HC Deb 21 July 1964 vol 699 cc269-70
Q4. Mr. Warbey

asked the Prime Minister what steps he proposes to take towards the establishment of a permanent Commonwealth Secretariat, following suggestions made at the Conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers.

The Prime Minister

As the Final Communiqué records, the Prime Ministers have instructed Commonwealth officials to consider the best basis for establishing a Commonwealth Secretariat. We for our part welcome this initiative. We hope that early arrangements can be made for Commonwealth officials to examine the matter and submit their recommendations to all Commonwealth Governments.

Mr. Warbey

Is the Prime Minister aware that very few people in this country and in the Commonwealth will have much faith in the Government's belated conversion to the idea of knitting the Commonwealth more closely together, especially after the statement made yesterday by the Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development and the frequent displays of adolescent arrogance by the Prime Minister and his colleagues? [Interruption.] Will the Prime Minister now be honest with the House—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—and admit that he can contribute nothing to this process and that several of the African and Asian Prime Ministers would have walked out of the recent Conference had they not known that there was going to be another Government in this country in about three months' time?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman is so wide of the mark in all the statements he made that I do not think it is worth my answering a single one of them.

Mr. Turton

Could my right hon. Friend convey to his fellow Common- wealth Prime Ministers that the views of the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey) represent neither the Opposition nor the Government side of the House?

Mr. Bottomley

Is the Prime Minister aware that in the debate on Commonwealth co-operation last year, when the formation of a Commonwealth Economic Secretariat was suggested from this side of the House, the Government spokesman said that the other Commonwealth countries did not want it? May we be assured that the Government will be more enthusiastic now about the establishment of a Secretariat than they were in the past?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman really gave himself his own answer, because, from the point of view of a Commonwealth Economic Secretariat, the Prime Ministers still do not want it. What they want is a secretariat to exchange information and help them to understand inter-Commonwealth affairs.

Mr. Robert Cooke

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Leader of the Opposition, in a party political broadcast last Wednesday, said that Britain had failed to give any lead to the Commonwealth, while on Thursday he said the exact opposite and failed to give any credit to my right hon. Friend? Will my right hon. Friend try to discover where the right hon. Gentleman is standing in October?

The Prime Minister

I am afraid that to find out where the right hon. Gentleman stands is beyond me.

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