§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Blenkinsop (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East)
I must begin by offering an apology to the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs for having brought him to the House on two occasions to raise with him this issue, which I believe to be one of the most important issues, of our care for refugees, particularly those refugees who are under the responsibility of the United Nations High Commissioner. I feel that the hon. Gentleman will agree with me, although he has been brought to the House twice about it, that the subject does warrant our very careful attention.
All of us in the House were shocked to hear of the recent and unexpected death of the High Commissioner, Dr. van Goedhardt, whom many of us had met on many occasions. I think it is the feeling of us all that his anxiety about the success of the re-establishment of the refugees in Europe must have been one of the contributory causes of his shockingly early death. It is not unfair to suggest that we may consider what action we in this country can take as a form of tribute to him and his memory. It is relatively easy for us to make speeches expressing our appreciation of his work, but it would be very much more fitting if tonight we could give in a practical way some evidence of our recognition of his work, and it is because I hope that that may be possible that I am so anxious to raise this matter now.
I wish to say something about the history of the care of this group of refugees. I am referring only to those refugees who are within the responsibility of the United Nations High Commissioner; broadly speaking, they are the European refugees. Their care originally was undertaken after the war by U.N.R.R.A., and then, after U.N.R.R.A. was wound up, by the International Refugee Organisation. When that in turn was discontinued in 1950 it was agreed at the United Nations organisation itself that the High Commissioner should be appointed. There were at first no facilities for raising finance for him from Governmental sources, but that was corrected later, and he was given power to make application 1736 to Governments for any contributions which they might make.
It is of interest that when he was appointed by the United Nations he was appointed to provide international protection and to seek permanent solutions. I would emphasise that. He was given the responsibility of helping to define permanent solutions of the problem of this category of refugees. Unlike many other refugee problems that seem to be so tangled with political issues that no constructive work is found possible, here we have, within the general category of refugees, a refugee problem on which work has proved possible, largely, I think, because of the influence of the High Commissioner, who was appointed to secure some practical results in the establishment of these refugees in Europe, and, indeed, outside Europe. I think we can say that the work which has been done has been of a really constructive character, contributing towards a real solution of this refugee problem. I only wish that that could be said of the wider problems of refugees, which, alas, seem little closer to solution.
As I say, there were originally no facilities provided for the High Commissioner to raise funds from Governmental sources; originally the funds had to come from private sources, and some foundations did make some grants originally to enable the High Commissioner to set some of his work on foot. We are very grateful to those bodies for the work which they have done.
In 1954 a four-year programme for the resettlement of these refugees was drafted and was accepted by the United Nations Assembly. I think it is a fair point to make that, although there was a good deal of discussion, of course, at the Assembly on this matter, our own representative, when the matter was finally decided, agreed—as I think I am right in saying—to support this proposal for the four-year programme. Under it those refugees who were then still in camps-some 88,000 of them at that time—would be resettled either in the countries in which they were then domiciled or elsewhere. To enable that to be done the plan provided for some contributions of about 16 million dollars to be spent over about four years; 4 million dollars a year.
1737 There was no provision, as there is in some of the United Nations' institutions, for automatic contributions from Governments on a fixed scale. Governments had to be approached for contributions. The tragedy has been that member countries of the United Nations, although they may have supported the setting up of the plan, have not given anything like the financial support to it that their pledge, as it were, would have warranted, and I must include this country amongst the countries which have not carried what, in my view, is their fair share of the pledge given.
Many member countries of the United Nations do not feel themselves able to make any contribution. It is not surprising, perhaps, that many of the Middle Eastern countries, which are eligible to make contributions, do not feel themselves able to do so. We may disagree about their views, but there is no doubt of the very considerable refugee problem which they have. Countries in South America may feel themselves to be some distance away from this aspect, in particular, of the refugee problem. Some of those countries are making some contribution in a practical way to permanent solutions of refugee conditions. Although it is not surprising that many of the countries that are on the United Nations' list are making little or no contribution, it does inevitably mean that a great deal of the burden of the expenditure must be borne by European members of the United Nations.
