HL Deb 18 June 1975 vol 361 cc880-968

2.59 p.m.

Lord GARNER rose to call attention, in the light of the decision over British membership of the EEC, to the continuing value of the Commonwealth assotion, as reaffirmed at the recent Heads of Government meeting in Jamaica; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. Today is the 160th anniversary of the most famous land battle won by British troops on the Continent of Europe. Waterloo not only ended the career of the man who, after Charlemagne, came the nearest to uniting Europe, but also established the power of Britain as a great Power. But for a century after Waterloo, Britain turned her eyes to the open seas, rendered safe as a result of the battle of Trafalgar, and developed the most impressive Empire that the world had ever seen. This month the British people, recognising the realities of power in the mid-twentieth century, took the decision to confirm our membership of the European Economic Community and linked the fate of these Isles with that of Western Europe.

It seeems to me that at any time it is fitting that this House should address itself to the question of relations with Commonwealth countries, and at this moment it is doubly so in the light of the decision over Europe, and in the light of the Heads of Government recent meeting in Jamaica. This afternoon I do not propose to indulge in any recriminations, however tempting that might be. I shall try hard not to exaggerate the picture at any stage, and I intend to paint with a pretty broad brush so that other speakers —and there is a long list of them—may fill in the details subsequently.

However, at the outset I should like to clear one misconception totally out of the way. Many saw the issue—and indeed in the referendum campaign some still did —as one of Europe versus the Commonwealth. I have never believed that conflict between the two was either necessary or inevitable, and that there was anything inconsistent in our membership of those two bodies. Of course, Britain's relationship to the one inevitably affects her relationship to the other. After all, it was de Gaulle who said that Britain's commitment to the Commonwealth made it impossible for her to be a full-hearted member of the Community. But I prefer to believe that Herr Brandt came nearer to the truth, when he said that the Community needed Britain precisely because of her Commonwealth, and because of her historical role.

It was clear, of course, that the British application created difficulties for Commonwealth countries. At the outset some leaders—Menzies, Diefenbaker, Nehru—saw it as a possible threat to the cohesion of the Commonwealth to which they had been accustomed, but the world has been changing since the early 1960s and the Commonwealth has ceased to be a group of scattered nations dependent upon Britain. Others were concerned about the effects on trade, and the old Dominions, in particular, could have been seriously hurt by the arrangement in contemplation. For myself, I always felt that Australia and Canada, for example, were strong enough to stand on their own feet and able to take in their stride any inconveniences that might have come along. But I was doubtful whether we should be able to secure adequate terms for some of the other Commonwealth countries, notably New Zealand which was in a very special position, and also the sugar islands and some of the dependent territories.

Had we not been able to secure reasonable terms, I myself would not have thought it right for us to join the Community. But as we now know we were so successful, and I was surprised at the generosity of the terms that were secured in the negotiations of 1970. I regard this as evidence of the good faith of the European Community towards us and our wider interests; and, of course, those terms have been still further improved in the negotiations since our membership of the Community. So, in the event, the position was not unsatisfactory and now all Commonwealth countries positively welcome our membership. I regard this as cause for the greatest hope for the future and, if I may say so, I think it reflects credit on all the parties concerned—on the Community for the attitude of helpfulness that they display; on successive British Governments of both Parties for their insistence on the need to understand Commonwealth rights; and on the Commonwealth Governments themselves for the understanding that they showed. All of them exhibited a bigness of mind, and accepted some of the sacrifices involved in the interests of a broader settlement. Anyhow, whatever the details the European question no longer stands at all in the way of our Commonwealth relations.

It is no service to the Commonwealth, or to truth, to ignore the fact that the Commonwealth has recently passed through some years of very considerable strain; indeed, for a decade everything seemed to be going wrong. There was violence and coups d'etat in various Commonwealth countries; civil wars and even war between Commonwealth countries. There was the development of one-Party States, of military rule and of tyranny, and the meetings of Commonwealth Prime Ministers became occasions for pressurising and pillorying Britain in what I can only regard as a most unfortunate manner. Moreover, British policies played their part in contributing to the malaise within the Commonwealth. It is not my intention today to go into the merits of those policies either way; I happen to agree with some of them and to disagree with others. But the fact is that in one way or another they seriously concerned our Commonwealth partners in different ways.

I am thinking of the action of Suez, the application to join the Common Market, the restrictions on Commonwealth immigration, the changes in policy about our defence East of Suez and, perhaps most divisive and most difficult of all, the issue of Rhodesia. All these matters distressed various of our partners, but perhaps the greatest disservice to Britain in Commonwealth relations was performed by the image of Britain projected abroad. It is not only commentators on the Continent of Europe and in the United States of America who have tended in recent years to write Britain off; many of our warmest friends in Commonwealth countries think that they see in Britain a country that is heading for disaster. Nothing has distressed me more in the last year or so than to hear some of one's best friends in Australia, New Zealand and Canada, for example, expressing the view—certainly in sorrow and with no pleasure—that Britain is finished.

So the 'sixties were an unhappy period in the Commonwealth. It may not have escaped the notice of some of the more percipient Members of your Lordships' House that, although there were many changes of Government during that period, there was one continuous factor; namely, that I happened to be the chief adviser to Her Majesty's Government on Commonwealth affairs. If so, they may derive some comfort from the fact that as soon as I retired matters began to improve. More seriously perhaps, it is the case that there was too much euphoria in the 'fifties about the great success, as it was thought to be at that time, of the experiment of the transfer of power in the Indian sub-continent, and the great success of the whole effort of changing Empire into Commonwealth, and perhaps there was an almost inevitable reaction against that when some of the disillusionment set in. I wanted to mention those points to show that in continuing to attach the value to the Commonwealth that I do I have not made any attempt to gloss over some of the problems of the past.

So what does the Commonwealth amount to today? It is so all-embracing a matter that opinions will obviously differ. To some, the Commonwealth may seem primarily a question of kinship with those of British stock in countries overseas. After all, there are few families in these islands without friends or relations who sought and found a new life overseas, sometimes generations back, sometimes quite recently. This raises and highlights a profound truth. Whatever happens, I believe that the people of these islands could never regard the peoples of, say, Australia or New Zealand as foreign—never. To others, again, it is the links with peoples in other lands which may seem more important, with the opportunity that they provide to contribute to their progress and development.

I should like to explore three aspects of the Commonwealth as I see it today. If you like, they can be related to the past, the present and the future. The first fact about the Commonwealth is that like Everest, it is there. It exists as a culmination of a historic process which we cannot ignore. For good or ill this is our heritage, and we share it with many others.

As geography makes us part of Europe, so history makes us members of the Commonwealth. The things we have inherited together are too well known to require any explanation from me. They include such things as the English language and literature, Parliamentary democracy, the rule of law, common administrative practices, the habit of informal consultations and of urging a consensus view, and above all, perhaps, shared values. One of the most powerful factors in the Commonwealth is that it rests on innumerable links, but they are based on personal friendships and ideas held in common. It is not an alliance imposed from above by Governments. It is a coming together, very often of individuals who are interested in each other.

My Lords, the second fact, which brings me to today, is that it works. The network of contacts with the Commonwealth processes is unrivalled around the world. At the summit there are the regular meetings of the Heads of Govern- ments—and the fact that nearly all Heads of Governments make such a point of attending is proof itself of the vitality they attach to the Commonwealth. After the confrontation that took place at the meetings in Lagos, London and, later on, Singapore, we have had the brighter meetings at Ottawa and Jamaica. From all the accounts that I have heard, the last meeting in Jamaica seems to have exuded an extremely warm atmosphere, with the general feeling that constructive work was being put in hand. When he replies I hope that the Minister may be able to tell us something of what really was achieved there.

These links carry on all through the Governmental machine and include one very interesting and, so far as I know, unique phenomenon—the habit of the senior officials of all Commonwealth Governments of getting together every two or three years for a general discussion on issues that concern them all. This network extends to every sphere of life and every profession. Here I need mention only our own Association, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. I know, and I am sure many other noble Lords know from their own experience, that only this year the Association held various successful seminars. A very friendly atmosphere is produced at the various conferences and meetings arranged around the world. This whole effort embraces co-operation in a number of spheres, such as education, the problems of youth, Parliamentary training and university development, to mention only some. I hope they may be developed in the course of this debate All these activities are powerfully underpinned by the Commonwealth Secretariat. The Commonwealth Foundation—a twin body which I often feel receives little publicity —does equally splendid work in supporting a whole range of non-Governmental contacts.

My Lords, we have, therefore, a ready-made association giving us an entré to 34 countries throughout the world, from whom we can learn much and whom, in turn, we have an opportunity of influencing. All this is there for the asking. Only ignorance or prejudice can deny that it exists. It would be folly to throw it all away. No other country in the world enjoys such built-in advantages.

Turning to the future, I believe new possibilities are opening up. The Jamaica Communiqué stressed the contribution which Commonwealth countries could make to the development of a new pattern in international relations. They had in mind the significant shifts in political and economic power throughout the world. They attached importance to the reduction of unacceptable economic disparities between the wealthy and the poor nations, the need for a spirit of détente, and the crying need for a solution of some of the problems caused by racialism.

I believe the Commonwealth today is no longer Anglocentric. I believe that, with Britain playing her part as one of 34 members of the community, a Commonwealth served by a Secretariat formed by all nations of the Commonwealth has a more widespread concern for justice and fair dealing between nations and ourselves, and has perhaps a great opportunity to make a constructive contribution to world problems, not least because in the various Commonwealth countries there is direct experience of so many world problems. I am certainly not suggesting that the Commonwealth countries can necessarily, in all cases, find the right answers. The Prime Minister of Australia, Mr. Whitlam, said he did not relish the thought that England, by pulling out of Europe, might lapse into the position of Spain, looking to a mighty Empire in the past, and a peripheral influence in the future. Yes, but only by our own efforts can we hope to preserve the quality of our way of life. If we become underlings, the fault will lie with ourselves and not with our stars, whether the star be the Community or the Commonwealth. Both the Community and the Commonwealth can help us, but neither can rescue us until we ourselves begin the process of a change of heart at home, in a determined effort to overcome our present troubles.

It is my very profound hope that the decisiveness of the vote in the referendum, and the sense of national unity which I believe it has engendered, will give us a new sense of purpose and stimulate us to begin to take the hard road to recovery. I hope the message which might go to the Commonwealth from this debate today will be that the British people have taken their decision to remain in the EEC; they were heartened by the support and understanding shown by the Commonwealth; they are confident that with our continued membership we can ensure the Community remains sympathetic to Commonwealth interests and to the outside world in general. Our membership involves no turning back on our Commonwealth friends. On the contrary; it makes us stronger and very effective in playing our part in the Commonwealth.

For we believe the Commonwealth has a profound role to play in the realm of ideas. By extending the frontiers of knowledge and understanding, it can help to lift national policies above selfish materialism. In that task we intend to continue to play our full part. As the Secretary General said in his report to Commonwealth Governments, humanity has not got very long to go if nation-States do not learn how to live with each other. The Commonwealth is an exercise in living together, and is one of the instruments of world politics available to help the world to share a planet. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.20 p.m.


My Lords, I feel that the whole House will be indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Garner, partly for having initiated this debate and enabling a whole sequence of extremely experienced and distinguished speakers to take part in it, and also for the profoundly interesting and worthwhile contribution which he has made, which I hope will be studied and taken to heart by the Government in planning future policies within the Commonwealth. I am bound to say that to me it is a very striking thought that when I first entered Parliament there were only seven independent sovereign nations in the Commonwealth, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Garner, has reminded us, today there are 34 independent sovereign nations in the Commonwealth. The whole appearance of the Commonwealth has changed during those years.

One is also tempted to say that the whole character of the Commonwealth has changed, but I wonder whether, in fact, this is true. It seems to me that there must be something remarkable about the continuing character of the Commonwealth that makes these 34 countries—countries in all parts of the world, with no common identity of political view, many of which were once involuntary members of the British Empire—join the Commonwealth when they become independent. Of their own decision they meet regularly together in consultation, and they work together in a whole variety of enterprises and projects. It seems to me a remarkable achievement.

During the post-war years, while this number has increased from seven to 34, while the multi-racial nature of the Commonwealth has been developed from the first step when India obtained her independence, and subsequently when all the dependent territories reached independence and remained in the Commonwealth, there have been a whole series of major crises within the Commonwealth. There was the Suez operation, which faced Brtain with the opposition of a very substantial body of the Commonwealth; there has been the withdrawal of South Africa; there has been the breakup of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, and, of course, the unilateral Declaration of Independence of Rhodesia; there has been war between India and Pakistan, followed by the withdrawal of Pakistan from the Commonwealth.

The last thing I want to do in this debate is to run over the history of the Commonwealth, and indeed unless one has a very penetrating analytical mind it is extremely difficult to determine what is the common denominator which has held all these countries together. One finds it very difficult to put one's finger on what is the motive force of the Commonwealth. I think many people talking about the Commonwealth resort in despair to clichés. Perhaps that is right. Clichés are very easy to enunciate, and perhaps it is the easy relaxed informal relationship within the Commonwealth which is its strength.

We talk about our common working language. We talk about our common administrative and legal processes. We talk about our common historical experience and about our common sporting experience. I have no doubt that the West Indians feel exactly the same as we do about those awful Australian bowlers. Probably, the only common denominator which we have is that we have all had to live under a British Government, and that may be enough to bind us together for ever and ever.

The simple point I wish to make now is that whatever the political motive force of the Commonwealth, and however tumultuous have been the changes in the post-war years, the Commonwealth has survived crisis after crisis. As the noble Lord, Lord Garner, said, it is still there. It is a political institution which is open to any of the members to use. It is valuable to us, and we should try to make it work in order to improve the lives of our various peoples which go to make up the membership of the Commonwealth. It seems to me that this is a very appropriate moment, when, inevitably, we are emphasising our European interests, when Britain has confirmed her membership of the European Economic Community, to look closely again at the values and the working of the Commonwealth.

During the past 20 years we have often heard the view expressed, not exactly in the phraseology of Dean Acheson but with the same purport, that Britain has lost her Empire and not yet found a role. We have often heard people ask whether in searching for our new relationship with Europe we might be turning our backs on the Commonwealth. While there is very general agreement that we should re-assess the value of the Commonwealth today, it most certainly is not a case of either our relationship with the European Community or our relationship with the Commonwealth. After all, the Commonwealth African countries belong to the Organisation of African Unity; the Commonwealth Asian countries belong to the Association of South-East Asia Nations, the Commonwealth Caribbean countries belong to their own Caribbean Community.

These are typical regional organisations. They are designed to achieve greater political cohesion. They are designed to enable the members to discuss their common interests and solve their common problems. Their purpose is, just like the Community, to develop and expand the trade on a geographical basis. I do not think that in any respect any of these regional trading organisations have of themselves diminished by one iota the interest of the African, the Asian or the Caribbean countries in the Commonwealth. Indeed, one might very well argue that by belonging to these regional organisations—and I include, of course, Britain's membership of the Community—a new dimension, a kind of trans-regional character, is being given to the Commonwealth.

It is, of course, the only forum which now exists, apart from the United Nations itself, where the regional organisations get together. It is the only forum that I can think of where the leaders of the different regional organisations get together and have direct contact and work out how to open the doors between the different regional organisations. In practical terms, we have seen a very good example of this only very recently through Britain's membership both of the Commonwealth and of the Community. Because of that dual relationship, we have been able to contribute in large measure to the successful outcome of the LoméConvention, whereby 46 developing countries, of which 22 are members of the Commonwealth, now have completely free access for their industrial goods and agricultural products into the Community.

None the less, in recent years I think it is true to say there has been this fear that because of our Community membership we might be turning our backs on the Commonwealth. It is also true to say that in recent years other links with the Commonwealth have been broken. Imperial Preference will, of course, come to an end. As the noble Lord, Lord Garner, said, British military power has been greatly reduced and the Defence White Paper of only a month ago concentrates Britain's defence power almost exclusively on Europe. We had the Statement two days ago of the ending of the Simonstown Agreement, a withdrawal of Britain's military influence in the Indian Ocean. We have also seen the sequence of immigration laws which have been passed in this country ending the free flow of Commonwealth citizens into Britain.

It is natural when these links are broken that people should question whether the Commonwealth plays such a large part in our thinking as before. There must be a number of people who think that perhaps Britain is losing interest in the Commonwealth. I do not think that this is justified. Equally, it would be foolish to pretend that things are just the same as they were a year or two ago. It would also be wrong to pretend that there has not been a degree of disenchantment in the United Kingdom about the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth is not governed by any constitution. The cohesion flows from the acceptance of a series of principles and ideals to which all members of the Commonwealth adhere. These ideals were set out in the 1971 Singapore Conference, the Declaration of Principles of the Commonwealth. They sound very good. The declaration speaks of racial equality: but in the Commonwealth we see both black racism and white racism. It speaks of international peace: and we have seen two Commonwealth countries go to war with each other. While it speaks of co-operation, we have seen the communal conflict which exists at the moment in Cyprus. The Declaration of Principles speaks of the widening and strengthening of personal liberty; but one of the features of recent years in some countries has been the growth of authoritarian Governments.

There has been some disillusionment and there is certainly some scepticism about the value of the Commonwealth. But, equally, a great deal has been achieved. Also there is much that we can do to strengthen the elements which still seem valuable after all these years. I thought that the turning point in many ways was the Ottawa Conference, where the Heads of State seemed to make a really determined effort to pull it out of the rut into which it had got and to embark on a new course.

