HC Deb 18 March 1981 vol 1 cc277-8
8. Mr. Murphy

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he holds regular consultations with Foreign Ministers of Commonwealth countries.

Mr. Blaker

There are opportunities for Commonwealth Foreign Ministers to meet during the regular Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings. There are also numerous bilateral contacts between my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself and individual Commonwealth Foreign Ministers.

Mr. Murphy

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. May I ask whether he agrees that the Government should strive for closer Commonwealth co-operation on major international policy issues of interest to the free world?

Mr. Blaker

I heartily agree with my hon. Friend. The discussions that we have had with our Commonwealth colleagues, whether at the Heads of Government meeting, on the fringes of that meeting or bilaterally, have often covered the question of the preservation of the interests of the free world. There is no doubt that the principles and ideals on which the Commonwealth is based are inconsistent with the threat to the free world.

Mr. James A. Dunn

What representations have been made to the Minister through the channels arranged for those regular meetings about the interpretation of and misunderstanding arising from the British Nationality Bill? Will he further take into account the grave apprehension expressed about the increase in overseas students' fees?

Mr. Blaker

Formal representations about the British Nationality Bill have been made to the Government by only one Commonwealth Government. The points made are being taken into account by my right hon. Friend Home Secretary and no doubt they will be considered in the coming weeks. Fees for overseas students are certainly a matter of concern to many Commonwealth Governments. The hon. Gentleman knows that the decision to phase out the blanket subsidy was taken with reluctance, in the interests of attempting to control Government spending. We are closely monitoring its effects.

Mr. Jim Spicer

In the course of such consultations there will obviously be discussions about sporting links with South Africa. Will my hon. Friend give an undertaking, in advance of such consultations, that he will pass to representatives of the Commonwealth the report of the fact-finding commission sent to South Africa by the Sports Council, because it gives a fair opinion of the efforts being made to integrate sport in South Africa?

Mr. Blaker

I agree with my hon. Friend about the value of that report. It has been sent to many destinations, including the International Olympic Committee and international sporting federations. I shall inquire whether it has been communicated to Commonwealth Governments. I accept that at the forthcoming Heads of Government meeting the question of sporting links with South Africa will be discussed. We have already had notice from four West Indian countries that they propose to raise the matter.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, while Lord Carrington made clear in Lagos a few weeks ago that the Government had not ruled out the possibility of economic sanctions against South Africa, the Prime Minister made clear yesterday that there would be no such sanctions? What explanation will the Government give to President Shagari of Nigeria, who is visiting this country, for that apparent change of policy?

Mr. Blaker

I cannot add to the statements to which the hon. Gentleman has referred.