HC Deb 21 February 1962 vol 654 cc381-3
10. Mr. Prentice

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether Her Majesty's Government will raise the upper limit on the number of United Nations bonds to be purchased by this country, in view of the fact that $12 million is a smaller fraction of the total issue than our assessed share of the United Nations budget, and in view of the decisions of all the other countries who have announced that they will purchase those bonds to do so on a bigger scale than their share of the budget.

Mr. Heath

No, Sir, Her Majesty's Government do not regard voluntary participation in the bond issue as necessarily related to the proportion Members pay towards the regular budget of the Organisation.

Mr. Prentice

Would the Government reconsider this, particularly in view of the reply which the Lord Privy Seal gave to an earlier Question to the effect that the payment will now be made in sterling, to bring us up to our proportional share? It would mean a comparatively trifling sum, something not much more than £1 million, and might this not have a profound effect on the deliberations of the United States Congress and other assemblies considering how much to buy of the issue?

Mr. Heath

In reply to the previous Question, I carefully added that sterling is convertible, and therefore, if this amount of sterling is more than the United Nations needs for its normal requirements or for meeting particular deficits, it might be possible to convert it into dollars and it would, therefore, be a drain on our exchange reserves. The fact that we were the second to answer this appeal and, moreover, the fact that our contribution is still the second largest of the contributions has, I think, helped the American Administration in the Congress.

Lady Tweedsmuir

In view of the fact that the Government said in answer to a Question last week that they consider this issue to be a once-for-all payment, and in view of the fact that apparently the United States Government take exactly the opposite view, would my right hon. Friend say what is the official United Nations view on this matter?

Mr. Heath

I understand that the Resolution which was passed by the United Nations was a once-for-all effort to meet the current deficit of the United Nations while the Organisation puts its finances on a sound footing.

Mr. H. Wilson

Since our proposed contribution even at the maximum is less than would be justified on a proportionate basis, does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that this is a pretty tawdry effort, and could not the right hon. Gentleman say that he will raise this offer to a minimum figure corresponding to our percentage and will pay it quickly and not wait till the end of 1963?

Hon. Members


Mr. Heath

No. I cannot differ from the statement we have already made. We are carrying out a voluntary contribution. With our present foreign exchange problems this is, in my view, a generous contribution, and I would have hoped it would have been recognised as such by the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. P. Williams

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that it is not only a generous contribution but in fact goes far beyond what some of us are willing to support? Would he not also agree that a first priority of the United Nations should be to conduct a little bit of self-discipline in gathering in those subscriptions now far overdue?

Mr. Heath

I had suspected that those would be the views of my hon. Friend.