Oral Answers to Questions — Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Meeting

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 4th April 1968.

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Photo of Sir Knox Cunningham Sir Knox Cunningham , South Antrim 12:00 am, 4th April 1968

asked the Prime Minister if he is now in a position to give the date proposed for the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

No, Sir. Confidential consultations between Commonwealth Governments are still in progress.

Photo of Sir Knox Cunningham Sir Knox Cunningham , South Antrim

But how have the conversations with Australia and New Zealand about our withdrawal from east of Suez been going? Is it not now urgent that there should be a Commonwealth Conference, since both Commonwealth and foreign countries are being lumped together to be treated by the same Government Department?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

The hon. and learned Gentleman obviously does not understand the facts in this matter. Since we—I mean the Commonwealth Prime Ministers—appointed a Commonwealth Secretary-General, the soundings about the timing, place and agenda of a conference are in his hands and not in the hands of the Prime Minister of Britain or of any other Prime Minister. Those soundings are now going on. As to the other question, talks have been held with Australia and New Zealand over a period in December and during this year—most recently, in connection with the S.E.A.T.O. conference—and they have gone very amicably.

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

The right hon. Gentleman will recall that I recently suggested a Ministerial conference of Commonwealth countries about the problems of citizenship and migration. If he thinks that a full Commonwealth Conference is now likely, can he, either personally or through the Commonwealth Secretariat, institute detailed expert consultations about this subject, rather in the same way as was done in 1947, which led to the British Nationality Act, 1948, and the Commonwealth citizenship legislation which followed?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

That is a helpful suggestion, if the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to say so. So far as the Asian and other Commonwealth migration and nationality problems are concerned, as I have said on previous occasions, it is inconceivable that Commonwealth Prime Ministers would meet without this being on the agenda. But I agree that preliminary soundings and consultations to get it all set up for an efficient conference are absolutely right.