When we talk about the future of the Commonwealth, it must surely be built on the twin pillars which have survived all this turmoil. all these Commonwealth crises—the twin pillars which still seem valuable: constant consultation and increased co-operation between the members of the Commonwealth. Consultation, particularly in the political field, and co-operation particularly in the economic field, are the most valuable functions of the Commonwealth.

The Heads of State meet every two years; the Finance Ministers meet every year. The Commonwealth Permanent Representatives at the United Nations meet continuously. There is a great interchange of professional and business exchanges organised by the invaluable Royal Commonwealth Society. There are the meetings of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and the Commonwealth Institute and the Commonwealth Secretariat. I know that when I was in the Foreign Office, on the instructions of my noble friend, all Foreign Office Ministers travelling abroad in foreign countries and negotiating always if it was at all possible tried to have a meeting with the Commonwealth Ambassadors, in order to exchange views. I hope that it was of interest to them. Certainly it was valuable to the British Ministers negotiating overseas.

I do not think that these meetings of Heads of State are simply empty rhetoric. The Heads of State come together, have direct contact with people from different parts of the world whom, in normal circumstances, they would meet only on rare occasions. I read a book by E. M. Forster a little time ago, and he describes the men who then formed the Empire as: Men who are as various as the sands of the sea in a world of whose richness and subtlety we have no conception. That is infinitely too flattering a description of the Heads of State who meet together at Ottawa or Kingston, but none the less the idea is right. It is a forum where Heads of State, political leaders, leaders of a quarter of the population of the world, come together in a relaxed, informal atmosphere. Mercifully, the Heads of State meetings which used to take place before Ottawa, which involved a sequence of set speeches delivered primarily for home consumption, belong to the past. The meetings are informal. The talks take place in private.

The other thing about these talks—and this is a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Garner—is that they actually get things done. So much of the talks at the United Nations disappear into the clouds, but talks at the Commonwealth meetings get things done. I can give a recent example. When the World Food Congress took place in Rome its ending was disastrous. It was totally ineffective at a time when millions of people are starving in the world. Then two things happened which, when implemented, will have a major effect. First of all, Canada came forward and said she would provide a million tons of grain as aid to the starving areas of the world. Then the Commonwealth representatives at the World Food Congress met together in the wings and decided that this failure to make progress was quite unacceptable. They initiated a meeting between the aid Ministers of the developed Commonwealth countries and the agricultural Ministers of the Commonwealth underdeveloped countries. This meeting took place for seven days in March. One of the results of this meeting has been that the Commonwealth Secretariat is to establish a separate division devoted entirely to rural development.

Another concrete result has been that the priorities of a Commonwealth Investment Bank are going to be shifted markedly in favour of rural development. Both of these are steps forward. It is this kind of practical co-operation within the Commonwealth which can help to bridge the widening and, to my eyes, frightening gap which exists between the rich and the poor, and the industrial nations and the underdeveloped nations of the world. Apart from the United Nations, there is no other forum where the links between the rich and the poor are as firmly established as among the Commonwealth.

It seems to me that we have, to a large extent, diminished, if not eliminated, the gap between the rich and the poor at home, but the gap between the rich and the poor in the world grows larger and larger. To me this is a moral offence, and it is quite contrary even to our own self-interest to allow this to develop. The answer must lie in trade and aid. In the field of trade we can help the developing countries by extending the Community's Export Stabilisation Scheme. At the moment it is a limited scheme and it could be extended. We must try to prevent the violent fluctuations which take place in commodity prices. I am bound to say that although the Prime Minister's proposals at Kingston seemed to get remarkably rough treatment, to a layman they appeared extremely sensible and constructive. I hope that Sir Donald Maitland's Committee, which is studying them, will be able to make progress about flattening out these violent commodity price fluctuations.

In the field of trade, there is one other point that I should like to make. For the underdeveloped countries, it is not simply a question of opening markets and stabilising their commodity prices To raise standards the underdeveloped countries must move from a rural, agricultural society and to some extent industrialise their society. Yet all too often they destroy their own prospects of doing this. They want to break the old Colonial relationship, and therefore on independence they nationalise the industrial foreign companies. They nationalise them because they symbolise the old Colonial relationship which they want to get rid of, and by doing so they deter further industrial development in their own countries. The classic examples are Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

It seems to me that we must create a new industrial relationship. It has to avoid the unacceptable aspects of industrial colonisation, and yet it must, of course, involve foreign industrial investment. Some kind of Industrial Cooperative Centre should be established within the Community, to provide a meeting ground for the underdeveloped countries and the industrialised countries of the Community to come together and find a form of industrialisation which does not carry with it any neo-Colonialist attitudes which the underdeveloped countries find so offensive.

I have said that the other field which I want to mention very briefly is that of aid. The Commonwealth has the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation and it is very worthy of support. It has been going for only three years and yet I think it is already one of the most cost-effective forms of aid which exists. One must not exaggerate its scale. It amounts to only £3½ million. By far the largest contributor to it is Canada, which provides over £1 million. Britain's contribution is £700,000, and I was glad to see that the Prime Minister announced at Kingston that our contribution is to be increased to £11 million. This contribution to aid within the Commonwealth is absolutely tiny when compared with Britain's aid through the European Development Fund. I wonder whether we could not perhaps shift more of our aid resources through the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation.

I say this not only because I want to work through the Commonwealth wherever possible as well as through the Community, but because this Common wealth Fund for Technical Co-operation has a quality which very few of the other aid channels have. It places great reliance on self-help. It is very remarkable that 50 per cent. of the long-term seconded experts working in the underdeveloped countries of the Commonwealth come from the other underdeveloped countries of the Commonwealth. It is a form of self-reliance and mutual aid which I believe is the kind of assistance we should Rive.

My Lords, we all look forward to hearing the sequence of distinguished speakers of enormous experience in Commonwealth affairs, and we are all indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Garner, for choosing such an appropriate moment for this debate.

3.44 p.m.


My Lords, the two previous speakers have covered the field, and it leaves little to add for the rest of us. I must preface my remarks with a time-honoured apology. I am having to leave before the end of the debate for the very good reason that I have a long-standing engagement to address the Commonwealth Press Union's dinner—you could not have a better alibi than that! We are indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Garner, for introducing this debate, and for doing so in such eloquent and learned words as he did. He appeared to me to be apologising for his personal shortcomings in the 1960s. I witnessed those shortcomings from the far side of the world, from New Zealand, where I had the honour to be Governor General during much of his time in the Commonwealth Office.

These were anxious times, with all sorts of things like Vietnam and the Common Market, with possible bad consequences —happily resolved now—for New Zealand, and I am bound to say that have never heard anybody breathe even a whisper that the interests of any country in the Commonwealth could have been better looked after than by the noble Lord, Lord Garner. I welcome this opportunity of paying tribute to him on behalf of all the countries he helped during those rather anxious years. It is a joy to see all the pent-up enthusiasm —bottled up during his years as a civil servant—at last coming out for the benefit of your Lordships' House.

Very many of your Lordships here present have had wide experience of Commonwealth matters. I was looking round just now, and saw many whose names will be remembered for a long time in connection with various countries of the Commonwealth, their development and their progress towards independence, whether economic or political. It is not for me to tell your Lordships of my experiences; but I have been very fortunate of late in having an appointment which has enabled me, long after I thought I was fully retired, to travel widely in the Commonwealth and beyond it. During the last two and a half years I have been able to spend quite long periods in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, India, Pakistan and other countries which are, or have been lately, in the Common wealth, and to keep up contacts with old friends in those countries. Some of them are now retired, some are still in high places; one or two I have to admit are in goal. I have had the good fortune to be able to keep up these links, and to have been assured more than ever of how much those countries are building on the foundations which they inherited from the long years of Empire developing into Commonwealth.

I would take issue with one or two things which the noble Lord, Lord Balniel, said. I think he said there was a degree of disenchantment in this country with some of the Commonwealth links. Also, with respect to him, I think he exaggerated the degree of fear of "neo-Colonialism" existing in some of the former dependent countries. My feeling is that both these fears—if I may use what has become a dirty word—have been "exorcised" in recent years. Going round as I do, I find little, if any, resentment of our Imperial past. I find more and more emphasis on what we all have in common. Two or three things which reinforce that come to my mind. One is the experience I had two years ago in Edinburgh when opening the quinquennial conference of the Association of Commonwealth Universities: members of some 200 universities from all over the Commonwealth, meeting in Edinburgh, pooling their experiences and knowledge, many of them old friends academically or from previous similar conferences. Another is the enormous spread of the power and heritage of the English language in all those countries which now constitute the Commonwealth.

I do not think I need detain your Lordships longer beyond saying this: the Commonwealth is such an extraordinary thing that it could never have been devised. It has come into being through a long series of historical accidents. We in the Commonwealth are all in great good luck in having inherited this extraordinary creature. It is riot really a "creature" because it was self-created. If we fumble it, we are very stupid. There are very few members of the Commonwealth who are not aware of our great good fortune in it having come into being, and there are very few members of the Commonwealth who do not want it to succeed.

We owe a great tribute to Mr. Arnold Smith, who is about to leave it. He is one of the few people I have ever met who talks more than I do, but his contribution to the Commonwealth has been tremendous. Every country in the Commonwealth is in his debt. So do not let us fumble this astonishing inheritance which has come our way. Let us be grateful for it, and do our best to ensure that it carries on to our children and to our children's children.

3.50 p.m.


My Lords, I begin by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Garner, for initiating this debate and I express sincerely my appreciation of the speech in which he did it. That goes also for the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Balniel, and, as I shall indicate later, I was in agreement with much of what he said. As I have listened even to the opening speeches today I have recognised the value of this House. We can pause to consider in a truth-seeking way solutions to many of the deeper problems of our time, and if our proceedings were to be heard on the wireless, the public would probably have a higher opinion of Parliament than they sometimes have when they listen to the proceedings in another place.

We are discussing the new situation caused by the entry of Britain into the European Community in our relation to the Commonwealth. I voted "No" in the referendum, though on very different grounds from those urged by many of the anti-Market speakers. As a democrat, I accept the decision of the referendum and we have now to make the best arrangements possible, not merely within Europe but in the relationship of Europe with the Commonwealth. I have a number of questions to ask about that relationship. I was one of those who acclaimed the Lomé agreement in its limited sphere for Commonwealth and developing countries, and 1 cannot refrain from saying in passing how much I regret the departure of Judith Hart from the Ministry of Overseas Development. She did more constructive work with greater intensity of sincerity than anybody who has held that post and I particularly regret that that Department should now be made subordinate to the Foreign Office, with the danger that political motives rather than humanitarian needs will determine how aid is given.

My first question regarding the Lomé agreement concerns the fact that there is now discontent among the developing nations, including the Commonwealth nations, regarding the delay in the implementation of the agreement, and even some suggestions of obstruction. I do not know whether the Press is correct in saying that Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the Netherlands have raised this issue. Even the term "high-handed" has been used in criticism of the Commissioners. I hope that when the Minister replies he will give an assurance on this point.

My second question, arising out of the Lomé agreement, is that two members of the Commonwealth, Botswana and Swaziland, have complained that an assurance which was given that the level of beef exports allowed would be the highest during the last five years has not been carried out. In 1973, Botswana exported 17,500 tons of beef to Britain. Its quota, by the Brussels Commissioners, has been fixed at 10,800 tons. The proportions for Swaziland are similar. This is causing a desperate disaster among the farmers of Botswana and Swaziland and I hope that Her Majesty's Government will take up their cause in the European Community.

The third question I wish to ask in regard to the relations of the Commonwealth to the European Community concerns the fact that the Lomé agreement does not cover Commonwealth countries in Asia.


It does now, my Lords.


It does not, my Lords, although there is hope that it will. Judith Hart pressed strongly that it should, but at the present time it covers only one-sixth of the population of the Commonwealth. I should like an assurance from the Government that they will continue to press, as Judith Hart did, that the Lomé agreement should be extended to the Commonwealth countries in Asia, many of which are the largest in population and the poorest.

I want, in what I hope will be a non-controversial way, to take up something that has been suggested already in this debate and which was repeatedly suggested in the referendum controversy about the European Community. It was said that the Commonwealth Governments had declared in favour of our staying in the European Community. That is not quite accurate. It is true that they all placed on record their opinion that Commonwealth interests had not been prejudiced by British membership; but only many—not all and not even most, but only many—said in that declaration it would be an advantage to their countries that Britain should remain a member. Some of the doubtful countries were the Asian nations to which I have referred. I hope that note will be taken of that qualification.

I pass to the Commonwealth itself. I want first to pay tribute to Mr. Arnold Smith, who has been responsible for the Commonwealth Secretariat and, secondly, to welcome Mr. Ramphal, the Foreign Secretary of Guyana, who is taking his place. I am one of those who would very much like to see the functions of the Commonwealth Secretariat greatly extended in a constructive way.

I do not believe there is any doubt at all that the recent Conference at Kingston, Jamaica, has re-established the importance of the Commonwealth. It has not only brought about extraordinary cooperation between all the Commonwealth countries and this country, it has contributed to the co-operation of the whole world. The noble Lord, Lord Balniel, in his speech—and he moved me deeply as he said it—described how, while the gulf between rich and poor might be lessening in this country, in the world at large that gulf was growing. My Lords, that problem was the major point of discussion at the Kingston Conference. The Commonwealth nations have obtained equal political status in the world: they have not obtained equal economic status. It is that status that they are demanding.

At the Kingston Conference, Caribbean representatives put forward proposals for a new international economic order which have been endorsed by the developing countries. It is a long document and I can give only its main points. The developing countries first assert their right to control their own national resources. Secondly, there is their right to regulate the activities of multinational companies in their territories. Thirdly, there is their right to form producers' associations across the frontiers. Fourthly, there is their right to equality with the industrialised nations in economic negotiations. Fifthly, there is their right to have the prices of their exports indexed to the prices of imports from the industrialised countries.

These proposals have been endorsed by the General Assembly of the United Nations, but Resolutions of the United Nations often have little power. This Resolution has now been given power by the action of the oil producers in the Middle East. I could voice much criticism about that action, but it has brought about a revolution in the relationship of the developing world to the industrialised nations. The oil producers' association is now being followed by similar associations of the producers of bauxite, iron ore, copper, wool, cocoa and coffee. The relationship between this new economic power in the Commonwealth and the country, and, indeed, the industrialised nations of the world, has thus become of paramount importance in the immediate future.

At Kingston, the Prime Minister recognised this and he made a series of proposals. Basically, these were for, first, recognition of the interdependence of the producing and consumer nations; secondly, the necessity for improved access from the developing nations to the markets of the developed world; and thirdly, the stabilisation of incomes in the developing countries. The Kingston Conference appointed a Committee to consider in detail these proposals and those for the new international economic order. This will become the dominant theme of world economics in this year. I hope very much that Her Majesty's Government will support the demands of Commonwealth countries that they should have an equality of status in seeking their economic freedom, as we have supported their demand for political freedom.

The Kingston Conference adopted a declaration which I regard as a blueprint for international policy. It dealt with nuclear weapons and disarmament, with Cyprus, the Middle East, the Indian Ocean as a zone of peace, Indo-China, South-East Asia, the Caribbean, Belsize and Cuba, South Africa and Rhodesia. I want to refer to only one of the items in that declaration: the position of Namibia. The Commonwealth countries at Kingston said, with the support of the British Government: Heads of Government are deeply concerned that South Africa continues to occupy Namibia illegally. Reaffirming that the fragmentation of Namibia is unacceptable, they recall the obligation of the international community to maintain its territorial integrity and the right of its people to self-determination and independence. I am making particular reference to this because I initiated Questions on the subject a few days ago. There may be some unjustified misunderstanding of a reply to those Questions by my noble friend Lord Goronwy-Roberts. He said: …the legal basis for the present United Nations' attitude to Namibia is very flimsy and, indeed, we would say, unfounded."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9/6/75. c. 11] He was speaking only of an immediate attitude, and I hope he will be able to confirm at the end of this debate that the policy of the Government remains what the Foreign Secretary said it was on 4th December, 1974. He used these words: The Government's conclusion is that the mandates should no longer be regarded as being in force, that South Africa's occupation of Namibia is unlawful and that it should withdraw. One would have liked to refer to many other points in the declaration which the Commonwealth Heads of State made at Kingston, but to clear up this issue seems to me of immediate importance.

My Lords, I conclude by saying that I regard the declaration by the Commonwealth Governments as a magnificent statement of the foreign policy which should be pursued. It proves the value of the Commonwealth in contributing to the peace and the freedom of the world, and I hope that our Foreign Office will fully accept the guidelines which it lays down.

4.10 p.m.

Lord HOME of the HIRSEL

My Lords, the timing of this Motion, which was so happily moved earlier this afternoon by the noble Lord, Lord Garner, is immaculate in the sense that at the earliest possible moment following the referendum on Europe this House, or the great majority of this House, is enabled to testify that we see nothing incompatible between British membership of the European Community and British partnership in the Commonwealth; indeed, quite the contrary. As a full member of the European Community we should be able to interpret Europe to the Commonwealth and vice-versa, and that should make for better political and economic understanding between important areas of the world. If there was any doubt before, we should say quite certainly that we can embrace both Europe and the Commonwealth. Certainly I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, that we must make it our purpose to see that Europe and the Commonwealth are complementary to each other, both politically and economically.

