HC Deb 25 February 1952 vol 496 cc704-5
52. Mrs. Barbara Castle

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what contribution has been pledged by the United Kingdom to the 1952 technical assistance programme of the United Nations; and how this compares with her contribution in the first financial period.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

A sum of £450,000 has been pledged for the 12 months of 1952, compared with a contribution of £760,000 for the first period of 18 months.

Mrs. Castle

Is it not really deplorable that this country should reduce an already paltry contribution to the world fight against poverty to an even more paltry one; and is not this economy most unwise in view of the fact that such an investment in technical assistance is the best defence we can have in making a world attack upon poverty?

Mr. Lloyd

I certainly agree that due weight should be given to the importance of technical assistance, but so far as the contribution of this country is concerned less than 10 per cent. of the previous sum had been spent up to 30th September, 1951, and I do not believe that the contribution which we have given will in any way impair the work that is being done.

Sir Richard Acland

Does the Minister realise, that, as a percentage of the national budget or the national income, our contribution is markedly lower than the contribution of almost any comparable country? Will he reconsider this question, because we are showing up in a very bad light in the international sphere?

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

Is it not a fact that the recent conference on this matter failed to reach the target of £20 million because our contribution had been cut? Is it not of major British interest to increase the world output of food and raw materials, which is the main purpose of this technical assistance programme?

Mr. Lloyd

I do not believe that the achievement of the total sum has in any way been impaired by what is, after all, a very small reduction in our contribution, compared to the contribution of the previous Government.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Is it not a 40 per cent. cut on the contribution of the previous Government?

Mr. Lloyd

I endeavoured to make this point clear in my previous answer. The contribution of £760,000 was for a period of 18 months. This contribution is £450,000 for a period of 12 months; so the reduction is very small indeed.

Mrs. Castle

Is it not a fact that since the original contribution was made there has been a general increase in prices, so that this contribution does not measure up to the previous one? Is it not also a fact that if we are to make a sustained attack upon world poverty, which is the greatest cause of unrest in the world today, we should be increasing this contribution and not reducing it?

Mr. Sydney Silverman

Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman realise that the world will never be free from fear until it is free from want? From that point of view, does he not think it would be better to take a little extra money out of the vast amount which is to be spent on re-armament? If that were done the security of this country and the world would be greatly increased.