HC Deb 01 March 1965 vol 707 cc901-3
19. Mr. Dell

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what instructions he has given to the British representative to the United Nations regarding the location of the secretariat of the United Nations Trade and Development Board.

67. Mr. Bence

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps he has taken with regard to the location of the secretariat of the United Nations Trade and Development Board.

69. Mr. Freeson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps he is taking to discover if there is a widespread desire amongst member countries that the secretariat of the United Nations Trade and Development Board should establish its headquarters in London.

Mr. George Thomson

Our permanent representative has been authorised to support the location of this secretariat at United Nations headquarters in New York or Geneva, or its division between the two. This would have the advantage of efficiency, in that the organisation would be able to work closely with the United Nations Secretariat and other international organisations in the field of trade and development. It would also have the advantage of economy, in that the organisation could use the common services of the existing Secretariat. It is likely that a solution on these lines will achieve a consensus of support in the United Nations, where consultation with other countries is now in progress.

Mr. Bence

Would my hon. Friend bring to the notice of his right hon. Friend that Scotland would be an ideal place in which to site this organisation, particularly bearing in mind the description of the new town of Cumbernauld by his right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing? Would it not be an ideal place for this organisation?

Mr. Thomson

As I have explained, the question does not in our view arise at the moment, but if it became desirable that we should seek for the Board to be set up in this country, my right hon. Friend need have no doubt that I would press on my right hon. Friend the advantages of Scotland.

Mr. Dell

Even though, regrettably, the Government apparently do not intend to invite the secretariat to London, which would be a very suitable place for it, will they at any rate resist any attempt to divide the secretariat between New York and Geneva, which, contrary to what my hon. Friend suggested, would only reduce the efficiency of the organisation and increase its costs?

Mr. Thomson

I do not think that the division between Geneva and New York is an ideal arrangement, but the Secretary-General of the new Board considers this kind of split quite workable.

Mr. Freeson

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind, between now and the time when a final decision is made elsewhere, that some of us would view with very great regret a failure on the part of our own Government definitely to invite the secretariat to be established in London, bearing in mind that most of the major countries in Europe—and the United States—have major centres of United Nations activity in their capitals, while we have not?

Mr. Thomson

I assure my hon. Friend that if there had been, or if there were to be in the future, widespread desire among member countries that this secretariat should be in London, the Government would be glad to give this matter favourable consideration. But our general view is that in the meantime, since there is a consensus about Geneva and New York, it is in the interests of both economy and efficiency that this consensus should be accepted.

Lady Tweedsmuir

Would the hon. Gentleman say whether in the early stages he put forward the proposal that this secretariat should be in London because—despite what was said by the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence), and speaking as a fellow Scot—may I ask whether he does not agree that London should have its share in these United Nations organisations, as it has the commercial facilities to offer?

Mr. Thomson

The Government gave very careful consideration to the questions whether we ought to suggest London for the siting of the United Nations Trade and Development Board, both for the reasons given by my hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Free-son) and for the reasons given by the noble Lady, but in the end, on the arguments which I have given to the House, we came to the view that it ought to go to Geneva and New York.

Mr. Maxwell

In view of the very serious situation in which the United Nations finds itself, would my right hon. Friend bear in mind that there is a great danger that it is likely to collapse because of the present financial and political difficulties? If he cannot save it, would he at least make representations so that the Special Agencies of the United Nations, such as U.N.E.S.C.O. and the Social and Economic Council, are saved from a holocaust?

Mr. Thomson

The Government do not accept for a moment that the United Nations is in the kind of state described by my hon. Friend. We believe that our duty is to do everything we can to ensure the successful survival of the United Nations.

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