When something is authentic, there is no need to exaggerate its value. If I may say so with respect, I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Garner, was wise not to press the claims in favour of the modern Commonwealth to extremes. But the Commonwealth has authenticity for a number of reasons: in the sense that it stems from an intimate relationship between each of the countries of the Commonwealth and Britain; that its membership is voluntary and—as my noble friend Lord Balniel pointed out earlier—all the members of the former British Empire, or almost all the members, wish to come in and, so far as I know, few, if any, want to go out.

My Lords, one can understand that to an outsider who wants tidy definition, the Commonwealth claim to international significance must be elusive. It is a very difficult thing for anybody outside our country who has not had experience of the Commonwealth to understand what it is all about. It is not a military alliance, yet we know in our country that when at roughly 18 months' intervals the Heads of Governments review the world situation and weigh the overall strategic pattern of political and military power in the world, it provides a valuable yardstick by which more than 30 countries can measure their external policies and act accordingly. I have seen time and again in Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conferences the value which is attached by members of the Commonwealth to that review of world affairs, which is usually, but not always, started by our own Prime Minister.

The Commonwealth is not of course an economic bloc, yet again we know that when the bankers of the Commonwealth confer together—and I hope that my noble friend Lord Cobbold will be saying something about this later—or when the Finance Ministers of the Commonwealth meet and review some of the problems of which the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, has been speaking (such as commodity prices, availability of credit for investment, and the most practical forms of aid) in so far as there is a meeting of minds in those Commonwealth debates, that the International Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the International Development Agencies certainly take notice. This is something which I believe is of very considerable value.

My Lords, if the Commonwealth must have a label (and I am bound to say that I do not like labels of "federation" or "confederation", or for that matter any particular label being attached either in the case of Europe or in the case of the Commonwealth) I suppose it is a political association of nations which can debate any issue without a veto—that is one distinctive feature of the Commonwealth association—which consciously seeks a consensus and quite often arrives at it. It quite often differs about this or that matter—and I am not likely to forget Suez, or the departure of South Africa from the Commonwealth, or the still present question of Rhodesia—but, after some years of fireworks, now differs with that restraint which recognises the value in continuing association and keeping that continuing association intact.

When people who carry the heavy responsibilities of government in these modern days are ready to set aside a substantial time at fairly frequent intervals to meet and to debate, we may reasonably conclude that they, that is the Heads of Governments, find the Commonwealth association worth while. Certainly in a world full of discord and division that such a number of Governments meet in a desire to agree must be, in itself, a good thing.

My Lords, when I was at the Commonwealth Office in the 'fifties I felt that it was a weakness of the Commonwealth that all the communications flowed from London to one individual Commonwealth country, with very little return traffic and with virtually no cross-fertilisation of ideas. The institution of the Commonwealth Secretariat under the sympathetic guidance of Mr. Arnold Smith has just begun to remedy that situation. I would not put it higher than saying that the process has begun, and I have no doubt that Mr. Smith's very able successor, Mr. Ramphal, will carry it further; and it should be carried a lot further. The closer the habit of consultation, the greater the chance of consensus, the more surely will trust between the various members grow and the deeper will be the impact on international affairs.

As my noble friend Lord Balniel said, it would be quite unreal to pretend that there have not been disappointments and failures in the Commonwealth to rise to high expectations. A number of Commonwealth countries have been unable to sustain the carefully devised democratic patterns of constitution with which they were launched into independence. The one-Party State may work under the guidance of far-sighted leaders—and we have been lucky in the Commonwealth in having quite a number of them—and they may evolve democratic processes, but clearly the one-Party State continues to have its dangers.

Neo-colonialism has been mentioned. It was a false trail up which too many travelled for far too long. Certainly it was never in the minds of any British Government; and because so many fol lowed it for too long investment in the modern Commonwealth has been unduly delayed. I am glad to agree with my noble friend Lord Ballantrae that I think it has been exorcised, and I hope profoundly that that is true. It is my belief, too, that if the newer members of the Commonwealth had shown a little more understanding of Britain's objective of creating an evolutionary multi-racial State in Rhodesia—for example, at the time of my noble friend Lord Duncan-Sandys's 1961 Constitution—we should not now be up against the last ditch diplomacy to try to save this country from racialism which we have unhappily today.

I think that these events can be seen —although it is not easy to explain away war between two Commonwealth countries—as growing pains which are probably inseparable for an experiment so ambitious in international relations as that of the Commonwealth. If, where there is the foundation of law—and we may at least take pride in that we left this to every Commonwealth country on which to build—it is strengthened and built upon; if human rights are honoured by example; and if the goal of democratic process and freedom is never out of sight, I see no reason why this novel exercise in co-operation should not succeed.

Although all the members of the Commonwealth are, by definition of the Statute of Westminster, "equal in status one with another", I trust that Britain will not hesitate to give a lead in all the joint activities which the association promotes. A number of them have been mentioned. I remember going with my noble friend Lord Eccles to a Commonwealth Conference in Ottawa. We were due to talk about economics, but everybody, perfectly properly, became bored with economics after two days and cheerfully took to forming the Commonwealth educational plan which has gone from strength to strength and has been of enormous value.

The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association has been mentioned. I do not think one can exaggerate the good work that it does in the political field in the Commonwealth. For one particular reason, I hope that we shall not hesitate to give a lead. We in this country have one priceless asset and we can properly turn it to good account and common advantage. The "English language" is bound to be the world language of science and technology, and we should understand that. We should help in the teaching of the English language wherever we can in the Commonwealth countries. In short, we must make the most of that asset everywhere.

My Lords, I conclude, as did the noble Lord, Lord Garner, on the evidence—and I hope in a sober assessment—that the Commonwealth partnership is certainly worth while and it should be sustained.

4.22 p.m.


My Lords, I follow my former chief on this subject with the utmost diffidence. I am sure we all agree that the timing of this debate is immaculate. I am happy to speak briefly in support of the noble Lord, Lord Garner, who has spent a lifetime in the development of the Commonwealth. It is inevitable, because I have shared some of his experience, that some of my remarks will closely resemble what he has said, although I speak with a great deal less eloquence than he does.

First, at the risk of being somewhat controversial, I am sure that some historians in the future may well condemn the whole concept of the Commonwealth as it has developed since 1945. They will no doubt argue that the concept of the Commonwealth effectively concealed from the British people, from British industry and from successive British Governments, the full extent of the change in the world position of Britain. As a result, necessary adjustments in attitudes were delayed and policies distorted. These historians will no doubt cite immigration, Rhodesia and Europe as areas where decisions were made more difficult and, possibly wrongly made, because of the existence of the Commonwealth. In other words, having lost an Empire we confused and even deceived ourselves with the idea of a Commonwealth. I do not share this view, but I think there is enough substance in the argument to keep the A. J. P. Taylors of the next century profitably employed for some time. It is, in any case, now an academic matter and we must address ourselves to events as they are and not as they might have been.

We must first—and I think the whole House is agreed on this—stop describing ourselves either as Europeans or as Commonwealth men. If there ever was a conflict it was exaggerated and it no longer exists. Secondly, we have to look at the Commonwealth realistically and in the terms of today. As a result, what I have to say may sound rather matter of fact, but I think it is worth saying. The Commonwealth is a loose collection of independent countries which have, for a variety of historical and other reasons, a special relationship with the United Kingdom and to a lesser, but may be growing, extent with each other. As the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, said, it is not a political alliance, it is not a defence pact and it is not a trading bloc. Our interest in each member is not the same, nor is theirs in us. In some cases, our policies and our interests conflict sharply. We must each stand up for our own interests without any unnecessarily sentimental obligation to each other.

I believe the right policy for Her Majesty's Government is first to concentrate on maintaining and developing our bilateral relations with each of them, in our own interest and in theirs. We are able to do this in an atmosphere of friendship, familiarity and trust. This is, for all of us, a very fortunate state of affairs. But the relationship founded in the past will require hard work on all sides to continue into the future. In some cases we shall come closer, and in others links will weaken; but, in the majority of cases, both sides will benefit.

I hope, for example, that Her Majesty's Government will take special care to develop harmonious political and economic links with Nigeria, which clearly has an important future not only in Africa but on the world stage. But the policy emphasis should first be on bilateral relationships. Any multilateral relationships can best develop from that and will then continue and develop naturally and without strain. I believe that artificially created multilateral Commonwealth relationships are counter-productive. The Commonwealth Secretariat has become an established piece of very useful machinery, after certain initial doubts held not so much in this country but in other countries, and the Secretariat can help in sustaining and promoting multilateral Commonwealth institutions and relationships.

There is also a need for educating our own people in this country about the Commonwealth. In this connection, I should like to direct the attention of noble Lords to the excellent work carried out in London by the Commonwealth Institute, under the imaginative direction of Mr. Kenneth Thompson. Of course the most notable and successful multilateral aspect of the Commonwealth are the periodic Prime Ministers' meetings. Like so many others in this House, I have had the privilege of attending several of these. There is no question that these meetings, even when the arguments are sharp, are of a special character which is very difficult to define. I know of no international gathering which has the same atmosphere. There was a time when the manners and procedures of the United Nations seemed about to take over but this, I believe, has passed for good.

I shall no doubt be accused of trivialising an important and serious subject when I say that in many ways the Commonwealth is one of the most effective and beneficent "old boy nets in the world. It is certainly none the worse for that, and the net involves not only matters of State but almost all branches of human activity. As such, there can be no argument that it is of considerable weight and significance in international affairs, and can hopefully be made to work in the interests of peace, and in the reconciliation of conflicting economic interests, by the close and friendly association of widely different types of countries.

Lastly, I do not believe that it would be appropriate for a debate of this sort to pass without a very warm tribute being paid by this House to Her Majesty the Queen and to the Duke of Edinburgh for the role which they have so tirelessly played in Commonwealth affairs. There is no need to elaborate, but all of us will know the special quality which they have added to this unique association of friendly nations.

4.31 p.m.


My Lords, as previous speakers have said, the House will be most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Garner, for introducing this debate at such an opportune moment. His experience qualifies him particularly well to remind us at this time of the continuing value, to this country and to the others concerned, of the Commonwealth association. Other speakers have dealt with the political and economic aspects: my excuse for making a brief intervention is that while I was at the Bank of England I was for many years closely concerned with monetary and financial arrangements throughout the Commonwealth. More particularly, in the early post-war years we were engaged in helping to set up new central banks in many Commonwealth territories as they came to independence. In all this we had the active co-operation of the older Commonwealth central banks, and not least among them was the Commonwealth Bank of Australia under the distinguished governorship of Dr. Coombes.

To take two instances in different parts of the world, we were involved in the loan of senior staff, and in many other ways, in the formation of the central banks of Nigeria, of Malaya (now Malaysia) and of Jamaica. This development has continued, and there is now a network of independent central banks throughout the Commonwealth. Co-operation by no means came to an end by the formation of the independent monetary authorities. Throughout the years there has been a continuous interchange of visits and discussions, and the meetings of Commonwealth central bank governors that were instituted in the early post-war years have now become a regular feature. Therefore, in the monetary field as well as in the political and other fields, the co-operation and association still remains of great value.

Today, we are talking about the continuing value of the Commonwealth association in the light of the United Kingdom's membership of the European Community. In my own experience, which I think has been shared by my successors, the Bank of England's close relationships and day-to-day contacts with the European central banks was welcome and useful to our Commonwealth colleagues. This was a two-way traffic, and our contacts with the Commonwealth central banks were, in their turn, useful to the Europeans. The United Kingdom's new partnership in Europe should prove, in this field as in others, to be of increasing benefit all round.

I have been speaking for obvious reasons in the central bank context, but I believe that what I have said about relationships and contacts is equally true of the continuing developing contacts, between the Finance Ministers and Treasury officials. The noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, referred to the additional opportunities given by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other international institutions. Emotionally, in common with many Members of this House and of another place, I have always, despite many ties and friendships in Europe, been a Commonwealth man. Any idea of having to choose between the Commonwealth and Europe has always been repugnant to me. In common, therefore, with what has been said by other speakers, few things have given me greater satisfaction than the general favour which has now been expressed by Commonwealth leaders to our continued membership of the European Community; but we must recognise that if we are to be successful partners in any association, whether in Europe or in the Commonwealth, we have first to put our own house in order and deal with our own inflationary problem. The sooner we get on with this, the better for all concerned.

4.35 p.m.


My Lords, as an additional "bowler" in this debate, I find myself in the happy position of following a former Governor of the Bank of England. His financial experience is particularly important to a debate of this character. Of course, we all listened with the most intense and respectful interest to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Garner. He speaks with so long an experience of eminent office that he is qualified to bring great knowledge to this debate.

I felt inclined to intervene because I cannot suppress thoughts and feelings of the past, even though, as the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow, has just reminded us, we must take things as they are and not have regrets about what they might have been. But, my Lords, I repeat, I cannot help feeling regret because I have strong misgivings as to whether the Commonwealth ties are strong enough to carry out any kind of mission which we would hope they might be able to do in an evolving world. As one who has vivid recollections of the last decade of the Victorian era, I cannot help making contrasts between things as they now are and as they were, when I consider the contribution that the Commonwealth could and did make in saving civilisation in two wars and, even earlier, their contribution in carrying civilising influences into savagery over a large part of the world, at any rate in Africa, and the great contribution they have made in the past.

With the indulgence of the House, I should like to quote two memories which come prominently to mind. There was the Jubilee procession in 1897 of Queen Victoria; with the majesty, the brilliance and the evidence of power contributed from every part of the world to which this British influence had been carried. Then with intimation of the death of the Queen, to us the world seemed to have fallen apart; that it could never be the same again. And then there is the recollection, in uniform with reversed arms, of seeing the gun-carriage conveying the coffin up to Windsor Castle with emperors and monarchs walking in sections, so numerous were the attendances from the countries of the world and such was the respect which England carried then throughout the world. That respect existed throughout the world for Britain and her currency, which, alas! is not the case today in the conditions to which the country has driven itself.

We pass to the Jamaica Conference. I cannot find any grounds for confidence or enthusiasm for sacrifice in the report of that gathering. It seemed to me just a platform for Third World talkers who were seeking the opportunity of raising their prestige at home, even though the noble Lord, Lord Garner, correctly reminded us that our entry into the European Economic Community provided an opportunity for bringing great benefits to the backward countries of the Commonwealth. All the same, I cannot help feeling there is a lack of patriotism and readiness for self-sacrifice. One sees this country unable to carry the burden of responsibility which its enterprise had enabled it to assume all over the world. Between 1963 and 1973 this country provided £2,400 million of overseas aid, mostly to the Commonwealth. That is provided by the British taxpayer. Need the burden of Empire have been offloaded so quickly? Well, there are those who say there should be a spirit of atonement for what Britain had to operate in achieving the eminence she did in the Empire she built up. I doubt whether those liberal-minded (with a small "1") "little Englanders" are right in their criticism.

To return to the Communiqué, I am unhappy about the inadequacy of the tribute to Britain as head of the Commonwealth and to the importance of the Crown and the contribution that it makes to holding this aggregate together—provided it does, and will continue to, give that benefit to the world which we believe it should. A small matter, relatively, in that Communiqué was the suggestion that South-West Africa should be readmitted at some time, under some conditions, to the Commonwealth. What is the drill for admission or for expulsion when circumstances of bad behaviour might justify it? There was the Secretariat. It seems to many to have been in the recent past too progressive-minded in some matters without recognising responsibility in others.

In the Commonwealth at the present moment there seems, in the very proper search for education among students, a desire for the sociological degrees rather than the technological. That is why agriculture is neglected. We read in the Communiqué of aims to improve agriculture, because undoubtedly famine throughout the world means that more food is needed. But what an inconsistency and what hypocrisy to be ganging up to destroy Rhodesia, which could be a granary for Southern and Central Africa, where production is far below capacity, and it could be of great assistance to neighbouring countries. But to obtain high production, Africa surely needs white leadership. Incidentally, there is also renunciation of the £20 million per annum which would have been provided under the agreement which the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, made with the Rhodesian Government but which stupidly has not been taken up. How many emergent countries in Africa have maintained constitutional Government? I think practically none. It is an outrage that in this Conference there should be a proposal that the British Government contribute funds to Mozambique, which may well be directed to a continuation of terrorism in Central I Southern Africa.

My Lords, it is with pain and grief that I find grounds for criticism in what one hoped would be a Conference contributing to the world's strength. Is the future strength of the Commonwealth adequate considering the outlook of some of its members seemingly selfish, seeking aid and privileges for themselves, rather than willing to give the spirit of patriotism and self-sacrifice which historically Britain showed in contributing to development throughout the backward world? I have some doubts. All the same, one retains pride in the achievements of the past, but perplexity as to the future.

4.49 p.m.


My Lords, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, will understand that I will not follow him in his views or remarks because I do not think our views really coincide. The Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Garner, is both relevant and timely, and he incorporated his ideas in the most charming speech. We are grateful to him.

