HL Deb 09 May 1973 vol 342 cc410-28

2.51 p.m.

LORD HALE rose to call attention to the increasing need for regular Commonwealth consultation; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion concerning the need for some Commonwealth consultation, standing in my name on the Order Paper. I should also like to apologise to your Lordships, with less than my usual humility for doing as almost every old bore does on occasions like this, for reverting for a moment to the past and recalling the time when the lights over Europe were put out—and some of them have never been re-lit. I do so because I heard something said about the "old Commonwealth" and the "white Commonwealth". I happen to like white people myself, because both my parents were white. My recollection of those days—days when the whole country was in danger—was the arrival of the Canadians in October, 1914; of the ANZAC Unit, covered always with immortal glory, and of the Newfoundland regiment that was nearly exterminated. The South Africans, having made their early contribution in the battles in Africa, fought also in Europe. All provided statesmen and generals. Something like one and a quarter million people came from the white Dominions to clamber up the cliffs of Gallipoli and the sandy dunes of Suvla, and to walk across the duckboards of Paschendaele, to perish in their many, many thousands. It was not their quarrel, and of course it was not ours either. No one will ever find out whose fault it was, but at least those people from the Dominions had no responsibility, and without them we should have been defeated.

Those are things to be remembered. I remember them particularly because, apart from being taught to salute the flag on Empire Day, which I did not much like, I knew little about the Empire when, in 1945, I first went to Canada on a banana boat in an Atlantic gale across the North Atlantic, accompanied by 90-odd G.I. brides and their vociferous offspring. The circumstances did not appear to be propitious, but I still remember the deep affection that was there. Obviously I could not learn much in five day—I do not suppose I have learned much in 60 years—but the affection was there in British Columbia, mostly for Scotland. And I knew so little that I went to Canada in the winter without an overcoat. Nevertheless, I conveyed the messages and the good wishes of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. On my return from discharging that duty I was thanked most warmly and promised a tip—which I have never yet had.

I was privileged to go to Australia. I know these brief reminiscences are entirely irrelevant to a debate in which men who know these places infinitely better than I do are taking part, but I am only trying to frame a point of view. I was privileged to meet Ben Chiffley at Canberra, and also privileged to fly even to Marble Bar and to be a "Pommie" for several weeks. My occupation was to go in the track of Scotland Yard detectives, which took me from butcher's shop to butcher's shop in those days of meat rationing. I still saw a good deal of that wonderful, extensive and happy country, whose new Prime Minister we welcomed here quite recently. We treated him with rather remarkable affection in that dingy one-way street, and I understand that with typical Carlton Browne diplomacy he was introduced to Mr. Colin Cowdray and not to Mr. Raymond Illingworth.

There is one other regiment in the war that I should like particularly to mention. People from all countries covered themselves with glory, but I am referring now to the East African Rifles. They had rather different treatment, but they fought; and towards the end they fought almost exclusively in the jungle, for the same reason that was discovered in Vietnam: for jungle warfare you need to have people who know the jungle. So the East African Rifles, under South African command, fought the war against General Lestow until he retreated within the territory of our oldest Ally and took refuge there for a time before emerging to fight again.

Within a week or two we have thrown all that away at Versailles. We had seized more chunks of Africa, although we must already have known that we had neither the men nor the money to develop it and we could not hope to rule it effectively or to bring its resources to early fruition. We "pinched" all the German Colonies and imposed apartheid in East Africa upon the members of the East African Rifles, among others. We introduced elements which created some of the disaffection which has not yet quite been dissipated. I was happy to see on the Order Paper the distinguished name of the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, which enables me not to go any further into the Treaty of Versailles. We were both Coalition Liberals at the time, and he was in a much better position to be informed than I; therefore he could add to my knowledge of the politics at the time.

I put this Motion down at the time of the troubles in Uganda because I had in mind then some of the problems of that country; therefore I hope your Lordships will forgive me for an elementary and possibly inaccurate potted history of what happened there. I have spent only a week or two in Uganda in the distinguished company of the noble Lord on my left—and no better company could be had in that part. I recall a sundowner, with massive, healthy Uganda girls singing On Ilkley Moor b'aht 'at in Swahili. I recall being presented with a tiger skin, which was confiscated at the aerodrome as an illegal export. I also recall the Kabaka and his Queen giving a farewell party when we left. It is not easy for me now to recall the history of that unhappy family without emotion.

