HC Deb 16 March 1955 vol 538 cc1395-417

8.16 p.m.

Mr. Cyril Osborne (Louth)

I welcome this opportunity of saying how glad I am to support this Supplementary Estimate—I hope nothing has gone wrong?

Mr. A. Blenkinsop (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East)

Sir Rhys, I understood that the Minister would open the debate by explaining the Supplementary Estimate; indeed, I had a message to that effect.

The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)

The hon. Member was on his feet.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Lord John Hope)

Perhaps we could agree to let it go. I apologise to my hon. Friend. I was on my feet and on the way to the Box but, if the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop) does not mind, it will do no harm, I think, if I suggest that my hon. Friend continues.

Mr. Osborne

I will fit in with anything the Committee likes to do—

Mr. Blenkinsop

Carry on.

Mr. Osborne

Then may I repeat how much I would like to support this Supplementary Estimate though, generally speaking, Supplementary Estimates go through the House of Commons far too easily and vast sums of money are passed without receiving the consideration they should receive from us, since the taxpayers have to find the money. However, this Supplementary Estimate comes well after the one we have just discussed, for the Secretary of State for the Colonies emphasised to the Committee that the pacification of Kenya depends upon its economic progress, and the solution of its problems depends on getting that country properly developed so that its people can enjoy a higher standard of life.

The United Nations, through its technical assistance to economic development, is doing that in every part of the globe, and of all the work being done under the auspices of the United Nations this is the most fruitful, the best and the most practical. It produces results which everybody can see. Before asking one or two questions of my hon. Friend about it, it is only fair to put on record that this technical assistance receives 60 per cent. of its total income from the United States, so that, to every extra 20s. we are prepared to subscribe, another 30s. is added by the American Treasury.

In view of the fact that from time to time criticisms are made in the House of Commons of American foreign policy, it is right to say that the Americans carry 60 per cent. of the technical assistance bill of the United Nations in addition to their own Point Four programme, which provides ten times as much through their own Treasury as that provided by the rest of the world.

This Vote has come along at just the right time. I commend to hon. Members a report issued a week or two ago by the Federation of British Industries. It is a most remarkable document, and in view of the soundness of the views on this problem expressed in it by business men, I feel that it has not received the publicity that it ought to have done. Often there is criticism by the business world that United Nations and other international efforts are so much airy-fairy wishful thinking by theorists; there is a great deal of criticism from what are called hard-headed business men about grants such as these.

The best answer to that criticism, and the best support the Minister could have for the Supplementary Estimate, is contained in this extraordinarily good report. The foreword says: We in Britain have a special understanding of the benefits which flow from the injection of capital and of technical and managerial skills into less developed areas of the world. To those areas themselves, it brings the opportunity of developing natural resources, of earning higher incomes, of securing a higher standard of life. To the more developed countries, it brings access to raw materials and a growth of trade. Then comes the most significant sentence of all: For all, it is a great influence for peace. If one sentence was wanted to justify the £300,000, it is that one.

The booklet is signed by the directors of some of the largest industrial concerns in the country. They are men who understand the value of money and want a good return for their money. They say, finally: We commend to British consulting engineers, contractors and manufacturers the desirability of maintaining closer touch with this work. I want my hon. Friend to tell me what is being done from the Foreign Office or the Board of Trade to keep contact with the industrialists who in their own report have shown that they are taking a very practical interest in the work of Technical Assistance. These people make a number of suggestions. First, the pamphlet says: … we are satisfied that the concept of technical assistance, besides being right on broad humanitarian grounds, is, in general, politically and economically sound. If there is to be any criticism of the expenditure of such money as this, note should be taken of that comment coming from the business community, from men who are usually regarded as being hardhearted and hard-headed, which I think is the wrong way to look upon them. This is just the sort of support required by the Minister. I should have liked him to ask for a great deal more than £300,000.

Secondly, these business men say: We hope that British policy will be to provide for increasing United Kingdom participation in this work, both financially and operationally. The amount that we subscribe represents about 4d. per person per year. If we are honest with ourselves, we must say that this work will help to fight world Communism. Other Departments are spending about £1,600 million a year upon defence for the same purpose. I sometimes wonder whether arms can do as much for that purpose as Technical Assistance can. If we can teach the people in underdeveloped countries to raise their own standard of life by helping them with the means to do so, we shall minimise very greatly the attraction of Communism. The £300,000 is a puny sum compared with what the Defence Ministers have been asking for.

