HC Deb 09 February 1954 vol 523 cc1123-42

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Kaberry.]

9.34 p.m.

Sir Richard Acland (Gravesend)

Before the House adjourns I should like to call attention to the United Nations Extended Technical Assistance Programme, and particularly to Britain's contribution to this work. I and a number of my hon. Friends have raised this very point in recent months at Question time and in debate. We have complained that the British contribution to this work is too small, and we have been generally brushed aside—I do not think that is too strong a phrase—with the assertion that the British contribution is the second largest in the world.

With the greatest respect, that is not enough, because, with the exception of the U.S.S.R., which has only just begun to contribute to this programme on a very small scale, we are easily the second wealthiest country in the world. Therefore, although our contribution is the second largest, the question still remains whether the contribution is commensurate with our wealth.

We are very lucky on this subject in that there exists a very fair criterion or measuring rod against which the adequacy or inadequacy of any nation's contribution to this fund can be measured. Because, whereasthe different nations are invited to contribute whatever sum they choose to the United Nations Extended Technical Assistance Budget, it is quite otherwise with the regular budget of the United Nations, which keeps all the machinery running, which pays for the Assembly and all the rest of the essential machinery of this great international organisation. For that regular budget the different nations are assessed, they are taxed, they are told what they will pay by an International Contributions Committee on which this country is represented. I have never heard of anyone saying that the work of this committee is unfair, or that it is anything other than most admirably planned.

I have been looking rather carefully at the assessments fixed by this committee of the different contributions required of the different nations to the regular budget of the United Nations, and I have been comparing those assessments with what they choose to pay to the United Nations Extended Technical Assistance Programme. The first thing we find is that by far the most numerous contributors to the programme from the point of view of numbers are either very small countries or countries where the average income per head is very low. I do not know what view any other fair-minded person would take, but my view is that one would not expect those countries to be making an enormous contribution to such a programme.

When we come to the larger and relatively wealthier countries, I have taken the trouble to draw up their contributions to this programme and their assessments to the United Nations regular budget in the form of a table. I very much wish that on; this occasion ordinary back-bench Members had the advantage which Ministers have at Question time of saying that they will circulate the table in the Official Report, because it will be impossible in this short time to present the table verbally to the House in a way which would make any sense. However, I have sent a copy of it to the Minister, who has been kind enough to tell me that there are no substantial inaccuracies in it, and therefore I can summarise its effect.

There are six substantial nations which generously choose to contribute to the United Nations Extended Technical Assistance Programme at a percentage rate which is markedly higher than the rate at which they are assessed to contribute to the United Nations regular budget. These outstandingly generous nations are Brazil, Canada, Denmark—which from the point of view of percentage heads the list—the Netherlands—which come second in the same respect—Turkey, and, of course, the largest in scale, the United States of America, which is assessed to pay 33⅓ per cent. of the United Nations budget, but which is willing to pay 54.76 per cent. or may be 60 per cent. of the Extended Technical Assistance Programme.

After those six outstandingly generous nations we come to another group of five nations where, as near as a decimal point or two, the percentage contribution to the two bodies is exactly equal. These are the Argentine, Australia, Belgium, New Zealand and Sweden.

Now we drop below the line and we find France and, somewhat to my surprise, Norway, who contribute to this budget roughly speaking four-fifths of what they should be contributing. In the case of Norway it is fair to add that if one takes account of the 10 million kroner scheme which the Norwegians have for special assistance to a large area of fishing villages on the west coast of India, it would immediately carry them right up to the class of the generous.

Alas, the contribution of the United Kingdom, according to my calculation, was last year less than two-thirds of what it should have been. It is true that it has been increased since last year, but it is still less than three-quarters of what it should be by what I believe to be a perfectly fair test. Then we have the Communist countries. We are glad that some of them contribute at all, but it is perfectly right that we should draw attention to the fact that, judged by their assessments to contribute to the United Nations regular budget, these initial contributions of theirs need to be looked at very seriously with a view to increasing them. Finally, as one would have expected, lower than the Communists is the Union of South Africa, which contributes nothing. To be fair, I should mention that Switzerland contributes generously to the programme, although she is not a budget of the United Nations?