We have been told this week on the wireless that Speke came in '62 and Stanley came in '74. I am sorry to say to the right reverend Prelate that unhappily after that the missionaries arrived, about '75, and for something like 17 years the Catholics, the Protestants and Moslems fought a bloody fight for the salvation of these unhappy pagan souls who had lived, so far as we know—and we know nothing of them—in fair comfort for about 4,000 years. So great was the battle then that in the Kabaka's unfortunate family, after the death of Mutesi and the accession of Mwango, there was a Protestant Kabaka, a Catholic Kabaka and a Muslim Kabaka and a gentleman called Carl Peters, from Germany, of no apparent religion, probably Nietschian, who had his own Kabaka, too. When they ran out of brothers they ran into uncles. The man who became Ba-Muslim Kabaka, was deported to the Seychelles—and I think I have heard of that happening on other occasions, too.

In 1892 the British Government decided to withdraw altogether from Uganda as the country did not look like yielding any profit. Due to the Church—mostly the Scottish Church—we went back to Uganda. The missionaries commenced their zealous work there. They began to take charge of education and developed the organisation which perhaps is best known and respected in Nigeria in the Mary Slessor country. It was 12 months after we saw the Kabaka when the news came through that he had been brought to London and was told that he could not go back. The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, moved the Adjournment of the0 House on that day, and I seconded that Motion. I will not recall old wounds now. The Report of that debate is there to be read by anyone who cares to read it. We heard then about the constitutional treaty of 1900, without being told that the Kabaka who signed that treaty was three years old at the time. We heard many reasons given about the Kabaka's independence. I will give evidence on one point. As the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, said, the Kabaka was worried about the threat of incorporation in East Africa. I find that in a book published years earlier the Kabaka is quoted as saying that he was not going to finish as a "horse in a Kenya stable".

The Kabaka is dead, his son is deposed, half his family murdered. It may be that he was not the ideal ruler. It may be that Mr. Milton Obote was not the ideal ruler. He had a fairly bloody record while he was there. It was while he was saying at the Singapore Conference that he could not restrain violence that General Amin came along. I do not know whether there was any consultation about General Amin, but he was recognised in the House of Commons within seven days of the coup d'état against his own chief. He appears to have had the blessings of Her Majesty's present, and probably past, advisers. He was given priority treatment. There is a necessity now for consultation about whether the proposition of casting Libyan oil on troubled waters will bring peace, as to the alliance between Libya and General Amin which resulted in the sale of the Jews—the Jews were expelled for money from Libya; as to the position that France is taking in relation to Libya, when it is known that Libya is financing out of its oil profits practically the whole of the criminal conspiracy in the Middle East. These are serious matters in which our colleagues in East Africa and our friends in East Africa have had to show considerable restraint under considerable difficulty while in theory the East African Common Market is still operating. These are real problems.

I ought to have said one other thing in reply to Mr. Arnold Smith, who made some sensible observations—as he always does. So far as I am concerned, I can say that from the time I returned from Canada I sought constantly in Parliament to raise the question of constant Commonwealth consultation. I was told that the time had not yet come. There was problem after problem. One of the problems was the creation of the Central African Federation. I led the deputation to the Government against that, by the courtesy of the late Lord Stansgate who insisted on my doing it, although there were better men there. I asked at the time if there had been Commonwealth consultation and was told that it was not a suitable matter. How much trouble, how much delay and how much loss has come from that decision!

I do not want to raise matters of high controversy, if I can avoid it, but these are essentially matters of some controversy. On July 7, immediately after this Government was formed, Sir Alec Douglas-Home came to the House of Commons and announced his Government's decision to supply arms to South Africa. There followed for eight or nine months protests from nearly every member of the British Commonwealth. Mr. Gorton said that it was not his business; Mr. Holyoake said that he was not going to criticise but would not follow the example. Mr. Trudeau had a lot to say in criticism; almost every African country—except Malawi, which has a special relationship with Southern Rhodesia which we all understand and with which we can sympathise, denounced this. It pretty well occupied the whole time of the Singapore Conference. Did we know that? Did we go into this venture which ended in so little knowing that we were going to cause deep offence throughout the Commonwealth?

