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Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting

Volume 958: debated on Tuesday 14 November 1978

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Q1.

asked the Prime Minister when he expects to reply to the letter from the hon. Member for Havant and Waterloo setting out reasons why Her Majesty The Queen should not attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Zambia.

I replied to the hon. Member on 3rd November.

Since the Prime Minister in that reply—for which I thank him—said that all relevant factors would be taken into consideration, will he give the House a categorical assurance that Her Majesty will not be advised to visit Zambia unless, first, her personal safety can be completely assured and, second, that if she should visit Zambia that will in no way be taken to imply approval by the British people for the terrorism that that country has so regrettably and hospitably fostered within its boundaries?

On the first question, of course the personal safety of Her Majesty would be the prime consideration of those who advise her. As the hon. Member will understand, that advice would come not only from Her Majesty's Ministers here, who take a principal role in it; it could also come from other members of the Commonwealth where she is Queen. As regards the second part of the question, I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman said about the nature of the Zambian Government. President Kaunda has made his position quite clear on these matters. I do wish sometimes that the hon. Member would try to support his efforts in those directions and not attack them.

The Prime Minister will know that the Commonwealth Secretariat expressed some concern about the findings of the Bingham report. Since this matter may come up at the meeting, whether it is held in Zambia or not, when will the right hon. Gentleman be able to tell the House about the Government's decisions, following the debates in the two Houses last week?

I hope, in the near future. I read the report of the debate in another place, which I found very valuable too, and the Cabinet had a preliminary consideration last Thursday. I trust that we shall have further consideration this coming week, and perhaps we can announce a decision soon after that But if we cannot, it will be only because we still have problems to sort out.

As some members of the Opposition seem to suport the activities of Smith in attacking Zambia, is it not they who endanger the Queen's safety when she visits that country?

There is no prospect yet that Her Majesty is in any personal danger at all and any decision that has to be taken will be taken well before next August, if that is the date, as seems likely, when the Commonwealth conference is to be held. As regards those who are responsible for the present situation in Zambia, that will be a matter of continuing debate, but I have no doubt that if the six principles which have been laid down for bringing Rhodesia to majority rule were accepted by all concerned and elections held, there would be no difficulty about anybody visiting Zambia, whoever they may be.