HC Deb 13 December 1965 vol 722 cc890-2
10. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why he gave his consent to the visit of Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret to the United States of America being made official.

46. Sir G. de Freitas

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs when he gave his consent to the visit of Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret to the United States of America being made official; and what official duties he advised her to perform.

Mr. George Thomson

My right hon. Friend agreed in principle to the visit last January, after he had been told that Her Royal Highness had received a private invitation to visit the United States. In fact, the desirability of an official visit to the United States by a member of the Royal Family either during the autumn of this year or the spring of next year, had been agreed long before Her Royal Highness's private plans became known.

It was decided to ask Her Royal Highness to undertake an official programme on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, combining this with her own private arrangements, and an official invitation to visit the United States was conveyed to Her Royal Highness on 29th April.

The official duties, arranged in consultation with Her Majesty's Ambassador in Washington, included several Press conferences, civil receptions, attendance at displays of British goods, visits to universities, museums and schools, attendance at charity functions and at receptions for British communities as well as American personalities.

In the event the visit consisted mainly of official and public functions. In the view of Her Majesty's Government it was an outstanding success.

Mr. Hamilton

Is my hon. Friend aware that that Answer is not very satisfactory? Can he say whether the official visit revolved round the private visit or vice versa? Can he say whether all the official engagements which originally came from the Foreign Office were accepted by Her Royal Highness in toto?

Mr. Thomson

I am glad to be able to give my hon. Friend information on both of these points in view of the considerable public misrepresentation which there has been.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Far from objecting to any of these suggestions for official engagements made by our Ambassador in Washington, as was suggested in the New Statesman on 3rd December, Princess Margaret proposed a number of additional engagements. The visit took 20 days. Fourteen of those days were entirely taken up with public engagements and during this period more than 60 official and public functions were undertaken.

Sir G. de Freitas

Is the Minister of State aware that there are many hon. Members on this side of the House who would agree that it is just about time that the Foreign Office made a statement which showed that Princess Margaret had really tried to do even more than she was asked?

Mr. Frederic Harris

Does the Minister agree that it is about time that some hon. Members on his own side stopped sniping at Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon?

Mr. Speaker

Order. It would not have been in order for any hon. Member to snipe at Princess Margaret. There is a Parliamentary way of making any criticisms of the Royal Family.

Mr. Hamilton

On a point of order. There is a Parliamentary way of raising this matter on the Adjournment, and I propose to do so at the earliest opportunity.

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