HC Deb 25 March 1958 vol 585 cc249-51

4.20 p.m.

The Secretary of State to the Home Department and Lord Privy Seal (Mr. R. A. Butler)

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that Her Majesty will give directions that there be presented, on behalf of this House, a Mace to the House of Representatives of the West Indies, and assuring Her Majesty that this House will make good the expenses attending the same. A great and welcome political development took place in the British West Indies in January of this year, when no fewer than ten territories joined their destinies in federating into the West Indies. This brings into being a new legislature in the Commonwealth. As hon. Members will know, Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret has graciously agreed to inaugurate the new legislature in Port-of-Spain on 22nd April next. Her Majesty's Government will be represented by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, and Parliament will be represented by a delegation of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, including a noble Lord and hon. Members from both sides of this House.

It is proposed, if the Committee passes this Motion, that the House of Commons might mark this historic event in appropriate fashion by the gift of a Mace to the new House of Representatives, the lower, elected, House of the legislature of the West Indies. The gift will be a token of the good will of the House of Commons and of the people of the United Kingdom, to the legislature of the West Indies and to all its peoples, and it will bear our best wishes for their future happiness and prosperity.

When the proposal to make this gift was first made known to the House on 3rd December last, in reply to a Question by the right hon Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), the House gave it their general approval. The work was then put in hand. The designer, Mr. A. G. Styles, has been selected by means of a limited competition organised for the purpose by the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, and the work is being executed by Messrs. Garrard and Company Limited. The Mace of the House of Commons has been taken as a basis of the design, which will embody the arms of the West Indies and motifs distinctive of the territories.

It is expected that the Mace will be available for inspection by hon. Members early in July. It is hoped that the presentation of the Mace to the House of Representatives can take place in October. Suitable arrangements will be made in due course. With these words, short though warmly felt, I commend the Motion to the Committee.

Mr. Hugh Gaitskell (Leeds, South)

I rise on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends to support the Motion. A custom has grown up in recent years whereby, when a new legislature is opened in the Commonwealth, or when a former dependent territory achieves its independence, this House of Commons presents to the legislature in question a Mace, or sometimes a Speaker's Chair, or some other object associated with our proceedings here. This is an admirable and significant development. It is certainly not an empty gesture, nor even merely a sign of good will although, of course, there is plenty of that.

It is rather a symbol of the unity of the Commonwealth and of the way in which that unity is rooted in Parliamentary democracy, for the Mace, in particular, is a symbol of the authority of Parliament and of Mr. Speaker. In this case, it is not a matter of independence as yet. We are presenting this Mace to the new legislature of the Federation, but federation, although not identical with self-government, is an essential step towards it. Indeed, one of the major arguments for federation was that it made self-government possible.

We hope that full self-government will soon follow and we send this Mace with our best wishes for the success of the Federation in speedy advance to independence and best wishes, also, for the happiness and prosperity of the people of the West Indies.

Mr. Nigel Fisher (Surbiton)

On behalf of hon. Members on the back benches on both sides of the House, I wish to say how thrilled and excited we are about the fruition of so much endeavour and hard work by so many people in the past in reaching this goal. We owe thanks to the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones), who started it all, and to my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary, who has completed it all, and perhaps most of all, to those in the West Indies, political Ministers and leaders of opinion throughout the British Caribbean who, at the sacrifice of many local interests, in their own islands, have all come together in this not very easy task to reach a common goal. To all of us and to them this happy culmination must be a matter of very great rejoicing.

We here who love those beautiful islands and their peoples are glad to send this Mace as a symbol of the Parliamentary system of government which they learned from us and which they are working so well. We congratulate them upon the really remarkable success they have achieved in building up a multi-racial community which really works and which is a model for the whole world. We are delighted to see them joining in this Federation which, we hope, will be as successful from the economic point of view as from the political point of view.

Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)

May I also support the Motion and ask, on behalf of the Liberal Party, to be associated with what has been said, particularly in sending best wishes to the people of the West Indies for their future?

Mr. Charles Royle (Salford, West)

As a back bencher, may I be permitted to support the Motion? I have a very deep affection for the West Indies, because, like the hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher), I have had the privilege of going there. In no other part of the British Commonwealth is there greater loyalty to the Mother Country than among the peoples of the islands of the British Caribbean. I am grateful to the Lord Privy Seal for his proposal that a Mace, an emblem of Parliamentary authority, shall be presented to the West Indies. I know full well how deeply it will be appreciated by the people themselves.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolution to be reported.

Report to be received Tomorrow.