The Motion is relevant and timely for several reasons. I may add that I share the warm feelings of the noble Lord, Lord Garner, towards the Commonwealth. We all live in one world—a cliché which I accept unreservedly. Because we have cemented our membership of the European Community by the referendum, some people have inferred that our historical ties and friendship with Commonwealth countries must inevitably be loosened or severed. This is a hasty and erroneous conclusion. If we have changed in some respects in our relationship with the Commonwealth countries, there have been corresponding changes towards us by Commonwealth countries.

However, the most compelling reasons for maintaining our links with Commonwealth countries lie in the fact that nearly all of them are developing countries which need aid and trade with developed countries like ourselves and the other members of the Common Market. For many years to come they will need these things; for, my Lords, if the Common Market has produced rules and economic changes in Europe there is no doubt that when the plan of action of the new International Economic Charter of the developing countries is put into effect it will produce more resounding changes, of which we shall have to take note. The developing countries have done their arithmetic and the Charter adds a new dimension to international equality.

Here I must take issue with my noble friend Lord Brockway. I am not so starry-eyed as he is about international affairs. The International Economic Charter is not new, in the sense that it was drawn up some time ago, and to denigrate the United Nations regarding this matter is not quite fair. I am rather critical of the affairs of the United Nations, but we have known about the new International Economic Charter for a little time. Although I sympathise with it and think that it will work towards much greater international equality, I do not go so far as to say that because the oil countries have now given the power to the developing countries to effect what they want I think it is wholly a very good thing. It contains a threat to us. If by raising the price of oil to a greater and greater extent they are going to affect developed countries like ourselves, how are we going to help with aid? How are we going to give the aid that we should?


My Lords, the proposal is not that they should impose their prices but that there should be common discussion between the representatives of the developing world and the developed world regarding those prices.


My Lords, there have been many discussions. There are many agencies which deal with these things, and they have already been outlined this afternoon. There is the International Bank; there are all the United Nations Agencies. There are all the experts. Although the developing countries still have a long way to go, we in the developed world are in a weaker position today to exploit the developing countries. In fact, we are now competing with them for food, raw materials and primary products. As I have just said, there is a hint of a threat in the high price of oil.

Among the literature on development which I collect, I notice that the Community undertook to "take to heart," as they proclaimed, "the interests of the Commonwealth after 1974 ". Perhaps the Lomé Convention was the result of this undertaking. Again I must take issue with my noble friend Lord Brockway. They have said that now they will also consider India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka when they are thinking of preferences.


My Lords, "consider".


Yes, my Lords, "consider". It is imperative that the conflicting interests of the Community's farmers and consumers with the rest of the world, including the Commonwealth, should be reconciled, despite the intricate rules of the enlarged Community, in order to bring them into line with each other. I hope that this will happen now that we are in the Community, and that we can exert our influence towards that end. We do not need a separation of the Common Market from the Commonwealth. We need a continuing reappraisal all along the line in development thinking.

That brings me to the meeting in May of the Commonwealth Heads of Government in Kingston. Personally, I have always enjoyed and valued meeting delegates from Commonwealth countries. I have had the privilege and opportunity to do so in the United Nations and in several seminars and conferences. Therefore, it looks to me as if the meeting in Kingston was a very happy occasion, and I have no doubt that there must have been fruitful discussions. However, to anybody who is familiar with development problems, the Communiqué was disappointing. There was nothing new in it except, to my mind, for the doubtful proposal for another ten experts. We have many experts in the development field.

We have learned a great deal since we started development aid. First of all, we started by trying to make Commonwealth and developing countries copy our industrial society. Soon we learned that this was no good. Now there has been a swing back towards concentrating again on agriculture and so dealing with the unemployment and the poverty that followed when we tried to have too rapid growth.

The first half of the Communiqué was so general that perhaps it was the Caribbean location that made me think of a holiday brochure. If I may be allowed to mix my metaphors, until I came to the economic matters the Caribbean sun seemed to be overcast by a cloud of moonshine aspirations. All of them were things that we want to have done, that we want to get; but we have not got them and nobody told us how—at least not in that Communiqué and, I believe, not in the Conference. Paragraph 30 contains the guts of the Communiqué. It should be reprinted separately and the Information services should spread and communicate it to the world at large. It is very necessary that ordinary people should understand the position about the developing countries in the world today. I do not think that they do understand it and I do not believe that they understand the movements towards equality that are necessary.

This is how the Commonwealth and the developing countries view the world, and in future I hope that we shall try to make them see how it does. In or out of Europe, the world problems remain. Dean Acheson was wrong when he said that we have lost an Empire and that we no longer have a role. I believe that we have lost an Empire but that we now have a distinctive role to play—to continue to aid and to trade with the developing, poorer countries of the world. The Commonwealth can play a great part in achieving this aim.

4.59 p.m.


My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the noble Baroness whose comments, as always, were down to earth, practical and constructive. I do not entirely go along with all that she said about the Kingston Communiqué, and I may come back to that point briefly. First, may I pay tribute to the timing of the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Garner. It is a happy moment finally to scotch the illusion—and the referendum has scotched it—that, in some form, the Commonwealth is an alternative means of protecting British major commercial and other interests from Europe. I think this illusion has now died for good. Psychiatrists remove illusions in order to enable patients to face realities and now we are up against realities and it is up to us to save ourselves.

We have heard many authoritative comments on the development of the Commonwealth. In many different parts of the world over the last 40 years I have heard speeches on Commonwealth affairs, and I have made a good many of them myself, and I have been surprised that the ever-renewed vitality of your Lordships' House has been able to bring so much freshness to this familiar subject.

The noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, referred to the elusiveness of the nature of the Commonwealth in the eyes of foreigners. I have some diffidence in talking about the nature of the Commonwealth, because in all my years of work in and around the Commonwealth at any given moment I should have found it difficult to describe convincingly exactly what the relationship amounted to. I think Mr. Trudeau hit the nail on the head in looking for one feature; that it is the personal relationships that the Commonwealth develops and fosters which form the real life blood.

The question that is of most interest and importance to us now is not the nature of the Commonwealth in the past —about which we have heard comments —but what it can contribute in the future and what new steps are desirable to enable it to realise its potential. I should like to refer to two roles. I think we all recognise that the main role of the modern Commonwealth is, as the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, said, in the field of relationships between the rich and the poor worlds. After peace and war it is these relationships which comprise the most important and intractable of outstanding world problems, and the distinctive contribution of the Commonwealth compared with other international forums is the opportunity it gives to leaders of Governments, senior officials, key people in every walk of life, to develop understanding of each other's views and problems and situations.

The first main field in which the Commonwealth association can give help is in the urgent and challenging process of modernisation in each developing country. Somehow or other each of the new Commonwealth countries has to reconcile its indigenous and non-modern traditions with the necessities of the modern world. There is only one world of technology, of business method, of public administration, of education and so on, and every nation, large and small, has to be able to fit in to this one modern world. Most of the new Commonwealth countries have problems with their own indigenous traditions. This country had the honour of introducing modernity, values, traditions, practices and institutions to the 30-odd territories of the Commonwealth, grafting Christian and Humanist and scientific traditions on to the stock of their non-Western cultures. The Commonwealth association continues to help in the process as a buttress to these Governments in a variety of ways. I think this has been the common denominator for which the noble Lord. Lord Balniel, was seeking.

The Commonwealth Secretariat plays a vital and growing part in helping in this process and I add my endorsement to the view that has been put forward that the Commonwealth Secretariat should now be built up. It is still at a relatively young stage; if it is to give the help to all these new Governments that they require it needs a bigger infrastructure, especially in the field of intelligence and research.

I pay my tribute to Mr. Arnold Smith's distinguished contribution in launching this very important organisation for the future and in welcoming the very distinguished new Secretary General. The second field in which I suggest that the Commonwealth can make its most important contributions in the coming years is in relation to the solutions that have to be found to the biggest problems of all which confront the human race. These have recently been spotlighted in a Report which some of your Lordships may have seen, presented to the Club of Rome—a Report into which an enormous amount of sophisticated work has gone over a period of some three years and which gives Governments a new kind of tool to help in addressing their minds to the common problem.

Commonwealth consultation is peculiarly well fitted to help in the finding of solutions to these major global problems. Mr. Trudeau has pointed out that in the days of modern political life no Government, among their day to day problems, have time to give sufficient attention to the longer-term issues, apart from the fact that no Government alone can hope to contribute more than a strictly limited amount to a solution to these problems. If they did, they would expose themselves to Party political attack because the solutions involve sacrifices for their peoples; but the informal and confidential discussions between Commonwealth members is probably the best possible way of bringing the vast and prickly problems of population, energy, food, raw materials and pollution into practical focus.

The human race is, in fact, at a turning point of which the succession of recent crises is only a symptom. The Report that I mentioned has pointed out —I believe rightly—that the current crises are not temporary, that the solution to these crises can be developed only in a global context, that those solutions cannot be achieved by traditional means, by action in an isolated field, such as the economic field; the environment, ecology, people's attitudes and values all come in. It is, however, possible to solve even these enormous global problems through cooperation rather than confrontation. If they are to be solved, a new path of development is necessary to lead to a balance between the interdependent world regions; whereas previous speakers have pointed out that the United Nations is not really able to provide the means of tackling these problems constructively.

Apart from anything else, their secretariats are not strong enough for the necessary preparation and briefing. The discussions are bedevilled by East-West polarisation, and rich-poor sparring. Our participation in EEC processes may well prove the most important means of useful policy initiatives, but there is need for candid and forthright exchanges between rich and poor countries. The noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, referred to the Lomé Convention. I share the hope that this, and the organisations that it set up, will do important and constructive work. But although the Asian countries are to be considered in these documents, I do not think they will get much of a place in the sun compared with the 46. The Commonwealth, therefore, remains the only forum in which the rich and poor can get together round the table in a co-operative way with the great countries, with Asia as well as the ACP countries. After all, it is the great countries of Asia which will present the most difficult problems.

My Lords, the other day some illustrations were given. It is difficult for us in this country and in Europe to visualise the scale of the problems which lie just round the corner. It was pointed out that if the population of Calcutta continues to grow at its present rate, in 25 years there would be 60 million people fighting for survival in the Calcutta area. One cannot imagine such a thing. If I may give another Indian figure, to cope with the present population increase in India that country needs 1,000 new schoolrooms every day for the next 20 years, 1,000 new hospital wards every day for the next 20 years, and 10,000 new houses every day. On food, energy and pollution, problems of equal magnitude arise.

I must take exception to the remarks of the noble Baroness about the 10 experts set up under the Kingston Communiqué. Indeed, I must say I felt that the Kingston Communiqué in many ways was a very distinguished document. I regard the appointment of the 10 experts as possibly a milestone in the way that these problems will be tackled; I hope so, anyway. I look forward to their Report, and hope it will lead to important initiatives by this country and other Commonwealth countries in the United Nations and elsewhere. The lightning speed with which they have been told to report on such great issues is a useful illustration of the urgency of the problems, because there will be a geometric speed of escalation of the problems unless something is done about them quickly.

To conclude, while continued British membership of the Community is the essential condition of the necessary constructive co-operation in Europe, intensified Commonwealth consultation is an urgent and necessary supplement if the frightening and escalating global problems of the planet are to be solved in cooperation between the rich and the poor, rather than leading to the ruin of us all by conflict.


My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, sits down, may I just ask him whether he is really saying that the Communiqué from Jamaica is more than a declaration of intent?


My Lords, I think intention comes into every action. I hope and believe that in many important respects there will be action following this intention.

5.15 p.m.


My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, and to join with other speakers in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Garner, upon the initiative which has brought him to open our debate this afternoon. The noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of HarroW, referred to the Commonwealth as an old boys' network. Probably it has not escaped the attention of your Lordships that to some extent this is really an old boys' reunion, because more than half of the speakers in the debate today have served either over, under or with each other in the Commonwealth during the last 15 years. It is significant that the views expressed by everyone have been concerned not with the past but with the future of the Commonwealth at this time in history—with the exception, which I suppose I should make, of the noble Lord, Lord Barnby. But anyone who can remember distinctly the last decade of the reign of Queen Victoria, and who can still retain his vigour and enthusiasm as has the noble Lord, is entitled to look back on a life well spent, as he has done this afternoon. But we have not looked back.

Perhaps one of the weak elements in our present attitude to life is the cult of the anniversary. It always seems to me to be a rather unhealthy form of debilitating nostalgia, which I hope we can avoid in the future. Your Lordships may not be aware that this is the 255th anniversary of the South Sea Bubble. It is extraordinary that the Stock Exchange have failed to take advantage of the fact, which might remind us that there have been past occasions of financial disaster in the City of London.

My Lords, we are at present in what I think we all acknowledge to be a revolutionary era. This is a time when we all, particularly those who are concerned with the Commonwealth, should be looking to the future and to the form that it can take and develop into during the years ahead. We should be trying to construct a new global philosophy for the Commonwealth, something that is based upon the Commonwealth as an entity and not simply as a gathering of individual nations operating, as the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, said, on a bilateral basis. The extraordinary paradox is that for all the changes which have taken place, all the shocks to which that institution has been subjected during these last many years, at Kingston in Jamaica as recently as a few weeks ago there could have been a Commonwealth Conference of the character of that Conference, with all the vitality which it showed. Perhaps better than anything else, better than anything we could say in this debate in your Lordships' House, it illustrated that, despite the change which has taken place in our relations with Europe, our role and the Commonwealth role are not regarded by Commonwealth Governments as being incompatible for the future.

There is, I think—and other noble Lords have referred to it—a tendency in this country to underestimate the successful work which the Commonwealth Secretariat has undertaken during these last years. I confess that I resented at the time the transfer of the powers exercised by the then Commonwealth Relations Office to an apparently amorphous bureaucratic organisation. I now realise that it is probable that no other British Department of State could have made the contribution to Commonwealth unity as a liaison office, so to speak, which the Commonwealth Secretariat has made during this last tumultuous decade. It has brought and helped to bring the Commonwealth through these tumults and problems with relatively little loss. If the Commonwealth deserves great credit, and that goes to the retiring Secretary-General, Mr. Arnold Smith, I think we ourselves are also entitled to take credit for the men and women of these islands who in their generation have contributed to creating a structure of international power and mutual understanding of such strength and adaptability.

As I say, my Lords, the real problem now is the years immediately ahead. I would remind your Lordships that there is a time factor in this. One of the reasons for the success of practically all Commonwealth Conferences, and the successful co-operation which exists between Governments, is the fact that there is still a generation of Commonwealth political leaders who have come under British influence in different ways; by education, by political training, by administrative experience, by residence in this country, by imprisonment, by prescription and exile. Let us not forget that most of these are entering the latter days of their periods of personal power.

If one thinks of the distinguished roll call of Presidents Kaunda, Banda and Kenyatta, of Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, of Mr. Mintoff, Archbishop Makarios, Mrs. Gandhi, the Presidents and Premiers of Sri Lanka. the Caribbean and the Pacific, Sir Seretse Khama, Mr. Nyerere, General Gowon, Mr. Muji—bur all these are established. They have in good days and in bad learned to know each other, and the United Kingdom in particular, and there is a volume of common experience among all of them; and that goes for the senior civil servants and the judiciaries who support their various régimes. I remember, not so very long ago in Delhi, a young Presidential ADC coming to me to say that the British had given his family a generous reward for the support of that family during the Mutiny. He wanted to take this opportunity of assuring me that Britain could count on him and his family for loyalty for the future. I think we are entitled to say that this is a splendid legacy of friendship and understanding.

But it will not last for ever. It will scarcely outlast the existing generation, despite the very large number of those who come here to this country from abroad or who exchange within the Commonwealth itself. What we now have to decide is how we can replace this element of sentiment and common experience with a new set of ideas and ideals, which will influence and attract the minds of a new generation of political leaders in the Commonwealth for whom the high adventure of our own generation is perhaps scarcely less remote than the South Sea Bubble.

I think there are two themes which are important. First, we have to refurbish the institutions of the Commonwealth; and, secondly, we have to find a means of bringing the Commonwealth countries more actively into association with the regional organisations of which we are members; and, of course, I am thinking in particular of the EEC. So far as the European Community is concerned, I am not thinking merely in terms of trade and economics, important though they are, and notable progress with regard to which was made in the case of many of the Commonwealth countries at the Lomé Convention; I am thinking of closer political association. I hope that we will be able to ensure that the associated status is in due course, gradually, sensitively, tentatively perhaps, extended to embrace participation where appropriate in new or existing political institutions of the Community.

I do not pretend to be able to suggest how this could be done, but I would remind your Lordships that, for instance, in the case of Australia, of the 3,500,000 post war immigrants into that country 2,500.000 came from Continental or Mediterranean Europe, and only 1,000,000 came from the British Isles; that French Canada is a powerful influence in that Dominion; that half of Africa is French speaking; that in Asia the influence of members of the Community has been, and still is, immense. There seems to be no reason why the new Europe should be merely inward-looking, either economically or politically, and one feels that it is possible in the future to build on to the institutions of Europe something which enables political action to be taken in a much wider field than we are contemplating in the Community at the present time.

The other theme that seems to me important is the institution of the Commonwealth Secretariat. My noble friend Lord Balniel has already referred to one development, the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation, and there are other agencies which are gradually coming into being in conjunction with the Commonwealth Secretariat. I think it is the instrument through which we in this country should, for instance, be channelling more and more of the aid which goes to the Commonwealth countries.

