HL Deb 25 January 1968 vol 288 cc443-65

3.32 p.m.

LORD RITCHIE-CALDER rose to call attention to Britain's role in the United Nations Organisation and the United Nations Special Agencies, such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the World Health Organisation, the International Labour Organisation, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, and the United Nations Development Programme; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name. I deliberately made it a portmanteau Motion because it is such a long time—I think something like three years—since your Lordships' House debated Britain's role in the United Nations and its Special Agencies. I also wanted to remind your Lordships of something which is far too often forgotten: that is, that the United Nations is not just a political debating Chamber, or Chambers, of the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Trusteeship Council, and so on. Over four-fifths of the personnel and the budget of the United Nations, of the organisation itself, is devoted to the positive purposes of economic and social improvement. The functional Agencies (and many more, incidentally, than those I have cited in the Motion) are wholly devoted to the purpose of economic and social improvement.

I am sorry that he postponement of the debate until to-day, in circumstances which I fully understand and which your Lordships certainly realise, has meant that many noble Lords with an intimate knowledge and a personal concern for the work we are discussing are, to their disappointment and mine, unable to take part in the debate. I must say, however, that I am very impressed by the stature and informed quality of those who are taking part in the debate, despite the circumstances. I personally feel that the postponement of this debate was most significant and was almost historically appropriate; it almost has a ring of destiny that we should be having this debate following the exhaustive debates on the cuts in Britain's commitments.

My Lords, this is the moment of truth. This, I suggest, is Britain's tryst with history. When the dust of recrimination settles and the hurt—I was going to say "pride", but I substitute "vanity", and nettle prejudice lose their smart, Parliament and people will come to realise that the world role of Britain, which has shed false illusions and historical inconsistencies in the second half of the twentieth century and also has shed commitments, will be greater, and not less. Its power will be the power of example, and its influence will have the force of wisdom. We may have lost the pomp, but we have come to terms with circumstance. We have come to terms with circumstance, like my noble friend Lord Caradon—the last of the great Colonial Governors, forsaking the plumed hats and the epaulettes, to become, not the pall-bearer of the British Empire but the trustee of the heritage of that Empire, abandoning traditionalism, which is the trappings of a bygone age, but upholding the true tradition; which is remembered values. For me, my noble friend Lord Caradon is the embodiment of "the new man" in the changing world. Now I am rarely addicated to quoting Kipling, but when I watch our Minister in the United Nations I remember Kipling's If: If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you"— and keeping his head, for example, even in the Committee of Twenty-Four, where one learns the hard way that gratitude is not the reward for good intentions.

The future of mankind depends upon the United Nations. It depends upon the United Nations not only in its present existence or in its present constitution, but as a part of the evolutionary process towards World Government. I would say that the functional Agencies such as we are discussing this afternoon are already the prototype of Ministries of eventual World Government. Some will say that it is an imperfect instrument. I would remind your Lordships that when we are discussing the United Nations we are not discussing a supranational organisation. The U.N. and its Agencies can be as strong or as weak as its member States make them, not just in reinforcing policies, nor in paying dues; nor in the national representation, like sending Lord Caradon as Minister and not as an Ambassador; but in the quality of the people released to become international civil servants, or even in more minor representatives for technical missions. The quality of the British people whom we send is part of our contribution to the work of the United Nations. If we expect the United Nations to give of its best, we must give it of our best; and we have not always done so.

I would call your Lordships' attention to the "Miscellany" in the Guardian of this morning, which ends up, a propos of the fact that there is at the moment under discussion a post to be filled of supreme importance in the United Nations, a post which British representation has held since the foundation of the Organisation: Pathetically few applications filed in London have come from diplomats so junior that they don't even stand a chance. I will not develop that theme.

There are faults in the Charter; of course there are faults in the Charter. There are faults in the machinery, grievous faults, as in the case of peace-keeping. Indeed, from my own direct and very close experience in most parts of the world I could cite many examples of the weaknesses and failures at working level because of the faults of the original Charter and the machinery we set up. But when the Charter was signed at San Francisco in June, 1945, only three of the signatories were in a position to suspect that they were legislating for a world which no longer exists. President Truman the late Lord Attlee and Lord Avon—only they, of all the signatories of the Charter, knew that the atom bomb was, on its way, the atom bomb which was exploded in the desert of New Mexico five weeks later.

