HL Deb 24 May 1965 vol 266 cc629-31

2.35 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 any progress has been made with the creation of the Command Structure and Staff for a permanent International Force on the lines of that advocated in a debate in this House on February 20, 1963.]


My Lords, we support the creation of a permanent International Force as our ultimate goal, and as a step towards this we have recently made a notable contribution by offering to provide logistic backing for up to six battalions in future peace-keeping operations. However, we must recognise that the creation of a permanent force is impracticable at the moment, in present circumstances. This view is shared by the Secretary-General himself.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether he realises that he has not answered the Question? The Question is: whether any progress has been made with the creation of the Command Structure and Staff "— not with the international force itself. May I also ask the noble Lord whether his attention has been drawn to the statement by U Thant over the weekend, when he said that the United Nations was in danger of degenerating into a mere debating society?


My Lords, I am sorry if I did not give an answer to the noble Lord's specific Question. The short answer, which might have sounded discourteous if I had given it, is simply, No. Not only would it have been discourteous; it would also have been somewhat misleading, because it would have implied that we were unsympathetic towards the objectives which I believe the noble Lord has at heart, and which Her Majesty's Government also share. It was the reason why I phrased my Answer in the way I did. As to the second part of the noble Lord's supplementary question, I have recently noticed the Secretary-General's remarks, and I read them not only with sympathy but also with sadness. One cannot controvert what he has said, but merely adding to any existing form of organisation is not going to alter the spirit which is behind the United Nations. It would be deceiving ourselves and other people if we thought that simply by strengthening one particular organisation or adding to it we should overcome the very real difficulties which at the present time stand in the way of the particular organisations to which the noble Lord refers.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware how much all those who support the United Nations welcome the offer which Her Majesty's Government have made of a contribution to an International Force? Also, is it not the case that present happenings in both Vietnam and Santo Domingo emphasise the necessity for such an international force?


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his interjection. I would certainly agree with him that this underlines the need of an International Force to settle national disputes.


My Lords, would the noble Lord not agree that, if we are able to have a permanent International Force it is essential that there should be a Command Structure and Staff? Would he not also agree that we must start in that way, and that Britain should give wholehearted support to this proposal?


My Lords, we certainly give wholehearted support to this proposal. But I think, as I implied earlier on, that it would be highly unrealistic simply to create a Command Structure and Staff, when the will to have an International Force did not already exist; it would be merely dangerous self-deception.

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