It is not surprising either that Soviet Russia has not looked with any special favour upon this proposal, because it has always regarded those who come under the care of the United Nations High Commissioner as being persons the great majority of whom ought to return to the Soviet Union or to one or another of the satellite countries. It is encouraging that the Soviet Union's original bitter opposition seems to have modified somewhat in the last year or two, so that there is not quite so much objection being taken by the Soviet Union to this work as there certainly was in the early stages.
We are, therefore, left with the sad fact to report that last year, with a target of about 4,400,000 dollars to be secured from member countries of the United Nations, there was a shortfall of 1,500,000 dollars. This country paid its contribution 1738 of 224,000 dollars, or £80,000, with a conditional offer of a further £20,000, which was not made available because other countries had not contributed further sums. The result is that we are faced this year with an even worse position financially than might have been hoped. Not only does the office of the United Nations High Commissioner wish to raise another 4,400,000 dollars this year, but it needs to make up the shortfall of last year, and so far the contributions from member countries have fallen even further than they did last year.
Therefore, we are almost facing the danger of a breakdown of this scheme, or its prolongation for many more years than the intended four. One of the tragedies about all this is that if it is to be continued beyond four years it will inevitably mean further expenditure, including expenditure for the maintenance of the High Commission staff, which is part of general United Nations costs at the moment, and is something about which the Foreign Office apparently, and certainly the Treasury, feel very strongly. One way of reducing the charge on Her Majesty's Government for general United Nations work is to see that this limited job is carried out within the intended period of time so that the work of this group of persons can be terminated.
Not only is there merely the danger of having to spread this programme over a longer period, with all the human tragedies that that will involve to the refugees concerned if they have to wait a further period of years for resettlement in homes or farms or possibly in light industries. We are also endangering our prospect of agreement with the countries of present domicile. Those countries have agreed at present that they will match the contributions of the United Nations countries and will make their contributions much greater than our own to secure the settlement of these cases. The United States has also made generous offers of matching contributions provided that the contributions of certain countries can be raised to a certain level. There is little or no prospect of that being done unless we can persuade Her Majesty's Treasury to take a little less skinflint attitude towards this matter than it has done up to the moment.
We have a little hope, and we grasp hope in this Chamber. We grasp at every tender little spring of hope in these 1739 matters. We had a slight encouragement from the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on 9th July. In reply to a Question which I put to him about the extra £20,000 which was the conditional offer of Her Majesty's Government in addition to the original £80,000, the noble Lord said:Her Majesty's Government are considering whether the state of the Fund as set out in the High Commissioner's Annual Report warrants any alteration being made to the latter arrangement."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th July, 1956; Vol. 556, c. 23.]By "latter arrangement" was meant the conditional character of the extra £20,000.
As to whether the condition of the Fund warrants an alteration, I should have thought there was an overwhelming reason why we should claim that the Fund now is in such a parlous situation that that very conditional pledge of reconsideration of Her Majesty's Government's position must be carried out. I hope that we shall have some further glimmers of hope from the hon. Gentleman the Joint Under-Secretary of State, otherwise we must say that the noble Lord's statement on 9th July was utterly meaningless. If the noble Lord did not mean that it was intended to make the extra contribution of even this miserably small sum of £20,000, what on earth did he mean?
It should be borne in mind that our contribution is really minute when compared with the contributions of other countries, and particularly in the relation to the kind of percentage contribution made to other Agencies of the United Nations. We are naturally proud of such contributions as we make to the United Nations, small as they are. We contribute about 9 per cent. to many of the Agencies, but in this case of help for refugees our contribution is miserable indeed. It would have to be increased possibly by a further £170,000 a year to bring it anywhere near parallel to the contributions which we make to other United Nations Agencies. For some reason which I do not understand, we do less in this case than we accept as reasonable to do in helping other work carried out by the United Nations.
We are talking about infinitesimal sums when we consider the general expenditure of Her Majesty's Government. We all appreciate the pressure on the 1740 Treasury of all these worthy causes and the eagerness of the Treasury to secure even the most minute savings, but we should consider in human terms the possibility of clearing away this problem, at any rate to a large extent, with reasonable promptitude. It should also be kept in mind that many of us are concerned with programmes in this country designed to give help on a voluntary basis. It is not as though we relied entirely on the contributions of Her Majesty's Government.
