HC Deb 27 July 1964 vol 699 cc969-71
1. Mr. Driberg

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what progress has been made in his discussions with the Secretary-General of the United Nations on the possibility of establishing uniform rates of pay and allowances for national contingents serving in United Nations peace-keeping forces.

The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Peter Thomas)

The British delegation in New York have discussed this question with the United Nations Secretariat. The Secretariat has pointed out to us that the policy of establishing uniform rates of pay and allowances would inevitably lead to a levelling up of the pay and allowances of all contingents, as at present fixed by their Governments, to that of the highest-paid contingent. If the cost of this were to be borne by United Nations funds this would clearly add very considerably to the cost of United Nations peace-keeping operations. It would not seem to be a practical proposition in the present state of United Nations finances.

Mr. Driberg

While appreciating those difficulties, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he agrees that if these secondary problems, which often cause disproportionate irritation, could be dealt with, it might make it easier to build up gradually a regular peacekeeping force on a voluntary basis, perhaps individually as well as nationally, instead of having to throw contingents together ad hoc every time?

Mr. Thomas

I agree with the hon. Member that these are very important considerations for the future, but at present there are these difficulties, and I think he appreciates them. I do not think that they can be overcome at present.

6. Mrs. Castle

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what proposals he has received from the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics with regard to the establishment of a permanent United Nations force; and what reply he has sent to them.

Mr. P. Thomas

My right hon. Friend has received from the Soviet Ambassador a copy of a Soviet Government Memorandum on measures to strengthen the effectiveness of the United Nations in the safeguarding of international peace and security. This Memorandum has been circulated at the United Nations at the request of the Soviet representative as document S/5811. Copies are available in the Library of the House. The Soviet representative in New York has told his British and American colleagues that the Memorandum is a response to the proposals which they put to him in March. These were outlined to the House in my reply to the hon. Gentlemen the Members for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) and for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) on 13th April.

A reply was delivered by the British Ambassador in Moscow on 24th July. My right hon. Friend hopes to discuss this question during his visit to Moscow, and I should prefer not to say any more at present.

Mrs. Castle

Is it not a fact that Mr. Khrushchev has increasingly been showing a genuine desire for an East-West detente, and is not this proposal further evidence of it? Therefore, will the Foreign Secretary, during his talks in Moscow, show Mr. Khrushchev that we in this country are in favour of such a proposal and welcome the Soviet conversion to it, doing everything in his power to see that agreement is reached along these lines?

Mr. Thomas

I would prefer not to go into the merits of this proposal until my right hon. Friend had had a chance to discuss the matter with the Soviet Government.

Mr. E. L. Mallalieu

Will the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend bear in mind that, at the spring meeting this year of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, proposals were agreed to by the Soviet Union representative which were very much in line with those which have now been circulated in New York? Does he agree that this is an immense advance on anything hitherto agreed by the Soviets, and will the right hon. Gentleman now press for a permanent United Nations force with a permanent staff for forward planning at the United Nations?

Mr. Thomas

I assure the House that we welcome Soviet interest in this important subject and hope that the Soviet Government will be prepared to elucidate further their own ideas and discuss the ideas which other member States have put forward in recent months in the light of experience of United Nations peace-keeping activities to date.