I make no comment about the position of Mrs. Judith Hart, but I have some sympathy with the protest she made against the apparently increased integration of the Department of Overseas Development with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I remember very well the circumstances in which that Department was originally formed. The idea at that time was that Britain's contribution to overseas development, particularly in the Commonwealth, should be divorced from the colonialist context on the one hand, and from appearing to be merely an auxiliary of British foreign policy on the other. I was very interested indeed in the views expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow, which seemed to me to reflect exactly the difference of opinion at that time between the attitudes of the Foreign Office and the Commonwealth Relations Office on the means whereby technical aid, and aid generally, should be provided to the Commonwealth countries.

I think there is a great deal to be said for trying to ensure that any aid that goes from this country to Commonwealth countries should appear to go as a gift, as an effort by this country to assist in their development, and not, so to speak, as the handmaid of British foreign policy. I believe that this can best be done now by using agencies developed in the Commonwealth Secretariat. As my noble friend Lord Balniel said, we have made some small start in this field, but I think it should go very much further.

There are many subjects of which technical aid and financial aid are still a part. I am thinking of conservation, which is a popular cause at the present moment. I am also thinking of the development of tropical medicine, which is of great importance to many parts of the Commonwealth. I suppose it is too much to ask, but I should have thought there was something to be said for having some institutional apparatus connected with the Commonwealth Secretariat, which could take some initiative in relation to natural disasters. So often during these last few months we have seen disasters occurring, particularly in Africa and in Asia, where the facilities for ameliorating the situation seem to be so very ineffective.

It is not merely a question of providing money or material aid in circumstances of that sort. It seems to be increasingly a problem of providing the organisation which will help their proper institution and application to help in the countries concerned. Could not the Commonwealth Secretariat, on a Commonwealth basis, provide some agency of that sort? I do not believe that this is merely a question of duplicating the United Nations Agencies. It is important that there should be a wide variety of organisations capable of providing aid in different circumstances and against a different background to various countries. I believe that the Commonwealth Secretariat could be developed into something of great importance in this field.

I found it difficult to make a speech, and in doing so I am sorry to have taken 15 minutes of your Lordships' time. Somehow or other we have all said so much about the Commonwealth in our time that there are very few new things to say. I hope it will be possible, even though it may need another generation of thinkers about the Commonwealth to do it, to find a new orientation for the Commonwealth in the world so that when the memories of these past years, the connections which have been established, the friendships which have been developed during these years as a part of the great historic process of a century and more, have become weak and thin, there will still be those who are able to apply enthusiasm and idealism to the development of what is still a unique international world organisation in which we have had a proud and dignified part.

5.32 p.m.


My Lords, I should first like to join other noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Garner, for the opportunity we have had this afternoon to take Dart in this fascinating debate. I am no musician, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Alport, has just said, it is rather difficult to find a new variation on the theme that we have now had for nearly three hours. To my mind this does not in any way take away from the interest of the subject. I suggest that already this afternoon in discussing the relationships between this country, the Common Market and the Commonwealth, we have found something in this difficult time in this country to put on to the right side of a slightly difficult, and at the moment more than difficult, balance sheet.

I suppose I should be correct in declaring an interest. I am not quite sure of this, but I think that I am almost alone in the speakers in your Lordships' House this afternoon in being born in the Commonwealth, because I was born in New Zealand. I have also had the unique opportunity in recent years of spending a considerable time in the Southern part of that Commonwealth in the Pacific, which has not had much mention this afternoon at all. I am speaking not only of Australia and New Zealand, but also of that multiplicity of small and lovely islands which dot that vast ocean and which I can assure you, from personal contact, are not only extremely interested in what is happening in this country, and in this country's relationship to the Common Market, but have an extraordinary loyalty to this country and all that it has stood for over the years, despite their own definite long history and interesting cultures.

I am going to take an example out of the book of our introducer and deal shortly with the past, and then try to get on to something that is of more active interest at the moment. Having been born in an age of colonialism and imperialism, it has been a fascinating study for me to see the transition taking place between Empire and Colonies into Commonwealth. May I say, and underline, that I consider we have all seen two very different Commonwealths in post-war years. This transition was largely accelerated by the Herculean effort which the then mother country put into the last World War, to say nothing of course of the depression which she had to face before that—a depression equalled only by what we are facing up to now. Echoing just a little the noble Lord. Lord Barnby—I am not going back so far as he has; I cannot—we should remember the superb response that the Commonwealth and Empire made to the war effort during the last World War. The men and material produced from outside this country were, to my mind, a very great factor in the ultimately successful outcome of it. In passing, I may perhaps be permitted to say that the casualty list for New Zealand was second only to that of this country.

The result of that war, I think you will all agree, left a somewhat enfeebled parent, trying rather inefficiently to get hold of a group of young children. I say "young", but some of them were fairly mature, and they were all fairly hard-headed at that time, anxious to go out on their own and establish their own entity and leave the family entourage. That was the immediate post-war Commonwealth. It was a Commonwealth which very nearly committed suicide in Singapore by an overdose of Anglo-cen tricity. But by some extraordinary metamorphosis, a process which could be achieved only by British alchemy far beyond the realms of any science or medicine, the mother became the elder sister, the managing director became the equal, if senior, partner.

So today's new Commonwealth was born, I think passively at first at the Conference at Ottawa in a most friendly atmosphere, but more actively in the equally friendly atmosphere of Jamaica. I for one, with a fairly comprehensive knowledge of what we call the Commonwealth, and not only the Southern Hemisphere part, am increasingly optimistic about the future potential of this group, if I can call it that—it is hard to find a word—which has been set up, and I think has new teeth since Jamaica.

Before I develop the theme I should like briefly to return to that not very much accepted word today, "Empire". It seems now to have a global denigration when everyone talks of it. Perhaps only those who have lived for a certain number of years—I will not say how many—can get the matter into fair perspective. I should like to suggest, and I still firmly believe, that the Empire, as such, did more good for more people in more parts of the world than any constitution, or institutional machinery, previously in existence. It is easy to criticise it, and it is done ad nauseam.

But let us look at the 34 countries which comprise today's new Commonwealth. How many of them, all free, all independent, whether they are dominions, colonies, still protectorates, or republics, democratic or autocratic, do not use a legal system based on British law? How many of them do not benefit from British medicine, both preventive and curative? How many of them do not use suitably adapted British methods of education? How many of them do not apply British know-how to their agricultural, engineering and architectural activities, or do not, within the limits of their environment, indulge in British sports and British games? And all of them still canvas British trade.

Tradition may be a dirty word—I never think it is—but I would consider that the best of it is ineradicable; and it is with British tradition that this polyglot assembly of nations which we call the Commonwealth is beginning to justify itself as an entity. It is showing signs of being able to prove its value as an instrument of international understanding and mutual trust between peoples. This free association of free nations has come about relatively quickly, looked at from an historical perspective. The independence of the Indian Sub-Continent, the watershed of British history which we call Suez, the setting up of the Commonwealth Secretariat, and now this recent entry into the European Community were all major landmarks in its development. Now the Commonwealth—and let us note that it is no longer called the British Commonwealth— is showing signs of living up to the literal meaning of that word; the welfare and prosperity of the various nation communities of which it consists, the old word "weald", the common weald. It is surely heartwarming to realise that this enormous consortium which has been mentioned so often this afternoon encompasses one-quarter of the world's population, covers 15 million square miles and takes in part of every continent in the world. As we know very well it has no restrictions, of either creed or colour; it is literally a cross-section of the world.

I would suggest—and perhaps I am just a little off the beam from what other noble Lords have said this afternoon—that it is still basically people rather than politics. It is a bridge between peoples of all races. I think this leads to what one hopes will develop, mutual understanding, trust and co-operation. This may all sound rather "airy-fairy", but recent events have already shown—as the noble Lord, Lord Balniel, pointed out in his delightful speech—that the association is now becoming much more hardheaded, practical and pragmatic. And let us not forget that it is still voluntary, which is why it is probably having an effect on international affairs.

It has already been mentioned this afternoon—and I want to repeat it—that one vital ingredient of success is that it speaks English, so avoiding all the frustration, delays and misunderstandings of interpreters and the machinery of translation. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, who said that it has no rules or constitution as such, and when the Heads of State meet there is no written agenda. It has no joint commit- ments; no one can vote for or against war or peace; it has no vetoes. In all these respects it differs markedly from the United Nations, to which it could and probably should be complementary, but I suggest should in no way be a rival or a substitute or a competitor. It aims to exert an influence not only directly on its own membership but also indirectly on the neighbouring world at large, not by a military presence but by well developed aid and trade, by technical assistance in the widest sense and by mutual trust and understanding.

I am glad to say that the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow, mentioned one matter which I felt was rather absent from our discussion this afternoon; that is, the Royal Family. I feel that I would be very much neglecting my duty—having had the honour of representing Her Majesty in a distant part of the Commonwealth—if I did not make mention of the role which is played in the Commonwealth by the Monarchy. I consider it to be of definite and distinct importance. Throughout the Commonwealth—not only in New Zealand for which I can speak personally—nothing perpetuates more strongly the aura of togetherness or the muted traditional value of the past as does the Royal Family. I would humbly suggest that their effect on the Commonwealth community—and may I, perhaps, also say the effect of the Commonwealth community on the Royal Family—is both positive and essentially cohesive. In only 13 of the 34 Commonwealth countries is the Queen Head of State, but in all of them she is Head of Commonwealth and is received with respect and warm affection when, as she so often does in her very arduous duties, she pays visits to them.

It is only this latter thought which prevents me from being more enthusiastic than I am to a certain extent about the possibility, which has not been mooted this afternoon, of other nations, not ex-colonies but essentially English-speaking for the reasons I have given, being permitted to join the Commonwealth family. There is no doubt that there are a number who would love to join, and the membership of a number of them might strengthen the Commonwealth. There is no doubt that they would derive great advantage from being in this group.

The benefits that they would get largely stem from the extraordinary development of a body about which we have heard a good deal this afternoon and which I admire enormously, the Commonwealth Secretariat, which was set up a mere 10 years ago. It was set up really as a Commonwealth Post Office, a means of communication between Commonwealth Governments, a method of extracting a little information about the Commonwealth. That it has achieved so much more than this in such a very short time is largely due—as we have heard from a number of quarters this afternoon—to the personality and personal effort of its first Secretary-General, Arnold Smith. His previous experience, as most noble Lords will know, was as Ambassador at Cairo at the time of Suez. Later he went to Moscow; he is very interested in the French part of Canada; he has a genuine love of people as people. All this has put us in his debt to an almost unrepayable extent.

He has been largely responsible for the tactful yet very forceful, efficient and informal methods of organising the meetings of Heads of State which now take place in various parts of the world; and the consequential development that has taken place in his Office of the various bodies which have been mentioned this afternoon—the Commonwealth Foundation which promotes exchanges especially between professional bodies, followed some years afterwards by the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation which brings in the fields of finance, commerce and industry; and quite recently the Commonwealth Youth Movement and the schemes for rural development which have already been mentioned.

This is surely a remarkable success record in a very short time. I know him quite well and I think it is largely his influence that persuaded some of the more recalcitrant countries of the Commonwealth that Britain's entry, or reentry, whichever way you like to put it, into the EEC was not a desertion or a denial but a constructive, positive move likely to be of advantage to the Commonwealth as a whole and particularly to those junior partners of the consortium who were struggling to close that demanding rich/poor gap of which we have heard a lot this afternoon.

The only real risk of regionalisation—and I entirely agree that regionalisation does not wipe out a link either with Commonwealth or with Community—is isolationism. This is a bad thing. Interdependence as a creed is only of value to the human race as a whole if while it is working for purely national interests it can at the same time promote international prosperity. Universal trade and economic integration should surely always take precedence over political amalgamation. Taking a long view, it would seem that the Commonwealth must ultimately benefit from Britain's membership in the EEC. This is now very generally felt.

I was in New Zealand in 1970 and I can tell your Lordships from first-hand knowledge that the entry of this country into the EEC was not very well received. For reasons that many of you will know it was a shock to New Zealand, because in many ways New Zealand is far more British than the British. However, now even they have seen the light. Although the hurt will still remain for those who can remember it, it is the general opinion that it was the right policy for Britain to join the Common Market.

I would suggest that the Commonwealth today is developing a forward-moving as well as a forward-looking policy. Its members no longer look upon themselves as the creditors of a bankrupt State. They appreciate that they are an entity in international life. Admittedly their organisation often appears to work in a mysterious way. The British organisation has worked in a mysterious way for many years and the fact is that one can see all around that the Commonwealth is working and does work. I find in its burgeoning activities at the moment a sense of adventure, an adventure which includes both the enthusiasm of youth and, if I may say so, the maturity of experience. I think it is very much in keeping with the tempo of the times today. I have said, and I hope not overstressed, that I look on the Commonwealth essentially as people. The success of its future, which at this moment seems quite bright, is what all of us are prepared to give it as people and what it, as people, is prepared to accept.

5.50 p.m.


My Lords, now that the referendum has, we hope, settled finally the issue of Britain in Europe, it is highly appropriate that the whole future of the Commonwealth should be discussed in the light of that decision. I would therefore wish to express my indebtedness to the noble Lord, Lord Garner, for initiating this debate. There are few Members of this House who can speak with such authority and experience on the many aspects of the problems which today confront the Commonwealth. I also wish to join with other speakers in a tribute from these Back-Benches to the great contribution that has been made to the Commonwealth by its Secretary-General, Mr. Arnold Smith, who retires at the end of this month.

He has served it for 10 years through some highly turbulent periods, but, both in storm and calm, he has remained dedicated to the cause of the Commonwealth and has set a splendid example for his successors to follow. In wishing him well on his retirement, I wish to add a word of welcome to his successor, Mr. Ramphal, who has served for the past 10 years as Guyana's Foreign Minister. He, too, brings to his task a long record of devoted service to his country. I wish him well in his new sphere of activity and hope that he will be able to guide the Commonwealth as wisely and as ably as his predecessor.

A few months ago, just before the Jamaica Conference, I had the privilege of leading a Parliamentary delegation to the Caribbean Islands of Antigua, Dominica and St. Lucia. One of the lasting impressions of our visit was how severely the dreadfully low economic standards of those islands had been aggravated by repercussions of the energy crisis, and how greatly they have suffered since then. Not only has the cost of transport increased, but they have suffered just as severely from the increased cost of fertilisers. These islands have a proud tradition of loyalty to Britain, but today they are desperately in need of economic aid. Indeed, they have a moral claim on us, which, since the oil crisis, is far heavier today than it need have been.

The Commonwealth Development Corporation has helped generously, both in financial aid and in technical assistance, and the Ministry of Overseas Development is likewise doing great work. But all the help that they can give is but a minute fraction of the desperate need of these islands. The economic plight of the West Indies has been further aggravated by the collapse of the Court Line and the problems of its subsidiary, the Liat Airline, which serves as a connecting link between the islands. Indeed, but for the help of Venezuela this connecting airline might well have collapsed, and their economic isolation would have been even more severe. Added to all this was the impact of the severe recession in the tourist industry which may yet take many months to overcome.

We also found that the urge towards independence was not by any means mainly the result of a deep national feeling, but a cri de Coeur arising out of the islands' desperate economic plight and a search for help from any quarter. If Britain, with its own grave economic problems, could not hold out the hope of adequate economic assistance, might not achieving independence open the door to them for other channels of aid, and enable them to turn for help to the World Monetary Bank and other international bodies? Many of these islands are today torn between their devotion and loyalty to Britain, and their desperate search for economic help from anywhere. Thus, aid has been obtained from Canada, the United States and Venezuela, and in many instances the West Indian islands have indeed good reason to be thankful for this help.

There is now new hope under the Lomé Convention that their trading position will improve, and we all trust that the effects may be felt very soon. But these still remains the intense loyalty and attachment to Britain which we in this country sometimes fail to realise. It is not based merely on the hope of benefits to come, and it is something which perhaps only the visitor to these West Indian islands can fully realise. These links with Britain go back hundreds of years and it would be little short of tragic if we failed to appreciate that.

Although associate status has provided the Caribbean Islands with a breathing space, the momentum towards independence may gather strength, as has happened in the case of Grenada with not altogether happy results. The United States has also conferred associate status on the island of Puerto Rico, but with a vital difference; owing to the economic strength of the United States, Puerto Rico has virtually become another Federal State of the Union.

I believe that it would be of great advantage to the West Indians if associate status could be continued for a few more years, at least until all the advantages of the Lomé agreement can be fully developed. But we have a duty to perform, in the meantime, as the mother country of the Commonwealth. As we in Britain struggle towards solvency and slowly regain our prosperity, so will the Commonwealth countries look up to us, and our Commonwealth ties will be strengthened. If our economic situation becomes weaker, so will the ties that bind us to the countries of the Commonwealth also weaken.

The stark fact remains that there is literally no other country to take the place of Britain as leader of the Commonwealth. Our great prestige and capacity for leadership were amply demonstrated once more at the Kingston Conference, but all the old self-governing States—Canada, Australia and New Zealand—are now becoming economically stronger and more self-sufficient, and are likely to develop new ties elsewhere than with an economically unstable Britain. I believe that if we can create a stable and flourishing economy here at home, and if we can restore sterling to being one of the world's hard currencies, then the Commonwealth will become once again as strong as it has ever been, and still have a great role to play in shaping the world's future.

