HC Deb 12 December 1956 vol 562 cc430-1
39. Mr. Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps Her Majesty's Government intend to take to put forward proposals for the revision of the United Nations Charter with a view to arriving at a clear definition of aggression.

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

I have nothing to add to what I told the House in the Adjournment debate on 3rd December.

Mr. Hamilton

While I appreciate the difficulty of this matter, does the Minister not agree that there has been a quite inordinate delay in arriving at a decision? Will he undertake that when the Government take the next step they will seek to draw the definition sufficiently widely to cover police action and armed conflict such as that alleged to have been taken both in Hungary and in Egypt in recent times?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

No, Sir. As the hon. Member said, the difficulties in this case are exceptional, and there has of course been great delay. The problem of defining aggression was studied by the International Law Commission in 1951, discussed by the General Assembly in 1951, 1952 and 1954 and considered by special committees of fifteen members in 1954 and 1956. It will probably be again discussed this year. At all stages there has been a wide divergence of views. No definition has yet been agreed upon, and it is most improbable that the differences of opinion will be resolved in future discussions.

Mr. J. Eden

In that case, will my hon. Friend seriously reconsider the relationship of Her Majesty's Government with the United Nations, which has successfully branded as aggressors those who have acted to stop a war but has completely failed to stop the Russian massacre in Hungary, which is making a mockery of human rights?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

What we say is that an agreed definition of aggression is not likely to result in anything very useful.

Mr. Paget

Could the hon. Gentleman not at least agree that any definition of aggression that excluded the sort of buildup which occurred on the Israeli frontiers before the Israelis took action would be a farce?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

The hon. and learned Gentleman has just indicated one of the great difficulties of arriving at a definition.