HL Deb 14 June 1945 vol 136 cc600-11

2.45 p.m.

VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD had the following Notice on the Paper: To ask His Majesty's Government whether it is true that it has been proposed at San Francisco that the Dumbarton Oaks plan for the officers of the new International Organization shall be amended so as to provide that four Deputy Secretaries-General shall be appointed for three years and shall not be eligible for re-appointment; and whether it would not be better in the interest of the successful working of the Organization to leave this and kindred matters to be settled by regulation when the Organization has come into existence; and to move for Papers.

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I am very grateful to noble Lords for allowing me to raise my Motion now, though it is entirely a matter of indifference to me when I do so. I would not have troubled your Lordships about this matter at this time but for the fact that the decisions on the Secretariat are likely to be taken in the course of the next few days at San Francisco and this is the last opportunity I shall have of submitting some considerations on this particular point before those decisions are taken. The question of the Secretariat of the new organization is one, I think, everybody will agree, of very great importance. There has been no substantial discussion of the machinery of this organization. We are all agreed that it must consist of an Assembly and a Security Council and also an Economic Council, but the execution of the details of any decisions or recommendations arrived at w ill depend on the Secretariat.

Therefore it is really a matter of very great importance that we should consider how that Secretariat is to be composed. It is obvious that we shall want very able people. There is to be a Secretary-General, though that was not in the Dumbarton Oaks scheme, and there arc, I understand, to be a certain lumber of Deputy Secretaries-General—three or four. I am a little vague, I admit, as to the details of the proposal because I think, rather unfortunately, there has been considerable want of publicity as to the proceedings in the Committees of the Sari Francisco Conference. But I understand that that is the proposal now made. It has been formally stated in public and riot denied, so I suppose we may take it that that is to be done. All the Secretaries, according to that proposal, are to be appointed for three years and the Secretary-General can be reappointed for another three years, I suppose, or whatever term may be fixed. The Deputy Secretaries-General, however, ac cording to the statement that has been published, are not to be eligible for reappointment, but are to hold office for three years and no more, after which time there are to be new men. I presume the terra of office of the Deputy Secretaries-Genet al will not be capable of being prolonged at all.

That is, as I understand it the proposal, and I confess I have considerable doubts whether that is really the best proposal that could be made. You want men of great ability, you want also men of considerable independence of character—at least so I think. They mist not be mere officials of the Governments of the countries to which they belong, who will go back perhaps to official appointments there and will merely represent the official point of view of the Governments at the time. I think they ought to be the servants of the new organization. They are to carry out to the best of their ability the decisions and the recommendations that are made, and they are to prepare the necessary information and documents which will lead up to those decisions. Those are very important duties.

I think, but I say so with hesitation in the presence of my noble friend Lord Perth, that the duty was admirably carried out by the Secretariat at the League of Nations. I certainly never heard any contrary suggestion. There they were men of great ability and they did achieve almost complete impartiality. I myself was witness on more than one occasion of the striking scene of representatives of different countries meeting in some Committee or other and arriving at a decision on questions arising as to the facts or the possibilities of a proposal, when, after a considerable discussion amongst the different foreigners, the matter was submitted immediately to the Secretary-General or his representative and what he said was almost immediately accepted as certainly impartial and almost certainly right. That was the kind of atmosphere existing and I believe it was of great importance to the large measure of success which we must always remember the League achieved in matters of a less contentious character. The only exceptions I remember were the officials that belonged to Germany and Italy. They were not very satisfactory because they did not speak as officials of an international organization but as representatives of their own Governments. The result was that their views were not of very much service to impartial international decisions. I think we must be very careful to avoid that.

It is of the utmost possible importance for the success of this organization that it should achieve a reputation and be trusted with the authority to decide difficult and often very hotly disputed questions impartially. One of the elements of getting that reputation is undoubtedly that it should have a thoroughly satisfactory Secretariat. I believe that is far more important than many of the questions discussed at San Francisco as to the details of the authority of this or that organ of the international body. It does not really make so very much difference what you put into the Charter provided that the people at the back of the Charter, who represent the public opinion of the world, are determined that the new organization should succeed and are determined to take whatever measures may be necessary in order to promote its success. You want, if one may venture to say it, in addition to the national patriotism of all the different countries, a world patriotism which can be called upon to insist on vigorous action where that action is required.

