HC Deb 29 June 1950 vol 476 cc2443-5
46. Mr. Turton

asked the Prime Minister whether he will immediately consult with the Dominion Prime Ministers in order to secure their agreement upon the proposal to form an Empire committee on foreign policy.

The Prime Minister

The question of the machinery for consultation between members of the Commonwealth has been frequently discussed at meetings of Commonwealth Prime Ministers and particularly at those held in 1944, 1946 and 1948. The general conclusion reached has been that the existing methods of consultation were satisfactory. In the circumstances, I hardly feel that I myself should be justified in taking up this matter afresh with other Commonwealth Governments.

Mr. Turton

Are we to understand from that reply that the Prime Minister has not received a fresh suggestion from the Prime Minister of Australia on this subject?

The Prime Minister

I have received no communication from the Prime Minister of Australia on this subject.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Does the Prime Minister really say that the existing arangements are satisfactory when, in a matter of prime importance, the recognition of Communist China, the United Kingdom Government have recognised while Australia and New Zealand have not? Is there not a need to look at the whole machinery again.

The Prime Minister

I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman does not understand the nature of the Commonwealth. It has never been suggested that in every matter every Government in the Commonwealth should take precisely the same action. As the hon. Member surely knows, it frequently occurs at meetings of U.N.O. and its committees that there is not absolute agreement. I could never accept the view that it was evidence of lack of consultation because in certain matters Commonwealth Governments take a different view.

Mr. Braine

Does not the Prime Minister's reply mean that he abdicates all responsibility for taking the initiative?

The Prime Minister

I abdicate no responsibility. If any Commonwealth Government wishes to raise this matter it is open for them to do so. I am saying that this matter has been discussed in successive Commonwealth Conferences, when it was generally agreed that no change was desirable. That does not preclude changes in the future. I do not think there is any need to take the initiative in this matter.