58 Gordon Walker to Australian Government

Cablegram G10 (extract) LONDON, 13 April 1948, 5.27 p.m.


My despatch of 11th February G.3. Ceylon no.3.

British Nationality Bill.

1. Government of India have asked that in clause 1 use of term 'British Subject' may be reconsidered with a view to replacing it by some such term as 'citizen of the Commonwealth' or 'Commonwealth citizen'. They state that latter terms would be more acceptable to Indian public opinion and would accord more precisely with the actual facts.

2. Although not so stated by Government of India we have some reason to believe that intention is that citizens of India should continue to press status of British subjects with all the rights and obligations appertaining thereto and that all which would be involved is a change of nomenclature. It has been suggested that a favourable decision on this request might have an important bearing on India's future relationship with the British Commonwealth.

3. We should be reluctant to see complete disappearance of time honoured and well understood phrase 'British subject' and we think it likely that its general abandonment would not meet with favour in many quarters in this country and in other countries of the British Commonwealth. On the other hand if our understanding of the position as described in first sentence of paragraph 2 is correct we should not see any serious objection in principle to a change in the law so that citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies and of all the countries specified in clause 1 (2) of the Bill while possessing the status of British subjects could according to their individual preference be described either as 'British subjects' or as 'Commonwealth citizens'. We are advised that there would be no legal objection to this course.

[AA: 3195, 1948, I.6222]