I cannot feel at present very confident that you will get the kind of people you want in the Secretariat on the terms that are suggested. They will belong, of course, to an international organization. There will not be—that was one of the difficulties found in the old League—much future for them. No doubt it will be a fairly numerous organization, which, compared with the kind of prospects they might have in their own countries, will not offer very great advantages for the future. If they are only to be there for three years and are then to be turned out, one of two things is bound to happen. Either you will get a very second-rate kind of person to go there, or they will look to their future not as servants of an international organization but as employees of a Government. I am sure that in either case you will not get the kind of man you want for this job. I know there is another side. I do not myself feel very much impressed by the argument, but it was put forward in another place that you want these men not to be absorbed in the international atmosphere.

All I say is that it seems to be reckless to decide here and now—or rather at San Francisco and now—the details of the appointment of this Secretariat. I should have thought the right plan was to say, as in the old organization, that we must select one man as Secretary-General because on him everything turns. In my view he should hold office for as long as may be necessary in order to set the new organization going. I should have thought three years much too short for that purpose. What, however, is most important is that the details of his appointment, and still more the choice and details of the appointment of the officers under him, shall be settled by the organization itself in view of the circumstances which actually prevail when it comes to take up its duties. You will find considerable difficulty in finding the right men and you will have to modify the terms of their appointment until you have got such terms as will secure the right men for this job. Surely it is madness to decide now details such as the length of their service and things of that kind in such a way that it will not be possible to make any alteration afterwards. The right thing is to let these officials be appointed by the new organization by regulations in the ordinary way, and if the first choice does not seem to answer, or the first system does not seem to answer, the new organization can modify it and will have an opportunity of considering on the spot and in view of the circumstances what would be the best way of getting a thoroughly suitable appointment. I hope the Government will be able to give me a satisfactory answer to my question and that they will recognize the immense importance of the question. I believe that on the proper solution of it may well depend the whole success of this immensely important experiment which we are trying. I beg to move for Papers.

2.58 p.m.


My Lords, I want, if I may, to support the proposal which has been put forward by the noble Viscount with all the strength that lies in my power. I am personally very grateful to him for raising the subject. I think we must accept as accurate the statement that it is proposed that the four Deputy Secretaries-General of the new organization shall be appointed for three years. All the information that reaches me tends to show that that is what is proposed. I fully agree with the arguments which the noble Viscount has put forward, and before developing one or two additional arguments of my own I should like to ask the Government spokesman two or three questions which I hope he will be able to answer. The first question is, to whom will these four Deputy Secretaries-General be responsible? Will they be responsible to the Secretary-General who apparently is neither to choose nor to appoint them, or are they to be responsible to the organization itself, or in the last instance to the Governments of the countries of which they happen to be nationals? I sincerely hope that the answer will not be number three.

The position of these four gentlemen is going to be extremely difficult, As the noble Viscount pointed out, they are only to have three years' tenure of office and therefore, they are bound—it is human nature—to look to their Governments for their future rather than to the organization which may not re-employ them. I remember, if I may quote a personal case, that when I was Secretary-General of the League of Nations, I had every now and then to oppose certain suggestions which were made by the British Delegation. Can you imagine that any one of those four gentlemen or ladies will be in a position to take up an attitude in public of opposition to suggestions made by their Government? Yet I think it is very important they should be completely independent. Then the system really is administratively bad. There was one cardinal rule laid down at Geneva—and always observed and always supported—namely, that the Secretary General must be master be maser in his own house. I remember a proposed which Was put forward by the Axis Powers that there should be a Secretariat to be administered. by a college of five, and that the Secretary, General should be simply primus inter Pares. The object of the Axis Powers was to weaken the League by attacking the loyalty of the Secretariat as an international civil service, and they wanted to bring it under the control of certain Great Power Governments, including themselves. I am glad that that proposal which was put forward and debated at great length was overwhelmingly rejected But I am very sad to see that it is now making a reappearance in a new form at San Francisco under the ægis of the five Great Powers.

I would like to ask another question. Under this new Charter, the Secretary-General—and I think it is an admirable idea—is to be given authority to bring before the Security Council or the Assembly any problem which he may think is likely to disturb international relations Will he still be able to do so on his own initiative, or will these four Deputy Secretaries-General also be consulted? I do not know what is the intention, but in is a matter of considerable importance for the future. Whatever line the Leader of the House may take, I do sincerely hope that he will not take the line which was taken in another place. There the Government spokesman was asked a question, and I am going to read the last part of his answer: There is a good deal to be said for the argument that it is important that people in the international organization who hold really important posts should have been, at some fairy recent date, in active contact with the world of men, so to speak, and not live in an abstraction of their own. That really does seem to me to be a travesty of the facts. I think that the Minister of Education ought really to educate himself on this particular point. What are the facts? At Geneva We had continuous conferences on all subjects ranging from political problems of very great importance down to social questions and matter connected with the control or drugs. Statesmen and officials of every nation and of every calibre were to be found at Geneva, and there is no, doubt that members of the Secretariat Were not in any way isolated; they were, in fact, in the closest touch with currents of opinion in all parts of the world. Further, definite measures were taken to allow men and women in the Secretariat, and particularly those holding important positions, to return regularly to their own countries in order to preserve that special contact which, I agree, is necessary with their own co-nationals.