The world changed, not just in terms of the military and the political consequences of the bomb, with which we are still wrestling and have been wrestling ever since, but because we were entering a new epoch which would make the politics of the past almost irrelevant. The younger generation of to-day, certainly from all my experience of my students and so on, realise that the relevant history of our times began in 1945. And we are not entering, and we were not entering then, just one new epoch, but a succession of epochs, each epoch as significant as the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, the Renaissance or the Industrial Revolution. We were entering into the atomic age, the computer age, the space age, and now the DNA age, As my noble friend Lady Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe and my noble friend Lord Mitchison reminded the House during this week's debate, British science led the way in the DNA age—deoxyribonucleic acid, with its code of the secret of life; the age of bio-engineering, not just the transplantations of organs or hearts—or, as I would call it, "surgical plumbing"—but of the manipulation of the inherent nature of living things, the most portentious development in the history of mankind. Four epochs, telescoped into the lifetime of the people born since 1945, when the Charter was signed.

This I point out to your Lordships as a new time calibration by which the crash programmes have reduced the interval between the laboratory discovery and its spectacular use from centuries to decades, from decades to years, and from years to months. It is a time scale which makes classical diplomacy as archaic as sending heralds to Kubla Khan, or our financial system as out of date as cowrie shells.

I said this was the moment of truth. The truth, however brutal and unpalatable it may be to some, is that this country is caught up in world forces, which means that we are no longer masters of our own destiny. Nor are the so-called super-Powers masters of theirs. Nor the new nations experimenting with sovereignty. Classical finance and textbook economics no longer apply. Conventional diplomacy, skirting round the United Nations, no longer serves. Conventional force, even with implicit threat of unconventional weapons, cannot prevail. It settles nothing, whether it is in the dragged-out war in Vietnam or in the hung-up situation in the Middle East. Political doctrines can only temporise with, or bedevil, the new circumstances.

What are the compelling forces which have so altered the world that we have been struggling in this House in the last week, and in another place, to try to understand what it is that has hit us? The forces are the two great and simultaneous revolutions—the revolution of science and technology and the revolution of rising expectations. The second is the product of the first. The revolutionary expectations have come with the awareness of change through the universality of communications. The "winds of change", to which Mr. Harold Macmillan referred when he was Prime Minister, are etheric winds—they are radio winds.

My Lords, in the last twenty years I have been in most places in the world, mainly to see what the United Nations and its Agencies can do, or are doing, to meet the new challenges about which I am talking. I can assure your Lordships that there is no place on earth where the awareness of change has not penetrated. The epidemic of freedom was spread by radio. Events in one country resonate in the council chambers of the United Nations, and discussions in the United Nations reverbrate in the remote places of Africa, Asia and Latin America, and even in the Arctic, where I spent quite a while with the Eskimos.

It is difficult to imagine that the founding fathers of the United Nations, who wrote in these fine phrases about self-determination and human rights, can have foreseen what would happen within twenty years. In 1945, the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Orr—who, I am sorry is not in his place to-day, for reasons which I sympathise with and appreciate—became the first world citizen, because his appointment as Director-General of F.A.O. preceded the setting up of the United Nations itself, and he was therefore the first to take the international oath. The international oath foreswears all loyalties except to mankind. When I became his temporary adviser at the Famine Conference in 1946 I, too, took that oath, and I took it in front of the flag of the United Nations. At that time there were 52 member-States of the United Nations; today in the United Nations plaza, there are, I believe, 123. The new flags represent the fragments of departed empires.

But, my Lords, flags are not enough. Freedom is not enough. The morning after independence free people wake up to find themselves just as sick, just as hungry, just as poor, just as illiterate and just as miserable. Freedom begins with breakfast. Independence is an aspiration. What I am talking about are the expectations which are implicit in what we call "independence" and "freedom". Without the substance of freedom, which it is the purpose of the United Nations and its Agencies to provide, the expectations, that total awareness which I am sure exists throughout the world—the awareness of a better life—are frustrated.

I believe that at the moment there are some 35 countries now under military government. My Lords, generals are the official receivers in political bankruptcy—and I include some quite near here. When democratic Governments cannot deliver the goods and unrest follows, when the frustration of expectation becomes apparent, the military take over and the new-found freedom is put into pawn. Human rights—and I would remind your Lordships that this is Human Rights Year—are cynically travestied. People are sent to Ionian Islands.