I would ask the Joint Under-Secretary to pay particular attention to the fact that the United Nations Association is embarking upon a very big programme to try to secure voluntary contributions towards this constructive work. It would be an enormous encouragement to the United Nations Association and to all of us if the Government could at least say that they will bear that voluntary work in mind and will make an extra contribution which will have some relation to the amount of voluntary work done by all kinds of people. A remarkable job has been done in this way in Holland. Ordinary people there have done a great deal, and their Government have made a very much larger contribution for that reason.
Whatever sort of brief the Joint Under-Secretary received from the Treasury before he came into the Chamber, I ask him to scrap the less worthy part of it and to say that, for once, Her Majesty's Government are eager to make an additional contribution, even though it be a modest one, to help solve this problem.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Nicolson (Bournemouth, East and Christchurch)
It was only a day or two before his death that the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop) and myself had lunch with Dr. Goedhardt. He was no less ebullient than usual, and I did not think that he seemed to be in poor health. But I thought that his optimism was beginning to fade. It was as if his knuckles were wearing thin with rapping on the doors of the Treasuries of the world and begging them for money to accomplish the task which the United Nations themselves had elected to do.
One of the questions which I put to him at that lunch was, why was this? How did it come about that the General Assembly could declare unanimously that 1741 it wished to achieve such-and-such an end—in this case to solve permanently the problem of the European refugees—and then, by a wide margin, to fail to allot the money necessary to carry out that task? Dr. Goedhardt gave me two reasons. The first of them has been mentioned by the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East. Dr. Goedhardt said that it was quite obvious that not every member nation of the United Nations could possibly interest itself in the fate of refugees who were mainly in Europe and mainly refugees from Communism. Though it is perfectly true that contributions have been received from countries as far apart as Korea and Venezuela, it is, in the main, a problem confined to the N.A.T.O. countries, and it is in Europe that the money must mainly be found.
Dr. Goedhardt's second answer was that, unfortunately, it is true that the humanitarian impulses, always strong after a war, begin to die down several years later. He put it to me that the problem of those who are homeless, stateless, and poor, and who are getting older, and are ill, is not one which appeals so strongly to peoples and to Governments as, for instance, the problem of one's own children. He said that his refugees were not trouble-makers. They roused no political problems. He compared them with the refugees in the Middle East or to the 9 million of displaced persons which U.N.R.R.A. successfully settled in the years after the war. With a little justifiable bitterness he told the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East and myself that it was rather hard for him, the High Commissioner, to see that it was not difficult to raise for the Palestinian Arabs 2 million dollars a year purely for maintaining the refugees, and a further 200 million dollars in a capital sum to place them permanently in new employment, while barely 50 per cent. of the 4.2 million dollars for which he had asked for his refugees had been found by the Governments who backed up that decision.
I would not go so far as the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East in saying that the United Kingdom contribution was quite "lamentable"—I think the hon. Member used some such word. It is not ungenerous when compared with the record of other countries. I realise that I am asking my hon. Friend for a 1742 gesture in excess of our duty. I am asking for a positive gesture, a positive lead, which might encourage other countries to do something for themselves. In this country we have done a great deal, not only by financial contributions. We should not forget that even since the end of the war we have accepted into the United Kingdom over 200,000 stateless persons—most of them Polish veterans from General Anders' Army—and assimilated them into our own country more successfully than any foreigners have ever been assimilated into any other country.
In support of what has been said by the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East, I put it to my hon. Friend that there are three good reasons for making this extra effort now. The first was put very well by Dr. Goedhardt himself in a speech which I heard him make in October of last year at Strasbourg to the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe. He told the Assembly that if we did not accomplish this task now—he was speaking of the task of resettling the European refugees—there was no certainty that we should be able to do it at all. In support of that warning he adduced the fact that at the moment countries like Western Germany and Austria, where a great many of these refugees are to be found, are enjoying boom conditions which may not continue indefinitely. At the same time in the refugee camps themselves there is, inevitably, an increasing apathy, a listlessness and sheer physical weakness among the refugees which may make it impossible for them to have any future other than that of a lingering death in an institution; and that now there is a need to put them to useful work and give them a life of which any man might be proud.
