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Coronation Stone

Volume 496: debated on Tuesday 26 February 1952

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I should like, with permission, to make a statement about the Coronation Stone.

For over 650 years the Stone has been in Westminster Abbey and, from its use at successive Coronations, it has a historic significance for all countries in the Commonwealth. With the approval of Her Majesty's Government, the Stone has been restored to its traditional place.

Am I right in assuming that, since the Prime Minister is aware of the great importance that various sections of opinion in Scotland attach to this subject, he considered all these varying viewpoints and that, before making this recommendation, he consulted representative opinion in Scotland? [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] May I press the Prime Minister for an answer? It is very relevant.

I think all proper consultations were made, and, as far as we were able to ascertain, the course we have taken is the right and proper one.

I do not think I am being anything but relevant in asking the Prime Minister when these consultations took place and with whom.

I cannot say when every single consultation took place, but the matter has been most carefully and most properly considered.

May I press for just the tiniest civil answer? Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us one consultation that took place?

I have had several consultations myself with important authorities.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the statement just made will give widespread pleasure in Scotland, and that whatever differences—[HON. MEMBERS: "You are reading it."]—

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman permitted to read out what purports to be a supplementary question?

I cannot see from here whether the right hon. and gallant Member is reading or not.

I have been accused of many things but never of not being able to speak impromptu in the House. I am asking whether—[Interruption.] I have been taking notes, because this is a matter of great importance

On a point of order. Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman entitled to use notes when putting a supplementary question.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker, if your Ruling is that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is entitled to use notes, then are we entitled to know—[HON. MEMBERS: "Take your hands out of your pockets."] We have all the afternoon in front of us. Mr. Speaker, in view of your Ruling that an hon. Member is entitled to use notes, are we entitled to know how the right hon. and gallant Member can have notes in reference to a matter which he did not know was coming up?

Either the right hon. and gallant Member foresaw this or he was in receipt of advance information.

I have as much right to have intelligent anticipation of what is coming up as—

On a point of order. I want to ask you, Mr. Speaker, if it is in order for the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) to persist in making observations upon a matter which is sub judice.

I have no information that this is sub judice. We are having an enjoyable time over this, but we should remember that we have other business. I must ask the House to give order.

I would ask further whether my right hon. Friend—[Interruption.] I have as much right to know beforehand as the previous Secretary of State for Scotland, who has also put a supplementary question. I say that this is a matter of great importance to Scotland, and I am asking whether my right hon. Friend is aware that, in spite of any previous differences of view as to the proper safe-keeping of this ancient symbol and object, everyone will agree that at the time of a forthcoming Coronation it could have no more fitting and proper place than the place to which the Head of the State has to come to take the Coronation Oath, in particular in view of the long and close connection which the Head of the State and Her Family have with the Kingdom and the nation of Scotland?

In order to correct any possible misapprehension, will the right hon. Gentleman say whether there was any reputable Scottish opinion which did not dispute that the Coronation Stone should be in the Coronation Chair at the time of the Coronation, but which nevertheless thought that there were other fitting places where between times this Stone might reside?

I should be rather embarrassed if I had to declare what was and what was not reputable Scottish opinion. A great deal of Scottish opinion was consulted at the time, and I consider that we have acted in accordance with what is the wish of the great majority of the Scottish people.

On a point of order. May I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the Ruling you gave several minutes ago, that the question of the appointment of a Chairman to the Royal Commission on Taxation was far too big and important to be discussed at present by means of questions, and whether the fact that you are permitting the discussion on the place of the Stone of Scotland is an indication that you consider that unimportant and worthy of discussion now?

I considered that there did not seem to be the same division of opinion as regards the answer which the Prime Minister gave as to the immediate destination of the Stone; and although a lot of time has been spent on this matter, a lot of it has been consumed in noise without any questions being asked.

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he is aware that among a very considerable body of Her Majesty's most loyal Scottish subjects, there will be profound disappointment at this decision—[HON. MEMBERS: "The united party."]—and that whereas unanimously we wish the Stone to be used for the Coronation, as it should be, we think that it should be kept in the capital—Edinburgh—during the time between Coronations?

I now apply the previous Ruling. It seems that there is less unanimity in this matter than I thought, and I now rule that the House must find another opportunity of discussing this matter.

Another Member made and subscribed the Affirmation required by Law.