The House will recall that on 18th June of this year it agreed to an Address approving the gift of a Mace from this House to the House of Assembly of the Bahamas and that, further, on 3rd November of this year the House gave leave of absence to the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) and myself for the purpose of presenting the Mace, in company with Mr. Michael Ryle, one of the Deputy Principal Clerks of the House.
I pay tribute to my two colleagues. I could not have wished for two better colleagues for this visit. They truly helped to make the mission a complete success.
We left a cold and foggy London on Monday 24th November and arrived in Nassau that evening to a climate somewhat less cold and completely fogless. The following day we called on Mr. Speaker and I handed to him the letter which you, Mr. Speaker, had entrusted to my care.
I am pleased to report that the Mace was presented to the House of Assembly in what for me was a very moving and colourful ceremony on 26th November. On receiving the Mace, the Speaker said that the Bahamas cherished its long history and traditions of parliamentary democracy which it had inherited and looked forward to continuing that tradition.
After the presentation, the Government Chief Whip moved a motion in these terms:
We, the Members of the House of Assembly of the Commonwealth of the
Bahamas in Parliament assembled, express our sincere thanks to the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom for the Mace which by direction of Her Majesty the Queen it has presented to this House. We accept this generous gift as a token of the friendship and good will of the House of Commons towards the House of Assembly and the people of the Bahamas. This Mace will ever serve to remind us of the great tradition of Parliamentary Government which we as a member of the Commonwealth have inherited from the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
I am happy to tell the House that that motion was approved unanimously. I respectfully ask that it be recorded in the Journals of this House.
You, Mr. Speaker, may be interested to learn that the Speaker there has a very useful weapon in his armoury. In order to curtail lengthy speeches, he has the use of a sand clock timer which sheds its sand 15 minutes after a speech commences, and that is followed by a stricture from the Chair. When the hon. Member for Streatham addressed the Assembly, he suggested that if ever the Parliament of the Bahamas wished to present this House with a present, it might well send us such a device. I leave it to you, Mr. Speaker, to decide whether you would think this an appropriate gift.
Finally, may I say that from our meeting the Bahamian High Commissioner, Sir Alvin Braynen, and Lady Braynen in London to our meeting Sir Milo Butler, the Governor-General, who received us so generously, and the Prime Minister, the Hon. Mr. Pindling—in fact, all those whom we met—we were shown nothing but kindness and hospitality, for which we were most grateful. We, on our part, hope that as a result of our visit we have helped to strengthen the already close ties between our two countries.
I should like briefly to take the opportunity to associate myself with the remarks of the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) and to express the appreciation of the delegation to the Government and the Parliament of the Bahamas.
Let me return the hon. Gentleman's compliment by saying that if he found us good companions in his delegation, we found him an excellent leader, and certainly we could wish for no better.
I should very much like to comment on the kindness that was shown to us by Mr. Peter Mennen, the High Commissioner, and by the staff of the High Commission, including Mr. John Doubleday, the Deputy High Commissioner. They were thoughtful in the extreme. They looked after us admirably, and they made excellent arrangements, without which our task would have been more difficult to complete.
In conversation with the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and many hon. Members of Parliament and members of the Government, I was profoundly impressed by their respect for the democratic traditions of Parliament—their own and this. I am sure that this House would wish to know that and will be as pleased to hear it as I was myself. I am grateful to the House for having been given the opportunity of being a member of the delegation. The visit was extremely interesting and a fruitful experience.
I know that the House will want me to express its thanks to the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) and the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) for conducting their mission in the way they did. I thank them very sincerely, and I shall see that the resolution passed at the ceremony of presentation of the Mace is entered in the Journal of the House.
As regards the sand clock, my views are well known. I see two distinguished members of the usual channels here today. Perhaps they will take some note of the point.