HC Deb 30 July 1962 vol 664 cc332-55

6.42 a.m.

Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)

For the last few hours we have been discussing families in London. I now want to draw attention to another family— the family of the Commonwealth. We have had many debates on the Commonwealth in this House, but they have nearly all been of narrow scope. I cannot remember many which have been wide enough to cover the subject I want to raise, namely, the rôle of the Commonwealth and the methods of improving Commonwealth co-operation in the modern world.

I believe that this matter is of very great importance and I make no apology for raising it after an all-night sitting. I believe that in the past we in this country have neglected the Commonwealth and I believe that we have slowly woken up to the fact that it is rapidly changing in character. We have now accepted this change but have done little to try to direct it. In short, we have failed to plan ahead.

During my eight years in this House I have been a member of a number of groups and committees considering Commonwealth problems. The Expanding Commonwealth Group has produced a number of pamphlets on those problems. A committee under the chairmanship of Lord Colyton sat in 1960 and produced a pamphlet called "The Wind of Change". Many important suggestions have been made. They have rarely, if ever, been acted upon.

I believe that the Commonwealth is now at the crossroads. This appeal for a positive policy for the future has been made at Commonwealth Parliamentary Conferences, but, as far as I know, it has not recently been raised in this House. I raise it now in the knowledge that fifteen Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth will be assembling in London in September and in the hope that some of these suggestions may be heard and acted upon.

I have said that the Commonwealth is at the crossroads. We have to face the fact that there is a growing division between the coloured and white members, that there is growing competition for the limited amount of development capital available, that there is tension between those members who have a democratic form of government and those who have an authoritarian form, and that there is strain due to different policies adopted by various Commonwealth Governments towards the cold war.

It has been said that the Commonwealth exists by trade, and it could obviously be greatly strengthened or be destroyed by the outcome of our negotiations with the European Economic Community. It is clear that all these stresses and strains to which I have referred exist to a much greater degree in the world itself, and we must not fail to realise the great intrinsic strength of the Commonwealth. It is probably the only international organisation that actually works and which genuinely tries to bridge the differences between white and coloured, between rich and poor, and between the East and West.

In the past we have heard a lot about the great moral strength and collective influence of the Commonwealth, but we must think more of the future. Any living organisation must either expand or decay, and if the Commonwealth is to expand it must have a positive future. To put it another way, the Commonwealth must mean something to the man in the street, not only the man in the street in London or Ottawa, but the man in the street in Fiji and in the Falkland Islands. We must agree, if not on a common policy, at least on a common aim, and I suggest that to do this we must have the right structure and one which will encourage co-operation and mutual understanding between the various partners in the Commonwealth.

May I examine the problems which lie immediately ahead? In examining these problems, I think that we can begin to construct a framework designed to facilitate their solution. In the short term I suggest that the problem that faces us is that of colonialism, and by that I mean the problem of the political and economic future of the small dependent territories of the Commonwealth, a very large number of which are islands scattered round the world, and also the political and economic future of the still dependent territories in the Continent of Africa. In the long term I suggest that our main problem is that of consultation—consultation over aid, trade, and defence.

May I now turn to the problem of colonialism? Obviously this problem will end when all our Colonies are independent or at least self-governing, and we try to speed on that day by federation or by integration so as to form the smaller countries into larger groupings capable of standing on their own feat. In London this week there is a conference to discuss the future of the Federation of Malaysia, and another to discuss federation between the Colony and Protectorate of Aden and the various Sheikdoms of the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula.

But even if we federate and integrate all possible territories, there are still some which either geographically or historically cannot be dealt with in that way. and I suggest as examples Malta, Mauritius, and Hong Kong. It has been suggested that Malta should be integrated with this country. It has also been suggested that Mauritius should be federated with East Africa. But I doubt whether these are satisfactory solutions.

Would these small islands be satisfied with internal self-government? I very much doubt it. Could they be given full independence, as has been granted to Cyprus? I suggest that if this happened we should be faced with the same problem as the United Nations General Assembly now faces and that the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, which in September will be an intimate conference attended by fifteen Prime Ministers, would become a different state of affairs if fifty or sixty Prime Ministers had to meet together.

I therefore suggest that we must provide a structure which will allow these small territories to run their own affairs and at the same time to have a say in the formulation of Commonwealth policy. I believe that the best way to do this is to regionalise the Commonwealth. It is essential to maintain the vital importance of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, but we should also encourage regional conferences of Commonwealth members on a functional basis, and by that I mean meetings not necessarily of Prime Ministers, but of Ministers of Agriculture, Transport, and so on.

