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Commonwealth Heads Of Government Conference

Volume 932: debated on Thursday 26 May 1977

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asked the Prime Minister how many Heads of Government will be attending the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference.

I refer the hon. Member to the reply that I gave to the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Trotter) on 24th May.

In the light of President Kaunda's remarks about President Amin, has any decision yet been taken about President Amin's entry to this country? On the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, will the Prime Minister take a lead in pressing ahead with the report of the Expert Committee set up in Jamaica at the last conference, and will he try to get the Commonwealth to take a rather greater collective lead in world affairs?

I recognise the strong feelings in the House and the natural desire to know the Government's opinion on the first matter. I only ask that in all our interests I am not pressed to give an answer on this matter at this moment. We have to take the decision ourselves. I can assure the House that we shall take the appropriate decision and that we shall have to be held responsible by the House for it in due course.

As for the Commonwealth giving a lead in world affairs, I shall certainly do my best to encourage that when the conference meets. I know that this view is held by a number of Commonwealth Prime Ministers, and I know that we do and can exercise a considerable influence. I always thought that it was valuable that about two years ago we began meeting at the United Nations as a Commonwealth group in order that we could express our views accordingly.

There are other ways. For example, the Commonwealth can provide a very useful means of entry into the EEC on a number of matters, and the Commonwealth values the fact that we are in the EEC in order to help in this direction.

Have we not already come to a decision to spend £125 on Ugandan flags for the purposes of this conference? Does that commit us to anything?

Is the Prime Minister aware that the attendance of President Amin at this conference would be universally objectionable to public opinion in this country and almost certainly unanimously unacceptable to this House? Speaking for myself and my colleagues, however, I can say that we recognise that this is a delicate matter and the precise method of giving effect to it is best left in the Prime Minister's hands.

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for what he said. I believe that that is the view of all those who do not wish to see the Commonwealth unnecessarily damaged by the present position. I hope that is what we all wish to see.