HL Deb 20 December 1961 vol 236 cc730-2

2.46 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government, with regard to special contributions for the United Nations' military operations in the Congo, why, since it is not undignified for France to abstain from financial contribution while a member of the United Nations, it would necessarily be undignified for the United Kingdom to notify its withdrawal of financial support for military operations in Katanga.]


My Lords, I think that in framing his Question my noble friend has inadvertently misconstrued the terms of a private letter I sent him in reply to a telegram he sent me. What I said would be undignified and ineffective would be an attempt on our part to support our arguments on the merits of the United Nations' operations in the Congo by linking them with a threat to withdraw our contribution. The question of our continued financial support to the United Nations' operations in the Congo was dealt with in the debate on Monday by my noble friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and my noble friend the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. I have nothing to add to what they said then.


My Lords, may I thank the noble Viscount for his reply? It was gracious of him to make reference to a letter which he was good enough to send me, but I would set his mind at rest and tell him that my Question was framed on a quotation from the speech of the Prime Minister, which was categorical. He said that such action would be both undignified and ineffective. Since my Question was framed before the speech of the Foreign Secretary, as ever brilliant, in this House on Monday I would quote from that and ask the noble Viscount if he would interpret it. The noble Earl said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 236 (No. 23), col. 524] that if we cut off our financial supplies—that is for the conduct of an aggressive war in Katanga— … we lose all influence on events. May I ask my noble friend if it is to be assumed that France has no continuing influence on events? And am I wrong in understanding that Russia has no continuing influence on events?

Secondly, may I ask my noble friend, arising from his reply whether he thinks it would be worth while to give some indication of the basis of the supplementary contribution for this particular operation, since the speech says that the Foreign Secretary—


Order, order!


With the indulgence of the House I quote the speech of the Foreign Secretary. As to the payments legally assessed under the rules of the Charter, would my noble friend think it worth while that there should be given some indication of how the payments were assessed under the Charter, since certainly they could not have been for the Katanga operations?


My Lords, I will try to answer all that. In the first place, I think my right honourable friend the Prime Minister used the same words as I did in my letter to my noble friend, in exactly the same connection. I think we both felt that it would be ineffective to couple an argument with a threat, because no one would take a threat seriously in those circumstances, and undignified because it would betray a failure of confidence in our own arguments. As regards the rest of the question, I would point out to my noble friend that a resolution has been adopted by the Fifth Committee of the General Assembly referring to the International Court of Justice the question of the obligation to pay costs of this nature. We were among the co-sponsors of this resolution and we voted for it. In those circumstances I do not think my noble friend would expect me to supply my own interpretation of the legal consequences of a resolution of that kind.