HC Deb 17 April 1957 vol 568 cc1925-6
The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a short statement.

I have been in communication with the Prime Ministers of the other Commonwealth countries and we have now arranged to hold a meeting in London, beginning on 26th June this year.

I feel sure that the House will join with me in welcoming this event, to which we all attach the highest importance.

Mr. Gaitskell

On behalf of the Opposition, I should like to give a warm welcome to the announcement made by the Prime Minister, but may I ask him whether, among the subjects to be discussed, will be the question of the Free Trade Area in Europe, and its relationship—as affected by the proposal to include overseas territories—to our own Imperial Preference arrangements?

The Prime Minister

I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition will acquit me of any discourtesy if I remind him—as has been stated before—that it is not the practice to give information of the subjects discussed at Prime Ministers' meetings. I am merely repeating what has been said before when I say that it is thought that that would be to impair the informal character of these meetings. But any Prime Minister can raise any question he wishes during the conference.

Mr. Wade

Is it intended to send an invitation to the Prime Minister of the Central African Federation? If so, may we assume that it does not imply any modification of the safeguards of the interests of the African inhabitants of those territories for which the British Government are responsible?

The Prime Minister

As, perhaps, the House knows, there is a long-established precedent for the invitation, which, after consultation with other Prime Ministers, I have sent to the Prime Minister of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.

Mr. Shinwell

Does not the Prime Minister agree that before the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' conference is held in June it might be desirable to initiate a debate upon Commonwealth affairs in the House, as a result of which the minds of Her Majesty's Ministers attending the Conference may be duly illuminated?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir, but perhaps that question might be put to the Leader of the House.

Mr. Shinwell

Then may I put it to the Leader of the House? I am not responsible for "passing the buck."