I want to ask one single main question. If I ask any others it is because we have had the good fortune to start this debate half an hour earlier than I had expected. The single important question is why, except for the Communists and the Fascists, of the substantially wealthy countries we are at the bottom of the list when we compare what we choose to pay to this programme with what we are fairly assessed to pay to the regular budget of the United Nations.

I hope that the Minister who replies will not say that this is because of what we pay into the Colombo Plan because, apart from small sums paid for technical assistance, our contribution to Colombo is in the nature of a repayment of war debts. I hope that he will not say it is because of the wonderful things which we do for colonial development and welfare, because with all that has been said in a recent very learned Colonial Office publication which attempts to explain away the sterling balances, the fact remains that in post-war years the Colonies, with their dollar earning, have been financing us rather than vice versa.

That is not a party point. It was equally true when we on this side of the House were in power. In any case, the Netherlands have colonial responsibilities which are proportionately equal to ours, and we would not let them get away with the idea that they were entitled to contribute below the line on the ground that they were helping their Colonies. And, in fact, their contribution is 90 per cent. more than their strict assessment.

If we can have an answer to that and the Minister has time, I hope that he will say a word or two on a speech which caused me the greatest distress when I read it. It was made on 28th September by our representative, Sir Clifford Norton, at the Economic Committee of the General Assembly, which at that time was considering what should be the total size of the budget for the Extended Technical Assistance Programme for 1954. I am sure that the House will appreciate that there are two stages connected with this budget. The nations meet first to decide what shall be the total budget. Subsequently, they meet in order that each nation may say what part of the budget it will contribute.

At this meeting to discuss the total size of the budget the Director-General of the Extended Technical Assistance Programme pointed out very forcibly that the programme was in a state of crisis because, with a budget of around 23 million to 25 million dollars, it had in 1953 and would have in 1954 much less than enough to fulfil the practical and useful requests currently being made upon it.

How does our representative respond to that situation? Does he stand up on behalf of Britain in this, which was, after all, to some extent the forum of the world, and does he on our behalf urge and plead with all the countries of the world to be more generous and to allow this extended programme to expand in 1954 as it was intended that it should?

No, he does nothing of the sort. He says, and one could almost hear the sanctimonious Treasury brief rolling off his lips in the unctuous language we are accustomed to hear from time to time from the Dispatch Box in ths House: It is sometimes said that the programme is in a state of crisis. The implication is that unless something drastic is done it will soon collapse. I wonder whether that is not a wrong way of looking at it. Who said the programme was going to collapse? If the Minister wants a debating point, I will make a present of it to him. I did; I said on 16th July that it was in a state of complete disintegration. That was a piece of exaggeration, on which I was corrected at the time by the Parliamentary Secretary. But our representative in New York was not answering me; he was there to answer the speech of the Director-General and the Director-General had not said the programme was in collapse. He had said, perfectly correctly, that all expansion and all new demands were having to be turned down and would be turned down all through 1954 through want of funds. Why did our representative not deal with what was suggested, instead of putting up an Aunt Sally for the sake of knocking it down? He went on to say: Although the limitation of funds has caused difficulties, it will generally be agreed that such a situation is healthier than one in which surplus funds would be in search of projects. What hypocrisy. Who had ever suggested in the committee that there was any possibility of getting into a situation in which there would be a surplus of funds in search of projects? It is as if one were standing over a man suffering the agonies of malnutrition and patting him on the back, saying: "Lucky fellow, how much better off you are than the man over there who has just died of a surfeit of lampreys." I am sorry, but it makes me quite ashamed of my countrymen that things of this sort are said on our behalf.

Mr. Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)

I think the hon. Baronet should make quite clear that, while the words may be the words of our representative, the intonation could not be expressed, because the intonation given by the hon. Baronet creates an impression which is no doubt outside that which was given by our representative.

Sir R. Acland

If the hon. Member, after this discussion, will, in the Smoking Room, read the words in any tone of voice he wishes in order to make them sound like a trumpet call to the peoples of the world to give this programme more support, I will give him all the assistance I can to conjure up necessary tones. I want to know whether Sir Clifford Norton was speaking about this on his own behalf or on the instructions of Her Majesty's Ministers, because, in the latter case, we shall know who to get at.

Sir Clifford Norton might have known the actual position was such as described by the Director-General at the World Health Organisation in January in these words: The known amounts of Technical Assistance Funds to be made available to the World Health Organisation this year… 1954— …fall substantially short of the amounts expected during the planning stages and are inadequate to meet the immediate requirements of the organisation. Remember, this is an organisation on which the life and death of millions of our fellow citizens will depend this year. He says: …the funds now known to be available from Technical Assistance sources in 1954 do not meet the cost of financing projects in operation from 1953. Without making any provision whatever for even the most urgent of new projects, the shortfall for Technical Assistance activities"— this is the World Health organisation only— is 1,188,688 dollars. Here is another. It comes from Bolivia, and it is one of the most remarkable of the lot. Just think how hopeful is the future for the peoples of many underdeveloped countries when we find an independent country like Bolivia with enough confidence in the United Nations to ask for foreigners to be sent into the heart of the Bolivian Government to occupy key posts in their Civil Service to do this work, which is the first requirement in so many of these countries in order that they may advance in social and economic development.

I think I am right in saying that the Bolivian Government asked for 10 such persons to be sent through the United Nations. This week I have received a letter which was written on 4th February from Hugh Keenleyside, who is Director-General of that part of the Extended Technical Assistance Programme administered through United Nations itself. He states: This year, however, we have been forced to reduce the number still further"— that is the number of international civil servants going to Bolivia— from six to four purely for fiscal reasons. And our representative says that is ever so much healthier than if you have surplus funds searching round for projects.

What about the future? I think there are signs that we as a nation will be obliged in the next few years to pull up our socks. I wish to refer to a report which has just been presented to Mr. Harold Stassen, the Director of America's Foreign Operations Administration. It is a report made by Mr. Eric Johnston, Chairman of America's International Development Advisory Board. The conclusion of the report is: The Board believes that despite imperfections of organisation and any failure that might have occurred the Technical Assistance Programme is one of the world's great movements and the most popular of all the United Nations programmes in the economic and social field. The report from Eric Johnston recommends that within five years the budget for this fund shall be doubled. It recommends also—and I do not think we have any right to say this is ungenerous, because it would seem to be perfectly reasonable and proper—that the American percentage of this doubled fund should fall from 60 per cent. of the total, as it now is, to not more than 50 per cent. of the total.

If that American report goes through, it will mean that our contribution will have to be increased very notably indeed. I hope the Foreign Office—and to be fair I think some of them are on our side over this—will recognise that the next decision has to be made in September, and that they have just about seven months in which to get our Treasury to see sense. Although in a general way I should not be very favourably disposed to a proposition that the British Government should respond to any form of American pressure, I hope that there will be some approach from the State Department to the British Treasury with the object of getting something done.

In about two minutes, to allow time for one or two other hon. Members who wish to do so to take part in the debate, I would put one further consideration. If we look at the latest Report on the Colombo Plan, Cmd. 9016, we find on page 4 that in seven years of the Colombo Plan, up to the middle of 1957, the Commonwealth Governments were to have spent £8 million on technical assistance. If we look at page 106 we find that in three years we have spent £894,000 on technical assistance; that is to say, that nearly half of the time has gone by and we have spent less than an eighth of the money. We provided up to 30th June. 1953, 177 expert advisers, whereas the United Nations Technical Assistance Programme provided the same countries of South-East Asia, the Colombo countries, with 1,308, and could have provided more if finance had been available.

The South-East Asian countries were asking the United Nations for more experts, and the United Nations, if they had had the funds, would have been able to have found the experts. Here we have two overlapping plans for a technical assistance programme in the same area.In one of them, the United Nations plan, we have a demand for experts, a potential supply of experts, but no finance for sending them. In the other, the Colombo Plan, we seem to have plenty of money stored up, voted and approved, but there is no demand for experts, or else we cannot supply them. Would it not be sensible to see if we could get together about that, and use a little of the funds available and not being spent in the Colombo technical assistance plan to give a little more support where the money could very rapidly be turned into the form of experts doing their job on the spot?

9.57 p.m.