It is a relatively small matter, but I am told that Her Majesty's Government—they seem to have rather a passion for fanfares—are going to give a fanfare for our oldest ally, Portugal. I do not know how many times we have been at war with Portugal while she has been our oldest ally. I know that the reason she is our oldest ally is that she could always count on our hopping over to stop a Spanish invasion and the seizure of the Atlantic ports on the Portuguese coast. It used to date from Catherine of Braganza and some ingenious person has now dated it back to John of Gaunt, the time-honoured Lancaster and his marriage about 600 years ago.

Are Her Majesty's Government aware what offence this will give throughout the Commonwealth? Why not have this celebration in Angola? For 400 solid years during that alliance Portugal has been exporting slaves to the South American continent. When, after a modest participation, we vetoed it in about 1850 the Portuguese continued by sending forced labour to their colonies beyond the seas. It has the lowest standard of life in Africa and is one of the most fertile and largest countries. If Portugal is our ally there ought to be some hard talking and not celebrations. So far as I recall, the main operation they performed was that the Iron Duke made them dig the ditches at Torres Vedras. Those are subjects on which there should have been consultation. The necessity for consultation is now perhaps greater than ever. I know it will be said that we have this organisation and that organisation—the World Health Organisation, and so on—but we still have a unique contribution to make.

There have been about 12 coups d'états in Africa in the last few years. Ruth First has listed them. None of us knows intimately the history of them. Basically, some were concerned with raw material prices. In Ghana the output of cocoa was doubled and the price was halved or more than halved. Africa: the Cocoa Corporation had a credit of £208 million (Ghana) in London which remained in London—and if it was invested in 3 per cent. Gas, God help them! The Volta Dam was not in production when President Nkrumah fell. I have no great brief for President Nkrumah. I have no great brief for some of those who have fallen. They may have shown lack of judgment, but very few of them have really had the opportunity of rule.

May I conclude by mentioning the President of Kenya—a very great problem. I did not think when I left Kenya that the Government could survive the conditions of the land; the tribal conflicts; the tensions. The fact that the Asians would be pushed out in the end was so clear that everybody but the Asians themselves fully understood it. One could not contain the ambition of the young African which had been contained so long. Kenya was hoping at least to attract a considerable holiday traffic to use its great game parks. I do not know. Some day perhaps someone will tell me why we can cheapen fares across the Atlantic and cannot organise throughout the Commonwealth reasonable air communications and provide for the Commonwealth amphibian services. The United Nations quite recently listed 149 biological species that were in danger of extinction in Africa. I shall be told they can do that work better than anybody else, and I am quite sure up to a point they can. But they cannot transcend national boundaries. They have got merely to appeal to the nations to take note. A lot of nations do not take note. They listed well over a 100 species—some of them like the viviparous toad, and so on, species of great biological importance; some of great intrinsic beauty.

The Commonwealth really has not been consulting. It meets once every three years for a bit of a row and a bit of an argument about Rhodesia or about something else. I suggest that now is the time when we can say, if we have been forced into the Common Market for economic reasons, that the hand of friendship can now at least not be tainted with gold or with hopes of gold, and that cooperation can be in the interests of mankind and on the lines which President Kaunda and President Nyerere drafted at the Singapore Conference. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.14 p.m.


My Lords, I should like, if I may, to thank the noble Lord, Lord Hale, for introducing his Motion in such a fascinating way and, I believe, a constructive manner, and may I particularly congratulate him on his choice of subject: "the increased need for regular Commonwealth consultation". I should like to join with him in the tribute he paid in his opening remarks to all those nations of the Commonwealth who came to us from all over the world in two Great Wars. I was very interested in his historical review. I cannot say that I agreed with all of his interpretation. No doubt the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth, who is to speak later, will give his interpretation of the historical mission of the missionaries.

