HC Deb 18 March 1946 vol 420 cc1532-3
Mr. Eden (by Private Notice)

asked the Prime Minister whether he has any statement to make about the forthcoming consultations in London between the British Commonwealth Prime Ministers.

The Prime Minister

Consultations have been proceeding in the hope of arranging a meeting of British Commonwealth Prime Ministers to be held in London during April. Unfortunately, it has not proved possible to arrange a meeting at which all the Prime Ministers can be present simultaneously. Instead, arrangements have now been made to hold a series of consultations here at times convenient to all concerned. These will begin on 23rd April, when the Prime Minister of Australia and the right hon. Walter Nash, Minister of Finance of New Zealand (representing the New Zealand Prime Minister) will be in London. The Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa will join the discussions later in April. The Prime Minister of Canada will be in London for discussions at a later date. The main subject for discussion will be matters pertaining to the Pacific, but the consultations will afford an opportunity for conversations on other matters of common concern. I am sure that the House will agree with me in welcoming this opportunity for discussions with our Commonwealth partners and for renewing valuable personal contacts.

Mr. Eden

While warmly welcoming what the Prime Minister has said about the possibilities of contacts, it does seem a little disappointing that they cannot take place altogether, because the value of this exchange of minds is to have so many minds, equally well-informed, who can exchange opinions. I do not know whether the Prime Minister could still bring that about, but I am surehe would agree that it would be even more valuable than the arrangement he has announced?

The Prime Minister

I very much agree with the right hon. Gentleman, but he knows the difficulties. These Prime Ministers have commitments to their own Parliaments and legislatures, and to get a time for all of them to come together in these difficult days is extraordinarily hard.

Mr. Vernon Bartlett

Will there be a chance of a Debate in the House before the first of those meetings, so that we can discuss here what possibilities there are of improving inter-Commonwealth consultations?

The Prime Minister

I do not think there is any specific need for that. Ithink the whole House is aware of the need for closer working together with the Dominions. I doubt whether there would be any special advantage in having a Debate before these consultations take place.