HC Deb 23 February 1966 vol 725 cc559-60

Considered in Committee.

[Sir Samuel Storey in the Chair]

10.25 p.m.

The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Bowden)

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 bookcase containing Parliamentary and Constitutional reference books to the Parliament of Singapore and assuring Her Majesty that this House will make good the expenses attending the same. I suggest that it might be to the convenience of the Committee if, in moving this Motion on the gift to Singapore, I referred also to the Motions which I intend to move relating to the gifts to Sarawak and Sabah.

These Motions are in the now established tradition of the House that we send a gift to the Legislature of a Commonwealth country to mark that country's attainment of independence within the Commonwealth. It is a tradition which we are glad to honour. In the case of Singapore, this gift will mark the attainment of independence by that country while in the case of Sabah and Sarawak, the gifts will mark the inauguration of Malaysia.

The Committee will recall that in August, 1963, the then Prime Minister, in reply to a Question, informed the House that Her Majesty's Government would propose that the House should offer a gift to each of the Legislatures of Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak, the form of the gift to be decided in consultation with the authorities there. The consultations that followed resulted in the choice of the presents cited in the Motions by the respective Legislatures and they have been specially designed to meet their wishes.

The bookcase and books for Singapore and the Speaker's Chair for Sarawak will be on display this week in the Upper Waiting Hall of the Palace of Westminster for hon. and right hon. Members to see, and arrangements for the Mace for Sabah to be similarly displayed will be made as soon as it is ready. If the Committee accepts these Motions, as I feel sure it will wish to do, arrangements will be made by Mr. Speaker, in accordance with custom, for two small delegations from the House to present the gifts with our best wishes. One delegation will go to Singapore and the other to Sabah and Sarawak. We understand that the presentations could conveniently be made in the latter half of April.

I therefore commend the Motions to the Committee in the expectation that they will be accepted as an expression of our friendship and good will towards the Legislatures of Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak.

10.30 p.m.

Mr. Nigel Fisher (Surbiton)

On behalf of the Opposition, I welcome very warmly the presentation of these Parliamentary gifts to Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah. I must say that I am not a particularly appropriate person to do so because, although I have now visited almost every country of the Commonwealth, I have never visited any one of these three. But I think that the right hon. Gentleman himself is probably in the same position, and we may live in hope.

It has given us great pleasure in the United Kingdom Parliament to welcome in recent years many Members of their Parliaments who have visited us through the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association; and I should like to express our gratitude for the hospitality afforded to hon. Members of this House who have gone on our delegations to Malaysia and Singapore and who have seen at first hand the tremendous social and political difficulties which they are surmounting.

I hope I shall not strike a discordant note when I say that, perhaps, some evidence of our good will towards them is that yesterday's Defence Review statement, despite its cuts elsewhere, did not include any withdrawal of support from Malaysia or from Singapore.

I hope that these Parliamentary gifts will help to maintain the traditions of debate which these three countries have learned from us and which they have themselves so readily adopted.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolution to be reported.

Report to be received Tomorrow.