Lords debate the future of the Commonwealth

ParliamentYesterday the UK's House of Lords debated "The Future of the Commonwealth". Lord Luce, the former Governor of Gibraltar and Foreign Office Minister, introduced the debate and had encouraging words for CX's vision of a Commonwealth primarily focused on trade and the shared prosperity it can bring:

The combined GDP of the Commonwealth is more than £6 trillion and it contributes more than 20% of the world’s trade and investment. We have the advantage of common language and some regulatory frameworks which should facilitate trade. However, we could be doing far more in the Commonwealth. Growth rates in many African and Asian countries are improving. Trade opportunities are there to take.

He also made reference to the vast potential in the youth of the Commonwealth but also the risk of this being missed if young people aren't aware and engaged. This is a central plank of CX's activity and we will be announcing more very soon.

The important thing is the future. Fifty per cent of Commonwealth citizens are under the age of 25. The Commonwealth will mean something to them only if they have a knowledge and understanding of its value.

There were a number of encouraging contributions which can be watched here or read in full here but here are some of the highlights sharing our vision of the Commonwealth:

Lord Selsdon:

To me, the Commonwealth should be more about trade and less about politics

Baroness Scotland:

I, too, believe that if the Commonwealth did not exist, we would have to create it because it provides an opportunity for people of disparate beliefs, from different backgrounds and with different histories to come together...

The total gross domestic product of the Commonwealth is greater than that of the European Union and is predicted to grow by 7.3% between 2012 and 2017. Trade in goods within the Commonwealth is now worth about £250 billion each year to its members. There are huge positives to be gained from being a member of the Commonwealth... Within the Commonwealth itself, trade between other Commonwealth members is up by 50%.

Lord Chidgey:

In the governance of the Commonwealth, whether you are a small island nation, a huge landmass or a leading industrial nation, you have one thing in common—just one vote.

Lord Moynihan:

For it is a striking fact that even though the Commonwealth has its historical roots in the 19th century, it is perhaps one of the international organisations or platforms that is most suited to the world of the 21st

Lord Crisp:

In addition to the wealth of links that bind us all together, the Commonwealth is a truly remarkable organisation because it brings together rich countries, poor countries and fast-growing countries, and it is not geographically bounded.

Baroness Hooper:

The shared language, values, standards and heritage that bring the Commonwealth nations together need to be nurtured and future generations have to be helped to recognise that it is these factors that mark out the Commonwealth as a relevant and unique institution today which continues to evolve and change to meet new challenges.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister Baroness Warsi in closing the debate:

There is great potential within the Commonwealth to promote the long-term prosperity of its members. The Commonwealth is a natural place for the UK and other member states to do business. Our shared principles of democracy, the rule of law and good governance, combined with our similar legal systems, provide a solid foundation for doing business—a platform for trade, investment, development and prosperity.