HC Deb 23 November 1960 vol 630 cc1106-7
7. Dr. A. Thompson

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he will instruct Her Majesty's Government's representative at the United Nations to move for an inquiry into the system of command, military planning and deployment of United Nations forces, including the adequacy of the weapons supplied for the various tasks involved, whether for police duties, rioting, or large-scale operations, and to examine the criteria by which commanders-in-chief and their staffs are selected, and to make it clear that Her Majesty's Government, while supporting the United Nations Organisation, is determined to secure the highest degree of efficiency of a military command which may be ultimately responsible for the lives of British soldiers.

Mr. Heath

Her Majesty's Government have repeatedly advocated the idea of a permanent United Nations force, including a small planning section in the Secretariat. This would meet many of the points referred to by the hon. Gentleman.

Dr. Thompson

Hon. Members are aware of this But would not the Minister agree that the Congo situation, even making allowances for its special geographical and political difficulties, has revealed serious weaknesses in the system of military planning and command? Will not he press for some discussion of whether the criteria governing the selection of national contingents are those of diplomatic expediency or military efficiency? May not it be necessary in future operations to tilt the balance in favour of military efficiency for the sake of the safety of the troops involved? Is he aware that it is becoming increasingly clear that successful United Nations action can be carried out only if the United Nations possesses an effective military force?

Mr. Heath

We are most anxious that the United Nations force should be efficient. These are very interesting and important points which the hon. Gentleman has raised. So far we have failed to carry conviction with the points we have put forward about the nature of the force which would help the hon. Gentleman in the aims he is trying to achieve.