HC Deb 21 October 1987 vol 120 cc719-20
18. Mr. Sedgemore

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will now review the decision to withdraw the United Kingdom from membership of UNESCO; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Eggar

We made it clear when we withdrew from UNESCO that we would require evidence of fundamental and far-reaching reforms before reconsidering our position. We welcome the prospect of the election of a new director-general, but our fundamental concern remains UNESCO's programmes and administration. We shall continue to keep an open mind and monitor developments carefully.

Mr. Sedgemore

Would it not be a good idea if the Foreign Secretary were to invite Senor Mayor, the director-general of UNESCO, to come to this country for discussions with a view to Britain rejoining that organisation? Should not the Foreign Secretary stop pretending that he agrees with the politics of the new Right and the dreadful lead given by the United States State Department on that matter?

Mr. Eggar

I am afraid that I have to say to the hon. Gentleman that he appears to be woefully ignorant of the way in which UNESCO operates. The fact is that the programme of work for UNESCO over the next two years will be decided at its general conference, which is currently meeting. The proposals that have gone to the general conference were put forward by the previous director-general. We shall watch with considerable interest to see whether changes are made in the programme recommendations and how any programme recommendations by the general conference are implemented over the coming months.

Mr. Key

Will Her Majesty's Government consider strengthening our observer status at UNESCO in view of the appointment of Senor Mayor?

Mr. Eggar

As I am sure my hon. Friend is aware, we have a considerable presence in the observer section, which is based in our Paris embassy. However, had UNESCO been prepared to co-operate more freely with that observer section we might have been able to get further in our efforts to observe what was going on.

Mr. Foulkes

Does the Minister not accept that there is an excellent new director-general designate and that he has said he is committed to improving the efficiency of the organisation and carrying out the sort of reforms that the British Government have outlined? He has said that a priority is to get Britain and the United States back into UNESCO. Surely the Government should give him a message of encouragement and an idea of the situation in which our membership would be reconsidered. Surely it is better to support and encourage him from inside, rather than shouting from the touchline.

Mr. Eggar

As we have made clear on several occasions, UNESCO is not about personalities; it is about the programmes that it carries out. Of course we welcome the announcement of the appointment of Dr. Mayor, which still has to be confirmed, as the hon. Gentleman knows, on 7 November. However, Dr. Mayor faces a difficult task of administrative reform and the implementation of programmes. We shall watch carefully how he proceeds in his job.

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