The second reason is purely financial. Last year, as has been mentioned by the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East, there was a short-fall of 1½ million dollars on the budget of 4.2 million dollars which the United Nations declared to be its contribution. This year, as a result of that short-fall, our target obviously is larger. It is 6 million dollars, and we are nowhere near attaining even half of that. In fact, the latest figure I have, which is that for May, is 1.4 million which has been pledged towards that 6 million.
The third reason is the United Nations Association appeal this year. I think it 1743 a remarkable fact that this country, second only to Holland—which of course is Dr. Goethardt's own country—has given a lead by raising some of the extra money required by private effort among ordinary citizens. I think it a gesture which our Government might well consider making to give some encouragement—not only encouragement in words—to that tremendous private and yet national effort which the United Nations Association will launch in the autumn of this year.
Last year we gave £20,000 conditionally, and because the target was not reached, that £20,000 was not spent. The £20,000 we are again offering conditionally this year also seems unlikely to be spent. In a supplementary question which I asked a few weeks ago, I put it to the Joint Under-Secretary that that £40,000 must have been allowable in the Treasury calculations of what we were able to afford. The hon. Gentleman did not like that argument very much, but I think it true to say that there is at least £40,000 which at one moment we were prepared to spend and which we have not spent. Therefore, I suggest that this £40,000 might well be added conditionally to the United Nations Association appeal.
I should like to see it put in a form in which, for every £1 raised by the appeal over the first £20,000, £1 from the £40,000 should be added by Her Majesty's Government. In this way we could make that money do a great deal of work. Each £1 contributed by Her Majesty's Government, over and above their £80,000 already promised, would be matched by £1 raised by the general public. Those £2 would immediately be converted into £3, because the United States Government have agreed to match at the rate of 50 per cent. Those £3 in their turn would be converted into £6, because every country in which refugees reside is more or less obliged—and they have not yet fallen down upon the obligation—to contribute 100 per cent. to what they receive from outside sources. Even that resulting £6 is not wholly and irretrievably expended, because it has been the very proper practice for most of the money spent upon refugees to be given in the form of loans and not of gifts. There is a really astonishing 1744 record of repayment by the refugees themselves once they have been assisted to re-establish themselves in business, in agriculture or as students.
I have a final comment to make. It is not a very agreeable thing that I wish to say, but I feel that I must say it. I am filled with sadness at the record of Her Majesty's Government in the sphere of international co-operation outside the purely political field. There are not many on my side of the House who feel like that, but I do not think it is a bad thing that some of us who do should express their views openly and frankly.
I was terribly disappointed and upset by the speech which was made by the Joint Under-Secretary at Geneva on 24th July, in which he said that unless the United Nations Specialised Agencies were able to achieve budgetary stabilisation Her Majesty's Government would be obliged seriously to consider whether we could continue to participate in the United Nations programmes on the present basis.
This is not strictly a matter of the Specialised Agencies, but I think that that speech fits in with and has some bearing upon our short debate today, because it is symptomatic of an attitude of withdrawal from these Agencies, an attitude of withdrawal from our international responsibilities. If there were any more of my hon. Friends here tonight I feel certain that they would support what was said at Geneva. I realise that I am expressing only a very personal disappointment.
We are throwing away our chances of leadership. We have had a tremendous experience in dealing with those who are poor or backward or in any way in distress. We have had a great tradition of hospitality and generosity to these people. Is this the moment when we should fall down upon that tradition? If, as I hope is not the case, my hon. Friend has come here tonight with a brief from the Treasury—it will not be his own words or his own feelings—to turn down our request, even for the £20,000 which we have not spent, I shall really feel that we have taken a step backwards. The Government might well consider having new thoughts about this subject and helping the people who so sorely need our help.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)
I rise to support what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop) and the hon. Member for East Bournemouth, and Christchurch (Mr. N. Nicolson). In particular, I wish to express my gratitude to the hon. Member for East Bournemouth and Christchurch, who on many occasions has spoken with courage for expressing the views which he so rightly holds.
