HC Deb 08 July 1968 vol 768 cc31-3
31. Mr. G. Campbell

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has considered translating Her Majesty's Mission to the Holy See from a legation to an embassy.

46. Sir W. Teeling

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in view of the number of Commonwealth countries now having ambassadors accredited to the Holy See, whether he will consider upgrading the Minister to the Holy See to be an ambassador so as to give him an equal rank with Her Majesty's other representatives.

Mr. Mulley

This matter is being kept under review, but we are not convinced that this is the right time to seek any change in existing arrangements.

Mr. Campbell

As legations are now rare in diplomacy, and since other Commonwealth countries have embassies to the Holy See, has not the time arrived for this change?

Mr. Mulley

I do not think the time is yet ripe, and while the hon. Gentleman is right that some Commonwealth countries have embassies there, a number of other important Commonwealth countries are not represented there at all. The legation serves the function of keeping us in touch with the Holy See on international matters, and we have the greatest regard for the contribution it has made.

Sir W. Teeling

Is it true that the number of embassies is about 57, of which eight are from Commonwealth countries, and that other Commonwealth countries are waiting until we give the lead? The only Ministers there are from Monaco, San Marino, Ethiopia and Britain. Can that really mean that we are doing our best to be friendly with the Vatican and help it in what it is trying to do for peace in the world?

Mr. Mulley

I must deny any idea that the hon. Gentleman has that we discriminate against the Vatican in this way. There are only 35 resident ambassadors, and 18 non-resident ambassadors. The fact that we have a resident Minister there enables us to keep in touch with them, and they with us. The existing arrangements could not be substantially improved by what is proposed, but we are willing to keep this under review because we clearly want to make a change at a time that is generally acceptable.

Mr. Clark Hutchison

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that there are far too many ambassadors today, and will he put in hand a review to reduce many embassies to legation status in order to save money and staff?

Mr. Mulley

That is an interesting way of looking at the matter, to have more legations and fewer embassies, but it would be wrong to start a change of policy of this kind to meet this particular difficult situation.

Sir Knox Cunningham

Is there any constitutional limitation imposed on the proposed action by the Act of Settlement or the Bill of Rights?

Mr. Mulley

The hon. and learned Gentleman was told in answer to a previous question that there was no such legal bar.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Going back to the Minister's original reply to my hon. Friend, does he realise that it is exactly the same reply that was given by the Foreign Secretary when he was last at the Foreign Office some years ago? Will he ask the Foreign Secretary why he has not used the intervening period of contemplation to advance his thought on the matter?

Mr. Mulley

One of the endearing characteristics of my right hon. Friend is that he is very consistent in his views. I am sure that he has thought much about this problem, but the hon. Member will know that other matters have exercised the minds of members of the Government in the last 18 months.

Sir W. Teeling

On a point of order. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I shall seek leave to raise it on the Adjournment.

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