UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE To be published as HC 1810-ii

HOUSE OF COMMONS

ORAL EVIDENCE

TAKEN BEFORE THE

FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE

THE ROLE AND FUTURE OF THE COMMONWEALTH

TUESDAY 27 MARCH 2012

PROFESSOR PHILIP MURPHY and MR STUART MOLE

Evidence heard in Public

Questions 27 - 73

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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Foreign Affairs Committee

on Tuesday 27 March 2012

Members present:

Richard Ottaway (Chair)

Mr Bob Ainsworth

Mr John Baron

Ann Clwyd

Andrew Rosindell

Mr Frank Roy

Sir John Stanley

Rory Stewart

Mr Dave Watts

Examination of Witness

Witness: Professor Philip Murphy, Director, The Institute of Commonwealth Studies, gave evidence.

Q27 Chair: May I welcome members of the public to this sitting of the Foreign Affairs Committee. This is the second session of our inquiry into the role and future of the Commonwealth. We are particularly lucky today to have two distinguished witnesses: Professor Philip Murphy and Mr Stuart Mole from the Institute of Commonwealth Studies. We thought that we would take them in series, rather than in parallel, to give them a chance to express their views.

Professor Murphy, I warmly welcome you on behalf of the Committee. Is there anything you want to say by way of an opening remark?

Professor Murphy: Could I perhaps explain something about my organisation and my own area of expertise? I think that might be helpful to the Committee.

The ICS was established in 1949 and is a unique academic institution in the UK that focuses on the study of the Commonwealth and its members. Since the 1990s it has been part of the university of London’s school of advanced study, and it is funded by the Higher Education Funding Council via the school to be a national research centre in the field of Commonwealth studies. That is to say that, principally, we are not a teaching organisation, although we do run a very successful MA in human rights. Our role is to provide a range of seminars, conferences, workshops and fellowships for academics in the UK and the rest of the Commonwealth. We also have a world-class Commonwealth affairs library and some very important archival collections.

An important part of the institute is the Commonwealth Advisory Bureau, which is a completely independent think-tank. It was established in 1999 and specialises in policy-relevant research in Commonwealth affairs. I know that you received a written submission from its director, Daisy Cooper, who, unfortunately, could not be here today. I am happy to respond to some of her points, but I should say that there isn’t a fixed CA/B or institute line. We are completely independent, which is the thing I would like to stress. We are not part of the official Commonwealth. We provide a platform for a variety of different views and voices on the Commonwealth, and we feel free to say in certain circumstances that the emperor is distinctly under-dressed if we feel that that is true.

I am a historian of the Commonwealth and of post-war British decolonisation, which has been most of my work. I have also done some work on the British and Commonwealth intelligence communities, and I am currently finishing a book on the monarchy and the post-war Commonwealth, which focuses on things such as the headship of the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth realms.

I am a relative newcomer to the Commonwealth community, certainly as it exists now-I have been director for only two and a half years. It has been fascinating to observe that community at close range, particularly last year at the Perth Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting.

I should say as a sort of parting shot that, as a historian, one cannot help but be aware of all the inquiries and study groups over previous decades that have tried to work out what on earth the Commonwealth is for and how it serves Britain’s interests. Indeed, in the run-up to the 1971 Singapore CHOGM more than 40 years ago, the British diplomat Crispin Tickell wrote about the question of trying to re-energise the Commonwealth. He said that the trouble with producing ideas that are interesting, constructive and inexpensive was that the search had been on for about 20 years and all the obvious ones had already been found, exploited and, by and large, judged inadequate. I think if you spend too long in this area, it must be like being in a special circle of hell where you are constantly having to grapple with these questions. Although your inquiry is clearly a very useful and valuable exercise, I do not envy you in your task.

Q28 Chair: Thank you. How would you characterise the UK’s relationship with the Commonwealth?

Professor Murphy: There are two things that one needs to disentangle that supporters of the official Commonwealth sometimes rather tend to conflate: there are the UK’s very valuable bilateral relationships with individual Commonwealth countries and groups of Commonwealth countries in the areas of defence and trade as diplomatic partners; and then there is the broader issue of the official Commonwealth, which I can talk about in greater detail if you would like me to. The benefits from the official Commonwealth tend to be more indirect. We can certainly go into them, but I think any assessment of the benefits to the UK really has to draw apart those two fairly distinct elements.

Q29 Chair: In your written evidence, you call for the relevant UK Minister to attend all Commonwealth ministerial meetings. How practical is this? How do they get on in Australia and Canada?

Professor Murphy: This was not my written evidence; it was written evidence from my colleague Daisy Cooper. One of the principal benefits, which comes through in any sort of discussion with British politicians who have taken part in these sorts of discussions, is to allow Ministers-Finance Ministers, Foreign Ministers, Defence Ministers-to find out a little bit about what is going on in countries whose representatives they might not otherwise have the opportunity to talk to at great length. So consultation is absolutely key. If UK Ministers at a senior level are not using that facility, they are missing something very important in the Commonwealth.

Q30 Chair: Do the Australians and Canadians do that?

Professor Murphy: I am not sure.

Q31 Sir John Stanley: Professor Murphy, what would you wish the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to be doing vis-à-vis the Commonwealth that it is not doing currently, or not doing currently sufficiently?

Professor Murphy: David Howell as Minister of State has made a remarkable impact. It is difficult to think of a Minister over the past 40 years in the Foreign Office who has been so very committed to the Commonwealth and making it work. One thing Lord Howell has done very effectively is to immerse himself in, if you like, the unofficial Commonwealth in London. He has been very diligent at turning up to lots of different events, meeting the heads of different organisations and speaking at those organisations. The unofficial Commonwealth is a very important part of the broader package. He has constantly talked the Commonwealth up. There has been a tendency for British Governments over the past 40 years to come to power promising to do great things with the Commonwealth and then very quickly losing interest, but Lord Howell has stayed the course so far. In the short term, what the Foreign Office has to do is to concentrate very hard on the recommendations of the Eminent Persons Group, which reported last year, and really push certain key recommendations. Other Commonwealth Governments such as the Canadians are keen to do that.

Q32 Sir John Stanley: Which particular recommendations?

Professor Murphy: I think in particular the commissioner for democracy, the rule of law and human rights.

Q33 Mr Ainsworth: What is the purpose of the Commonwealth in the 21st century? Where will it be in 10 years’ time? In your evidence you said that it would have a purpose and a value if member countries used it to solve national, regional and global political problems. Is there any real prospect that members are going to start doing that?