The noble Lord was quite right also to draw attention to more modern and turbulent history—and he mentioned in part- ticular Africa—and of course it means that often people say, "Is there a real feeling for the Commonwealth when there is so much going on which is in many ways so different from what we had hoped?" My Lords, we have had a very turbulent history ourselves and we have had a very long time in which to try to get it right, and I would not say that we ourselves by any means have it right yet. The noble Lord mentioned in particular arms to South Africa. Perhaps I should say that this matter, before the Heads of Government meeting in Singapore in 1971, was discussed with many Commonwealth leaders; and it was right after that to bring this question out into the open as the Heads of the Commonwealth gathered together. It may have been controversial, but at least it was consultation and discussion.

Over the last 25 years we have seen the Commonwealth adapt itself to an increase in membership from nine sovereign States to 32, to constitutional changes within the Commonwealth, and to vast changes throughout the world. Commonwealth countries which 25 years ago were still dependent territories are now playing leading parts on the world stage. As membership of the Commonwealth has never been incompatible with the freedom of Governments to develop other links they are also joining groupings within their own regions. It is this ability to change which has enabled the Commonwealth to survive and which will I believe ensure its future.

The noble Lord who opened this debate spoke in the last few minutes of our entry into the Common Market. I have sometimes heard it said, and especially in debates of course in this House and elsewhere, that Britain's entry into Europe must inevitably sever the intricate network of relationships which has developed between the Governments of the Commonwealth, and between public and private organisations, in many different ways. I see no reason whatsoever why this should be so. Of course there will be changes, but our membership of the Community does not mean that we shall isolate ourselves from our partners in the Commonwealth. We do not wish it; nor would it be in our interests to do so. The position might have been different if we had joined an inward-looking Europe. But the Member Governments of the European Community have always made it clear that they are deeply aware of their responsibilities to the wider world. It is of course entirely for Commonwealtlh countries to decide the kind of relationship they wish to have with the Community. How it develops will depend as much on the Commonwealth as on Britain and her European partners.

Some of the developed countries have already succeeded in getting valuable trading links with the Six over the past decade. For example, Canada has doubled her trade in this time and by 1970 had become Europe's sixth largest supplier. But, as is only natural, it has been for the developing Commonwealth that our European partners and ourselves have been most anxious to create opportunities for both aid and trade. We hope that all those Commonwealth countries to whom the Commounity has offered association, under Protocol 22 of the Accession Treaty, will take advantage of the negotiations for the arrangements which are to follow the second Yaoundé Convention. We believe that this would be the best safeguard of their aid and trade interests because it would ensure access for their exports to the market which will be provided by the world's largest trading group.

By taking part in negotiations, the countries in question will not be placing themselves under any obligation. They will be better able to judge which arrangements suit them best but they will also be well placed to ensure that account is taken of their ideas at an early stage. For those developing countries of the Commonwealth for whom Protocol 22 does not apply there are of course also prospects for new links with the Community. As was agreed at the Summit Meeting, the Community has started to shape what is called an overall policy of development on a world-wide scale, and Britain is of course associated with this work. In particular, proposals are to be put forward for improvements to the Community's generalised preference scheme.

Then, as the House knows well, there is the Joint Declaration of Intent on the development of trade relations with the Asian Commonwealth, which we secured in the Accession Treaty. This is an earnest of the enlarged Community's inten- lion to extend and strengthen its relations with those countries and it opens up great possibilities for trade agreements such as that which the Community has agreed to negotiate with India.

I submit that our entry into Europe will give us the means to strengthen our links with the Commonwealth. The closer the relationship between the Community and the Commonwealth, the greater the need, I quite agree, for regular Commonwealth consultation. But there are many other important developments on the international scene which are of concern and interest to all the members of the Commonwealth, from all their varied and different viewpoints, and it is against the background of the continuing need and the value of consultation in what is an era of movement, change and adjustment that the Commonwealth Heads of Government will be meeting in Ottawa in August.

I believe that a meeting of this kind is no less than a remarkable phenomenon. I know of no other occasion when Heads of Government from all over the world meet each other in comparatively informal surroundings to exchange views in private. The Commonwealth Secretary-General is at present consulting Commonwealth Governments about the agenda and therefore this is not yet agreed; but while the Heads of Government meetings may be the most important opportunities for Commonwealth consultations they are only the tip of an enormous iceberg of organisations which exist in Government and outside to meet the interests of the Commonwealth as a whole. They are legion. I should like to draw the attention of the House to some of the more important ones. In the last 12 months, for example, there have been no fewer than 14 formal Commonwealth Conferences, four of which were at Ministerial level. In May last year the meeting of Commonwealth Health Ministers and senior health administrators was held in Geneva. In September, my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer represented Britain at the Commonwealth Finance Ministers' Meeting in London. I had the honour to attend this meeting and to take part in the discussion. Although I cannot say that the "snake in the tunnel" or liquidity or the other complicated financial matters are particularly my subject, it was for me to speak on the broader matters on the future of the Commonwealth as we saw it in the context of the European negotiations.

