HC Deb 05 April 1957 vol 568 cc778-80

3.52 p.m.

Mrs. Joyce Butler (Wood Green)

I beg to move, That this House recognises that the work of the International Labour Organisation, the World Health Organisation, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund, and the United Nations Technical Assistance Board has been of the highest value, considers that it constitutes an important contribution to the cause of international peace and that it should therefore expand in accordance with the growing needs of the nations, and accordingly calls upon the Government to propose more generous financial provision for the expansion of the work and accord it the fullest support. Although there are only a few minutes left for me to say something about this Motion, I hope to be able to draw attention to the great importance of the approach to international affairs through the Specialised Agencies of the United Nations.

There has never been a time in the history of the world when people have been more concerned about the maintenance of peace and more apprehensive about the possibility of war. All of us are anxious to do everything we can to preserve the peace which we have now and to create more and more international co-operation, but we very often differ in the methods we choose for this purpose. Some of us concentrate on disarmament, others on the need for international control of raw material, and others on political means of securing peace and international co-operation.

However, all of us, from whatever point of view we approach the subject, must agree that the work which is being done by the Specialised Agencies is of fundamental importance and may finally prove to be the real bedrock on which the future peace of the world will be built.

There are at present in the world about 1,200,000,000 people, an appalling number, suffering from ill-health, lack of food and inadequate housing and clothing. In other words, they are not living the full life which is possible for human beings. They are being helped in a small but increasingly important way by the Specialised Agencies.

The work being done to raise the standard of living of the peoples of the world by improving agricultural techniques, to save children from appalling diseases which, in many parts of the world, attack hundreds of thousands of them—sores and tuberculosis and diseases of which photographs horrify the imagination—work being done through the World Health Organisation to help children by injection, the supply of milk through the Children's Fund to children and expectant mothers, the work all over the world, particularly in the more under-developed areas, where there is still appalling poverty and ill-health, is something which we unitedly agree to be of the very greatest importance.

I should have liked much more time to say something about the constructive work which is being done, but since time is so short, and since there is agreement on the importance of the work, I want to stress that the amount of money being spent on the work is pitifully inadequate in relation to the great need. I do not want to criticise the Government's contribution to these Specialised Agencies, because the work is comparatively new in our experience and we are slow to realise the importance of new things.

When we bear in mind the small contribution made to this kind of work in relation to the enormous sums spent on defence—we are spending about £ 5½ million on the Specialised Agencies every year, against about £ 1,600 million on defence, which is a matter of Id. to 25s. —the comparison is so staggering that we must feel that more money must be spent in this way. Yet there are people outside this House, and there may even be hon. Members, who say that we are spending too much on many of these things, that the money is wasted and that the work is unnecessary.

We are spending not nearly enough, and my plea to the Government is that they should go on with the good work and spend more. Although the funds of the Specialised Agencies have increased from year to year, the increases in the costs of services and the general increases in prices have meant that the increased sums available have only just kept pace with the work done in previous years.

We are not increasing the amounts to any extent. Far more money might be made available if the Government took the lead when it sent representatives to general conferences of Specialised Agencies, if they took the lead in urging greater contributions from countries participating and if they sent their best representatives to those conferences and instructed them to take the initiative.

I shall not go into the vexed question of S.U.N.F.E.D., to which I cannot refer in detail, but that matter could be reconsidered. The Government should revise their view that they cannot, without a substantial measure of disarmament—of course, we want both—increase contributions to S.U.N.F.E.D. and other agencies. That would be doing something which, in the end, will prove to be a major contribution to the peace which we all desire and of greater importance than many of the other things on which we spend a great deal of time and money.

3.59 p.m.

Mr. Frederick Peart (Workington)

I beg to second the Motion.

Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely) rose

It being Four o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.