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British Commonwealth And Empire

Volume 464: debated on Monday 2 May 1949

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Official Designation

48.

asked the Prime Minister what steps he took to secure the agreement of His Majesty's Governments in other parts of the British Commonwealth and Empire to the progressive substitution in official usage of the term "Commonwealth," for the term "Empire"; and how far it is the intention of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom to put an end to the official use of the expression "British Empire."

Terminology, if it is to be useful, keeps step with developments without becoming rigid or doctrinaire. All constitutional developments in the Commonwealth, the British Commonwealth, or the British Empire—1 use the three terms deliberately—have been the subject of consultation between His Majesty's Governments, and there has been no agreement to adopt or to exclude the use of any one of these terms, nor any decision on the part of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom to do so.

Will the right hon. Gentleman, being aware, as he is, that the use of the words "British Empire" is held in high respect throughout the British Empire by a great many people, see to it that they are not by daily use pushed out of the picture, and other phraseology adopted in their place?

The hon. Member knows that opinions differ in different parts of the British Empire and Commonwealth on this matter, and I think it better to allow people to use the expression they like best.

If, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, His Majesty's Government have taken no decision, why do they take every opportunity to cut out the words "British" and "Empire"?

Commemoration Date

50.

asked the Prime Minister if he will give consideration to the provision of suitable arrangements for the future commemoration of 27th April as Commonwealth Day.

I agree that the 27th April has become a notable date in the history of the Commonwealth, but I doubt if it would be appropriate to add another to the occasion on which the association of the countries of the Commonwealth is already celebrated.

Does not the Prime Minister think that an event which the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) once said would be the greatest act of statesmanship in the history of the world is worthy of commemoration, and that such a day would, generally speaking, be more appropriate than 24th May?

Does not the right hon. Gentleman still consider that Empire Day is an appropriate day for commemoration?