The Minister of Education has recently been to various international conferences, including the one at Hot Springs. When he went to those conferences, did he leave "the world of men" and live "in an abstraction of his own"? I think that the argument is—well, really I need not continue. But in any event, I do fear that the object of this proposal is to subordinate the new Secretariat to the Governments of the five Great Powers and to lessen, if not to abolish, its international responsibility and its independence. It is for those reasons, as well as for those that the noble Viscount has developed, that I sincerely hope that even at this very late hour it may be possible that the position should be reconsidered and the suggestion put forward by the noble Viscount adopted.

3.6 p.m.


My Lords, the question which the noble Viscount has raised is one that is at the present time under discussion at San Francisco, and I am sure that the noble Leader of the House, in his present capacity as member of the United Kingdom Delegation at San Francisco, will be very glad to take very full note of the observations made by the two noble Lords who have spoken. I will see that they are conveyed to him. The matter, certainly, is one that is ripe for discussion because it has not been settled. The proposals worked out by officials of the sponsoring Governments at Dumbarton Oaks last summer contemplated that the Charter, like the Covenant of the League of Nations, would provide for a Secretariat comprising a Secretary-General and such staff as might be required by the Organization. Whereas, however, the first Secretary-General of the League was named in the Annex to the Covenant, the Dumbarton Oaks proposal, in Chapter X, paragraph (1) provided that the Secretary-General should be elected by the General Assembly on recommendation of the Security Council on such terms and under such conditions as might be prescribed in the Charter.

At the San Francisco Conference the four sponsoring Governments—that is to say, the Governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and the Republic of China—proposed an amendment designed to fill out the Dumbarton Oaks proposals (as was indeed contemplated in the proposals themselves), by laying down the terms and conditions of the Secretary-General's appointment. The amendment, however, as stated in this Motion went further by also providing for the appointment of Deputy Secretaries-General and defining their term of service. We understand from our Delegation that the number of these proposed Deputies was eventually fixed at five, and that the amended text for this particular provision in the Charter ran as follows. I am quoting: There should be a Secretariat comprising a Secretary-General, five Deputies and such staff as may be required. The Secretary-General and his Deputies should be elected by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council for a period of three years, and the Secretary-General should be eligible for re-election. The Secretary-General should be the chief administrative officer of the Organization. This and other amendments proposed to the Conference by the sponsoring Governments represented, of course, the joint agreement of their Delegations at the Conference after taking account of their respective points of view. They were intended to give a helpful lead to the Conference. It was felt that there would be advantage in the case of the new Charter in going further than the Covenant of the League, by providing specifically for five Deputy Secretaries-General, as this number would enable the Secretary-General, as chief administrative officer of the whole Organization, to allocate a Deputy to look after the business of each of the main branches of the Organization.

The noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, has drawn attention to the fact that the proposed five Deputy Secretaries-General, unlike the Secretary-General himself, would, under the proposed text, be elected for a period of three years without explicit provision for re-election. In proposing this provision concerning the Deputy Secretaries-General, it is understood that the four Delegations had in mind the anxiety of many countries represented at the Conference that the senior positions in the Secretariat should not be monopolized for too long by the representatives of particular countries who happened to be elected in the first place, and that they felt that the only way to ensure a fair distribution of senior appointments was by a system of comparatively rapid rotation. The text before the Conference, however, does not specifically exclude the re-election of the Deputy Secretaries-General, and no doubt persons who have shown exceptional ability in these positions could be re-elected if the Assembly so desired.

There was also the consideration that the rotation of the offices of Deputy Secretaries-General would have the advantage of refreshing contacts between the Secretariat of the World Organization and the world of international affairs with which that Organization would be dealing. The final decision on this proposal rests, of course, with the Conference. Our Delegation has just reported that the Committee of the Conference which is dealing with this section of the Charter has rejected the amendments which would have inserted specific mention of the Deputy Secretaries-General in the Charter. The matter will, it appears, come up at a later stage of the Conference, but the present position is that the Conference, by a majority vote, has shown that its attitude in this matter is much the same as that of the noble Viscount.