I should like to testify here to what an immensely valuable experience I found that meeting to be. Thirty-two finance ministers gathered round a long table in Lancaster House with every kind of background and every kind of experience and need, and yet we were able to discuss things, even round that table, in a very informal and, I would say, a very happy atmosphere, and a constructive one, and I am looking forward to this year's meeting in September which will be held in Dar-es-Salaam. In January of this year my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor attended the Commonwealth Law Ministers' meeting in London, and a few days later my right honourable friend the Minister for Overseas Development represented Britain at the meeting of Commonwealth Ministers responsible for youth matters in Lusaka.

I have quoted these meetings as examples of regular Commonwealth consultation. The need, of course, will be as great, if not greater, now that Britain is within Europe and I see that the communiqué of the Summit Conference in Paris in September last year clearly stated how we all intend to work. It said this: The time has come for Europe to recognise clearly the unity of its interests, the extension of its capacities and the magnitude of its duties as befits its mission to be open to the world. This then, my Lords, is the policy of Her Majesty's Government towards our partners within the Commonwealth.

3.26 p.m.


My Lords, this is not the first occasion on which I have followed the noble Baroness in a debate and have found myself, I believe with all my friends behind me, in full accord not only with what she has said but also with the tone and the sincerity in which it has been delivered. We are indeed grateful to my noble friend Lord Hale for giving us an opportunity to discuss Commonwealth affairs—an opportunity which in my view is long overdue. For some three years we have concentrated on our entry into Europe, and although Commonwealth matters have arisen in the course of our long debates on our entry into the E.E.C. I believe this to be the first occasion on which we have been able to look at Commonwealth affairs in a broad spectrum.

My noble friend spoke with great emotion of the service which the Commonwealth has rendered to this country and the free world. We need only to visit the war cemeteries in France, in Thailand, in Burma and Samoa, and to see the names inscribed on the war memorials of the Caribbean and the big battlefield and the war graves at El Alamein, to appreciate that the service that was rendered on behalf of the free world by the Commonwealth cut across colour, race, religion and creed. I believe it is on this that much of the vitality and the strength of the Commonwealth rests and on which its future will develop.

Before coming to the debate itself I feel I ought to ask the noble Baroness to convey, as I hope she will, our sincere congratulations to Miss Eleanor Emery, a very good friend of many of us, who is the first woman High Commissioner to be appointed. There was a previous diplomatic appointment, but unfortunately, on account of illness, it could not be taken up; so this is the first occasion upon which a woman has become a High Commissioner. I can say to my noble friend Lady Summerskill that in my view this has nothing to do with "Women's Lib.", or a recognition of the valiant campaign that she fights on behalf of her sex. I believe this is an appointment arising solely as a consequence of merit, and of great sensitivity and great service to many dependent territories and to one new Commonwealth country, Fiji. The Commonwealth consists of 32 countries. There are to be two new ones this year—Bahamas and Papua New Guinea. I am sure we all wish these two newcomers good fortune within the family of nations.

The Motion calls for regular consultation. The noble Baroness referred to those conferences which hit the headlines, for in a sense they are political and at a Ministerial level. I do not decry the importance of those meetings, but we should recognise that much of the vitality and the gain within the Commonwealth is in consultation perhaps of a different character, not at a political level but involving organisations and individuals. I believe that there are today some 300 Commonwealth organisations, and I see that the last few months has seen the creation of the Commonwealth Magistrates' Association, the Commonwealth Pharmaceutical Association and the Commonwealth Nurses Federation. Those 300 organisations, many of them unknown, and certainly unsung, consult, work together and co-operate. And one could say that there is hardly an hour each day when there is not some organisation quietly at work fostering what most of us recognise as the "Commonwealth concept". So I have no doubt at all that this House, many of whose Members have served overseas either in business or within the Diplomatic Service, would recognise the importance of these organisations; and in paying tribute to them we ask that Her Majesty's Government and the Governments of the Commonwealth should not only take note of them but should seek to sustain them, because some operate under very considerable financial difficulties.

