HL Deb 09 May 1973 vol 342 cc437-503

4.10 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, in pursuing the discussion introduced by the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Hale, on the need for increasing regular Commonwealth consultation, I find myself in some embarrassment. I believe that your Lordships like your discussions to have a certain "to and fro" aspect, and I find nothing in what the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said to which I can take exception in any way, or indeed in what the noble Baroness said. I should like to express appreciation of the very vigorous work in many different fields of Commonwealth affairs that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, did in his day at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I should also like to express appreciation of the outspoken statement by the noble Baroness as to the importance attached by the Government to Commonwealth consultation, to which indeed her own con- tributions will inevitably be so valuable, with her remarkable attainments.

May I draw attention to three aspects of the subject: first, the background that has made it unavoidable to change the practice of Commonwealth consultation; secondly, the value of the Commonwealth Secretariat and the scope for developing consultation under its auspices; and, thirdly, a word or two about the point that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, raised on means of developing contacts between the E.E.C. and Commonwealth countries. First of all, may I say that those of us who have worked close to the ground, in a sort of "navvy" capacity, in the field of Commonwealth relations, find ourselves very much out of sympathy with those who indulge in incantations of the Commonwealth as a mysterious force that works by sentimental magic. That sort of sentimentalism may seem harmless, but it confuses counsel and obscures the ways in which Commonwealth institutions can usefully be applied and developed. The Commonwealth is nothing if not practical. Promotion of mutual understanding is an entirely practical object, and without it States can seldom reach agreement on anything. When the parties to a common effort to reach understanding span the major divisions of race, G.M.T. and geography, the results can be of special value and can pave the way to wider international understanding; and that is one of the significant fields for a Commonwealth contribution.

Perhaps I may briefly recall part of the background of Commonwealth consultation practice which illustrates the transformation of the scene in the last thirty years during which many of the previous consultation practices have become inappropriate. The British Government used to take great pains, with full-time staff in the Foreign Office and supporting staff in the Commonwealth Relations Office, to set up routine arrangements for frequent, almost daily, consultation with and supply of information to the Commonwealth countries. The various methods were often publicised. At one time we provided, virtually every day, a service of information and comment; and I remember Commonwealth Prime Ministers, at a Prime Ministers' Conference, paying warm, almost fulsome, tribute to the value of that service to their own Foreign Services and Governments. We tried to encourage other Commonwealth Governments to reciprocate and to adopt the practice themselves of supplying information and comment from their respective capitals to each other, and sporadic efforts were made by some of them to respond. In particular the Canadian Government, with its very accomplished Foreign Service, made helpful contributions; but, generally speaking, except as part of the creation of new regional institutions, such as between Australia and New Zealand, those efforts never came to anything, and they petered out.

The practice of consultation and the supply of information is obviously dependent on the fulfilment of certain conditions. There has to be a reasonably high standard of security in the handling of the information that we supply. There has to be a capacity to digest and make good use of it. There has to be an inclination on the part of Commonwealth countries to co-operate with us in foreign affairs. But the fundamental condition for consultation is privacy. It is very difficult to have useful consultation on a round-table basis. Privacy is seldom respected if there are more than very few Governments in the room; and now that many Commonwealth countries have special relationships with other, non-Commonwealth countries in their own area, some of them extremely irresponsible countries, it becomes exceedingly difficult to engage in private discussions with them.

This brings me to my second point; that is, the value of the arrangements set up by the Commonwealth Secretariat in recent years. In these years the Secretariat has been developing its services supplied to all Commonwealth Governments. It is playing an increasingly constructive part. It is, I suggest, in the building-up and buttressing of the Commonwealth Secretariat that the machinery of future consultation can best be strengthened; and if this is to be achieved, it is important that Commonwealth Governments, including our own, should make a real effort to do their best to supply high-calibre staff. As United Nations experience has shown, it is always very tempting for Governments to give their second best. I venture to give as an illustration a possible field in which the Secretariat services might be developed. There is no particular or pressing reason for multiplying organisations or meetings, but it is exceedingly doubtful whether, under the United Nations or any regional institution, sufficient work is going to be done with sufficient speed on many of the most intractable major world questions. I mean questions such as the population explosion, pollution and the vexed question of how rich countries can effectively help poorer countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Now one of the difficulties in discussing major, pressing and gigantic problems of this kind in any world forum, or indeed in many regional forums, is that emotions rise high, especially among Asian and African countries and the poorer countries, and it becomes very difficult to discuss problems in any objective way. I therefore wonder whether the Commonwealth Secretariat might not take the initiative, with our support, to arrange for studies to be carried out as a basis for future governmental and Commonwealth consideration by eminent figures, expert in fields of this kind, drawn from different parts of the Commonwealth; the sort of people who can discuss these matters and produce papers without getting involved in their own regional politics and political emotions.

May I say a word or two on the subject of the impact on Commonwealth consultation of our entering into Europe? As an ardent pro-Marketeer in the days when this subject was controversial and exposed to the full blast of the difficulties in a Commonwealth country which was very much at risk, I have never seen any logical reason whatever why our entry into Europe should prejudice either our relations with particular Commonwealth countries or the practice of consultation. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, suggested, the practices of consultation will certainly have to be in certain respects developed and refined. Sir Christopher Soames pointed out yesterday that the political cohesion of Europe is still regrettably apparently remote; but we are committed to reach this cohesion by 1980, and seven years is not very long to get down to questions of repercussions and to the new kinds of refinements of consultation that may be necessary as cur political cohesion with our European partners develops. I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to say that this aspect will receive due consideration as time goes on and European cohesion becomes a reality.

In conclusion, may I quote a reasonable journal which recently observed that the future favours not the dissolution but the articulation of all kinds of bonds of mutual involvement; that the Commonwealth and the United Nations are not competing but mutually reinforcing, but that British membership of the E.E.C. requires development and refinement of the Commission's relation with others.

4.21 p.m.


My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, who speaks from long and detailed experience in many parts of the Commonwealth and whose very kind hospitality I have greatly enjoyed on many occasions. I think we are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hale, for raising this matter. I believe that it is time that we took stock of our relations with other members of the Commonwealth. We have not got far enough to be quite sure how we stand, how we see ourselves in proportion, in this post-Colonial period, but I think it is time we had a look at the situation. It has not been made easier by some enthusiasts who expected much too much, and by some, on the other hand, who sought to decry the Commonwealth—and one must not entirely exclude the B.B.C. from that comment. But I think that it is wise to look at where we stand in this relationship.

The noble Baroness said it was not what we hoped. Perhaps not. Perhaps it was not what we wanted; but I believe it is the logical evolution of the sort of institutions which we have tried to set up. The miracle is that it has held together—and not least when we joined the E.E.C. It is certainly the envy of (and sometimes a matter of incomprehensible astonishment to) some countries. As a matter of fact, it is not easy to explain. Historical chance placed us for a time in a position of enormous consequence and influence over very wide spheres. History no doubt will form a judgment as to what we did with the chances that came our way; but we imposed on many countries institutions and systems which were wholly alien to their traditional methods. It was to them a quite traumatic experience to find these institutions there. As the noble Baroness said, we need time and they need time to digest the various methods of carrying on business which we have taken centuries to evolve and which we are still changing. It is right that we should give them all the assistance—and this is what I want to emphasise—and the time to develop those forms of institutions which I think are valuable and which are so different from almost everything to which they have previously been accustomed.

We must recognise that there is a serious limitation as to the areas within which we can do things. First, let us be clear that independence means no interference with the internal affairs of other countries. We cannot play any part in the internal affairs. So far as the Commonwealth is concerned, we have no common foreign policy, no defence policy; we have no commercial policy and no economic policy. That does not mean that we cannot make bilateral arrangements from time to time or that we cannot help in certain aspects of the E.E.C. from time to time; but there will be no common Commonwealth policy on any of these subjects.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, who said that our important task is non-political or sub-political. I do not hold out any great hope for Prime Ministers' conferences. Certain brave Prime Ministers will from time to time call such conferences and no doubt they will achieve some purpose; but I expect little from them. Where the noble Baroness made her point is that there is a vast body of conferences and meetings at a lower level which can be of the most far-reaching consequence. That is where the chief emphasis should lie.

The noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, mentioned information. This is most important. We live in a complicated world, and if we can help countries with rather less experience of the intricacies in these fields it will be of value. There are lots of things left—such as driving on the left-hand side of the road, which we do, with Japan and Indonesia, for reasons which are obscure but which is still continued up to the present time. Above all there is language. If there is ever to be a world language it will be English, at least for the time being, and we shall at least play our part to see that it is both written and spoken as reasonably cogently as possible all over the world. There is accountancy. This is of British origin. Almost no country outside the Commonwealth has accountancy and it is of very considerable importance. There is common law; there are systems of administration, of Parliamentary procedure, of medicine—in fact all that goes within the widest meaning of the word "education."

There is a tremendous desire to find methods of education in this country. I am never certain whether we make the most of opportunities which are sought and eagerly regarded. Sometimes we think independence means a mace, a ballot box and a few other such things. A country is built up by a mass of intricate services: from modern electricity to the St. John's Ambulance Brigade, from midwives to traffic control. There is a range of subjects which has to be dealt with for society to work competently and efficiently. In this field we can do a tremendous amount to help with the developments that we have. Almost every year there is an Administration of Justice Bill making improvements; there is criminal law, company law, medical development—all are coming along year by year. We can play a tremendous part in helping other countries—and to our mutual advantage. In many cases other countries take a different view from a different background. They can form ideas which we cannot form and which could be of great advantage to us.

I often wonder whether the universities realise the importance of seconding senior members of their staff to universities overseas. I am afraid that I found that a good many university teachers who go overseas are what might be called "misfits". This is wrong; and it is a great pity if the importance of the broader understanding in education, which may be found by serving in a foreign university, is not properly understood. What I am trying to say is that our institutions are not indigenous but have been more or less forced on other countries. Dennis Bloodworth, in his very interesting book The Eye of the Dragon, emphasises that this is an act of faith which countries have taken from us. To use the colour-ful illustration that he gives, if you give up the howitzer and the half-nelson for the ballot box and the court of law this is a big act of faith, and if that faith is lost, the difficulty will be real.

My Lords, as has been said, there have been an enormous number of very important developments. The noble Lord, Lord Thurlow mentioned the Secretariat. There is the Association of Commonwealth Universities; then the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, and a vast body—I think the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said 300—of Commonwealth organisations. They are not easy to co-ordinate, and I think that it would be very much better if they were co-ordinated. I can, however, say that on June 1 there is to be a very remarkable service at Westminster Abbey in which, I think I may say, the major religions of Asia—Buddhist, Hindu, Islam—will be represented. Such a gathering will show in an important degree a proper respect for the institutions in other parts of our association. My Lords, I think that the Government will wish to, and can, give help to these personal associations. I believe that the Commonwealth will remain in being, if we hear in mind what Sir Robert Menzies said, that this is essentially an association of peoples and not an association of Governments.

4.32 p.m.


My Lords, in common with all who have spoken so far, I should like to express my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Hale, for introducing this fascinating subject for debate this afternoon. I am not going to enter into historical arguments about the Church in Uganda. I think I could only say that any institution which has something of humanity about it probably goes wrong somewhere. But the subsequent history, to which the noble Lord referred, of the missionary societies in Uganda is one of which anyone could be very proud in respect of education, hospitals, agriculture and training. The subject which has been introduced, I would suggest, is exceptionally topical, and for four reasons. First, there is the forthcoming Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference in Ottawa. For many years people have been talking of holding a Prime Ministers' Conference outside London, and this is the first time on which it is happening.


My Lords, the second time.


The second time that it is happening. It seems to indicate a kind of new sense of relationship and a breaking down of what I suppose one could have called, in the past, a sort of web format, in which all relationships were made to radiate to and from London. This is the building of a new kind of format, perhaps a lattice format, in which the relationships are slightly different and, I believe, on a better footing.

Secondly, the subject is exceptionally topical because of the summer negotiations, already refered to, by the African and West Indian countries for Associate status with the Common Market. I am one who has warmly welcomed the recent report from within the E.E.C. Commission which seemed to imply—I hope that I have understood this—that the worst features of association were now negotiable; and that in the forthcoming Yaoundé talks it will be possible to look afresh at the meaning and indeed the outcome of the suggestions which have been made by members of the Commonwealth countries. I hope, and in this I share very much the opinion expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, that this country will be able to give really sound advice to countries who desperately need our help. As has already been said, Britain stands in a delicate situation in this matter as a member of the E.E.C. and also of the Commonwealth, but I believe that if real consultations took place it would be possible for us to advise and help Commonwealth countries to come to an understanding and an acceptance of the proposals which are being put before them.

The third reason why this is an opportune moment is that Yaoundé III coincides with a new attitude by Her Majesty's Government towards Black Africa. This has been symbolised in a number of ways: first, by Sir Alec Douglas-Home's reference to African guerrillas as freedom fighters; secondly, by the visits which a number of Ministers have paid in recent months to Nigeria, and simultaneously by the action of Sir Alec Douglas-Home in calling this month for better wages for Africans in South Africa. It seems a wonderful background against which to build Commonwealth consultations. There is the hope of a new kind of trust and that the suspicion which Black Africa in particular has had about us may well be beginning to be broken down. This was helped enormously by the Government's acceptance of the Pearce Report, which did a great deal to help in Africa.

