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David Livingstone: Anniversary

Volume 561: debated on Wednesday 24 April 2013

1. What steps his Department has taken to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of David Livingstone. (150798)

The Scotland Office is working closely with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for International Development and the David Livingstone 200 partnership on the programme of celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Dr David Livingstone. On 19 March, the Scotland Office hosted a reception at Dover House following the commemorative service at Westminster Abbey in the presence of President Joyce Banda of Malawi.

I am sure the whole House will be pleased to hear what the Scotland Office is doing. It is fitting, especially to those of us who well remember childhood trips to Blantyre, the birthplace of David Livingstone, that tribute should be paid to him here in Parliament. Does my right hon. Friend agree that although a minority of Scots want to put artificial barriers around Scotland, the vast majority of Scots believe in the pioneering, enterprising spirit of David Livingstone, and want Scotland to play its full part in the United Kingdom, and indeed in the world in general?

I could not agree more. David Livingstone was both a great Scot and a great Briton, who had an outward, progressive-looking attitude to the world, which exemplifies why Scotland and Britain are better together.

I place on record my thanks to the Scotland Office and the Foreign Office for ensuring that President Joyce Banda was able to visit Scotland, particularly Blantyre in my constituency, to mark the start of the celebrations. May I draw the attention of the Minister and the House to the wide range of events happening through the year, and encourage as many people as possible to come to Blantyre in my constituency and visit the centre there and take part in the celebrations?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for noting the work the UK Government, and indeed the Scottish Government, have done on the matter. He, too, is to be commended for the part he has played in promoting the David Livingstone bicentenary. He is correct: there are a number of continuing events, and all those who wish to do so should take the opportunity to take part in them.

I very much welcome the various celebrations that the Minister has announced today. Does he agree that there could be no finer commemoration of that magnificent missionary, scientist, statesman and explorer than his gravestone in Westminster Abbey? It does not list any honours, or even his dates of birth and death or his parenthood; on a piece of Scottish granite, it simply says the magnificent words “David Livingstone.”

Indeed, that is a poignant memorial to Dr Livingstone. It was particularly memorable to see members of his family laying a wreath on the gravestone, along with President Banda, at the commemorative service.

I presume that Dr Livingstone was a great educationalist, who believed in education. What has the Minister’s right hon. Friend the Secretary of State done to set up the school-industry liaison committees that he promised me some months ago?

Order. That is very tangentially related to the 200th anniversary of the birth of David Livingstone. The hon. Gentleman should not speculate about what Dr Livingstone would have said, because the fact is that he did not—he was not in a position to do so and he cannot do so now. I think we had better move on. I call Iain Stewart.