I believe that if one studies the map, one way of regionalising the Commonwealth is to base the regions on the three great oceanic areas of the Commonwealth—the Atlantic, the Indian Ocean, and the Pacific. This form of regionalisation would have further advantages to which I shall refer later in my speech.

I now want to refer to the problem of the still dependent territories in Africa—the Federation, Kenya, Zanzibar, the High Commission Territories and the Gambia. The common factor in all their problems is that they are bound to be solved within two, three or four years at the most. At the end of that time they will assume their final shape, either as fully sovereign or fully self-governing members of the Commonwealth. As these are transitional problems, I suggest that the existing Central Africa Office, which was created some months ago and which has been an enormous success and has done a great deal of good in Central Africa, should be expanded to become the Africa Office, and be given charge of the problems of these still dependent terri- tories, bearing in mind that they will extinguish themselves in a maximum of four years. Only a man with the stature, authority and experience of the First Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister will have the time and authority to direct these countries along their final route to independence.

I turn now to my second point—the long-term problem of consultation on aid, trade and defence. On aid, we must remember that it is not only financial; it is also human. One of the best examples can be found in the Colombo Plan. There we have pooled help and membership not only of sovereign nations of the Commonwealth but also of foreign nations. We could use this Colombo Plan as a model for channelling aid in each of the three regions of the Commonwealth that I have previously suggested. If we set up this organisation we are almost bound to set up regional secretariats, and this would create an ideal machine through which to channel both British and foreign aid to the countries of the three regions.

If we do this we shall have to have a better organisation in this country. It will mean upgrading the present Department for Technical Co-operation to a Ministry of Overseas Aid, but I will not labour this argument now.

I turn briefly to the subject of trade, it is an enormous subject and one which could not be covered in the middle of a short speech. It is clear that Commonwealth trade must expand, and it will expand either by Britain's membership of the European Economic Community or, if this fails, by our revision of G.A.T.T. and negotiation of new Commonwealth agreements.

The only other points that I want to make on the subject of trade are, first, that more use should be made of the Commonwealth Economic Consultative Committee at Marlborough House, which is so much neglected by all members of the Commonwealth and, secondly, that the Commonwealth itself should give consideration to imaginative schemes, such as insurance against political risks, which I know is of great interest to the Joint Under-Secretary. If we had such insurance schemes it would make investment in the underdeveloped countries of the Commonwealth very much easier.

I now turn to defence. It is quite clear that some Commonwealth countries are leaders of the West and that other Commonwealth countries wish to remain unaligned, or neutral. There must be understanding between those two groups. I believe that tolerance is displayed to the unaligned nations by the leading nations of the West, but there is not nearly so much tolerance of the position of those Western nations by the uncommitted nations of the Commonwealth. It is after all on the leaders of the West, such as Britain, Canada and Australia, that the defence of the Commonwealth lies.

We sympathise with those countries which wish to contract out of any other world trouble, but we remember that one of the greatest nations in the world twice tried to do this and failed on each occasion. I refer to the United States of America, in the two great world wars. I hope that the uncommitted nations of the Commonwealth will realise that the leaders of the West must have certain strategic requirements. They must control fortress territories sited in key places in the world such as Aden, and I suggest that the garrisoning of these territories should be a Commonwealth commitment rather than a British commitment.

Secondly, the uncommitted nations must realise that Western defence depends on certain strategic areas such as Southern Africa. I believe that the newly-emergent nations of Africa from the south of the Sahara to the borders of the Federation will be African-led States with socialist economies and authoritarian Governments and will adopt a neutral policy. It is clear that the West will not be able to get strategic help from these countries and must therefore turn to the white-led countries of Southern Africa. I hope that that point will be realised and understood by the uncommitted countries of the Commonwealth and that toleration will work both ways.

I have tried to put before the House the problems which we face today summed up under the heading of colonialism in the short term and consultation in the long term. I suggest that we require a new structure in the Commonwealth to tackle these problems. In the Commonwealth itself we require three regional oceanic areas, each with a regional secretariat organising functional conferences. We must maintain the importance of the summit conference of Prime Ministers which I suggest requires recasting. At the moment there are fifteen members, but if it is expanded to fifty or sixty members, it must have a different structure or it will degenerate into 3rd, 4th and 5th elevens. I borrow an idea from the Security Council of the United Nations where there are a number of permanent members, the great Powers of the world, and where the smaller nations elect members to represent them in rotation for a given period of time. This might provide an example for a future Commonwealth Conference where the regional areas could elect one of the smaller members to represent the smaller States, while the larger members attended the summit conference of the Commonwealth by right.

