HC Deb 26 March 1968 vol 761 cc1162-4
Dr. David Kerr (Wandsworth, Central)

On 25th January this year, the House gave leave of absence to the hon. Member for Tonbridge (Mr. Hornby), myself and the Clerk of the Journals, Mr. Hawtrey, to go to Lesotho, on behalf of this House, to present them with a gift on the occasion of their national independence.

I cannot speak for the entire delegation—it was a small but highly select one—but I should like to pay tribute to the way in which my two colleagues enabled me to get over some bumps on the ground to complete this very pleasant duty on behalf of the House.

This we did on 21st February. It was in a strikingly different situation that we found ourselves when we were invited within the bar of the National Assembly of Lesotho. The doors of an octagonal chamber gave out on to blue skies and bird song, and the air-conditioning was in no way inferior to what we experience here.

The gift that we took consisted of a Clerk's table and three chairs. They were designed by the Ministry of Public Building and Works, and a word of tribute would not be out of place for the imagination and skill devoted to that task. Despite the predominantly sky blue of the chamber in Maseru, the green of the Clerk's table and chairs did not look out of place.

In the course of presenting this gift to the National Assembly, the hon. Member for Tonbridge and I dwelt on the international and, indeed, Commonwealth nature of Parliamentary practice and procedure.

In replying to our offerings, the Speaker, Mr Walter Stanford, said: On behalf of this honourable House, I must formally thank you for these magnificent gifts which will so enhance our Chamber—and I would like to echo the words of your Speaker, written to me, that this gift is a symbol of the Parliamentary tradition cherished by the peoples of both Britain and Lesotho. We reciprocate your message of friendship with Members of this Chamber and this gift will always be a reminder of that. Mr. Stanford asked us particularly to convey to you, Sir, and to this House his appreciation and that of the National Assembly of Lesotho of the gift we took on your behalf.

In delivering this gift, we were allowed to participate in and watch the proceedings of the Lesotho National Assembly. I confess, with the utmost shame, that I read my speech—a practice which would scarcely commend itself here. I did so for one good reason. In Lesotho, the proceedings are officially conducted in English, but everything is translated into the language of that country—Sesotho—and this has considerable implications for Parliamentary wit and oratory, and not least would present a challenge to our own Select Committee on Procedure.

Following our delivery of this gift, we were enabled to see something of this wild, fierce and barren country and to learn of its difficulties—not least the drought which threatens the livelihood and perhaps the lives of many of its people.

I am confident that, in attempting to live up to the high standards set by this House, in delivering this gift on your behalf, we did a great deal to assure the people of Lesotho of our abiding interest in their welfare and future prosperity.

Mr. Speaker

The House would wish me to congratulate the hon. Members on the way in which they carried out the mission with which we entrusted them.

I should like to add my appreciation of the personal letter from Mr. Stanford, C.B.E., D.F.C.—a distinguished airman—Speaker of the National Assembly, for his kind message to the Speaker of this House.