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Solomon Islands, Tuvalu And Kiribati

Volume 977: debated on Wednesday 30 January 1980

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4.36 pm

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Leader of the House of Commons
(Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas)

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 clock to the National Parliament of Solomon Islands and gifts of gavel sets to the Houses of Assembly of Tuvalu and Kiribati, and assuring Her Majesty that this House will make good the expenses attending the same.
The gifts follow an established and very happy tradition that we make presentations from this House to the legislatures of newly independent Commonwealth countries. The Speakers of the respective legislatures were, of course, consulted about the form that the gifts should take. The gifts are now ready for presentation and are on display in the Upper Waiting Hall of the House, where they will remain for inspection by hon. Members until 1 February.

If the House passes the motion, as I am confident it will, I hope that arrangements will be made by Mr. Speaker to send a small delegation from the House to present the gifts.

I commend the motion to the House, in the expectation that it will be accepted as an expression of friendship and good will towards the legislatures of these sister Commonwealth countries. I know that I shall be speaking for the whole House in expressing our warmest good wishes for the future to the National Parliament of Solomon Islands and to the House of Assembly of Tuvalu and the House of Assembly of Kiribati.

4.38 pm

We on the Opposition Benches wish to associate ourselves fully with the motion. All three territories covered by it have long and close associations with this country. Many hon. Members on both sides of the House have debated the issues involved in the territories' development towards independence. I am one of the small number of hon. Members who have actually been to all three. Tuvalu and Kiribati are probably better known to the vast majority of the British people as the Gilbert and Ellice Islands.

The motion is an important symbolic demonstration of the continued interest that the House will have in these small, independent territories. It is also a symbol of, and a tribute to, the democratic and parliamentary traditions that all three territories are maintaining and upholding. The gifts represent our support for, endorsement of, and backing for the democratic and parliamentary traditions of three small territories set in the middle of seas that are hostile at times, in conditions that are most difficult.

Kiribati was the subject of some contention and discussion in the House in relation to the Banaban people of Ocean Island—matters which are still unresolved. Nevertheless, I am sure that all Members of the House will give the motion their full support.

4.41 pm

I should like to endorse the sentiments expressed in such a felicitous way by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. Rowlands). There cannot be a Member of this House who does not wish to be associated with this delightfuland traditional gesture. But, as one who has visited at least one of the territories concerned and who has been occupied in the past five years in trying to achieve justice for a small community which is now incorporated—against the will of its members, if I may say so—in that territory, may I take the opportunity of expressing the hope that, before the delegation departs for the warm waters of the Pacific on its mission of good will, the Government will strain every nerve to see that the outstanding claims of the Banaban community, which still remain undetermined, are settled. In that event, nobody will be more delighted than I to support the motion before the House.

Those peoples on the other side of the world are linked in friendship and sentiment with us for all time, and I wish them well and god-speed.

Question put and agreed to.