My next point is particularly important. Two years ago, when I was in the United Nations headquarters in New York, the men in charge of the T.A. department put this very strongly to me. They said that they could not plan their work ahead with any confidence because they were not sure how much money they would get from time to time from the various Governments. They pleaded with me to ask the Government to promise or to budget two or three years ahead so that they could plan their work more satisfactorily, knowing where they were instead of having to live from hand to mouth. I did my best in a previous debate to put that point of view.

I am glad to see that the F.B.I, supports it. It says: We think it most unfortunate that pledges by Governments of their financial support for the following year are given so late as November. It is unreasonable to expect an international organisation which is planning operations all over the world to get its plans right when it does not know whether it will have the necessary funds.

The F.B.I, also says: Besides hoping that the British may progressively increase their share in this work, we urge that fresh consideration be given by Her Majesty's Government to giving a lead to others by announcing the scale of support it will give at least two years ahead … This is now a most important factor.

Is there any hope of the assistance that we are to give being promised and made effective at least two years ahead as the F.B.I. suggests? This is actually more important than giving a bigger amount at the last moment. I am sure that that is what those who are responsible in New York for the work will feel about it. If my hon. Friend has not discussed this with the Treasury, will he do so and make a statement as soon as he can? In a Budget of £4,500 million an extra £300,000 promised two years ahead is chicken feed.

Lord John Hope

Might I, for the purposes of the record, remind my hon. Friend that the £300,000 is only a Supplementary Estimate? My hon. Friend is rather giving the impression that this is the whole of our contribution, but our total contribution is nearly three times as much.

Mr. Osborne

I am sorry if I am giving that impression. We are obviously discussing a Supplementary Estimate. The total is £800,000. That is a very small sum compared with a Budget of £4,500 million of which £1,600 million is spent on arms. The work done by Technical Assistance experts with this money is of utmost importance. I urge my hon. Friend not to minimise it.

The F.B.I, goes on to say—and as a businessman I was surprised to read this— What has chiefly surprised us as a result of our visits is how little we knew of what was going on. If the business world is to provide the machinery and the technical experts, then, obviously, the Government must contact the people who will supply them. The fault may lie with the boards of directors of the business houses concerned. It may lie at the door of the Minister. Wherever it lies, I want to know whether anything is being done to improve the liaison between the responsible Government Departments and the concerns who will provide the men and the machinery to do the work.

I want to pin down my hon. Friend to the F.B.I.'s next point. It says: This experience led us to feel dissatisfied with U.K. liaison arrangements, and we have developed ideas for improving these which we will discuss with the authorities. Have any discussions taken place? If so, what is their result? If not, will my hon. Friend undertake to promise the Com- mittee that he will contact the F.B.I, representatives to see what suggestions they have made, meet them willingly and accept the offers which they are prepared to make?

They pay tribute to the work of the Technical Assistance agencies and say that they are very accessible. Then they criticise British industry.

Notice taken that 40 Members were not present;

House counted, and 40 Members being present—;

Mr. Osborne

I am grateful to my hon. Friends who have left their dinners to come to our rescue and allow those of us who are interested in the United Nations to continue our discussion. I hope that they will not suffer too much from indigestion.

I was saying that the F.B.I, report said that the agencies were very pleased to see its representatives, who were urged to ask British companies to play their part. Will my hon. Friend contact the Board of Trade—if there is no agency in the Foreign Office—to see that the offer which is now being made by the businessmen to do this work does not die for lack of welcome by officials?

Lastly, the F.B.I. says: We express our opinion that there are many technical assistance projects for which the offer of really good experts from the United Kingdom is most desirable, and we urge all concerned to be readier to release men in such efforts. Can my hon. Friend tell the Committee what inducement he can offer so that such men will come forward? What steps are Government Departments taking to assist the United Nations to get experts from this country? It would be an unhappy state of affairs if a reasonable proportion of the technical experts did not come from this country.

Where I have seen Technical Assistance schemes working in the Middle East, I have been struck by the fact that the teams are so cosmopolitan. They work well together and it would be a great pity if there were not a fair representation of men from this country. I am certain that if the facts were put before the experts, we should not be lacking volunteers from men qualified and willing to help in this all-important and magnificent work.

