HC Deb 14 December 1964 vol 704 cc14-5
16. Mr. Dodds-Parker

asked the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs if he will initiate proposals at the United Nations so that urgent rescue operations may be carried out as required in future.

Mr. George Thomson

We are hoping to have wide-ranging discussions in the United Nations in the near future about peace-keeping. If these discussions are successful, it may prove possible to undertake rescue operations in conditions internationally acceptable. Her Majesty's Government will not hesitate to take an initiative on this whenever they feel it would be helpful. It would, however, be premature to make specific proposals at the present time.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

Will the hon. Gentleman suggest that in the meantime the United Nations might strengthen its skeleton staff for military operations so that it can make forward plans, realising how difficult that is, in view of the imminence of possible disturbances in many parts of the world?

Mr. Thomson

Yes, Sir. As I told the House in a recent debate, it is very much in the mind of Her Majesty's Government to see a strengthening of the headquarters staff of the United Nations.

Mr. Fell

In considering this, will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that, after the experience of the first attempt of the United Nations forces in the Congo, Mr. Dag Hammarskjöld expressed himself as extremely sceptical of a United Nations fire brigade?

Mr. Thomson

No, Sir. I think the hon. Gentleman is misquoting what the late Mr. Hammarskjöld said. I think everybody understands the imperfections of the United Nations operation in the Congo, but at least there is general agreement that without that operation the cold war would have come much more actively into the Congo than it did.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

Was not the great mistake in the Congo the premature withdrawal of the United Nations forces, without any action by our Government to try to prevent it?

Mr. Thomson

It was a great pity that circumstances came about in which the United Nations withdrew before adequate arrangements had been made for the central Government of the Congo to be able to maintain unity and law and order throughout the whole of the territory.