On that subject I wonder whether I might bring in something which is not often heard. We have heard a lot about how white colonials fought for us during World War II, and indeed World War I, but little is said about the contribution made by the black ones. Yet 100,000 Nigerians fought for us in East Africa and in Burma against the Japanese; and on the Japanese front let us remember that there were more Indians than British. Statistics are very difficult to get at in this respect, but it is certainly true that in World War II three Indian divisions were fighting in the Middle East and Italy and no fewer than 50,000 East African troops served in South East Asia Command. I believe that this potential is still there to-day, but it has never been properly developed. I wonder whether there may be something in the Commonwealth consultations thinking about the way in which the present military forces available can be used for the United Nations peace-keeping tasks. There has been an enormous amount of cross-training as we know, between West Africa, India and Australia and of course the United Kingdom, but it seems to me that the Commonwealth is much the most effective base for any future force of a peace-keeping nature.

I think I am right in saying that at present the only international peacekeeping training is done by Scandinavia. Perhaps it is easy to think that we have ended the argument when we say that the Commonwealth is not a military pact; but I think it true to say that Commonwealth military co-operation is the best in the world and its inter-racial complexion makes it unique. The fourth reason for the topicality of this subject, which I will refer to briefly because it was discussed in a Question asked only yesterday, is the current dispute over the French nuclear tests. We know that the seven nations of the Commonwealth have signed a protest against these explosions. I was reassured by the answers given to us yesterday afternoon by the noble Baroness. I wonder what the effect would be on the Commonwealth if in fact, very strongly and without any standing back, Britain backed the Commonwealth in the protests which are being made. I do not think that France has any possible excuse for making these tests. If they are clean, as the noble Baroness says, then they could be held nearer France. If they are essential, as France claims, then why does not France accept America's offer of an underground site in the Western Desert? I doubt whether there is any way in which this country could help the Commonwealth so much as by firmly standing against the French proposals.

My Lords, for those four reasons I believe that this debate is immensely opportune; and the continuing consulting and discussing between the members of the Commonwealth I would hold to be something that is essential for the future of our world. We have been warned about sentimental talk about the Commonwealth, but I believe it to be true that it can make a contribution to humanity which is really essential in the years that lie ahead. It has an ability to break down barriers; it has an ability to draw people together; and in a world divided as it has been in the past surely nothing is needed so much as the drawing together and the reconciliation of people of all colours and of all creeds. If in this task of presenting something to our world continuing and frequent consultations can become a permanent feature, then I believe we shall be contributing very much to our future.

4.42 p.m.


My Lords, I, too, am grateful to my noble friend Lord Hale for having given us the opportunity of having this debate to-day. It is a particularly important subject at the present time, not only because the Commonwealth, as the right reverend Prelate so eloquently told us, is of enormous importance to the world as a whole and to the peace of the world, but also because there is no point in denying the fact that the Commonwealth to-day is subject to considerable strains. Those strains are not such as to break it or destroy it, but they are there, and it is for us to do what we can to relieve them and to strengthen the Commonwealth as we know it.

The first of these strains, I would suggest to your Lordships, took place some time ago with the amalgamation of the Commonwealth Relations Office with the Foreign Office. This was a move which I believe was absolutely right; it should have been done, and I am glad that it was done. But there is no point in denying that the disappearance of a great Department of State dealing solely with the Commonwealth was bound to have a considerable effect upon our relations with the Commonwealth. When the amalgamation of the two Departments was first discussed I was very much in favour of it, but I felt that the responsibilities of such an enormous and important Department were too great for one Secretary of State to carry out. I always hoped that the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Relations would be assisted by another Cabinet Minister, and that they would, broadly speaking, divide the world into North and South between them, one of them, presumably the Secretary of State, dealing with the North and with affairs of Europe, the Atlantic Alliance, the Soviet Union and so on, and the other dealing primarily with matters concerning the Southern Hemisphere, in which, as it happens, a large part of the Commonwealth finds itself. In that case there would be a senior Minister to whom most of the Commonwealth countries could look directly as being their own particular friend. I believe that the difficulties and stresses in communication with the Commonwealth which exists to-day would have been to some extent mitigated if this had taken place. I can assure the noble Baroness that this is no reflection on her, on her colleagues or on the Secretary of State himself; it is simply the fact of the humanity of the problem.

My Lords, various noble Lords have spoken of the need for more high-level consultations, and I would go along with that provided we know what we mean by "high-level". I am not a great believer in the proliferation of conferences at which Chancellors of the Exchequer, Ministers of Health, Foreign Secretaries and the rest meet together with a great bevy of advisers and a great battery of television cameras. What I am far more interested in is the quiet talks at a high level between senior Ministers but sitting quietly in their own offices in Canberra, Ottawa, Lusaka or wherever it may be. I believe that we should have far more of that type of visit and consultation than we have at present. To-day, because of the large distances that have to be travelled and the tasks imposed upon present Foreign Office Ministers, there cannot be sufficient of this, but we need more of it. I believe that my noble friend Lord Thurlow, in view of what he said about the dangers attaching to the high-level big conferences, would go along with me in this. We have, of course—I am glad we have them; we owe them a great debt of gratitude—the Commonwealth Secretariat, which fills a large void in the whole question of consultations between different Commonwealth countries. But the matter cannot be left entirely to them. There are initiatives which must be taken direct by Her Majesty's Government with other Governments of the Commonwealth. It is to that problem that I propose to confine myself, leaving aside with some reluctance the enormously valuable work that is continually being done by the 300 organisations to which my noble friend Lord Shepherd referred. We cannot have too many or too close consultations between professional bodies, whether they be accountants, agriculturalists, doctors or dentists, in the Commonwealth. That is probably, when one gets down to it, the most effective means of ensuring genuine consultation and understanding between different countries of the Commonwealth.

My Lords, in addition to the strains which have been imposed on Commonwealth relations by the amalgamation of the Commonwealth Department and the Foreign Office, there are of course, as other noble Lords have said, the strains imposed by our entry into Europe. Those of us who are ardent Europeans, and at the same time ardent believers in the Commonwealth, have always realised that we are creating additional problems which need additional efforts. I have no doubt in my mind that in the long run our entry into Europe will be of great benefit to the Commonwealth as well as to us, because our prosperity and strength is of great importance to the rest of the Commonwealth; we cannot have one member of a body weak and the whole body flourishing. But there are these problems, connected largely with the problems of the developing countries and trade between the developing countries and the rich parts of Europe, and therefore the Community.

I should like to see far greater contact between the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, as the Minister responsible in the British Government for European negotiations, and Commonwealth Governments. I know that he has a busy time, but I believe that he, possibly assisted by another Minister, must find time to go to leading Commonwealth countries to consult with them, to talk to them, and to listen to them and see what they need. In many cases we know what they need; they have their High Commissions and we have ours. But, with respect to my noble friend Lord Thurlow, one cannot leave everything to a High Commissioner, however good he may be. The psychological impact of a very senior Minister, particularly one who is dealing with European affairs, going from this country to talk on the spot with Commonwealth Ministers is of very great importance, particularly now that we are slowly, diffidently and courageously embarking upon—what is the word?—one must not say renegotiation, but a new look at the Common Agricultural Policy. When we are all agreed that this must be modified, and modified so as to take into account the needs of developing countries, surely this is the time when a Minister from this country who is concerned particularly with such matters, should be in close contact with the Commonwealth countries most affected by the policy.

The second problem after Europe which is placing a strain on the Commonwealth, is the old one of immigration. We in this country are far too inclined to think that immigration is something that solely affects us—"us" being the citizens of Wolverhampton, or wherever it may be. We forget the effect it may have on the citizens of the Commonwealth who may want to come here, and also on those citizens of the Commonwealth who do not want to come here but who have friends and relations who wish to do so, or who want to come here but have read of the reception they are likely to receive; and we forget also the effect such things may have on the Governments concerned. I would urge upon the noble Baroness that we should not leave immigration solely in the hands of officials in the Home Office, competent though they may be. The problems of immigration should be discussed more widely, and possibly every quarter there might be meetings between senior officials from the Home Office, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and from those High Commissions which are most directly concerned with immigration problems in their own countries, so that all the problems concerning immigration might be discussed. These would include the likely numbers who want to come, the Africans, those who wish to return, the problems of the young people here and the many problems concerning immigration which we know exist. We must not look upon these as being solely a British concern or as solely a departmental Home Office concern, but must recognise them as something which fundamentally affects the lives of all Commonwealth citizens, including those in this country. Here, just as with Europe, it is not a question of simply informing the Commonwealth, countries of what we are proposing to do, but a question of having genuine consultations with them and working out together a joint policy for their benefit as well as for ours.

The third point, which has already been touched on by several noble Lords, concerns Rhodesia. I have no wish to be a prophet of doom, but we cannot disguise the fact that if the present trend continues in Rhodesia, with the present incursions of people—whether they be freedom fighters, guerrillas or any other name you wish to call them—sooner or later the Zambesi, the Limpopo and the other rivers of Africa will be running with blood. It is a very real threat, and it is not one that concerns solely the people of Rhodesia or of this country; it is a threat to the whole of Africa, and particularly to the Commonwealth countries there.

I accept of course that the primary responsibility rests with Her Majesty's Government. As the Foreign Secretary has said, in dealing with the Rhodesian problem we must have infinite patience. But there is a great deal of difference between having patience and doing nothing. While we must have patience, and we hope that other people, too, will have patience, though I am more doubtful of that, we must be taking active steps, not solely as a Government on our own but as a member of the Commonwealth. These steps include the strengthening of sanctions and of increasing pressure, particularly on Portugal and South Africa who, if they wish to use it, have power to end the present state of affairs. We must also, in my opinion, take the initiative in inviting to this country for talks representatives of all shades of opinion in Rhodesia.

Without elaborating those points any further, because we are not debating Rhodesia to-day, I would suggest strongly to your Lordships that such chances of success as we have—and I admit they are slender—would be made very much greater if this initiative were to be taken by Her Majesty's Government, after full consultation with the Commonwealth as a whole, rather than as something done entirely on our own. I suggest that we should consult particularly with countries such as Australia and New Zealand, who have great influence in many areas in Southern Africa, and also with the great countries of Africa: Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and, of course, Zambia. In all these spheres we must have closer co-operation. We must cease to think of the Commonwealth as a relic of Empire, a sentimental concept, an out-dated theory or a tiresome inheritance. Instead, we must look at it as a powerful and valuable force to which we have the privileged of belonging, not as leader or founder but just as one equal member among many others.

4.58 p.m.


My Lords, as one of those "navvies" who has spent the whole of his working life in the field of Commonwealth consultation, I warmly welcome this Motion by the noble Lord, Lord Hale. He spoke from the heart, and I think we were all moved by his words. I feel one embarrassment about this debate. I have listened to every speech so far. I think I agree with nearly everything that has been said by nearly every speaker, and I have a great fear that much of what I am going to say may sound very repetitious. For example, I strongly agree with the thought put forward by the right reverend Prelate, and supported just now by the noble Lord, Lord Walston, that the continuing importance of the Commonwealth lies in the fact that in a world divided between rich and poor, with super Powers and smaller Powers, regional groupings and so on, it is most essential to have some association that cuts right across all these barriers and is able to promote general understanding.

I would entirely support that as a general proposition. However, I want to utter one word of caution about this famous word "consultation". So much can depend on the form and nature of the consultation. Obviously, as the noble Lord, Lord Walston said, there is a considerable spotlight on consultation at the top level. I should like to suggest that we should not become mesmerised by Heads of Government meetings, or indeed delude ourselves that all that is required to solve any problem is top level consultation, because, quite frankly, this is not the case. As we know from experience, far from bringing harmony, a Heads of Government meeting has frequently in the past been more inclined to bring about confrontation. There are a number of reasons for this. One is that in the world to-day there are issues on which there are indeed genuine and profound differences between Governments and peoples, especially racial issues. Secondly, these issues are sometimes exploited by the political leaders, partly to impress their own domestic public opinion. Thirdly, that having happened, any differences are exploited by the publicity media who make headlines of the slightest argument that may go on whereas they will have nothing to say if any constructive work is done. There are two other smaller problems. One concerns numbers. As has been pointed out already, there will be 32 separate Governments represented in Ottawa. Inevitably that means that the Conference has a less intimate character and it will be more difficult to have a frank, to and fro discussion.