Some noble Lords may say, "That just goes to prove that the subject peoples were not ripe for self-government". That begs a lot of questions, but I submit to the House that it is quite irrelevant. I do not believe that procrastination, repression, apartheid or any other device can in fact withstand the winds of change. What is profoundly relevant is the growing disparity between the highly, developed countries and the developing countries, with all the implications of racial conflicts and exploitable frustrations. That is where the interfering powers come in—the exploitable frustrations. The rich countries are the heirs of the first Industrial Revolution. The poor countries had no share in that Revolution, except as the hewers of wood and drawers of water.

Science and technology, which in this context we are discussing to-day, dates back to James Watt's steam engine, produced industrial wealth. Industrial wealth produced more science and technology—produced education, research, and the means to transfer laboratory discoveries to the factory floor, to produce more wealth, to produce more science, to produce more wealth. It took Britain, the first and foremost of the industrial countries, 200 years from James Watt to achieve the Welfare State. It took the United States of America 100 years of technology to achieve the affluent society. It took Japan, with its commercial Sumurai, 80 years to reach its industrial prosperity of to-day. It took the Soviet Union 40 years of consumer denial and duress savings to put up Sputnik. The developing countries, two-thirds of the world's population, have to make a leap across the centuries. The quicksands of poverty do net provide such a springboard.

What I am saying now is basic to every problem of the next thirty years, and therefore my prime concern with the United Nations and with Britain's role in it is how to gear the scientific and technological revolution, and the revolution of rising expectations, so that they will mesh instead of rending the world apart. Of course I am concerned with the politics of the U.N.—deeply concerned. Of course I am passionately concerned with the problems of disarmament. Of course I am concerned about racial tension, human rights, collective security and peace-keeping. But I submit that in the final analysis they are all determined by the nature of the new forces.

The political confrontation is no longer East and West; it is now inescapably North and South. I have been convinced since that rehearsal for Doomsday, which was the Cuban missile crisis, that the super-Powers, however much they may gesticulate, however much they send Polaris carriers hovering round the coast, will never engage in nuclear war as an act of policy. I put in parenthesis that I never rule out the chance of war by accident. Mr. Khrushchev said of the Cuban cisis, in what proved to be his valediction after the crisis, "People say, 'Who won?'. I say, 'Mankind won. Reason won'." This makes it all the more important that the Non-proliferation Treaty should succeed and that we keep other fingers off the trigger, and I think Britain should make resoundingly clear its renunciation of the independent deterrent. I know it is implicit in everything we ate doing; but I want to make it abundantly clear, and I would follow the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, in suggesting that Britain should now acquit herself of the Polaris submarines.

If the cold war has become, at best or at worst, tepid, it is because the Soviet Union has graduated spectacularly as a scientific "have". As my noble friend Lord Rhodes pointed out yesterday, they have joined the prosperity club. The U.S.S.R. now talks the same language, the same technological language, as the technological tycoons, and in the space race behaves just as extravagantly and prestigiously as flamboyant America. The Soviet can scarcely profess comradely compassion for the suffering masses of the developing countries when it matches billions of roubles against billions of dollars on trying to get a handful of dirt from the moon, and when it diverts, as the space race unquestionably does, human ingenuity from the agonising problems of this planet.

The North—South confrontation is already made worse and made more ugly by the Vietnam war, which, whatever one may say, has all the reverberations of a racial war. It is against all the forces of history in its contemporary meaning, because it is running contrary to the revolution of rising expectations, because it is running contrary to this universal awareness, which incidentally means that what happens in Vietnam reverberates in the streets of Detroit or Montgomery, Alabama. It is trying to enforce a solution by old-fashioned power methods while the United Nations stands helplessly by. The United Nations cannot intervene because its writ does not run in the Vietnam issue, because its peacekeeping powers have been paralysed or are insufficient, and because it cannot provide the table for which President Johnson is always asking—cannot provide it because Red China is barred from the U.N. and North Vietnam has no place.

The other great intimidating factor is that science has produced an avalanche of people. Through the intervention of medical science and the control of the massive killer diseases, the population of the world is increasing, and especially in those countries where the means of providing sustenance and material needs are the most meagre. It becomes all the more urgent that science and technology should make the means available for restricting the population increase and for increasing the standard of living, and I think this means that science should be made available, as we hope it will be, through the United Nations and the functional Agencies.

