HC Deb 03 April 1996 vol 275 cc385-6
16. Dr. Godman

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next intends to attend a meeting of the United Nations Security Council to discuss its structure, function and membership. [22628]

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary has no plans to attend a meeting of the UN Security Council. We will continue to take an active part in the continuing debate on its composition and working practices.

Dr. Godman

What action is being taken by the Government to ensure that the peacekeeping budget is not totally depleted as a result of the financial crisis being experienced by the United Nations? What steps are being taken to deal with that massive financial problem? For example, when will the Americans pay off their arrears?

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

I entirely agree that it is most unfortunate that the United Nations is facing a financial crisis. I further agree that it is most unfortunate that, of the $2.3 billion that the United Nations is currently owed, nearly half is owed by the United States of America. We are pressing the Americans to make good their deficit; I fear that in the short term I see little prospect of that. As the hon. Gentleman will know, however, the British and French Governments took the lead in the European Union in advancing proposals, which are now being considered by the UN and which have the full support of the EU, for reforms that should ensure the payment of arrears and a proper funding process.

Mr. Jopling

Does the Minister agree that the United States' $1 billion debt is quite intolerable? Will he get all Ministers, whenever possible, to put pressure on the Americans and the American Congress to put that right? This accumulated deficit is doing more to damage the structure and functioning of the United Nations than anything else.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend. All Ministers will continue to pressurise the United States at every available opportunity to make good its deficit. My right hon. Friend is also right to point an accusing finger at Congress, which is not being co-operative with the Administration in attempting to resolve this difficult problem, but which appears to be using it for party political purposes.

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