HC Deb 13 December 1960 vol 632 cc204-6
40. Mr. Wall

asked the Prime Minister whether in view of the many problems caused by the expansion of the Commonwealth, he will consider the fusion of the Colonial Office and the Commonwealth Relations Office.

44. Mr. Stonehouse

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the future of the Colonial Office and Commonwealth Relations Office, in view of the contracting responsibilities of the former and the expanding duties of the latter.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

I am considering, in consultation with my right hon. Friends the Commonwealth and Colonial Secretaries, the recommendations made on this subject by the Select Committee on Estimates.

Mr. Wall

While I welcome that reply, does not my right hon. Friend agree that the sharp division that now exists between sovereign States and non-sovereign States of the Commonwealth is wrong? Would not the amalgamation of these two offices tend to make the sovereign States take more interest in the still dependent States in the Commonwealth?

The Prime Minister

That is one aspect of the problem. On the other hand, one must not underrate the other aspect—the difficulty of combining in a single office our relations with the wholly independent members and our remaining duties to those which are necessarily still dependent.

Mr. Stonehouse

Does not the Prime Minister agree that there is a problem of co-ordination here, particularly concerning the future of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland? For instance, which Minister was responsible for cancelling the territorial conferences in relation to both Northern and Southern Rhodesia?

The Prime Minister

That clearly does not arise out of this Question.

Mr. Gaitskell

In view of the fact that the Select Committee emphasised the danger that such a proposal might have an adverse affect in the Commonwealth and be misunderstood, will the right hon. Gentleman consider discussing this with the other Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth at their Conference in March?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir.

Sir G. Nicholson

Will not my right hon. Friend agree that there is only one Commonwealth and not two? Surely the main problem is one of presentation—that is, of presenting the arguments that appear valid to us to the independent members of the Commonwealth in the hope that they will reach the same conclusion?

The Prime Minister

All these are matters of importance to the problem of organisation and the wider problem of how to handle this to get the best results. We are studying these problems to see whether we can get some of the advantages of co-ordination without the disadvantages to which I have called attention.