HC Deb 30 January 1957 vol 563 cc1126-8
Mr. Bottomley

I beg to move, in page 1, line 15, to leave out "Empire" and insert "Commonwealth."

I am sure that most hon. Members would agree that we ought to have this Amendment made. I said during the Second Reading debate that the term "Empire" was offensive to me, and I believe it will be offensive to other people who look at its historic derivation. The word "Empire" came from the system of the feudal lords and implied to direct, to rule. It cannot be denied that we carried that outlook overseas. In fact, the Empire was something which we acquired by conquest, and many of the indigenous peoples still believe that it means that power is given over them, that we command, that we exercise authority.

We know that that is not so, and we know also that the word "Dominion" applies equally to those of us who are in the United Kingdom as to those in other parts of the Commonwealth. When the Under-Secretary of State said last Friday that we must think in terms not only of groups within the Commonwealth but of the Commonwealth as a whole, he really gave me the answer that I want, namely, that the Title of the Bill should be changed.

Although the hon. Gentleman said that many people reverence and value the traditional title of "Empire," I think he would find, if a democratic decision were taken, that those who hold such a view were in the minority. The hon. Gentleman should accept this Amendment on the basis that, being a Commonwealth, we are united by good will and co-operation, not by force. Therefore, I ask him to accept the Amendment.

Major Patrick Wall (Hull, Haltemprice)

I support the plea made by the right hon. Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mr. Bottomley). It is surely the desire of both political parties to bring Colonial Dependencies to the state of being self-governing members of the Commonwealth. The Bill is designed to help forward that objective through emigration, and the Measure is brought forward by the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations.

I feel no shame about the word "Empire," but it is true to say that the Asiatics and the forthcoming African Dominions rather resent it. We must face the fact that soon we shall have more non-European members of the Commonwealth than European, but I see nothing to fear in that. The Commonwealth must expand, and it must obviously expand in that direction. I urge my hon. Friend to accept the Amendment, for it advances the Bill into the future rather than leaves it in the past.

Mr. B. Harrison

I would also urge my hon. Friend to accept the Amendment. It is said that a rose by any other name smells as sweet, but the "Empire" rose has, unfortunately, reached a rather full-blown state and is not as sweet as it was. We ought to bring the Measure up to date in this manner. The alteration does not mean so much in this country but it means a tremendous amount overseas.

Mr. Donald Wade (Huddersfield, West)

I, also, support the Amendment. The word "Commonwealth" is symbolical. The hon. Gentleman would be wise to accept the Amendment.

Mr. Alport

As to the problem raised by this point, although a change might be made, it will not remove the fact that the Measure is a re-enactment of a series of Acts which have existed for 37 years and have gone by the old and honoured name of the "Empire Settlement Acts." The change will not make any difference to the form of the Measure. It will have no effect upon whether or not a single person goes overseas from this country. It is merely a matter of changing a form, but I and my noble Friend recognise that these forms are of the greatest importance in dealing with Commonwealth relations.

I confess that I should have preferred to make the change when, as might be the case in five years' time, we were re-shaping the Measure rather than reenacting the terms of an old one. However, in the circumstances, and having regard to the views expressed by the right hon. Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mr. Bottomley), my hon. Friends and the representative of the Liberal Party, I shall be glad to accept the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 1, line 17, after "the" insert "Commonwealth and".—[Mr. Bottomley.]

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill reported, with Amendments (changed to "Commonwealth Settlement Bill); as amended, considered; read the Third time and passed.