Mr. Nigel Nicolson (Bournemouth, East and Christchurch)

Everybody is grateful to the hon. Baronet the Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland) for raising this subject for debate once more, and nobody would disagree with him that it would be of benefit not only to ourselves but to every member of the United Nations if the funds made available for the Technical Assistance Programme could be considerably increased. We all know that the World Health Organisation and the Food and Agriculture Organisation were keyed to a figure very much below that for which they originally budgeted, when it seemed, year by year, that the Governments members of the United Nations would increase their contributions as the work progressed and expanded.

However, the situation is not quite so bad as the hon. Baronet painted it. He did mention, but only in a very casual aside, that we have increased this year our own contribution, and the total amount pledged at the last conference by 70 Governments amounted to 24,300,000 dollars. That is a considerable increase over the money which was available the year before. It is true that all that money, although voted and pledged, will not be available for use this year. The reason is a technical one which, I confess, I do not quite understand, that the cash will not be forthcoming in time, and, therefore, the various Special Agencies of the United Nations are having to operate at a lower budget than they would had all the money been ready to their hands.

The World Health Organisation, for example, is operating on a budget of 2,800,000 dollars instead of the nearly 4 million dollars it expected for this year. But adjustments have been made—I believe they are no more than accountants'adjustments—to make available—

It being Ten o Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Kaberry.]

Mr. Nicolson

Adjustments have been made to make available to the World Health Organisation more money than the small figure of 2,800,000 dollars by borrowing ahead from the Technical Assistance Programme funds against future allocations. All the same, as the hon. Baronet indicated in 'his quotation from the remarks of the Director-General, it means that they will not be able to meet all their obligations and fulfil all their plans.

This is the important point. The year 1954 will be a relatively good one for the Special Agencies. The low point was 1953. For instance, we have reports from the Agencies comparing 1953 with which showed that the work of the Agencies had declined tremendously over the two years. To give just one example from the World Health Organisation, in 1953 there were 167 health projects which were financed from the Technical Assistance Programme and in 1953 the number of projects dropped to 121. In fact, the momentum was in the opposite direction.

I entirely agree with the hon. Baronet that it would be an act not only of charity but also of self-interest if Her Majesty's Government felt able, after discussions during the next six or seven months, to increase their grant to the Technical Assistance Programme at the next pledging conference.

I feel that the Special Agencies have not sufficient public backing in this country. There is not sufficient knowledge anywhere in this country of their work, and they have become tainted, quite wrongly and unfairly, by the political stigma which has become attached to the United Nations Organisation ever since it was set up shortly after the end of the war. It would be an advantage if the Foreign Office were able to publish in the form of a White Paper or a popular pamphlet some information about our contribution to the United Nations Agencies, the way in which the money which we have contributed has been used and how it had helped the less developed countries of the world, and how that development will in the long run, if not very soon, redound to our own advantage by creating markets overseas in which we can sell our goods.

I shall not put to the House the arguments based on grounds of humanity and political advantage, for they have obviously been stated many times. I have two final points to make. The first is that an impression is growing among those, like myself, who are interested in these matters but cannot claim to have any inside knowledge, that there is undue extravagance in the overhead management of the various organisations. I should like to know from my hon. Friend whether he is satisfied that our own accountants can investigate the way in which the money, to which we make a substantial contribution, is being spent and how it is divided between the overheads and the interests of the beneficiaries If it once got about that the money which the British taxpayer is ultimately contributing is being spent upon cocktail parties in Rome or lavish hospitality in Paris or New York, the whole basis upon which we attempt to wring more money out of the Treasury would collapse.

My second point is to ask whether it would not be possible when we next go to the pledging conference to set an example to the other countries of the world by pledging ourselves to a definite sum for a period of years. My hon. Friend may say that we cannot pledge ourselves in such a definite manner to sums of public money, but I would point out that these grants are made as grants-in-aid and that many other grants-in-aid, not necessarily to international bodies but to many bodies of our own, are, in fact, pledged for a period of years.

How can an organisation plan its activities satisfactorily if it does not know whether it will get less or more money during the coming year? It seems only sensible, not only for making easier the work of those who manage these Agencies but in our own interest to see that our money is usefully employed, to make this pledge for at least three years of whatever sum we decide on.

No money has ever been better spent than upon the work of these Agencies. We are financing experts who are able, with the knowledge they draw from the Western Universities, to go out to backward countries and pass on that knowledge with immediate practical results, so that the health and the agricultural outlook of the world are improved. We hope to set an example because more than any other country we have had experience of developing the great untapped areas of the world. Here, in an international sphere, we are once more presented with that opportunity.

