesty's name to prorogue this present Parliament. Which Commission you will now hear read.

A Commission for Royal Assent and Prorogation was read.

Royal Assent

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, in obedience to Her Majesty's Commands, and by virtue of the Commission which has now been read, We do declare and notify to you, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons in Parliament assembled, that Her Majesty has given Her Royal Assent to the several Acts and Measure in the Commission mentioned; and the Clerks are required to pass the same in the usual Form and Words.

The following Acts and Measure received the Royal Assent:

Appropriation Act, Building Societies Act, Confiscation of Alcohol (Young Persons) Act, Contract (Scotland) Act, Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman and Commissioner for Local Administration in Scotland Act, Flood Prevention and Land Drainage (Scotland) Act, Welsh Development Agency Act,

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Prisons (Alcohol Testing) Act, Sexual Offences (Protected Material) Act, Protection from Harassment Act, Building Societies (Distributions) Act, Police (Health and Safety) Act, Crime (Sentences) Act, Education Act, Police (Insurance of Voluntary Assistants) Act, National Health Service (Primary Care) Act, Social Security Administration (Fraud) Act, Crime and Punishment (Scotland) Act, Public Entertainments Licences (Drug Misuse) Act, Police Act, Sex Offenders Act, Police and Firemen's Pensions Act, Dangerous Dogs (Amendment) Act, Road Traffic Reduction Act, Birds (Registration Charges) Act, Pensions Measure.

Prorogation: Her Majesty's Speech

Her Majesty's Most gracious Speech was then delivered to both Houses of Parliament by the Lord 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 very pleased to receive His Excellency the President of Israel on a State Visit in February. We remember with great pleasure our State Visit to Thailand in October.

"My Government continued to provide for the defence of the United Kingdom, the Dependent Territories and our allies, and for the protection of international peace and stability.

"My Government have continued to support the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and welcomed its decision in December to hold a Summit meeting in Madrid in July this year at which decisions will be taken on the adaptation and enlargement of the Alliance. My Government have supported the work of the Alliance to develop a new partnership with Russia.

"In the European Union, my Government have promoted policies aimed at greater competitiveness. They have participated in meetings of the Intergovernmental Conference and on Economic and Monetary Union.

"My Government continued strongly to support enlargement of the European Union and the necessary reform of EU policies. They have continued to promote transatlantic relations, both bilaterally and through the Union.

"In November, my Government published a White Paper on Free Trade and Foreign Policy, which calls for global free trade by 2020. The first Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation, which took place in December 1996, made good progress towards this goal.

"In Bosnia and Herzegovina, my Government have continued to play a leading role in consolidating peace. They held a conference in London in December 1996 to

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set a framework for peace implementation in 1997, and have continued to contribute substantially to the country's economic and social regeneration. They are also maintaining 5,000 Servicemen and women in former Yugoslavia, as part of the NATO-led military stabilisation force.

"In the interests of the people of Hong Kong, my Government continued to work for a successful transfer of sovereignty to China on 30th June this year.

"My Government have continued to support the work of the United Nations Secretary General's mission of good offices in the search for a settlement on the divided island of Cyprus.

"In the Middle East, my Government worked for and welcomed the agreement between Israel and the Palestinians on redeployment in Hebron, and were closely involved in international efforts to reduce tensions and support the implementation of that and earlier agreements.

"My Government launched two campaigns for the promotion of trade and investment, one in respect of Central and Eastern Europe and one in respect of South East Asia. They also held a successful conference in February to help strengthen trade, investment and bilateral links with Latin America.

"A large and effective development assistance programme was maintained, aimed at promoting sustainable development and reducing poverty and suffering in the poorer parts of the world. My Government continued to play a full part in promoting democracy and the rule of law throughout Africa and tackling the grave problems of the Great Lakes Region.

"Support continued for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia in their transition to democratic market economies, through the Know How Fund and with our European partners.

"My Government continued to play an active part in the Commonwealth and to prepare for a successful Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, to be held in October in Edinburgh.

"My Government played a full part in supporting the work of the United Nations and its peacekeeping operations, and participated actively in the debate on the reform of the organisation.

"My Government have maintained the fight against terrorism in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. They have pursued a comprehensive strategy to combat drug misuse, by tackling the supply of narcotic drugs at home and abroad and pursuing measures to reduce demand.

"Members of the House of Commons,

"I thank you for the provision you have made for the honour and dignity of the Crown and for the public service.

"My Lords and Members of the House of Commons,

"My Government have pursued economic policies which have brought about sustained growth in output, rising living standards and falling unemployment, while keeping inflation at its lowest levels for nearly 50 years. Public expenditure has been kept under firm control,

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income tax has been reduced and measures have been taken to ensure that the public sector borrowing requirement continues to fall.

"My Government have continued to promote the nation's competitiveness, following up the policies and initiatives set out in the Third Competitiveness White Paper published in June, and to encourage fewer, better and simpler regulations to reduce unnecessary burdens on business. Over 1,000 regulations have now been repealed or amended.

"In Northern Ireland, my Government have continued to work towards a political settlement, through talks open to all elected political parties that demonstrate a commitment to peaceful and democratic methods. Renewed terrorist activity has been dealt with vigorously by the security forces. My Government have maintained close co-operation with the Irish Government. An Act has been passed to provide a framework for the decommissioning of arms.

"Legislation was passed to improve discipline and raise standards in education.

"An Act has been passed to support the fight against organised crime. Legislation has also been enacted to reform the sentencing and supervision of serious, dangerous and persistent offenders so as to provide greater protection for the public. An Act has been passed to strengthen controls on the ownership of firearms.

"Measures have been enacted to impose a requirement on convicted sex offenders to register changes of address with the police and to give our courts jurisdiction over sex offences committed against children abroad. Legislation has also been passed to provide protection through the criminal and civil law to victims of harassment.

"My Government have set a framework for environmental action with new strategies for air quality, water resources, recycling and urban regeneration. With their European partners, they have secured agreement to targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

"Legislation was enacted to improve maritime safety and strengthen powers to protect the United Kingdom coastline from pollution from merchant shipping. An Act has been passed to authorise the construction and operation of a high speed rail link between London and the Channel Tunnel.

"An Act has been passed to improve and develop primary health care services. Legislation has been passed which will reduce social security fraud and improve the scheme to recover benefits from compensation payments.

"An Act has been passed to enable reform of the procedures of the civil courts.

"Legislation has been enacted to implement proposals to strengthen the role of parish and community councils, to provide rate relief for small village shops and to remove Crown exemption from non-domestic rates.

"For Scotland an Act has been passed to make changes in criminal justice to improve public protection. Other Scottish measures which have been enacted include legislation to enable the transfer of publicly owned crofting estates to crofting trusts.

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"Other important measures have been enacted, including measures of law reform.

"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:

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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 15th day of this instant April, to be then here holden, and this Parliament is accordingly prorogued to the 15th day of this instant April.

        Parliament was prorogued at twenty-one minutes before midday.

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