HC Deb 02 April 1963 vol 675 cc247-9
Q9. Mr. A. Lewis

asked the Prime Minister whether, in the interests of economy and better administration, he will amalgamate the Foreign Office, the Commonwealth Relations Office and the Colonial Office, and establish in their stead a Ministry for External Affairs.

The Prime Minister

I do not think the organisation of these three Departments with their wide range of functions can effectively be considered until I have received the report of the Plowden Committee on our representational services overseas.

Mr. Lewis

Would the right hon. Gentleman bear this in mind for the future if and when he comes to reorganise the various State Departments, because there could be much saving in administrative costs?

The Prime Minister

What the Plowden Committee is reviewing is the structure and organisation of our overseas representational services both in Commonwealth and foreign countries. Then there is the separate question of whether there should be an amalgamation of the two Departments, the Colonial Office and the Commonwealth Relations Office. This is somewhat different since they are not altogether representational because the Colonial Office has an administrative function. As I have explained to the House, by combining the posts of Colonial Secretary and Commonwealth Relations Secretary into a single Minister we have made a considerable advance in the co-ordination of that work.

Sir G. Nicholson

While recognising the many advantages which might accrue from a free exchange between the Commonwealth service and the Colonial service, and while appreciating the partial amalgamation already of the Commonwealth Office and the Colonial Office, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he does not recognise that to deal with members of the Colonies or of the Commonwealth countries through a service which deals exclusively with foreign countries would cause heart-burning and do a geart deal of harm?

The Prime Minister

There are two quite separate questions. The question of certain functions of representation applies to the Commonwealth Relations Office and the Foreign Office. The other question of administrative functions applies to the Colonial Office, and this is where the difficulty is now.

Mr. Fletcher

When does the right hon. Gentleman expect to receive the Report of the Plowden Committee?

The Prime Minister

I am not quite certain, but I hope within a few months.