The final point is perhaps the most important of all. We as much as anybody else never designed the Commonwealth as an association to reach an agreement on political issues. It was years ago that we—some more strongly than others—rejected the idea of a Commonwealth Federation, of any idea of complete unity, of any central organisation, of a single foreign policy. Therefore, we only bang our heads against a brick wall if we try to get agreement on some of these highly controversial issues. One has seen that in past years over the extremely difficult issue of Rhodesia and, more recently, as has already been mentioned in the debate, in the Singapore Conference over arms to South Africa. Mr. Gorton observed after the Singapore Conference that it was not realistic to expect 31 diverse nations (as there were then) to be able to reach a consensus of opinion on highly controversial political issues. It is no service to the Commonwealth to ignore its limitations. Equally, I think that it is no service to ignore its achievements and potentialities. It is only the political issues that are divisive, so much so that I sometimes feel that the Commonwealth "plant" is too tender to be entrusted to politicians. As has been so frequently said this afternoon, so much consultation goes on at different levels below this top level "summitry". There are so many examples that have been given that I do not wish to dwell on the particular organisations on this occasion.

The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, quoted Sir Robert Menzies in saying that the Commonwealth was an association of peoples and not merely of Governments. I am sure that that is profoundly so. It seems to me that the peculiar talent of the Commonwealth is in being able to communicate knowledge, to share experience and to explore ideas in a spirit of Commonwealth partnership and friendliness. It is this which gives the dynamism in human relations animating the whole Commonwealth.

Now our eyes are on Ottawa for the next Conference. In spite of what I was saying earlier, the greatest importance must be attached to this occasion. It is extremely important if only for the reason the noble Baroness gave, that it is such a tremendous chance for heads of Governments to make the personal acquaintance of their colleagues all round the world, and to exchange views. On this occasion one is justified in having some reasonable hopes for the next Conference. If you look at the issues—and I am bearing in mind what the noble Lord, Lord Walston, said—three of the most divisive issues have had the heat taken out of them, and this, if I may say so, for reasons which reflect nothing but credit on Her Majesty's Government.

The first is Rhodesia. I accept fully what the noble Lord, Lord Walston, said about this being a most explosive, difficult and unsolved problem. But at least the clear stand taken by the British Government illustrated their integrity to all concerned. And similarly for immigration. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Walston, that in this there are hidden problems. I should have thought that the acceptance of the Asians from Uganda, in extremely difficult circumstances, is something which has certainly not gone un-noted throughout the rest of the world.

Thirdly, so far as the European Community is concerned, the results have shown that the British Government have kept faith, and that the great fears and alarums which were no doubt expressed some years in advance to the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, in New Zealand when he was High Commissioner have not been realised because of the arrangements which the British Government were able to negotiate. Regarding the Community and its problems, I strongly agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said about the importance of our giving all the help we can, especially for these smaller Governments who are considering the question of association.

There are two additional reasons why one might hope that the forthcoming Heads of Government meeting will be successful. Perhaps I am prejudiced, in that the Conference will be held in Ottawa which is almost my second home. The Canadian atmosphere can provide a calm and mature setting in which it may be possible to have a more reasonable and moderate discussion than has been the case on some other occasions. On a technical point, I understand that officials met some months ago to make recommendations, as a result of which one hopes that the business in Ottawa will be conducted on much more businesslike and restricted lines giving rise to a much more practical discussion.

The Conference will succeed only if it is recognised, as the noble Baroness has said, that the Commonwealth has changed, is changing and will change. It has probably never changed more rapidly than in the past ten years. It has ceased to be Anglo-centric, ceased to follow universally the Westminster model, and certainly ceased to obey the behest of Whitehall. All that, I believe, is right, healthy and in our interests, always provided that it is not carried to extremes. There have been two important changes in recent years, both of which have been mentioned by earlier speakers, and with both of which I had something to do. The first is the establishment of a Commonwealth Secretariat. I was clear in my mind when the proposal was first made that it would be right to remove from one Government, the British Government, the servicing and machinery for consultation which we have exercised from the beginning. In the past eight years the Secretariat have built up a great body of experience. They have built up, too, a reputation for objectivity and reliability. Many dangers faced them. On the one hand, they could have sought to be too active with an itch to interfere in various matters. Alternatively, they could have been too passive which would have meant ineffective. What has happened is that in spite of many crises, tensions and difficulties they have pulled their weight. This reflects great credit on Mr. Arnold Smith who has had an extremely difficult task—very often a thankless task—and has, in spite of all the complications, retained the confidence of more than thirty Governments, which is no mean achievement.

The second change was the other one which has been referred to; namely, the creation of a single Department of External Affairs by the British Government. As the noble Lord, Lord Walston, was saying—and I agree with him strongly that to create a single Department was the right thing to do—obviously there are both advantages and disadvantages in such a change. Undoubtedly something was lost from the intimacy which is possible in a smaller Department and from concentration on the special relationship with the Commonwealth which could be carried out by a Cabinet Minister charged solely with that task and a Department responsible completely to him. But also something was gained. Much was gained in our own service, but also something was gained from the Commonwealth point of view, because it meant that after the change their affairs were looked at in the context of Britain's position in the world as a whole. It also meant that their affairs with Britain could be considered on a bilateral basis, perhaps enabling more attention to be paid to their own special interests and to place them in a direct relationship with Britain, which some of them felt they had not quite had before. In some ways it is a more realistic basis and more relevant to contemporary reality.

This seems to me broadly to be the message of two very different men who have appeared on the Commonwealth scene: Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Whitlam, who, with Mr. Kirk, symbolise the modern and rather different approach to Commonwealth matters from that of most of their predecessors. If I may summarise their attitude, though they have not put it in these terms, I gather that they are anxious for at least good neighbourliness with their Commonwealth partners, but they also wish to have a straightforward relationship with Britain untrammelled by sentiment and—although Commonwealth considerations would not by any means be ruled out—not seen exclusively under the Commonweatlh umbrella. That all seems to me to be reasonable. The important thing in our own organisation is that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office should preserve a sense of closeness with those with whom we have shared so much history, and ensure that we enjoy to the full our friendship with them. For this purpose it is obviously essential that there should be a focus in the Department and that this must be maintained. As a former official, it is not for me to stray into the ministerial stratosphere in which the noble Lord, Lord Walston, was indulging just now. However, it is obviously vitally important to have a focus of some kind. There is one, of course, at the moment, and I was delighted to hear the words that fell from the lips of the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir, in her opening speech.

Nevertheless, nothing is perfect in this world and I should like to ask the question whether the noble Baroness is entirely satisfied that there is (I do not expect an answer this afternoon; this is a general question) enough concentration on what I think in the case of India Mr. Heath referred to as "the mature relationship". That seems to me a right term, because it is a mature relationship based on centuries of association. Is there sufficient concentration on that? The second question I should like to pose is this. I am as aware as any of the great help that is given by the British Government, particularly financial assistance, to a number of organisations. I am concerned with some myself: the Commonwealth Scholars, the Commonwealth Institute, the C.P.A., V.S.O. and so on. I am not making any complaint here; they have shown great generosity. But do we really make enough of those activities and of a whole host more, such as functions carried out by the British Council, the O.D.A. and a number of voluntary agencies, the Thomson Foundation, the Royal Commonwealth Society, and so on? Is all this effort brought together and considered at a high enough level and made the most of? I know it goes on at a sort of routine level, but are we making the most of all that we are doing?

My Lords, in summary, all I wish to say is that I think we should be careful not to put too heavy a load on Commonwealth consultation, especially if we hope to reach agreement on difficult issues. Nevertheless, there is tremendous scope for the healing touch, as I think Mr. Nehru once called it—the healing touch of the Commonwealth. And provided that we are realistic and show understanding, I am quite sure that much can be achieved. I hope that the message that will go forward from this debate will be one of warm encouragement to those who are going to take part in the Ottawa Conference.

5.16 p.m.


My Lords, there is always the danger that future generations may regard the word "Commonwealth" as a dirty word when they read of some of the incidents which take place nowadays, particularly in some of the newer Commonwealth countries—incidents which are frequently exaggerated, particularly when they refer to countries which have themselves not had time to develop as our older Commonwealth countries have done. This is not in any way to condone some of the incidents which have taken place, but we have to get the whole matter into perspective and recognise that the Commonwealth to-day is a very different organisation from what I it was even twenty years ago. I should like to see far more emphasis in our schools and among our young on the positive achievements of the Commonwealth.

Mention has been made of the Commonwealth Institute. With a number of your Lordships and Members of another place, I have been to a number of receptions and exhibitions there. Last year I was fortunate enough to go to the opening of the Fiji Fair and to see something of the admirable quality of the goods made in that lovely country, which I visited two years ago with my wife en route to New Zealand, about which I shall have something to say in a moment. There are many countries within the Commonwealth well represented at the Institute who have contributed enormously to the economy not only of their own country but of the world as a whole. I hope my noble friend Lady Tweedsmuir will use her good offices to encourage so far as is possible more people to visit the Commonwealth Institute to see what goes on there. There is a real danger of there becoming a kind of European Economic Community versus Commonwealth battle, which would be very dangerous for all concerned. There are many like myself who are strong supporters with reservations in some quarters, of both the E.E.C. and the Commonwealth. Having visited, as most of your Lordships have, countries in the E.E.C., EFTA and the Commonwealth, one can see that when the current problems are sorted out, as they will be, many of the present difficulties will go into obscurity.

Our gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Hale is great, not only for initiating this very important debate at a particularly significant time, but for the very stirring speech which he made in opening. "Consultation" is a very general word, and I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Garner, with his wide experience, and others who say that consultation must have some meaning to it. It is no use using "consultation" simply as a word; there must be a definite seed, at any rate, of an agenda and a definite set of proposals when these consultations take place. There is no doubt that the Ottawa Conference to be held at the beginning of August this year will be all-important.

Perhaps I may say just a word about New Zealand, which as many of your Lordships know I visited for a month just two years ago. The last thing I should wish to do would be to give any indication of playing-off the white Commonwealth against the coloured Commonwealth—very far from it! I believe that too much tends to be made of this to-day. Indeed, in New Zealand one knows how admirably the Maori population—and having spent some time in Rotoroa I saw a great deal of the Maoris—have contributed. One of the most significant experiences I had in Rotoroa was to be asked to visit the Returned Services Association, which is their equivalent of the Royal British Legion. It was to have been a ten-minute visit, but by the time I had been questioned and entertained by the large number of people there it lasted for nearly three hours and included two games of snooker. Among those present were a number of United Kingdom-born people, including two from Surrey, where I live, and very great interest was shown in what was happening in this country. I am now sent the R.S.A. Journal regularly, and it is a most interesting journal because it frequently includes references to this country.

Although New Zealand is 12,500 miles away from Britain one can look across Auckland Harbour, and my own impression was that it was really like looking from the Isle of Wight to the Hampshire coast, because one felt that New Zealand and the United Kingdom were one and the same country—as in many ways they are. Now, of course, tremendous changes are going to take place in New Zealand and Australia. There have been General Elections in those countries. After 14 years there has been a change of Government in each country. Some people may have misgivings; others will rejoice others will wait and see. But, as in all countries, after a decade or so a change of Government is often desired, if only to give the other side an "innings". So far as New Zealand is concerned, I had not met Mr. Kirk but he has Scottish ancestry and he is a great friend of this country. I did meet his Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Hugh Watt, and his wife when I was there. They were a charming couple and they showed great civility and help to both of us.

I think there is a real need for us in this country to appreciate the needs of New Zealand and Australia in the obvious changes which are going to take place in those two countries—changes which in many ways may well be for the better—and I hope that we shall be able to develop more trade with Australia and New Zealand, because I believe this can be done in conjunction with the trade that we shall now have with Europe. It was significant that in a great many New Zealand shops there were goods which had been manufactured in the Common Market countries. I do not think—and I hope I am not being idealistic here—that our trade with the Commonwealth is likely to suffer unduly as a result of our going into the Common Market, once the initial problems are resolved.

On the general subject of consultation I believe there is a good deal to be learnt, particularly through exchange visits. For example, it is interesting to recognise how many Australian and New Zealand doctors there are in this country. It is interesting to note, too, how many nurses there are from the African countries and from other Commonwealth countries, such as Thailand. It was interesting to note that in one of the leading hospitals in New Zealand the superintendent and his deputy were both English, whereas over here we have a large number of Commonwealth doctors and nurses. I believe these exchange visits can do nothing but good. As the travel problem of the world shrinks—and we have heard this rather dreadful term, "earth-shrinker"—it is to be hoped that there will be more visits and less expensive visits (because expense is the problem) between Commonwealth countries.

I think the value of this debate is that it gives an opportunity to discuss, even in a theoretical way, how consultation can take place. It is obviously difficult to have frequent consultation and frequent meetings, but there are so many ways in which this can be done, through education, through students. There are large numbers of Commonwealth students in this country, and I wonder whether Her Majesty's Government are doing enough to persuade people perhaps to take some of these Commonwealth students into their homes, or at least to take them out for the day and introduce them to their own families, because any- body who has visited the Commonwealth knows full well the very warm reception one receives there. Time is moving on, my Lords, but I hope that some of the suggestions that have been put forward in this debate will reach the attentive ears of Her Majesty's Government (and I know the great personal interest that my noble friend Lady Tweedsmuir takes in these matters), because closer links with the Commonwealth can do an enormous amount of good for the peace and wellbeing of the world in future.