Two other points in this report struck me. They showed how enormous are the opportunities and how little we are doing. The F.B.I, were not men who were likely to have the wool pulled over their eyes. I suppose that they went there as sceptics rather than as enthusiasts. But they saw the scope of the work that could be done, if sufficient men and material were available.

The F.B.I, report goes on to say that With half the world's acreage still reaped with the sickle, the potential improvement in food production, even with the introduction of the scythe, provides an immense field for improvement to the work of this Division. When I reflect that every year there are 30 million more people to be fed, I am terrified. I wonder how long we shall be able to carry on before there is a great question throughout the world: will there be enough to eat? But when it is pointed out on good authority that half the world's acreage still has no machinery of any kind, the fear and dread that haunts me from time to time is partially removed. What could we do if in these regions we had tractors and decent machinery? The fear of hunger throughout the world could be removed.

The other example that the F.B.I gives is timber. It shows that only 25 per cent. of the world's timber that is cut reaches the consumer and that 75 per cent. is wasted in one way or another through lack of knowledge, lack of equipment and absence of proper methods of handling. Timber will be one of the materials of which there will be a world shortage if we are not careful. If there were no other justification for the granting of this money, this surely is good enough.

I wish that every hon. Member would read the F.B.I report carefully. In page 24 it says: Much of the help given to underdeveloped countries brings to them the benefits of modern knowledge about the control or prevention of disease and about nutrition, and has the effect of producing rapid population growth. Then it warns that unless there is an immense increase in the production of food there must be a lowering in the standard of living.

It is tremendously important that, as we save the underdeveloped peoples from the diseases that have ravaged them for ages, we should give them the technical assistance to enable them to produce the food by which they can live. Otherwise, instead of helping save them from the lure of Communism, we shall make them more susceptible to it.

Having read the Report, having heard the men on the spot in New York talk of the work which they have done over the years, and being convinced of the worth of the work, I willingly welcome this Supplementary Estimate. I ask my hon. Friend whether he can deal with the points which I have mentioned, if not tonight then at some other time. If it were possible for the Government to increase this sum, either now or in the future, and also to ensure that it was granted for at least two years ahead, they would be taking a wise course.

8.39 p.m.

Mr. A. Blenkinsop (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East)

Though I had expected the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to open the debate by giving a short explanation of this Supplementary Estimate, I recognise that the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne), who has a real enthusiasm for this cause, has done la valuable service by introducing the debate in the way that he did. I do not think that anyone on either side of the Committee would cavil at the provision of this sum of £300,000 which is, in effect, being advanced out of the sum made available for the next financial year.

This has been done from year to year. There is nothing new in it, and we welcome it again on this occasion. Had we had the opportunity, we on this side of the Committee—and I am sure that the hon. Member for Louth would have agreed—would have welcomed the provision of a considerably larger sum of money.

The hon. Member for Louth touched on some points which I should like to reinforce. But there are other points about which I should like some information. It is a matter of concern to us all that the Technical Assistance Board is in such financial straits that it is necessary for Her Majesty's Government to make these advances year by year. When we consider that this work is of such supreme importance, it becomes a serious matter. My hon. Friends feel, as I do, that the work of the Board is the very basis of our positive work for peace, and to find that there is this danger of a financial shortage year by year should give rise to serious thought.

I wish to ask the hon. Member whether he can say what are the prospects of more secure financial support for this body in the immediate future. I understand that the American Government have not yet declared their decision. If the hon. Gentleman can tell us that there has been any change in that direction we shall be glad to hear it, because that is one of the factors making for the present position of financial weakness.

There is also the fact, which again I am sure will be agreed by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee, that unless a better guarantee for the future can be given, not only is the actual volume of work which could be accomplished by the Board endangered, but it may be that the Board will work more extravagantly than otherwise would be the case. Could it plan its work over a period of years, instead of working year by year as inevitably it must do at present, that might well prove more economical in the long run, and more effective use might be made of the funds than is the case today.

That is proved correct when one examines the problem of recruiting qualified technical staff, which is the main purpose for which these funds are used. Unless a better guarantee can be given about the period of security of employment, I suggest that there is a danger that the quality of the staff employed may not be as good as otherwise it might be, and that we shall not attract the best type of qualified personnel needed for these schemes.

