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Volume 649: debated on Thursday 23 November 1961

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Mr Donald Fleming (Discussions)


asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations if he will make a statement on his recent discussions with Mr. Donald Fleming, the Canadian Finance Minister.

I have had no official discussions recently with Mr. Fleming, though we had an agreeable lunch together last Monday.

The trouble is that though that was a funny Answer, this is not a funny matter. If I give him the opportunity to do it by answering a Question, "Yes" or "No", will my right hon. Friend restore some of the lost faith of the Commonwealth countries in this country? Will he state categorically that he will resign rather than be a party to any decisions of this Government which may adversely affect Commonwealth trade or the Commonwealth spirit?

I do not think one gives an undertaking to resign on the basis of hypothetical circumstances, particularly

Yes, Sir; there has been a quite encouraging move in this direction in the territory for some time past.

Following is the list:

when I have already made my position on the Commonwealth pretty clear.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he does not realise that, if he goes on like this, he will be the Secretary of State for the Worsening of Commonwealth Relations?

Now that my right hon. Friend has said that the initial document opening the discussions with the Common Market might well have been published in the newspapers, will he send a copy of it to Mr. Fleming, who has expressed resentment and anxiety at not having been supplied with it?

I also said that if we had published it it would have created a very bad precedent for the later stages of the negotiations.

Does the right hon. Gentleman believe in an expanding Commonwealth? In an expanding Commonwealth is it not inevitable that the number of Governments receiving documents must increase? Has he a distrust of the Commonwealth Governments, the newly joined Governments, and does he think that they will disclose information given to them?

I have already made it clear that I said that if we asked that this document should be distributed to all Commonwealth countries, it would entail the distribution of this document to a number of other countries.

What about E.F.T.A., and other countries which have a direct or indirect interest?