HC Deb 12 December 1961 vol 651 cc230-2

Considered in Committee

[Sir GORDON TOUCHE in the Chair]

4.4 p.m.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Iain Macleod)

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 Sierra Leone, and assuring Her Majesty that this House will make good the expenses attending the same. This Motion is in the happy tradition that we have established by gifts made by this House of Commons to other Legislatures within the Commonwealth. Hon. Members will remember that in recent years we have presented Speakers' Chairs to the Houses of Representatives of Ceylon and New Zealand and to the National Assembly of Ghana, and a Mace to the House of Representatives of Australia. I am sure that we shall agree that in this House of Commons, where we are simply surrounded by gifts from other parts of the Commonwealth, gifts which are tributes to links of affection and fellowship, we should from time to time convey our own feelings and send similar good wishes to these other Legislatures.

Perhaps I may be allowed briefly to mention the story of this gift. On 4th August of this year my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, replying to the Leader of the Opposition, told the House that Her Majesty's Government proposed that Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the House, should offer to the House of Representatives of Sierra Leone the gift of a Mace for its Sneaker. It had, of course, been ascertained that that gift would be very welcome in Sierra Leone. The Mace itself has been completed and arrangements will, as usual, be made for it to be displayed before it is sent to Sierra Leone for presentation.

Naturally, the purpose of this gift is to mark Sierra Leone's attainment of full independence within the Commonwealth in April of this year and it will bring with it our best wishes for Sierra Leone's happiness and prosperity.

Sierra Leone is a quite small country within the Commonwealth, but there are few indeed which have closer ties of friendship with this country and we are very happy to recognise it in this way. The Motion proposes that the presentation shall be made on behalf of the House of Commons. If—I am sure I should say, when—the Committee accepts this Motion, it will also pledge itself to honour the necessary Estimate, which I am told, with the expense of presentation, will be in the neighbourhood of £1,600.

As usual, the actual arrangements for presenting the gift will be made by Mr. Speaker, and I believe that he contemplates following the usual practice that the Mace should be presented by a small Parliamentary delegation which will visit Sierra Leone at the appropriate time by mutual agreement.

I am sure that the Committee will support this Motion.

Mr. Denis Healey (Leed, East)

On behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, I wish warmly to support the Motion.

About nine months have now passed since this House was happy unanimously to welcome a Bill by which Sierra Leone became an independent State within the Commonwealth, a State which is distinguished today by the example of racial harmony and democratic development which it provides to the world, and a State whose contribution to the Commonwealth we all look forward to with enthusiasm.

This House is always especially proud that so many Commonwealth countries have chosen to model their legislative procedures on the precedents set by the Mother of Parliaments. I think that we would all particularly agree that this week there is perhaps no more suitable symbol of the authority of the Mother of Parliaments than the Mace. However much we may argue about the precise source of the authority of the Mace, I think that recent events have underlined its profound importance to each and every one of us.

My right hon. Friends and I warmly support the arrangements which have been outlined by the Leader of the House for presenting this Mace and sending our best wishes to the Parliament and people of Sierra Leone for their success and well-being at present and in the future.

Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)

I am sure that it would be the wish of hon. Members who belong to the Liberal Party to associate themselves with this Motion, if any Liberal were present in the Committee at the moment. By some oversight on their part, the Liberals are not present, but I should not like it to be thought in the world outside, or in Sierra Leone, that all the members of the Liberal Party in the House were not associated with this presentation. May I, therefore, take the very great liberty of speaking on behalf of the Liberal Party in associating it with this gift.

Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)

I am not rising to make it clear that all parties in the House support this Motion, but merely to put to the Leader of the House a technical question. While heartily approving the speech he made and the purpose that he has declared, may I ask that he should explain to us the solution of this problem?

I think that the right hon. Gentleman said, at the end of his speech, that Mr. Speaker was to make all the arrangements for the dispatch of the Mace. How is it possible for that to be done when Mr. Speaker has no knowledge of what takes place in this Committee? I am sure that the Leader of the House will have the answer of that problem at his finger-tips and will be glad to give it to us.

Perhaps this question should be addressed to you, Sir Gordon. Will the dispatch of the Mace to Sierra Leone be accompanied by a handbook, perhaps written by the Chairman of Ways and Means, describing the Mace, its proper place and use?

Mr. Macleod

On the one point which concerns me, I have the answer at my finger-tips. We shall report this Resolution tomorrow. As soon as it is reported, Mr. Speaker will have full cognisance of everything that we have done.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolution to be reported.

Report to be received Tomorrow.