King George VI – 1947 King’s Speech

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Below is the text of the speech made by King George VI in the House of Lords on 21 October 1947.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons,

In the Session which opens to-day the nation is faced with grave economic difficulties affecting almost the entire world. Upon their successful solution depends the well-being of My people. My Government are determined to use every means in their power to overcome these difficulties.

I am confident that in these times of hardship My people will demonstrate once again to the world their qualities of resolution and energy. With sustained effort this nation will continue to play its full part in leading the world back to prosperity and freedom.

The first aim of My Ministers will be to redress the adverse balance of payments, particularly by expanding exports. This will demand increased production and the sale abroad of a larger share of output. The task to be performed by each industry has been set out and, in conjunction with all those engaged in industry, My Government will do their best to provide the means to carry out these tasks.

My Ministers will give all possible help to those who work on the land, in order to increase still more the home production of food. Legislation will be introduced to provide for the improvement and development of Scottish agriculture so that Scotland may play its full part in the campaign for higher production.

With a view to increasing exports and saving imports which can be replaced by home products, steps will be taken to ensure that man-power is used to the best national advantage, and, in particular, to expand the numbers employed in the coal-mining, agricultural and textile industries. The working of the reimposed labour controls will be watched closely and My Government will take measures to bring into essential work those who are making no contribution to the national well-being. They will also encourage in every way the close joint consultation in industry which is necessary if the greatest volume of production is to be secured.

My Government will continue to devote their earnest attention to securing from overseas the essential foodstuffs and raw materials for My people. They will do all in their power to find new sources of supply and they will seek to enter into further long-term agreements with overseas countries. A measure will be laid before you designed to promote the expansion of production of all kinds within the Empire.

My Government will continue to participate in the work of European reconstruction put in hand in the recent conference in Paris and will do their utmost to forward the projects formulated at that meeting for the benefit of Europe and of the world as a whole.

The present obstacles to co-operation and understanding between the peoples of the world have strengthened the determination of My Government to support the United Nations and to seek by that means to promote the mutual trust and tolerance on which peaceful progress depends.

It is My earnest hope that the forthcoming conference of Foreign Ministers will result in a measure of agreement leading towards a democratic and self-supporting Germany which will not threaten world security, and to the satisfactory settlement of the international status of Austria.

I trust that a Treaty of Peace with Japan, which will contribute to the welfare of all countries in the Far East, may be concluded at an early date.

A measure will be laid before you to enable the future governance of Burma to be in accordance with the free decision of the elected representatives of its people.

I hope that the discussions now in progress will enable legislation to be laid before you to confer on Ceylon fully responsible status within the British Commonwealth.

Members of the House of Commons,

Estimates for the public services will be laid before you in due course, and you will be asked to approve supplementary financial measures at an early stage of the Session.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons,

My Ministers will accelerate the release of men and women from the Armed Forces to the maximum extent consistent with the adequate fulfilment of the tasks falling to the Forces.

They will press on with the reorganisation of the Forces on their peace-time basis and with the task of obtaining the necessary voluntary recruits to build up the Regular Forces and the Auxiliary Services.

Legislation will be introduced to amend the Parliament Act, 1911.

A Bill will be laid before you to reform the administration of criminal justice in England and Wales.

You will be asked to approve legislation to abolish the Poor Law and to provide a comprehensive system of assistance for all in need. This will complete the all-embracing scheme of social security, the main lines of which have been, laid down in measures already enacted.

A Bill will be laid before you to bring the gas industry under public ownership in completion of the plan for the co-ordination of the fuel and power industries.

A measure will be laid before you to extend the scope of public care of children deprived of a normal home life and to secure improved standards of care for such children.

Legislation will be introduced to provide a new and more equitable basis for the distribution of general Exchequer grants to local authorities. Provision will also be made for centralizing the machinery of valuation for rating purposes and amending the law as to the valuation of small dwelling-houses in England and Wales.

You will be asked to approve a measure to reform the franchise and electoral procedure and to give appropriate effect to recommendations of the Commissions appointed to consider the distribution of Parliamentary seats.

A Bill will be laid before you to enable a common national status to be maintained throughout the Commonwealth and to amend the existing law governing the national status of married women.

You will be asked to approve a measure for the establishment of river boards to take over from existing authorities certain responsibilities for land drainage, fisheries, and the prevention of pollution.

You will also be invited to pass a Bill to amend the present scheme for securing the exhibition of a fair proportion of British films.

A measure will be laid before you to reform the law relating to actions for personal injuries.

It is hoped that various measures consolidating important branches of the law will be introduced during the Session; and other measures will be laid before you if time permits.

I pray that Almighty God may give His blessing to your counsels.