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Federation Of Rhodesia And Nyasaland (Gift Of Mace)

Volume 529: debated on Friday 9 July 1954

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Considered in Committee.

[Sir CHARLES MACANDREW in the Chair]

11.5 a.m.

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 Mace to the Federal Assembly of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, and assuring Her Majesty that this House will make good the expenses attending the same.
It will, of course, be within the knowledge of us all that last year a great—perhaps "momentous" is the word to use—political development took place in Central Africa when, with the approval and blessing of this Parliament, Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland united their destinies in the new Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. So once again a new Legislature has come into being, one further Legislature as an offspring of what is so frequently called this Mother of Parliaments.

It is, therefore, proposed, and I hope the House and the Committee will agree rightly proposed, that the event should be marked by this House, and that we should do it most appropriately by presenting a Mace to the new Federal Assembly. Such a gift would be an emblem of the good will both of the House of Commons and of the people of the United Kingdom to this new Assembly and to all the people of the Federation, and it will bear our good wishes for their future well-being.

This proposal has been mentioned before. It was made known to the House on 17th December last, in reply to a Question by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, and when the suggestion was mooted it then had general approval, I think, in all quarters of the House. On that basis work was set in hand, and it has progressed satisfactorily. I hope that shortly the Mace will be on view, perhaps in the Library, so that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen can see it before its dispatch. The basis of the design is that of our own Mace, though it will embody the arms of the Federation and certain motifs distinctive of Central Africa.

It may interest the Committee to know who has been concerned in the actual making of it. The designer, Mr. Reginald H. Hill, was selected by means of a limited competition organised for the purpose by the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, and the work has been executed by Messrs. C. J. Vander, Ltd., for Messrs. Tessiers, Ltd.

I hope it will be possible for the Mace to be presented on 10th September, and the necessary arrangements, when they are made, will be communicated to the House if they are completed before we rise. Certain Members of this House will be in Central Africa at that time. Later, a Resolution will be moved, naming the Members chosen by the will of the House to perform this interesting and historical duty. I hope, therefore, that the Committee will agree with this Motion, and that the Federation will be, at its initiation, enriched by this token of our good will and by the historic continuity of having a Mace so like our own.

11.10 a.m.

The gift of a Mace is a symbolic act. It is no less important for that, because I think that one of the achievements of this country is that we have managed to retain the value of symbols in a very cynical and materialist age. That is partly because we have been able to alter the significance of ancient symbols as we have progressed, and we are taking another step in transforming the symbolism of the Mace by what we are now doing.

Although in form this is a gift from the Crown to the new Federation, it is in fact a gift from Parliament and will be so regarded, as it was when, for example, we made a gift of a Mace to Ceylon or Australia. It is regarded as a handing on of the traditions of the Mother of Parliaments to a new offspring. The symbolism of the Mace has become so complex that it led to a long correspondence in "The Times" about its true significance. It was originally, it seems, purely a symbol of royal authority and that is why it is still covered in the presence of the Queen. But now it has become in addition a symbol of Parliamentary authority and the authority of Mr. Speaker.

Even more important in the case of a gift of this sort is that the Mace is becoming the symbol of the link connecting the Parliaments of the Commonwealth. It is the symbol of the very strong link of Parliamentary democracy in the Commonwealth. Besides these general considerations which would naturally make us support this Motion, there is the special reason that the gift of a Mace, which is the symbol of Parliament, is an expression of our confidence that a real Parliament will be established in the new Federation. The only basis of a real Parliament is a full universal franchise—or a steady move towards it—and the disappearance of any political or legal privileges for a minority. One of the great discoveries is that Parliamentary democracy is not only suited to a highly developed country such as ours but that it is also the best means for the transition of a multi-racial society towards a full and equal democracy. That has happened in the British West Indies where are to be found some of the best examples of racial harmony in the world.

Therefore, I am sure that this gift will go with our blessing to the new Federation, and with our good wishes, and as an expression of our confidence that they will smoothly, and with proper speed, solve the great and real problems facing them; particularly the problems affecting a multi-racial society. We are happy to support the Motion moved by the right hon. Gentleman.

11.13 a.m.

I hope that we may postpone our discussion of the Gas and Electricity (Borrowing Powers) Bill sufficiently long to enable us to say a few words about this gift. I was in Salisbury when the Rhodesian elections took place and I had the pleasure of speaking over the air with the gifted New Zealander, Mr. Garfield Todd, the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia. I wish to say a word about the Federation, though in no sense of carping criticism. I consider that an Opposition back bencher should say something, since we fought for so long against the proposal to establish the Federation.

When I moved out of Kenya down to Salisbury as a Member of the recent Parliamentary Delegation, I noticed a marked lessening in the tension. From personal experience I found that among the leaders, both white and black, there was a feeling that this Federation proposal can work out. It will need toleration on both sides, but I think that it has come just in time. Five years hence might have been too late.

We must convince the Africans that the Federation will bring them economic, social and political benefits, because there is still suspicion about it, particularly in Nyasaland. It is vital that we carry the Africans with us. For example, in the common voters roll, the qualifications are so high at present that there are virtually no teachers entitled to vote in Southern Rhodesian elections. This is not good enough. The Huggins Welensky coalition Government have a wonderful legacy of good will on the part of the Africans who wish to work the constitution, and I hope that it will not be squandered. This may be our last chance to work out a multi-racial partnership. We are in a unique position in Central Africa now, and if successful this can be a wonderful thing for the future of Africa. We wish the experiment all goodwill.

11.15 a.m.

I wish to join in the expressions of welcome to the Motion that we should send this symbol of good will to the Federation. I hope that this is not the last time that such a symbol will be dispatched from this House. Such a symbol reveals the sincerity of this House and I am anxiously waiting for that to be extended to our near neighbour. I look for the time when the Government will consider sending a symbol of good will to our neighbourly friends in Ireland. We believe that the good intentions of the Government, as expressed by the Prime Minister in Washington, should be put into practical operation and that they should consider the advisability of having one Parliament for Ireland.

This Motion deals only with one country and there is no reference in it to Ireland.

You are quite right, Sir Charles, and I respect your Ruling. But I do not wish this good will to cease with the sending of this Mace. I wish the good will of this House to be extended to other places, because the more friends we make the better it will be for the British Empire. I believe that there is a friendly feeling between this House and other countries. I ask the Leader of the House to bear that in mind and try to bring about an opportunity for this House to extend its good will to our next-door neighbour across the water.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolution to be reported upon Monday next.