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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.
"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
"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 under way 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.
"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 has 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 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.
"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 had 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.
"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.
"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.
"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 Protections 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.
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 24th day of this instant November, to be then here holden, and this Parliament is accordingly prorogued to Tuesday, the 24th day of this instant November.
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