All those of us who believe in the Commonwealth idea must concentrate our energies on our own problems here in Britain. We proved our strength of purpose and single-mindedness in the referendum result. Now we can strengthen the Commonwealth by creating stability and a sound economy here at home. We will then find that the Commonwealth, through its closer trading association with Europe, will still turn to us politically as its natural leader, and will enhance our own influence both in Europe and in the world outside. That will be the test of our Commonwealth relationship and the ultimate strength of the Commonwealth itself.

We felt that not only do many of the poorer Commonwealth countries look askance at our internal troubles here in Britain and at the continuing weakness of sterling as a world currency, but that they also have an uneasy feeling, rightly or wrongly, of having been let down. The heavy increase in the price of oil and its damaging effects on their economy struck them unprepared. Surely the Mother Country, either on her own, or acting in concert with the rest of Europe, should have had plans ready to meet such a crisis, which for years have loomed as a possibility. We went on blithely hoping that it would not happen, and we were totally unprepared to meet it when it burst on us in October 1973. The Commonwealth countries were forced to suffer along with the rest of us, but they suffered far more, because their economies were weak and their standard of living was desperately low. When they saw a huge part of the world's wealth being channelled into the sands of the Arabian Gulf and their meagre earnings making a sizeable contribution to this maldistribution, they had a feeling of being let down.

I was soon made aware of how the effects of soaring inflation in the West Indies were hitting the poorest sections of the community where the dread of unemployment is constantly present, and where there are no social security benefits to compensate. There they have no redundancy payments and, when the breadwinner is out of work, his family is given shelter and food by neighbours. This is in contrast with the policy which we have seen among our highly developed Western countries of "Beggar my Neighbour". Instead of that, there is a policy there of helping one's neighbour when the plight of unemployment strikes him down.

In the Caribbean, we are dealing with small populations, sometimes of only 70,000 or 80.000 and rarely of more than half a million. What the effects of uncontrolled inflation are likely to be in India, Sri Lanka or Bangladesh can only be left to the imagination, and those effects are likely to be still more severely felt in the near future. The diminished purchasing power of money in the West Indies is already acute, and the same is true of other Commonwealth countries. Now even the OPEC countries are beginning to feel the effect, and are thinking of raising still further the price of oil little realising that the high price of oil is the major cause of this inflation. Thus, the spiral will continue until finally the coin drops, and it is realised that the purchasing power of money can be restored only when the price of oil and of the world's staple commodities is lowered, rather than raised. Meanwhile, the temptation to resort to the easy way out remains, so that the price of oil may continue to rise still further with rises in the prices of everything else, and the increasing impoverishment of all the world's major industrialised countries, but especially of the Commonwealth countries, with their low GNP and low standards of subsistence.

As we look ahead into the future, the Commonwealth is bound to be confronted with yet graver problems than those in the past. Not only is this true of the Caribbean, the Pacific and the developing countries of Africa; it is also true of the great Commonwealth countries of Asia, with their teeming hundreds of millions of people and their alarming increase of populaton. Alas! the Commonwealth countries of Asia are turning towards the great dictatorships for help. They are turning to Russia and China, which extend aid on their own terms, which may sometimes be hard to accept. The situation in the countries of Asia may already be lost, for their problems are too vast for this country to deal with. But the other Commonwealth countries still need our help and look to us for leadership, and there is literally no other country which can take our place as the natural leader of the Commonwealth. I conclude on this note. The greatest contribution we can make to the Commonwealth cause is by achieving as soon as possible, however unpalatable it may be to some of us, a strong and stable Britain.

6.7 p.m.


My Lords, I have great pleasure in associating myself with the many noble Lords who have paid due compliments to my noble friend and colleague, Lord Garner, on the speech with which he introduced the debate—and, indeed, on having introduced the subject. He seemed to all of us to combine in rich measure everything from erudition through experience to emotion in his presentation of the subject. I had the great privilege of working with him, as it were, at the other end of the passage for a time in the late 1960s, and I am on public record that he and I never had a cross word. I hope that he will agree with my sentiment.

He has said with great modesty that in his long period at the Commonwealth Relations Office there were constant difficulties in the Commonwealth field. All of these he dealt with from his great experience and ability. I had perhaps a little special luck in this respect, which is why I have allowed myself to take part in this debate. First, largely under the noble Lord's direction, I sought to help the Commonwealth Relations Office and our country in India. Later it was my privilege to preside at the official level over the merger between the Commonwealth Office and the Foreign Office. I am happy to say that it happened with the greatest possible harmony, and I should like to go on record as saying that the first thing that the then Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, Mr. Michael Stewart, did after the merger was to see every single head of Commonwealth mission in London to assure each of them that the easy access to Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom would be totally unaffected by the merger.

I should also like to pay tribute, as have many other noble Lords, to the work of Mr. Arnold Smith, and I do not wish to leave out the work done by his wife, Mrs. Eve Smith. It is a pleasing historic irony that in the days of the so-called "old Commonwealth", the people who were strongest against any kind of Commonwealth secretariat were the Canadians and that, when that institution seemed needed—and it was very much needed—Canada provided a distinguished, experienced and very likeable high official to preside over its first period of existence.

When people talk about the history of Commonwealth Prime Ministers' meetings, they nearly always forget the one which took place in London in January 1969. The reason is that nobody had a row with anybody. It was conducted with what I can only call brilliance by our present Prime Minister, Mr. Harold Wilson. A number of very useful discussions took place both inside and outside the Conference. Notably, beginnings were made towards finding an ultimate solution in Nigeria, and towards dealing with the almost insoluble problem of Commonwealth immigration. It was a quiet success and I believe that it helped towards the rather different kinds of success of subsequent meetings. Sitting in the back row, the thing which struck me most was that these meetings are occasions at which 34—as there are now—Presidents and Prime Ministers are present. What is striking is not so much that one President or Prime Minister is speaking as that 33 Presidents and Prime Ministers are listening. Perhaps this is a unique situation in the world, because at the United Nations it does not happen that way. The Commonwealth Prime Ministers listen to each other with a kind of family pleasure and profit, and if there were nothing else about the Commonwealth these confidential, intimate and informal meetings at two-year intervals are, in terms of the inter-world relationship between nations, absolutely invaluable.

My Lords, we are speaking about this subject in the context of the EEC, to which I shall return; but perhaps I may make one or two further remarks on the Jamaica Conference because there has been so much reference to it. I have seen only one critical Commonwealth comment about it, which was perhaps to be expected, namely, that as the British had now chosen to integrate themselves into a particular region, perhaps Commonwealth countries should look to their own regions. Fortunately, the Kingston Conference had a word for it. In paragraph 5 it is stated that the Commonwealth involves itself in consultation, co-operation and collaborative action across and within regions. One could not put that better, because it underlines, once and for all, that the membership of regional organisations is in no way contrary to the purpose and mode of action of the Commonwealth.

Having said that, I find myself in agreement with a good deal of what the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, said. The Communiqué is in a sense a developing countries' charter. Therefore it does not really give a satisfactory balanced account of the view of the Commonwealth in relation to the rest of the world, and it causes one to think to oneself, what should be the next step in Commonwealth thinking? Perhaps where the Commonwealth could help a very great deal would be in the process of integrating people like the oil producers into the world economic system. There are of course Commonwealth countries that are producers—notably Nigeria. There is a very important country—India—which is not a big producer and where the only concession that has been made by the producers is deferred payments and no special privileges such as have been accorded particularly to Muslim countries.

My Lords, that leads one on to the whole problem of scale of development, and of partial development and non-development because, after all, the Commonwealth does not consist of one or two developed countries with the rest undeveloped. I personally now begin to worry somewhat about the classification of "rich" and "poor". One should get into the habit of talking about "richer" and "poorer", because countries do not stay still. Some countries are poorer than they were, while others are a great deal richer than they were. There is much Commonwealth machinery which can devote its thinking to the question both of raising the status of the very much poorer countries such as the Botswanas, the Lesothos—small countries with small resources with which to maintain themselves—and at the same time using influence with the countries which are growing rapidly richer, to join in this business of a levelling out.

I have also tried to think a little about aid philosophy. I have seen so much aid and so much possibility of enrichment in developing countries frustrated by the wrong things. I am led to wonder, for instance, whether in the organisation of capital aid—and this may exist already—we should not think more of what I should call a "maintenance agreement". One has seen wonderful capital plant laid down in a developing country, only to slow down in production simply because there was either an ignorance, or possibly an unwillingness, to maintain the plant at the state at which it was intended to be maintained. I do not know whether this is possible without an abuse of sovereignty; but surely the Commonwealth is now adult enough to be able to organise this kind of maintenance of growth, as opposed to sudden growth and gradual deterioration.

Again looking to the future. I think that the time has come when, with the greatest respect to the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, we should shy away from what I should call the "clichés of development". I differ here a little from the noble Lord, Lord Balniel: I do not think we should go about admitting to neo-Colonialism. This phrase was designed for a particular effect and prosecuted very actively by the late Dr. Nkrumah. But it does tend to ignore the capital effort that has been put into the developing countries by this and by other aid-giving countries or imperial countries, and has remained there as part of the economy of those countries. We should get away from this phrase which is used by people who wish to create differences between developed and developing countries—not to help the latter. Similarly, one finds that "multi-national companies" is now becoming an overworked phrase, whereas the whole range of activities of multi-national companies covers the whole spectrum of vice and virtue.

But in my experience I have also seen countries deliberately refusing the possibilities of creating more wealth because of a dogma about the source from which that wealth would be generated. I have seen, for instance, joint investment prevented by doctrine, when the fundamental interests of the people of the country would have desired that investment to take place. I am sure that both we and the receiving countries must develop a mentality by which we can avoid these accusations and the impoverishment which they bring. This should not be outside our political capabilities.

In this connection perhaps I may say a word about which Department of State should be responsible for aid. I believe this to be a non-question. It seems to me to ignore the primacy of Cabinet responsibility; and in these days Cabinets are welfare-minded and are interested in aid. It also ignores human nature, because if you take an aid responsibility away from, say, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and put it in a separate Ministry, that Ministry will, at a particular point of time, be just as subject to public opinion in the choice in the destination of aid. It may be argued that it will waver a little less than the political Department, but in fact political considerations cannot be avoided, how- ever much you try by nomenclature and by administration to pretend that they are not there.

My Lords, having thought a little about the future of some of these Commonwealth problems, may I refer to the EEC side of this argument. The great service that the confirmation by the British public of membership of the EEC has done to Commonwealth relations is that it has left the Commonwealth countries without any further doubt as to what we mean to do. As many noble Lords have said, most Commonwealth countries now agree that this is the right thing for us to do, but it must have been extremely exhausting, annoying and difficult for Commonwealth countries to be dealing with this member of the Commonwealth without really knowing which way we were to go, and without being able to make long-term arrangements with us because of uncertainty as to our future status. This problem is regulated, and we can talk with the other Commonwealth countries as a permanent member of the EEC, as a help to them, I trust, in the EEC, and, also, in our bilateral dealings with them. This must surely be a great gain for the stabilisation of United Kingdom Commonwealth relationships.

I should like to go further on the United Kingdom side in terms of our own external policy. A quarter of a century ago we used to speak of our external policy in terms of three circles: the Commonwealth, a special relationship with the United States and the relationship with Europe. The circles have become much smaller, the priorities have become different; but I maintain, contrary to all orthodox academic and journalistic opinion, that there is still a special relationship with the United States, and we as a country now find ourselves in a happily stabilised relationship with Europe, the Commonwealth and the United States. So our small circles of 1975 maintain many of the advantages without the unrealities of the bigger circles of 25 years ago.

I hope that these thoughts may be of some utility; one always looks forward from one Commonwealth Prime Ministers' and Presidents' meeting to another, and we look forward greatly to the time when this will occur again here at home. If, among all the members who will be there, there is one country which is at this moment in question it is, as the noble Lord, Lord Segal, emphasised, the United Kingdom. Everywhere in the Commonwealth countries, even if they are not much interested at any given moment in the idea of a Commonwealth, there is always a sensitivity to what is happening in the United Kingdom, and what the United Kingdom is saying about itself and about them. That is one of the tasks of the High Commissioner in any Commonwealth country.

I make no apology for saying—and this has been said before—that we simply must recover our ability to deal with our own problems, and our sense of diligence and obligation throughout the country. If we can do that by a degree of consensus in home policy, such as we achieve in external policy, we shall be playing our part in keeping the Commonwealth together in the way in which the Commonwealth should keep together, and it must be our devout wish that this will go on for many many years ahead.

6.22 p.m.


My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth. Though it is customary to mention some of the contents of the speech of the previous speaker, I am sure we shall read, as will people in authority, what he has said about the Commonwealth, in view of his great experience and administrative ability in that connection. This has been a splendid debate and the noble Lord, Lord Garner, has fired me in no uncertain manner to respond in the best way I am able. At this late hour, one throws away much of what one intended to say and I shall endeavour to respond in the manner in which he put forward his Motion, trying to speak more or less extemporarily.

We have had a most distinguished list of speakers—a former Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary; two Governor-Generals, I believe; two former High Commissioners of overseas territories and a former Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. But we have not had anybody speaking from the grass roots or anybody on the receiving end, other than the noble Lord, Lord Garner, who, with a towel around his head, worried about problems in the Common- wealth where we, on the other end of the line, were sweating to carry out the policies then enunciated by Her Majesty's Government. I want to give an impression of our reactions overseas during the period when we were evolving from an Empire to a Commonwealth and when the nations which are with us today were emerging.

It seems a long time ago now—I suppose it is some 40 to 45 years—since I left these shores as a young man selected by the then Colonial Office to serve in a country overseas. I remember well the great pride I had of sailing in a ship across the Bay of Biscay, into the Mediterranean and seeing the White Ensign of the British Navy in more or less every port. It seemed at that time that power was everywhere in our hands and it was an exhilarating feeling to believe that one was carrying out one's duty and that one had a worth-while task. I had not been a year overseas when, in about 1928, there was a visit from a former Colonial Secretary, the late father of the present Lord Harlech, Mr. Ormsby-Gore, M.P. We were all lined up and he came into the office and asked, "Do you know why you are here?" I replied that I thought we were there to administer the territory to the best of our ability. He said, "That is not the prime object of your being here. You are here to carry out the task of eventually guiding these people to self-government." That was 45 years ago.

A few months later I remember visiting the Dutch possessions of Java and Sumatra. I made it my business to find out whether those territories of Holland adopted the same principles in connection with colonial policy as we did. No such policy or system was in operation. It appeared to me that the policy of Holland at that time—and Holland is in the Community and so we shall be dealing with her in connection with the Commonwealth—was that those territories would remain an appendage of Holland by the intermarriage with the local people in those territories which was very much encouraged. It seemed to me also that France had no policy such as ours and neither had Germany. Germany had lost her colonies at the end of the first world war. Now that we are in the European Community, I feel that we come to our task in connection with the Commonwealth—a free association of some 34 nations—in a particularly strong position to represent its interests and this is not something which we should forget.

Mention has been made tonight of the value of our Queen as Head of the Commonwealth, and of the connection of the Royal Family in that respect. I do not know how many years ago it is, but, when I was in the jungle about 12,000 miles from England, there was a broadcast from London at the time of the Jubilee of the late King George V, Her Majesty's grandfather. He seemed very tired at the end of a rather long reign. I remember a Malay turning to me and saying that the broadcast had given him the feeling that he and those with him wanted to do something better with their own lives. I have often thought of that and of our effect in bringing these countries forward, of how they were inspired by our institutions and Royalty, and of the fact that we were able to send the King's message over that distance to that remote part of the globe.

Another aspect which is well worth mentioning is the courage of British Governments and the people who were responsible for the Commonwealth and Colonial Offices. At the time when there was a Communist insurrection in Malaya, it was decided as a matter of policy, presumably over here, that it might be a good idea if people with some experience in running trade unions were sent out there.

At the time, we civil servants held up our hands in some horror and said it was dreadful that we should be saddled, among all our other difficulties, with trade union leaders who would be trying to sort out labour relations. But they came and they were of extreme assistance to us in the problems that were facing us. I give that as an example of our enlightened way of leading an Empire to a Commonwealth and a Commonwealth of nations to independent nationhood. We had a tremendous amount of courage. We had institutions which were respected, and I think the local peoples have never forgotten the way we showed them what should be done even in difficult circumstances.

I have now come to the end of what I wanted to say. I have already said how uplifted I have been to hear what has been said this evening. We still have problems in the Commonwealth, but I hope that in the years of our association with the Common Market which lie ahead we shall not become too irritated over certain methods of government that may have come to the fore in certain parts of the Commonwealth. At the moment there are in a number of these territories what one might call "beneficial dictatorships", but it is possible that in time, provided that law and order can be maintained under a system of this kind, the democracies that we hope for in those territories will bear fruit. I would hope that in the interim period we shall deal with any problems which arise in a cool and constructive manner and that we shall not be tempted into any attitude of excessive criticism. I am sure, my Lords, there is a great future for our Commonwealth.

6.32 p.m.

The Earl of LYTTON

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Gridley, with his extempore speech. I have the same problem about rejecting so much of what I have prepared. I write my speech notes while sitting in the Chamber, but then find that I am unable to read what I have written, so it comes to the same thing!

I rather sympathised with the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, over what I regard as a rather immature little print, in other words this Communique. It is very unbalanced, and one detects the disproportionate voice of Africa in it. I think it was Sir Charles Elliot who wrote in 1905 that the principal talent of the African was his oratory. That appears in this print: there is quite a disproportionate amount of the voice of Africa in it.

