HC Deb 09 April 1964 vol 692 cc1207-9
Q7. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Prime Minister whether he will now make a statement on the provision of a British contingent as part of a United Nations stand-by force.

The Prime Minister

I have nothing to add to the reply which I gave to the right hon. and learned Gentleman on 26th March.

Mr. Henderson

That was a fortnight ago. May we take it that Her Majesty's Government accept the proposal which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition made on that occasion that a strong contingent of B.A.O.R. troops should be earmarked for this purpose of a United Nations stand-by force and that the delay is caused by Her Majesty's Government being in consultation on ways and means with our other allies in N.A.T.O.?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. We have been more concerned, both in the United Nations and in this country, with dealing with the United Nations force in Cyprus for the time being. I said that we would discuss the other matter with the Secretary-General of the United Nations and with the allies, and so we will. Our troops are fully trained and they are always ready. We have great responsibilities overseas. I am not very sure that it would be in the national interest to earmark forces in particular places to be sent to United Nations actions automatically.

Sir G. Nicholson

Will my right hon. Friend say that never again in any circumstances will British troops be employed for United Nations purposes under orders of which this House is ignorant?

The Prime Minister

We know as a Government the directive under which the British forces in Cyprus operate. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman says," What about the House of Commons?" We promised to see if the Secretary-General of the United Nations would allow these directives to be published. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Hon. Members say. "Why not?" They have been pressing for this all this time. However, some of these directives are operational. We will have to give further consideration to this with the Secretary-General.

Mr. Healey

Is the Prime Minister aware that there is some disquiet among British forces serving in Cyprus under the United Nations auspices at the fact that they are the only forces serving there which are not receiving from their own Government some sort of United Nations allowance because of this type of service? Will the right hon. Gentleman look into the matter and see whether it is possible for the British Government to pay a similar allowance and to put British troops on the same basis as other forces serving in the United Nations force?

The Prime Minister

I will look into that matter.

Mr. P. Williams

While accepting that the Government must go through the diplomatic niceties with the United Nations, may I ask my right hon. Friend to understand that the House of Commons wishes to know, and deserves to be told, exactly under what conditions British forces have been committed?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. It may relieve some anxiety if I say that the directive provides that the British troops, and indeed all United Nations troops, can fire in self-defence. I am trying to see whether we can get the Secretary-General's leave to publish the directive, but, of course, it is to some extent operational and it is not very easy for the Secretary-General to do it.