§ 9.52 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. James Prior)
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 179 of this House a gift of a Table to the Legislative Assembly of the Kingdom of Tonga and assuring Her Majesty that this House will make good the expenses attending the same.The gift to the Legislative Assembly of the Kingdom of Tonga follows the established and happy tradition that we send gifts from the House of Commons to other legislatures within the Commonwealth.
Hon. Members may recall that on 24th July 1970, in reply to a Question from the Leader of the Opposition, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister undertook that Her Majesty's Government would in due course propose that the House should offer a gift to the Tongan Legislature. It is this undertaking which we are now pleased to honour. The King and the Legislative Assembly of Tonga have naturally been consulted and have welcomed the proposal to present a gift of a specially designed table.
If the House accepts the motion, as I am sure it will wish to do, arrangements will be made by you, Mr. Speaker, for a small delegation from the House to present the gift. We hope that the presentation can be made in September or October this year.
I therefore commend the motion to the House in the expectation that this will be accepted as an expression of our friendship and goodwill towards the Legislative Assembly of the Kingdom of Tonga.
§ 9.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
Normally, on an occasion such as this I should never dream of introducing the proverbial fly into the ointment because these are, on the whole, felicitous occasions and should go through as smoothly as possible, but I cannot restrain myself from saying to the right hon. Gentleman and the Government that if they wanted this delegation to take a meaningful gift to the Kingdom of Tonga they should take not only a Table, which I am sure will be highly acceptable, but a message that the Government of Britain, whose protectorate Tonga was from 1900 to 1970 under the 1887 Treaty of Friendship, are doing their best, as members of the European Economic Community, to persuade the Government of France to restrain themselves from carrying out the proposed nuclear tests.
180 It is no good the Leader of the House looking wearily at his hon. Friends, because I have gone into this in some detail and the truth is that the Polynesian Islands and the 77,000 population of Tonga are as affected as anyone on the east coast of Fiji—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. It is not a question of the Leader of the House looking wearily or warily at his hon. Friends. I think that I have a say in this. In my view it is quite improper on a motion of this sort to introduce a debate on nuclear tests in the Pacific.
§ Mr. Dalyell
As you know, Mr. Speaker, I always accept the rulings of the Chair, but I should have thought that on this occasion, when there is a question of a delegation going from this House to Tonga, it was legitimate to raise briefly and succinctly the issue that is at the forefront of our minds. We have the evidence of Linus Pauling, a double Nobel prizewinner, that there will be 1,700 casualties from nuclear fail-out in Australia, 1,500 resulting in death.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I think that the hon. Member is abusing the practice of the House. This is a formal and, I think, normally pleasant occasion, and I do not think it is fair to introduce a debate on nuclear tests in the Pacific. There are other opportunities for doing that. I think it is improper to do so on this occasion.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I should not like to damage the case in any way and not abide by your ruling, Mr. Speaker, but I excuse myself on the ground that normally I should never dream of using what should be a felicitous and uncontentious occasion to make a controversial point of this kind. On the other hand, the opinion of many people should be expressed. We expect the Government to take more action than has been forthcoming so far to protect the Polynesian people.
Finally, I come to what happened on Thursday. For months we have been told by the Government that the new tests were not harmful, and then we find that the Prime Minister—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I hope that the hon. Member will be good enough to be guided by me. He has stated his position and made the point. I hope that he will 181 now allow what is a formal and felicitous occasion to go on its way.
§ 9.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Short (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central)
I apologise for not being in my place when the Leader of the House moved the motion, but I associate my right hon. Friend and myself with what I am sure the right hon. Gentleman said.
One of the engaging things about the Commonwealth is that we exchange these gifts on independence as a reminder of probably the greatest gift that this country has made to civilisation; namely, the dissemination of our ideas on parliamentary democracy. I hope that these gifts will help to perpetuate the links with the Commonwealth.
We all remember the Queen of Tonga at the Coronation. She wore her newest gown. The heavens opened and drenched everybody, but the Queen of Tonga lifted up our hearts. We are delighted to make this gift to Tonga and wish the country well in its new future.
§ Question put and agreed to.
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 gift of a Table to the Legislative Assembly of the Kingdom of Tonga and assuring Her Majesty that this House will make good the expenses attending the same.
§ To be presented by Privy Councillors or Members of Her Majesty's Household.