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House of Lords

Thursday, 17th October 1996.

The House met at half-past nine of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers--Read by the Lord Bishop of Birmingham.

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 Richard, and the Lord Weatherill) 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 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, 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.

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, in obedience to Her Majesty's Commands, and by virtue of the Commission which has been now 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 in the Commission mentioned; and the Clerks are required to pass the same in the usual Form and Words.

Royal Assent

The following Acts received the Royal Assent:

Public Order (Amendment) Act,

London Local Authorities Act.

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,

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"The Duke of Edinburgh and I were pleased to receive the State Visits of His Excellency the President of France in May and the President of the Republic of South Africa in July. We remember with great pleasure our State Visits to Poland and the Czech Republic in March.

"My Government were pleased to receive the President of the United States of America in London and Northern Ireland in November.

"My Government have continued to make provision for the defence of the United Kingdom and our allies and for the promotion of international peace and stability. The United Kingdom was among the leading participants in peace support operations.

"An Act was passed to bring the law governing our Reserve Forces up to date, and permitting them to be used more flexibly.

"My Government have continued to support the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and assumed the Presidency of the Western European Union between January and June. They welcomed the decisions on European security and defence at the Berlin meeting of the North Atlantic Council.

"My Government played a full part in the successful conclusion of the Review Conference of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, and in strengthening restrictions in the United Nations Weaponry Convention by negotiating a Protocol on the use and transfer of landmines and laser blinding weapons.

"An Act was passed to implement the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention in the United Kingdom, following which my Government ratified the Convention. They welcomed the opening for signature of a verifiable Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

"A leading role was played by my Government in securing the peace agreement for Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was signed in Paris. They held a conference in London which mapped out a strategy for implementing the agreement. In addition to contributing to the diplomatic effort to bring peace and stability to the region, they maintained over 9,000 Service men and women in the former Yugoslavia throughout the year as part of the NATO led military implementation force. My Government also contributed substantially to reconstruction projects to restore basic utilities for the people of Bosnia and rebuild their country. They helped to ensure the holding of elections supervised by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe in furtherance of the Dayton Peace Agreement.

"In the European Union, my Government promoted policies aimed at increasing competitiveness and sustainable economic growth. They participated in meetings of the Intergovernmental Conference and in preparations for Economic and Monetary Union. They worked to encourage sound financial management in the European Community. They continued to support strongly the enlargement of the European Union, and welcomed the association agreement with Slovenia. A British team of observers participated at the Russian Presidential elections.

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"My Government worked for free trade through continuing negotiations within the World Trade Organisation, through the "New Transatlantic Agenda" agreed between the European Union and the United States, and through EU and bilateral contacts with Japan and other trading partners.

"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 Union partners.

"My Government contributed fully to the first Summit of Asian and European nations, held in Bangkok, which marked an important development in relations between the two regions. In the interests of the people of Hong Kong, my Government continued to work towards a successful transfer of sovereignty to China in 1997.

"Reducing poverty in the poorest countries remained a priority. My Government's advocacy of multilateral debt relief for the poorest, most indebted nations contributed to new arrangements being adopted by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Paris Club of bilateral creditors.

"Vigorous action continued to be taken to protect the environment, and against terrorism, drugs, money laundering and organised crime, in the United Kingdom and overseas. Legislation was passed to enable the Security Service to act in support of the police and other law enforcement agencies against serious crime. An Act has been passed, giving the police additional powers to combat terrorism.

"In Northern Ireland my Government have continued to work towards a political settlement, based on a policy of dialogue with all the parties in Northern Ireland which are committed to peaceful and democratic methods and in co-operation with the Irish Government. They have maintained progress towards the improvement of economic and social conditions.

"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 firm financial policies which have created the conditions for sustained economic growth, rising prosperity and falling unemployment while maintaining low inflation. Measures have been taken to ensure that the public sector borrowing requirement continues to fall.

"My Government showed their commitment to improving the nation's competitiveness through the White Paper Competitiveness: Creating the Enterprise Centre of Europe. The United Kingdom continues to be the most successful country in the European Union in attracting inward investment. Legislation was passed to improve the system of arbitration for business and other users. Over 400 deregulatory proposals were brought forward.

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"My Government continued to pursue a programme of privatisation including the successful sale of British Energy and Railtrack. They made progress with public sector reform and involving the private sector in the delivery of public services.

"An Act has been passed to provide a framework for the introduction of digital terrestrial broadcasting and to liberalise the regulation of cross-media ownership.

"My Government have intensified action to eradicate BSE in the United Kingdom; have introduced vigorous measures in response to the market crisis in beef; and have secured European Union arrangements to support these efforts and a framework for lifting the beef export ban.

"The criminal justice system has been strengthened through legislation to improve procedures in criminal cases, including those for prosecution and defence disclosure.

"An Act has been passed to streamline the handling of asylum applications, to strengthen enforcement of immigration control and to restrict access to social benefits by people from abroad.

"Legislation has been passed to make better provision for housing, taking forward my Government's strategy of continued growth in home ownership, provision of affordable social housing and a sustained revival in private renting; and to improve dispute resolution and payment procedures in the construction industry.

"An Act has been passed to expand provision of nursery education and to allow grant maintained schools to borrow to improve their buildings.

"Legislation was passed to enable local authorities to make payments to groups of people who want to purchase their own community care.

"An Act has been passed which reforms the ground for divorce, introduces mediation into family proceedings and improves the law on domestic violence. Further law reform measures have been enacted.

"In Scotland legislation was enacted to reform education and training and to improve the conservation and control of wild deer.

"Other important measures have been enacted.

"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 the 23rd day of this instant October, to be then here holden, and this Parliament is accordingly prorogued to Wednesday, the 23rd day of this instant October.