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Commonwealth Prime Ministers (Meeting)

Volume 481: debated on Wednesday 22 November 1950

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Mr. Speaker, I desire to make a statement.

I have recently been in correspondence with my fellow Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth about the possibility of a meeting between us to discuss questions of common concern, including aspects of the present international situation.

We have all agreed that there should be a meeting in London early in January next, and invitations to come to this country at that time as the guests of the Government have been accepted by the Prime Ministers of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan and Ceylon. The Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia has also accepted an invitation to attend. Dr. Malan, the Prime Minister of South Africa, will not be able to be present, but will send a member of his Cabinet to represent him on this occasion.

In accordance with the customary practice, the meetings will be private to enable a confidential exchange of views to take place.

I know the House will join with me in welcoming the opportunity which this meeting will provide of taking counsel in these critical times with the heads of other Commonwealth Governments. They will, as always, be very welcome here, and we are all confident that much good will come from our exchange of views.

We are entirely in accord on this side of the House with the proposal which the Prime Minister has made. We think that such a gathering here in January would be opportune and that the discussion which will take place may be fruitful for the purposes in hand; and the visitors who come to carry it out will be warmly welcomed by all parties in the State.

The announcement made by the Prime Minister will be welcomed throughout the country. May I add this? I am quite sure everyone desires to thank the Prime Minister for the part he has played in bringing this about. It is right and proper that these meetings should take place, but it is vital that they should take place at this moment when the international situation is one which calls for consultation between us all.

While the House will regret the inability of Dr. Malan to attend this conference, may we take it that the important question of the Commonwealth's policy towards racial problems in Africa will not be excluded from the agenda of this conference?

In view of the possibility of a change of Government taking place before then, would the Prime Minister consider inviting the Leader of the Opposition to share in these discussions?

I have been asked a hypothetical question. On the other matter which was raised, nothing is excluded. What is discussed is a matter for the Prime Ministers themselves.