I will join with all others in welcoming the excellent timing of this Motion and the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Garner, introduced it. To me it is especially welcome, because I had two grandfathers—people generally have two, although I remember that once somebody claimed to have three. One of my grandfathers was the Viceroy who proclaimed Queen Victoria Empress of India, and the other was his lifelong great friend with whom he never quarrelled but who in the same place and at the same time proclaimed the demise of this Empire.

I feel that in May and June of this year we have reached a reconciliation between those two themes in a Commonwealth which accepts us in a new and larger role within Europe. I think that both my grandfathers would be well pleased with this development. It is, of course, a slow business. Another ancestor 1,200 years ago started the Holy Roman Empire. It has taken time, and this will take time, too. It is unfortunate that political life is so conditioned by periods of weeks or of five years, and so on.

Owing to the relationship to my rebel grandfather, I was once invited as a guest of Mr. Nehru's Government to travel round India with all expenses paid, simply to honour my rebel grandfather. I believe at the time I was a guest at a tea party which was given in the garden of the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, who was at that time High Commissioner.


Yes, that is so, my Lords.

The Earl of LYTTON

I spoke, my Lords, to a large number of meetings, expecting to find a great interest in my rebel grandfather; but I found that almost all the questions were asked about Viceroy Lytton and practically nobody had heard of the rebel Blunt. However, my illustrations I take from Africa, partly because it was an African in Africa who was responsible for my speaking in your Lordships' House. It was in 1961, I believe, and upon hearing that I did not attend this House—I did not tell him all the reasons; for instance, that I live a long way off and had not the necessary money or resources to travel at that time—he took me to task. He said: "You are a Senator, Sir. You have a duty: you know about our affairs and few people do. Allah has made you a Senator by heredity of your governing institutions in a great country. Before we part, will you promise me that you will get up and speak in your House?" That is why I am here at all. I spoke less than a year later and, having been beguiled by the charm and wisdom of your Lordships' House, I am still at it.

I should like to try to account for the fact that Africa is better disposed towards us now than it was a few years ago. I take the case of Mr. Tom Mboya—a fellow Roman Catholic and an African—who went to see President Kennedy and recorded in his book as follow: Look at what the Europeans did to Africa. Here it is all carved up: look at it on the map, or words to that effect. The map showed the States of Africa as they were in the Colonial era, thereby conveying one of the falsest pictures of Africa that one could possibly imagine. We did not go to divide Africa. We united Africa. We converted 4,000 tribes into 40 nation-States. These nation-States are created in our own imperial image and likeness. Each one is a mini-Empire. In Kenya, for instance, there are 50 different tribes. At the time of independence the Nationalists had the illusion that black was a unifying factor. Black is no more unifying than white. They are going to discover—and it will take them many many years to do it—how to govern these mini-Empires. That is why at the moment it is not democracy they are dealing out. It is the nearest picture they can get to the paternalism that we applied when we were the Colonial Power. We did it with very little effort.

I can remember an African lance-corporal and six men handing over a section of Jubaland to Italians who took over—I think it was in 1924—with a company of five officers and 150. I myself was a solitary white man, 100 miles walk from the next, in charge of a district of 10,000 square miles. It was easy and we had great friendship with these people. I was saved once after swimming in Lake Rudolph by a man who had no need to come out and rescue me, because I was swimming quite well. I was more or less obliged to risk the crocodiles. He had no need to, but he came out with a cord in his mouth and pushing a plank in order that I might not be eaten. We were on very excellent terms in this way.

This preoccupation of Africans now with preserving what they call their territorial integrity is something to treasure. It has on its borders, however, some unpleasant arrangements—provinces in the wrong country. In this connection I should like to refer to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts. We have not condoned "— he said in a debate last week— nor will we ever condone or support, the use of violence in Rhodesia or in any other part of Africa ".—[Official Report, 10th June, 1975 col. 294.] I am glad to see a representative of the Foreign Office wearing what I call the winter garment of repentance, though I am not quite sure whether or not it is repentance. We not long ago had a war on the frontiers of Kenya which lasted four years, in which we supplied all the logistics; the commander of the army was seconded from the British Army; similarly, with the Navy; similarly with the Air Force. I wonder whether the noble Lord can assure us that this kind of adventure is at an end. For example, Kenya has a pact with Ethiopia. Ethiopia, which is the least desirable of all the empires that have appeared in the Victorian era, may disintegrate. Are we likely to be involved in preserving any part of it for anybody? I feel we should withdraw and leave Africa to settle its affairs. This affair concerns not only the frontiers of Kenya. It extends all the way up about 1,000 miles to Eritrea. This is an area of turbulence and I trust we shall not become further involved in a military sense.

I turn now from this little aspect to one other. I choose President Jomo Kenyatta as probably the most stable leader in Africa today. I have no esteem for all that he was associated with in the past, but 1 think if I were a citizen of Kenya with a vote I should vote for him today. President. Kenyatta a few days ago addressed a meeting of a quarter of a million of his African supporters. He announced that in Kenya the indigenous Negro is a first-class citizen; the Arab, a second-class citizen; the Indian, a third-class citizen; and the European, fourth. And he was wildly and enthusiastically cheered at every stage of his hierarchy of racial discrimination. I do not think I mind terribly about the speech. I am very sorry, however, for the action taken against the Indians. We all know the situation; I do not wish to dwell on it today. But that is something which Rhodesians cannot help looking at.

There is in this Communiqué an overemphasis on that one element which has not been settled, the Rhodesian element. Out of the population of the Commonwealth, what is Rhodesia? Is it not something like 0.1 of 1 per cent. of the whole population? This emphasis on Rhodesia is a disproportionate affair.

President Kenyatta omitted one classification from his hierarchy of four. The tribe he belongs to, the Kikiyu, dominate the scene and are likely to do so and it is difficult to imagine any other tribe doing so. There is no racial equality in Africa. There is no democracy. Half the leaders are illegal. Some of them have been illegal three times over. To choose one of them, the most harmless of them all, Smith, for over-consideration means that this matter is out of proportion. Let it be solved ambulando. I am in favour of ultimate majority rule, but there is this horrible haste. We cannot escape a blood bath by moving too fast.

The Motion relates us and the Commonwealth to our new relations in the European Economic Community. The Communiquée refers, and many speakers have referred, to the gulf between the rich and the poor. I am never impressed by gulfs. I have had my periods of poverty in life. I have not the least objection to somebody like Onassis being immensely wealthy. The gap does not worry me; nor should it worry them. The gulf between myself and my tribesmen did not worry them at the time. What we are worried about, surely, is the excessive poverty of some. Whether there is a gap or whether there is not, it is the excessive poverty that is important, and we are encouraged to aid and trade, as many have said.

I would give a few words of what I have learnt on the subject of aid. Trade, I leave to others. I have seen aid applied in different ways, and not applied at all. The principal immediate aid that I feel Europe should provide for the needy world is food. The idea of these "mountains" of food being destroyed, or being passed over to another wealthy country such as the Soviet Union, and not collected for distribution to the areas which are starving owing to drought, is a horrifying thought. There should be a bank of food to feed the hungry everywhere. Secondly, if we are to aid, we should to do it with care. Very frequently money gets into the wrong hands.

I have seen projects of three kinds. Projects are what should be gone in for, but I have seen a huge hospital provided by the EEC on a scale and in proportion that was not wanted, either by the Prime Minister of the country concerned or by anybody else. Then I was shown two projects of another kind. The Americans in one port were providing a banana port; the Soviet Unon in anther port were providing quays, deep-water wharfs, for transportation of animals alive. I was shown round by the engineers of both. The Americans were exceedingly efficient but they made no use whatever of the indigenous population. They did not make any reference to it. The Russians made every use of the local population. I spoke to the Russian engineer and asked him a number of questions. The Russians used local labour to the best possible advantage and did everything in consultation with the local Commissioner. The local Commissioner was present at all our interviews. I asked the Russian: "How do you like this place?" His interpreter said: "Mr. Patapov says that he likes 100° of frost. Here he has 100° of heat and he is longing to return to his skis and his dog, which will happen when we complete this port in November."

I think that there are ways in which help can be wrongfully and wastefully given, and as we go into Europe more fully—we know these Africans but a lot of Europe does not—we must remember that there are mini-Empires in Africa, that there are still 4,000 different tribes and that they do not all like each other yet. I am sure that we should have a great future in Europe with the Commonwealth.

6.51 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to add to those of other noble Lords my own expression of gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Garner, for initiating this very important debate today. When I made my maiden speech some three years ago he welcomed me into this House, and I should like to return the compliment to him tonight and say how very much I enjoyed his speech. I listened carefully to his very comprehensive description of the meaning and the problems of the Commonwealth. The debate's importance has been demonstrated by the number and the experience of noble Lords who have spoken this afternoon. I think that the whole House is agreed that the Commonwealth is of continued value and needs continual support.

As has been made clear by the noble Lord, Lord Ballantrae, this afternoon, Mr. Arnold Smith, the former Commonwealth Secretary-General, must be given much of the credit for the present high esteem in which the Commonwealth is held as an international forum for debate. Once he described the Commonwealth in the following words: Far from being a cosy club of like-minded members held together by tradition and sentiment, the Commonwealth is a voluntary grouping of diverse nations who, for hardheaded and practical reasons, recognise the value of building on well-established relationships and on shared experiences and common institutions, to consult and co-operate among themselves on practical problems". Until quite recently, however, it was thought by many that this collaboration and consultation was only between Britain on the one hand and the Commonwealth countries on the other. This Imperial mentality, which has been mentioned several times this afternoon, tended to mar the proceedings of the Commonwealth Conferences—notably when the Heads of Government met and "Britain-bashing" became the order of the day. The situation was not helped by the increasing membership and the resulting loss of the hitherto customary informality of proceedings.

I believe that the "crunch" came at the Singapore Conference in 1971 over the South African arms issue, when the Member-States forgot that it was the right of each country to decide what policies to follow in its own national interest. Luckily, this mistake, and the long diatribes and set speeches which dominated the Singapore Conference, have not been repeated. With the much-needed alterations to procedures, the customary informality was regained at Ottawa in 1973, and I agree with my noble friend Lord Balniel that the Ottawa Conference proved to be the turning point in Commonwealth co-operation. I think it is important that this customary informality and the attitude of co-operation was maintained at Jamaica last month.

The purpose of these Commonwealth meetings has been not so much to find a common policy between Member-States or to plan concerted actions, but rather that each Member-State should understand and appreciate the motives and purposes that lie behind the policies which each is pursuing—or, to use the words of Lord Normanbrooke: The object has always been to reach the highest measure of understanding, not the least measure of agreement. Thus, my Lords, the Commonwealth is a unique association which has no parallel in other political societies—a point that was brought out by my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel. The fact that the leaders of one-quarter of the population of the world feel that it is worthwhile to come together every other year to discuss problems of mutual concern is, I believe, evidence in itself of the continued importance of the Commonwealth.

As noble Lords know—it has been brought out this afternoon—this cooperation and consultation are carried on at both Governmental and non-Governmental levels. The Prime Ministers' Conference is just the apex of the pyramid of Commonwealth consultation. Its more functional co-operation at lower levels has been expanded greatly in recent years and demonstrates the growing equality and interchange of ideas between Member-States.

The Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation which was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Balniel is just one good example of this new approach which has been taken by the Members of the Commonwealth. A significant feature of the Fund is that it does not operate on the principle that the granting of assistance is a one-way process between developed countries and the developing Members of the Commonwealth. In many cases it is the developing countries themselves which are helping one another. In fact, after Canada and the United Kingdom, Nigeria is now the third largest contributor to the Fund.

Regrettably, the United Nations General Assembly and the various other international forums for discussion have been dominated by an atmosphere of confrontation between the industrialised and the developing countries. One has only to look at what happened at UNCTAD III in Santiago de Chile in 1972, or at the special United Nations Session on Raw Materials and Aid last year, to see this divisive process in action. Consequently, the Commonwealth provides an invaluable and unique institution where black and white, rich and poor, just might have a chance of finding some of the solutions to the world's pressing problems. The failure of the Paris Conference between the oil producers and consumers had made the setting up of a group of experts by the Commonwealth Heads of State all the more important. Their discussions on the so-called New International Economic Order and on general commodity questions could provide an example of behaviour and cooperation for United Nations debate later this year between the developed and developing countries.

Since the group of experts met for the first time on 10th June, I should be grateful if the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, could tell the House the names of the members of the group. As they are being required to prepare an interim report for the August meeting of the Commonwealth Ministers in preparation for the Seventh Special United Nations Session of the General Assembly and in view of the vast and comprehensive terms of reference, which are laid out in the Jamaica Communiqué, perhaps the noble Lord could also tell the House what particular topics and problems the group will be concentrating upon in their interim report. Will they concentrate just on the Wilson proposals, or will their debate be wide-ranging over the whole subject of commodities and development assistance, as was done at the United Nations Special Session in April of last year?

Of course, much of the political discussion between Member-States recently has concentrated on the question of Southern Africa. In view of the Unstarred Question last week of my noble friend Lord Salisbury and of the fact that some noble Lords have mentioned the question of Southern Africa, I have only one question to put to the noble Lord on this matter. The Communiqué which was issued after the Ottawa Conference said: Heads of Government reviewed the efforts of the indigenous people of territories in Southern Africa to achieve self-determination and independence and agreed on the need to give every humanitarian assistance to all those engaged in such efforts ". The Communiqué continued: The British Government reserved its position in relation to the last proposal in circumstances in which assistance might be converted into military purposes. However, my Lords, the Communiqué issued after the Kingston meeting says only the following: Heads of Government reiterated their support for humanitarian assistance to the indigenous peoples of Southern Africa in their efforts to achieve self-determination and independence. No proviso and no caveat has been inserted by the British Government on this question, and therefore I must ask the noble Lord what precisely the Government mean by "humanitarian assistance" to those indigenous peoples in their attempts to achieve self-determination and independence? Has there been a change in Government policy? Do the Government now accept the resolution passed by the National Executive Council of the Labour Party and are they now willing to give aid to nationalist movements in Southern Africa? I feel that this is a very important point, which deserves a full and comprehensive answer, even more so since I gave the noble Lord some warning that I was going to raise the question.

As the House knows, there have been real and substantial changes in the economic relationship between the Member-States of the Commonwealth. Trade between Britain and the other member countries has declined in importance as a percentage of our total world trade; the pound has been floated, the sterling area has been brought to an end and the Government are no longer guaranteeing the value of sterling deposits of the Commonwealth Member-States. In short, Britain has declined in importance as a market for Commonwealth goods and investments. This is why I believe that the Commonwealth countries were at least not against, and most were in fact in favour of, our joining the European Community, since for much of the Commonwealth our entry will provide a greater opportunity for trade, investment and aid.

For the 22 developing Commonwealth countries the Community provides greater economic benefits under the Lomé Convention and the Stabex scheme than Britain could ever have given them had this country remained outside the EEC. The preferences that the Community is making available to the 22 countries are far more valuable than those that the United Kingdom was giving the Commonwealth. The Lomé Convention means duty-free access for some 99 per cent. of the exports of the associated States, and from the point of view of the associated Commonwealth countries it means an increased market from 60 million to 250 million people. However, it is important that the Lomé Convention should not just become a publicity exercise for the European Community.

This point was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, and I think quite rightly so. It is important that the spirit as well as the letter of its terms are lived up to. Already there have been doubts expressed by the 46 associated States at their meeting in Guyana about the intentions of the European Community. It is important that the Preamble to the Lomé Convention, which was signed by 55 countries and which states that they hope to create a new pattern for the relationship between the industrialised and developing countries, should not be mere words and that the agreed consultation procedures should be fully implemented. I also agree with my noble friend Lord Alport that it is important that attempts should be made over the next decade or so to expand the benefits given to the 46 countries to other Third World countries, notably those in Latin America, which are certainly feeling rather isolated at the moment.

Because 80 per cent. of Britain's aid goes to Commonwealth countries, many of which of course are in the least developed category, I believe that Britain has the experience and thus a vital role to play in ensuring that the European Development Fund and the Community's aid policies are properly thought out. The report of the Commonwealth Ministerial meeting on Food Production and Rural Development, which was held in London last March, is an important step in the process of reassessing development and trade policies with the Third World. The noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, mentioned the need for reassessment of aid policies to the Third World. I think this is important and it should be a continual process; any aid programme would be worse than useless if it remained static. The recogni- tion that aid programmes must be part and parcel of a country's general policy, both internal and external, and not just some form of Sunday charity has, I believe, been accepted by the Commonwealth as a whole. This comprehensive approach must now be pressed upon the Community.

As the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, pointed out, not all the Commonwealth countries have benefited to any great extent from our joining the Common Market. Trade and co-operation agreements have been signed with some of the Commonwealth developing countries in Asia: for example, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. They are also able to benefit under the generalised scheme of preferences and also benefit under the GATT, but I think it would be a denial of the fact to pretend they are getting the same kind of benefits that are available to the 46 associated countries under the Lomé Convention.

