HC Deb 06 April 1971 vol 815 cc247-9
Mr. Bernard Braine

You will recollect, Mr. Speaker, that on 25th November last the House resolved that a Mace be presented to the Legislative Assembly of Mauritius and on 17th December the House gave leave of absence to the hon. Member for Battersea, South (Mr. Ernest G. Perry) and myself to go to Mauritius to make the presentation.

We left on 7th March and we were accompanied by one of the Principal Clerks of the House, Mr. Michael Lawrence. By a happy coincidence, our mission coincided with the time when Mauritius was celebrating the third anniversary of her independence.

I am pleased to report that on 9th March the Mace was presented in the splendid Chamber of the Legislative Assembly in St. Port Louis, which many hon. Members on both sides of the House have had the opportunity of visiting in recent years.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Not yet.

Mr. Braine

That is a pleasure deferred, because Mauritius is a delightful place. All went successfully. My colleagues and I were escorted into the Chamber by the Prime Minister, Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam and the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Maurice Lesage. We were warmly greeted by Mr. Speaker Vaghjee, to whom we had already conveyed your kind personal message which you had entrusted to me, Mr. Speaker, and which he later read out to the Assembly.

In my speech I emphasised that whenever this ancient House had sought to mark the independence of a new Commonwealth nation it had sent a gift of a kind which linked symbolically the idea of representative government with parliamentary practice—for example a Chair for Mr. Speaker or a Mace for the Table. It is perhaps a measure of the rapidity with which the modern Commonwealth has evolved that this was the thirtieth such occasion in the past two decades.

Following the handing over of the Mace, the Prime Minister moved a Motion of thanks, which was seconded by the Leader of the Opposition, both making eloquent speeches.

The Motion read as follows: We, the Legislative Assembly of Mauritius, accept with grateful thanks the generous gift of a Mace from the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the same spirit in which it is offered, that is as a token of friendship and goodwill of the House of Commons towards our Legislative Assembly and the people of Mauritius. The Motion was carried unanimously and I would respectfully ask that it be recorded in the Journal of the House.

Finally, may I say that Mauritius is a small and very beautiful country, but the most abiding memory my colleagues and I carried away was the extraordinary kindness and hospitality of its people. In a world where there are so many divisions we were struck by the way in which the Mauritian people, drawn as they are from three continents and representing a great diversity of culture, are working together to build a worth-while and enduring society, the chief characteristics of which are tolerance and humanity. We were also struck by the firm attachment of the Mauritian people to the processes of democratic discussion.

At the same time I feel it is my duty, and I know that the hon. Member for Battersea, South would agree with me here, to tell the House that we were left in no doubt as to the seriousness of the problems which will face Mauritius, overwhelmingly dependent as she is on the sugar industry, if the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement arrangements are weakened in any way.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Braine

My colleagues and I would like to express our deep gratitude to the Prime Minister of Mauritius, his Government, to Mr. Speaker Vaghjee and the Parliament for their great kindness and hospitality and for all they did to enable us to meet so many people. At the same time we would like to express our thanks to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the House of Commons for entrusting us with so pleasant and rewarding a mission.

Mr. Speaker

Will the hon. Member bring the Motion to the Table?

Motion brought to the Table.

Mr. Speaker

The House would wish me to thank the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues for the way in which they carried out their mission on behalf of the House. We thank them, we thank the hon. Member for his report and I will see that the Resolution which was passed at the ceremony of the presentation of the Mace is entered in the Journal of the House of Commons.