When speaking about United Nations funds for which they are directly responsible, the Minister of Health and other Ministers have said that they feel that the main work in underdeveloped territories—whether carried out by the World Health Organisation or the Food and Agriculture Organisation or whichever body—should be financed by the funds of the Technical Assistance Board rather than from the budgets of these bodies. It has been argued that it is desirable that this work should be effectively coordinated, and that there should not be separate schemes by the various Specialised Agencies without effective contact with each other.

That is obviously true. We cannot work efficiently to conquer disease unless, at the same time, we work to conquer illiteracy. The same is true in the major field of all the Specialised Agencies. Therefore, in principle, one would immediately agree that it is desirable for the Technical Assistance Board to have power to co-ordinate its work.

If, however, the funds available to the Board vary from year to year, how can that work be efficiently carried out? How can the Board accept that responsibility of co-ordination if it has not the necessary funds? Until the Board is given greater security in the matter of the funds available to it, is it not natural and obvious that the separate agencies should press for the considerable expansion of their own regular budgets which, in the way in which they come forward, are rather more reliable?

My argument is that, in all probability, there is real economy to be obtained by giving greater security to the Board for its funds. It is no good the Treasury saying that this cannot be done. It is done in other fields. It is done so far as the Colombo Plan funds are concerned, and, in fact, it is done with regard to the colonial funds which we discussed earlier today. If, therefore, it is already done in so many other fields, why cannot it be done in this field?

If it were said that other countries do not do it, then I should be tempted to argue that we should give a lead and should encourage them to do it. But, in fact, other countries are increasingly attempting to meet this problem. Denmark, for example, is making her pledge, not only for this year, but for 1956 and 1957. Italy has pledged to make an annual contribution up to 1961. The Netherlands is pledged for a three-year period, and Switzerland for a two-year period. Indonesia, of all countries, is also pledged for a three-year period. Indonesia is not a country which can make financial gurantees for too far ahead, and, surely, we can do it more easily than she.

I ask the Minister to make fresh approaches to the Treasury to give the necessary authority and not to be too disturbed about the comments of the Public Accounts Committee—which, I think, is coming round to the view that it may well be a financial economy to plan ahead for a period of years—even though it may argue that it will weaken the control which this House can exercise over it.

There are one or two other points I wish to make. I wish to refer, as did the hon. Member for Louth, to the conclusion of the Federation of British Industries which, as the hon. Gentleman said, reinforces this point of view. The Federation, too, urges that financial provision ought to be made for a period of years. Another very valid point is that it is surely very important that we should not only make as great a contribution to this work as we possiblycan—quite frankly, I am sure that hon. Members on this side feel that, considering the size of the job to be done, this is really an infinitesimal contribution—but also that we should do everything we can to engender public understanding of the work.

That is something which is very lacking today. Cannot something more be done to associate the people of this country with this work? I am sure that it has been the experience of many of us who have spoken in the country about this problem that people have said, "Can we ourselves do something about it?" We should like to find a way in which they could help. It is obvious that the personnel needed for these schemes must be trained personnel. It is no use offering bystanders, to go out and watch. That would not help; it might, indeed, hinder.

What else can we do? I think that it would be worth while examining the very constructive schemes put up by Norway and, I believe, Sweden, by which they are attempting to obtain the cooperation both of the general public and of their Governments, in joint voluntary and statutory contributions towards joint schemes, with the full co-operation of the recipient countries. Norway has arranged for selected villages in India to be the main recipients of certain schemes financed by local public efforts, together with the statutory efforts made by the Norwegian Government.

I believe that the United Nations Association is attempting to work out something comparable in this country. I am sure that I and all my hon. Friends would welcome it, and would be glad if we could get support for such a scheme. I am sure that we should be anxious to provide whatever help we could, both by ourselves as individuals and through the many movements which we represent. Trade unions and other bodies would be very interested, and we should like to know if there is any way in which they, also, could make their contributions, as the Co-operative movement is already trying to do. I therefore ask the Government whether they have had any of these schemes drawn to their attention, and whether they feel that there is any way in which they can encourage their development, or, at any rate, whether they will give such schemes sympathetic consideration.

Hon. Members on this side of the Committee very much welcome the contribution which is being made. We are merely anxious to see that the very best possible use is made of the funds, and that every possible opportunity is taken to increase the funds available for work of such fundamental importance—because in all the work for peace that we may try to carry out there is surely nothing as constructive or potent for building up the relationships we want as work which is carried out under the auspices of the United Nations, especially through the various Specialised Agencies, with the very small contributions—far too small—from the Technical Assistance Board.