I have often tried, in recent years, to persuade, the Government that expenditure on the United Nations is, in the truest sense of the words, defence expenditure, and that it ought to rank in the minds of the Treasury and of the Foreign Office with the expenditure which we make upon preparation for war. It has always been true in modern times that the best defence for Britain, and for all British interests, lies in preventing war rather than in winning long and bloody conflicts that ought never to have broken out.
Today, more than ever, British interests can be defended only by establishing the rule of law, and that can be done only by building up the prestige, the authority and the success of the United Nations. It cannot be done by general phrases about co-operation and peace. The Tory Governments, before the war, were always ready to use general phrases of support for the League of Nations. The present Government are always ready to speak of their support for the United Nations, but, alas, their leading Ministers boycott the meetings of the institutions of the United Nations. They give very little moral support to much of its work.
They attack the United Nations budget, as the Joint Under-Secretary did in Geneva the other day, although it is the best vetted, most closely examined Budget in the world. If they would apply the same methods to our defence expenditure budget, they could save our contribution to the United Nations ten times over, probably with benefit to British defence.
The Government often approve of projects in the United Nations Assembly and then afterwards allow them to fail. That is not the way to build up the authority and the prestige of the United Nations, to make it an instrument which we might use in the very serious international 1746 situation which the House has been discussing today.
In this Fund of which my hon. Friend spoke, British economic interests are directly involved. The refugees in Europe have been a charge on the economy of Europe, and the prosperity of Europe means very much to us. The Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration has moved 100,000, 110,000, 120,000 Europeans a year, many of them refugees, out of Europe to countries overseas. That is helping the European balance of payments with the dollar countries, and helping in no small degree.
In five years, half a million people unemployed in Europe, consuming imports which have to be paid for with dollar and other overseas currency, who could not help to pay for those imports because they had no work, were taken from Europe's shoulders and placed in other countries where they are helping to produce the food, the raw materials and the other commodities that we need. That is a very real service to this country.
The Government have refused to join I.C.E.M. year after year although the Australians and the Canadians have made it very plain that they want us to do so. I think that they have not done right by I.C.E.M. and they have certainly not done right by the High Commissioner's Fund for the tragic hard core of refugees in Europe. The same economic interest is involved in this problem of the hard core refugees. Many of them might still be settled in productive work either in Europe or overseas. Many openings can be made by our United Nations High Commissioner if he has adequate funds at his disposal, even if they are not large sums.
I beg the Under-Secretary to believe that I know what I am talking about. For many years between the wars I did this very work with Dr. Nansen. The Government have not given proper support to this Fund. I plead with the Joint Under-Secretary of State now to throw away that part of his brief which refuses what hon. Members have asked for.
I would add one word on a rather different point. I would ask the Government to do something which will not cost them any money. They have now to help the United Nations to find a new 1747 High Commissioner to replace Dr. Goedhardt, to whom we all pay such a heartfelt tribute and whose tragic death I mourn. I cannot help feeling, with my hon. Friend, that bitter disappointment was one of the things that led to his untimely death.
The Government must find a new High Commissioner to take his place. There is one branch of the work of the High Commissioner which can be extremely effective and can do an immense amount for the refugees. That is their legal protection and the protection of their rights against the Governments of the countries where they happen to be. It is not easy work, and it cannot be done by a man without a big international position. It was superbly done by Dr. Nansen, because every office was always open to him wherever he went. It can be done by a United Nations High Commissioner today. I hope that the Government will impress on the new High Commissioner that they expect results in this matter. They will give him a much better chance of doing that job if he has funds from which he can help Governments to deal with the refugees who are on their hands.
Bad practice and shortsighted statesmanship generally, and supporting in the United Nations General Assembly policies which were afterwards allowed to fail, have taken place. It is bad to think of the United Nations as something about which we can afford to make fiddling economies which give no real result for our own Budget, but which damage our hopes of making the United Nations an institution to defend humanity against the hideous catastrophe of war.
§ 7.54 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Douglas Dodds-Parker)
On behalf of the whole House I welcome back the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker). I think it is the first speech which he has delivered from the Opposition Dispatch Box after a considerable absence from our midst. We are delighted to have him back again with us.
