HC Deb 01 March 1965 vol 707 cc903-6
31. Mr. Tilney

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps he has taken to help in setting up a workable system of constructive peace-making through the United Nations, using national earmarked contingents able to be used quickly to deal with crises such as the recent affair in the Congo.

29 and 30. Mr. Taverne

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) what steps he has taken to call attention to the need for reforms in the United Nations, in particular by the creation by like-minded states, as suggested by the Prime Minister of Canada, of a small peace-keeping force on a permanent basis;

(2) what consultations have taken place with countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America regarding the possible use by them of a peace-keeping force on a permanent basis.

Mr. George Thomson

As my right hon. Friend announced on 23rd February, Her Majesty's Government are ready to provide logistic and administrative backing sufficient to support a United Nations force of up to six battalions in strength. We intend to play an active part in the new United Nations Committee, set up to consider all aspects of peace-keeping. This Committee, on which the countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America will be represented, will be able to consider the role of stand-by forces to be available on a permanent basis for United Nations peace-keeping. My noble Friend Lord Caradon has kept in close touch with Commonwealth delegates at the United Nations about Her Majesty's Government's thinking on this subject. We believe that earmarking, as suggested by the Prime Minister of Canada, is the most practical way to make progress at the present time; this would not of itself require any reform of the United Nations.

Mr. Tilney

While agreeing that earmarking is the most practical way for the time being, will this United Nations Committee, as a long-term aim, consider the recruitment of a small, directly recruited, multi-racial force?

Mr. Thomson

Her Majesty's Government regard the idea just described by the hon. Gentleman as our own long-term goal, but we do not consider it as being immediately practicable. The important thing is to get constructive progress on what is immediately practicable inside this new Committee.

Mr. E. L. Mallalieu

Can my hon. Friend say what are the views of the Government about the provision of a law under which the peace-keeping forces referred to in the Question should act?

Mr. Thomson

There are other Questions on the Order Paper about this, but it is also a project which enjoys our sympathy. However, this, too, comes into the category which we do not regard as immediately practicable.

Mr. A. Henderson

Will my hon. Friend make clear a point that arises out of the Prime Minister's statement? Is it the intention of the Government to earmark six battalions together with logistic support or merely to offer to provide logistic support for six battalions, with the personnel coming from other sources?

Mr. Thomson

I am glad of an opportunity to clear up this matter. The proposal is to provide logistic support. That would involve not only the provision of transport and similar equipment, but also the men to go with them. But it would not involve combatant troops.

Sir P. Agnew

Does the hon. Gentleman consider that this British contribution to the peace-keeping force would make it large enough to expel the United Arab Republican Army from the Yemen?

Mr. Dodds-Parker

Will the contingent to be earmarked be located in the United Kingdom, or will it come from our fords in Europe?

Mr. Thomson

These are matters which still have to be discussed and decided upon, but the concept of earmarking does not mean that the troops might not be fairly widely scattered geographically.

Lady Tweedsmuir

Does the hon. Gentleman recall that in his statement last Tuesday, the Foreign Secretary said that this logistic backing would have to be released for training? If that is so, will the force come from our strategic reserve or from our forces in Europe? If the latter, have there been any consultations with our allies?

Mr. Thomson

We have, of course, consulted our allies about the offer. The offer has been worked out by the Defence Department in some considerable detail, but, of course, the final arrangements with regard to training depend upon the offer being taken up. That, in turn, depends upon the Peace-Keeping Committee's operations in the coming months being as successful as we hope they will be.