HC Deb 29 January 1962 vol 652 cc688-92
31. Mr. Warbey

asked the Lord Privy Seal what arrangements he is making to enable British citizens to buy United Nations ponds in small units.

26. Mr. G. M. Thomson

asked the Lord Privy Seal what amount of United Nations bonds Her Majesty's Government propose to purchase.

32. Mr. E. Johnson

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether Her Majesty's Government has been invited to subscribe to the United Nations £71 million bond issue; and whether any decision has been taken in regard to the matter.

43. Mr. H. Wilson

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether Her Majesty's Government have decided to subscribe for United Nations bonds; and for what figure.

49. Mr. Mayhew

asked the Lord Privy Seal what purchase of United Nations bonds has been made by Her Majesty's Government.

54. Mr. Prentice

asked the Lord Privy Seal what purchase of United Nations bonds will be made by Her Majesty's Government; and what arrangements will be made for their purchase by the general public.

Mr. Heath

Her Majesty's Government intend to respond to the Secretary-General's appeal for subscriptions to the United Nations Bond Issue by buying bonds, before the end of 1963, within a maximum total of 12 million dollars. This is in accordance with the policy of Her Majesty's Government to support the United Nations Organisation and to do what they can to ensure its efficiency and solvency. In deciding the amounts and timing of our purchases we shall take into account the cash requirements of the Organisation and the extent to which other countries contribute. The terms and conditions governing the Bond Issue make no provision for the sale of bonds to individuals. We regard the Issue of Bonds as a once-for-all measure designed to give the United Nations an opportunity to put its finances in order. This can only be achieved with the cooperation of its members and we look to all member governments to fulfil their financial obligations towards the Organisation.

Mr. Warbey

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the proposed amount represents only about one-seventh of the amount for which President Kennedy has asked Congress sanction? As this displays a rather half-hearted loyalty towards the United Nations, cannot the right hon. Gentleman at least undertake to guarantee to purchase a further 12 million dollars worth and put them on resale to the British public, possibly through the United Nations Association, so that the British people may have an opportunity of showing that they have greater loyalty to the United Nations than have hon. Members opposite?

Mr. Heath

As I understand the United Nations resolution, it is not intended that these bonds should be held by private individuals. Bearing in mind that this is a question of foreign exchange for this country, I think that the Government are responding generously to the Secretary-General's appeal.

Mr. E. Johnson

Will my right hon. Friend keep the purchase of these bonds down to the minimum figure until the 87 nations which have defaulted on their obligations have done something to meet them? Will not the fact of our buying the bonds mean that we are paying twice over, once for our share and once for theirs, and will it not encourage those nations to remain in default?

Mr. Heath

I have explained that we regard this as a particular effort in order to try to deal with the immediate financial problem of the United Nations. But I am sure that the whole House is anxious that all member countries should carry out their financial obligations.

Mr. Mayhew

Is it not just as well that we should make this contribution, even though it is smaller than it should be, in order to help to erase the unfortunate impression created by the speech of the Foreign Secretary about the United Nations? Instead of expressing a pious hope that defaulting countries will pay up, have the Government considered invoking Article 19 and challenging the right of defaulting countries more than two years in arrears to vote at the General Assembly?

Mr. Heath

I do not believe that any of the defaulting countries is yet more than two years in arrears.

Mr. H. Wilson


Mr. Heath

I do not know about that. Certainly we can examine that. In the payments countries make, there is a certain time lag as to when they deliver the dues. All countries, even those which are regular payers, have special arrangements. As far as the rest of them are concerned, they are not in default of their normal payments. The problem of whether payments for the Congo operation and the Middle Eastern operation should not also be considered within the context of Article 19 has been referred to the International Court. If the International Court ruled that they were the same as payments under Article 19, that would change the situation very materially.

Mr. Prentice

Does the Lord Privy Seal agree that it is a vital aspect of our foreign policy that the United Nations should recover from its financial difficulty, that its operations in the Congo and the Middle East should be enabled to continue and that it should be able, if, unfortunately, it becomes necessary, to launch similar operations elsewhere? In the circumstances, will the Government keep open the possibility of buying a much larger share of these bonds if other countries do not take up as many as we hope?

Mr. Heath

I have given the House a full statement about the Government's decision, the reasons why we have taken it and the way in which we shall carry out the purchase of the bonds.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Foreign Secretary's excellent speech voiced, if it did not somewhat understate, the deep feelings in this country? Is my right hon. Friend aware that many people in this country will regret this decision on the bonds, which they believe to have been taken under United States pressure? Will the Government endeavour to see that those voluble members of the United Nations who do not pay their contributions in fact pay up before any more British money is sunk in this organisation?

Mr. Heath

Perhaps my hon. Friend recalls the concluding paragraphs of my noble Friend's speech. If I may quote them, he said, Whatever its faults, the aims of the United Nations are sound and its aspirations true. Britain cannot afford lightly to discard an instrument dedicated to peace which is struggling to put together the elements of peacekeeping machinery, however elementary it may appear. It is therefore entirely consistent with that belief and policy that we should purchase these bonds and support the financial position of the United Nations.

Mr. Lipton

Does what the Lord Privy Seal has just said mean this: that the Government's decision, announced just now, really represents the policy of the Foreign Secretary?

Mr. Heath

This represents the policy of my noble Friend and of the Government as a whole. I think that the hon. Member's question and that of the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) both indicate the difficulty which some hon. Members have of distinguishing between support of an organisation and its aims and at the same time constructively criticising it in an attempt to see that it becomes efficient.

Mr. H. Wilson

While we welcome this decision and wish that the Government had bought a larger quantity of bonds, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware that this decision is necessary not only to begin the hard job of reassuring other nations about our support for the United Nations but also, after the revolt of hon. Members opposite on the question of subscribing to the United Nations in the debate in December, to show whether the Government are in a position to govern in respect of matters concerning the United Nations?

Mr. Heath

There is no question of the Government not being able to govern. That is the main reason why the right hon. Gentleman and his friends are still on the Opposition benches.