HL Deb 03 July 1963 vol 251 cc883-5

2.47 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 whether the "Uniting for Peace" resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations of November 3, 1950, has any legal validity, having regard to Article 108 of the Charter which requires that any amendment to the Charter requires to be ratified by two-thirds of the members of the United Nations, including all the permanent members of the Security Council.]


My Lords, the Uniting for Peace resolution, for which the United Kingdom voted, does not involve an amendment to the United Nations Charter, and there is therefore no question of the resolution's being illegal or invalid. The United Nations Charter places the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security on the Security Council, which can either make recommendations, or take decisions which have mandatory force for member States of the United Nations. In the event of the Security Council being unable to discharge this responsibility, the General Assembly has an obligation to fulfil its residual responsibilities for the maintenance of peace. The "Uniting for Peace" resolution, which is largely procedural, makes provision for the Assembly to meet at short notice, in order to fulfil this function. The resolution is in no way contrary to the Charter, and in no way alters the substantive powers of the Security Council or those of the General Assembly, as laid down in the Charter, for the maintenance of international peace and security. The resolutions of the Assembly can only be recommendations and are not therefore mandatory on the members.


My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for his reply. May I simply ask him whether he can confirm my understanding of the position, that resolutions voted by the General Assembly have no binding force on any member State of the United Nations, whether it voted for the resolution or not? Secondly, will he say whether this applies equally to resolutions of subordinate bodies set up by the General Assembly, such as the so-called De-colonisation Committee of 24?


My Lords, any committee set up by the Assembly can only make recommendations back to the Assembly. As I said, the resolutions of the Assembly are not mandatory on the members; nor, therefore, are the resolutions of any committees set up by it.


My Lords, would my noble friend agree that, quite apart from the legal effect of a resolution, it is intrinsically unreasonable that a two-thirds majority of a body in which the voting units differ as much as, let us say, the United States does from Luxembourg, should be regarded as having even a morally binding effect upon anyone? In other words, while a resolution of the kind we have in mind may be useful as a mirror of opinion, it is completely unsuitable as a barometer for indicating the importance of any conflicting views or forces.


My Lords, in the speech I made to your Lordships some time ago I referred to the increased power which had to some extent been transferred from the Security Council to the Assembly. I think that wants qualifying, as my noble friend has indicated, in that any Resolution adopted by the Assembly is binding neither morally nor in any practical way.


My Lords, as one of the parents, along with the noble Lord, Lord Shawcross, of the "Uniting for Peace" resolution at the end of 1950, may I say that neither of us had the slightest doubt about the legitimacy of our child, although we did have a certain lingering suspicion that, perhaps, when it grew up, it might be a bit ungrateful, and might even misbehave on occasion? I should like to ask the noble Earl the Foreign Secretary whether it is his definite opinion that, while we would not want to do anything to diminish the authority of the General Assembly, if any action is proposed or taken as a result of this resolution, or anything connected with it, we are under no obligation to concur in any such action.


I think that is what I have already made clear. The difficulty the United Nations is in, of course, is that the Russians had used their Veto persistently to frustrate any peacekeeping operations at all, and, therefore, the Assembly have been forced, so to speak, to make their own peace-keeping rules. But I repeat again that it is not mandatory on anybody.