My Lords, we can provide the solutions. Of this I have no doubt whatever. I was the consulting editor of the l0 million words that came out of the United Nations Science and Technology Conference in 1963. The eight volumes of that Conference are a vade-mecum for the road we must travel. I wrote the first volume The World of Opportunity. If you read that volume and the other volumes you will see that the leap across the centuries is absolutely possible. We do not need even a fresh remit to science. We have enough science, we have enough knowledge—we should like a lot more for solving more problems more directly, but we do not need it. The problem is not lack of knowledge, it is lack of intention, and so far as the developing countries are concerned of course it is the lack of means. No country can lift itself with its own bootstraps if it has not got any boots.

Even when they try to help themselves by their own efforts they are defeated. At the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development—we are having a second one presently in Delhi—we saw that the rich countries were still being carried on the backs of the coolies. The developing countries, in terms of world trade, are still essentially producers of raw materials, as they were in the first Industrial Revolution in the nineteenth century, and they are dependent on those industrial countries, those wealthier countries which have moved into prosperity, for the equipment for their further development. We buy cheap and we sell dear. I am very glad from these Benches to pay a tribute to Mr. Edward Heath's contribution to the UNCTAD Conference three years ago. His was the most constructive and enlightened speech of the meeting. I hope that in our attitude to UNCTAD we still carry that message.

If developing countries cannot earn their way into the new world of opportunity we must give them aid—that is to say, we, the better off. But aid has a very sardonic meaning when, as we find in the World Economic Survey, that of the 9,000 million dollars provided from all sources to the hundred needy countries in 1966, 5,000 million dollars was borrowed to pay the debt charges on monies already borrowed. I repeat, five-ninths of all the money was borrowed for the servicing of previous borrowing. This is what I call "feeding the tapeworm". If you feed the tapeworm it grows and debilitates you. If you starve the tapeworm you starve yourself. If the country borrows, the debt charges grow; if it does not borrow the development stops. One of the things we have to do is to get rid of that confounded tapeworm.

My Lords, I believe that however well meant and well argued bilateral aid may be, the only ultimately effective aid is multilateral aid deployed through the United Nations and its Agencies. Under that, people can keep their self-respect. It is decontaminated aid, aid without strings, without any suggestion that "Codlin's your friend—not Short", and without any suggestion of charity. And it is far less wasteful, whatever anyone may say. It is less wasteful because it is noncompetitive. Your Lordships are hardheaded. I hope that you will recognise and that the Government will continue to recognise, whatever the circumstances, whatever our difficulties, that aid to the developing countries is not charity; it is investment in world resources which we have to share and which we are going to have to share to keep ourselves going as an industrial nation, investment in future markets, and in a much more profound way investment in peace and stability.

In the long term—and thirty years, in which the world population will have doubled, is long-term to me—the productive and purchasing power of the developing countries will be of far greater importance to us than the short-term advantages, however they may appear to people, of the Common Market—taking in each other's washing. I need not remind my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, of that, because he wrote The War on World Poverty.

There is at this moment a great opportunity for the United Nations itself. It is implicit in a resolution which has been referred by the General Assembly to the ad hoc Committee. It is the Maltese resolution, and it refers to the seabed and the ocean floor underlying the High Seas. It seeks to reserve the bottom of the deep seas for peaceful purposes, and to see that the resources are used for the benefit of mankind. The deeps we are talking about—and they are the deeps—are outside national jurisdiction, beyond the limits either of the Continental Shelf or any offshore definition. I would describe this as the pact of inner space, just as we had the pact on outer space in which Lord Caradon had such a big hand; and this with the Antarctic Pact to which Your Lordships gave legislative effect through the Bill promoted by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich in the last Session.

What we ate talking about refers to the deeps, not to the offshore or to the Continental Shelf, which might be regarded as a territorial extension of any nation. The deeps belong to no one, and up till now no one cared. We know now, however, that there is wealth beyond a dream, though not, unfortunately, beyond the reach of avarice. This takes the form of mineral nodules, on the average about the size of a potato, but sometimes much bigger. The first of these mineral nodules were brought up by the British Oceanographic vessel "Challenger" about a century ago from the depths of the Mantic, the Pacific and the Indian Ocean. The world-wide operations ten years ago of the International Geophysical Year, in which one hundred nations combined in what was, and still remains, one of the great co-operative scientific enterprises of all times showed that these deep-sea nodules in composition and extent are a major source of economic minerals.