5.30 p.m.


My Lords, in any debate on the Commonwealth it is well to bear in mind a remark made not so long ago by Mr. Arnold Smith, the Director of the Commonwealth Secretariat, when he reminded his audience that the Commonwealth consists of some 850 million persons, of whom well over half are 25 years of age or under. That fact, which perhaps in our rather ageing House we are apt to overlook, is of course of supreme importance in our relationship with the various Commonwealth countries. We have to appeal to youth and, moving as the references of my noble friend Lord Hale, for instance, undoubtedly were, like other references which have been made from time to time in other debates in your Lordships' House, to the great services of the Commonwealth countries in the First World War, as well as in the Second, quite frankly it is a matter of diminishing emotional return. What these young people are concerned about is what their fellow members of the Commonwealth are doing in the contemporary scene. And it is here that Her Majesty's Government are less than sensitive in certain important respects.

As one of my noble friends said, in relation to the forthcoming visit of the Duke of Edinburgh to Portugal, what we need with Portugal is hard talking, not celebrations. It may be true, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth remarked, that the Foreign Secretary found himself able to use the phrase, "freedom fighters". But that will make very little impact by comparison with the sending of the Queen's Consort to an ally of diminishing value, I should have thought, in the modern world. That is the kind of thing which touches the imagination of the young people in Africa. They are concerned with the role of freedom fighters; they are concerned with the attitude of the Portuguese Government in Angola and Mozambique. If one takes, as this country is doing, an overt step with the country which is responsible for the régimes in Angola and Mozambique, such as I have described, how can we expect these young people to feel very warmly towards this country? Their emotions have been disturbed by other difficult problems. I am the last person to underrate, for instance, the difficulty of any solution of the Rhodesian problem. There, we must all freely admit that solutions have escaped Governments of every complexion. But why go out of our way to make things more difficult by an action such as the one I have described?

Similarly, if we turn to other parts of the world, to those Commonwealth colleagues of ours in the Pacific, I know that the noble Baroness gave the best Answer she could to a Question yesterday on the French tests, but the impression was certainly given that the initial response of Her Majesty's Government to the appeals made was decidedly frosty. The noble Baroness shakes her head. I am simply saying that the impression was given, and I have spoken to a number of journalists on this matter. Something which disturbed me very much was that the kind of assurances which were received by Australia and New Zealand on this matter in particular—and they were taking the lead in it—were far from satisfactory. They were no doubt diplomatically correct, but that is not quite the same thing. Therefore, it behoves us when we are talking about Commonwealth consultation to recognise that actions of this kind by the United Kingdom, which, when all is said and done, is still a senior member of the Commonwealth, can affect the success or failure of the kind of discussions that will take place in the old railway station in Ottawa, now considerably refurbished for the occasion. And certainly we all wish those discussions well.

We hope very much that there will be no repetition of the abrasive behaviour which so marred the discussions in Singapore. Now that the present Prime Minister has taken us into the Common Market we hope that he will be a little more relaxed and will be able to discuss matters in a somewhat more friendly atmosphere than was the case in Singapore. It will be a very interesting Conference. I am sorry in a way (but it is the luck of the draw) that I am speaking before the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, because I believe that the change of Government in Australia will make a considerable difference to the atmosphere and the direction of the Heads of Government meeting. I feel that the combination of the Prime Ministers of New Zealand. Australia and Canada will alter the weighting of the argument in the forthcoming conference. I hope that we are under no illusion as to the attitude of any one of those three leaders in his own country. They are all people of force of character and they are all very much concerned with the independent position of their respective countries. But I believe that they are all very strong supporters of the Commonwealth.

I can quote only journalists, as I was not present on the occasion, but it is said that when he visited London, Mr. Whitlam said to Sir Alec Douglas-Home: "I believe in the Commonwealth more than you do". That might well he true. Before he left on his visit to Europe, Mr. Whitlam told the Press in his own country: The Commonwealth is the natural framework for consultation and communication between all these States"— he was referring to States in Africa, Asia and the Southern Pacific most particularly— and ourselves. There is no other organisation through which Australia can communicate in this way. In other words, he came right out on the record as recognising, as Mr. Trudeau has done before and as I know Norman Kirk also believes, that the Commonwealth has real value. Therefore I am optimistic that at Ottawa we shall have fruitful discussions and that this change in the political balance will be not only interesting but also helpful in reaching constructive solutions. It may also make things a little easier for the British delegation, because there will be less concentration upon their views and a great deal of attention will be paid to the views of the other political leaders whom I have mentioned. That again, I hope, will contribute to a somewhat more relaxed attitude on the part of our own delegation. One of the troubles in Singapore was that we were a target and our leading spokesman reacted with something less than patience.

So far as the wider considerations are concerned, I feel fairly optimistic, but if we are discussing the whole matter of consultation at all levels one should perhaps stress that there is still a great deal to be done so far as public opinion goes in this country. We are in a position at the moment where the idea, the concept, of "Commonwealth", is an unfashionable one—and I say that with some interesting recent experience. On behalf of the Royal Commonwealth Society I have been doing a modest job of research into education about the Commonwealth in the United Kingdom. I am in no doubt at all that in very many schools—I cannot say the majority, because the researches were not widely enough based—Commonwealth studies as such are not regarded with any particular interest or favour. The teachers—and this goes for those in the Colleges of Education and not only in the schools—say, "On the one hand we are expected to turn our attention to Europe" (and there is a great move for twinning schools between this country and various countries of the E.E.C. and so on), "and on the other hand we have a broadly based interest in what is often called the Third World", generalised problems of world poverty and so on, which arouse, very properly and creditably, the keen interest and sympathy of so many young people in this country. A great deal of the material on which the teaching is based, and discussions in classrooms and so on take place about Third World problems in fact is drawn from Commonwealth sources, from Commonwealth countries; the examples are almost all drawn from Commonwealth countries, although not quite all, obviously.

But there is no acknowledgment of the value of the Commonwealth connection as such. It is this which is regarded as irrelevant and old hat, out-of-date and so forth. To my mind, this is a great pity, because I do not think it is true. I believe that within the larger world setting the Commonwealth association is something of value and something which should be sustained and encouraged. I also believe that it is only within the Commonwealth setting that one can find some reasonable basis for discussing immigration problems in this country.

It is because I hold these views very strongly that I should like to pay tribute to what is done by particularly the various Governmental organisations in fostering Commonwealth exchanges at all levels. I will not weary the House with the details, but I have details, for example, of the Commonwealth Foundation, and a large quantity (I have brought only a small fraction) of material that I have been sent by the Commonwealth Secretariat, which indicates, as the noble Baroness and my noble friend Lord Shepherd have said, a really quite fantastic amount of co-operation, especially at professional levels and at Governmental level. I think it was quite right to suggest that we do not make enough of this; we do not dramatise this sufficiently for the general public; the general public is hardly aware of what is going on. The people who are themselves engaged in certain professions know more or less what goes on in their own profession. But there is nothing to catch the imagination; nothing to touch the heart about all this.

I was glad that the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, mentioned the Commonwealth Service in the Abbey which was attended last year by Her Majesty—and I believe she is to go again this year—where representatives of all the religions in the Commonwealth, not just varieties of the Christian faith, take part in what I would have supposed to be the most remarkable ecumenical service possibly in the world. Yet when this happened last year, was there any reference to it in the Press? I believe hardly any at all. And yet it is one of the most striking things. And similarly with all the quite astonishing good work which goes on—because it is good I suppose it is not news. I believe there are ways in which it could be somewhat more effectively exploited. I would ask the noble Baroness to turn her attention to this point. None of us doubts for one moment her own interest in and devotion to the Commonwealth connection. From some of my informants in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, I am disposed to believe that she is a lonely voice, but so far as she herself is concerned we all recognise and appreciate her interest. I hope she will agree with what I am saying: that if we really value this we should take some more dramatic and overt steps to indicate it.

While the actual cash value of the Government contribution to Commonwealth exchanges and so forth is very substantial—naturally, we should all like more, but it is substantial—nevertheless, looking at it from the publicity point of view, some of us, as a letter in The Times last week indicated, were rather shocked that because of our entry into Europe various voluntary organisations in this country suddenly found themselves in possession of almost unheard of wealth in order to encourage exchange visits and conferences and so on with European countries. We had recently in the gallery some ladies who came to look at our House; they were taking part in a European seminar in London organised by the National Council of Women. That organisation, with which I have been connected in the Women's Council of Public Welfare, was handed £10,000 for this purpose. No Commonwealth organisation with which I have been connected—I am speaking of voluntary organisations, not Governmental ones—has ever been offered a sum of that sort for Commonwealth exchanges, in spite of the fact that the majority of the people in the Commonwealth live a great deal further away than Europe and a good many of them are far less well off than most Europeans.

I mention this because, except for the occasional tip of the iceberg which is visible, nearly all the good work going on, on Commonwealth exchanges and bursaries and student visits and so on, is hidden, whereas the European fanfare, exchanges and so on, have been very widely publicised. I am not saying that there is anything wrong in that. I am simply saying that one ought to get the balance of public interest right. Therefore, I hope very much that in that spirit the noble Baroness will be strengthened by this debate, and go further in her own personal devotion and dedication to the Commonwealth cause.

5.47 p.m.


My Lords, it is most appropriate and timely, as so many of your Lordships have said, that the noble Lord, Lord Hale, should introduce this subject for debate to-day. The noble Baroness, Lady White, seems always to speak before me, and long may it be so! As your Lordships know, my own particular hobbyhorse is and has been the relationship between Australia and New Zealand and this country; and for ten years, following the introduction of the 1962 Commonwealth Immigrants Act it has been the operation of that Act that, to my mind, has bedevilled the relationship between the United Kingdom and those two countries. The present Government here have at last shown that their heart is more or less in the right place and have gone some way, though to my mind too late and ham-fistedly, and not far enough, to repair the damage done. I do not know why they have waited so long—perhaps because the Conservatives desired to canonise the author of the 1962 Act. For my part, I feel that he should have been hung, drawn and quartered.

From 1964 onwards the cases began rolling in. I will not weary your Lordships again—I know that I have done it too much in the past—with the cases from my files, but I have been involved in it for some time, especially in relation to the effect on young Australians and New Zealanders visiting this country. I assure your Lordships that it gives me no pleasure to be able to say, "I told you so". Your Lordships will have noticed—the noble Baroness just referred to it—that the new Australian Government is making some noises which can mean only a lessening or loosening of the ties with this country. I have never been one to put too much emphasis on this, but I should like to elaborate a little on this subject. Personally I thought it was about time there was a change of Government in both countries, especially Australia. However, it is well to remember that after ten years of the Government's behaving, or giving the impression of behaving, in a manner which in effect shows that they are not interested in a certain group of people, it is only natural that those people should eventually return the compliment. All that could have been avoided, I think, if the right sort of consultation had taken place, and if we had not been obsessed with colour. But I will refer to that aspect in a minute.

The various changes recommended by the new Australian Government are obviously somewhat loosening, though not quite so extreme as many people in this country thought, or as some of the very far Left in Australia wanted. The removal of the right to appeal to the Privy Council, of course, is something that has been done before. I see nothing against that, except for one point, which I should like to make to the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir. It concerns the States' rights. I do not know what the legal position is, but I presume that somethting will have to go from this country as a counterpart to what goes to the Australian Parliament. In Australia there is a difference of opinion. A number of people in the various States are anxious that if the appeal to the Privy Council is removed something should be retained so that if there is a constitutional struggle between the States and the Federal Government the States should have a right, if only on that ground alone, and not on criminal or other grounds, to appeal to some outside body. I do not know what the position is but I know that that point is worrying some people there at the moment.

Another thing they make a lot of noise about is the new National Anthem of Australia. If you consider what happens at the Olympic Games and the Commonwealth Games, that is quite understandable. The question of having a new flag was exercising the Australian Press to no mean effect when I was out there. Personally I agree with the writer of a letter to the Sydney Bulletin who warned his Government and fellow countrymen not to allow a change without a referendum, otherwise he said—and I quote: We will be like the Canadians and be landed with a label from a tomato juice tin. Talk has also been bandied about of Australia becoming a republic. Everything is possible, but I do not think, with my knowledge of the country, that that idea has gone very far. It may have some support among the young, fed on reports of the treatment of their brothers and sisters at Heathrow airport over the years; and perhaps among some of the new Australians whose names end with ski. My nineteen-year old younger son tells me that some of his age group in the Sydney area paid lip service to this somewhat extreme view, but that he did not find it elsewhere during his six months working his way around Australia other than a certain amount of "Pommie-bashing". The trouble is that our "too clever by half" journalists' reports after a couple of days' stay there do not help. Their reports are taken up in America and other places with relish. Lt South Africa I saw a banner headline in the Cape Argus reading: "Pommie-bashing, Australia's national pastime". The article was merely a reprint of a Punch article by a chap called Davies. Doubtless he was trying to be funny and did not realise the damage he was doing; it sounded to me as if he understood Sydney to be Australia. Certainly his reports on New Australians' attitudes did not apply to the Italians I met in Victoria near my particular pad there.