This year we shall have two consultations of a public character. There will be the Heads of Government Conference in Ottawa in August—and in a moment I shall seek to hazard a guess as to what will be on the agenda. We in Parliament will have our own consultation because in September of this year the British Parliament will be acting as host at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference to Members of Parliament of fellow Parliaments within the Commonwealth. I have no doubt that many Members will be called upon to participate, not so much in the deliberations on the floor of the Conference but outside. I, as a Member of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Assosiation, personally appeal to any noble Lord who may not be a Member to join that Association and to participate in that Conference. To be able to give a welcome to a Member from a far distant island on his first visit to London does more for the Commonwealth concept of co-operation and understanding than the great speeches that are made by our Leaders.

It is true that the agenda for the Commonwealth Heads of State Conference is confidential and has first to be agreed between the member countries. I believe that three subjects will be on the agenda. The first is Rhodesia. It is tragic that the discord over Rhodesia has done much to hide and diminish in importance the constructive work that has been undertaken at those conferences. I believe that the Government, particularly, if I may say so, through the noble Baroness and Mr. Richard Wood, have in recent months done much to heal the undoubted hurt in Africa as a consequence of the Singapore Conference. I believe the clear statements made by the noble Baroness and by the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary in another place, that there can be no settlement in Rhodesia except within the Five Principles, and that any new approach to the British Government would have to be from the people of Rhodesia as a whole—that these new views, new attitudes, will do much at the Prime Ministers' Conference to help the Government in dealing with Rhodesia. It may well be that the Smith régime may be making approaches to Her Majesty's Government—at least, I assume so from reading my newspapers—but I hope that the Government will in no way depart from their very clearly explained view; and if they make it clear also that they will do all they can to ensure greater efficiency in the field of sanctions, then I do not believe that Rhodesia should prove to be so controversial a subject that much other good work cannot be undertaken.

But there may be an issue, and my noble friend Lord Hale touched upon it, in regard to Uganda. I can well understand the sense of repugnance of many Commonwealth countries if General Amin or his representatives were to go to Ottawa. I can well understand that Member Governments of the Commonwealth will be under great difficulties as to whether they can sit down at a Commonwealth table with a Government that has done some rather dreadful things. But I hope that the Government will recognise, and that other Commonwealth Governments will also recognise, that whatever feelings we may have it must be hoped that what has now occurred and is still occurring in Uganda is of a transitory nature and that the Commonwealth and the problems of the Commonwealth which need to be discussed at this vital conference are too important to be put in any form of jeopardy as a consequence of the presence of the representatives from Uganda.

Undoubtedly the most important area of consultation must be the economic and trade consequences that will flow from British entry into the European Economic Community. The noble Baroness herself touched upon the position of the 20 Commonwealth countries which are invited under Protocol 22 of the Treaty of Accession to apply for a relationship of association with the E.E.C. As the first point may I say that there is some criticism, as the noble Baroness will be aware, particularly in African countries, that this is a date imposed upon them. It was a date that did not arise out of any form of consultation. I acquit the Government. I can understand why this date had to be agreed because the Yaoundé Agreement comes to an end, I think in 1975, and it was felt right that there should be a longish period of negotiation, and therefore August 1 became the date. But bearing in mind the highly technical nature of the negotiations and the very great difficulty for those countries to make a decision, would the noble Baroness think it right to seek to persuade our colleagues within the E.E.C. to postpone date for, say, three months, in order for the Commonwealth countries directly involved, at least to have an opportunity to discuss it at the Heads of State Conference in Ottawa? I do not make an appeal for a long delay, but I should like to feel that those countries would have an opportunity to discuss this matter among themselves and with those other larger Commonwealth countries which have had longer administrative and diplomatic skills and opportunities. I believe we should achieve a more satisfactory result. That is the first point.