Professor Murphy: The thing about the Commonwealth is that it is a resource. This has always been the dilemma for the British Government. It is an extraordinary global diplomatic resource. The question has been how you use it, and which levers you actually press to get something out of it. As a broader philosophical point, you could say that the nature of global politics has changed somewhat; in an interconnected world we are as much threatened by weak states that collapse and provide havens for terrorists, pirates and drug traffickers as we are from aggressive, strong states. The Commonwealth is essentially an organisation of small states, many of them fairly weak with limited capacity, and intervening at an early stage can help to maintain some quite weak states and prevent the need for military action. It is maybe not so far in Britain’s direct interests, but a country such as Australia is ringed by a series of small, weak states. In the past, those states, such as the Solomon Islands, have drawn Australia into military action. If capacity building by the Commonwealth can shore up those states, it is in everyone’s long-term interest.

It was some time around 1960, when the decision was made to allow Cyprus into the Commonwealth as a full-time member, that the value of the Commonwealth sort of changed for Britain. It was no longer going to be a group of strong, major global states that could be important allies to Great Britain; it was essentially going to be an altruistic enterprise. Peter Marshall described it as the after-sales service of the British empire. In a sense, having created so many small, weak states, the Commonwealth steps in and provides that essential international infrastructure. The benefit to Britain is indirect, but there is a broader global good, and that is what the Commonwealth provides.

Q34 Mr Ainsworth: If I go back to my constituency this weekend and have a pint in the Bell Green working men’s club and ask them what they think about the Commonwealth, I doubt if I would get any opinion other than that it is a forum for politicians to prance around on the world stage. What would you say to ordinary taxpayers and constituents about why we should continue to support this organisation?

Professor Murphy: I am sure that you will find that your constituents are interested in more than just local bread-and-butter issues. Save the Children recently ran a very effective campaign warning of an international disaster in west Africa. I am sure that many members of this Committee got representations from their constituents about that. There is a real willingness on the electorate’s part to think about global issues, particularly humanitarian issues. If you can make a good case that the Commonwealth has a role in that, I am sure that your constituents would be interested. The question is, as always, about where you can point to a real effect that the Commonwealth has.

Q35 Mr Ainsworth: And can you?

Professor Murphy: As I say, it is in that broader sense of political capacity building. We know historically that famines tend to take place more often in repressive states that do not have an effective free press to warn against the danger signs. The Commonwealth does not have the resources to be a very effective aid agency, but in so far as it can make a political impact, it can contribute to humanitarian aid efforts.

Q36 Ann Clwyd: Can I ask you about the Commonwealth and human rights? It is often claimed to be a promoter of human rights and good governance, but does the continued membership of countries such as Sri Lanka and Pakistan prove that that is the case? What should the Commonwealth be doing?

Professor Murphy: There are a number of stages to that. If you interview representatives from the official Commonwealth, they will come out with the standard line that the Commonwealth is united by common values.

Q37 Ann Clwyd: Common values?

Professor Murphy: Yes. To some extent, that has always been a useful fiction. Frankly, the Commonwealth is a group of countries united by historical accident. The members are very diverse countries, with very different cultures and political systems and, in many of them, human rights are very poor. Should those countries be excluded? It is always difficult to define a threshold when you banish a country to the further reaches. It is probably more useful, in cases such as Pakistan and Sri Lanka, to continue to engage with those countries. Indeed, the British Government found that when Pakistan was excluded from the Commonwealth between 1999 and 2004, British aid to that country actually increased because it was such a vital ally in the so-called war against terrorism. The British Government faces problems with that, not just the Commonwealth.

There is a bigger problem, if I may say so, in the decision to allow Sri Lanka to host the next Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in 2013. I think, frankly, that was a disaster and a scandal, not only because of the signal it sends but because President Rajapaksa will potentially be chair in office of the Commonwealth for two years from 2013. That is appalling.

Q38 Ann Clwyd: There are some countries in the Commonwealth-for example, I am thinking of Malaysia; the last time I was there I was supposed to meet some people, but suddenly they were arrested under the sedition laws so we could not meet them at all. When I challenged that, I was told, "Oh, that law was left behind by the British." There are some laws that we did leave behind, and some countries have repealed them but others have not. Don’t we have an additional responsibility to push countries where we left those kinds of laws behind?

Professor Murphy: Yes. That gives you a further sense of why the Commonwealth is potentially useful. A very obvious example is the laws that criminalised male homosexual practices, which the British largely put in place and those independent Governments inherited. Over 40 Commonwealth countries have maintained laws criminalising homosexuality. The Commonwealth then becomes a very useful forum not just to talk about that historical legacy but for western countries not simply to come along and say, "Suddenly we have changed our minds on homosexuality, and it has become this Commonwealth value set in stone," but to say, "It was a very long, difficult and controversial process, but at the end of it we feel that our society is better." To talk about common difficulties rather than seeking to impose values is very important. That is something that the Commonwealth is good at.

Q39 Sir John Stanley: The Harare declaration-a somewhat bitter, ironic phrase today in the light of subsequent events-was, as we know, more honoured in the breach than in the observance around the Commonwealth. Do you think that it would now be right for the British Government to try to devise a successor Commonwealth human rights declaration and to do its utmost to get Commonwealth endorsement of it?

Professor Murphy: This is on the agenda at the moment because it was the first recommendation, and one of the key recommendations, of the Eminent Persons Group that there should be a new charter. We have a number of declarations-not only the Harare principles but subsequent statements such as the Latimer House declaration and a further statement in 1999-which need to be pulled together with a strong emphasis on human rights. A lot of people are, frankly, sceptical about that, and would say that the last thing the Commonwealth needs is another well meaning statement of principles, which will be largely ignored in the way that previous statements of principles have been.

I tend to think of the example of the Helsinki Final Act in 1975, when eastern bloc Governments in very bad faith put their signatures to a package that included mention of human rights. That gave birth to a series of popular movements, such as Charter 77, within eastern Europe, because the Helsinki Final Act had to be published in all those states. People on the ground were saying to the Governments, "You have signed up to this, and we are going to hold you to account." It would be wonderful if the charter gave rise to a series of dissident groups called Commonwealth clubs, on the ground, trying to enforce those rights. That is the only way it will be done. The Commonwealth does not really have the teeth to enforce them.

Q40 Rory Stewart: Professor Murphy, can you give us a sense of which Commonwealth members find the Commonwealth particularly appealing, with the exception, perhaps, of Canada? Who actually cares about it? Who could we use this on?

Professor Murphy: Again, its principal value is to the small states. There are 32 states in the Commonwealth that are defined as small states because, roughly speaking, they have populations of fewer than 1.5 million people. They often have very limited capacity in diplomatic coverage. They have problems maintaining stable Governments for a variety of different reasons, often because of divided populations, which are also colonial legacies. They value the Commonwealth for a variety of reasons, and that is one of the problems we have to face when talking about political reform.

From the British Government’s point of view, it is a no-brainer: the Commonwealth currently does too much. It tries to cover too much ground and it should concentrate on what it is good at: human rights, good government and democracy. The problem is that it is very much customer-led. Those small states value it for a variety of other reasons: for development, security, and advocating on climate change and on debt. It becomes rather difficult, therefore, for the Commonwealth simply to cut out a lot of things that it does, because it would then lose a lot of its appeal to many of those smaller states, which would just have this big finger wagging at them the whole time, instead of the offer of a variety of carrots.

Q41 Rory Stewart: Could we not challenge that and suggest that perhaps Britain is missing an opportunity in not making more of the developmental security potential? In fact, we should be more customer-led, and focusing on human rights is a misleading direction.

Professor Murphy: I think it is-well, I think it is to the extent that human rights is always tied up with development. Those two, in a sense, go hand in hand. The problem is that the Commonwealth would need a huge amount of extra resources to be an effective player in things such as aid and trade. That is the dilemma we face.

Q42 Mr Watts: There is a question mark over whether we deal effectively with human rights in the Commonwealth, but, turning to trade, is there a Commonwealth factor in trade? It would appear from the statistics we have seen that, far from helping Britain, it does not have any effect whatsoever.

Professor Murphy: I have always been sceptical about the idea of the trade factor. I am not an economist, but looking at it from the point of view of a political historian, arguably, and with respect, a mistake made in the 1995-96 inquiry into the Commonwealth by the Foreign Affairs Committee was to think that it had suddenly found the holy grail on what the Commonwealth is for: we had all been looking for it for so long, and it was found to be trade. There was no substantial research at that point. There was the work of an Australian scholar called Katherine West, which was cited. It is a rather polemical piece of research, which said that Europe is dying and should look at the vibrant tiger economies. The problem, of course, was that the Blair Government came to power with that message ringing in their ears and in the meantime, between gaining power and the Edinburgh Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting at the end of the year, there was the collapse-a crisis, at least-in July 1997 of those Asian economies. It suddenly looked less convincing. It is always a problem, when you think that you have found the key to the Commonwealth and it dissolves in your hands.

Subsequent research suggests that there is a kind of Commonwealth effect, but it tends to be more pronounced among smaller, weaker nations. Actually, if you look at the proportion of trade that Commonwealth countries do with the rest of the Commonwealth, you see that it varies wildly-from over 90% in some cases to less than 10% in the case of Britain, Canada and some other major economies. It is very difficult to extrapolate anything from an average. I am still sceptical about the value that the Commonwealth adds as a living, breathing organisation. Clearly, there are historical factors that create and maintain strong trading links, but I think it is very difficult to prove a specific effect of the existence of the official Commonwealth.

Q43 Mr Watts: Is there any suggestion that you could develop a Commonwealth free trade area? Is there any mileage in that whatsoever, or is it your view, as previously stated, that not a great deal can be done to boost trade?

Professor Murphy: There are clearly all sorts of problems in terms of the World Trade Organisation in doing that sort of thing. What the Commonwealth can do, which it has done over decades, is help its members to negotiate free trade agreements of certain sorts, and reductions in tariffs; but creating the Commonwealth as a great economic bloc was never a starter even in the heyday of the empire. It was briefly dreamt of in the 1930s, but it’s a non-starter now I think.

Q44 Mr Baron: Professor Murphy, can I briefly examine the apparent disconnect between the potential of the Commonwealth and Government policy? In the written evidence from the FCO, the Commonwealth has been described as a ready-made network that cuts across traditional UN regional voting blocs. It consists of six continents, all major religions and a membership that is disproportionately below the age of 25. Notwithstanding the good work that Lord Howell is doing-one is not questioning that at all-there seems to be a disconnect with Government policy. Here we are, putting an immigration cap on professionals and students coming in from the Commonwealth; we seem to be closing smaller Commonwealth embassies, particularly in the Pacific region; and we are reducing funding to the BBC and the British Council. Meanwhile, you could argue that some of our competitors, such as China, are throwing aid at Commonwealth countries-a £400 million programme in Trinidad and a £150 million hospital in Jamaica. Why the disconnect?

Professor Murphy: I completely agree with everything you say. The Commonwealth is often spoken about in terms of soft power for Great Britain, but soft power has to be power for someone and the problem with the Commonwealth is that, in a sense, it has always had a vacuum at its heart. The British Government have never felt really able to take a lead in Commonwealth matters, because they risk being accused of some kind of post-imperial plot. They have always encouraged other people to put forward ideas, but have never really done so themselves. Soft power is the BBC World Service-it clearly is: it is promoting British values, British standards and providing a highly trusted source of news. It is perverse if the budget of the World Service is being cut while there is this rhetoric of international networks.

There is always this tendency when you interview Commonwealth enthusiasts for them to go into overdrive, talking about how the Commonwealth has the biggest and the smallest, the hottest and the coldest and the highest and the lowest countries in the world-as though that actually told you anything-the message being that there is this huge untapped potential. That message of untapped potential is not new: you can see it in the writings of the great imperial dreamers such as Joe Chamberlain and Leo Amery in the first half of the 20th century. But it was never, even in the heyday of empire, really possible to mobilise those resources effectively, because empire was such a fragile thing. The second world war showed that you can mobilise them to an extent, but only at the expense of wrecking the whole machine, because it was so fragile. So it is certainly not possible in the early 21st century to tap that so-called potential in the way that Commonwealth advocates will often suggest that you could.

Q45 Mr Baron: But may I suggest there is a slight difference? What those Commonwealth commentators were suggesting 50 or 100 years ago was almost an arm of empire with a particular focus on trade. One is not suggesting that that is not important nowadays, but looking forward, we are looking at soft, smart-however one wants to describe it-power, which is a slightly more nuanced category of influence. Therefore, this should not be beyond the wit of man, given that we have here, as even the Foreign Office is willing to admit, a ready-made network. There is a difference between those two, so it is not quite a fair comparison.

What does Britain have to do-for the mutual benefit of the Commonwealth; one isn’t thinking of this just as an arm of foreign policy-to develop this? It looks to many of us as though Lord Howell is doing an excellent job, but he is acting in isolation. There is a disconnect within Government; there isn’t a single purpose within Government on this issue, despite what to many of us seems to be an obvious gold score. You still haven’t described-to me, anyway-why there is this disconnect. We are not looking for an adjunct of empire or trade; we are looking towards the future, and for a nuance on the smart/soft power issue-the Foreign Office has talked about this, and the Foreign Secretary has done so at great length-and yet there is this disconnect.

