§ My Lords and Gentlemen,
§ I was much impressed and gratified by the warmth of the public reception given to the Queen and myself during our recent visit to the German Emperor and Empress at Berlin by all classes of the community. It afforded us great pleasure to meet their Majesties again, and I feel confident that the expression of cordial welcome which there greeted us will tend to strengthen those amicable feelings between the two countries which are essential to their mutual welfare and to the maintenance of peace.
§ My relations with foreign Powers continue to be friendly.
§ Satisfactory progress has been made in the negotiation of outstanding questions with the United States of America. A treaty to regulate the use of the waterways adjacent to the international boundary between Canada and the United States has been arranged. The question being one of special Canadian interest, the advice of the Dominion Government was sought and followed throughout.
§ My Ambassador at Washington has also negotiated, with the co-operation of the Canadian and Newfoundland Ministers of Justice, an Agreement for the reference to arbitration of the North American Fisheries question. I trust that the Agreement will be the means of effecting a final and friendly settlement of matters which have been long under discussion between this country and the United States.
§ Arbitration Agreements concluded by my Government with those of France, Italy, and Spain, which were on the point of expiring, have been renewed for a further term of five years, and it is proposed to treat similar instruments in the same manner.
§ The situation in Persia continues to cause anxiety. My Government have no desire to depart from the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of that country. At the same time, they are of opinion that the state of affairs in Persia imperatively demands the introduction of representative institutions in a practical form, in order to assure the realisation of indispensable economic, financial, and administrative reforms, and to pacify the country. As the present troubles endanger numerous commercial and economic interests which Great Britain and Russia have in Persia, the two Governments are exchanging views on the subject.
§ I am happy to think that there is now an improved prospect of a solution of the difficulties which have arisen in the Balkans. It 13 is my earnest hope that a settlement may be arrived at which will be satisfactory to all the States whose interests are concerned.
§ The news of the disastrous earthquake which occurred recently in Sicily and Calabria called forth the deepest feelings of compassion for the afflicted population. Assistance was rendered by the officers and men of my Fleet, and the naval and military stores in the Mediterranean were utilised for the relief of the sufferers. I am glad that my people have shown their sympathy with the friendly nation of Italy in this terrible calamity.
§ An International Conference, which is now sitting in London, will, I trust, soon reach an agreement on certain questions of maritime law. The conclusions arrived at will be laid before you, that there may be due oppotunity of considering them when your assent is asked to such legislation as may be necessary to enable my Government to ratify the International Prtze Court Convention.
§ The reception of the measures designed by my Government for improving Indian administration has given me deep satisfaction. A Bill will at once be laid before you, dealing with matters in which your sanction is required; and it is my strong desire that the steps to be taken for giving effect to the policy announced in my Message of last November to the Princes and people of India may impartially protect the interests and advance the welfare of all races, classes, and communities in my Indian dominions.
§ The work accomplished by the Convention for closer Union, which concluded its sittings at Cape Town in the present month, in framing the plan of a South African Constitution for submission to the constituent Colonies marks the achievement of the first stage in the consolidation of that important part of my Empire.
§ Gentlemen of the House of Commons,
§ Estimates for the expenditure of the year will in due course be laid before you.
§ Owing to various causes, including the new provision which was made last year for old age, and an increase which has become necessary in the cost of my Navy, the expenditure of the year will be considerably in excess of that of the past twelve months. In these circumstances, the provision necessary for the services of the State in the ensuing year will require very serious consideration, and, in consequence, less time than usual will, I fear, be available for the consideration of other legislative measures.14
§ My Lords and Gentlemen,
§ The Bills dealing with Irish Land and Housing and Town Planning, to the discussion of which time and labour were given in your last Session, will be re-introduced.
§ A Bill will be laid before you for the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church in Wales.
§ I have now received the Report of the Commission, which I appointed more than three years ago, to inquire into the working of the Poor Law, and into the provision for meeting distress arising from want of employment. The recommendations of the Commission are engaging the careful attention of my Government.
§ A measure will be proposed for the better organisation of the labour market through a system of co-ordinated labour exchanges, with which other schemes for dealing with unemployment may subsequently be associated.
§ A Bill will be introduced for the constitution of Trade Boards in certain branches of industry in which the evils known as "sweating" prevail.
§ A measure will be laid before you to alter the law affecting Parliamentary Elections and Registration in London.
§ In connection with the financial arrangements of the year, proposals will be brought forward for amending the Old-Age Pensions Act in certain particulars where, in practice, inequalities of treatment have been found to arise.
§ A Bill prohibiting the landing and selling in the United Kingdom of fish caught in prohibited areas of the sea adjoining Scotland will also be introduced.
§ Bills will be presented to amend the law in regard to inebriates, to the supply of milk, and to the hours of work in shops.
§ Your labours upon these and all other matters I humbly commend to the blessing of Almighty God.