HC Deb 07 December 1953 vol 521 cc1596-8
11. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will instruct the United Kingdom representative at the United Nations to support the establishment of the proposed special United Nations Fund for economic development of undeveloped areas, independently of an agreement for world disarmament.

17. Mr. Beswick

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if, in view of the fact that the alleviation of poverty, and the consequent lessening of political discontent may well help towards the objective of a reduction in armaments, he will give an assurance that Her Majesty's Government support for the Special United Nations Fund for Economic Development will not await the successful completion of a disarmament conference.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

As I said in reply to the right hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) on 2nd December, Her Majesty's Government emphatically support the development of underdeveloped countries. The United Kingdom delegate voted for the resolution on the subject of the proposed Special United Nations Fund, which also had the support of all the delegates from underdeveloped countries, but the conditions for establishing machinery for the operation of such a fund do not yet exist.

The principal difficulty is that none of the potential contributors is prepared to add at the present time to its overseas commitments. The United Kingdom, for example, spent, in the 12 months ended 30th September, £27 million through Government channels alone on economic development, relief and reconstruction overseas, and that figure does not include the figures for private investment or sums raised in London by other Governments.

Until savings can be made in other directions—and the obvious saving would be on disarmament—I regret that I can see no prospect of Her Majesty's Government being able to contribute to a new fund of the kind proposed. It would be raising false hopes to say otherwise.

Mr. Henderson

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman not agree that this problem of the undeveloped areas is just as acute and just as vital to the peace of the world as any problem of armament or rearmament? Are we to understand from his reply that he takes the same stand as the United States Government, and that nothing can be done to establish this fund until we have secured world disarmament? Will he not agree to make some contribution to the start of such a fund, and not wait until the far distant future?

Mr. Lloyd

We do not take quite the same view of this matter as the Government of the United States. Their representative stated during the debate that they did not believe that any special steps could be usefully taken at this time for the establishment of such a fund, while we persuaded, or took part in persuading, all the members of the committee to agree that the project should be kept under view. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows, a very experienced gentleman, the Chairman of the Economic and Social Council, has been asked to investigate further the practical difficulties concerned. I think that our position and our hopes are set forth in the resolutions for which we voted, but I believe it would be raising false hopes to say that in the immediate future there is a prospect of such a fund being established.

Mr. Beswick

Surely the right hon. and learned Gentleman is not saying that nothing more can be done until world disarmament agreement is achieved. Does he not think that the day of disarmament will be brought nearer if we do something to allay the political discontent and economic poverty in some of these parts of the world?

Mr. Lloyd

I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman that the development of the underdeveloped countries can make a great contribution towards the peace of the world. Where we are perhaps at issue is about the practicability of this fund being set up at present. I would remind the hon. Gentleman that we are playing a very big part in the development of underdeveloped countries. If I may add to the list I have already given, I should like to say that we have agreed to give Pakistan a credit of £10 million, and we have agreed, under the Colombo Plan, to release sterling balances to the equivalent of £42 million for India, Pakistan and Ceylon. It will thus be seen that this country is doing about as much as it can.

Sir W. Smithers

Would my right hon. and learned Friend also bear in mind, in connection with the future policy of the underdeveloped areas, that they cannot be fully developed unless they are able to buy in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest?