HC Deb 29 November 1995 vol 267 cc1182-3
5. Mrs. Ann Winterton

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the future of the United Nations. [855]

Mr. Rifkind

The United Nations will remain the principal mechanism for the resolution of threats to international peace and security, and the forum for addressing a wide range of global problems.

Mrs. Winterton

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that NATO has been much more effective than the shambolic United Nations in the former Yugoslavia? Does he also agree that if the UN is to play any meaningful role in the world in future it must undergo a fundamental root-and-branch reform as a matter of urgency?

Mr. Rifkind

NATO, of course, has operated in Bosnia at the request of the United Nations because the UN does not have the kind of military capability that is available to the Atlantic alliance. I agree that the United Nations financial arrangements need to be reformed. There is much waste and extravagance and the UN must be funded in a form that ensures that member states do not fall into arrears, because that has been undermining the UN's capacity to carry out its proper role.

Mr. Menzies Campbell

I am sure that, like others, the Secretary of State was much encouraged by the vigorous rejection of isolationism by President Clinton this morning. Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the future effectiveness of the United Nations will depend on the whole-hearted commitment of the United States to that organisation? Will he take every opportunity to press that point on his counterpart in the American Government?

Mr. Rifkind

The United States Government, and President Clinton in particular, need no such reminding. The problem with United Nations funding in respect of the US contribution arises because of the behaviour of Congress, which up to now has declined to authorise the appropriate funding despite the urging of the Administration. That is where representations and pressure need to be directed.

Mr. Churchill

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the effectiveness of the United Nations depends more on the United States' active involvement than on that of any other Government? Will he warmly congratulate the President of the United States on his fine address today to both Houses of Parliament in the Palace of Westminster? Above all, will my right hon. and learned Friend congratulate him on his categorical condemnation of the forces of appeasement and isolationism, and wish him well in his battle with those elements in Congress that support such policies?

Mr. Rifkind

I unreservedly pay tribute to President Clinton for his fine address this morning. The United States and the United Kingdom work well together and enable the great democratic forces to be as successful as they have been in recent times. The way in which the President emphasised the close bonds between the United States and the United Kingdom was very much in tune with the way that this country sees the transatlantic alliance.

Mr. Tony Lloyd

The Foreign Secretary has gone some way towards dispelling the myths of the isolationists on both sides of the Atlantic. Is he prepared to pay tribute to the quiet work of the United Nations through, for example, UNICEF and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees? Those organisations have carried out valuable work over many years. Are the cuts in funding to United Nations agencies which were announced in yesterday's Budget in the interests of today's rhetoric by the Foreign Secretary?

Mr. Rifkind

Of course I pay tribute to the work done by UNICEF and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The hon. Gentleman mentioned reductions that were announced yesterday. Most of them are possible because of the reduction in the forecast of what our contributions to the various multilateral organisations ought to be; therefore, I do not think that the programmes to which he refers will suffer in any way as a result of the announcements.

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