Professor Murphy: The problem is that those mechanisms of soft power tend, in their nature, to be global. Think about the reach of the World Service; it is not just a Commonwealth service but a global service. Education and the impact of immigration restrictions and visa restrictions is certainly something that the British higher education institutions are very worried about, but they think about it well beyond the boundaries of the Commonwealth. They care about students from across the world-from China, from Brazil; the brightest and the best-being able to access the British university system. Lord Howell may be doing great things within a Commonwealth context, but the problem with soft power in the 21st century is that it has to be global and has to transcend those historical boundaries. That may be one of the reasons for the disconnect.

Mr Baron: I’m not totally satisfied with the answer, but not to worry; we don’t have time.

Q46 Andrew Rosindell: Professor Murphy, I would like to raise a general issue about membership of the Commonwealth, different countries joining and the status of territories. A modern Commonwealth should surely encompass all the peoples of the realms, territories and former countries of the empire that have chosen to be part of the Commonwealth. Why is it, in your opinion, that after so many years huge numbers of people are excluded from being part of the Commonwealth because they are from overseas territories rather than independent states?

Professor Murphy: The last time this came up for consideration was in 2007, in the last major review of the criteria for Commonwealth membership. As in the past, the review group ruled out the idea of offering the overseas territories some kind of associated status. Indeed, a kind of discussion about introducing some sort of associated status has been going on since the 1950s, initially for the smaller territories. The problem with that was always that states did not want to join a club that was offering them second-class status. The problem with allowing the overseas territories into the club now is the other way around. It is a clear Commonwealth principle that Commonwealth countries should be sovereign and independent. There has been ongoing concern among Commonwealth members that Commonwealth membership might seem in some way to subordinate them to the British Government. What they have always been able to say is, "That is not the case because a key criterion is that we are completely independent." It would not be popular within the Commonwealth to allow states in like the Falklands that are not properly independent.

I do not know whether you want to go into the other side of that coin, which is, of course, that a number of countries that have not had an historical constitutional link with Great Britain have been allowed in, like Mozambique and Rwanda. Personally, I think that that was a mistake. I do not think that that has worked tremendously well. There are very specific reasons why those countries were allowed in, and they were always treated as an exception. But I would not have thought that there was any real chance of even associate status being extended to the overseas territories.

Q47 Andrew Rosindell: So a country like Tuvalu with 12,000 people gets status and recognition, but a country like Bermuda with 60,000 people or the Isle of Man with 80,000 people does not. We are talking about 31 different territories around the world-not just the British Crown dependencies and overseas territories, but the New Zealand realm states and the Australian external territories. They are all excluded without any status at all. Do you feel that that is justified?

Professor Murphy: It is. It is perverse, but that is the reasoning behind it. They are not fully independent.

Q48 Andrew Rosindell: Couldn’t observer status or associate status be an answer, rather than full sovereign membership?

Professor Murphy: Possibly. As I say, some kind of observer status might be possible but, in the past, the Commonwealth has consistently ruled that there can only be one category of membership. There has been a very long discussion over decades on that.

Q49 Andrew Rosindell: In terms of other countries joining the Commonwealth, clearly there are historical links with all kinds of other countries around the world that have not joined the Commonwealth. You have given examples of countries like Rwanda with no actual links, but there are many other countries. I am thinking perhaps of the Gulf and of parts of central America-even part of Nicaragua used to be a former British colony. Do you not think that we should be more willing to open up to a number of new parts of the world to extend Commonwealth membership or invite countries to join the Commonwealth?

Professor Murphy: I am sceptical about the idea. Too often, the very immediate historical links are played down too much. The fact that those countries have been part of and incorporated in a formal empire created a bond of mutual responsibility. You can say quite rightly that there are all sorts of historical links down the line. You can look at the example of la Francophonie, which has extended observer status to all sorts of countries, such as Estonia and Ukraine. The French are always saying to them that that is a first step before joining the EU. I do not get the impression that that has been a huge success or that it has added tremendously to the kind of discussions in la Francophonie.

Mozambique was a very special case because it almost formed a grouping of otherwise Commonwealth countries that had played a very important role in the Rhodesian crisis and subsequently the South African crisis. It was almost part of the family already. Mandela in 1995 was very keen for Mozambique to join. I think Rwanda has been less of a success, but it is still early days. I am not particularly in favour of constant expansion, but it does become one of the great arguments for the Commonwealth’s continued existence. People can say, "Well look, if we’re not doing anything valuable, why are all these countries queuing up to join?" It clearly contributes to that argument, but I am not sure that the benefits of expansion beyond those historical boundaries of former empire have been particularly successful.

Q50 Mr Baron: I want to return to the disconnect, because I am not sure that I am satisfied with your answers. May I draw you off the fence? We agree that there is a disconnect, that there is huge potential and that there are Ministers at the Foreign Office who think that the Commonwealth is wonderful and doing a great job, but they are failing at the moment to translate that enthusiasm into concrete policy across the political piece. Is that because there is a lack of political will to do it and because we need better co-ordination between Government Departments and for somebody to take an overview and grip this, or is it because you don’t think it is worth the effort? You have given me both answers, or a combination of both.

Professor Murphy: The difficulty is working out what specifically you should do. The British Government went into the last CHOGM in Perth strongly committed to the recommendations of the EPG. If some of those key recommendations were carried out, particularly that for the establishment of a commissioner for democracy, the rule of law and human rights, it would raise the profile of the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group would work far more effectively as a result. The British Government know that and have been pushing as hard as they can, but there is a limit to what you can do in an organisation of 54 states that makes decisions by consensus. It is just the historical dilemma of the British Government.

There is now a commitment in a way that there never has been before to making the Commonwealth work, but it is a case of finding the levers. What the British Government have to do over the next few months-the EPG recommendations are going to a ministerial task force next month and to a meeting of Ministers in September-is lobby very hard and use any influence that Britain has to push that agenda forward. It will be a very tough fight, because there is a lot of resistance to the idea of a commissioner.

Q51 Chair: Professor Murphy, in the evidence provided by Daisy Cooper, she says that the Government should be planning for the time when Queen Elizabeth is no longer the head of the Commonwealth. Do you think that is likely to happen and that they are not making any plans?

Professor Murphy: There are clearly plans. I am afraid that I have been doing an awful lot of work on this.

Chair: You have one and a half minutes.

Professor Murphy: Briefly, I do not think that they need to make many plans at all. The point about the headship of the Commonwealth is that it was a rhetorical device to allow India to remain in the Commonwealth in 1949. It was not even envisaged as a ceremonial role. The Queen has created that role personally through a series of accretions, such as visiting, I think, all but one Commonwealth countries, being a visible presence, attending all Heads of Government meetings-except in 1971, when she was formally advised not to by Ted Heath-and speaking at meetings since 1971. She has done all of those things, but if all of that ceased the Commonwealth would carry on in its merry way, because those activities are not a formal part of the Commonwealth. They are very much to do with her.

The key point now is that the title, "Head of the Commonwealth", will not be in the accession proclamation of her successor in the way that it was for the Queen in 1952. That much is clear, so a collective decision will have to be taken after her death about what happens. I think it could go either way.

Chair: That is hopefully many years away. Professor Murphy, thank you very much indeed-you have been really helpful and we appreciate your sparing your time.

I am now going to hand over the Chair’s duties to Ann Clwyd.

In the absence of the Chair, Ann Clwyd was called to the Chair.

Witness: Stuart Mole CVO OBE, gave evidence.

Chair: Welcome, Mr Mole. We will ask you more or less similar questions to those we asked Professor Murphy. The first comes from Rory Stewart.

Q52 Rory Stewart: Welcome. Thank you for coming. How would you describe the UK’s relationship with the Commonwealth, and how do you think it could be improved?

Mr Mole: Well, I think that the UK’s relationship has deep historic roots and to that extent it defines its attitudes to the Commonwealth. As Philip Murphy said in the last session, we have all been encouraged by the proactive role that the British Government in general, and Lord Howell in particular, have taken to the Commonwealth. Following on from the remarks in the last session, I think that there is scope for doing more. There is a rediscovery of the Commonwealth in that respect and of the potential value that the British Government could exploit. Now is the time to see in which specific areas that could be developed.

Q53 Rory Stewart: Have you got any ideas for us? Do you have any suggestions of what, if you were the grand boss of the universe, you would like the British Government to do on the Commonwealth?

Mr Mole: One of the key areas would be sustaining the Commonwealth as a values-based organisation. That is something to which we will no doubt return. It was touched on in the last session. There is much more that the British Government could do in supporting the Commonwealth’s work in conflict resolution and democratic development. Those are all important values for the British. They are also key Commonwealth values, and that is one area.

There is also a potential in trade. The 1996 inquiry that Lord Howell chaired changed the mindset and attitude to economic relations in the Commonwealth. That was important. It moved away from a north-south aid relationship to one that was looking much more at a potential trading relationship. It is, of course, underdeveloped at the moment, but there is huge potential there, so I would say that trade and investment is a second area of importance.

Thirdly, there is value in how the Commonwealth is perceived within British society. There is a Commonwealth-within factor that needs to be taken into account. There are all sorts of manifestations of the Commonwealth in British society. Nearly 10% of the armed forces are from Commonwealth countries. Many of the iconic figures in sport and in entertainment and all the rest of it have strong Commonwealth connections. I was interested to see that some of the latest research from Facebook shows how the global patterns of social networking are sustained. There are extraordinary links to Africa in particular, as well as to other parts of the Commonwealth, through those who use social networking.

There is scope for the Commonwealth to be used as a safe context, in which the United Kingdom, as a multicultural society, can feel at ease with itself.

Q54 Rory Stewart: Do you believe that we are putting adequate resources, in terms of staffing and financial support, into the UK Government’s engagement with the Commonwealth?

Mr Mole: I do not think that the UK Government are. It is a miniscule amount, of course. By the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s calculation in its paper, I think it is £37 million, and that includes everything, including scholarships and so on. That is just over 50p per every man, woman and child in the UK. Other people would score the figure rather lower, but if you compare that with the United Nations, the European Union, NATO, or whatever, it is a derisory amount of investment. So when one is asking whether it is all worth it, one has to look at that sort of figure and say that it is a small investment for the potential return.

I think one of the difficulties is that the Commonwealth needs to face reform of its institutions and some of its cherished objectives and programmes, and a lot of Governments will be a bit wary about further resources until they see the secretariat put in place the necessary changes and until they see programmes that they feel will deliver real value. So one can understand a degree of reticence in that respect.

But I think there are other areas where the British Government would not be so constrained. I mentioned the Commonwealth within British society, as it were, and there is much more that the British Government could do as the British Government, in terms, for instance, of developing understanding of the Commonwealth in schools. I know that is something Lord Howell has taken on board, but I don’t know whether there has been much development on it.

Then there is the extra-budgetary support. I know that the British Government supported the whole eminent persons group exercise. More could be done, for example, to support particular aspects of the democratic or conflict resolution activities of the Commonwealth. So, these things can be done.

Q55 Chair: Should the UK follow Canada’s example and appoint a special envoy for the Commonwealth, do you think?

Mr Mole: I don’t think it should. I was interested in what Senator Segal said to you, which was that it already had a special envoy in the shape of Lord Howell and, in a sense, if the British Government were to have a special envoy, that person would be one step removed from the British Government apparatus, and therefore I am not sure that there would be particular value.`

There is no question but that political leadership is one of the greatest contributions that the British Government could make to the Commonwealth and, of course, it has been rather reticent about this in the past. I think there is a fear that, somehow, we will awaken the sense of being imperialist or neo-colonialist, or whatever. I don’t think that is true. I think that a lot of the Commonwealth look for a strong British lead. I would say that it is important that, from the Prime Minister to the Foreign Secretary, through to the ministerial meetings, it is important that the UK is represented at the highest level that it can be. It was hugely appreciated, for example, that David Cameron came to Perth. He did not spend the whole of the meeting there, but he did come in the middle of a severe crisis in the eurozone. That was hugely appreciated. I think that that degree of leadership and involvement is important.

Q56 Mr Baron: Can I just pursue your earlier comments, but also the line of questioning earlier? You were in for that session, so I will not repeat the whole question. But there does seem a disconnect. I am talking about a disconnect across British Government here. There is enthusiasm within the FCO, but that does not translate to actual policies. The BBC World Service is but one example of that. One can look at the embassies being closed down in the Pacific and one can look at the immigration issue. Why is there that disconnect, when we have had the Foreign Secretary being so enthusiastic about the potential of the Commonwealth for mutual benefit, yet it does not seem to be translating across Government policy?

Mr Mole: Well, I’m not sure I’m the best person to answer that question, but I can have a go at it. I do agree with you that there is a disconnect and there are probably other examples of that disconnect, too. I think that part of the answer may be that there is a difficulty in developing policies across a range of Ministries. I suppose the question of the Commonwealth in the curriculum is an example of that, judging by some of the correspondence I have seen. I think that is part of the answer.

I also think that there is a sort of drip, drip of the loss of these things. The loss of high commissions and other missions in the Pacific was a relatively small amount of money, and I suppose it was relatively unnoticed, but it went. It was hugely noticed in the Pacific, however, and it not only damaged British interests but had a very adverse effect on Commonwealth relations in the Pacific. So these things can look relatively minor in themselves when they are chipped away, but actually, they build up to having a much more significant impact.

I think the real problem, apart from the whole difficulty of co-ordination, is that there must be a coherent desire and the will to put more into the Commonwealth. That will require significant effort.

