7 Conclusion |
conclude that the Commonwealth benefits from the involvement of
the United Kingdom and that the United Kingdom benefits from its
membership of the Commonwealth. The benefits emerge in many ways,
ranging from strong trade and investment links to cultural contacts.
Recent profound changes in the balance of global political, diplomatic
and economic power have greatly enhanced the prosperity and political
influence enjoyed by many Commonwealth countries. The Commonwealth
clearly could have a bright future.
146. But we
are deeply concerned that, despite all these advantages, the Commonwealth
is failing to realise its great potential. In recent years it
has been too often both silent and invisible: silent on occasions
when members flout its principles, and invisible to its people.
Too many of the benefits of the Commonwealth are intangible, as
we discovered from our evidence sessions and our visits to Commonwealth
147. It is also
difficult accurately to measure the benefits of the Commonwealth
to its member states including the UK; it is not easy to assess
increased influence in the world or to attribute that increase
to the Commonwealth rather than to bilateral relationships. We
conclude that the FCO's rhetoric about the importance of the Commonwealth
is not being matched by its actions. The past closure of diplomatic
missions, particularly in the Pacific, cuts to the BBC World Service
and changes to the UK visa regime are prime examples. We urge
the Government to address this gap between words and deeds.
148. We conclude
that the Commonwealth must move quickly along the road to reform
if it is to make the most of its natural advantages and demonstrate
its value to its members. We expect the UK to play a prominent
role in this process, and to show that it can match its pro-Commonwealth
rhetoric with effective action. If the Commonwealth takes the
right decisions in the next few months, we are confident that
it can protect and promote its values and benefit the interests
of all of its members, including Britain.