HC Deb 27 March 1972 vol 834 cc31-2
38. Mr. Wilkinson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on his official visit to Pakistan.

49. Mr. Goodhart

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the Government of Pakistan about Pakistan's membership of the Commonwealth.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

During my recent visit to Pakistan I had valuable discussions with President Bhutto. My aim was to cover the whole range of problems in the sub-continent and to see what we could usefully do to help. I also discussed bilateral questions between Pakistan and the United Kingdom. The details of our discussions must remain confidential, but on the particular question of Pakistan's decision to leave the Commonwealth President Bhutto confirmed to me that he had taken this decision deliberately in Pakistan's interests as he saw them. He said that he hoped to maintain and improve his bilateral relations with the United Kingdom and that is certainly our wish too.

Mr. Wilkinson

In the range of discussions on all outstanding questions on the sub-continent, did the President of Pakistan seek the help of the British Government in bringing pressure to bear on the Indian Government to secure more equitable treatment of Pakistan prisoners of war, which might lead to an earlier assumption of peace negotiations between India and Pakistan?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Very properly, President Bhutto did not seek to bring any pressure to bear on the British Government, but he did emphasise how important to him and Pakistan was the return of the prisoners in the context of a complete agreement between Pakistan and India.

Mr. Goodhart

President Bhutto has announced his intention to withdraw Pakistan from the Commonwealth. Can my right hon. Friend say whether a presidential announcement is enough to withdraw a nation from the Commonwealth, or is some formal action necessary and, if so, has it been taken?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I should like to confirm this to my hon. Friend later, but I think that the only formal action which would be necessary would be a notification to the Secretary General of the Commonwealth.

Mr. William Clark

Did my right hon. Friend discuss with the President the position of future immigrants to this country from Pakistan?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

No. The President was very anxious to make certain that Pakistan citizens already here should not be penalised. If Pakistan becomes a foreign country, future immigrants will be treated as aliens.

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