HC Deb 06 July 1965 vol 715 cc1344-5
Q4. Mr. David Steel

asked the Prime Minister whether, following the creation of a unified diplomatic service and in view of the proposed setting up of a Commonwealth Secretariat, he will now consider merging the Foreign Office and the Commonwealth Relations Office.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir.

Mr. Steel

Does the Prime Minister realise that by creating a unified Ministry of External Affairs he would bring Britain into line with all the other members of the Commonwealth and greatly assist the smooth running of our external relations without detracting in any way from our belief in the Commonwealth as an institution?

The Prime Minister

When the Plowden Committee, which led to the amalgamation of the diplomatic service, reviewed this possibility it recommended against any such amalgamation on the ground that it could be misinterpreted as implying a loss of interest in the Commonwealth partnership. Quite enough has happened in the last two or three years to give support to those who may feel that there is a loss of interest in the Commonwealth partnership, and I agree with the Plowden Report. That is why I rejected the hon. Gentleman's suggestion.

Sir G. de Freitas

Will the Prime Minister emphasise that the comparison in the Question between the Commonwealth Relations Office and the new Secretariat could do a lot of harm to the new Secretariat since the Commonwealth Relations Office exists to serve British Government policy whereas the new Secretariat serves all Commonwealth countries?

The Prime Minister

That is absolutely right, and anyone who reads the Commonwealth communiqué will feel that that is the position of the Secretariat.