I am sorry that he appeared to make party points on this issue, which is not a matter of party or Treasury, but for this country as a whole to do its best to carry on what has been achieved in the past, particularly in the years since the war. I am 1748 not going to take the right hon. Gentleman up on some of the points he made, such as boycotting the United Nations. I do not believe that he could put forward any substance for his charges. The subject is much wider than all that.
I am delighted also that the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop) at last managed to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for, as he said, the second time round. The hon. Member has shown great interest in this matter, as in other matters of United Nations importance in the past. I am grateful to him and to my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. N. Nicholson), who spoke with such feeling about this United Nations Fund which is, after all, one of several.
Although I fear that I shall have to disappoint them this evening, I can assure hon. Members that it is through no want of advocacy on their part. Nor, as I shall explain, is it due to any lack of sympathy on the part of Her Majesty's Government, I am glad that this debate enables me to join, from the Government benches, in the tribute which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen have paid to Dr. Goedhardt, and to say how much we regret his untimely death. We remember Dr. Goedhardt for his work in the Resistance, when he began by editing a clandestine newspaper. We remember him also as a Minister of the Netherlands Government in exile.
I had the privilege of a brief acquaintance with Dr. Goedhardt during the war, and again in 1953–54, when I first went to the Foreign Office, both in London and in Strasbourg. His great abilities and his personal experiences well fitted him for the work he did as High Commissioner of the United Nations Fund for Refugees. We all felt, when Dr. Goedhardt received, on behalf of his office, the Nobel Peace Prize for 1954, that that tribute was paid to the man himself as much as to all those who served his organisation. I can assure the House that his able American deputy, Mr. Reid, will have the fullest support of Her Majesty's Government in the work which he is now carrying on. I will look into the point which the right hon. Gentleman raised about Dr. Goedhardt's successor and see what we can do in support of that point.
Hon. Members have suggested that it would be a tribute to the memory of Dr. Goedhardt if Her Majesty's Government 1749 were to contribute now the £20,000 which they are pledged to give if the contributions of other countries reach the sum of 3¼ million dollars. Her Majesty's Government appreciate the spirit in which that proposal is made. My right hon. and learned Friend and my noble Friend have considered with great care whether we should be justified in waiving the condition which we made. I have to inform the House that, having taken every factor into consideration, Her Majesty's Government are not able to alter the terms of their offer. I think I should say, as my noble Friend informed the House on 9th July in reply to a Question by the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East, that Dr. Goedhardt himself understood our position.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
Does the Joint Under-Secretary mean by that that Her Majesty's Government did not feel that the state of the Fund was such as to warrant an extra contribution?
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
I am just coming to that point. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will let me explain the position. We hope that by maintaining our condition we may be doing more for the United Nations Fund, by encouraging the other Governments which have so far failed to contribute, although, as the hon. Gentleman pointed out, they voted for the Fund at the United Nations. We believe that our condition is fair and that it is not only for this country and some others to be generous towards the Fund. That condition should stimulate others to make their contributions. If we agreed to give £20 000 now, it would not be a substantial addition to the Fund.
Let me assure the House that Her Majesty's Government are as anxious as anyone else that the refugee problem should be solved. We have given and are giving substantial help. Perhaps I might remind the House that our contribution to the Fund last year ranked third in the order of Governmental contributions. I was sorry that the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East used epithets like "miserable" and "minute". We can claim some credit in this matter. Our total contribution to the International Refugee Organisation in the post-war period was of the order of £22 million. After the organisation was closed down, Her Majesty's Government 1750 contributed £100,000 to the United Nations Emergency Fund for Refugees.
Nor have we confined our assistance to money only. This country, overcrowded as it is, has played a great part in refugee resettlement. Our record in that respect is nothing to be ashamed of. Indeed, we feel that it is quite the reverse. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch pointed out, nearly 250,000 refugees have found homes in this country since the war. Further, under the "Two Thousand Scheme", the Home Office has agreed to admit up to 2,000 selected refugees. I understand that there are still 300 vacancies under that scheme. I should also mention that the Distressed Relatives Scheme enables refugees resident in this country to arrange to bring over their relatives in cases where they can undertake to support such relatives.