8.53 p.m.

Mr. Nigel Nicolson (Bournemouth, East and Christchurch)

Debates upon this subject are beginning to have rather a familiar pattern. More or less the same hon. Members on both sides get up one after the other and ask the Government to increase their contributions to these Specialised Agencies and to alter the methods of making those contributions. There can be very little discussion upon the use to which these moneys are put, and it would not be in order for me to develop that argument now.

We have not been treated ungenerously by the Government. They have increased their contributions year by year from £450,000 in 1952 to£800,000 in the present year. They have always filled our begging bowl when we have preferred it to them, but it is a pity that we should have to proffer it at all, and that so little original impetus to the work of these Specialised Agencies comes from the Government. It would be unfair to say that they have given way inch by inch under pressure; they have given way foot by foot—but how seldom have they made a stride on their own account and given a lead to the rest of the country by putting this work in the place it deserves, in the forefront of the work of the United Nations itself?

I wonder why the United Nations organisation is not a popular body in this country. Little is known about it, in spite of the efforts of the United Nations Association. That is partly because of its political failure and partly because few people have any idea of the scope of its non-political work in all parts of the world. One of the reasons for that lack of knowledge is the fact that it figures so thinly in Government speeches on foreign policy.

In the United States I found that not only politicians but the common people are infinitely more aware of the work of the organisation than we are, and that it figures in almost every political speech on foreign affairs. Although it goes very much against the grain with me to criticise my right hon. Friend, for whom I have the greatest respect, I suggest that the Foreign Secretary might refer in his speeches to the United Nations organisation in some way that indicates a little enthusiasm for its non-political work.

The Deputy-Chairman

I do not think that the Foreign Secretary comes into this Vote.

Mr. Nicolson

I bow to your Ruling, Sir Rhys, but surely it is relevant to the contribution of funds to the United Nations that we should be aware in this country of the purpose for which those contributions are made. I will, of course, leave that point.

We were probably right to use our vote against setting up a special United Nations fund for economic development, since the Americans refused to come in. We are probably right in consistently protesting against any suspicion of extravagance in the overhead administration of the Agencies. Those have been recently pretty well our main contributions to the debate in New York.

I most strongly support the point put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) and the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop) about the necessity of making a longer-term promise of our contributions, so that the Agencies may know where they stand. Each speaker has referred to the passage in the F.B.I. report referring to this particular proposal. The report puts the matter very strongly and clearly as follows: No organisation could be efficient on the basis of not knowing its scale of activities until they actually arrive. From the staff point of view alone, such a situation makes for insecurity, and must deter good men. Believing that technical assistance is good policy, we believe it should be given the chance to be efficiently administered, and we urge Her Majesty's Government to give a lead to others by announcing the scale of support it will give to the Expanded Programme for at least two years ahead, subject, of course, to Parliamentary approval. It is most unlikely that Parliament would withhold that approval.

In a previous debate we were told that if we made a promise of a definite sum for three years ahead we would be bound to that sum, and that the Treasury would thereafter be more reluctant than ever to increase it. It would say, "We have already promised our maximum." It is the minimum promise which the Specialised Agencies want to have. So far we have year by year increased our contribution. It is often said that we should now pledge ourselves to £3 million for three years. At the moment we are giving £800,000 for one year. The increase is not all that great.

A second reason is that it is unconstitutional to make such promises, that there may be a change of Government or a change of Foreign Secretary who may have different ideas, and that it would be wrong even by so simple a proposal as this for one Foreign Secretary to bind his successors. But it is constantly being done. The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East has already given a good instance. When I consulted the Report of the recent Sub-Committee of the Estimates Committee which examined grants in aid, I found numerous occasions upon which pledges had been made for a number of years. The University Grants Committee is one example. Others are the Commonwealth Economic and Research Services, the British Institute of Management, and even the development fund to assist rural activities.

Each one of these worthy organisations is pledged a sum of money, in some cases for five years ahead, upon which it knows it can rely. Cannot we do the same in the case of the Technical Assistance Programme? We are virtually doing it in the case of the other agencies. All that we have the opportunity to debate in this House is our contribution to U.N.I.C.E.F. and Technical Assistance. Our contributions to all the others are fixed sums allotted according to the size of our national income and in relation to the incomes of other member States of the United Nations. The sum involved is fixed. It goes through without question. Would not a fixed contribution to these two agencies, U.N.I.C.E.F. and Technical Assistance, meet with as little opposition as the others?

