HC Deb 22 February 1960 vol 618 cc29-31
46. Mr. Dodds

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in view of the widespread dissatisfaction at the decision by Her Majesty's Government to give £200,000 to the World Refugee Year Appeal, what consideration has been given to increasing the amount; and what is the present position in this connection.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Robert Allan)

I do not accept that there is the widespread dissatisfaction mentioned by the hon. Gentleman, who should know that we contributed over £2 million last year for aid to refugees. I cannot say whether or not Her Majesty's Government will make a further contribution to the World Refugee Year Appeal.

Mr. Dodds

Is not the Joint Under-Secretary of State aware that even prominent Conservatives have condemned the miserly amount which the Government propose to give? Does it not emphasise the severe limitations of the amount when it is known that the War Department lost over £1 million in surplus boots on orders which should never have been placed—at least five times the amount to be given—and for which no one has been reprimanded or sacked?

Mr. Allan

It has always seemed to me that the best thing about the success of the appeal has been the personal generosity of those responding to it, and that is the first thing to try to encourage.

Sir P. Agnew

Without being "prominent", may I ask my hon. Friend to see whether the figure cannot be stepped up, in view of the fact that a country like Italy, whose economy was totally ruined fifteen years ago, is giving £300,000, which is half as much again as Her Majesty's Government?

Mr. Allan

I said in my main Answer that I could not say whether or not Her Majesty's Government will make a further contribution to the World Refugee Year Appeal. Nevertheless, my hon. Friend's remarks will be noted.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

The Under-Secretary mentioned the £2 million which we contribute for aid to refugees. Does he realise that by far the greater part of that is for Palestine refugees, for whom we have a very special British governmental responsibility? Our contribution to World Refugee Year has so far been from the taxpayer, and is equal to 1d. per head of the population. Hon. Members below the Gangway on both sides of the House speak for everyone in the House when they say that they would welcome at least another 1d. per head.

Mr. Allan

I quite agree, and that may well come from private sources. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] That has been the great glory of the success of the appeal. I agree that a large amount of our contribution goes to Palestine refugees, but they are refugees.

Mr. Langford-Holt

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that the real problem of refugees is not so much aid as rehabilitation?

Mr. Delargy

Is it not a fact that the British Government have contributed less proportionately to this fund than any other Government in the world?

Mr. Allan

That is quite untrue.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Does the Minister recognise that a capital contribution now may serve to liquidate the problem of refugees, to get them re-established and save this recurrent charge which goes on every year?

Mr. Allan

My right hon. Friends are quite aware of all this, but there are some months to go before the appeal ends.

Mr. Dodds

Owing to the totally unsatisfactory nature of the answer, I give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment as soon as possible.