These nodules vary in composition according to locality, but they include manganese, iron, silica, aluminium, calcium, mangesium, nickel, copper, cobalt, zinc, molybdenum—you name it, they have it. For example, in the South Pacific there are 200,000 million ton; of these potential minerals. They are rich in this particular area in nickel and cobalt. Modern technology, II insist, can devise means for their recovery, and I insist that they devise a means more cheaply than mining deeper and deeper into the land rocks for much leaner ores and for going down a few more miles into the Rand in South Africa to get gold, which, incidentally, is useless.

The pact we are talking about is absolutely necessary. The sea bottom must be demilitarised, because already there are intentions of using it for listening posts. And. I would remind your Lordships of what is meant when nations begin using things for listening posts: we had a rather alarming example this morning, over the U.S. ship "Pueblo". There are also discussions about using the sea bottom for nuclear missile emplacements. One can also see the perils to peace of a grab by unrestricted free-for-all for the enormous resources. I can foresee this as a repetition of what happened in Berlin in the 1880's, when the Powers who could do the grabbing grabbed the Continent of Africa. Jurisdiction must be vested somewhere and the concessions must be regulated. Although this is a most debatable point, and is going to continue in debate for a long time, I want to see the United Nations given the jurisdiction and the royalty rights. Even the most nominal royalty rights on the scale of the seven seas would set the United Nations up in business—United Nations Incorporated. It would relieve it of all the nonsense about failing to pay peacekeeping dues, and would finance its development programmes.

I am not going to play into the hands of those who would argue against it by saying what in fact would be the arguments against it. I know what they are. The Great Powers do not want to see the United Nations as a power. I hope that Britain will not only vigorously support the pact, but will see that the jurisdiction is vested in the United Nations. Furthermore, just as we have, as proof of our earnest intentions, offered the United Nations logistical support for six United Nations peace-keeping battalions, I hope that in this case we shall, as an advanced mercantile nation—a nation of the seas, and above all, as a technological nation, as we have stressed in the last few days—help to prepare the way with the United Nations for the development of these seabed resources in the international interest.

Your Lordships will forgive me if my speech has been analytical and perhaps prophetic, rather than dealing with the past and present functioning of the United Nations and its Agencies. I hope those speakers who follow me will do so. My own experience, as one who has been for the last twenty years for the United Nations—and out in the field in many cases—but never in it, has been to see it in close-up and in detail. My concern in opening this debate has been to raise the issues not only of the present but also of the future, and to insist that Britain's role and Britain's interest lie in strengthening the United Nations and reinforcing the work of its Agencies.

No Power, however great—and here I follow my noble friend Lord Chalfont—can, in fact, police the world to-day. We are just fooling ourselves, and the super-Powers are fooling themselves to think otherwise. That can be done only by making the United Nations' peacekeeping effective and by collective security-demanded, incidentally, by the Charter, but never properly embodied by the founding fathers. No nation can, by patronage, endow world development, but Britain, from its vast experience, and to our industrial advantage, and not against self-interest, can make a greater contribution—and I do not mean just financial—than any other country that I know.

I have only one specific reference to make to our role in any Agency. It is by way of complaint, and I personally think it is a grave one. Our Government have insisted that their policy is based on the United Nations, and the appointment of Lord Caradon as a Minister and not as an Ambassador was proof of our intention, and of our belief in the United Nations. I should have thought, therefore, that our Government, above all other Governments, would jealously safeguard the principles of the United Nations.

One of the most important principles is that the functional Agencies should be protected against political pressures. According to that principle, the members of the Executive Board of the World Health Organisation have been elected as individuals and not as Government nominees. They have been elected by the World Health Assembly. They are appointed for their professional judgment, and their loyalty is supposed to be absolutely to the Organisation. I understand that Britain has sponsored a resolution to be presented to the next World Health Assembly, by which, in future, the Board shall consist of Government nominees. I suggest that this is a sell-out, a piece of political gerrymandering which will absolutely destroy the integrity of the World Health Organisation. If the members of the board are answerable to their Governments, the political loyalties of the international staff will be equally put in question. The nationals with the Organisation, too, will have a divided loyalty.