I believe that regionalisation will encourage co-operation between foreign countries and Commonwealth countries and therefore I suggest that the Commonwealth countries should consult among themselves and devise some status such as external association which would enable a country which wished to be associated with the Commonwealth, but not to join it, to enjoy many of the advantages of Commonwealth members without the key ones of consultation and citizenship. This might prove a first step to full membership.

Those are my suggestions for the Commonwealth and I turn now to possible reorganisation of the machinery for Commonwealth co-operation here at home. I have suggested that the Central Africa Office should become the Africa Office to deal with the problems of the still dependent territories of Africa for the next few years. The Commonwealth Office and the Colonial Office should be amalgamated. We have already taken a step towards that by having one Secretary of State. I suggest that the Commonwealth Office should be divided into three in accordance with the three oceanic regions, each section with a Minister of State at the head to whom Commonwealth statesmen in that region would refer and would not automatically go to the Secretary of State and so join a long queue to see one man, as happens today. I suggest that in order to illustrate the importance of the Secretary of State he should be given a title such as the Chancellor of the Commonwealth, and that only top level operations should be referred to him.

I suggest that in future we should have one Overseas Civil Service which would incorporate the Foreign Service, the Colonial Service and the Commonwealth Service when serving overseas. While retaining the Foreign Office and Commonwealth Office in London, I suggest that this civil service would serve Britain's interests in both foreign and Commonwealth countries.

We should also have a Ministry of Overseas Aid. This Ministry would act as the instrument through which technical help would be channelled both to foreign and to Commonwealth countries. The differences between this technical assistance and the civil service would be that the civil service would serve Britain, whereas the technicians would be seconded by Britain or Commonwealth countries to serve the Commonwealth or foreign Governments to whom they would be seconded for a period of years.

I believe that some structure such as I have outlined would result in regional conferences and regional secretariats and that this in itself would lead to better understanding of the Commonwealth throughout the world. I believe that the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference would be better prepared and organised under some such system. I believe that the available capital in the world, both human and financial, would be better spread throughout the Commonwealth. I believe that this would mean that the Commonwealth would begin to amount to something to the man in the street.

If we got a better understanding, that would give the Commonwealth a meaning. A meaning would lead to a common aim. A common aim could lead to a Commonwealth policy. A commonwealth policy could positively bridge the gap between white and coloured and between rich and poor. If we fail to give the Commonwealth a meaning, the world will remain divided into two great power blocs, now known as East and West but perhaps in future divided between coloured and white. Then I sug- gest a world clash would be almost inevitable.

We have the chance to take positive action, but only if we have the vision to look ahead.

7.2 a.m.

Mr. Paul Williams (Sunderland, South)

The House is grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) for raising this matter, even at this either late or early hour. When I say "the House is", I rather doubt if I would carry you with me on that point, Sir. I will therefore keep my remarks as abridged and as much to the point as possible.

I agree with almost every word my hon. Friend said, but it seemed to me that there was one missing ingredient in his remarks. That was the prerequisite for a Commonwealth policy, which basically is a conviction on the Front Bench of the governing party that the Commonwealth is something worth while. I doubt whether this conviction carries the true note of a sound bell as it did in the Conservative Party in the past. If it did, these last twelve months need not have been consumed with the scurryings of Ministers between London and Brussels and the emissaries that have gone from London to the Commonwealth capitals to cajole, to browbeat and to influence the Commonwealth towards its own demise. If we had spent one-tenth of the energy of the last twelve months on promoting Commonwealth trade, instead of laying the foundations for the breakdown of Commonwealth trade, we should have had the prerequisite which my hon. Friend needs for the whole of the rest of his argument.

If I could be more convinced that the Conservative Party was today being true to its own historic ideals of belief in Commonwealth and promotion of the Commonwealth idea, I should be happier with both the last and the present Government than I am. If I saw any deep and abiding conviction that the sterling area was vital to our own standard of living and the chance of survival of a decent standard of life for every man, woman and child in this country, on that score also I should be happy.

There is one issue on Which some of us on this side would be prepared to be persuaded that the Government had some understanding of the importance of the sterling area. I think of Katanga, for although she is not within the Commonwealth she is of considerable importance to the Commonwealth and to the sterling area.

Some of us, including my hon. Friends the Members for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) and for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) raised the problem of Katanga almost two years ago to the day, in the Adjournment debate for the summer Recess in 1960. We were then and subsequently labelled, I suppose, the founder members of the"Katanga lobby". If to speak in defence of Britain's interests, if to speak in promotion of the sterling area, if to act in defence of Commonwealth causes is to be a member of a lobby, I am proud to be a member of that lobby. I would rather, at any rate, be a member of that lobby than of the United Nations lobby which has done so much to break down President Tshombe's attempt to bring a multi-racial form of government into operation and maintain law and order in a continent where there is precious little law and scant order. Those are things which some of us, even at this time of day, find it difficult to express adequately in words.

