HC Deb 23 May 1972 vol 837 cc1222-4
Q7. Mr. Molloy

asked the Prime Minister what discussions he is having with other Commonwealth heads of Government about the next Commonwealth Conference.

The Prime Minister

None at present, Sir. It is the responsibility of the Commonwealth Secretary-General to co-ordinate consultation on Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conferences.

Mr. Molloy

Will not the Minister convene a Commonwealth Conference in view of what has been revealed in our discussions on the European Communities Bill—notwithstanding the disgraceful guillotine—which has caused great concern within the Commonwealth? Will he pay as much attention to the views of the Commonwealth countries as he pays to those of the EEC countries, because there are many in the Commonwealth who feel that he has no more interest in the future of that organisation than he has in the future of the House of Commons and the British nation?

The Prime Minister

I cannot accept any of that. It is 16 months since we last had a Commonwealth Conference. Under the previous Administration, as the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition will remember, two years four months elapsed between Commonwealth Conferences. This matter is best left to the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, who has contact with all the countries and can establish when the time is right for us to have a Commonwealth Conference.

Mr. Foley

Is there not a new situation in Rhodesia about which all Commonwealth countries are concerned? Is it not incumbent upon the Prime Minister to take the initiative and to consult his colleagues in this respect?

The Prime Minister

Of course, consultation has gone on with our colleagues in the Commonwealth on the subject of Rhodesia all the time we have been in Government. I do not feel that it is necessary to have a meeting of the Heads of Commonwealth Governments to carry on that consultation on Rhodesia.

Mr. Harold Wilson

So that the House and the country may not gain a wrong impression from the period mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, will he acknowledge that between the summer of 1964, when there was a conference presided over by his right hon. Friend, and 1970 there were five full-dress Commonwealth Conferences?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. I was only making the point that a greater interval than 16 months between the holding of Commonwealth Conferences is perfectly satisfactory.

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