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Orders of the Day — Malta Independence Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23rd July 1964.

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Photo of Mr Patrick Wall Mr Patrick Wall , Haltemprice 12:00 am, 23rd July 1964

I suspect that some of the rather synthetic sounds and fury to which we have just listened from the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) were probably aroused because the House is to adjourn next week and probably will not meet again until after the General Election.

As I understood it, the basis of the hon. Gentleman's case was that we have not had time to study the constitutional documents. Those who take a real interest in Malta will know, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, that this constitution is based on the draft constitution, which was considered some weeks ago by the Malta Parliament. I have in my hands the Malta Labour Party's amendments to that constitution. I am sure that the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale could have obtained these amendments to the draft Constitution in exactly the same way as I have. As was said on Second Reading, there have been only a certain number of changes in the constitution which, though they are important, do not alter very many of the pages in the Bill.

I rise for only two minutes to pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, first, for the fair and masterly way he has piloted the Bill through the House, and, secondly, for the very great patience and skill in negotiation he has shown over 18 months, negotiating with all political parties in Malta, particularly with the Prime Minister of Malta, Dr. Borg Olivier. I hope that the Prime Minister of Malta thinks that the many weeks he spent in London away from his own country, negotiating for the independence of his country, have, now that we are to pass the Bill, been well worth while.

I want, finally, to dissociate myself entirely from the violent attack delivered by the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Duffy) on the Archbishop of Malta. It was both one-sided and unfair. I pay tribute to Archbishop Gonzi, who has only fulfilled his pastoral duty in guiding and advising his flock. The hon. Members for Barking (Mr. Driberg) and Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) tried to set off the Archbishop against the Vatican.

Whatever the Roman Catholic Church may be, I think all hon. Members will agree that it is a pretty well disciplined body. Some may think that it is too well disciplined. It is inconceivable that an archbishop could express views contrary to those of the Vatican over the long period that this quarrel has endured in Malta.

In spite of the violent attack by some hon. Members I echo the hope of hon. Members on both sides of the House that independence for Malta may bring a new spirit of conciliation and co-operation between the political parties there and bring a great future to the George Cross island which has twice saved Christendom.