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Commonwealth Immigrants Bill

Volume 649: debated on Thursday 23 November 1961

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asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what communications from Commonwealth Governments he has received since details of the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill were published.

Communications with Commonwealth Governments are, of course, confidential.

While giving the Minister very limited thanks for that reply, having falsely, in the opinion of many people, pretended that there were consultations in the usually accepted sense of the term, may I ask him whether Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom will now indicate which Governments, broadly, accepted the proposals in the Bill and which did not? In view of the mess into which the Government have got us here, may we know whether the consultations are still continuing and with which Governments they are continuing, because we must always remember that there are considerable white minorities in some of the countries with which we are supposed to be negotiating?

Some Commonwealth Governments have expressed criticism of the proposals in the Bill, while others have expressed understanding of the policy embodied in it, but I can assure the hon. Member that consultations are going on with most Commonwealth Governments. The hon. Member asked me what consultations were still going on with Commonwealth Governments. I can assure him that consultations are going on about the application of the measures in the Bill to the various Commonwealth countries concerned.

We all appreciate how anxious the Government are that communications of this nature should be kept confidential, but is it not the fact that no consultation took place on the principles of the Bill but that consultation was limited to the manner in which the Bill should be implemented? If that is the case, is it not a measure of how ashamed the Government feel of this Bill that they have tried to disguise the fact from the House so far?

Whether it be a fair inference or not, may I ask again: is it not a fact that there was no consultation about the principle of the Bill but that it was limited to the manner in which it should operate once it had been passed? Will the right hon. Gentleman answer that?

It is a little difficult—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] No. The question is not a very straightforward one.

Consultation did take place about the Bill in general and about the proposals which it would contain.

The Prime Minister explained—I do not think I need elaborate upon it—why the consultation did not take place as early as we should have liked on this matter.