HL Deb 09 May 1961 vol 231 cc82-4

2.13 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:—

  1. (1) what is the current daily expenditure by U.N.O. in Congo operations;
  2. (2) what members of U.N.O. other than Russia and France have notified their intentions not to contribute; and
  3. (3) what is the believed current monthly rate of cost to the United Kingdom Treasury of its membership of U.N.O.]


My Lords, my noble friend the Foreign Secretary gave details of the cost of the United Nations operations in the Congo to the end of 1960 in his reply to my noble friend Lord Barnby on December 21. The Answer to the first part of his Question to-day is that the daily expenditure on the Congo Operation in 1960 averaged about £83,900. The corresponding figure for 1961 is likely to be about £98,200. The Answer to the second part of my noble friend's Question is that although a number of countries have indicated unwillingness or inability to pay their full share of the Congo costs, only the Soviet bloc countries have publicly refused to pay anything. The Answer to the third part of my noble friend's Question is that for 1961 Her Majesty's Government's financial commitments to the United Nations, both assessed and voluntary, total about £897,400 per month. This figure does not take into account the cost to Her Majesty's Government of such items as its representation at the United Nations Headquarters at New York and Geneva.


My Lords, might I ask the noble Marquess whether it is to be understood that France has not indicated her intention not to pay anything towards events in the Congo? I have a cutting from the Press before me which says that France has so refused and that this adventure is costing over £40 million a year. Also, with regard to his Answer to the third part of the Question, may I ask the noble Marquess this: is it to be understood that, included in the sum he has mentioned, there are any special contributions, particularly with regard to the Congo? If so, would he state whether, in order to exert pressure such as was suggested in a letter from a Member of this House in The Times on Monday, there would be a requirement by Her Majesty's Government for a supplementary payment to the U.N.O. in order to act in the manner suggested?


To deal with the first of the noble Lord's three supplementary questions, the answer, my Lords, is No; at no time has France publicly announced her refusal to contribute to the costs of the Congo operation, but the French Government's statements in the General Assembly have indicated their inability either to approve the estimates or to vote in favour of any financing resolution. But I think we should be extremely unwise at this stage to pre-judge the case; and we hope, of course, that all members of the United Nations will pay their share.

In regard to the question of special contributions, there have, of course, been special contributions of which I think the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, is aware. Our first instalment was a sum of 3 million dollars. That was a special contribution outside our assessed obligations. In addition, we have promised a further sum of at least 2 million dollars, subject to other substantial contributions being forthcoming from other countries. I think that deals with the second of his questions and also with the third, on the supplementary payments. We have promised at least 2 million dollars, subject to substantial contributions from the other countries. I think that answers the noble Lord's questions.


My Lords, I did not get it quite clear from the noble Marquess. Assuming it was thought appropriate to apply pressure in the form suggested in this letter from a Member of this House, published on Monday, is it to be assumed that such would be done without any further or additional contributions being made?


My Lords, I do not want to dodge a reply to this, but I do feel it is a hypothetical question. I do not think the noble Lord can expect a reply.


My Lords, in view of the type of question, would the noble Marquess be aware that the general conclusion, I think, of the country at large is that the intervention of the United Nations Organisation as such saved things from being much worse than they were; and that in those circumstances the British people would want to support, at any cost, their proper contribution to the cost of such beneficial operations?


My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition for his intervention. Of course Her Majesty's Government have consistently done everything they can to support the United Nations operations.