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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

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]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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