Q57 Mr Ainsworth: You compared Commonwealth funding with some other international organisations of which we choose to be members, but surely there is a clearer purpose, still, to most of those. One sees the purpose of the Commonwealth in the immediate aftermath of empire, but what is the purpose of the Commonwealth now, and how will it change over 10 years if it continues to exist?

Mr Mole: Well, the short answer, in terms of what the Commonwealth stands for, is the three d’s: democracy, development and diversity. I think that is a sort of shorthand for what the Commonwealth attempts to and does stand for, but it is a moving target. It is something that is growing all the time. The Commonwealth is an organic body. When Philip spoke earlier, he talked about the historical fiction of those. I would not agree with that. I would call the definition of values something that has developed over the years. The clarity of the definition in 1949 is very different from what we expect of that definition today.

I consider that that will increase, and that we will see greater emphasis on democratic development and on human rights, but I do not think that we should ignore the developmental side, either. It is a very important balance for Commonwealth countries, most of which are developing countries, notwithstanding the difference in size between small and large. They want the Commonwealth also to address issues of development.

The Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation is very small and therefore, in terms of overseas development, a very minor player, but it has a very significant impact, especially in small countries, which can secure high-grade technical assistance very rapidly for priorities that they themselves define. Secretaries-general have said in the past that a country-a Prime Minister or a President-could ring them up and ask for assistance with a harbourmaster or whatever in the main port, and somebody would be on a plane within three weeks. If one wanted that from the European Union, one would probably have to wait three years. There is a great value in having targeted, flexible and responsive development assistance in that respect.

Q58 Mr Ainsworth: You talked about the impact of the Commonwealth on the community and on British life, but how real is that? I represent a constituency with a fairly diverse population. If you go back 20 years or so a lot of those people were coming from Commonwealth countries. They are not now. They are Poles. They are Somalis. They are Kurds. They come from wherever there are issues and needs and they have the ability to come here. I am not so certain that there is that much impact on British life and to repeat the question that I put to our previous witness, if I go back to my constituency and sit in the Bell Green working men’s club and ask people what the Commonwealth is for, I do not think I will get a very positive reply.

Mr Mole: Possibly, but one of the interesting things that polling on attitudes to the Commonwealth shows, for example, is that the United Kingdom is one of the weakest in terms of people feeling that there is an impact. None the less, although the impact might be weak, it is positive and it is deeply ingrained. It is visceral in that respect. One only has to think of the dispute some years ago between Spain and Canada over fishing and the response of people in Cornwall to that-they did not side with the European Union in that respect but sided with the Commonwealth member-to see the manifestation of that linkage.

I do not just it is a generational thing either. It is, of course, embedded in generations that fought wars and so on. But, as the Facebook study showed, there is a carry-through to modern generations. Although you are absolutely right that many other non-Commonwealth nationalities are now represented in the UK, the work that I did with the Royal Commonwealth Society with young people in the UK showed that, despite their origins being outside the Commonwealth, young people found the Commonwealth a very useful context, a very safe context to explore identities, to explore different religious outlooks and to come to grips with some of the key values of the Commonwealth. I do not think it necessarily matters that now new British citizens, as indeed they probably always have, extend beyond the Commonwealth.

Q59 Sir John Stanley: Mr Mole, may I put to you the question I put in the previous session to Professor Murphy? Do you believe that the Foreign Office and the British Government should seek to promote within the Commonwealth a successor document to the Harare declaration and to try to see whether we can get a text agreed as widely as possible within the Commonwealth to support human rights, including women’s rights? I thought Professor Murphy made a very interesting case, based on the impact of the Helsinki Final Act, for the benefit of having an agreed international document by means of which people in individual countries who are fighting for human rights can exert pressure on their own Governments.

Mr Mole: Yes. First of all, I think that there is value. I am not a wholehearted supporter of the charter, but there is value in, as it were, codifying all previous declarations. Of course there is that question of nomenclature, which you referred to in terms of Harare, which is a kind of cosmetic point. I think that countries will be called to account regardless of whether that is done or not. It would be good to think that the process of debating the charter, which we certainly thought was the intention at Perth, involving civil society, would be another way of holding Governments to account and addressing some of those colonial laws and all of the rest of it that we were talking about. Unfortunately, as I said in the Round Table submission, I think far too little time has been given to allow a pan-Commonwealth discussion involving civil society. That is, I think, unfortunate.

It is, as I said before, a developing definition. I didn’t, Sir John, agree with your characterisation of the Harare declaration as being more honoured in the breach than the observance. I thought Harare was a huge step forward. At that point in 1991, there were, out of a membership of just over 40, nine one-party states or military regimes represented in the Commonwealth sitting around the table quite happily, and accepted as such. That is no longer acceptable. By the mid-90’s, not only had all sorts of programmes been introduced and Commonwealth election observer missions become the norm rather than the opposite, the whole emphasis changed and it was no longer acceptable that any country with an unconstitutional change of Government should be able to come and sit at the table. So everything in the garden is not lovely. Of course, it is not perfect. But there have been very substantial democratic developments since 1991. Now is the time to move that yet further forward.

Q60 Chair: Some countries seem more prepared to use the carrot and the stick than we are. For instance, Malawi reviewed its laws on homosexuality and the death penalty in response to the threat from the United States to remove aid. Do you think that should be done more by countries such as the UK?

Mr Mole: Of course, the Commonwealth was an absolute groundbreaker in terms of setting up this mechanism, this Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, in 1995 to address issues of violation of Commonwealth values. It has the stick and the carrot. I think that the British Government would much prefer, as would all Commonwealth Governments, these things to be done multilaterally, rather than on a bilateral basis. No doubt there will be occasions when that might be inescapable, but just as in the 1960s and ’70s Governments reacted very badly to the British Government’s current policy on Rhodesia and South Africa, came not to take it out entirely on the British Government, but instead to recognise within the Commonwealth one could remain and still have that dialogue. Probably, that would be the approach now. It is in that respect a kind of family organisation, in which probably a bit more latitude is given to backsliders than might be the case in a different sort of organisation. But the influence of the family can still be very potent.

Q61 Chair: One of our witnesses criticised the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group for not acting against Commonwealth members that are continually abusing rights. Why is it so inactive?

Mr Mole: The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group lost its way at the turn of the millennium, and in the early part of this century it became inactive. It was bypassed by this idea of a troika of present, future and past chairmen of the Commonwealth summit that happened in Zimbabwe. There had been, I think, many missed opportunities on the part of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group. It was not meeting enough-there were all sorts of shortcomings. The watchdog simply was not barking and it seemed to have very few teeth. Now, I’m a cautious optimist about where we are, because for years previous Commonwealth secretaries-general were trying to get the criteria for CMAG’s engagement beefed up. We tried to get new criteria adopted. That failed. The previous secretary general, Chief Anyaoku, tried it in 1999 and failed. At last, we have new criteria.

It was interesting to note that the turmoil in the Maldives was met by a much more encouraging, proactive response from the CMAG. I have looked back at the report of the Eminent Persons Group, and the actions of the Commonwealth in the space of a month hit about five or six of the Eminent Persons Group’s recommendations. They immediately convened a meeting of the CMAG, and they did it using virtual technology, which was one of the recommendations. They sent in a ministerial mission straight away, which was another of the recommendations. They suspended the Maldives’ membership of CMAG-they were, up until that point, a member of CMAG-and the secretary-general made an immediate statement. It was perhaps not an earth-shattering statement, but he made a statement none the less. They appointed a special envoy. There was a range of things on which at last one felt, "This is what the CMAG should be doing. This is the sort of action the Commonwealth should be taking."

Q62 Chair: Another witness expressed concerns about Commonwealth overreach. Although he praised the secretary-general, he felt that the Commonwealth needed to change its priorities. Particularly, he said that the amount of work and "money that has been devoted to development has…been ineffective, based on the assessments of DFID and others." Should the Commonwealth Secretariat continue to provide development assistance? Indeed, is it an area the Commonwealth should be acting on?

Mr Mole: As I said earlier, I think there is an important balance to be struck. The Commonwealth has to show that it is concerned about development. That can happen in many ways. One of the Commonwealth’s strengths is as a generator of consensus. John Baron raised the issue of representation at meetings attended by Government Ministers. Well, one of the finest examples of British engagement with ministerial meetings has been successive Chancellors-John Major, Ken Clarke and others-who developed the whole debt initiative, the adoption of HPIC and what followed thereafter. That was a huge contribution to international attitudes towards debt relief and so on, and it was done through Commonwealth mechanisms. They are there, in my view, to be used. That has contributed to development, and it doesn’t necessarily need to be done through the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation.

Obviously, the Commonwealth Secretariat has a major job to do, this year in particular, in bringing itself up to scratch in adopting a strategic plan that is fit for purpose, focused and all the rest of it. Until it does that, there will be a degree of reticence, but I think the balance between democracy and development needs to be sustained.

Q63 Rory Stewart: If we put more resources in-more money and more dynamic people-and really set ourselves to making the Commonwealth an exciting partner for Britain, if we really make that a priority, could Commonwealth countries become a bit suspicious and resentful? How would we avoid that?

Mr Mole: I think it’s a question of the way in which it’s done. As I said earlier, I don’t think there would be any suspicion or ill feeling if the British Government took a more active part in the Commonwealth, but I have witnessed occasions when it is not done in a particularly sensitive way. So, it’s very much a question of how we do it. There are delicate perceptions here, especially if you think of something like the proposal for a commissioner for democracy, human rights and the rule of law, which has become a totemic issue emerging from the Eminent Persons Group report. I think that is rather unfortunate, personally, because it is seen by a lot of other Commonwealth member countries as a stick to beat them with. One of the difficulties with that proposal is not the essence of what it is saying, which is absolutely sensible, but the language. I think "commissioner" is a very unfortunate title, for a start. The more Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia beat the drum for that, the more they might be perceived as having an attitude that is resented.

Q64 Rory Stewart: If we were focusing not on human rights and government but on prosperity, power and shared national interests, what would be the do’s and don’ts of how Britain should interact with the Commonwealth in trying to use it as a way of projecting those elements?

Mr Mole: One of the basic points is, despite the pressures on Prime Ministers’ and Ministers’ diaries, it is very important to give the Commonwealth some time. It is a different type of organisation-asymmetrical, organic-where some degree of interaction is important. It is a very human organisation in that respect, and being able to play a full part at the Heads of Government meeting at the Retreat is therefore very important. Sometimes that is perhaps not possible, but it is unfortunate if the Commonwealth is just seen as the briefest of stops on the ministerial itinerary. There has to be genuine, sustained engagement to get the very best out of it.

Q65 Mr Watts: We have heard from Professor Murphy that it could be said that the human rights agenda is not being developed in the way people would hope in the Commonwealth. Turning to trade, people might also think, "Why are we spending some £30 million when we cannot even deal with the trade issue? There is no benefit to the UK from the trade relations that we have." Is that your view, or is there anything we can do? For example, could we have a free trade area with the Commonwealth? What are the financial benefits to the UK from our membership and all the effort we put into the Commonwealth?

Mr Mole: First, I would not agree that the trade and investment angle has no benefit to the UK, although I accept that it is relatively modest in relation to the European Union. It is an area of considerable potential growth, however, given stagnation in Europe at the moment and robust growth in Africa; most African countries now are exhibiting very strong growth. If you look at the potential five years down the track of Asian economies and so on, I would have thought the potential for exports and investment is strong. If the British Government are uncertain about the Commonwealth effect, let us see their own study and see what more they can do. I am sure there are things the British Government can do to strengthen that dimension.

Q66 Mr Watts: One of the suggestions is a free trade area. What is your view about that? Do you have any other suggestions that you think might improve the situation?

Mr Mole: The free trade area runs against the obstacle of the European Union and membership of it. That is an immediate difficulty. Most Commonwealth countries are open economies, however, and the UK has a huge interest in developing world trade, obviously. There are areas where the Commonwealth can assist the development of a development round, for instance, at Doha and through the World Trade Organisation. I would like to see further study by the British Government. There are potential markets that need to be developed.

Q67 Sir John Stanley: Do you consider that the British Government should be exerting more pressure within the EU to try to get changes to specific EU trade and tariff policies that are adversely affecting Commonwealth countries? Are there tariffs in the EU’s external tariff that are particularly disadvantageous to Commonwealth countries? Are measures being taken by the EU under anti-dumping legislation that you consider unjustified or excessive, and that are having adverse impacts on Commonwealth countries?

Mr Mole: I don’t think I can answer you specifically on that; I don’t have that information to hand. Clearly, there have been considerable concerns over time about the adjustment to these regimes of some Commonwealth countries, especially small Commonwealth countries. It is important that the historic cause that the Commonwealth has in aid of small states needs to carry over into the whole area of trade. Establishing an office at Geneva, as the Secretariat did last year, is a useful step in that regard. The European Union is putting through the Commonwealth Secretariat a substantial Hubs and Spokes programme which is designed to assist that whole interface. These are all areas where the Commonwealth can use its relationship with small states-whose interests may well be rather different, obviously, from the major players-to make sure that the relationship between the reality of the European Union and Commonwealth trade is a fair one.

