HC Deb 26 January 1960 vol 616 cc30-2
48. Mr. E. L. Mallalieu

asked the Prime Minister what consultations he has had with the other Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth, and with the Nigerian Government, about the representation of the Government of the Federation of Nigeria at the Commonwealth Conference next May: and if he will make a statement.

Mr. R. A. Butler

I have been asked to reply.

None, Sir. It would not be appropriate for Nigeria to be represented at a Meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers before she has attained her independence and been admitted to full membership of the Commonwealth.

Mr. Mallalieu

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how he can justify the acceptance of a Rhodesian into the Commonwealth councils when no part of Rhodesia is independent, and yet he refuses to accept Nigeria which is on the verge of independence?

Mr. Butler

This custom has developed over several years. First, the Prime Minister of the self-governing Colony of Southern Rhodesia and the Prime Minister of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland have been present at these meetings. They have not been present at all the business meetings or when questions of new members applying arise. We hope that the independence of Nigeria will be promoted in due course by a Bill passed through this House, and that would be the time for the Prime Minister to attend as a full member of the Commonwealth.

Mr. Gaitskell

Would not it be better to look at this matter from the broader point of view of our future relations with Nigeria if, as my hon. and learned Friend has said in effect, territories which have not achieved full independence have been represented at the Commonwealth Conference in the past? Since Nigeria is shortly to achieve full independence, would not it be a gracious gesture to invite the Prime Minister of the Federation to attend?

Mr. Butler

No. This matter has been considered and a ruling has been given on it. I am not satisfied that all members of the Commonwealth will agree to this course. As the Commonwealth is essentially a club, it is important that we should proceed with the agreement of all members. In the interests of Nigeria and Nigerian independence, I should like to underline that this House and this country are looking forward to the day when Nigeria is independent, and the sooner we can bring about the final steps to this end the better. There is no question of any derogation of dignity arising from Questions and Answers in the House.

Mr. Gaitskell

While welcoming the Home Secretary's last statement, may I ask him whether the other Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth have been consulted? If they have not been consulted, this matter might well be raised, at any rate, at the Commonwealth Conference itself.

Mr. Butler

Certainly. I should not be associated myself with the Conference. I will bring this matter to the attention of the Prime Minister who will normally be the chairman of the Conference.

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