At present there are over 200,000 refugees who have not yet found permanent homes; and of those some 70,000 still live in camps. But Her Majesty's Government are not in a position to carry more than a certain proportion of the burden. We have many and wide responsibilities and commitments. Hon. Members may argue, as they have done, that £20,000 is a relatively small sum, and so it may be if considered by itself. But we receive many calls for £20,000 here and £20,000 there. Taken altogether, these amount to a very substantial total.
§ Mr. Christopher Boyd (Bristol, North West)
Although these contributions may be in proportion to what other countries are contributing, would it not be possible for the Government, in consultation with the other countries concerned, to persuade them to work towards groups of countries agreeing to increase their amounts, so that our share would be greater and their willingness to contribute would be increased? That would help to achieve a considerable increase in the total amount available.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
I am not sure whether I follow the hon. Member, but I think that is what we are trying to do. Our contribution is £80,000 and if the target is reached we shall put up a further £20,000. We believe that if we gave all these little sums without conditions and added £20,000 here and another sum there, we should add very substantially to our expenditure. We believe that other 1751 countries can play their part in admitting some of these hapless victims of the war and enabling them to start a new life. We believe also that the countries where the refugees are now living should assume an increasing degree of responsibility for their welfare. Indeed we consider that essential.
I sincerely believe that since 1945, the United Kingdom—and I say the United Kingdom advisedly, not merely Her Majesty's Government—has done more than its share to solve this terrible problem resulting from a war which we almost destroyed ourselves to win.
This is not only a matter for Government action. Like the right hon. Member for Derby, South, I had some personal experience dealing with refugee problems in the 1930s. I should like to join the right hon. Member in paying tribute to what Dr. Nansen and his organisation did in those days. It brought home to me how great a part can be played by voluntary social and religious organisations in relieving this distress.
I understand, and my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch has confirmed, that a public appeal is to be launched later this year under the auspices of the United Nations Association for private contributions on behalf of the refugees, and that a proportion of those contributions will go to this Fund. Attracted as we must all have been by the magic figures which my hon. Friend produced of how £1 given by the Government would produce £6, we do give great support to that Fund through the channels which have been suggested. I hope that the whole country and hon. Members on both sides of the House—who, I know, are helping this work—will give it their fullest support. I am afraid that as things stand I cannot go further than that.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
That point is very important. I am grateful that the hon. Gentleman has said that Her Majesty's Government want to encourage people to make every possible contribution voluntarily to the Fund. Could he say this evening that he will consider a further approach to his right hon. and learned Friend? Will he see whether Her 1752 Majesty's Government could not make some form of encouraging extra contributions pari passu with what is raised in this voluntary way, and at least not close his mind to that altogether?
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
I can assure the hon. Member that the minds of my right hon. Friends are by no means closed. They consider these matters although, as the right hon. Member kows, we have to be careful when saying things here, otherwise they might be interpreted as suggesting that some pledge has been given, as in the case of my noble Friend when he answered the Question on 9th July.
I would therefore urge all those concerned, and especially those hon. Members who have shown their concern in this House, to lend their energies towards persuading other Governments to be as forthcoming as we have been. Her Majesty's Government are fully aware that contributions to the Refugee Fund during its first two years have been disappointing, and that the contributions received so far this year have not nearly reached the amount required for our condition to be operative. The remedy does not lie only with us, but in a more general response to the late High Commissioner's appeal by Governments and private organisations throughout the world. We hope that hon. Members here and private organisations will be able to help.
§ Mr. P. Noel-Baker
I should like to thank the Joint Under-Secretary of State very much for the kind things which he said to me, and to express my regret that I was led to speak rather sharply about a matter on which, as he knows, I feel very strongly. May I reinforce what my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop) said? He suggested that the Government should support the appeal. I make two practical suggestions. Will the hon. Gentleman get the Prime Minister to write a letter giving the full support of the Government to the appeal? Will he ask the Chancellor to give pound for pound, as has so often been done before in the case of private funds?