I finish with one further question. About a year ago the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker) asked a question of the Foreign Secretary to discover whether or not we make a net gain on our contributions, whether more money is spent in buying goods and services in this country than we contribute in the way of our annual grant to the U.N. Technical Assistance Agencies. The answer was then given that we did make such a net gain. Later, the question was put in another form, I believe by the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East. He was then told that the information was not available. There is a contradiction between those answers, and it is of great importance to us that we should know which is the right answer.

If it is true that for every £1 that we contribute in the way of these grants we benefit to the tune of 25s. by purchases in this country, we are not even financially the net losers. We are the net gainers. Even if we are the net losers, if the purchases in this country amount to less than £1 for every £1 contributed, the money could not be better spent. But could we have a more clear definition of what, in fact, is the case?

The Americans announced the day before yesterday that they are about to launch a new programme of technical aid to Asia. They call it a Marshall Plan for Asia. Although we have had no details yet about the way in which this money will be spent, it is suggested that it will be a wholly American agency, a new agency set up alongside the Colombo Plan, the Point Four plan and all the Technical Agencies of the United Nations. A very large sum is apparently involved. I think it would be a great pity if with every new sum that was contributed to the work of assisting the backward nations of the world, a new agency were to be set up.

I ask my hon. Friend whether he could not use our good offices with the American Government to persuade them to channel this most generous contribution through the existing organisations. It strikes me that it would be a pity if the recipient countries in the Far East were to think themselves beholden solely to the United States for the aid which is given. I say that in no ungenerous spirit, but because it is always much more difficult to receive than to give. United States aid in the past has always been associated with military aid or political objects. Of course, those motives are present in the American mind, and they are not unreasonable motives. But it would be a great help to the United Nations and a better way of channelling this contribution if the money could form part and parcel of the overall funds available through the United Nations.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Louth reminded us, the United States is providing about 60 per cent. of the total funds of the Specialised Agencies. That in itself is not a healthy position. We are dependent upon the whim of one Government—a Government which, as we know, is apt to change every four years. We are No. 2 on the list—at the head of the also-rans. Is it a very honourable or a necessary position for Great Britain to occupy? Can we not move some way up in order to bridge this enormous gulf between the United States contribution and the contributions of the rest of the world?

This is not the time to debate fully an increase in our contribution. We are voting a comparatively small sum tonight. But every hon. Member whom I have heard speak on this subject in the House has ended in exactly the same way as I end. This worthy work is not yet fully acknowledged. We are not making the contribution from this country which we could make. I hope that when we debate the subject once more there will be not only an increase in contribution but a change of heart as well.

9.8 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Moyle (Oldbury and Halesowen)

I welcome the opportunity of supporting the work of the Specialised Agencies of the United Nations, particularly the Technical Assistance Programme. The request for a supplementary grant of £300,000 gives me the opportunity to do so.

I am glad that the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) referred to the report which has recently been published by the Federation of British Industries. Two years ago I somewhat chided the Federation of British Industries, in a similar debate, because they had failed to awaken to the importance of this new development. At the same time I said that the Trades Union Congress might realise to a greater extent than it had done at the time the immense importance of this new development. Indeed, against the gloomy background of the hydrogen bomb and all the frightening developments of nuclear energy, it seems to me that the one gleam of hope which emerges in the new movements of the post-war world is this development of a global welfare scheme.

In my opinion, it cannot be evolved except through the agencies of the United Nations. I can see no hope of any co-ordinated movement on a world basis proving in the slightest degree effective unless it is encouraged and directed by the United Nations through its Specialised Agencies.

I understand from those much more competent than I to assess local opinion that the under-developed countries are not enthusiastic at all for financial aid from a certain country, because, firstly, they are not anxious to receive any economic aid if there are strings attached to it. But when, for example, assistance either in the form of finance or technical skill or management is offered, and when it comes through the Specialised Agencies it is at once received without suspicion.

