HC Deb 06 November 1961 vol 648 cc620-2
Mr. Gaitskell

(by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement about the visit of the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations to Ghana.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

I appreciate the concern of the House and of the nation. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman will have seen the statement issued yesterday. There is nothing which I can add to it at present.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the House generally is concerned about the possible danger to Her Majesty in view of the reports of bomb explosions? Can he say whether, before the Secretary of State went to Ghana, he—the Prime Minister-had received any other information about the state of security in Ghana?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. As the right hon. Gentleman is no doubt aware, we have made the most careful investigations within our power to do. The incidents of Saturday were reported to me by the High Commissioner in detail. I thought it right yesterday, after considering the question, that my right hon. Friend the Commonwealth Secretary should pay a visit to Ghana. He arrived there this morning, and I am awaiting a report from him.

Mr. E. L. Mallalieu

Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that there is one consideration which ought not to be taken into account in deciding this very difficult question which the Government have to decide, whether the Queen should go to Ghana or not, and that is the question whether the President of Ghana should lead that country out of the Commonwealth? Is he aware that, contrary to what the President of Ghana teaches his youth to sing, namely, that he is immortal, he is, in fact, mortal, and that, when he goes, if he had led his country out, Ghana would be welcomed back with open arms, when he has passed on to other spheres, which may not be very long?

Mr. Thorpe

Would the Prime Minister give us this assurance, that whilst the advice to be tendered to Her Majesty is primarily a matter for Ghana, it is also for the Commonwealth as a whole? Can he give us an assurance that, as far as Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom are concerned, the security of Her Majesty is of paramount importance and must take priority over any political considerations as to the effect of the cancellation?

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he is aware that during the last few days President Nkrumah has been sleeping, as a security measure, in the military headquarters, because he regards Flagstaff House as no longer being safe for him? Will he realise that if the Government advise Her Majesty against going, it will be received with a great deal of relief by many people in this country?

The Prime Minister

Without going into detail of the constitutional situation, as the House knows, this visit was originally planned for 1959 when Her Majesty undertook this engagement on the advice of Her Majesty's Prime Minister in Ghana, Dr. Nkrumah. For reasons which the House knows, the visit had to be postponed, and in the interval Ghana became a Republic. Therefore, it is quite clear that it is necessary for one of Her Majesty's Governments to take over responsibility for any further visit. In the main, accordingly, the responsibility was assumed by Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, as was done in the case of Her Majesty's visit to India and to Pakistan.

With regard to the wider question posed by the two hon. Members who have asked supplementary questions, naturally what weighs the most with me and my colleagues is Her Majesty's safety. This is a very heavy burden which is placed upon us. I feel sure that we have the sympathy of the House. At the same time, it would not be right to disregard the wider implications not only of the present but, as one hon. Member has reminded us, of the future of the whole relations and forward movement of the Commonwealth as a whole.

Mr. Turton

In view of that reply, would my right hon. Friend say whether, in view of the growing anxiety both in this country and throughout the Commonwealth since the bomb outrage, he has been in consultation with other Commonwealth Prime Ministers to ask them their advice about the wisdom of further postponement of this visit?

The Prime Minister

We have, of course, been in contact with Commonwealth Prime Ministers recently and we shall continue to remain in contact with them. I am awaiting now the first report of my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Bellenger

As it is quite obvious to the right hon. Gentleman that there is considerable perturbation in various quarters about the security of Her Majesty on this visit, which I understand, is to start on Thursday, does the right hon. Gentleman propose to make any further statement to the House before the visit takes place?

The Prime Minister

I will consider that.