If I am brief on this matter, it is because conviction runs deep and strong. I believe that this Government will not even begin to turn the tide of electoral unpopularity until they can show openly and with conviction not only the techniques of Commonwealth co-operation but a fundamental faith and belief in its importance. This matter of faith is to be seen not by wearing it on one's sleeve but by acts. To hurry on down the path towards premature self-government in Africa is not to attain the blessing of freedom in Africa. It may lead to dictatorship and degradation. That is why some of us had some hesitations some years ago about the Government's sense of purpose in these great matters.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice that to amalgamate the Commonwealth Relations Office and the Colonial Office into an individual Commonwealth Office of much greater stature is one of the essential ingredients. I would that this new office were to become as great in the hierarchy of the various parties as is the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. I would put it higher still. Until Commonwealth affairs rate that high in our priorities, I cannot believe that any Government of any party is do-ing more than bowing down before the image of Commonwealth co-operation.

There are many ways in which we can, in fact, show that we believe in Commonwealth. We do not show we believe in it by dismantling the structure of preferential trade in an attempt to ease our way in to an inward-looking European confederation, or federation, whichever it may become. What we need from this and from any other Government, and what the country needs and deserves, is an open and avowed expression of faith and action in the Commonwealth cause.

7.8 a.m.

Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)

I suppose that the Liberals are with us in spirit. The other great Commonwealth party opposite has almost given up the ghost, and, in the interests of all of our colleagues and more particularly of those who minister to us in this House, I shall try to be brief.

I think my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) was right to raise this great topic of the Commonwealth even now, and I only hope that the speeches that we are making at this time are not in the way of funeral orations. Many of the good ideas which my hon. Friend has put before the House this morning were worked on in the Expanding Commonwealth Group in which we were associated with others of our hon. Friends. The Expanding Commonwealth Group has some achievements to its credit. It has produced excellent Ministers, and we are glad that my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State will be replying to us in a few moments.

My hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice has mentioned the amalgamation of the Colonial Office and the Commonwealth Relations Office. That, indeed, was something at which we battered for quite a long time in the Expanding Commonwealth Group. Indeed, we have another achievement to our credit. "Expanding Commonwealth"is nowadays by way of being quite a Government gambit; it is a cliché frequently in use in platform perorations.

I want to speak of one matter which did exercise the mind of the Commonwealth Group, and that is trying to remove some of the excessive fluctuation in the prices of the commodities upon which the less-developed members of the Commonwealth are so dependent. Such fluctuations, it has been said, can almost nullify overnight millions of pounds worth of aid poured into these territories. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was so recently Colonial Secretary, both as Colonial Secretary and in his opening speech in this House as Chancellor, raised this vital question. He said on 26th July, only a few days ago, In the past, we have been prepared "— that is, we in Britain— to take part in international commodity schemes based in each case upon the particular problems of any individual commodity—the Wheat Agreement, the Tin Agreement, and the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement, all of great importance to our economy. My right hon. Friend might have added that they were also of great importance to the economy of our overseas partners. But we have reached the time when we must look at the whole problem again and make a fresh attempt to secure new and revised agreements on commodities. The work is going on in respect of coffee in New York, and projects for a cocoa agreement are being considered. I hope that we shall make a new advance and a new approach to the general problem of commodity agreements because the low price of commodities certainly threatens the balance of international trade, and is a very serious problem for many underdeveloped countries."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th July, 1962; Vol. 663, c. 1855…6.] Sir, it is the dignity of trade, rather than the entanglements of aid which the underdeveloped countries, inside and outside the Commonwealth, desire; and that is one of the reasons why it is so vital that we should improve and strengthen, instead of undermine, the preferential trading arrangements of the Commonwealth.

It was disturbing that the Lord Privy Seal should have come to the House to say he had offered to end the industrial preferences, not because these represent at the present time a great section of our Commonwealth imports, but because it comes at a time when the overseas members of the Commonwealth are trying to industrialise and diversify their economies, and reduce their dependence on one or two crops or resources, and because it lends colour to the accusations now being levelled against us in India, and Ghana and elsewhere, that the Common Market is designed to keep the less-advanced members of the Commonwealth as hewers of wood and drawers of water—the favourite phrase—in a world scheme organised in the interests of the great creditor nations of Europe and North America.

The Lord Privy Seal's statement yesterday was also disturbing. I pray that the Government will stand firm on the pledges made so often and take careful note of the Motion now on the Order Paper of this House recalling the Prime Minister's pledges of 2nd August, 1961. It is not enough to say, as the leading Americans say, that the oversea Commonwealth countries and the French-African territories can be compensated for the loss of preferential 1rade arrangements by capital aid. That is not enough. They desire, as I have said, the dignity of trade, rather than the entanglements of aid.

We in the Commonwealth went on a wrong track in 1954 at the time of the Sydney Conference. Perhaps it was done under American pressure. It was put to us that we should wait to see what the Randall Report had to offer. At that conference, the Finance Ministers decided to concentrate on financial investment and neglected to press for the attainment of preferential markets to absorb the products of financial investments in the Commonwealth. It has been the failure of the Commonwealth, our failure, to modernise the obsolete Ottawa system and to restore the eroded preferences which has meant that the dependent territories in Africa and elsewhere have been given independence without the economic structure to sustain it.

The free world today is governed by rigid gold parities, by non-discrimination in trade but discriminatory financing by aid and loans. The result of this system has been to perpetuate economic imbalance and to over-centralise lending power in New York and a few other centres. The developing countries are compelled—this is the story of economic development at this time—to borrow money to pay the interest on previous loans they have borrowed. They resent their state of debtor-dependence. They are attracted not only by the lower interest rates offered by the Communist bloc but by its claim to champion their national sovereignty—a false claim, we know—against international finance.

The Governments of the new developing countries in many cases resort to totalitarian methods, as has happened in the Commonwealth itself, and try to find relief for their economic problems, made almost insoluble for them, in violence and aggression. They play East against West. They take aid and loans first from one and then from the other. In this age of the nuclear stalemate, they know their bargaining position.

Therefore, it should be our purpose within the Commonwealth—and, I would hope, within a Commonwealth-European trading association of nations —to try to remove some of these causes of world conflict. For I believe that these are causes of world conflict. One of the prime causes of dissension in the world is the international maldistribution of wealth and power. In my view, it is our interest, and in consonance with our ideal, to work for agreements with the developing countries particularly in the Commonwealth but also other overseas territories linked with Europe on fair and reasonable stable prices for their commodities and, therefore, expanding markets for reciprocal trade.

7.18 a.m.

Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth)

I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) for raising this matter at this time.

Sir Barnett Janner (Leicester, North-West)

At this time?

Mr. Fell

Even at this hour, it might not do us any harm to remind ourselves that all of our constituents, the constituents of those of us who are here and of those who are at home, owe their livelihoods and their position as citizens of this country to the existence of the Commonwealth. This is fact. My hon. Friend should not feel in any way uneasy about having started this debate this morning. I say again that I am very grateful to him for having done so.

My horn. Friend said that the Commonwealth was at a cross-roads. He always uses moderate language. I believe that the Commonwealth is not at a crossroads, but is on the edge of a precipice, and if it falls over it will never recover in a form recognisable to us. If we think of the Commonwealth, as far too many people do, as not including Britain, it will take Britain with it.

To me, it is incredible that the leadership of this great constitutional Commonwealth party—the Conservative Party— should so have forgotten its principles, should be so bereft of foresight, that it cannot see that mixture of the Commonwealth and signature of the Treaty of Rome by this country is, frankly, impossible. At least, it is impossible if the Commonwealth is to survive. May I say why I believe this is so and why I am astonished that the leaders of this country have not seen this?

The Commonwealth is, as everybody knows, an outward-looking group of nations tied by no political strings. It is, more than any other organisation in the world, in the twentieth century vein. It is the one grouping of nations under which Colonies have been able, one after another, to gain complete and absolute freedom and independence. This has been the cry of the twentieth century of small countries all over the world.

This is an outward-looking association of nations held together by all sorts of invisible ties but by no tight political ties of any sort. It so happens that until there is somebody in the Commonwealth who is capable and able to take over the leadership of the Commonwealth from Great Britain, we have to continue to lead it and we have a duty so to do.

If that be true, how is it possible for leaders in their right senses not to see that if we join the Treaty of Rome, and if that may mean federation or some sort of political union at any time in the future, this must cost us the Commonwealth, for we can no longer be leaders of the Commonwealth if that happens?

Mr. Wall

I am trying to follow my hon. Friend's argument. If Britain had to divest herself of the Commonwealth to go into the European Economic Community, I would agree with him. But, surely, if Britain can arrange it so that she takes the Commonwealth with her into E.E.C. and we have something like forty-seven associated nations led by ourselves, that would alter the whole outlook and a marriage of the Commonwealth and Europe could be highly successful.

Mr. Fell

My hon. Friend has much more credulity about this than I have. We are getting to the stage where we cannot stop looking for geese that lay golden eggs, when we cannot stop looking for an easy solution to all our problems. It does not matter what that solution is provided that we in Britain get some material gain out of it, and get the material gain quickly.

One talks glibly about taking the whole of the Commonwealth in with us. As the negotiations have been going for the last year, does it really look as though there is any conceivable chance of taking the Commonwealth into Europe with us? Of course this is a fantasy and our leaders know perfectly well that it is a fantasy. If there were no chance of that it is hardly likely that the Commonwealth Prime Ministers would be as worried as they are.

I do not want to be drawn off too much. I want to speak for only another few minutes. Can one appeal to the Government to understand that the British people are not so backward, so poor in spirit and so lacking in courage that they have reached a position where they are entirely unable to face difficulties? I suspect that the reason that we are trying desperately to get into the E.E.C. is the simple reason that we are looking for an easy way out of our difficulties. Suppose we look for an easy way out and in the process we desert our friends. Can someone tell me whether it has ever done any human being on earth or any nation on earth any good to desert his friends in order to make personal gain?

Mr. E. L. Mallalieu (Brigg)

Ask the Prime Minister.

Mr. Fell

I am at a loss to know what other reason there is for us even to contemplate joining the Treaty of Rome unless we are pushed more heavily than we have been told. I just do not understand the argument that we have to go into Europe because this will give us 300 million people in our trading area. So what? There are 250 million of them there now. I am not aware that our trade is decreasing with Europe at the moment.

If we do what my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice has advised and take some of these measures to concentrate on building up what we have, it may be that we can face the challenge of Europe and sell over what barriers there may be. Incidentally, I should have thought it highly improbable that France would want to stop selling goods to us, or that Germany would want to stop selling goods to us, and slightly improbable that Italy would want to stop selling goods to us. I should have thought that we could go on trading with Europe in any case, and indeed, increase our trade with Europe even if we did not join.

If we axe thinking about the immediate term it may be that some bankers in the City want us to go in. This has been said. One hears it if one goes about the City. They will not say it out loud; of course not. It may be that some industrialists in this country want us to go in because that is the way they think that we can solve our industrial problems. They do not say it out loud either, but they say it in private.

If we have reached the stage in this country when we have to get Italy, Germany, France, Belgium and Holland to settle our industrial affairs in Britain we have reached a pretty poor pass. What about the suggestion that we cannot trade unless we go into Europe? Where is the increase in trade in the world coming from if the world does not go backwards? If the word goes backwards of course we should not be interested because the whole thing would collapse. It must go forward. Surely the places where our trade has the greatest possibility of increase are in those areas of the world where the people are backward and where they must advance at an increasing pace, in other words on the continent of Africa, in Asia and in South America. Therefore, even on the grounds of trade, I cannot see any excuse of any sort for running the risk of letting down our friends, breaking up the whole of the Commonwealth, and extinguishing not only our good name but probably, in the long run, extinguishing Great Britain as a great nation as well.

We cannot, in my belief, continue to think that by a policy based solely on recognition of materialism as the highest aim of the British people we can lead the British people. If that is what we think we cannot lead the British people. If at every election we are to have a sort of bargaining match between the two great parties—and even the little one—as to who will promise the most, we shall follow the way which in the long run leads to suicide for this nation. Much more than material things are needed to satisfy the spirit of the British people—and these are things of the spirit. They are faith. The British people have got to be given an ideal.

It is no use blaming the British people if now they seem to be a bit materialistically minded, for our leadership has been materialistically minded ever since the war. Time and time again there have been occasions when we could have said to the British people, "Let us not take the £1,000 million loan from America. What do we want to do? Put ourselves in hock to America, or stand on our own feet and fight our way out of our problems?" The answer of the British people, if the question had been put to them in the right way, and if they had an ideal to work for, would have been, "For heaven's sake, let us stand on our own feet and work our way out."

I have perhaps been rude from time to time about the leadership of this country. I said a year ago that it was a disaster for us even to agree to negotiate about the Common Market. I thought I must be mad at the time to think that the moment we entered negotiations the Commonwealth countries all over the globe would be—as they are— looking for other countries to take their products, that the moment we entered negotiations faith would evaporate in Britain, that from the moment we entered the negotiations Commonwealth links were doomed to go through at least a rough time. Time has proved that I was not mad. It is with no personal feeling against the Prime Minister or any other Minister of the Conservative Government that one must go on saying, till they realise the enormity of that proposition, for heaven's sake do not just think of material gain, but think of our friends, think of loyalty, and think of faith.

7.35 a.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. John Tilney)

First, I should like to thank my hon. Friend, an old colleague of mine in the Expanding Commonwealth Group, the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) for his word of welcome to me. I also thank my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) for his many interesting points about the structure and the future of the Commonwealth. We all know his immense interest in the Commonwealth and his expertise, particularly on Africa. He has put forward many most interesting ideas, which will be studied very carefully.

My hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and other hon. Friends of mine have, I believe, laid great stress— possibly too much stress—on the great difficulties that are facing the Commonwealth today. My hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell)—I know how deeply he feels about these matters —referred to the Commonwealth being on the edge of a precipice, and my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams) spoke with great sincerity about the dangers that face us. But I would commend what is written in an admirable booklet "The Modern Commonwealth", written by my right hon. Friend. A sentence in it says: Instead of highlighting the things which divide us, we must show ourselves capable of working constructively together for the ideals which are common to us all. Efforts are continuing in relation to Katanga—which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South; I am merely sorry that I had not notice from him that the matter would be raised—to bring about national conciliation in the Congo. These endeavours are receiving the wholehearted support of Her Majesty's Government. One hopes that we shall see some fair division of revenues between the provinces and the central Government, possibly some federal system there, and even, when that has been established, some economic assistance from outside. But it has to be worked out by the Congolese themselves. Other friendly nations will then assist them. It is not for us or, I believe, for the United Nations to impose a political or military solution.

My hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice referred to the difficulties and to the forthcoming Prime Ministers' Conference. This Conference will, one hopes, be able to erase and eliminate some of those difficulties. He referred, taking the long view, to the Prime Ministers' Conference being increased in size greatly in the future. At the present time fifteen are eligible to come as against twelve at the last meeting. All have been invited this time. The majority have already accepted. It may be difficult for one or two, for special reasons, to come, but it is hoped that they will be represented at the Conference by a senior Minister. But these figures are very different from the numbers in the United Nations, and I do not see how my hon. Friend's suggestion of applying the rules of the Security Council are really applicable to the Prime Ministers' Conference.

My hon. Friend's remarks about regional conferences were interesting, but, except for looking at special problems, I very much doubt whether these would be practicable. We must remember the time factor in these days, when the world is really smaller than Great Britain was 200 years ago, and the life of great leaders of countries is more hectic, and problems such as these, even the regional problems, can in many ways be discussed and made easy. When the Prime Ministers meet together they can divide up and talk from time to time about their own regional problems.

Mr. Wall

I suggested that these regional conferences should be mainly functional—that is, not meetings of Prime Ministers but of Ministers such as Ministers of Agriculture or Transport.

Mr. Tilney

There are quite a number of functional conferences already and I will refer to them a little later. At these regional conferences not only are Commonwealth Ministers represented but Ministers of foreign countries as well. I believe that the Prime Ministers of the smaller countries would not regard such regional meetings as a substitute for attendance at the central meetings.

I suspect that my hon. Friend wishes to some extent to formalise the spirit of the Commonwealth, which has acted in a completely unregimented way up till now. I agree that new thought is wanted, yet elasticity is vital. We do not want to bind the Commonwealth with some rigid arrangement.

We have, of course, a regional secretariat looking after the Colombo Plan; we have S.E.A.T.O.; we have Africa South of the Sahara; we have the Caribbean Commission, the South Pacific Commission and also—and this is a good analogy—the East African Common Services Commission. These are special regional commissions. I hope that their arrangements will grow and I believe that it is better to leave it that way.

My hon. Friend suggested oceanic regions where smaller countries could co-operate with larger members of the Commonwealth. I cannot speak here for the Colonial Office, but I believe that no gimmick really will be as good as independence. I believe that most smaller countries will still want their Prime Ministers or Heads of State to be represented at the centre and that there is no halfway to full-time citizenship for their countries.

It is impossible to lay down a blue print which will apply to all the various dependent territories that one thinks can become independent. I believe that their constitutions have to be tailor-made. Each has an individual political soul. I also do not believe that all small dependencies want even today full independence in the future. It must be wrong to force them at times against their will into some bigger organisation OS" even to give them complete independence against their will.

My hon. Friend referred to the Central Africa Office and wished to extend its scope. I remind him of what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said on 15th March: While responsibility was divided between my right hon. Friend the Commonwealth Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary, the two Ministers were apt to be regarded in some quarters as identified with conflicting sectional interests in the Federation; and for this reason it would not be practicable to secure the desired unification of ministerial responsibility by transferring the functions of either to the other. Therefore, with the full agreement of the two Secretaries of State concerned … I have invited my right hop. Friend the Home Secretary to undertake this responsibility."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th March, 1962; Vol. 655, c. 1545.] I believe that Central Africa is a special case and that it would be dangerous, therefore, to increase the bounds of the Central Africa Office.

