HC Deb 21 April 1964 vol 693 cc1095-7
The Prime Minister (Sir Alec Douglas-Home)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement.

Last week, I undertook to inform the House when agreement had been reached on the dates for the forthcoming Prime Ministers' meeting. I am glad to say that I have now received replies from all Commonwealth Heads of Government agreeing to a meeting from 8th July to 15th July except in the case of Zanzibar, whose President has not yet replied to my initial invitation.

Mr. Bottomley

In expressing pleasure that the Heads of Government of the Commonwealth have agreed to come to London in July, may I ask the Prime Minister what is the position of the Head of the Southern Rhodesian Government?

The Prime Minister

This is a matter on which I have not yet had a communication from the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia. On previous occasions, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, it has been a matter of consultation and agreement between the Commonwealth Prime Ministers.

Mr. Brockway

In reply to the Question which I last put on this matter, the right hon. Gentleman said that the Prime Minister of Nyasaland would be invited. Can he now say whether that invitation will also be extended to the Prime Minister of Northern Rhodesia, the independence of which will be very soon?

The Prime Minister

The invitation is sent to those who are already independent, or are about to become independent, in a matter of days or weeks. So it will be Dr. Banda as the Prime Minister of Nyasaland, but nobody else.

Mr. Wall

Is it the Government's wish that the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia should inherit the right which has been enjoyed by his predecessors since, I think, 1932, and be invited to attend the Prime Ministers' meeting?

The Prime Minister

This has not been a right. It has always been decided in agreement with the Prime Ministers.

Sir P. Agnew

Will my right hon. Friend make his statement concerning the invitations a little clearer? Are these invitations to the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' meeting tendered on the initiative of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, or does the invitation have to be unanimous from all the existing member countries of the Commonwealth?

The Prime Minister

Of course, the invitations to a Commonwealth Prime Ministers' meeting originally go from the United Kingdom Government to other Commonwealth Prime Ministers or Prime Ministers of independent Commonwealth countries, Southern Rhodesia is in this matter a special case and has been treated as such for the last few years.

Mr. Gordon Walker

Is the Prime Minister in consultation with other Commonwealth Prime Ministers about a possible invitation to the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia?

The Prime Minister

Not until I hear from the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia whether he wishes to be invited.

Mr. Grimond

Do we understand that Northern Rhodesia will definitely not be invited? While Southern Rhodesia is a special case, can the Prime Minister tell us exactly how this special case stands? Is he in consultation with the rest of the Commonwealth? When the right hon. Gentleman says that he is awaiting word from the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia, does this mean that an invitation has been sent to him or not?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. The question is whether the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia wishes to be invited. If he should so wish, I would consult the other Commonwealth Prime Ministers. Northern Rhodesia is not independent; the independence date will not come until the autumn. The Nyasaland independence date comes, I think, on 7th July, just before the Prime Ministers meet. So we have sent Nyasaland an informal invitation, which, no doubt, will be made formal when the Prime Ministers meet.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

In greatly welcoming my right hon. Friend's statement and realising that the deliberations of the conference will inevitably have to be confidential if they are to achieve very much purpose, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he will seriously consider the great importance of considering both trade and disarmament policy at the conference?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Since the Government, or, at least, those responsible, have made up their minds that Northern Rhodesia will not be invited, and having regard to the position in Central Africa, which, in July, will place Southern Rhodesia and Northern Rhodesia on the same basis, does not the Prime Minister think that if he invites one without the other he will not be helping towards securing friendly relations in Central Africa?

The Prime Minister

This is a matter which can be settled only after consultation with the other Commonwealth Prime Ministers.