In moving his Motion, the noble Viscount was no doubt concerned lest the replacement at regular intervals of the Deputy Secretaries-General should weaken the international character of the Secretariat. This was certainly not the intention of the four Delegations when they put forward their revised text, for at the same time they submitted to the Conference a new and additional paragraph 4 to Chapter X of the Dumbarton Oaks proposals, which reads as follows: In the performance of their duties, the Secretary-General and the staff should be responsible only to the Organization. Their responsibilities should be exclusively international in character, and they should not seek or receive instructions in regard to the discharge thereof from any authority external to the Organization. The members should undertake fully to respect the international character of the responsibilities of the Secretariat and not to seek to influence any of their nationals in the discharge of such responsibilities. I think the noble Viscount will agree that it would not be possible to lay down more clearly and more explicitly than in this text the duty of the Secretariat to give their full loyalty to this international body, and not to allow themselves to be diverted from that duty by any external influence. I would, moreover, point out that the Secretary-General, as the chief administrative officer, will be empowered to appoint the remainder of the staff of the Secretariat, and there has never been any suggestion that the composition of this staff should be subjected to periodical change. There will thus be every opportunity to up a strong and permanent team of expert officials in the Secretariat which, as is generally agreed, is essential for the successful working of the Organization.

That, my Lords, is the advice which I have received as to the reply that I should give, and I do not wish, with your Lordships' permission, to go beyond the advice which I have received on a matter which is obviously one of some delicacy and difficulty and which is still being dealt with in the Conference at San Francisco. I hope, however, that it will give some satisfaction to the noble Viscount that his view, apparently, has prevailed to some extent in Sari Francisco even before he expressed it here.

3.16 p.m.


My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend for the courtesy and fullness of his reply, but I am afraid that it gives me very little satisfaction indeed. I should like to ask him to consider what the situation is. It is accepted—and that is a good thing—that these officials are to be international officials, responsible to the World Organization for the discharge of their duties. It is said that that is of vital importance—so important that all the members of this new body undertake to give no instructions to them. In spite of that, you are going to say as to five of these principal officials, in whose hands the whole of the Secretariat will really rest (because they are to be the chiefs of the different departments of the Secretariat), that they are to hold office only for three years, and there is to be no provision for their re-election.


There is no provision for their not being re-elected.


The strange thing is that the text says that the Secretary-General is to be eligible for re-election, but does not say that about the others. If you mean that they are all equally eligible for re-election, you ought to say so. This would be a most deplorable form of drafting if that was meant, but I do not believe that it is meant. In any case this seems to have been struck out by the Conference, and we do not know what the position is. The reason given for this proposal is that the other members of the World Organization would like to have a share in the appointments to these four or five important posts. It is a very delicate subject, but I feel bound to say that there was nothing less satisfactory in the whole of the organization of the League of Nations than the controversies which existed on purely personal questions of who was to fill different positions under the League. Fortunately, the Secretariat was outside that, but even such questions as that of who was to be Chairman of a Committee became matters for the most intense agitation, and certain members (whose names I could give, and whom my noble friend Lord Perth knows perfectly well) made it a part of their duty to organize the election of people to these positions.

I remember very well the late Lord Balfour saying that he thought that that attitude, and the very warm disputes which occurred as to the personal qualifications of these people, were a much greater danger to the existence and effectiveness of the League than were the great questions of policy which the League was brought into existence to decide. I beg my noble friend, therefore, to urge in the strongest way on our Delegation that it is an absolute condemnation of their scheme if they are really going to throw into the pool of the organization the power to choose men for three years and then for them to be chosen again. It is going to create the greatest incitement, I will not say to corruption, but to a thoroughly non-altruistic way of dealing with the great questions with which this World Organization will have to deal. I cannot tell my noble friend how strongly I feel on this matter—far more strongly than I did before I heard his speech.

This is a roost disastrous proposal. Whatever our Delegation do they must avoid doing this. By far the best plan, however, is to leave it to the Organization itself to draw up its own rules, and then I hope that the pressure of public opinion will compel them, as they will he working in public, to draw up rules suitable for the creation of an able and independent body to advise and serve the. Security Council, the Economic Council and so on in the discharge of their duties. I hope that I have not been unduly warm in pressing this matter, but I feel strongly about it, and I am sure that my noble friend Lord Perth will agree with every word that I have said, although he would have put the case much better. This is a matter of the first possible importance. In the circumstances, of course, I must ask leave to withdraw my Motion.


My Lords, I am much obliged to my noble friend, and greatly impressed by what he has said and by the way he has expressed his views. I assure him that I will see that his views are strongly represented in the proper quarter.


I am very much obliged to the noble Lord. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

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