Here I must speak with some care. What really worries me is how some of these 20 countries are going to undertake the negotiations with the very skilled bureaucrats and technicians of Brussels. I think of Botswana, Swaziland and some of the Caribbean countries, whose resources in administration and diplomacy are rather limited. We in Parliament have a special responsibility. We have accepted that certain things should be done for those countries that produce sugar and other primary produce. We therefore have a special responsibility here. I have been a member of a Select Committee set up by your Lordships' House, under my noble friend Lord Maybray-King, to seek ways in which Parliament could exercise influence on Ministers on matters that come out of the Commission and before the Council of Ministers make an irrevocable decision. I think I can speak on behalf of all my friends on that Committee when I say that we have been impressed and to a degree alarmed at the quantity of paper of varying grades of importance that is involved. I think I can say that we are all alarmed that legislation still goes forth through the Council of Ministers and yet neither House of Parliament has yet set up vigilant machinery for control and influence. I hone that that defect will be repaired when the Reports of both Houses are available.

I gave notice to the noble Baroness about a document that has come into my hands. It is nothing like the Watergate affair. The document was handed to me by a most respected Commonwealth organisation, and it is a document that deals with the future relationship between the Community, the present Yaoundé Agreement countries and the new countries of the Commonwealth within Africa, the Caribbean and the Indian and Pacific Oceans that are referred to in the Protocol. On page 6 it says: All the countries interested in this concept of association should take part in negotiations to begin on August 1, 1973 …"— two and a half months away. It goes on: It is hoped that the Council and Parliament will begin considering these proposals without delay in order to arrive at a negotiating position in time for August 1, 1973. I understand that this paper is not yet available to Members of your Lordships' House or another place. I myself doubt whether there is any machinery by which Members of your Lordships' House or those of another place could be aware of the existence of this paper. I do not know whether the noble Baroness has had an opportunity to read it. It is a paper of fundamental importance. If we do not know anything about it, what about the countries within the Commonwealth?


My Lords, I do not like to interrupt, but I thought it might be for the convenience of the House to say that this particular document is being made available in the Library of the House.


My Lords, it may become available now, no doubt because I spoke to the noble Baroness's office this morning.


What is the document?


It is a paper issued by the Commission of the European Community. I am grateful that it is going to be placed in the Library.


My Lords, would my noble friend give way? Does my noble friend consider that that is good enough—to have one solitary document? We have about eighteen others on the Tunnel to study as well as this one by July 31. This is not good enough for me.


My Lords, I suspect that we are going to have an opportunity to deal with the Leader of the House on an early occasion, because I know the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, is also deeply incensed about certain documents that have been promised but are not yet available. But do not let us depart from the real issue. This paper is of fundamental importance to 20 Commonwealth countries. If we do not know anything about it, how does Jamaica, how does Fiji, how does little Botswana? I want to ask the noble Baroness, are Her Majesty's Government going to provide these documents for our Commonwealth friends? The noble Baroness can answer that now, if she wishes.

But I want to go a little bit further. This is a very highly technical paper which will require great study. I should like to know whether Her Majesty's Government are going to provide technical assistance, economic advice, general political guidance—not recommendations but guidance. Are Her Majesty's Government able to do this, or will they feel in any way inhibited because at some stage they will be sitting on the other side of the table, negotiating with these Commonwealth countries? I can understand the difficulty of the Government in this respect. Therefore I have not the slightest shadow of doubt that if this Parliament is to fulfil the obligations it entered into when it acceded to the Government's request for entry into the E.E.C., then Parliament must not only be aware of what is being negotiated but be in a position to know what the Commonwealth countries themselves feel. I believe that this will require some form of mechanism, some form of Parliamentary machinery, for Parliament to be satisfied that it has fulfilled its responsibilities. I will not go any further on this document; I think it would be unfair since the House has not had an opportunity of reading it.

I hope that this debate will be considered right and proper. It has given an opportunity, through the noble Baroness, to state very firmly and precisely the Government's position on the Commonwealth in the future. It gives this House an opportunity to reaffirm its belief in the Commonwealth concept of equal nations and equal people, and to pledge ourselves during the uncertain and anxious days which many Commonwealth countries will be going through to be vigilant in their support.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, could he answer this question? Could he tell us whether the document to which he refers is a formal document from the Commission to the Council which is not listed on our Yellow Paper?


So I understand, my Lords.