Q68 Sir John Stanley: Do you have any views you want to put to the Committee on the impact of the EU’s promotion of biofuels on world food prices and cereal prices, which have been so damaging to the poorest countries, including those in the Commonwealth?

Mr Mole: I don’t think I can comment on that particular aspect.

Q69 Andrew Rosindell: Mr Mole, can I ask you your views on a specific area, which is the expansion of the Commonwealth and also the role and status of the 31 external territories: the British overseas territories, Crown dependencies, the Australian external territories and the New Zealand realm states? First, what is your view about expansion of the Commonwealth? What new countries do you feel we should be attracting in? Secondly, where do you see that the external territories fit within a modern Commonwealth?

Mr Mole: As far as expansion is concerned, I am generally supportive of the idea of the Commonwealth developing its membership. There will come a point-I am not quite sure where that point is-at which the dynamics of a Commonwealth that is able to engage in a Heads of Government meeting on an intimate level and so on will become increasingly difficult. That is something that needs to be considered very clearly.

There are some obvious candidates. I hesitate-it is the last place one should mention, being in the British Parliament-but Ireland’s return to the Commonwealth would be beneficial both to Ireland and to the Commonwealth itself. Burma is another obvious candidate. There are potential candidates, apart from those whose claims are a little less obvious.

As far as the overseas territories and Crown dependencies are concerned, I think we need to move on in terms of attitudes on this. As I saw in the evidence to this Committee, the Crown dependencies and the overseas territories are themselves developing-not yet, and maybe not ever, a state of full sovereign status, but they are developing in an interesting way. Gibraltar’s constitution has a high degree of autonomy, for example. I notice that both the Isle of Man and Jersey spoke about their development of an international dimension, concluding agreements without the British Government in that respect. I think there are all sorts of areas where we have a rather interesting new tier of potential Commonwealth membership emerging.

Of course, it is not true to say that those territories and so on are not members of the Commonwealth. They are members of the Commonwealth, and they participate in many aspects of Commonwealth activity-the parliamentary association, the Commonwealth games and so on-but I think the 2007 study and the Patterson inquiry into this, was very conservative in its approach. I think it could be much more imaginative in looking at different layers and levels of engagement.

I think one could have dialogue partners. That happened at the 2009 Trinidad and Tobago summit, when President Sarkozy was there. The Nordic countries and Japan have been anxious to work with the Commonwealth, maybe putting development assistance through the Commonwealth, and I think they are perhaps natural dialogue partners. Equally, some kind of membership that is short of full membership is quite understandable and reasonable.

Q70 Andrew Rosindell: You said that they were members of the Commonwealth. That is not strictly true, is it? They are not actually members of the Commonwealth. Their sovereign mother countries, if you like, are members of the Commonwealth, and their involvement is only in terms of outside bodies such as the CPA. They do not have any direct status within that organisation.

Mr Mole: That is true only if you think that the Commonwealth is solely an intergovernmental organisation. I do not think that, and many people do not think that either. It is intergovernmental and non-governmental. It is the unofficial Commonwealth. Those of us in the unofficial Commonwealth feel ourselves as much members of the Commonwealth as anyone else in our respective organisations.

Then there is a kind of no-man’s land between the two states of living, where there are ambiguities. I think the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association is a slightly hybrid body. I think the Commonwealth Local Government Forum has intergovernmental as well as non-governmental aspects. There are different manifestations between these two principal layers of intergovernmental and non-governmental, but they are all part of the Commonwealth. If you look at the overseas territories in a whole series of ways, their participation in this respect is very strong.

Q71 Andrew Rosindell: But what would you say to the people of Bermuda, for instance, where there are 60,000 people, compared with, say, Tuvalu, with 12,000? Do you agree that by not giving these territories a status-even associate, observer or some kind of status-you are almost saying to them, "If you do not want independence, you will never be given the same recognition, even though you are much larger in some cases than many of the existing full member states"?

Mr Mole: This is where what the Isle of Man and Jersey were saying about developing an international dimension is really quite interesting. One could find even more dramatic contrasts than between Bermuda and Tuvalu.

Q72 Andrew Rosindell: For instance the Isle of Man, with 80,000.

Mr Mole: Yes. So you could find that.

I would be keen on greater involvement of territories such as Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and Gibraltar in hosting Commonwealth meetings. They would need to do that, under the present rules, in association with the British Government. The same, of course, applies-we ought to keep this in the whole frame-to the nations of the United Kingdom and, indeed, to the provinces of Canada, the states of India or whatever. They can all play their parts in the hosting.

Bermuda has, I think, hosted a finance Ministers meeting in the past-certainly the Cayman Islands has. It did give status to Bermuda to host alongside the British Government, which is more than one might think from its non-status as you have described it. That is an area that should be developed. It helps the country to internationalise its contacts and profile.

Q73 Andrew Rosindell: May I ask one final question? Going back to my first point about the expansion of the Commonwealth, you mentioned Ireland and Burma, but what other countries and parts of the world do you see as potential members? Do you see, for instance, countries such as those in the Gulf and the Middle East as potential members? What other parts of the world would you highlight as potential future members?

Mr Mole: I suppose that the difficulty in calling out names is that that would encourage instant deniability and so on. I would have thought that having a place for a representation from the Middle East-the Arab world-would be very useful to the Commonwealth and would make it a stronger association.

Back in 1997, at the time of the Edinburgh Commonwealth summit, Palestine had applied to join and I think it still has its application for membership lying on a table somewhere. But, of course, Palestine was not admitted because it was not yet-nor is it now-a sovereign nation. Alongside Palestine, there was talk at that stage of other Middle Eastern countries possibly joining the Commonwealth. There are others that one could mention now.

I want to say one thing about membership, because this is something we talked about earlier. Countries have very different motives for joining the Commonwealth. Very few probably join the association for grand, multilateral reasons. Often it is for regional reasons or for bilateral reasons, and sometimes it might be for national development reasons. I think that Cameroon joined because it wanted to develop internal cohesion between its Francophone and Anglophone populations. Malaysia has used its membership as part of its 2020 vision to develop. South Africa came back into the Commonwealth after 1994 not out of sentiment but so that it could reconnect with a world from which it had been excluded.

Countries have very many different motives for wanting to join the Commonwealth. Although we have two examples of countries that have not had a link with another Commonwealth country-it does not need to be with the United Kingdom-in Mozambique and Rwanda, may I say that Mozambique has been an exemplary member? Its membership has been to the benefit of Mozambique and the Commonwealth.

Chair: Mr Mole, thank you very much indeed for coming to give evidence to the Committee. It is much appreciated.

Mr Mole: Thank you.

Commonwealth Advisory Bureau (CA/B) submission to the UK Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee Inquiry on "The role and future of the Commonwealth"

Written evidence from The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs

Prepared 29th March 2012