I would remind your Lordships of a piece of past history of which my noble friend Lord Crook, as a member of the United Nations Appeals Board, is painfully familiar: the occasion when Senator McCarthy's myrmidons insisted on the dismissal of American international civil servants because they were "un-American". I may be exaggerating the risks, but I have no doubt at all about the betrayal of principle. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will be able to reassure the House. My Lords, I repeat what I said at the beginning: that this is for Britain, and indeed for the world, the moment of truth. I believe that Britain will fulfil its historic destiny to have been the greatest Power and the widest Empire the world has ever known, and to have invested both, and its best traditions, in a world system of Government. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

4.12 p.m.


My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, for having put down this Motion. He has made a very interesting speech which goes to the heart of his philosophy of world government and the late Lord Attlee, had he not been so sadly taken from us, would have liked what the noble Lord has had to say today. The noble Lord's unusually wide knowledge of the workings of international organisations makes him as qualified as anyone in your Lordships' House to speak on their administration. Indeed, a study of his numerous books (I think I am right in saying that he has produced some 28 and that another two are coming out in the next month or so) demonstrates, as indeed has his speech, how deeply he has studied these matters. I was particularly glad to hear the tribute which he paid to my right honourable friend Mr. Edward Heath for his constructive speech at the UNCTAD conference, and I should very much like to endorse what he said. He also dealt with a number of problems concerning science and technology in which I myself am deeply interested.

With all its shortcomings, the United Nations is the largest international organisation the world has so far seen—a world which communications-wise has now shrunk almost to the size of a pea. But we must accept that New York is, in a sense, already the world's headquarters, just as Geneva was, in a sense, before the war. At some time or another virtually every question is discussed, if not resolved, in New York, and no doubt the Special Agencies have played an important part in tidying up some of the world's social, economic, cultural medical and agricultural problems, even if the Organisation has not been conspicuously successful in its more political, peace-keeping or peace-making roles.

When I first read the Motion on the Order Paper I thought that the noble Lord would be dealing more especially with the Special Agencies; but it is clear from what he has said that he has been looking at the concept of the United Nations as a whole, including its political work, and. I therefore make no excuse for referring to-day to its political role. As a young League official before the last war—I was for three years on the staff of the League's High Commissioner for Refugees—I always had the ideals of a world organisation at heart, and I still retain some of these ideals. I am therefore glad that the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, our Minister of State in New York, should be here to expound his own ideas to us and to answer some of the questions which must inevitably be raised, and of which I have given him notice.

My Lords, whatever ideals some of us may have had in the past about the League and its potential role in the realm of peace-keeping, and indeed enforcing peace, it cannot be said that the League, or since the war the United Nations, have yet been successful in achieving the kind of collective security through an international police force which it was hoped originally they might establish. None the less, there is no doubt that under the leadership of President Truman the United Nations did to some extent play the part which they should have played in Korea, and also in Cyprus, and even perhaps at the outset in the Congo before the situation there went sour. But what can the United Nations do about Vietnam and the recent capture of the "Pueblo" by the North Koreans. Regrettably, I fear that this can be only a rhetorical question. The noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, agrees, I know, that the United Nations has never in fact had the kind of fire-fighting force it really needs, partly because its forces have been composed of national contingents which could always be withdrawn by the countries concerned.

More recently, in the peace-keeping field, there is no doubt that the prestige and potential of the Organisation have suffered severely as a result of the abrupt withdrawal of the United Nations Emergency Force in the Middle East in May of last year. We saw then, only too clearly, what the limitations of the United Nations were. None the less, we in Opposition thought that the Foreign Secretary's proposal regarding the appointment of a United Nations mediator, who would look for ways and means of bringing the two sides together, was very sensible, and we supported it.

The proposal bore fruit in the resolution which Britain successfully sponsored in the Security Council in November last, and led to the appointment of Ambassador Gunnar Jarring as the Secretary General's representative in the Middle East. We on these Benches have also looked beyond the immediate stalemate and suggested ways in which the international community, through the United Nations, could get to the root of some of the problems obstructing a settlement. For example, quite recently my right honourable friend Sir Alec Douglas-Home supported a proposal originally put forward in The Times, for desalting plants in Israel and Jordan to be set up under international auspices in order to make possible a large-scale settlement of refugees. Sir Alec has also proposed a demilitarised zone on the frontiers of Israel. Morever, an imaginative scheme for the internationalisation of the Sinai Peninsula has been put forward by a Conservative Member of Parliament, and other Conservatives have described in some detail the part which the United Nations and its Agencies could play in clearing up the debris of war.

