HC Deb 04 May 1976 vol 910 cc1056-8
Ql. Mr. Marten

asked the Prime Minister whether he has any plans to visit Commonwealth countries in the current year.

The Prime Minister (Mr. James Callaghan)

I hope to visit Canada later this year in response to an invitation from Mr. Trudeau. Firm dates have not yet been arranged. I have at present no plans for visits to other Commonwealth countries.

Mr. Marten

In addition to his visit to Canada, will the Prime Minister—if he is still in office—take the opportunity of the Queen's Silver Jubilee next year to stress the importance of the Commonwealth, and will he consider designating one of the many Ministers in the Foreign Office to oversee Commonwealth affairs next year?

The Prime Minister

It was in my predecessor's mind that it would be appropriate to hold the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference here during the year in which the Queen celebrates her Silver Jubilee. There is not a link between the two in respect of all the Commonwealth countries. As to the sentiment of the Commonwealth and the way in which matters are organised in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, that is for my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, but I believe that he intends to play an important part himself.

Mr. MacFarquhar

Will my right hon. Friend consider becoming the first Labour Prime Minister to visit India since independence? Does he agree that whatever view is taken of recent developments in India, the link between the United Kingdom and India is still great and deserves to be strengthened by the Government?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. I would welcome the opportunity of visiting India and many other countries if I could get a pair, but I shall have to ration myself during the next 12 months or so.

Mr. Tebbit

When the Prime Minister goes to Commonwealth countries, particularly those whose citizens come here as immigrants, will he take the opportunity to clear up the question whether he is racially prejudiced or whether the attack made on him by the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) was just a piece of spiteful vindictiveness after he had been sacked?

The Prime Minister

I do not look to the hon. Gentleman for help in any of these matters, and I am not getting it. The Government's attitude and policy on race relations are well known. They have been well established in the Home Office and will not be changed under this Administration.

Mr. Christopher Price

Will my right hon. Friend consider visiting Singapore? If he does, will he convey to the Prime Minister of Singapore—as his predecessor mentioned in the House about a year ago—that it would enormously raise the status of that country if the detainees whom we put in prison 13 years ago and who are still there were released? Will he also convey to the Prime Minister of Singapore that if he does not do this his party is in danger of being expelled from the Socialist International?

The Prime Minister

Almost any question is in order arising out of the question whether I have plans to visit Commonwealth countries, but it would not be helpful for me to comment in detail upon the internal policies of those Commonwealth countries with which we are in temporary disagreement. Lee Kuan Yew is well aware of our views on these matters. At the last Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference he indicated to us his approach to the question how to deal with these prisoners, who have been imprisoned without trial for some years. We must have some tolerance for another Commonwealth Government.