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Commonwealth Relations

Volume 649: debated on Thursday 23 November 1961

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Education Liaison Committee


asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations if he will issue a White Paper on the work of the Commonwealth Education Liaison Committee.

As agreed at the Conference on Commonwealth Education held in Oxford in 1959 the Commonwealth Education Liaison Committee, which is responsible to all Commonwealth Governments, will be submitting a report on its activities to the Second Commonwealth Education Conference, which assembles at New Delhi next January. It would not, therefore, be appropriate for the British Government alone to issue a report on its activities.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that Answer, may I ask him whether he would agree that this organisation and the Association of Universities in the British Commonwealth are doing an invaluable job of work? Can he assure us that a senior Minister will be attending the Education Conference at Delhi in January and say whether a report of that very important conference will be published afterwards?

I am glad of the opportunity to add my tribute to that of my hon. Friend to the most admirable work that this organisation is doing. I can assure my hon. Friend that a senior Minister will be attending the Conference.

Commonwealth Immigrants Bill


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.

India And Pakistan (Migration To United Kingdom)


asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what restrictions have been imposed by the Governments of India and Pakistan on migration to Great Britain; in what way and to what extent these arrangements have broken down; and what consultations he has had about strengthening afresh these voluntary arrangements.

The Governments of India and Pakistan have adopted a number of measures to discourage the emigration to Britain of persons who are illiterate or who have no jobs to come to. It is, I think, generally recognised that these measures, taken in India and Pakistan, cannot be fully effective without complementary measures at this end; and this cannot be done on a voluntary basis.

Does that Answer mean that, before the Government decided on the Bill and presented it as a fait accompli to the Commonwealth, they made no attempt whatever to bring India and Pakistan, for instance, round the table to discuss the strengthening of the voluntary measures which have been in operation so far? Did they just give up at this point and decide to present them with a Bill whether they liked it or not?

As I said in my Answer, measures have been taken by the Governments of India and Pakistan to discourage emigration to this country.

It is all very well for the hon. Gentleman to shake his head. I am trying to answer his question. Perhaps he will listen to me.

Measures have been taken. We consider, and I think the Governments of India and Pakistan consider, that the measures go about as far as it is possible to go on a voluntary basis at one end only. I will give the House the figures in regard to India and Pakistan for the first nine months of this year compared with the same period last year. In 1960, immigrants from India totalled under 4,000. The figure for 1961 is over 15,000. For Pakistan, in the first nine months of last year, 1,000; this year, over 16,000. Obviously, the measures are not fully effective and, as I said before, I think it is recognised that some corresponding measures are necessary at this end.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is not possible to say that those measures are not sufficient unless he has evidence of substantial unemployment among Indian and Pakistani people in this country? Has he any such evidence?

The purpose of the Bill—I do not want to trespass on the broad debates which are taking place—is, of course, not to exclude people from particular countries but to take the necessary powers to be exercised according as the need may arise, to keep the flow of immigrants within bounds.

European Economic Community


asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what are the Government's reasons for refusing to supply confidentially to Commonwealth Governments the full text of the proposals affecting Commonwealth trade which he addressed to representatives of the European Economic Community in Paris on 10th October.


asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations why he has again refused to let the Canadian Government see the full text of the statement which the Lord Privy Seal made at the opening of the British negotiations with the Common Market in Paris on 10th October.

The reasons have been fully explained to the House on several occasions.

Does the right hon. Gentle-realise that to withhold from Commonwealth Governments even the confidential supply of details of the proposals we are making about Commonwealth trade is both insulting to the Commonwealth and a disgrace to this Government? Does he not understand that, in view of the Resolution passed by the House last August, the Government have no mandate whatever to conduct these negotiations in that shabby and discreditable fashion?

Those strong words do not properly reflect what is going on. It has been explained to the House that, when these negotiations started, we and the Governments of the six countries of the Community had to consider certain matters of procedure. One was whether confidential conference documents should be circulated to Governments not directly taking part in the negotiations.

In view of the large number of Governments who would have to receive these documents, it was decided that, on balance—we had our hesitations about it—it was better to restrict our communications to the Commonwealth on these matters to summaries of the documents and not allow a general distribution, all round Europe and to the many other parts of the world which would be concerned, of documents which we should want to distribute to the Commonwealth.

Who took the initiative that the documents should be restricted? Did we take the initiative or did a country of Europe or the Six as a whole take the initiative in restricting the documents? If they took the initiative and said that they thought that the documents ought to be restricted, did we put up a fight so that they should not be restricted and kept from the Commonwealth?

It was a general decision taken by the conference as a whole. Of course, we did not put up a fight because we do not think that it is very desirable that these documents should have a very wide circulation. There are all the E.F.T.A. countries. There are other countries which may be concerned. For instance, the Argentine might say that it was directly affected.

The United States might well say that it had a direct interest. As for the general statement, I admit that it would probably not have done anybody any harm to have it published in the newspapers; but it is a precedent, and, when we come down to detailed discussions of particular commodities, which affect business interests all round the world, it is desirable to have the documents kept confidential.

Does the right hon. Gentleman, as the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, make no distinction at all between Canada and Argentina? Does not he recall that the Resolution proposed by the Government to this House on 3rd August and approved by the House read in part as follows:

"…after full consultation with other Commonwealth countries, by whatever procedure they may generally agree."
Can he possibly pretend that he is honourably carrying out that Resolution?

The answer to the last part of that supplementary question is "Yes". With regard to the first part, it is not a question of whether we make a distinction between certain countries. The moment that we distribute these documents to all the countries of the Commonwealth, we cannot ignore that the other Six all have their different friends who, they think, may be interested in this thing, and there is a very wide circle.