HC Deb 02 June 1960 vol 624 cc1632-4
43. Mr. Dugdale

asked the Prime Minister what proposals he advanced at the recent Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference concerning the status in the Commonwealth of a future Republic of South Africa.

Mr. R. A. Butler

I have been asked to reply.

It would not be proper for me to give details of these confidential discussions. I have nothing to add to the agreed statement on this subject in the cornmuniqué issued at the end of the recent meeting.

Mr. Dugdale

While I appreciate what the right hon. Gentleman has said and the reasons for it, is he aware that the Prime Minister of South Africa has made a statement in which he has inferred that the conference decided that a Republic of South Africa would be admitted into the Commonwealth? Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that no such decision was reached and, as stated in the communiqué, that the matter was to be left for the next Prime Ministers' Conference to decide in the light of events?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. I can confirm that to be the case. If the hon. Member would turn to paragraph 13 of the communiqué, he would see that it runs as follows: In the event of South Africa deciding to become a republic and if the desire was subsequently expressed to remain a member of the Commonwealth, the meeting suggested that the South African Government should then ask for the consent of the other Commonwealth Governments either at a meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers or if this were not practicable by correspondence

Mr. Gaitskell

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that in that case the decision of the other Commonwealth Prime Ministers must be unanimous?

Mr. Butler

I cannot confirm or deny that. What I can say is that the decision cannot be taken until the suggested procedure has been gone through.

Mr. Gaitskell

In the event of South Africa becoming a republic, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that before she can be admitted to the Commonwealth in her new capacity, every other member of the Commonwealth must be agreeable?

Mr. Butler

I would not like to give an inaccurate answer; therefore, I should not like to go further than I have done. I should, however, like to reserve the absolute liberty of all members of the Commonwealth to state their opinion