HC Deb 01 August 1956 vol 557 cc1370-3
11. Mr. Blenkinsop

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement regarding Her Majesty's Government's support of United Nations Agencies.

18. Mr. J. Hynd

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why a statement was made on 24th July at the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations concerning the possible withdrawal of Great Britain from any further participation in United Nations programmes and in the Specialised Agencies.

Lord John Hope

As I informed the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey) on 30th July, it remains the policy of Her Majesty's Government to support the valuable activities of the United Nations Agencies. No suggestion was made to the Economic and Social Council to the effect that the United Kingdom might withdraw from any further participation in future programmes.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that his own speeches in Geneva have cast very great doubt on the sincerity of Her Majesty's Government in their support of United Nations work, and while everyone is eager to cut out any dead wood, as we understand the hon. Gentleman has described it, would he make it clear that it is quite absurd to suggest that there is financial stress caused by the contributions to United Nations services, which only amount to a very small total in comparison, for example, with our arms and other expenditure?

Lord John Hope

I can only say in answer to the hon. Gentleman that the appeal that I made at Geneva was backed up by the Secretary-General and by many of the delegations. I do not think, if I may say so, that his reading of how the thing went is necessarily shared by other commentators, and, if I may, I should like to quote what was said by one of the correspondents. He said: It may well prove that the plain language used today by Lord John Hope has rendered the organisation a signal service. I hope that is so, and I ask hon. Members to support me in this effort.

Hon. Members

Which correspondent?

Lord John Hope

The Manchester Guardian.

Mr. J. Hynd

Will the hon. Gentleman quote what he himself said because, according to Press reports, he is reported as having threatened that unless certain changes were made the Government would have to consider the withdrawal of Britain from any further participation in the United Nations programme and in the Specialised Agencies? If that is not correct, will the Minister quote what he said?

Lord John Hope

I shall be delighted to do so, if the House will indulge me. I said: I must therefore tell the Council quite frankly that if it is not possible by some means to achieve stabilisation, by which I mean if we are to be involved in ever-increasing financial contributions, Her Majesty's Government will be obliged seriously to consider whether the United Kingdom can continue to participate in the United Nations programmes and in the Specialised Agencies"—

An Hon. Member


Lord John Hope

If the hon. Gentleman who shouts "shame" will allow me to conclude the quotation— on the present basis, he will see that the Question was beside the point.

Mr. Baldwin

Is my hon. Friend aware that many of us welcome the attitude of the Government and feel that a great deal of expense could be saved if a lot of dead wood were cut out, particularly with regard to the Food and Agriculture Organisation?

Mr. Younger

Can the hon. Gentleman tell us why he seems to have included in his definition of dead wood the proposal of the Secretary-General that there might be some kind of career service under international responsibility for working in the administration of underdeveloped territories? That was a subject he particularly referred to in his speech. Has he some grave doubts about the necessity of having some international service for assisting underdeveloped territories, and, if so, what are we to think about his enthusiasm for technical assistance?

Lord John Hope

There is a Question down on that point later.

24. Mr. P. Noel-Baker

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the total annual financial contribution made in the year 1955–56 to the United Nations and to its Specialised Agencies.

Lord John Hope

The United Kingdom contribution to the United Nations and the Specialised Agencies is paid for the financial years of these organisations which correspond to the calendar year. The United Kingdom contribution to the United Nations for the calendar year 1956 is £1,261,000; the United Kingdom contributions to the Specialised Agencies total £1,327,000, making in all £2,588,000.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Is that about 0.1 per cent. of our defence expenditure? Is the Joint Under-Secretary aware that the United Nations budget is more carefully vetted and controlled than any other budget in the world and that it is wholly devoted to purposes and policies which the General Assembly has debated and approved?

Lord John Hope

Yes, Sir, that should be so, but the Secretary-General agrees with us that the matter could be even more carefully looked into than it has been.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Do not the figures prove that this cannot by any stretch of the imagination be called a financial drain upon Her Majesty's Government?

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Is the Joint Under-Secretary aware that too often the United Nations and its Agencies operate in a sense adverse to British interests, and that the greatest care should be exercised, as it is being exercised by Her Majesty's Government at present, to ensure that our contributions do not get out of hand?

Lord John Hope

Her Majesty's Government agree with the last injunction of my noble friend, but I must tell the House that the Government do, of course, support the ideals and objectives of the United Nations.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Has not the United Nations already helped to prevent war in the Middle East, in Kashmir and in other places where British interests have been very signally served? Is it not evident that, if the United Nations is to become an instrument for preserving world peace, its work, and, consequently its budget, must expand, and that a proposal to stabilise the budget can only be interpreted by other nations as the sort of thing Tory Governments used to do before the war—undermining the authority of a body by saying "We care nothing about it"?

Lord John Hope

As I have already told the House, Her Majesty's Government have most of the delegations in the Economic and Social Council behind them, and the Secretary-General is also behind us. So we must just bear as best we can the right hon. Gentleman's criticisms.

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