HC Deb 09 April 1968 vol 762 cc1077-8
Q6. Mr. Fisher

asked the Prime Minister whether, despite the merging of Commonwealth and Foreign Affairs under one Secretary of State, there will continue to be a Minister of Cabinet rank with special responsibility for Commonwealth Relations and for the Colonies.

The Prime Minister

I have as yet nothing to add to the Answers I gave to Questions on this subject on 28th March.—[Vol. 761, c. 332 and 1726–31.]

Mr. Fisher

Would the Prime Minister bear in mind that everybody's problems are of tremendous importance to themselves and that in the end everybody wants to see the Secretary of State? Therefore, a large number of junior Minister, is not the complete answer and there will be a tremendous workload on one right hon. Gentleman. Is it not also rather a pity that the Commonwealth should lose the best appointment that probably the right hon. Gentleman has ever made?

The Prime Minister

I thank the hon. Gentleman—and I am sure that my right hon. Friend will do so—for what he has said. As he knows, there will be a Commonwealth Secretary right up to the time of the merger in the autumn. What I said on 28th March was that the position would cease thereafter. The hon. Gentleman knows that virtually throughout the Commonwealth they prefer not to have separate Commonwealth Ministers and Foreign Affairs Ministers, and there are many advantages in the merger from their point of view. Nearly always, when Commonwealth statesmen come to this country, they want to see the Foreign Secretary, because they want to discuss with him many aspects of our relations with third countries.

Mr. Maudling

Surely the Prime Minister will recognise that there is apprehension in a number of dependent territcries—the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar and possibly Honduras—that the interests of the independent territories may conflict with the interests of foreign policy. Therefore, what can he do to assure those people that their interests will be represented in the Cabinet by someone responsible for representing their interests?

The Prime Minister

Of course, from the time of the merger, and indeed before the merger, of the Commonwealth and Colonial Offices, at the time of the previous Government, when the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) represented both Departments, he did not have just a single responsibility for the Colonial Territories. But I am absolutely certain—and arrangements can be made to ensure this—that no Government in this country would ever allow the requirements of the dependent territories to be subordinated to any other factor, and whether or not there is a separate Minister makes no difference to that.

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