10.7 p.m.

Mr. Goronwy Roberts (Caernarvon)

I rise to join the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. N. Nicolson) in thanking my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland) for raising this subject. It is extraordinary to hear that up to 1945 the idea of technical aid of this kind was almost unknown.

Since 1945 we have seen this new, international, technical assistance to the under-privileged and under-developed countries of the world, and I support one of the points made by the hon. Member opposite that the United Nations programme and resources are inadequate to the needs of the underdeveloped areas. Nevertheless, a good deal of progress is being made. If this country, which has shown leadership in this kind of thing in the past, were to increase its contribution we could hope for an international response.

My hon. Friend emphasised that there has been an improvement in the work of the World Health Organisation, but there is fear that it is slipping back. I was rather disturbed to see in the Press release of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations for December, 1953, a statement attributed to the Deputy-Director General of the F.A.O. in regard to the Technical Assistance Programme. It contained these words: The number of F.A.O. operators rose steadily from 173 at the beginning of 1952 to 313 at the end of that year, and then advanced more slowly to 334 by the end of July, 1953. By the end of October, the number had declined to 259. Then comes the really disturbing sentence, which says: Financial restrictions under which the Agencies have agreed to work during the first part of 1954 will probably result in a further decline to 197 by next June. That should give us food for thought. The fact is that if this programme is allowed to slip back a good deal of the sober optimism which, in the last year or two, has begun to reach the masses of the world, will go with it.

My hon. Friend asked for an increase in the contributions of the various contributing countries to the United Nations Fund. The fact is that in the last three financial periods the total of those contributions has remained somewhere between 20 million and 25 million dollars, and with rising costs, especially capital costs, it represents an aggregate yearly world decline in contributions, if not in conscience. I very strongly support my hon. Friend's plea that we should set an example by guaranteeing for the next five or 10 years a fairly substantial sum for disposal.

I should like to hear it announced in the House that, per head of the British population, there shall be applied, during a foreseeable course of years, a certain amount of money. That would be a dramatic, intelligible and inspiring way of showing how we propose to come to the aid of the masses of the people who look to us for leadership and succour.

10.12 p.m.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)

Like other hon. Members who have spoken, I am very grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland) for having raised this matter of United Nations technical assistance, and I am also very grateful to the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchuroh (Mr. N. Nicolson) for the support he gave and the proposals which he made. I should like to comment on two points which heraised. A good deal of work is being done by the United Nations Association, and other organisations, in bringing to the knowledge of the public this most important work. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Holmes) has done a lot of that, and I am sure that the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch has also done much. I hope that other hon. Members will join in. In the first year or 18 months there was some maladministration of some of the funds. It was very natural—indeed, it was almost inevitable—that that should be so, with a lot of Specialised Agencies coming in together and overlapping, but I think that has been cut out now.

I want to argue that our contribution to this work, by any standard, is most inadequately small, while our interest in its success is perhaps greater than that of any other nation in the world. It is barely four years since this work started, yet it is already the most romantic adventure story of the modern age. For the resources expended on it, it has given a greater practical social and economic return than any other project of the kind. It should be for every British financier and banker, for every manufacturer, exporter and importer and for every trade unionist and housewife the top priority in the policies which they ask the Government to pursue.

We can hold our place in the world, restore our balance of payments and raise our standard of living only if world supplies of food and raw materials are rapidly increased, and if the terms of trade for our manufactured goods are improved by a fall in prices due to greater supplies. We can hope to find expanding markets for our exports only if the wealth of other nations, and especially of the underdeveloped countries, is increased, and if they can have a surplus over the bare necessities of life which will enable them to buy our manufacturd goods.

It was with that purpose that we set up the Colonial Development and Welfare Fund, for which we in this country carry the whole financial burden. It was for that purpose that we shared in the Colombo Plan. I fought for that kind of thing in the debates on colonial affairs before the war. We are all very proud of what has been accomplished, but none of it, in my submission, has given us so big a return for what it has cost us as this U.N. project.

