§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Wakeham)
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 of this House a gift of a Speaker's Chair and Desk to the National Assembly of St. Christopher and Nevis, and assuring Her Majesty that this House will make good the expenses attending the same.It is a tradition that this House offers a present, suitable for use in a legislative assembly, to the Parliaments of Commonwealth countries to mark their independence. I am happy to move this motion to give formal authorisation for such a gift. The present of a Speaker's chair and desk to the National Assembly of St. Christopher and Nevis was agreed after consultation with the authorities there, and will soon be ready for presentation. It is hoped that, subject to the completion of the work, it will be on display to hon. Members in the Upper Waiting Hall early in March.
I commend this motion as an expression of the friendship and good will of this House to the National Assembly of St. Christopher and Nevis. I am sure that I speak for the whole House in expressing the warmest good wishes for the future of the Parliament and people of those islands.
§ 4 pm
§ Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)
Again, I join the Lord President in the wish to send a Speaker's chair and desk to the National Assembly of St. Kitts and Nevis. Again, too, it must be said that the first allegedly civilising effect of European involvement was the extermination of the original population who, for the sake of profit, were replaced by human slaves from Africa, a proposition endorsed time and again by the then undemocratic House of Commons.
As with the gift to Australia, there is also an element of reciprocation. When this House was rebuilt after its destruction during the second world war, we received from the Leeward Islands, of which St Kitts and Nevis formed part, a gift of oak lamp standards now to be seen in the two Lobbies.
680 St Kitts and Nevis is very small both in size and population—smaller than the Isle of Wight and with a population of 43,000 — but is is now an independent sovereign state and a member of the Commonwealth and the United Nations. It was Britain's first colony in the Caribbean, when the sugar islands were the jewel in the crown of every competing European coloniser and rip-off merchant. In 1667, St Kitts was described as the first and best earth ever to be inhabited by Englishmen in the Americas, and that attraction may still be vital in the future, which will depend increasingly on tourism.
I am sure that the whole House wishes the National Assembly and people of St Kitts and Nevis well. We wish them independence and prosperity, and freedom from the tempests that occasionally afflict the Leeward Islands. We also hope that their future independence will remain free from interventions by the US marines.
§ 4.2 pm
§ Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)
In supporting the motion, I ask that full account be taken of the feelings of the people of Nevis. As the population of that island is less than 10,000, it cannot easily be governed as an independent state and has therefore been joined with St Christopher, which has a larger population of some 30,000. Nevertheless, Nevis has its own Parliament building, recognised by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, and the Nevisians have a very strong sense of identity. They do not like to be too much dominated by St Kitts. The main political party in Nevis is concerned to enhance Nevisian autonomy.
I hope that those important points will be fully borne in mind in this important matter and that the feelings of the Nevisians will be taken fully into account.
§ Mr. Speaker
Does the Leader of the House wish to comment upon that? If not, I will put the Question.
§ 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 Speaker's Chair and Desk to the National Assembly of St Christopher and Nevis, and assuring Her Majesty that this House will make good the expenses attending the same.
§ To be presented by Privy Councillors or Ministers of Her Majesty's Household.