HL Deb 24 May 1965 vol 266 cc652-4

3.45 p.m.


My Lords, with your Lordships' permission I should like to repeat a Statement which has been made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies in another place, on the Constitutional Commission for South Arabia. The Statement is as follows, and I will use his own words:

"In reply to a Question by my honourable friend the Member for Cleveland on May 11, I said that I would make an oral Statement to the House as soon as practicable about the composition of the Constitutional Commission for South Arabia. I am happy to say that we have secured the services as Chairman of Sir Evelyn Hone who, in the course of a distinguished overseas career, has served in South Arabia and was Governor of Northern Rhodesia in the period immediately before independence.

"My consultations as regards membership of the Commission are proceeding. Honourable Members may have seen speculation in the Press about the possibility of our asking the Secretary-General of the United Nations to suggest one or two names. I think it right to inform the House that we should have welcomed such an arrangement and have in fact discussed it with the Secretary-General. He has told us, however, that while appreciating the suggestion, he has regretfully concluded after giving it careful consideration that it would not be feasible for him to adopt it. I am naturally sorry that he has not felt able to do so, but I still have it in mind to secure in addition to United Kingdom membership one or two members from outside the United Kingdom. I will inform the House of the full composition of the Commission as soon as it is possible to do so."


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, for repeating this Statement, and I think all of us would welcome the fact that Sir Evelyn Hone is to be Chairman of this Commission. I notice the noble Lord says in the Statement that he still has it in mind to secure in addition to United Kingdom membership one or two members from outside the United Kingdom. I should have thought that this is very unusual in a Commission of this kind. Does he intend to confine outside members to members of the Commonwealth? If not, what other countries has he in mind? And is he going to make it very clear that in the final analysis the responsibility is still Her Majesty's Government's?


My Lords, with regard to the last part of the noble Lord's question, most certainly the final responsibility is that of Her Majesty's Government. The intention is to try to include possibly one or two persons from outside the Commonwealth, in view of the very unusual circumstances obtaining in Southern Arabia. The formulation of a new Arab and Moslem State in the Middle East involves very special problems, and we want to make the membership of the Commission widely representative, first, so that it may command maximum confidence in the area, which is not an easy matter; secondly, to show that we have nothing to hide, and thirdly, to reflect the wide international interest in this area. All members will be appointed by my right honourable friend and decisions of course, be reached by Her Majesty's Government after receiving the report of the Commission.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. On the face of it, I am bound to say that I have misgivings about what the Government suggest. But I would rather wait and see who the Government manage to persuade to sit on this Commission, and then perhaps we may have some more comments to make.