In his writings on the subject, my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend has given an admirable and imaginative exposition of the work which has been accomplished. If the Under-Secretary of State wishes to understand the true meaning of this work and its true success, let him read the new book, "Men against the Jungle," which has been published by Mr. Ritchie Calder. He will find it most exciting reading and he will not forget it when he lays it down.

But this work has been hampered and restricted from 1952 onwards—from the second year—by the shortness and the uncertainty of the funds. When it started, everybody intended that by 1954 it should have risen to a target budget of something like 40 million or 50 million dollars. In fact, it has been kept down to 25 million dollars and, as my hon. Friend said, the funds are not pledged for more than one year ahead, so that it has been impossible for the board to make anything but short-term contracts with the experts whose services it secures. The result is that great numbers of projects have been interrupted or postponed or wholly rejected, and that is extremely dangerous, because of course we smash the enthusiasm of the Governments, who may not have found it easy to ask for help.

We have constantly urged the Government to increase our contribution and to pledge it for three years ahead. So far, they have done the opposite. At first, we paid 10.6 per cent. of the target. Last year, it was cut to 5.6 per cent. Under the pressure of the House—I know the sympathy of the Foreign Office here, but I also know the power of the Treasury—it was raised again, and the Government last year did a little better, but on my calculation it is still only 7.2 per cent. of the target.

I think this is very bad business from the national point of view. When, in the summer, we urged that the sum should be increased, the Colonial Secretary replied that the nation had a deficit and added, "You cannot export a deficit." In the same speech, however, he told us he was going to give to schemes in the Colonies—in other words, he was going to export outside the United Kingdom—£3 million to increase the production of rice. Had he given the £3 million to the U.N. Technical Assistance Fund, the first part of the contribution would certainly have attracted American dollars in the proportion of 60 American dollars for every 40 that we put in. Much more than that: our delegate would have had an opportunity, with that offer in his hands, of raising the target to a more adequate total and he might perhaps have attracted £5 million of United States dollars and many other additional contributions, too. The work done in theColonies would quite certainly not have been less than it is by his method, while the total production of rice in the world would have been much more and the Commonwealth would greatly have benefited.

Our real purpose, and our real safety in years to come,lies in the increase of world production. I believe that expenditure through the U.N. Technical Assistance Programme is the most provident way of increasing that production, not only because 60 other nations contribute but because, up to date, it has helped our balance of payments. The money which we received last year in payments to British experts employed by United Nations, in scholarships to "fellows" who were sent for training in this country, brought us more foreign exchange than the whole of the contribution which we made. We were up on the transaction. I therefore submit that, on every ground of material interest and economic wisdom, we ought to support this work more generously then we have done.

I believe, however, that the Joint Under-Secretary of State will agree that our economic interest is only one of the reasons for encouraging this work. Its success may be vital to our political endeavours to promote world peace. It is defence expenditure in the truest sense of the word. And as Mr. Ritchie Calder says, it is a work of Christian charity as well: It is a struggle of 'men against the jungle,' not only against the jungle of tangled tropical forest, but against the jungle of mass diseases, of hunger, ignorance and misery, which smothers the innate resources of the peoples as surely as the riotous vegetation smothers the rich soil and the wealth of natural resources beneath it. In that struggle it should be the historic destiny of our nation to give a bold and a courageous lead.

10.22 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Douglas Dodds-Parker)

I hoped that as we had started on this Adjournment debate half an hour earlier I might have had a little more time in which to develop my reply to the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland).

I must say that I regret that he, and to a lesser extent the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker), have gone rather far in decrying the effort made by this country in trying to help other countries overseas. We have really nothing to be ashamed of in what this country has done since the war, or before it, in providing technical aid, in helping to train people, in finding equipment and so on. I think that if the debate is widely read and the speech of the hon. Baronet is looked at with care it will be felt by many people that he has greatly—I will not say grossly—exaggerated the shortcomings of this country.

He linked France with us when he opened his speech. I would point out that both this country and France had very considerable world-wide commitments outside the United Nations. I should not like it to go out from this House that we feel that France has not in fact made a major contribution to overseas development.

It is no good trying to write off what this country has done to help the Colonies and Commonwealth to finance some of their post-war or pre-war schemes. This country is finding enormous sums of money, up to £100 million a year, in financing these schemes in one way or another. I should like if I have the time to give details of that later on and to put the United Nations technical aid in the setting of what the United Kingdom is doing to make good some of the wartime damage.

