HC Deb 25 March 2003 vol 402 cc149-50
6. Mr. Huw Edwards (Monmouth)

What recent discussions he ha .s had about reform of the constitution of the United Nations. [104464]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Bill Rammell)

There are ongoing discussions at the United Nations and between member states about a number of UN reform issues. Reform of the United Nations charter requires approval by two thirds of the membership of the UN. Currently, agreement on that issue does not exist. Nevertheless, the UK supports reform of the Security Council to make it more representative of the modern world. In our view, that should include enlargement of both its permanent and non-permanent membership.

Mr. Edwards

Does my hon. Friend agree that many of the people who feel so disappointed that UN support for the current conflict was not achieved are also perplexed about the UN's processes, especially the composition of the Security Council and the use of the veto? Will he assure us that, when the conflict is over, there will be a review of the UN so that it can be reconstituted as a more effective body for resolving conflict in the 21st century?

Mr. Rammell

I share my hon. Friend's frustration at our inability to achieve consensus for a second resolution at the Security Council. We strongly believe that that would have created the best possible circumstances in which to maximise pressure on Saddam Hussein and achieve a peaceful resolution. Nevertheless, we need to examine such issues carefully. It is important to look forwards rather than backwards. We are therefore working for the strongest possible UN involvement in any post-conflict Iraq.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate)

The present UN constitution allows for both mandatory and non-mandatory Security Council resolutions. Do the Government accept the possibility that, at the end of the road map process, there will be a need for a mandatory Security Council resolution to impose a settlement in the middle east peace process?

Mr. Rammell

It is important not to rule out that option because it may be needed, depending on the progress that is made.

Mrs. Anne Campbell (Cambridge)

My hon. Friend has just said that he seeks enlargement of the number of permanent members on the Security Council. That could lead to problems unless the veto procedure is changed at the same time. Will my hon. Friend outline any plans or proposals for changing the veto procedure if the number of permanent members on the Security Council is increased?

Mr. Rammell

It is important to expand the permanent membership of the Security Council so that it properly represents the modern world. However, were that to be agreed and implemented, we have no plans to change the number of nations that currently have the veto.

Mr. Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton)

If we are to be realistic about the UN's structure, it should reflect where power lies and try to combine that with a measure of consensus in its decision making. Will the Foreign Secretary and the Minister join me in strongly rejecting the view of those who have reacted with glee to the UN's problems in the past couple of months? Such gloating is thoroughly irresponsible and serves only to fragment world opinion further.

Will the Minister confirm that, in addition to discussing UN reform, its future and authority is best assured by all of us pressing for the implementation of existing resolutions in an even-handed way, especially in Gaza and the Palestinian west bank?

Mr. Rammell

I agree with the hon. Gentleman on the latter point. I also agree that no one should view with glee what has happened to the UN recently. The UN is not perfect: on several occasions in the past 50 years, we have failed to reach consensus on crucial issues. Nevertheless, it is the only institution within which it is possible to create consensus among peaceful nations to enhance our security. I therefore believe that we should look forwards, not backwards.