I think people in this country are apt to get a little misled by what they hear. For example, my wife went for an early morning ride in the hot summer with the daughter of a farmer. They came back just as the farmer was coming out of the cowshed after milking, and he shouted across the yard, "Tell her Charlie rode that one". That was Prince Charles; it was the area where he had been to school, and it was the area where Prince Philip spent a lot of time, and it is probably the most monarchist part of Australia. The fact that they do not use "Prince" before the name does not mean anything; that is just Australian matiness.

I think an example of the effect of this problem was mentioned in the speech of an Australian-born Member of another place. He stated that the new Australian Government was definitely assisted into office by the continued behaviour of British Governments on this immigration issue. My information completely bears out that statement. Many Australians thought that the previous Government had not been tough enough on the issue with successive Governments of this country. Government here cannot surely have been unaware of the feelings on the subject, for the same speaker when out there last asked a Deputy High Commissioner for this country in Canberra whether he had had any complaints on the subject, and as he reported that speech in another place his reply was, "Come into my office and I will take my shirt off and show you the marks of the lashes on my back".

Why have successive Governments ignored these warnings? Why did they not have a sensible dialogue over the years? Why did they ignore my humble warnings and the warnings of the Deputy High Commissioner? I think, my Lords, it is because they were scared stiff of the coloured Commonwealth. To my mind this was stupid. This pathological preoccupation with pigmentation—and I pinched that from the noble Lord, Lord Hale—has been the ruin of this country over the last ten years; that plus the vested interest in the race relations racket. It could have been overcome I maintain, by sensible, courteous consultations—not by announcing in advance of a Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference that you are going to bring these contentious matters up in the glare of publicity where they will take up pre-ordained positions. These problems should be worked out without the glare of publicity.

I have coloured friends in the West Indies, Ghana and Nigeria and they have always recognised in discussions with me that relatives should have family privileges. The Times in a leader in November 1967 said it made no sense to insult Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians just because Britain had a colour problem. My Lords, I have 35 cousins in New Zealand; and one friend, who is a friend of a well-known politician in this country for whom he bears the greatest respect and affection, tells me that he brought this subject up with him and he brushed it off saying, "That is all right; when you come I will fix it. You are all right". This fellow said to me, "You know, some of you people from over there just do not know what this means; it is a psychological gaff". However I do not want to go on with that point any more, but I do think, emerging from the subject of this debate, that that is an example wherein consultations might have been better arranged in the past.

What is going to happen with the resignation of South Africa and Pakistan from the Commonwealth? Surely anyone knowing the dependence of Europe and Australasia on Persian Gulf oil would also realise that the build-up of a Soviet fleet in the Indian Ocean was a vital threat. Surely this could have been ex- plained to the Commonwealth before this furore about arms to South Africa and the Simonstown base. One feels that the expulsion of Rhodesia and the arrival of President Amin on the scene surely make some sort of dialogue continuously "in session", so to speak, more than urgent. If other East African leaders want to join the popularity stakes with Amin then you will find 100,000 Asians on your doorstep. Without dotting the i's and crossing the t's I would say that it is urgent that we should be in continuous dialogue as to how to cope with this situation, which could easily arise. What consultations, for example, took place when the Bahamas began stoning tourists and ruining their only source of income by restrictive employment rules for their off-shore business concerns? Was there no way of politely telling them they were cutting off their nose to spite their face? I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, is not here; he might have been able to tell us what he tried to do.

It seems that we have got ourselves into a quandary about Pakistan leaving the Commonwealth. From there one hears of Press representatives in this country writing the most abusive articles about this country, and yet their people are still enjoying colossal advantages here. My friends in Islamabad continually keep on about the size of our Embassy there. I do not know what is the truth, and perhaps the noble Baroness can elucidate, but they all point to it as something of a scandal. I am told that if you take a taxi there now and you tell the driver that you are English, the standard crack is, "I hear it is a Pakistan colony now". If you go out into the villages where this friend of mine goes with great regularity, because he is an agricultural adviser, the children say, "Yes, I am going to England". Knowing the rules, you ask, "Your father is there, is he?", to which the answer comes back, "No, he is not my father, but I have a chitty to say he is" There is a whole lot of this sort of business going around, which could develop into a scandal and which should be dealt with by some sort of dialogue. There are countless examples where, especially since 1962, consultations have been inadequate, too late and with wrong emphasis. The list is long and I shall not weary your Lordships with more examples. I can only thank the noble Lord. Lord Hale, for giving us an oppor- tunity of pointing out the obvious and, so far as my own hobby horse is concerned, for enabling me to say, with deep regret, "I told you so".


My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, who is next on the list, but I was very interested indeed to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, has just said about Australia. I was there a short time ago, in Victoria, and I assure your Lordships that the Australians—and I met a great many in a very short time—who are primarily adherents to the Monarchy and to the Commonwealth principles, are extremely sore at what they think is going on. May I, as an aside, say to the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, that if in future he is asked by a taxi driver whether or not he is English, it is very good advice to say that he is Scots and he will then be taken anywhere.

6.2 p.m.


My Lords, I have had the honour of following the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, on more than one occasion, and I think this House is fortunate in having a voice from Australia to express the views of its people. I was pleased that he said he thought it was time there was a change of Government there, and I was interested in his comments about what has happened since the Government under Mr. Whitlam has been in power. I shall be referring later to the subject of immigration, but I support entirely the noble Lord's view that there ought to be consultation with the Commonwealth upon that issue.

I want, with others, to express thanks to my noble friend Lord Hale for initiating this debate. I suppose that over the years I have been more closely associated with Lord Hale on the issues which we are discussing than with any other person, not only in another place but sometimes, excitingly, in Africa. It is worth while on this occasion to refer to two contributions which he made in Kenya, under the conditions of Mau-Mau, to bring that violent conflict to an end. It was he who drafted the appeal to the African people to refrain from the violence of Mau-Mau, and that appeal was distributed in thousands by the Kenya African Union. A little more remarkable—and this ought to be known as a historical fact—it was by the initiation of Lord Hale that we obtained an agreement between the European, the Asian and the African representatives in the Legislature on terms which at that moment might well have brought the violence of Mau-Mau to an end. I have a copy of that agreement, with the amendments proposed by Mr. Michael Blundell which we accepted, and it was only because Mr. Blundell's farm was raided that night by Mau-Mau that that agreement, signed by the leaders of the European, Asian and African peoples, was not put into operation. That is the kind of contribution which my noble friend Lord Hale has made, and no one could have been more appropriate than he to open this debate to-day.

From the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir, I learned more than I expected—and I thought I knew a good deal about this subject. Early in her speech, she argued that the entry of this country into the European Community did not mean a lessening of our sense of unity with the Commonwealth. I doubt that, from a psychological point of view. Undoubtedly and inevitably our entry into Europe, and our association with it as a region, will in time mean some weakening of our association with the Commonwealth. But I recognise at once that that tendency began before our entrance into the European Community. It entered particularly into the mind of the Conservative and Unionist Party in this country. It is now 70 years since I first joined a political organisation, and at that time the Conservative and Unionist Association was still under the influence of the imperialism of Joseph Chamberlain. In those elections at the beginning of this century the Empire was the great card which' the Conservative and Unionist Party played. I think it undoubted that to-day in the Governmental Party, because the Empire in which they took so much pride has gone, there is less enthusiasm for the Commonwealth than there was for the Empire in the past.

I want to begin by recognising that the Commonwealth is the most illogical and contradictory association of nations which now exists. In the power struggle some of its members are associated with the West, others are neutralist; some leaning towards the West, some leaning towards the Soviet Union and China. Within the Commonwealth we have Monarchies and we have Republics. Within the Commonwealth we have nations which support free enterprise in the economy, and others which are deliberately aiming at the establishment of socialist societies. Within the Commonwealth we have some among the poorest populations in the world, and we also have populations which are among the richest. Within the Commonwealth we have nations which are influenced by the culture of Christianity, but we also have nations whose cultures are those of Islam, of the Hindu religion and of the Buddhist religion, and we have pagans. Yet it is an extraordinary fact that, with all those divergencies, we still have association in the one Commonwealth. Perhaps it is because of those very diversities that the Commonwealth is so significant. It is the most comprehensive association in the world to-day outside the United Nations, and it stands for principles which are foremost in their importance in relations between nations and even between individuals.

My Lords, I propose to read some passages from the Commonwealth Declaration of Principles which was adopted at the Singapore Conference in 1971. It is a wonderful document, classical and impressive in its wording. I think this fact is rather significant: that the authors of it were two Africans, Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia and Julius Nyerere of Tanzania. That leads me on to this: that it is also interesting that one of the authors of a similar memorable international document, the Charter of the United Nations, was General Smuts of South Africa. I propose to read these passages, though they may seem a little long, because they are so significant of what the Commonwealth may contribute to the world: We believe that international peace and order are essential to the security and prosperity of mankind. We therefore support the United Nations and seek to strengthen its influence for peace in the world and its efforts to remove the causes of tension between nations. We believe in the liberty of the individual; in equal rights for all citizens regardless of race, colour, creed or political belief; and in their inalienable right to participate by means of free and democratic political processes in framing the society in which they live. We therefore strive to promote in each of our countries those representative institutions and guarantees for personal freedom under the law that are our common heritage. We recognise racial prejudice as a dangerous sickness threatening the healthy development of the human race, and racial discrimination as an unmitigated evil of society. Each of us will vigorously combat this evil within our own nation. No country will afford to régimes which practise racial discrimination assistance which in its own judgment directly contributes to the pursuit or consolidation of this evil policy. We oppose all forms of colonial domination and racial oppression, and are committed to the principles of human dignity and equality. We will therefore use all our efforts to foster human equality and dignity everywhere and to further the principles of self-determination and non-racialism. We believe that the wide disparities in wealth now existing between different sections of mankind are too great to be tolerated. They also create world tensions. Our aim is their progressive removal. We therefore seek to use our efforts to overcome poverty, ignorance and disease in raising standards of life and achieving a more equitable international society". My Lords, I do not think any statement has ever been written which expresses so fundamentally what is necessary for the world to-day as that Declaration of Principles, unanimously adopted by the Commonwealth countries at its Singapore Heads of State Conference in January, 1971.

But, my Lords, having said that, one has to recognise that that is not the image of the Commonwealth which is now being given to the world. In Africa and Asia there are too often repudiations of democracy and of personal liberty. Uganda is one illustration of that. Britain, too, contributes to the defamation of that image. It contributes, as the noble Baroness, Lady White, and others have said, by the support which it is giving to Portugal at this moment in denying in Africa the principles of that Charter. It has failed to take effective action in Rhodesia. It proposed to provide arms to South Africa. It is shoring up the apartheid economy, both in South Africa and in Namibia. The attitude of this Government at the United Nations on these issues has been timid again and again; and in this country, despite our laws against racialism, we have the public advocacy by Mr. Enoch Powell and others of racialist policies.

One illustration of this was referred to by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth: the decision of France to proceed with its nuclear tests in the Pacific to which we have made only weak regret. I am not sure that we have yet understood the strength of the protest against this decision. It is the protest of every territory in a whole continent: not only of Australia and New Zealand, not only of Fiji and all the small islands, but, as I mentioned yesterday, even the French representatives of the territories in the Pacific have protested in the French Parliament. I will simply say to the noble Baroness that in these coming months this issue is going to become one of the most explosive in the world. Has she noted that the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, representing the free trade unions, has decided to initiate a boycott of all French goods and all French services by its affiliates throughout the world in protest against this decision? The World Federation of Trade Unions, which is under Communist influence and is thought to be more extreme, has not gone so far as the free trade unions in this matter, although it has also protested. I say to the noble Baroness that it is not enough for the Foreign Secretary in another place and for her in this place to express opposition to what France is doing by sending kindly worded notes to indicate to Paris that this is the attitude of Australia. She can only speak for the Commonwealth by coming out in the strongest and most vigorous terms of denunciation of the French Government for daring to do this in the Pacific against the will of every territory in Australasia to-day.

We have had references in this debate to the Commonwealth Secretariat, and appreciation of the work that Mr. Arnold Smith is doing. I should like to see its status much more important than it is. I should like to see the Commonwealth Secretariat voicing the views of the Commonwealth on this and on other issues. I should like to give it the authority to initiate Commonwealth conferences and really to become the organ for the expression of Commonwealth views. We hear little of it; we ought to be hearing a great deal from it.

The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, who preceded me, referred to what is happening in Australia and New Zealand. This is of extraordinary importance to the Commonwealth. We have now not only the Liberal contribution of Canada; we have Labour Governments in Australia and New Zealand which are identifying themselves with the demands of the Commonwealth countries in the Third World. This is changing the whole character of the Commonwealth. It is no longer an issue between what were the white Dominions and the new nations of Africa and Asia there is now solidarity between the Dominions and the Commonwealth nations in Africa and Asia. We in this country are almost alone in having a Conservative Government within the Commonwealth. We are now being left out on a limb.

