Oral Answers to Questions — Commonwealth (Member Countries)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th December 1958.

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Photo of Mr John Biggs-Davison Mr John Biggs-Davison , Chigwell 12:00 am, 17th December 1958

asked the Prime Minister whether he is satisfied that the existing consultative machinery of the Commonwealth is sufficient for keeping under review, with full consideration of the interests and alliances of Commonwealth nations, developments which might lead to the voluntary association of foreign States or territories with an expanding Commonwealth, having regard to the suddenness of the proposals for a Ghana-Guinea union; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

I have been asked to reply.

The well-established arrangements for consultation between Member countries of the Commonwealth will, I trust, prove equal to any developments such as my hon. Friend has in mind. As regards the relations between Ghana and Guinea, I have nothing to add to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's statement of 27th November.

Photo of Mr John Biggs-Davison Mr John Biggs-Davison , Chigwell

Does not the surprise which Dr. Nkrumah's proposals caused suggest that the consultative machinery of the Commonwealth needs improvement? Will Her Majesty's Government take every possible initiative to this end?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said on 27th November that he was surprised, and that represents the situation. However, he received a full report from Dr. Nkrumah and it does not reflect upon the general Commonwealth machinery. In this case, Dr. Nkrumah kept us informed, although the actual incident was a surprise to us.

Photo of Mr Fenner Brockway Mr Fenner Brockway , Eton and Slough

Will the right hon. Gentleman place this matter on the agenda of the Conference of Commonwealth countries when it meets in the summer, because this may easily develop in other areas, including Togoland and the Cameroons in West Africa?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

One of the facts which have recently emerged is that this may be the beginning of something bigger in West Africa as a whole. I can give no absolute undertaking about what will be on the agenda, but this will certainly be one of the matters before the Commonwealth Conference.

Photo of Viscount  Hinchingbrooke Viscount Hinchingbrooke , South Dorset

Is it not undesirable that an unco-operative member of the French Union, one of our greatest allies, might come into the Commonwealth by a back door? Will the Government take an early opportunity of stating in general terms the criteria of adhesion to the British Commonwealth?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

My noble Friend's point will be brought to the attention of the Prime Minister.

Photo of Mr John Biggs-Davison Mr John Biggs-Davison , Chigwell

asked the Prime Minister whether he will consider discussing with General de Gaulle how best the United Kingdom and France can help achieve a harmonious evolution of Commonwealth and French Union territories, with the fullest understanding of and cooperation with African Powers.

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

Her Majesty's Government attach the greatest importance to discussing with the French Government in general and General de Gaulle in particular all questions of common interest. The evolution of the Commonwealth is, of course, a matter for all Commonwealth countries and not merely for the United Kingdom Government. The many problems of Africa are very present to the United Kingdom Government, and there is already a close liaison with the Governments of the countries concerned, including not only the European Powers but also the Governments of the independent countries of Africa.

Photo of Mr John Biggs-Davison Mr John Biggs-Davison , Chigwell

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask whether he is aware that since the proposals for a Ghana-Guinea union were made the Prime Minister of Senegal, M. Mamadou Dia, speaking at Bathurst in Gambia, spoke of a possible Senegambia?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

Yes, Sir, we have observed that statement, and I think that the repercussions of it must be carefully studied.

Photo of Mr Samuel Silverman Mr Samuel Silverman , Nelson and Colne

In view of the question put a moment ago by the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), may I ask whether the Government's policy is now to revise the famous anthem and substitute for certain well known lines, the lines Narrower still and narrower Shall thy bounds be set"?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

The answer in short is, "No, Sir."