HC Deb 24 November 1952 vol 508 cc19-21
37. Mr. Wyatt

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will take action under the urgency procedure to table a resolution at the United Nations deploring the investigation of members of the United Nations Secretariat by a United States Congressional Committee.

Mr. Nutting

A committee of eminent jurists has been appointed by the Secretary-General to advise him upon the status of the United Nations and its Secretariat in regard to the inquiries now being pursued by the United States Congressional Committee. I have no doubt that the Secretary-General will take any appropriate action in the light of their advice.

The attitude of Her Majesty's Government will depend upon the findings of the Committee.

Mr. Wyatt

Does the hon. Gentleman not realise that the type of procedure now being adopted by this Congressional Committee is doing tremendous damage to the morale of the United Nations Secretariat, has already led to the suicide of one of the high officials, and has been largely a contributory factor towards the resignation of the Secretary-General himself? Is he also aware that this Committee has described the United Nations as being a nest of spies and saboteurs, and that it requires a certain amount of guts and verve from this Government to try to get a counter-attitude to this type of activity?

Mr. Nutting

The difficulty is that this is to some extent sub judice while it is being investigated by a committee of jurists appointed by the Secretary-General himself. I should prefer not to make any comment about the attitude of Her Majesty's Government in this matter until that Committee has reported.

Mr. Noel-Baker

While I quite understand that the Minister does not want to make a statement now, will he consider whether the recent actions of the United States authorities are really consistent with Article 100 of the Charter under which every member of the United Nations undertakes to respect the exclusively international character of the responsibilities of the Secretary-General and the staff and not to seek to influence them in the discharge of their responsibilities? Will he consider whether, even if in the present case no exception could be taken, this kind of procedure, if taken by all Governments, might not be very damaging to the international Secretariat?

Mr. Nutting

The initiative in this matter rests, in the first place, with the Secretary-General. He has taken the initiative in setting up a committee of jurists to investigate precisely the effect of Article 100. Whether that is being respected by the United States investigating committee I would prefer not to comment upon at this stage.

41. Mr. Beswick

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to what extent this country, as a member State of the United Nations, is responsible for terms and conditions of employment of United Nations employees.

Mr. Nutting

To the extent that the staff of the United Nations are appointed under regulations which were established by resolutions of the General Assembly.

Mr. Beswick

As the Under-Secretary accepts some responsibility in these matters, can he say whether he made any protest at all against the action of a national State interrogating employees of this international organisation about their political opinions?

Mr. Nutting

I have already answered a question on the issue of the United States investigating committee. I should prefer to say nothing more at the moment.

Mr. Swingler

Is it not important that the convention on immunity for employees of the United Nations should be upheld, and is it not a regrettable fact that the American Congress have not yet ratified this convention although the United Nations staff are located in the United States? Will the Under-Secretary make representations directly to the American Government about ratification of that convention?

Mr. Nutting

The question of action by Her Majesty's Government must depend upon the findings of the committee of jurists. I cannot say more than that at this stage.

Mr. Younger

Does the hon. Gentleman not think that, quite independently of the incident of this committee, it is most unsatisfactory that the United States should not have ratified the convention on immunity which everyone assumed they would accept when the United Nations headquarters was established in America?

Hon. Members


Mr. S. Silverman

Can the hon. Gentleman explain why—the United Nations having been established for seven years—the question of the legal status of their employees should come up for legal investigation only now? Have not the United Nations taken any previous steps to make certain that their officials have proper immunity and, in connection with that, can the hon. Gentleman say why it is that the United States have not so far ratified the previous agreements on this matter?

Mr. Nutting

I am really not responsible—and I do not think the right hon. Gentleman was holding me responsible—for the action of the United States in ratifying or failing to ratify any particular treaty or convention. That is why I did not give him an answer.

As to the first supplementary question of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), the first initiative in this matter must rest with the Secretary-General. He has now taken that initiative in setting up a committee of jurists. No doubt they will present their findings in due course, and the attitude and action of Her Majesty's Government will depend upon those findings.