My Lords, in August we have the conference at Ottawa of the Heads of State. It ought to be meeting at least once a year instead of every three years. It has a great opportunity. It has issues before it of tremendous importance: economic issues, the prices which the people of the Commonwealth get for the foodstuffs and raw materials which they produce. There should be agreement about that, and agreement about immigration policy, agreement about our action in the case of the British Asians in East Africa, agreement about the remaining 27 Dependencies which are still in the old Empire and agreement about the principles which I have read out to your Lordships for peace and democracy and for racial harmony and liberty. My Lords, if the Commonwealth will only live up to its own statement of principles it can be the biggest contributive factor in the world to-day outside the United Nations itself for achieving those things. I hope very much that the British Government will assist it to be true to the principles which they themselves have adopted.

6.26 p.m.


My Lords, we are all indebted and grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hale, for introducing this debate in such a very eloquent and moving manner. I think that in these times of change we need to be reminded from time to time of the fact that the old Commonwealth came to our help in two wars. This sentiment is not too out of date. Quite a lot of us who are not yet considered very old in Parliamentary terms can remember when the whole Commonwealth was under the British Crown. We were brought up to be proud of that fact. So I think that we should remember our brother and sister nations of the Commonwealth, and particularly countries such as Australia and New Zealand. I am not forgetting, nor can I forget, our ties with them; and I should find it impossible to do so as half my family are Australian.

Since the war nearly every territorial overseas colony which we possessed has become politically independent. This debate is about consultation, and the consultation needed to bring about this state of affairs has been very considerable. I do not think that anybody can be entirely happy about many of the results. I should like to refer to a White Paper on Colonial policy published, I believe, in 1948 and which was shown to me the other day. It says that the central purpose of British colonial policy is to guide the colonial territories to responsible self-government within the Commonwealth, in conditions which ensure to the peoples concerned both a fair standard of living and freedom from oppression in any quarter.

The intention behind those words was irreproachable, but when we look back over the last 25 years in many cases we can only regret some of the things which have happened. It just was not possible to put those principles into practice; it just has not happened in that way. Independence for a country or a colony very frequently can mean the absolute opposite to the individual living in it. We have seen this again and again. I will not generalise because it has not happened everywhere; but we have seen it and nobody can deny it. I think that it would be invidious and time-wasting to cite individual instances where our erstwhile Colonies have degenerated from democracies into one-Party States, into dictatorships, either benevolent or otherwise, and in some cases into tyrranies.

My Lords, I come to the main point that I wish to raise to-day. I feel slightly intimidated by the presence of the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, who knows more about the area of the Bahamas, about which I intend briefly to speak, than I could possibly know. We are shortly to give independence to the Bahamas, and one must hope that the outcome there will be happier than it has been in other Territories. At least, after all these years, Britain and the Bahamas should be able to benefit from the mistakes of the past, and possibly even from some of the right decisions which have been made in the past. No one could now possibly say that for any country the road to independence is likely to be an easy one. I only hope that for the Bahamas the road will be easier than it has been for many of our former Colonies. I think of Aden and South-West Arabia, to which my father and my stepfather gave practically the whole of their working lives; and when one mentions that now one feels, after what has happened, that one would prefer not to discuss it.

Last Thursday I asked Her Majesty's Government a Question about Abaco, an island of the Bahamas. I cannot pretend that the Answer I received was anything but dusty. But, my Lords, Members of your Lordships' House often get dusty answers from the Government Front Bench, and we can always live in hope that the Government may change their minds. I gather that it is some two years since a Petition was presented from Abaco asking that Abaco should become a Crown Colony when the Bahamas became independent. This question was raised with the Government again in December, when the Government said that they could not acquiesce in the fragmentation of the Bahamas. That is a laudable motive in itself. If we fragmented Britain into 56 counties, it would be a rather difficult place to run. On the other hand, as my noble friend Lord Lauderdale said on Thursday, this argument … comes ill from a Government of either side in this country which has seen the fragmentation of one Colony after another "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3/5/73; col. 181.] I do not know whether that is an entire argument. I raised the point about the unfortunate incidents in Anguilla, and suggested that it might be better to have fragmentation now than three years later, or several years later, as had happened in Anguilla. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said that it was outrageous that that should be suggested as a possibility at this stage. With due respect to the noble Lord, I find it rather difficult to follow his reasoning. Surely it is better that we should look at this thing fairly and squarely now. If one sees a possibility it is better to face it. It may not come about, but certainly it is better to be wise before the event rather than after. If a man sees a possibility that his marriage may break up, he does himself and his family no service at all by merely shutting his eyes to the fact and thinking that it may never happen.

My Lords, in Abaco there is a movement to reject independence and to have Abaco as a Crown Colony. It is supported and led by one of the elected Members of Parliament for the Island whose Party held 62 per cent. of the popular vote at the last Election. Mr. Watkins, the M.P., has told me that he believes that a number of people who voted for the Government Party would support him on a referendum on this issue. That is his belief. I have no means of verifying it. It would appear to be the case that the people of the Island have not really been consulted about their wishes in the matter. So when I say I do not know, and have no means of verifying it, I do not think that Her Majesty's Government know either. Mr. Watkins thinks he does know. That is the situation so far. At the very least it would seem to me that Her Majesty's Government should make some inquiry in the matter, and that the inquiry should be based on consulting the people living on the Island whose future is at stake. Their ties with Britain go back for some 350 years, and this is the first time that a change of so radical a nature has presented itself to them.

As an analogy, my Lords, let us suppose that the Shetlands were to express a wish to accede to Norway, but the population of one of the Islands did not wish to do so, or showed decided signs that it did not. I cannot suppose that Her Majesty's Government would just shut their eyes and say that they would not acquiesce in the fragmentation of the Shetland Islands. The people of the Islands, having been born and bred British subjects, and whose ancestors have been British for centuries, would be entitled to be consulted before such a far-reaching change were made. Surely the people of Abaco have an equivalent right. I am not sure when exactly the Shetlands were ceded to Scotland; I think that it was not much more than a hundred years earlier than Abaco became part of what was then the English Empire. So the analogy may be closer than is apparent.

My Lords, should the people of Abaco decide that they wish to become a Crown Colony, I do not see that this would hurt the rest of the Bahamas. Unwilling subjects are a nuisance to any Government that has to rule them. If the people of Abaco do not want to go along with the Bahamas possibly the Bahamas would be a great deal better off without them. Statements have been made, not by me but I have read them, that if Abaco were not allowed to become a Crown Colony its people would declare U.D.I. I think that this would be a most unfortunate ending to 350 years of British rule, and that Her Majesty's Government would be wise to consult the people of the Island before committing themselves irrevocably. There are precedents for small, islands running their own affairs, and it might be possible for reasonable accommodaion to be reached over this one. We have several self-governing islands round the coast of Britain. Island people tend to be insular and to resent outside interference. I think it probable that there may be deep-rooted psychological reasons for this. We have certainly seen the trouble that small islands in the Caribbean have created from time to time since the British Caribbean started to break up. If the matter is properly handled now, we should not see trouble. But, my Lords, people like to be asked before fundamental conditions under which they live are irrevocably changed; and I think that in the matter of the debate before us we owe it to the people of Abaco that they should be consulted. To my knowledge they have not so far been adequately consulted.

6.38 p.m.


My Lords, I looked forward with great interest to listening to the noble Lord, Lord Belhaven and Stenton, having been stimulated by his appeal last week for a unit of the Commonwealth, and I have been stimulated by the significant appeal that he has made this afternoon. I congratulate him on the skill with which he presented his argument. My main purpose in making a brief intervention in the debate is to express my felicitations to the noble Lord, Lord Hale, for giving us an opportunity to debate this matter this afternoon. His introduction of the subject was timely. He gave us an opportunity to look forward, as I did with anticipation, to dedicating an afternoon to hearing what the Commonwealth is about. He gave us an opportunity to hear an up-to-date expression of the Government's view by the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, and of the Socialist view by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, who spoke with a wealth of ministerial experience. In addition we have had speeches by ex-Governors, like the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, ex-High Commissioners, Ministers who held high office, like my noble friend Lord Selkirk, and many others.

I came here, my Lords, hoping to hear what the Commonwealth is to-day and what is its influence. All my life I have been an enthusiast for the Commonwealth concept, and I was hoping to get some consolation. I spoke to a colleague in this House who makes pronouncements which are listened to with great attention and I asked him what he thought about the influence of the Commonwealth. He answered: "About as much as the Roman Empire had at the time of the Napoleonic wars." I share his view, because the power of the Commonwealth is so much less than it was. If the Commonwealth is going to have any influence there must be respect. There must be a readiness to accept the obligations of membership, and a respect for the rules. There seems to be such a sentimental attachment to the past, or an historical pretence that there still exists what experience showed did exist many years ago, but there is not a readiness to accept the discipline that is required by a proper association. In these days there is an absence of discipline, loyalty, respect for tradition and respect for the establishment, and so it seems the Commonwealth cannot command the respect and discipline it should have.

We have seen this lately. Can we be members of the Commonwealth and really respect a member like Uganda at the present time? Surely the South American who looks at the Commonwealth can say: "We used to respect the Commonwealth, but is this barbaric behaviour what it stands for to-day?" That is why it seems that the rules are wrong. The Commonwealth is out of date. It was stated in answer to a question in this House, "Why is a unit that behaves like this still a member of what we like to think is a respectable club?", that the machinery is such that it takes a long time to call the Commonwealth together and there is not to be a meeting for months ahead. Surely the Commonwealth is out of date and there must be a change in the rules. There cannot be respect, enthusiasm and devotion when we have to accept the hypocrisy—and it is hypocrisy—that a country behaving like Uganda has behaved is able to continue to be a member of the club.

My Lords, what guidance is there in this regard? There is compulsion in some ways. We have puzzles in different countries, such as why Katanga was forced to remain a unit of the Congo when Eastern Bengal or Bangladesh was allowed to secede. Pakistan, I understand, is a foreign country and no longer a member of the Commonwealth. Yet, as the noble Lord, Lord Clifford, pointed out, we have the question of immigration—again hypocrisy—and the pretence that people of that area are members of the Commonwealth. That does not seem logical. Of course matters have changed a great deal. Our going into the E.E.C. has made a good deal of difference; and the virtual shrinkage to a small degree of the sterling area has contributed to it. I suppose the best example one can give is that of the United Nations. If we are a club of any weight in the world there should be unity in that talking madhouse on the East River in New York. But every member of the Commonwealth goes its own way. It is all log rolling. Therefore that presents competition, I suppose, in a body which might be expected to have some influence in the world. Alas!, what goes on at the United Nations destroys everything that we could wish for.

My noble friend Lord Selkirk pointed out that there is no cohesion in defence. Certainly some of the so-called Commonwealth members would not have much effect from the defence point of view. It is thought impolite to make comparisons between pigments of skin, but really it is only hypocrisy. Of course the white Dominion is of more influence than units of non-white character. Many of them do not even have a constitutional Government. They do not respect any of what should be the basis of behaviour of a unit of the Commonwealth. Going back a long way to the time when I was in Gallipoli, I recall that on the right one had Gurkha and Sikh battalions, and one was confident. I am not sure that I should be as confident with a Hindu as with a Sikh. Of course we had units of non-whites—that is to say, negroes—but they were for use behind the lines and not in combat in the front line. I do not think those with whom I served would have been happy serving with black units on either flank.

There is a belief that we have taken more out of the Commonwealth than we have put in, and that we owe some retribution for past behaviour. Why is this? I am confident that the Empire as it was all through the 18th and 19th centuries made a great contribution to the evolution of the world, taking progress where savagery existed previously. So it seems that the Commonwealth concept that retribution it owed by this country to the black units is quite wrong. Heavens! I do not know what the whole sum is, but I know that in six countries in Africa our contribution in aid since Independence has been something of the order of £470 million—I repeat: £470 million. Is that given in retribution'? I cannot believe that the British taxpayer rightly has that call upon him.

I have expressed misgivings about the thinking on the Commonwealth as we know it to-day, but I ask your Lordships' indulgence for this. My earliest informative years about the Commonwealth included seeing Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, and I have a vivid recollection of it. There one saw what power could be: one saw the breadth, the weight and the influence of what a proper unit could be. And so, because one has an ineradicable respect for what was, one is disappointed by the apparent inadequacy of what is now. However, my Lords, I recognise that change is inevitable, and I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir, is going to say more about the Commonwealth associations and give us a speech of her usual brilliance. It is in that expectation that I ask your Lordships for your indulgence in my making these few remarks.

6.53 p.m.


My Lords, the whole House has expressed its deep gratitude to my noble friend Lord Hale for giving us this opportunity to discuss this important subject. I think we all understand and share his emotion about it. We are particularly glad that he must be delighted by the quality of the speeches which his debate has produced. I believe it has been a most important debate and we are all most grateful to him.

