HC Deb 22 November 1960 vol 630 cc971-2
41. Mr. Rankin

asked the Prime Minister what communications he has received from the South African Government about Her Majesty's Government's policy regarding the readmission of South Africa to the Commonwealth; and what replies he has sent.

The Home Secretary (Mr. R. A. Butler)

I have been asked to reply.

In reply to inquiries from Dr. Verwoerd, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister expressed to him the view that it would be appropriate and in accordance with precedent that the question of South Africa's continued membership of the Commonwealth, after becoming a Republic, should be raised at the next meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers; and it is understood that Dr. Verwoerd proposes to adopt this course.

Mr. Rankin

Pending that meeting, would the right hon. Gentleman agree that a Commonwealth should be motivated by something more than materialist interests, and will he not also agree that there ought to be some commonly accepted ideals of which the segregation of races can never be a part? Therefore, will the right hon. Gentleman realise that if, when the time comes, South Africa voluntarily retires from the Commonwealth, that act will be widely acclaimed by millions of people in the Commonwealth who would bitterly resent her readmission.

Mr. Butler

These considerations, although important, are wider than the original Question. I think we must leave them to be dealt with, as I think they should be, at the next meeting of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers.

Mr. Gaitskell

May I ask whether that means that the question will be considered before South Africa, technically, becomes a Republic? Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that the matter will be settled at the next Prime Minister's Conference or that it will merely be discussed there?

Mr. Butler

I think we should naturally hope that some settlement, or whatever word by which we should describe it, will be raised at the conference, but I think it would be wrong to prejudge the question prior to that. It has been agreed between the South African Government and the Prime Minister, who has said so publicly, that the issue may be raised at that conference.

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