The second reason is that immediately any aid is given by any one country, whether it is the United States or our own, it is at once conceived to be not an act of charity in the truest sense of that term but designed solely for the purpose of securing an opportunity for further trade development. If, on the other hand, work of this kind is organised and generated through United Nations organisations, with the understanding between member countries that such work is done without any special regard for a country's own economic or trading interest, the receiving countries feel much happier in co-operating in work under such conditions that can only be guaranteed by the United Nations.

I can quite readily acknowledge the great work of the United States in this field. President Truman did a great work in 1949 in encouraging at the time a very active Secretary General of U.N.O., Mr. Trygve Lie, who saw the importance of this work in relation to under-developed countries. That must not be forgotten. While we are discussing the expanded Technical Assistance Programme, I should like to pay tribute also to the work of the international team of economists who are responsible for that first-class work, the annual "World Economic Report" which gives us a measurement of this terrifying problem of poverty to which half the population of the world is subjected. Not only are half the people of the world under-fed and suffering from malnutrition, but are incapable of reading or writing, are constantly ill, or are under a measure of slavery, if not of complete bondage.

I feel greater confidence in this movement of social and economic welfare in aid of people in those less developed countries as a contribution to world peace, than I feel in mere defensive measures, negative as they are—though I admit their necessity. I want to re-echo the words of the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. N. Nicolson) and say that there is in Britain almost a lack of appreciation of the importance of this work. It is not merely because of its humanitarian nature that one is encouraged to support it. It seems to me elementary to recognise that this work is of immense importance to British commercial interests because, as we know, the old adage that trade follows the flag is long since dead and it is "trade follows the expert" now.

I want to see the Government encouraging British industry. I want to see them not merely contributing financially or encouraging the United Nations to do its best with what finances it receives from member countries but, through our universities and technical colleges here, encouraging people in the less developed countries to train their own technicians to assist them in achieving a better standard of living. We have the "know-how," the technical skill, and the administrators, but we have only just begun to understand the A B C of this great movement which has tremendous potentialities. I hope that the Government will let us know what it can do to encourage not only F.B.I. but the other agencies concerned to do all they possibly can to strengthen the work of the Specialised Agencies. I support the views already expressed in the debate about the importance of securing something like a three-year periodical contribution from this country in support of the Expanded Technical Assistance Programme and its objects.

9.17 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Lord John Hope)

May I first of all deal very briefly with the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. N. Nicolson). I want to do that first because he invested the Government with an attitude towards not only this particular facet of the United Nations activities, but towards U.N.O. as a whole, which should not go unrebutted. He said categorically that we did not give a lead over U.N.O. matters. I strenuously dispute that.

Mr. N. Nicolson

I was talking about non-political work.

Lord John Hope

Never mind about that. That is the impression my hon. Friend gave me, and if I am over-doing it then so much the better for everybody, but it seemed to me that he felt we were not giving a lead over United Nations matters. He also made an allusion to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary which I rather regret. I can assure him, and anybody else who has any doubts about it, that the Secretary of State's enthusiasm for all these schemes is very real. There is no man who knows more about them, and there is no man who knows more thoroughly from experience how necessary they are. But he has so much to do with other subjects that when speaking in this House about the mortal perils against which we are fighting, it is a little hard to blame him for not speaking about E.T.A.P.

Mr. Blenkinsop

I thought it was rather unfortunate when the Foreign Secretary, referring to the Far East the other day, did not refer in his statement to the United Nations Specialised Agencies as one of the main factors for economic working in the Far East, although he did refer to the Colombo Plan.

Lord John Hope

I should have thought that in any case his vital interest in them might have been taken for granted by the House of Commons after all these years. The hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) also asked whether we make a net gain over this. I can give him figures which I hope will settle any difficulties from which he is suffering. From the inception of the E.T.A. programme in 1950 up to 30th June, 1954, there was spent in the United Kingdom £1,889,082 and there was contributed by the United Kingdom £2,035,000.

The hon. Member for Louth and the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop) both quoted the Report of the Federation of British Industries, and their quotations were most helpful. It is a remarkable document. It is true, as they said, that the experts who went out indulged in a certain amount of constructive criticism of how this fund is being administered, but they also paid great tribute to it. I do not complain that both hon. Members dwelt upon the criticism rather more than on the praise because that was the most useful line to take, but it would not be fair for this debate to end without the final sentence of the Foreword being quoted: …we have no doubt that a great deal is done that is very good, that administrative efficiency is improving, and that many seeds are planted, some of which will germinate. We commend to British consulting engineers, contractors and manufacturers the desirability of maintaining closer touch with this work. In one or two speeches the question of publicity was mentioned and it is important that we should apply our minds to that as much as we can. This Report by the F.B.I. will go a long way towards filling that gap. As they say in the Report, they knew nothing about what was going on until they went there and looked. We will do our best to see what we can do at our end of the scale to make it as widely known as possible in this country. The answer to the question put by my hon. Friend is that we are to have a meet- ing with the F.B.I. on 24th March which, I am sure, will prove useful.