Before saying anything else, I should like to make one very short point. We all of us in this House are deeply fond of the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, and I always try never to interrupt him and never to contradict him—not always with success. But I should like to point out to him one small point about the fighting qualities of coloured troops. The Marshal of the Royal Air Force, Lord Douglas of Kirtleside, had as his personal pilot the present Prime Minister of Barbados, Mr. Errol Barrow, who is about as black as anybody could be, and has had one of the most distinguished Air Force careers among his contemporaries. After that, I propose to leave the noble Lord to the noble Baroness—I know he likes that very much!

If I may now be perhaps more serious, this has been an extremely difficult debate to sum up or wind up generally, because so many good points have been made. Indeed, practically all my own good points have already been pinched. Therefore I shall try to be as brief as possible, though some things must be said. First, the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir, as always, is immensely persuasive. We greatly welcome most of what she said about the Commonwealth and about consultation. I very much enjoyed her accounts of the Commonwealth Secretariat meetings, because I know that she enjoys so much going to them. I was particularly glad that she talked about the youth meeting in Lusaka, because I thought that that was a particularly important one. But in spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Garner, said about top level meetings with Prime Ministers, and so on, I myself believe that the meeting in Ottawa next August is going to be extremely important and we simply cannot have a repetition of what the present Government did at Singapore. The noble Baroness said that there had been consultations beforehand and so on, but in fact there was an absolutely brutal confrontation about South African arms which outraged most of the other people there. It was one of the most unsucccessful Prime Ministers' Conferences that we have ever had.

The Government have changed their mind over many of the items that were in their programme, and on the whole we feel that on many things it has been for the better. We are prepared to believe quite genuinely that there has been a great change in the Government's attitude to the Commonwealth itself. Therefore, some of the things which the noble Baroness said about consultation and so on we welcome and accept in the spirit in which she said them. But of course it is going to be a very different Commonwealth we shall be dealing with this time in Ottawa, and we shall need to take particular care. The first point we shall need to take care over is to remember that we are now in the E.E.C. The second point, to which many noble Lords have referred, is that we are dealing with different kinds of Commonwealth Governments. The advent, one might call it, of 'Mr. Whitlam, has been tremendously exciting and we very much welcome the principles he has enunciated. The present New Zealand Government has a very different approach from the previous one. The present Prime Minister of Canada has said publicly that when he first took office he was a little sceptical about the Commonwealth, but now he knows the great importance that the Commonwealth has in Canada's foreign policy. In addition, the Nigerian and Ghanaian Governments and the Government of Jamaica under Mr. Manley are all showing a very much more outward look and a conscious wish for links with the Commonwealth. I think this is of the greatest possible importance.

We on this side particularly welcomed one of the acts of Mr. Whitlam. One of the first things he did when he became Prime Minister was to invite Mr. Arnold Smith, the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Secretariat, to Australia. This was something which had not happened before. I must admit that I slightly disagree with my noble friend Lady White about the attitude to the Commonwealth in this country—perhaps we have been mixing in different schools—but I think that the United Kingdom as a whole is becoming more aware of the economic, political and moral importance of the Commonwealth.

That sets the stage for us in Ottawa, but if we turn to the E.E.C. for a moment, the United Kingdom has more intimate arrangements with the developing world than any of the other Nine countries. We are in a position to bridge gaps in understanding, to suggest practical solutions to problems and to produce consultation in its deepest sense. I believe this is enormously important, but it depends on one thing; that is, that the Government can prove that their arguments about British entry into the E.E.C. having strengthened the association with the Commonwealth were real and not empty phrases. We know that the "associables"—that horrible word—have the greatest possible anxieties about the Yaoundé association and about the various other choices before them. If we think only of sugar we see clearly how it looked at second sight much less secure than at first sight, and we note that the Government have had a second sugar conference which was fairly successful. We very much hope that they will keep their faith with the Commonwealth. I believe that this is the Government's bona fides with the Commonwealth for the E.E.C. That is of the utmost importance.

The Economist had a rather eccentric article last month—I suppose it often does. It began with a rather nice phrase, discussing the role of the Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Godber, at the E.E.C. It said, "Good egg turns hard boiled" which I thought was rather good. It went on to say: We can now have a different foreign policy in this country…For the first time in more than a generation Britain is an unencumbered country…The ball and chain of an over-valued currency has gone…Since January 1 all the inhibitions that went with being a penitent at the gates of Europe are vanished too. It no longer needs to shape its conduct with the thought at the back of its mind that it may be excluded. The Economist, I need hardly tell your Lordships, came to a different conclusion than I have after that rather nice sentiment. It gives us a different position vis-à-vis the Commonwealth in the E.E.C. We do not have to look over our shoulders, we are in. We can act in the interests of the Commonwealth as well as the selfish interests of our own country and the Nine. That in itself is of immense importance.

I was especially pleased by what the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, said about not being sentimental about the Commonwealth. This is of primary importance. I also ought to reveal that the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, was once my boss. I was astonished to hear him describe himself as a navvy. I always thought of him very much in the Brahmin class. All the same, much of what he said was absolutely right, especially regarding the sentimentality, and I appreciated what the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Portsmouth said about consultation not being, as it were, concentric. It should not just go out to the Commonwealth from us, but it should go around among the Commonwealth countries and we should try and help it. If we think for one moment about the situation in East Africa, there is no doubt that things would have been infinitely worse had it not been for the statesmanlike actions and advice of President Kenyatta and Dr. Nyerere. I was shocked by the curiously ungenerous letter in The Times from Mrs. Elspeth Huxley who implied that those of us who were striving for racial equality in Rhodesia were in some way trying to turn a blind eye to General Amin. As the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said, it is important not to get obsessed with General Amin. Nevertheless, it is untrue to say that those who feel strongly about Rhodesia in any way have a double standard. Noble Lords in all parts of the House know that we had to guard our word carefully at a time when lives were in jeopardy, but there is no question about what we think about it all. With a great many noble Lords, I think that the question of Rhodesia is probably crucial to the whole problem of consultation, communication and even trust within the Commonwealth.

Somebody once said that Rhodesia was Banquo's ghost at every meeting, and I think that is absolutely true. Now the new Commonwealth—the Commonwealth since January 1—understands that this country has responsibility but very little power in Rhodesia. They understand the utter intransigence and double dealing of Mr. Smith and accept the United Kingdom's strict adherence to sanctions. But they want an unequivocal assurance that we are not going to do any kind of a deal. There is no question that the Smith régime is now trying to persuade the world that the Africans are going to reverse their decision that they took on the Pearce Commission. The régime are doing so by setting up bogus pro-settlement groups among Africans; they are trying to deny the truth about world events to the Rhodesians themselves, as we have seen in their treatment of Mr. Peter Niesewand and other journalists. Above all, they are instituting the most cruel repression in the tribal trustlands in an attempt to persuade African opinion to rescind their decision, which the Africans will never do, I am quite sure.

It is important to remind the House that it is essential to have talks with the A.N.C. and their leaders. But they have denied permission to any A.N.C. leader to go to tribal trustlands—even their own homes. Political meetings have been forbidden in the tribal trustlands and many leaders of the A.N.C.—the most moderate Christian Party representing the Africans that we have seen yet—like Arthur Chadzingwa are in detention. More than that, noble Lords may not realise that in the villages there has been wholesale confiscation of cattle, there has been wholesale closing of schools—all this to intimidate the Africans. There has been the harshest possible screening and interrogation of anybody suspected of being sympathetic to African nationalism. We know that Bishop Muzorewa has tried to talk to Mr. Smith. He has also tried to come to England, but his passport has been taken away from him.

We know that Mr. Smith is trying again for a settlement between the two Governments. I personally believe that this is the time to say that the settlement no longer lies on the table. The Africans have rejected it, the Smith régime has become more repressive since it was rejected. This is not the time for discussing complicated franchises, and things of that kind; it is the time for Mr. Smith—or, as I believe, somebody different from him—to talk to the Africans and then to us. The greatest possible help towards consultation between the Commonwealth nations is for the Government to make this absolutely clear. I know that that is a difficult matter for the noble Baroness to reply to, but I believe it passionately, and I believe that most people who know anything about the situation would agree with it.

If I may turn briefly to another point that was made by the noble Lords, Lord Thurlow, Lord Garner and Lord Walston, they talked about the amalgamation between the Commonwealth Relations Office and the Foreign Office. I know that none of them will agree with me, but I regret that amalgamation. I have served in both offices and I believe that it is precisely in the service of communication and consultation, however imperfect, that the old C.R.O. did absolutely brilliantly. The world—particularly the Commonwealth—has lost something by that amalgamation. I go further, and say that if Overseas Aid and Development, the various names that Department had, were still in the Cabinet we should not occupy the disgraceful position of being the only nation not to accept the Pearson aid target. We are the least generous of all the industrialised Governments in giving help to the underdeveloped nations. If we had that more intimate consultation more aid would be forthcoming; and more suitable aid, more labour intensive aid, aid to do with intermediate technology. This is what we have lost by putting the whole thing under the monumental super-Ministry which exists now.

We need to do a lot of practical things. There are many questions I should like to ask the noble Baroness—indeed, I have them written down—but at this time of night perhaps I had better not do so. I believe the Commonwealth can best express itself, as many noble Lords have said, in practical ways. For instance, there is the Commonwealth Development Corporation. Now that we are in the E.E.C. I am sure the Commonwealth people are worried about the extended powers which Parliament gave the C.D.C. to go outside the Commonwealth. We think this is a good thing. But I am sure there are worries about that kind of situation, and about the things which comparable organisations in the E.E.C. belonging to other nations do. Do they have the same rates as ours?

There are many, many small, practical questions of which I think Commonwealth consultation is made up, and about which I should like to talk to the noble Baroness but which I shall not bother her with now. What we believe on this side of the House is that the speech made by the Foreign Secretary about the alternatives between consultation and communication and ultimate violence is absolutely true. It is because we believe there should be real consultation, real communication, that we welcome the opportunity for this debate and we beg the noble Baroness to carry it as far as she herself can.

7.11 p.m.


My Lords, if I may have leave to speak again I hope it will not be for too long, but I should like to reply to some of the very interesting questions which have been raised during this debate. If anybody had any doubt about the continuing vitality of Britain's interest in the Commonwealth, I should have thought that this debate would have completely dispelled it. We have been lucky to have contributions from many people who have spent a great deal of their time and thought and experience within the Commonwealth or dealing with the Commonwealth. The noble Baroness, Lady Llewelyn-Davies, said that she felt that the meeting of the Prime Ministers in Ottawa in August was of prime importance and that we might find it would have a rather better relationship than we had in Singapore. I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Garner, was right when he mentioned three political issues which he thought had been particularly divisive over the years and which were now, if not solved temporarily quiescent. He mentioned Rhodesia and the fact that the acceptance of the Pearce Report has brought a greater confidence to many of the nations of Africa. He mentioned the fact, as did the noble Baroness, that we are now a member of the Common Market and therefore all the arguments are now past: it is a fact. And the noble Lord, Lord Garner, also mentioned that the great problem of immigration, particularly so far as the Asians from Uganda are concerned, is over, too.

The noble Baroness, Lady Llewelyn-Davies, was quite right to draw attention nevertheless to what seems almost like a stalemate in Rhodesia and the very difficult situation there. She asked whether it would not be possible to withdraw the 1971 settlement proposals. I am sure she will realise how much work and thought went into those proposals; they should be there at any rate as a basis so that a lot of work does not have to be done all over again. No doubt, any future settlement would have to—


My Lords, may I interrupt for a second? So many people who knew Rhodesia and understood the situation knew from the start that those proposals were not even a beginning, and we still believe that to be true.


My Lords, a great deal of very important material was contained in the settlement proposals. The noble Baroness suggested that we did not want anything of such a technical character; what we really wanted were talks. But if we are to ensure that there is to be a steady and sure advance to African majority rule, and that all the various problems which she mentioned are gradually overcome, then it is important to have certain technical details in any settlement. Therefore, this is a good basis. But as my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has said over and over again, it is now for the Rhodesians themselves to try to come together. If we could be of help we would be, but we think it is up to them to try to reach some agreement together, which must of course be within the Five Principles.

The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, was good enough to send me a note saying he was urgently called away but he hoped that he would be able to return for this particular speech. Alas! I do not see him here. I think I am bound to refer to what he said, but perhaps I could leave his particular remarks to the very end in case he is able to return later. So I would turn, if I might, to the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, who was absolutely correct in saying that the Commonwealth is a practical grouping of nations. I do not call it an organisation; I call it a practical coming-together, voluntarily, of many nations of many backgrounds. He asked particularly about the Commonwealth Secretariat and wanted to know what were the opportunities for certain expert studies to be made for consideration by Commonwealth Governments. I am sure he will know, even more than I, that of course the Secretariat, which receives its authority from the Commonwealth heads of Government, in fact promotes some very useful studies on a whole variety of subjects which are of particular interest to Commonwealth countries. For example, the one which was made before the last Commonwealth Finance Ministers' Meeting was a study on international monetary reform in relation to developing countries. He will recall that it was carried out by Professor Plumptre.

