HC Deb 29 July 1952 vol 504 cc1266-8
The Prime Minister

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I wish to make a statement.

Some little time ago I communicated to the other Prime Ministers in the Commonwealth a proposal that we should meet in London in the latter part of November to review together the pressing issues of financial, commercial and economic policy with which our several Governments are faced, some of which have been the subject of continuous examination since the Finance Ministers' meeting in January of this year. It was our hope that out of such discussions we could work towards a constructive approach to the economic problems which beset the world.

I am glad to be able to inform the House that the other Commonwealth Prime Ministers have agreed that such a meeting will be timely and useful and that it will open in the last week of November.

The Prime Minister of South Africa has told me that while he himself would unfortunately have special difficulty in attending the conference at the time proposed, his country will be represented. The Prime Minister of India will be unable to attend at the time proposed, but the Government of India have agreed to make the appropriate arrangements for the participation of India. All other Commonwealth Prime Ministers, including the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia, hope to be present themselves for the whole or part of the conference. Arrangements will also be made for the representation of the Colonial Territories.

The conference will be preceded by preparatory discussions between officials of the Commonwealth countries.

I shall give the House further information on the subject in due course.

Mr. Gaitskell

While welcoming the announcement of the Prime Minister about this conference, for which the Opposition have steadily pressed since the failure of the Finance Ministers' conference last January, and noting that at last the new conference is to work towards a constructive approach to the economic problems which beset the world, may I ask the Prime Minister whether the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth countries will be attended by Finance or Economic Minsters, or will they be taking part on their own in these proceedings? For example, will the Prime Minister himself, as seems to be his tendency these days, be looking after the economic affairs of the United Kingdom, or will he be assisted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

The Prime Minister

I think that is obviously a controversial supplementary question, put forward with the desire and design of causing differences and ill-feeling amongst the Government.

Sir R. Acland

May I ask the Prime Minister, without any desire to be controversial, whether the Prime Minister of the Gold Coast will be asked to attend this conference, considering that his country is contributing in the neighbourhood of £25 million to the favourable balance of the sterling area?

The Prime Minister

He is not included among those who are coming to this conference.

Hon. Members

Why not?

Mr. Mikardo

Will the Prime Minister do his best to avoid one of the results of the Finance Ministers' conference, which was the cancellation of many orders from this country?

Mr. Bevan

Would the right hon. Gentleman answer the supplementary question: Why is the Prime Minister of the Gold Coast not invited?

The Prime Minister

This is an invitation to Prime Ministers of Commonwealth countries.

Mr. Bevan

What is he?