§ 3.52 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Edward Short)
I beg to move.That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that Her Majesty will give directions that, to mark the Bicentennial celebrations of the United States of America there be made, on behalf of Parliament to the Congress of the United States, as representative of the American people, a loan for one year of one of the two original copies of Magna Carta dated A.D. 1215 and held by the British Library; that a permanent showcase be presented to the Congress for the display of the document, and that the document be replaced at the end of the loan period by a replica; that the presentation be made by representatives from both Houses of Parliament; and assuring Her Majesty that this House will make good the expenses attending the same.If the House accepts this motion, as I am sure it will wish to do, arrangements will be made for a delegation from both Houses to make the presentation and for an appropriate ceremony here to mark the occasion. We hope that this can be arranged early next summer. Preliminary discussions have been taking place through the usual channels as to what form the ceremony might take.
We believe that the appropriate way to celebrate this would be to make available one of the copies of Magna Carta at present in the British Library to be on loan for one year to America, that a permanent show case should be presented to Congress for display of the document, and that the document should be replaced at the end of the loan period by a replica.
Because of the value of Magna Carta, special arrangements will need to be made for its transport and security.
In 1972, in response to an invitation from the former President of the United States for Britain to participate in the American bicentennial celebrations, the then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs set up a committee under the chairmanship of the Marquess of Lothian to recommend what form Britain's contribution should take. In addition to this loan of Magna Carta, the committee has proposed that Her Majesty's Government should make a gift of a bell to the American people to be hung in Philadelphia, and to support a number of 1733 artistic events in the United States. The committee has also proposed that, together with the Government of the the United States, we should institute a joint programme of fellowship in the creative and performed arts. I am sure the House will agree that these proposals both illustrate the common heritage of this country and the United States and also look to our future friendly relationship.
I therefore commend the motion to the House in the expectation that it will he accepted as an expression of our friendship and good will to the Congress and the people of the United States of America on the occasion of their bicentenary.
§ Mr. Reginald Maudling (Chipping Barnet)
On behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, may I associate myself very warmly with the motion, of which we heartily approve?
It is right that the House should mark the occasion, and I think that the methods chosen are extremely appropriate, with their relevance to our common heritage, democracy and democratic government. The relationship between Britain and America has always been a special one—possibly the relationship between an older brother and a younger one. There has always been a kinship. We are delighted that it should be marked in this way by the House.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
It is a privilege to be associated with the motion. It comes as a continuing surprise that it is now 200 years since the United States decided to go it alone. It is for historians to decide which country has derived the greater benefit. But I think that the arrangement has been to the considerable advantage of both countries and certainly has not weakened the friendship between our peoples.
I have to declare a personal interest. Having at the age of 11 been thought too young to fight in the war and my father having been on the German blacklist and warned that the entire family would be exterminated, it was thought that the younger members should go to America, and that is where I started my education during the war. For that reason, I have a particularly warm feeling towards the 1734 American people. I returned at the due age of qualification to this country.
Although our political and legal systems have evolved in different ways, basically the same democratic principles persist, and Magna Carta, which itself was a challenge to those who sought to subvert the national will, is one of the principles that we still hold today and which the United States does as well. Therefore, it seems that this represents the shared spirit of democracy between the two nations. I hope that the American people will interpret it as further evidence of the friendship between our nations.
I hope, too, that this motion will be carried with great enthusiasm and will be seen as such in the United States.
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
Although I readily endorse all that has been said, I wonder whether my right hon. Friend can make certain that, when these celebrations are undertaken, some recognition can he given to the Part which Thomas Paine played in drawing up an American Constitution at a time when it was not very well respected here. It is necessary to remember the struggles of men against the establishment here, because they made a great contribution towards what is called the American freedom of today.
§ Mr. Roger Moate (Faversham)
As you will know, Mr. Speaker, in your capacity as President of the British-American Parliamentary Group jointly with the Lord Chancellor, some 550 hon. Members of this House and of another place subscribe to the British-American group, which has as its aim the fostering of the closest possible relationships between our Parliament and Congress.
As honorary secretary of the group, I am sure that all its members will commend the motion as a fitting contribution to the celebration of the bicentenary of the Declaration of Independence, and I am sure that no hon. Member who has been received in Congress or who has welcomed congressmen or senators here can be unaware of the immense bonds of friendship existing between our nations and legislature.
I feel sure that the initial loan of Magna Carta and its subsequent replacement by a replica is a most fitting and appropriate contribution and demonstrates 1735 what very close links of heritage and friendship there are between our nations.
I thank the Lord President for the courtesy with which he has received suggestions with regard to this matter. I hope that it will be possible to arrange a suitable joint parliamentary-congressional occasion for the presentation of Magna Carta and that such an occasion will be convenient to both this House and to Congress.
§ Mr. Douglas Crawford (Perth and East Perthshire)
In view of the fact that many Scots were associated with the establishment of the United States, I should like to join with the other parties in the House in commending the Lord President's proposal. However, I wonder if I could plant in the right hon. Gentleman's mind the suggestion that along with Magna Carta we should, perhaps, also send the 1320 Declaration of Independence signed at Arbroath.
§ Mr. Michael Hamilton (Salisbury)
I welcome the motion. However, such documents do not travel easily and do not welcome change of atmosphere.
I should like to ask the Leader of the House whether it is correct that there were only two original documents? I rather think that there were four.
§ Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)
While I am in no way opposed to the motion, I hope that hon. Members will not forget those Americans who during the rebellion were still loyal to the crown of England.
§ Mr. Michael Marshall (Arundel)
As one who has had the advantage of receiving his higher education in the United States, I should like to be associated with the terms of the motion. I briefly point out to the Leader of the House that there are a number of other associated organisations within the House that are also taking a keen interest in this matter. In particular, the right hon. Gentleman will be aware of the work which his right hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Sir G. de Freitas) and I are doing in co-ordinating the interests of those who received higher education in the United States. Can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that he will consider some form of co-ordination not only with 1736 that particular organisation but with all the many other bodies working along the same lines?
§ Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)
I should like to make one or two observations on this matter. I think it is an admirable idea that we should lend Magna Carta for a year. However, I have great reservations about the presentation of replicas of original documents, because in a way they lessen the value of the originals. I am not sure that the matter can be reconsidered, but I think that the loan of the original document for a year has great significance and that a rather tatty replica lessens the gift.
As I understand it a bell is to be presented for display in Philadelphia. If that is true, it might be considered by the Americans as a little tactless. They might think that we are suggesting that they should have repaired the original. Certainly from my discussions in America over the past year or two about the bicentennial celebrations there has been the reiterated request that a Henry Moore statue of some sort should be considered as one of the British gifts. I should have thought that something of that nature was rather more suitable than a modern bell.
§ Mr. Carol Mather (Esher)
I support the motion of the Leader of the House and the continuing link between our two countries. Can the right hon. Gentleman say wheher the copy of Magna Carta which is to go to the United States will be a properly amended copy, and, if that is not so, whether the amendments will be shown?
§ Mr. Raphael Tuck (Watford)
As a former university professor in the United States, of which country I have the happiest memories, may I wholeheartedly associate myself with the motion proposed by the Lord President?
§ Question put and agreed to.
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that Her Majesty will give directions that, to mark the Bicentennial celebrations of the United States of America, there be made, on behalf of Parliament to the Congress of the United States, as representative of the American people, a loan for one year of one of the two original copies of Magna Carta dated 1215 A.D. and held by the British Library; that a permanent showcase be presented to the Congress for the display of the
document, and that the document be replaced at the end of the loan period by a replica; that the presentation be made by representatives from both Houses of Parliament; 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.