HC Deb 27 November 1950 vol 481 cc778-9
47. Mr. Peter Smithers

asked the Prime Minister what arrangements are being made to ensure that the interests of the Crown Colonies and Protectorates are adequately represented at the forthcoming conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers.

The Prime Minister

I shall watch the interests of the Colonies at the Conference in consultation with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies.

Mr. Smithers

As the Prime Minister represents the interests of this country and all other British interests, is it not desirable to appoint a representative who may speak for the Colonies? Does he appreciate the extent to which this would be appreciated in the Colonies, as it would show that we wished to associate them with us in the work of the Commonwealth?

The Prime Minister

I do not think so, in view of the manner in which we carry on these conversations. They have always been between the Prime Ministers of the self-governing members of the Commonwealth. At times there are consultations with representatives of the Colonies. On occasions like these the interests of the Colonial Empire are generally looked after by myself and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies.

Earl Winterton

Before the next conference is held, will the right hon. Gentleman consider whether the point put by my hon. Friend is not a good one, in view of the great constitutional advances which have taken place in recent years in the status and position of many of the Colonies? Surely they could elect independent representatives to attend the conferences, even if only as observers?

The Prime Minister

The noble Lord will realise that the basis of this conference is, naturally, one to be decided between the members of the Commonwealth themselves. I do not think that at the moment one could very well extend it to include representatives of all the Colonies.

Mr. Braine

In view of the constitutional position of Southern Rhodesia, can the Prime Minister tell the House whether the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia will be invited to the conference?

The Prime Minister

He has been.

Mr. A. Fenner Brockway

If the matter is to be taken up again before the next conference, will my right hon. Friend consider finding a method by which the peoples of the Colonies may themselves appoint representatives to these conferences?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend is quite mistaken about the nature of this conference. It is a Commonwealth conference.