The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East referred to the bone of contention shared by many hon. Members of the Committee concerning a regular basis of contribution. It would be ideal if that could be attained, but all the big contributors have decided that for the moment the present system is far and away the most preferable from their own points of view. It is true that some of the smaller contributors manage to pledge a contribution a little further ahead but, in terms of promptness of payment—a point which ought to be stressed—this country has a record second to none. There is no question of our being an also-ran about promptness of payment, which is a not unimportant item in the total story. As far as the system is concerned, however, I am afraid the answer must be that for the present we must stay as we are.

Mr. Blenkinsop

What about the future?

Lord John Hope

I cannot possibly say now, any more than could the hon. Gentleman if he were at this Box, that we can reach the ideal in the near future.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Will the hon. Gentleman at least say that he or his right hon. Friend will make approaches to the Treasury on the matter?

Lord John Hope

Yes, most certainly; I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the point is very much in mind.

The hon. Member also asked me about joint schemes between the public and the Governments in Norway and Sweden. I am not certain what the hon. Gentleman has in mind, but so far as I can discover, no such schemes exist. Everything that is done in the Scandinavian countries is done by the Governments, and there is no question of matching pound for pound between private contributions and Government contributions.

Mr. Blenkinsop

If I send the hon. Gentleman details, which I have in my hand, of these schemes—I think they are very interesting and might be a model to us—will he consider them?

Lord John Hope

I will certainly do so. We shall be most interested to have from the hon. Gentleman what we have been unable to discover from any source, including the Norwegians and the Swedes. I do not want to suggest that nothing is happening, but we should very much like to know what is taking place.

I want to say a word or two about the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Louth, who opened the debate so helpfully, if somewhat unexpectedly from my point of view, although that was no one's fault but my own. There is one point that I want to make to him with as much force as I can command. He felt that the £800,000 that we are contributing was a very insignificant drop in the bucket of total expenditure against Communism. It is true that, when we compare it with the total that the country is spending in that struggle, it is not very much. Nevertheless, it is most important that the Committee should recognise that the work that the organisation is able to do is not limited by the amount of funds available. At the moment as big a limiting factor as anything else is the availability of experts. We shall continue to do all we can. Even now we are ahead in the field and have produced more experts—first-rate men they are, too—to help in the work than any other country. In that connection at least, no critic can fairly accuse this country of not pulling its weight.

My hon. Friend asked me if I would get in touch with the Board of Trade about publicity, the provision of experts, and so on. We are certainly attending to that matter and will continue to do so. Over the whole field of publicity I admit that there is a great deal that can be done. The F.B.I. pamphlet has opened the eyes of many people who knew nothing whatever about the matter. We will ensure that everything possible is done to let the public know precisely what is happening in what is not just a rather dry, dull administrative project but an extremely exciting, most beneficial and more than worth while adventure in humanitarian advance.

Whereas criticism, when it is justified, must be made and ought to be made, I think that the more both sides of the House of Commons can let the world see that this is essentially a team effort of the whole country, the greater will be the service that is done, and the more quickly shall we all reach the end that all of us, wherever we sit in the House, agree is the desirable end if civilisation is to be preserved.

It being half-past Nine o'clock, The Chairman proceeded, pursuant to Standing Order No. 16 (Business of Supply)to put the Question necessary to dispose of the Vote under consideration.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £300,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1955, for grants in aid of expenses of the United Nations and of technical assistance for economic development.

The CHAIRMAN then proceeded forthwith to put severally the Questions, That the total amounts outstanding in such Estimates for the Air Services for the coming financial year as have been put down on at least one previous day for consideration on an allotted day, and the total amounts of all outstanding Estimates supplementary to those of the current financial year as have been presented seven clear days, and of all outstanding Excess Votes, be granted for the Services defined in those Estimates, Supplementary Estimates and Statements of Excess: