HC Deb 17 May 1971 vol 817 cc871-2
12. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will raise the British diplomatic representation at the Holy See from the rank of legation to that of embassy.

Mr. Anthony Royle

I am not aware that the status of our representative has any adverse effect upon our good relations with the Holy See, which we value. However, we are keeping the matter under regular consideration.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Does the Minister realise that that was substantially the same reply as one I received five years ago when I raised this question? Does he realise further that the only other two countries, if that be the right word, represented at the Vatican by a Minister are San Marino and Monaco? Is it not unsuitable that a country of the importance of Great Britain, in a post where precedence and protocol are so important, should not be represented by an ambassador?

Mr. Royle

Yes; I realise that my reply was somewhat similar to the reply that my hon. Friend received five years ago. There were on 1st January, 1971, 74 diplomatic representatives or posts awaiting new representatives accredited to the Holy See. Of this total, 52 have resident representatives and 22 are non-resident. Australia and New Zealand are among other Commonwealth countries that have no representation to the Holy See. Her Majesty's Minister to the Holy See is in no way hindered in his activities by his present status.