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Grenada (Presiding Officer's Chair)

Volume 939: debated on Friday 25 November 1977

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On 26th July we—that is, my parliamentary colleague the hon. Member for Southgate (Mr. Berry). Mr. Charles Gordon, Clerk Assistant and myself—left our shores for Grenada to present to its Parliament a Presiding Officer's Chair. We had already determined to do more—that is, we were happy to undertake, prior to the presentation of the Chair, to convey to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives the fraternal regards of yourself, Mr. Speaker, and of the Members of this House. Before our departure we also conveyed our warm regards to Lord Pitt, who is a son of the Grenada island and an honoured Member of the other place.

When I promised you, Mr. Speaker, to make a brief speech in support of the presentation of the chair, I said that I would do so by making three points which had become clear to us shortly after our arrival.

After only 30 hours on the island, I was genuinely impressed by the undoubted fact that coloured and white citizens were so obviously and effortlessly entwined together. I added that if this were the case on a world wide pattern, our faltering steps towards peace on earth would be firmer and far more satisfying, because I believe that humanity could not be more stimulatingly engaged. I pray for its perpetuation in Grenada and throughout the world.

The second point that I made underlined the undoubted worthiness of our hosts to receive the United Kingdom parliamentary gift—and this, to me, was of the greatest possible importance—namely, that I had seen evidence that convinced me that it was a Christian nation.

My third and final point is that when the Speaker of the Grenadian House of Representatives was making his introductory remarks he specifically referred to the fact that the Grenadian Parliament was following the Westminster pattern of parliamentary procedure and that this was no accident. He used the following words:
"Much has been said of other systems, but although we do not acclaim the Westminster model as the best, we know of no other which is better."
In my opinion, for what it is worth, he was not only kind, but a shrewd and accurate judge. Pray God it may always be so.

I pay justifiable homage first to my parliamentary colleague, who was constantly amiable and co-operative. I say that without patronage. I would like to think that he agrees that since I had to carry the assignation "leader" I did "lead" from behind. Our administrative supremo, Mr. Charles Gordon, Clerk Assistant of the House, made and carried out meticulous arrangements, notwithstanding certain dislocations at Heathrow. The closeness of his co-operation with his Grenadian colleague was both fraternal and commendable. and, of course, necessary in view of our short stay and late arrival and our firm intention to carry out every detail of the arranged schedule. This was faithfully attended to by the Clerk Assistant.

The Grenadian Parliament agreed unanimously to a motion moved by the Leader of Government Business in the House of Representatives in the following terms:
"Be it resolved that the Houses of Parliament of Grenada express our sincere thanks to the Honourable the Commons of Great Britain and Northern Ireland for the gift of a Presiding Officer's Chair presented to us by their Delegation to mark the attainment of Independence of Grenada."
I respectfully ask that this resolution be recorded in the Journal of the House.

I resume my seat with words that I hope will be of some comfort to our new found friends in Grenada. We have, as promised during our visit, had words with the British Minister who is responsible for Grenadian affairs, and discussions are to be arranged in order to profit to as great a degree as possible the economic wellbeing of both Grenada and the United Kingdom.

I offer my most humble and sincere thanks to the House for entrusting to my colleagues and myself a task that I can only hope we carried out tolerably well.

I opened my remarks to the Parliament of Grenada by commenting that being the deputy leader of a delegation does not of itself suggest a position of importance, whether one is in front or behind. But on this occasion it was, because to be entrusted with the task of representing this Parliament in another Parliament is something that is very special. To go from the Mother of Parliaments to a new member of the Commonwealth meant a great deal to me.

I was fortunate in my travelling companions. The hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Jones) is a charming and enthusiastic man in every sense. He led us extremely well. He was never short of an answer when one was needed and he always gave the right answer. It was a great privilege to be with him.

We were also privileged to have the Clerk Assistant with us. One does not often have the opportunity to pay a tribute to such officers of the House. The Clerk Assistant's knowledge and experience were invaluable to us. He always, or nearly always, got us to our destination on time. The Clerk in Grenada, who has benefited so much from his tuition here, saw that things worked smoothly. Our Clerk Assistant, properly dressed and sitting at the Table with the Grenadian Clerk added considerable dignity to the ceremony.

It was a great privilege to visit Grenada. I learned that the Grenadians are friendly people but that their island has considerable problems. It has a high unemployment rate and we soon learned that they wished us to appreciate their difficulties.

I commented on their roads, which are not of a high standard, and the Grenadians were pleased that I mentioned that problem. I also referred to the fact that they do not have an international airport. The Grenadians would like to possess one because at the moment tourists from Trinidad and Barbados have to land at an airport which is little better than a landing strip. An international airport would provide a tremendous boost to the island's tourist industry and, therefore, to the whole of the Grenadian economy.

Since the Government came to office no Minister has yet visited Grenada. I hope that that can be put right soon. I feel sure that the Minister will be asked to go there.

The Members of the Grenadian Parliament would be the first to agree that they are having difficulty in reconciling Government and opposition. That is understandable in a new Parliament. I therefore ventured to draw on my experience as an Opposition Whip to explain to them the system that we call the "usual channels" which has a great significance in Parliament. I explained that, far from reducing one's right to disagree on political issues, they facilitate debates on these issues and make it easier for them to be discussed, which is to the advantage of both the Government and the Opposition. The Members of the Grenaclian Parliament appreciated that.

If in explaining this, if I was able to help to improve their parliamentary ways a little, I should like to believe that I justified the decision of the House to allow me to take part in the presentation.

I conclude as I did in the Grenadian Parliament. I send my greetings to the Parliament and people of Grenada and wish them peace and prosperity in their beautiful and friendly island.

I am sure that the House would wish me to thank the hon. Members for Burnley (Mr. Jones) and Southgate (Mr. Berry) for the way in which they have carried out their duty on behalf of the House and for what they have said today. It is always pleasant when compliments are exchanged across the Floor of the House, particularly when we know that they are well deserved.

It is exceptional to hear such high praise for the "usual channels". We know that that is appreciated, since the "usual channels" are present in the Chamber.

I shall see that the resolution of the Parliament of Grenada is entered into the Journal of the House. We thank both hon. Members.