§ 3.35 p.m.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL AND MINISTER FOR SCIENCE (VISCOUNT HAILSHAM)
My Lords, with the permission of the House, I should like to repeat to your Lordships a statement which is now being made by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in the House of Commons. The statement is as follows:
"I told the House on Monday that I thought it right that my right honourable friend the Commonwealth Secretary should pay a second visit to Ghana. This he has done and he returned to this country this morning. My colleagues and I have now had from him a full appreciation of the position based on his personal inquiries on the spot.
"As I told the House on Monday, Her Majesty's safety is and must be our first consideration. Of course, no Royal tour is without risk. Her Majesty knows this as well as any Member of the House. She has never been deterred in undertaking previous tours because of the personal risk to herself which is inevitable, especially when great crowds are assembled. Happily she has come triumphantly through these trials with the enhanced affection and admiration of all. After considering carefully and anxiously all the information before us, collected and assessed by those best qualified to do so, the Government have reached the conclusion that the degree of risk attaching to this tour is no greater than that which has been present in many of her previous journeys.
"There are those who will ask how this conclusion can be reconciled with the explosions which have taken place in Accra during the last few days. That was one of the questions which was in the forefront of my mind when I decided that it would be right for my right honourable friend to visit Ghana again. He has given us his first-hand assessment of the significance of these incidents. While he was in Accra he took the opportunity to tour the Royal route in company with President Nkrumah and he saw for himself the unmistakable friendliness of the crowds. We have also had 365 throughout, as I have said, the expert advice, based on thorough investigation on the spot, of those in this country best qualified to do this sort of work. We have had the ready cooperation of the Ghanaian authorities.
"I can assure the House that on the information and advice available to them the Government have formed the view that these explosions do not indicate any intention by those concerned to perpetrate acts of violence during the Queen's visit which would endanger Her Majesty's safety. We have, therefore, no reason to fear that this journey will involve any special and additional risk to Her Majesty's safety.
"On the other hand, there can be no doubt the cancellation of this visit, so long promised and so eagerly awaited by the people of Ghana, would seriously impair the invaluable contribution made by Her Majesty's journeys towards the strengthening of the ties which bind together the many peoples of the Commonwealth.
"Her Majesty's Government have therefore advised the Queen that she should proceed with her visit to Ghana. We are, of course, at once informing other Commonwealth Governments, with whom we have been in touch throughout.
"May I, therefore, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the whole House, send Her Majesty our warmest good wishes for the success of her West African tour and a safe return."
In concluding the statement, I feel sure that your Lordships would wish me to re-echo this wish on my own behalf and on behalf of this House.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
My Lords, on behalf of the Opposition I am grateful to the noble Viscount for giving to us this afternoon the statement on this very important matter. Of course, we as an Opposition recognise that on such an occasion the Government's decision depends entirely on the knowledge which is available to them and the manner in which they have examined the facts in detail, and we accept the decision in that sense. It is clear, not only from one of the paragraphs in the statement but from our long experience, that a visit of the Head of the 366 Commonwealth, such as this, is always one of very great advantage to the individual country of the Commonwealth and to the Commonwealth as a whole; and we are very grateful for the effects which have been created by visits in the past. Therefore I do not wish to say any more except that we associate ourselves wholeheartedly with the sentiments expressed in the last paragraph of the statement, in which the noble Viscount has asked this House to agree—and we certainly do agree—to sending those wishes to Her Majesty.
My Lords, as it is perfectly obvious that we are not going to take any steps to decide whether this tour should go on or not, I will only add to what has already been said that in every quarter we wish this trip the very best success. We are sure the Government have taken every step to see that all possible precautions have been taken. We wish Her Majesty great success on this tour and a safe return.
§ EARL WINTERTON
My Lords, might I ask the noble Viscount, the leader of the House, without, of course, in any way disassociating myself from what has been said, whether there will be an opportunity—no doubt it would be for the Leader of the Opposition to seek it—to discuss at some future date, well after Her Majesty has made what I hope will be her safe return, certain constitutional issues, some of them of a novel character, which obviously arise from this visit and to which it would be most improper to refer on this occasion? I will instance only this point: that I understand Her Majesty is going to visit not only Ghana but also Liberia, which is outside the Commonwealth. The question arises whether, if an invitation were sent to Her Majesty from one of the Iron Curtain countries, or even Russia herself, Her Majesty's Government would accept it on her behalf. It raises very important questions and I think we should debate it at some future time.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, obviously I would not seek to prevent noble Lords from putting down for debate any subject which might interest them, but I must say that, by the exercise of the Royal Prerogative, Her Majesty is at liberty to pay State visits 367 outside the Commonwealth and she has done so in recent times. I cannot conceive that her visit to Liberia would be a political precedent for a visit to a country behind the Iron Curtain, although that matter could be considered when it arose.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, my name, or at least my Office, was referred to by the noble Earl, so perhaps I might say to him that I should like to consider the question very carefully before putting any such Motion on the Paper within a reasonable time from now. I think the one thing with which we are associated together, completely and unanimously, this afternoon, is on sending our good wishes to Her Majesty.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, may I add to what my noble friend and Leader has said how glad I am that the Government have been able to advise Her Majesty to go to Ghana, because I know the decision will give immense satisfaction to the people of Ghana. I should like to assure your Lordships that Her Majesty will receive the most warmhearted welcome any visitor has ever received.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, perhaps I ought to say this, and I hope I am right in doing so. Of course the Queen, as a Constitutional Monarch, takes the advice of Her Ministers, but I should like to say—and I accept full responsibility as a member of the Government for the advice which has been given and which has been taken—that Her Majesty will be very glad to go.