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Dr David Livingstone

Volume 743: debated on Wednesday 27 February 2013

Question

Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they propose to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Dr David Livingstone.

My Lords, Scotland Office Ministers and officials are working closely with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for International Development and the David Livingstone 200 partnership to assist with a programme of celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of Dr Livingstone’s birth. As part of the wider programme, the Scotland Office will host a commemorative reception at Dover House, which will follow on from a service that will be held in Westminster Abbey on 19 March, the actual 200th anniversary of Dr Livingstone’s birth.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend most warmly for that Answer. Is he aware that, in view of David Livingstone’s reputation as a missionary, an explorer and, above all, a campaigner against the slave trade, commemorations will take place next month in Zambia, Tanzania and especially in Malawi? Will he tell the House whether there are any activities planned in Scotland itself, apart from the excellent news that the museum at Blantyre will be revamped by the National Trust?

My Lords, my noble friend is absolutely right to pay tribute to Dr Livingstone. It is significant that in the post-colonial age some of the place names associated with David Livingstone, such as Blantyre and the name Livingstone itself, have remained. That speaks volumes about the contribution that he made and the standing in which he is still held. For example, in Zambia there is a programme called Livingstone 2013, in which the British High Commission has been very actively involved. My noble friend also asks about Scotland. The National Museum of Scotland has a special commemorative exhibition, which has run since November until April this year. There will be events on the day. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development is planning a flagship event at Abercrombie House in East Kilbride, the offices of the Department for International Development, on 18 March and, very interestingly, a time capsule is proposed, linking children from Malawi and Scotland, which will be Skype-linked on 19 March.

My Lords, the Prime Minister has spoken about a shameful episode in our imperial past, the Amritsar massacre, and quite rightly so. Would it not be very valuable if the Prime Minister could speak, perhaps not only in Scotland, about a pacific, idealist, Christian visionary, like David Livingstone, who presents a very contrary view of our imperial past and perhaps shows how this country should behave towards colonised people but seldom manages to do so?

The noble Lord makes a very important point about the contribution that David Livingstone made. There will be commemorations, not least in the service at Westminster Abbey. I am not aware that the Prime Minister will attend, but certainly representatives of the United Kingdom Government and I think of the Scottish Government will attend and we have sought to invite high commissioners and ambassadors in London of countries with which David Livingstone was associated.

Will the Minister accept that the National Trust has done an extremely good job in conserving David Livingstone’s house in Blantyre, where he was brought up with his family in one room in extreme poverty? One of the moving aspects of his life was that, when he set off, he had only his medical equipment, his Bible and the clothes in which he stood up.

My Lords, I echo the remarks made by my noble friend Lord Selkirk, particularly in paying tribute to the National Trust for Scotland, which has been very much involved in the David Livingstone 200 partnership and has made an important contribution not only with regard to the house at Blantyre but also with regard to a number of the commemorative events in Scotland.

My Lords, Dr David Livingstone was born in the town of Blantyre, which I had the honour and privilege to represent in the House of Commons. I join in the congratulations and thanks for all the celebrations planned. However, just a few years ago, the David Livingstone Centre in Blantyre, to which the noble Lord, Lord Steel, referred, was in danger of closing, and it was South Lanarkshire Council which took the lead by involving the National Trust and other agencies so that the centre is now thriving again. Will the Minister join me in recognising the role of South Lanarkshire Council in this, particularly that of the leader, Councillor Edward McAvoy?

My Lords, in this particular case, I believe that tributes to South Lanarkshire Council are deserved. I am aware that it took those steps. I think that I am right in saying that South Lanarkshire Council also plays an important role in the Scotland-Malawi Partnership. The University of Edinburgh calculated that up to £30 million in terms of expertise, time and money is contributed by those who are partners in the Scotland-Malawi Partnership.

My Lords, is the Minister aware of the current membership of the Scotland-Malawi Partnership, which is more than 600 individuals and organisations, embodying the mutual respect that was so much embodied by Dr Livingstone back in the 19th century? Given Dr Livingstone’s campaign against the slave trade, will the Government take the opportunity this year to redouble their efforts internationally regarding the 2.5 million individuals around the world who are reckoned to be in slavery or prostitution as a result of people trafficking?

My Lords, I take the opportunity to note the contribution that the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, has made to the Scotland-Malawi Partnership. I know his personal commitment to this. I take and endorse his point that a proper tribute to Dr Livingstone’s campaigns against slavery would be for us to continue and indeed increase our efforts to tackle human trafficking. I attended a very useful meeting with a number of representatives in Scotland representing the UK Government on the day last year when we marked our commitment internationally to tackle human trafficking. That would be a worthy memorial to Dr Livingstone’s efforts.