I do not want to make party points about this. A number of hon. Members on this side of the House after the war used to regret that we went too far in some ways in finding large sums of money when there was not the technical skill available to apply that money properly to the job of production. I think that I need say no more than merely to use the word "groundnuts" to exemplify what I mean. We have come now to discuss this in the setting of the rather narrow issue of the United Nations technical aid programme.

As I have said, we welcome this discussion. I assure the hon. Baronet that there is no disagreement between any Members of the Government on the importance of this programme and it is the wish of everyone on this side of the House and, I think, on the other side to support this programme within the financial capabilities of this country.

I realise that at this time of the year one is likely to hear a cry on behalf of one's particular interest for more money, but I should like to say that we on this side of the House are quite firmly in support of this programme; but it does often come back, as in most of these instances, to the question of how much money can be made available within the setting of our own commitments.

As I have said, it is not always finance which has been the difficulty since the war. It is very often the means to the end which matters most and the speed by which we can obtain what we want. Within that setting there is now a greater realisation that management and technicians, rather than immediate finance, are possibly the key to these problems.

This country has a great opportunity in the three ways in which technical aid can help, by sending experts, by accepting trainees, and by providing equipment. We are not the only country who can do that. Places like India and Pakistan have a tremendous contribution to make in the problem of water, whether hydroelectric water, or conservation for flood control or for irrigation. They have helped with the provision of technicians and experts and ideas for developing what is going on.

In the five minutes remaining to me I will try to answer very briefly the points raised by the hon. Baronet. His first question asked why our percentage contribution to United Nations technical aid was substantially less than the assessed percentage contribution to the regular budget of the United Nations. The hon. Member knows how the percentage conbution to the United Nations budget is assessed. A committee set up under the original scheme assesses the percentage contribution of each member of the United Nations within a total which is voted annually by the General Assembly.

The particular fund for the United Nations technical aid is in principle, however, a voluntary fund to which each country makes a voluntary contribution, which is decided annually, with no obligation to contribute in the same proportions as to the United Nations budget. One year it might happen that we or some other Government might feel sufficiently strongly to make this voluntary contribution greater than the percentage contribution. I assure the hon. Baronet that there is no connection between the two. He can draw what percentage parallels he likes, but in practice there is no percentage connection between the two.

We in this country have not forgotten the United Nations, but we have also to think of the Colonies, even if the hon. Baronet cares to think them away, as he seemed to imply, and our commitments to the Colombo Plan. We are entitled to take these things into account in assessing what we can make as a voluntary gift, which is how it is laid down, towards the technical aid programme.

The second point to be taken up with the hon. Baronet concerns Sir Clifford Norton's speech. He was quite unnecessarily and offensively unfair to Sir Clifford Norton, who put the point of view very briefly that funds were not unlimited. The hon. Baronet seems to think that money is unlimited and that one has only to get up in this House and say, "Why not throw in everything we have got?" Sir Clifford Norton, very properly, in my opinion and that of the Government, put the point that we had to cut our coat according to our cloth and that a steady and regular development of the technical aid programme within the resources of the finances of this country was necessary.

I hate to appear to make these party points, but we took over a fairly rocky situation in this country in 1951—I do not think anybody denies that now—and we had to cut our contributions in 1952; but they have been increased from year to year and in the calendar year 1954 we are contributing £650,000.

The hon. Member's third point concerned the Colombo Plan. He asked why we did not take the money away from the Colombo Plan, where it was not being spent, and use it in technical aid, where it was being spent. The answer, briefly, is that the money is being very well spent under the Colombo Plan, and possibly at some time—I have not time now—I can give the hon. Baronet the details, because it is interesting how, after what he might call a slow start, the money is being spent. Some £464,000 has been spent to date and there are forward commitments of £943,000, totalling £1,407,000 in the first three years of the six and a half years which the Plan will run. The technical aid part of the Colombo Plan has now been made conterminous with the Colombo Plan itself. As far as one can see these things ahead, the rest of the money will be needed in the years ahead and we will have no difficulty in spending it.

The Question having been proposed at Ten o'Clock, and the debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. Speaker adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at Half-past Ten o'Clock.