HC Deb 13 December 1974 vol 883 cc988-91
Mr. Laurie Pavitt (Brent, South)

You will recollect, Mr. Speaker, that on 4th July the House resolved to make a gift of a mace to the legislative assembly of Western Samoa. On 30th October the House gave leave of absence to the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hawkins) and myself to go to Western Samoa for that purpose. We were accompanied by Mr. John Sweetman, one of the Deputy Principal Clerks of the House. I pay tribute to him and record appreciation of the contribution made by the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West. The success of our mission was in no small measure due to the splendid teamwork which we enjoyed.

We travelled half way round the globs. We spent more time travelling than that which we spent in Western Samoa. The travelling which we undertook caused us to lose a Friday in one week and to put two Sundays into the following week as a result of the complications that arose by crossing the international date line.

We arrived in Western Samoa on 9th November. We immediately had the honour of calling on Mr. Speaker, The Hon. Toleafoa Talitima, to whom we conveyed your personal message, Mr. Speaker, which you had entrusted in my care.

I am pleased to report to the House that on 12th November the mace was presented in the lovely new circular Chamber now enjoyed by the legislative assembly of the beautiful country of Western Samoa. The ceremony was dignified and moving. It had a sense of quiet beauty which I shall never forget. The mace itself was a thing of beauty, a work of art that was the essence of British craftsmanship

In my speech I explained the symbolism of the mace. I explained that it linked the traditions of Western Samoans of the past who had created so much of community values throughout the whole of Polynesia with the forward-looking and modern attitudes of their country today. I emphasised that the House made this gift in no patronising manner. I explained that it was given in a fraternal spirit, as one brother to another, as equals, and that the mace can well be dedicated to the brotherhood of man.

After the ceremony the Prime Minister moved a motion of thanks in these terms: We, the Members of the Legislative Assembly of the Independent State of Western Samoa in Parliament assembled, express our sincere thanks to the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom for the Mace, which, by direction of Her Majesty the Queen, it has presented to this House. We accept this generous gift as a token of the friendship and goodwill of the House of Commons towards the Legislative Assembly and the people of Western Samoa. This Mace will ever serve to remind us of the great tradition of Parliamentary Government which we. as Members of the Commonwealth, have inherited from the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The motion was carried unanimously and I respectfully ask that it be recorded in the Journal of the House.

It may interest you to know, Mr. Speaker, that the Chair in the Chamber of Western Samoa can, by the pressure of one finger, curtail any hon. Member whose speech may be too long-winded. We have much to learn from Western Samoa.

Finally, I wish to record the warmth of friendship with which the people of Western Samoa surrounded us at every stage of our visit. We found ourselves made to feel "at home" on an island in which unaffected smiles and happy faces are the norm. The tensions, pressures and anxieties which accompany so many of the industrialised nations seem completely absent.

In its march towards progress the islands will need technical assistance. I am confident that the United Kingdom will play its full part in filling that need.

I record our thanks to our hosts in Western Samoa for innumerable kindnesses and for their hospitality. I thank the high commissioner for his complete devotion to ensuring that all went well with our mission. I thank you, Mr. Speaker, and the House for the privilege you gave us of being part of an historic occasion and for entrusting us with so pleasant and satisfying a mission.

Mr. Paul Hawkins (Norfolk, South-West)

I add a few words to confirm what the hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Pavitt) has said. I cannot call the hon. Gentleman my hon. Friend, but he has become a friend. We had a very happy trip.

I have only one word of criticism. The House spent a large sum in sending the three of us half way round the world, yet we spent only three and a half days in Samoa. We saw the capital town of only one of the four inhabited islands of Samoa. A further three days at infinitesimal cost would have brought great benefits. We would have had the opportunity of offering our good will to the whole country. An extra three days would have enabled us to see something of the country itself. Apart from that, I have no words of criticism.

I should like to add that we received great help from our high commissioners both in Fiji and in Samoa. Mr. Arthington Davis of Samoa was particularly energetic. He obviously knew the country extremely well. He was by our side all the time. To me the day of great interest was the one day we spent out of the capital going inland into the plantations. To my great surprise—the House will realise my great interest—I saw 800 beautiful Hereford cattle on the hills.

My memory of the visit is of lovely, dignified, happy people. I only hope that civilisation will not spoil them.

Mr. Speaker

The House will want me to thank the hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Pavitt) and the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hawkins) for the way in which they carried out their mission on behalf of the House. This I gladly do. I have noted with interest the "button" idea and perhaps that may be considered further for the House itself. I shall ensure that the resolution passed at the ceremony of the presentation of the mace is entered in the Journal of the House.