My noble friend Lord Selkirk gave us some very valuable thoughts about the nature of the modern Commonwealth. I would agree with him that we imposed certain systems and methods when we left a particular country to become independent; and perhaps they were difficult systems and methods for certain countries to absorb. We left them there because they were the best we knew. When I see that certain countries have become one-Party States, I do not myself despair at all. I think it is the beginning of a very long experiment; a working out of what will be best for them. I think that above all I would agree with the noble Earl that we must give time, as we ourselves have been afforded time.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth, who alas! is no longer with us, asked me about the Yaoundé negotiations. He asked whether the European Commission has said that (what he called) the worst features of the Yaoundé Convention are negotiable. The Commission Memorandum, to which I will refer later in reference to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, makes it quite clear that the Community is not asking its partners to accord it some form of preferential treatment; and that being so, that adds to the importance of any negotiations, and that all who are eligible should take part at an early stage.

The noble Lord, Lord Walston, raised some very interesting points about the merging of the Commonwealth Relations and Foreign Offices. He was in favour but, alas! the noble Baroness, Lady Llewelyn-Davies was not. I think that there are, as he suggested, many quiet talks in Commonwealth consultation at senior level in our offices. The fact that the Commonwealth is a part of the whole organisation within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office means that every single Minister at every level is consciously aware of it, and it also places a particular Commonwealth country in the context of the exterior relations of its own country and also of this country. We ourselves have found that often leaders of the Commonwealth coming to this country like to have their problems discussed in the context of the whole of Britain's external relations. I would say to the noble Lord that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster returned from Canada only last week, where he was doing his best to discuss problems in relation to the European Community and Canada's needs.

The noble Lord, Lord Auckland, spoke—as indeed was natural—about New Zealand, and I am happy to say that my father was born in New Zealand, and I have four cousins who are on sheep stations in New Zealand. That being so, I feel I have a certain affinity with him. He asked in particular about the Commonwealth Institute. That is a statutory grant-aided organisation and it is financed by an annual grant from Her Majesty's Government, which is £532,572 in the financial year 1973–74. It also has a small endowment of its own. But all these organisations do a tremendous amount of good. I myself have had the opportunity, for example, to talk at some length with those who are now running the British Council. I have also attended various informal gatherings of the Royal Commonwealth Society, at which we have discussed in particular the relationship of the Commonwealth with the European Community. A great deal of informal consultation goes on all the time. I think perhaps this is almost more valuable than the more formal gatherings to which I have already referred.

The noble Baroness, Lady White, made a very interesting point when she reminded us that out of 850 million people in the Commonwealth half are under 25 years of age and, if I may say so, she is quite right to consider what we are doing in particular in the youth field. I should like to say to the noble Baroness that over the past three years a great deal of thought has been given to some of the problems of the Commonwealth so far as young people are concerned, in particular on a regional basis. When I first spoke I mentioned, I think, the Commonwealth Ministers' meeting at Lusaka. The Minister for Overseas Development announced there that the British Government would contribute 30 per cent. of the cost of the new programme over the next three years, subject to a ceiling of £300,000. A grant of £29,500 (I wish it had been £30,000—it sounds a little better) was given for youth exchange within the Commonwealth by the British Council, and they of course receive a further grant of £5,000 to help with the expenses which they incur in assisting with private contacts between young people within the Commonwealth. There are over 41,000 Commonwealth students now in this country; there are 11,000 technical advisers working in the Commonwealth, including nearly 3,000 teachers in schools, about 1,500 at universities and about 1,700 volunteers, three-fifths of whom are engaged in teaching.

The noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, spoke about some of the ideas which have been put forward by the new Australian Government in what he suggested was a loosening of ties with the United Kingdom. I hope and believe that that is not the implication. I think what he was referring to in particular was the suggestion that the right to appeal to the Privy Council should be removed. This would be the right of States in particular to appeal direct to the Privy Council. As I understand the position, it would be for the Australian Government, under the Statute of Westminster, to ask this country whether they would allow this change. I am not, of course, and do not pretend to be, a legal luminary on this subject, but I understand that there are three States within Australia which are not at this moment particularly happy about the suggestion. If an application was made to this country we hope that it would have the united support of the States within the Commonwealth of Australia.

The noble Lord also spoke about the question of immigration, as indeed did the noble Lord, Lord Walston, who earlier had said that he hoped it would not all be left to the Home Office. Officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Home Office together had talks with Australian and New Zealand officials in Canberra and Wellington in February, and of course the Prime Minister has had discussions with the Canadian Prime Minister. I think the present immigration rules do cater for those Commonwealth citizens who like to call themselves members of the old Commonwealth and who have close family ties with this country.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Baroness for one moment while she is on this point? She said that officials have had talks with Canada and Australia. Have they also had talks, or they are planning to have talks, with India, for example, and possibly some of the West Indian Governments such as Jamaica, either in this country or in other countries?


My Lords, I was coming to that, but at the moment I am referring to the particular point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh. I was going to say that there are some 5 million Commonwealth citizens—patrials under the Immigration Act—with the unrestricted right of abode in this country, and under the current rules a further 8 million Commonwealth citizens with a grandfather born in the United Kingdom will be admitted freely to this country for employment without the requirement of a work permit. Then there are also other relaxations of which the noble Lord knows and with which I will not weary the House at so late an hour.

On the last point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Walston, I would say that, in particular in relation to the exodus from Uganda, we have had, and still are having, very close consultations with Governments in East Africa and with the Indian Government, and a number of Commonwealth Governments did accept United Kingdom passport holders for settlement. The Government of India gave special facilities to any expelled United Kingdom passport holder from Uganda who wished to go to India first. While there was particular consultation at that time, there is also continuous consultation now.

The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, said he still felt that perhaps there might be some conflict between the European Communities and the Commonwealth. I should like to say to him, from my own experience of my recent visit round West Africa, that what really interested me was that each country was keen above all to discuss the question of Europe and how they would be able to increase their trade with Europe. I was not going to refer to Portugal because it is not a Commonwealth country, but as the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, the noble Baroness, Lady White, and the noble Lord, Lord Hale, referred to it I should perhaps just say this: African matters, as I think the House knows, have for some time been a source of open and acknowledged disagreement between Britain and Portugal, but what we are discussing is the 600th anniversary of the Treaty with Portugal. I suggest it ought to be seen for what it is—a ceremonial recognition of the achievement of two countries keeping friendly relations for such a very long time.


My Lords, may I just interrupt the noble Baroness? I said in my speech that I had learned from her speech, but that I would refer to that matter later. What I did not know before was that there had been a whole series of conferences—I think she said 14 in number—between representatives of Commonwealth countries and this country. and I want to acknowledge that she taught me that.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for saying that. These were only some of the major conferences, of course. As the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said there were over 300 conferences on a different level, but just as valuable in their own way.

The noble Lord, Lord Belhaven and Stenton, spoke in particular about the Bahamas. I should like to repeat what I thought was said so admirably by my noble friend Lord Ferrers in reply to that Question on the subject. Representations were made to Her Majesty's Government in December last, at the time of the Independence Conference, by a delegation from a self-appointed Greater Abaco Council, that the Islands should be allowed to secede from the Bahamas at independence. As the House knows, these are two islands out of the 22. They have a population of about 6,500 out of 190,000 for the group as a whole. For 200 years Abaco has always been an integral part of the Bahamas and has no separate Administration. The General Election in September last showed that there was a substantial majority in the country as a whole in favour of independence, and neither of the main political Parties supported the secessionist move. No candidates in the Islands in question stood on a secessionist ticket and the Resolution asking for independence was passed by the Bahaman Parliament without any dissenting vote. It was for those reasons that the request to secede was refused by Her Majesty's Government.

May I say to my noble friend Lord Barnby that I am sorry that he feels—and I quote him—that the power of the Commonwealth is so much less. The whole of the burden of what I have tried to say is that I believe that the Commonwealth will become more powerful as Britain becomes more powerful within the Community and is, therefore, able to be of greater use to the developing world, and to the Commonwealth in particular. But I acknowledge that he must have his own firm views upon this, if it is really true, as he said, that he personally witnessed Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.

Lastly, as the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has been unable to return, I feel I am bound to reply to the points that he made. First of all, I shall gladly convey the congratulations, which I hope I may say will come from the whole House, to Miss Eleanor Emery who will be our first British lady High Commissioner. She certainly has achieved this honour on merit. The noble Lord asked whether it was possible to postpone for three months from August 1 the date on which the negotiations start for those countries wishing to take part in a new Yaoundé Convention. That particular date was put in at the request of the present associated States who considered that they needed as long a time as possible to engage in negotiations on Yaoundé 3. I do not think that a postponement for three months would really make much difference. Because it is a technical matter, it is only within negotiations that the problems which each country has to face can really be seen. Of course this country is willing to help any of the Commonwealth countries who need any help on this matter, but we should remember that they have their own views. They are entirely independent and it is for them to express to us any wish they may have.

On April 5 the Commission of the European Community presented to the Council a memorandum on the future relations between the Community, the present associated African and Malagasy States, and the countries in Africa, the Caribbean, the Indian and Pacific Oceans referred to in Protocol 22 to the Act of Accession. One copy of that memorandum is available in the Library of the House, and, naturally, we are trying as soon as possible to get as many more as we can. What the Commission make clear is that this memorandum represents their first contribution to the negotiations under Protocol 22. All these ideas will have to be studied by the Council of Ministers, and my right honourable friend and his colleagues hope to have a first discussion on it at their meeting next week. The Commission's memorandum in no sense represents the Community's final position. I should like to stress that it is not the negotiating mandate for the Community or even a proposal for it. I understand that the Commission immediately made the documents available to all the Governments of the developing countries concerned, and I believe that that is only right. It is a complicated and technical matter and they will have to give it the most careful thought.

My Lords, it is true that our Commonwealth partners and ourselves may by no means always agree. But I suggest that, despite that, we have between us a very real sense of affinity. We do not have to explain to each other how we think or what we are. We share a great deal of experience, both good and bad, whether it be of every varied degree of development, of race, or of political experiment, and I suggest to the House that the strength of the Commonwealth surely lies in the will of its members to meet together, whatever the strains and changes and hopes of modern life, and to be willing to learn from each other. I am quite certain that we still have a great deal to do together and much still to give in the wider counsels of the world.


My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, may I apologise for intervening now but I tried to interrupt her and she did not see me. I should like to reiterate the point that she made and which my noble friend Lord Ferrers made, that there was a unanimous resolution in the Bahamas Parliament. In fact, I said on Thursday that the Opposition had walked out, which is the custom in the Bahamas; so I am not sure whether you can call that a unanimous resolution or not.


My Lords, the fact remains that no request to secede has been made to us since December.

7.36 p.m.


My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, for the fact that I returned hurriedly the moment I saw that the debate was resumed and came in in the middle of a sentence about incantations. I was not quite sure whether the incantations were contained in my speech or in some other comment, and whether he was against "Tommy this and Tommy that, and Tommy how's yourself ", or whether he was against "Onward, Christian Soldiers, Marching as to war", or whether he was against William Watson the Lancashire poet who said: Is there no room for victories here, no field for deeds of fame; Arise and conquer while you can, the foe that in your midst resides, And build within the mind of man the Empire that abides. But not knowing what the noble Lord said, I might be discourteous if I pursued that line. I thought he wanted facts, but the people of Watergate are collecting facts now by the hundred and they are all different. It was Royer Collard who said, and I agree with him, that "There is nothing for which I have more contempt than a fact." So I shall not pursue the argument in case I am not being generous to one who bears so distinguished a name in the law and one so well known for forthrightness.

May I say in a single sentence how immensely grateful I am to the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, for the way which she has dealt with this matter throughout and for the serious statement that she made with all her customary charm. I believe that there are signs that things are moving, and moving in the right direction. I believe—and I would not say it if I did not believe it—that in South Africa there seems to be a growing realisation that the tides of opinion are rising towards their knees and that there may be a gradual yielding to public opinion. I hope, with more confidence than I have had for many years, that the new Prime Minister of Australia will make at least some symbolic break in the "White Australia" policy—and heaven knows they have had a rather fine record on that. Their record of immigration, above the colour bar line, has been wide and varied. I believe that that symbolic break could have a significance all over the Asian and African Commonwealth which might bring a new measure of agreement.

Having said that, I shall collectively thank all my noble friends on this side, including of course my oldest and most generous colleague. I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Belhaven and Stenton, for his moving speech, and also the right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of Portsmouth. I am not a Christian myself, but I should like to say that if I were he said the sort of thing that I would wish to say. To the genuine voice of the "cobber" from Chudleigh, to the very informed voices of Lord Garner and Lord Auckland, who spoke very importantly and with great gravity, to the really brilliant speech of Lord Selkirk which impressed me beyond measure, and, of course, to the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, who rides still as straight as a cavalry officer, who impresses always by his patent integrity and sincerity, by his eloquence and by his memory, if he does not always command a complete measure of conviction, I hope that I have done justice to what has been said; and I am not proposing therefore, to spoil this brilliant debate by another bad speech. My Lords, I beg leave of the House to withdraw the Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.