Foreign Affairs CommitteeWritten evidence from Mrs Anne Palmer JP (retired)

1. My first thoughts on this particular inquiry is that it does not seem to be appropriate in this, Her Majesty’s 60th year of Her wonderful Reign to question Her Majesty’s role and the future of the Commonwealth. On June 2012, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will celebrate her Diamond Jubilee, and with it 60 years as Head of the Commonwealth. I question whether the Commonwealth of “yesterday” is the same as it is “today” and for the future? The Foreign Affairs Committee are asking the people to respond to their inquiry into “The role and future of the Commonwealth”. It seems that the matter of the Commonwealth’s future-if it lasts-has already been decided. We are indeed looking at a “NEW” and very different Commonwealth. However, now I have started, I will continue to respond.

2. The Commonwealth, once known as the British Commonwealth, gave the UK a worldwide view at life. A Commonwealth of Nations that all shared the same values. The Countries cover six continents and covers about one third of the Worlds population, absolutely amazing and it is still dynamic and growing. The Commonwealth has survived many years, and the people’s of the Commonwealth have fought side by side, particularly in the last World War that many alive today realise that without them fighting side by side, many would not have had the freedom “today” that they fought together for in 1939–1945. Now the word and meaning of British has been dropped from its title and the allegiance to the Crown from its statute. There has never been any need for a Constitution for the Commonwealth nor a Charter but having read what is proposed for the future New Commonwealth? Who knows what will happen?

3. Sadly, our experience after all these years in the European Union the people feel trapped inside a dying political project, for the never ending EU Rules and Regulations make the people feel Governed by foreigners in everything they do. Indeed, the EU legislation are formed by foreigners and then transposed. Some are presented into this Country as if it is our own Government’s idea such as the HS2 part of the European Union’s Tran-European Transport Network (Ten-T) Policy and of course the recent Localism Bill also recorded in the Council of Europe. The permanent dividing of ENGLAND into Regions, for and on behalf of the European Union.

4. At one time the British people could do anything they wanted to, unless there was a law against. Now, they are only permitted to do some-thing if there is a law that says they “may”. There is no freedom for once National Governments to breathe freely, yet our Government continue to accept willingly and without the people’s consent every EU Treaty that comes along.

5. Having read the Eminent Persons Group recommendations for the “Reform of the Commonwealth” and the present British Commonwealth having survived a hundred years without “rules and regulations” written down with the request to sign certain documents, perhaps many free nations will just “walk away”?

6. I regarded Members of the Commonwealth as “family”. For greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. Life is the most valuable matter we possess; and when a man is willing to lay that down for his friends or his country, it shows the utmost extent of love. Well over a million Commonwealth Forces died so that the people in these small British Isles remained free.

7. Not far from where I live are some of the graves of those Commonwealth Forces that gave their lives for us. Where we can go at times, and remember the sacrifice they made for us. They gave their lives so that all of YOU in that magnificent building could continue to Govern this Country according to its 600 year old Common Law Constitution, for that is the only lawful Constitutional foundation other new laws can legally/lawfully be built upon. That is what our Members of the Commonwealth fought for; that no British person could or would allow a foreigner to ever set aside our own Constitution for any of their foreign laws.

8. Question: “What is the future of the Commonwealth and what reforms are needed if the Commonwealth is to be successful?”

The Commonwealth is worldwide and it is many years old. The Commonwealth is and has been very successful indeed. Sadly, this country is losing many fine young people by choosing to live in Australia. It seems, in talking to them, listening to them, that they feel there is no future for them in this Country of their birth, unless the EU says there “may be so”.

9. Question: Does the Commonwealth retain a purpose and value?

Yes, indeed it does, at least if it is left as it is at present. The present Commonwealth can achieve far more than the European Union can ever hope to achieve no matter how long the latter survives. If the former is changed however by what is proposed in the Report of the Eminent Persons Group to Commonwealth Heads of Government at Perth, Oct 2011, “A Commonwealth of the people-Time for Urgent Reform”, it too will eventually die as the EU is dying at present, for without the people behind it, it is doomed-even though it may take an unconscionable time in dying. Sadly, it looks as if the Commonwealth has been or is being hi-jacked, or destroyed from the great idea of what it was and what it stood for. For it is now to become the New Commonwealth, and from reading, “it is time for urgent reforms” it is reminiscent of the words in the EU Treaties.

10. How has the Perth Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting impacted upon this purpose and value?

“At the 2011 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth, which took place on 28–30 October, Heads agreed to a “Charter of the Commonwealth” which will set out in one place, and in a straightforward way, the core values to which Commonwealth members are committed etc”. This amazes me that after all these years we now need everything set out, a need to reform and to demonstrate their support for real and tangible action on equality and development issues. Absolutely Amazing! How on earth did the Commonwealth manage to survive the first sixty to a hundred years without everything written down? Commitments made? Each signing a Charter? Members of the Commonwealth have never needed anything like this before. This is a NEW proposed Commonwealth and I understand fully why there seems to be some dissent.

11. If there was a need for some-thing different, some-thing NEW, the Commonwealth, as we knew it should have been left alone and a new organisation should have been introduced. This way may not recruit new members, but it may well destroy the “old” Commonwealth. Would that be deemed a success? Will the enlarged EU eventually take the New Commonwealth unto its bosom?

12. How does membership of the Commonwealth help the UK achieve its diplomatic objectives? This poses a great problem for me because all I could find what the main diplomatic objective seems to be, “DIPLOMATIC INFLUENCE & VALUES (DIV) FUND 2011-12 – 2014-15 REUNITING EUROPE (RE) STRAND: STRATEGY PAPER. While the people of this Country are really hurting, losing their jobs, some, even their homes, everything they seem to need or touch is costing them more. Millions more pounds are being sent to reuniting Europe. We read about the EU launching its Arab Spring through 16 Mediterranean partner countries from North Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans, only to watch as each country becomes embroiled in conflict, what a way for Heads of State to be replaced. Will this happen to the Commonwealth? What is to be the estimated cost of creating this NEW Commonwealth? Can we really afford to make all these changes? Can other Countries also, at this particular time? I see absolutely no improvement in diplomatic objectives. Quite the reverse, yet I pray I am wrong.

13. In writing this, and thinking of Her Majesty’s recent visits to the Commonwealth Countries I realize just how special the Commonwealth Countries are to us as they are at present. There are no EU Regulations or EU Directives telling each of them what they may or may not do for they are free one to the other-for now. It is this particular and special unique association of independent, democratic, multiethnic and multireligious countries that has survived the changes that have destroyed the global supremacy of the old power blocs. There are Historic connections with this country, which may be part of the answer. We certainly are proud of being a democracy. That, in a nutshell, is what I believe to be the real true unique point of the Commonwealth. Something that can never be achieved in the proposed New Commonwealth.

14. At the end of the Report of the “Eminent Persons Group to Commonwealth Heads of Government, Oct 2011”, it becomes quite clear that all are expected to sign a document that looks very much like a Treaty or Commitment, for indeed it has a “preamble”. It is a “commitment” to which each nation can be held. It will be the death of the old British Commonwealth of Nations and will be replaced by some-thing very different indeed. All very sad.

15. What benefits does the UK’s membership of the Commonwealth bring in terms of: (a) Trade? We tend to forget when people talk of needing the EU for trade, that the Commonwealth Market is nine times greater than that of the European Union. Part of what makes the Commonwealth unique is its diversity and its geographical spread, and this diversity must be cherished. It also represents developed countries, huge developing economies like India and small, dynamic countries like Singapore. This Country does not generally make demands on any member of the Commonwealth and not one Commonwealth Country makes any demand upon us. It does not make any Rules or Regulations or “fine” this once great Country if it does not fly its flag.

16. The promotion of human rights?

In the Commonwealth? I think perhaps we should look to our own Country before questioning other Countries particularly with the murders that have so recently taken place and the riots of last year? Where are the people’s human rights when they are afraid to walk down their streets? I fear more of both may be lurking round the corner of 2012 before the year is done.

17. The promotion of “soft power” and a positive image of the UK?

Soft power, Payment? Begging? Pleading? Bribery? Hard Power? Force? All guns blazing? Neither work successfully. I look to the MP’s people have elected to govern yet I see them obeying the same EU orders like the rest of us. The UK can never have a positive image until it can Govern this Country according to its long standing Constitution. The UK can never have a “positive image” until it tells the people in full, where the acts/legislation/directives/regulations, call them what you will, comes from. For instance the HS2 is part of the EU’s TEN-T Policy, the Localism Bill was even lodged in the Council of Europe’s Web-site for a tick to be placed by is name when completed for the UK, it was even noted on the UN Web-site, but went upwards to the UN rather than instigated by the UN. The longer the UK remains in the EU, the weaker its voice will become, until it has no voice at all. Should the transfer of UK Sovereignty over our Skies and Seas be transferred to the UK, I should imagine that transfer will be permanent for World Maps will be altered to note that transfer. Would that be classed as Sort Power or Hard Power?

18. What direct benefits does the Commonwealth bring to citizens of the UK and of Commonwealth countries?

Perhaps I might liken this question to a long-standing marriage? Both get out of it what they have put in to it? For part of a couple now in their sixty second year of marriage, I know what I am talking about. The Commonwealth has “always been “there” for us”, particularly in our hour of need, and we should never forget that, for sadly, that time may come again. I always remember my father saying there could never be another war and along came World War II. In most of the large Commonwealth Countries the peoples can understand one another. Their customs are very similar too. Sadly this cannot be said of EU Countries and in this Country, sadly our youth have not been taught foreign Languages as they should have been, right from 1972.

19. What role and status should the British Overseas Territories, Crown Dependencies and self-governing jurisdictions have in relation to the Commonwealth? If our Government is wise, exactly as they are at present. Close friends at all times. Even Diego Garcia became very important at one time in living memory, and the way matters are shaping up at present, it may well be needed urgently once again. I pray, for all our sakes, not. As for the Commonwealth, I sincerely hope it is not being created to become “A United European Commonwealth”.

20. I confirm once again my complete loyalty to my Country (The United Kingdom of great Britain and Northern Ireland) and my solemn Oath of Allegiance to the permanency of the British Crown through Her Majesty, the Queen Elizabeth II, Her Heirs and successors.

9 January 2012

Prepared 14th November 2012