My hon. Friend referred, very rightly, to consultation. It may not be known that every year 35,000 telegrams go to our missions in Commonwealth countries, two-thirds of which deal with foreign affairs and political and economic matters. There is a tremendous interchange of matter and knowledge. Indeed, the United Kingdom is a bridge between the Commonwealth and Europe, and because of the position I once held as P.P.S. to the Minister of Transport I realise how important bridges are in modern conditions, and that many of them have to be renewed or even double banked.

My hon. Friend referred to aid. In 1961 we in the United Kingdom invested overseas no less than £347 million, between £100 million and £200 million in developing countries. It is a great achievement, and many countries richer per head than we are do not do so well. But of course, if conditions in developing countries can be seen to be stable, then, in my opinion, private investment will be prepared to invest even more money, and I believe that this is realised more and more in developing countries and internationally.

My hon. Friend next referred to a Ministry of Overseas Aid. But let us remember, on the technical side—and I will not go into them now—the arguments sat out in the White Paper, Recruitment for Service Overseas, Cmnd. 1740. It is by no means easy to build up a permanent technical force which can be seconded to different Commonwealth countries, because it is very difficult to decide the size or scope of what will be wanted in five or ten years and to offer a reasonable livelihood and career to those people.

On the financial side, let us remember that money is limited, so we must not raise the hopes of many of these territories too high. But there are the regional offices for channelling the Colombo Plan, and there is the Special Committee for Assistance for Africa Plan, known as S.C.A.A.P., and my hon. Friend was good enough to refer to the insurance and political considerations. I commend to the House quite a good Conservative Party pamphlet entitled "Towards victory over poverty" and to the suggestion made therein, which will be studied, that some form of insurance against political risks might be undertaken, in the same way as the United States of America, Germany, and Japan have their schemes. It may be that we could have a Commonwealth scheme, but all one can say is that this is being looked at. The O.E.C.D. is studying a similar scheme, as is the World Bank. One hopes therefore that in future years something of the sort may be brought about. I believe that there are great possibilities in this field, but it must be a multi-lateral one.

I do not believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth will expect me to follow him in what he said about the Common Market. I do not believe that we are deserting our friends in any way, and we all hope that the Common Market will be outward, rather than inward looking, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South suggested, because I believe that a rich Europe will help both the developed and the developing countries by providing not only for an expanded but a constantly expanding market.

Mr. Fell

My hon. Friend's last remark about the Common Market seems to mean that he is taking it for granted that we shall join the Common Market.

Mr. Tilney

I have said nothing of the sort. All I have said is that we hope that, even if we do not go in, the existing Common Market will be outward-looking and not inward-looking. There must be room for greatly increased trade. We have only to think of the great riches of the United States of America, and the benefit of America, not only to itself but to other countries, to realise the importance of this. I have great sympathy with what my hon. Friend the Member for Chigwell, said about the fluctuations of commodities, and about the need for trade rather than aid, but at this late hour I am sure that he will forgive me if I do not go into detail.

On defence, I will report to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence the views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice, but I hope that he will remember that this country rejects the idea of an inherent superiority of one race over another. When he emphasised the white part of South Africa, I was not quite sure that he was completely with me on this point.

Finally, I want to deal with the Overseas Civil Service, and also say a word about the expanding Commonwealth. My hon. Friend and I in the past have believed that a single Overseas Service might be brought about. I have gone into print with him on that subject. All that I can say now is that the matter will be one of the suggestions that my right hon. Friend will consider. As for the expanding Commonwealth, I do not believe that it can be static; it either goes forward or backward. We either have to expand or decay. The House will remember that we have had many arguments about the Colonial Development Corporation, and have said that it should not be left entirely to the rump of Colonial Territories. I hope that a decision about this is imminent, and that we will see, in that decision, a clear indication that Government policy is expansive and not contracting. As a Commonwealth we must have an active and vital rôle to play in the future of world trade, but we want flexibility and not rigidity.

I will convey all the views expressed by my hon. Friend to my right hon. Friends. I congratulate my hon. Friend on the useful ideas he has put forward. The responsible democracy that we have in this country will enjoy debating the suggestions which have been put forward today. Some of them will obviously be rejected, but others may be taken up. I believe that the Commonwealth future is brighter than that suggested by some of my hon. Friends. I hope that when history is written it will be found that one or two of my hon. Friend's ideas have been put into effect.