Likewise, the Community has shied away from having trade agreements with the developed Commonwealth countries. Certain provisions have of course been made for New Zealand dairy products, but this has been an exception. On the whole, the Community seems to have been influenced by two main factors: the attitude of the United States to any possible extension of the European trading area and the fear that these Commonwealth countries would not fit into the structure of Western European trade. The ideas and motives behind consolidating Western Europe and the Mediterranean and extending relations with former colonies and other Third World countries, do not fit in easily with the thought of reaching agreements with rich developed countries, which are likely to be effective competitors within the EEC and elsewhere. In May last year the Canadian Government requested a comprehensive trade agreement with the EEC in order to establish closer relations with the Community. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, when he replies at the end of the debate, could say how the talks have been progressing and whether any problems have arisen.

While it is true that there have been dramatic changes, some good and some not quite so beneficial, within the Commonwealth, I believe it can only benefit from our being a member of the European Community. Like my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel, I see no inconsistency between the concept of the Community and the concept of the Commonwealth. But in many ways questions of trade, aid and investment within the Commonwealth are not the most important parts of that association. The degree of consultation and co-operation at all levels is something that makes the Commonwealth unique and worth preserving. It was thought remarkable that during the negotiations for the Lomé Convention, 46 developing countries could achieve a united front in their negotiations with the Nine. What I believe is remarkable is that 34 developed and underdeveloped countries can now meet together and discuss problems of mutual interest without rancour or bitterness and feel that the exercise is worth while. Perhaps with a bit of luck the rest of the world and the Community will learn from their example.

7.9 p.m.


My Lords, I think every noble Lord and the noble Baroness who have taken Dart in this very valuable and important debate has paid tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Garner, not only for making this debate possible but also for the tone and content of the admirable speech with which he introduced the debate. As he said, the outstanding fact about the Commonwealth is that it is there. There are, perhaps, two principal reasons why 34 nations take great pride in membership of the Commonwealth. This is one's experience when meeting them, no matter what is said in derogation of the United Kingdom. Their pride in membership of the Commonwealth and their great respect for this country survive and, indeed, increase. Despite a very wide variety of geographical, racial and social circumstances, these 34 countries have a very great deal in common. It is not trite to remind ourselves at this stage of how much there is in common between us in the Commonwealth. We can speak a little more freely about this, now that our continued membership of the Community has been asserted.

As the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, reminded us—and others mentioned this, to—othe English language is both a world language and a Commonwealth language. There is a real sense in which English is not simply the language of the English, but a magnificent amalgam of the vocabulary and idiom of the world; a romantic language, one of high practicality and, as we have heard, one that is peculiarly fitted to deal with scientific and technical, as well as political and philosophical, subjects.

The other great common factor of our experience in the Commonwealth is the concept of freedom within the law, and of democracy. Although I always listen with respect and pleasure to the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, I felt he was rather "going it" this evening, when he even denied the presence of aspirations to democracy by most of the Commonwealth. I prefer the way the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, put it. I do not think I have taken down the exact words he spoke, but it struck me at the time that he put it extremely well—where the goal of human rights and freedom is never out of sight. That is profoundly true for many members of the Commonwealth, and is an almost complete fact for many others. It is a variable factor of their experience. But I believe that in those cases where they have so far at least been able to advance along the path of democracy, the goal is not out of sight.

The noble Lord, Lord Gridley, also expressed the hope and belief—and he was speaking from a knowledge of many of these countries—that democracy will arise in countries where it seems not to be the accepted form of government at the present moment. I believe that social democracy is the wave of the future, and that totalitarianism, the one-Party State, or however it is described, is not for the future. We in the Commonwealth should not permit ourselves any degree of depression about the prospects of human life and democracy.

My Lords, the result of these common factors of experience that bind us together, as the noble Lord, Lord Garner, reminded us, is a large number of quite practical links between these 34 countries. They include the Commonwealth Secretariat, which has become an institution of practical worth; the conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers, which has become something like an institution, and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conferences. These are three facts of institutionalised practice in the Commonwealth. I do not think we should assert that it is held together by a total absence of institutions; this is not so. We have indeed heard from many noble Lords that there are active professional technical bodies covering air transport, agriculture, education, science, telecommunications--to name only a few spheres of activity.

Then, there is the other broad reason for the effective survival of this remarkable association; that is, the fact that it is an evolving association. The transition from imperium to self-government is one of the marvels of history. It is something that the British genius effected in an exemplary way. As we look back, we need to remind ourselves of the quite extraordinary achievement of this transition, not continually to be picking at the mistakes, the shortcomings, which were very much in the minority in that vast and historic process.

Since the transition from imperium to self-government and the association of free nations, there has been the evolution of the Commonwealth itself. Some have chosen to become republics, others monarchies. All have seen the value of a head of the association, who is the British Queen. All have seen the value, especially perhaps in the light of recent transatlantic experience, of a long stop, of a head of the whole, who is not politically involved, but extremely significant. This builds up to a statement of reality, not of romance. Indeed, the recent meeting of Commonwealth Heads of Government at Kingston further illustrates that reality. There, 33 Governments—I do not know which was the 34th, which did not turn up—attended, mostly represented by Heads of Government, representing a wide range of countries, large and small, representing in turn views and interests from every party of the world. They all sat down together to exchange views and, at the end of the day, issued a statement from broad consensus on the important economic and social questions of our time, in an atmosphere of very frank but constructive discussion.

My Lords, there is only one other international forum larger than this—the United Nations. Of course, the discussions of the Commonwealth are contributive to those of the World Assembly of the United Nations. The Kingston Communiqué and the action that has followed should assist the Seventh Special Assembly of the United Nations later this year, when it comes to consider the best ways of promoting a more equitable economic arrangement in the world. Equally important to all other international fora, including the United Nations, is the fact that the meeting at Kingston showed how sterile confrontation from entrenched ideological, nationalistic and even racial positions can be replaced by fruitful debate, aiming at the fullest possible co-operation. Here, the phrase used by the noble Lord, Lord Balniel, "the twin pillars of consultation and co-operation", is very apposite. The fact and reality of that phrase was very well illustrated in the deliberations in Kingston.

My Lords, it is not only we, in Britain, who recognise the value of such meetings. Other Heads of Government are also seized of their importance. At the meeting in Ottawa in 1973 there was a clear desire to get away from the arid confrontation and to seize the opportunity for fruitful exchange of views. We must hope that a similar spirit of co-operative discussion will spread to other international fora. I believe that our Commonwealth colleagues realise that they can, perhaps, in their own discussions assist larger and wider fora to achieve a basis of discussion rather than dispute.

The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, queried whether the Heads of Government at Kingston had asserted with quite the unanimity and force which I thought they had that our continued membership of the EEC had their full-hearted support. I can only refer him to the actual Communiqué, which was not drafted by this country; we did not ask for it; it was drafted by the Heads of Government meeting itself. In no way did we ask any member present to state a position on our continuing membership or not of the EEC. They said what they thought, and at the end of the day, without any prompting from our own Prime Minister or anybody from this country the Statement was made. I leave it to the House to assess its importance. I think it was very important indeed, and it will help us in our continued membership of the EEC to promote Commonwealth interests, as we know we can and as we know we have been doing in the last year or so.

So the decision in Britain has indeed been Yes to the EEC but it has not been No to the Commonwealth. Far from it. It has been a recognition that we can and should be a member of both organisations. And it is even more positive than that. Through our membership of the Commonwealth we bring to the EEC links with a quarter of the nations of the U.N., a quarter of the nations of the globe. Through our membership of the EEC we can make sure that the voice of the Commonwealth can be heard more clearly than before in the deliberations in Brussels. The Commonwealth will continue to benefit from our membership of the EEC. Renegotiation with all that it obtained for Commonwealth countries, is over. But this does not mean that we shall not have the interests of the Commonwealth countries very much in mind in the continuing business of the Community.

In this connection I should like to give an assurance to noble Lords, and to the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, who raised the question of extension of the kind of provision adopted in the Lomé Convention to other countries, particularly the Asian Commonwealth countries. I want to give an assurance that we shall continue to work hard for satisfactory arrangements to be concluded between the EEC and the Asian Commonwealth nations. Beyond that, looking to non-Lomé countries which are not members of the Commonwealth, it will be our aim as members of the Community to ensure that this splendid start in the Lomé Convention is extended as soon as possible, as soon as acceptable to everybody, to other underdeveloped countries.

While I am referring to this point, perhaps I might deal with a cognate point raised by my noble friend Lord Brockway, who referred to a certain discontent regarding delay and obstruction in implementing the Lomé Convention. I am not aware of any obstruction in the implementation of this Convention. The Convention does not enter into force until it has been ratified by the Community countries and two-thirds of the ACP countries. This might cause a certain delay. That is not obstruction. But, recognising that some of the problems were urgent, the Community has agreed to bring forward the trade provisions of the Lomé Convention; I believe I made this clear when I presented the Statement to the House at the time. We hope that these will be put into effect on 1st July. That is rather jumping the gun before full ratification has been achieved. It has entailed a very great deal of hard work on the part of the Commission and member countries, especially ourselves, who are keen to see the earliest possible implementation of this excellent Convention.

On the question of Botswana and Swaziland beef, we agree that the position on beef exports is quite unsatisfactory, and my right honourable friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary will be raising this in the Community in the appropriate Council. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Alport, and certainly the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, who pressed the point about non-associated territories. There is a good deal to be said about that very important point, but I will confine myself to one sentence.

Our posture in the Community, and that of our partners there—but certainly ours—is to extend as soon as and as far as possible the greatest preference to developing nations outside the existing provisions of assistance. There are some who are not helped by Lomé or indeed by GSP or GATT, or are not helped in all the particulars in which they should be helped. It will be a general principle of our policy that we shall look for opportunities of filling in these gaps and assisting these countries in specifics so far as possible.

We shall continue to look for improvements to the Generalised Scheme of Preferences as a whole, and when the Community decides on specific improvements each year the developing countries who are not signatories of the Lomé Convention will gain increasing benefits from the scheme. The next Development Council will be examining how to implement the Community's decision in principle to give aid to the non-Lomé countries. We shall continue to press for a generous decision, and we shall be seeking with our Community partners other ways in which we can implement the joint declaration of intent in relation to the Commonwealth Asian countries.

The noble Lord, Lord Balniel, made what I thought was an excellent speech which set out a common purpose and a common belief on both sides of the House. I had to work very hard to find anything in it with which I disagreed. He suggested among other things that we should increase the money which we give to the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation, possibly by diverting to it funds which we now pay into EEC channels. As he knows, we have decided recently to raise our contribution to the Co-operation Fund from £700,000 to £.1.5 million.

I doubt whether it would be good to make further increases at the expense of the EEC Fund. Our aim rather would be to continue to do everything we can to swell the Commonwealth Technical Fund, and also to make an increasingly effective reality of the EEC Fund. It is a matter for consideration, for balance, and I only express my own personal doubts as to whether this would improve the position. I am grateful to him for making this and other interesting proposals for consideration.

The noble Earl, Lord Cowley, asked me about the commercial agreement now being negotiated between the EEC and Canada. I could not give details here of progress. It would be somewhat inappropriate to give details of negotiations which, to a large extent, must be confidential, but I take the noble Earl's point. I want to give him the assurance that we have always been in full support of agreements of this kind—as witness the way in which we supported the agreements with India and other Asian countries—and similarly in regard to Canada. We are keen to see that there should be a closer association of Canada, as with some other countries, with the EEC. There are one or two points analogous to this which the noble Lord made, which I may pick up later.

It would be tempting to deal with the question of what is called a new economic world order—possibly the subject for a separate debate. One understands the concern of noble Lords, such as my noble friend Lord Brockway, about the need constantly to improve the condition of the life and economy of the poorer countries, and to diminish the gap so far as we can. This depends not only on the strength with which the claims and needs of the under-developed are put forward, but on the extent to which the developed are prepared to meet those claims and needs. Among the developed countries—developed in the sense that one groups them with the rich countries of the world —are neighbours and, presumably, close friends of the under-developed. Therefore, countries like Britain, those in Western Europe and North America have a certain right to look at every proposal that is brought forward for bridging this gap. We shall wish to see, first, whether everybody will play his part, the new rich as well as the old rich; and also to ensure that countries, to whom it is almost normal to go to ask for contributions, consider whether or not the first and fundamental step, as my noble friend Lord Segal pointed out in their cases, is that they should put their own affairs in order, regain their economic strength and re-establish their relationships, as my noble friend Lord Gore-Booth said, so that they reach a point of strength and capacity which will enable them to make the biggest possible contribution to the rehabilitation of the poorer countries.

As there is an important debate to follow, I shall not detain the House longer. I shall merely say that apart from the strong institutions, as I call them, which keep the Commonwealth together, the House will be glad to know that we have reactivated the regular but informal meetings of Commonwealth Missions in New York in relation to United Nations discussions. These meetings had lapsed, but from the spring of 1974 they were restored and I am glad to say that they are continuing most usefully and enthusiastically. Some of those who have been most critical of the British leadership in the Commonwealth were among the keenest to reactivate the Commonwealth meetings before and during the deliberations in New York. Commonwealth contacts at the United Nations have served as a bridge between various groupings to which those members belong, and we believe that such exchanges of views are particularly important in the period running up to the Seventh Special Session of the UN which opens on 2nd September.

This debate has served a purpose. It has given us an opportunity of assessing the position of the Commonwealth and our own position within it, at a time when our continued membership of the Community has been put beyond doubt. If I may quote once more my noble friend Lord Gore-Booth, it has also helped us to re-assess our relationship to the three points of friendship and co-operation to which this country has traditionally looked to North America, half of which is in the Commonwealth, anyway, and the other half of which, the United States, is of an analogous spirit and purpose to the Commonwealth; to the Commonwealth itself, and to the Community. But we do not stop there. We look to those three points of strength and friendship as points from which we, the. United Kingdom, wish to work. We should work to go on from those points to what is perhaps a more comprehensive forum; to do our best to strengthen and develop the ultimate world forum, which is the United Nations.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but I should be grateful if he could give the House the names of the group of experts, and also answer the question about humanitarian assistance to nationalist groups in Southern Africa, which I raised with him this morning.


My Lords, on the more important of the two questions, I can only reassert what Her Majesty's Government, through their spokesmen in another place and here said, which is that every aid we give to movements of that sort is explicitly for peaceful purposes. That applies throughout Africa, and indeed wherever these cases arise. On the question of the membership of the group of experts, there is rather a long list. With the noble Lord's permission and that of the House, I will circulate it in the Official Report.

Following is the list referred to:


Chairman: Mr. Alister McIntyre, Grenada, Secretary General of CARICOM.

Britain: Sir Donald Maitland, Deputy Under Secretary, FCO.

New Zealand: Professor A. B. Brownlie, Professor of Economics, University of Canterbury.

Bangladesh: Professor Nurul Islam, Deputy Chairman of the Bangladesh Planning Commission.

Tanzania: Hon. Amir Jamal, Tanzanian Minister for Commerce and Industry.

Malaysia: Mr. P. S. Lai, Chairman of the GATT Council of Representatives.

Zambia: Mr. M. Lishomwa, Special Assistant on Economic Affairs to the Zambian President.

India: Mr. S. S. Marathe, Chairman, Bureau of Industrial Costs and Prices, Indian Ministry of Industry and Civil Supplies.

Nigeria: Professor H. M. A. Onitiri, Director of Research, Nigerian Institute of Economic and Social Research, Ibadan University.

Canada: Mr. Larry A. H. Smith, Canadian High Commissioner in Barbados."

7.39 p.m.


My Lords, it seems to me a long time since I resumed my seat, and there is very little more for me to add. I should be less than human if I did not confess that this has been one of the proudest days of my life. I spent the whole of my working life in the defence of the Commonwealth in one way or another. Therefore, I certainly know all the frustrations and irritations that can come from working in that sphere. Nevertheless, I have always been profoundly and emotionally a Commonwealth man, and this debate today has been deeply rewarding to me. It should be extremely encouraging to Commonwealth opinion. I hope, too, that it will be helpful in this country. Certainly, several extremely valuable and interesting ideas for future policy-making have been thrown up, which I am sure can be taken up. I am particularly grateful for the reply from the Government Front Bench. For the rest, I think I should prefer not to single out any names.

I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Alport, who suggested that this was rather an old boys' party, and the fact is that most of those who have taken part in the debate today are my personal friends and many of them have served above or below or with or around or alongside me. The only criticism I can make of the debate is that there has been virtually no opposition. I certainly would not regard the remarks that fell from the lips of the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, as falling in that category. They were colourful but I thought not discordant.

I would, however, wish to draw to the noble Lord's attention the final paragraph of the Communiqué because I thought he was unhappy that there seemed to be no reference to the Queen. However, the final paragraph reads: Heads of Government accepted with pleasure an invitation by the United Kingdom Government to hold their next meeting in London in mid-1977 at the time of the celebrations of the Silver Jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen's Accession as Head of the Commonwealth. I do not think he can want very much more than that. It would be interesting to hear how he compares his impressions of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee with the occasion in two years' time.

On the Communiqué, I should like to say that I share a sneaking feeling with the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, that a Communiqué that goes on to 56 paragraphs is about 50 paragraphs too long.

Finally, may I mention one incident that occurred today—of which noble Lords may not be aware—that shows the informality of our proceedings and how we organise things as a Commonwealth; namely, that we had a Prime Minister of a Commonwealth country sitting behind the Bar listening to most of the debate in the person of Mr. Pindling, Prime Minister of the Bahamas. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.