While the United Nations must have a role to play in many international crises, there have none the less been some problems which I believe it was wrong to refer to it. It clearly does the Organisation much harm to load on its shoulders burdens which it cannot reasonable be expected to bear. For example, in the case of Rhodesia, which has been fully self-governing since 1923, Britain was not constitutionally responsible to the United Nations for Rhodesian internal affairs, and by referring them to the United Nations the present Government have, I believe, damaged the Organisation. First, they persuaded the Security Council to find a threat to the peace where it was clear that no threat existed: for peace reigned at that time around the borders of Rhodesia and within the country itself. It was distorting the purposes of the Charter to encourage the Council to find that a threat to peace existed simply because of a country's internal policies—illegal as we all agreed U.D.I. was. But do not the internal policies of certain other countries, much greater Powers, constitute more of a menace? We do not interfere with them.

A similar situation arose over Aden. It was not until their decision in February, 1966, to abandon Aden that the Government started the attempt to shuffle off on to the United Nations part of the responsibility for Aden. It was even hoped that the United Nations would eventually solve the political problems there. But nothing of the kind happened. The United Nations Mission was unwilling to have dealings with the Federal Government, and the extremist leaders were unwilling to have any dealings with the Mission. This failure was easy to foresee. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, will be able to explain why the Government thought that the problems of Rhodesia and Aden should be referred to the United Nations at a stage when it seemed most improbable that the United Nations would prove successful in providing solutions.

I feel I should also make a brief reference to the Committee of 24 and the attitude of certain Asian and African countries in it. When rules are so flouted as to induce the deputy of the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, to say that that Committee had displayed a double standard and a lack of respect for impartiality"; and again on Aden that it had constituted itself into a Board of Censors", it surely is time that the organisation should be reminded that its purpose is not dissension but conciliation and international harmony. In view of the abuse of this country in that Committee, and the diatribes which I heard with my own ears which come from the mouths of certain delegates, I sometimes wonder whether there is much point in Britain's remaining a member of that Committee.

In regard to South Africa, in view of what the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said last night I should like to emphasise that when my noble friend Lord Swinton spoke last night he was doing so at the request of the Party, and representing the unanimous view of the Party. He considers that last night's Vote fully endorsed what he said. I may add that, while the present Government appear to accept a United Nations resolution in regard to South Africa, they rightly do not do so in regard to Gibraltar, and I should be grateful if the noble Lord could say something on that point. He realises that it was raised last night, but I am afraid I did not myself give him warning until just now. However, I hope he may say something on it.

Having said all that, may I say just a few words about the Special Agencies? In the case of the International Labour Organisation, with which I worked closely when I was on the Refugee Commission before the war, it seems to me that this organisation is still doing a remarkable job. Working in collaboration with the Industrial Development Association, it is making a concentrated effort with particular stress upon industrialisation in developing countries, to improve economic, social and working conditions on an international basis. They have reorganised their office and decentralised their operations, which I think has been a good thing. I am glad to see that the noble Lord, Lord Collison, is going to say something this afternoon, since of course he is a member of the Governing Body of the I.L.O., whose 50th anniversary is to be celebrated this year. I am also glad to see that a committee, of which the Minister of Labour is chairman, and representatives of employers and the T.U.C. are members, has been set up to consider the form those celebrations should take in this country.

I would also think that a valuable contribution is being made by the World Health Organisation, and that the noble Lord may well be right in saying that its Executive Board should continue to be elected as individuals. The world presents almost insoluble problems to those Special Agencies, which are hampered by the population explosion, the complexities of individual faiths and Governments, and, in the case of the W.H.O., the knowledge that by providing the solution to one particular form of disease, with consequent longer life expectancy, they are possibly creating yet another problem through malnutrition. With the limited resources at their command, the World Health Organisation are undertaking a massive programme, and I suggest that their efforts merit our respect and full support.

The work of UNESCO, spread as it is over so many facets of life, is perhaps harder to assess, although this is an organisation which it is estimated will absorb some 110 million dollars during the present financial year. In their publication, 20 Years of Service to Peace, I was interested to see that they have a section entitled "Dignity for All", and I think that when we consider that their efforts are to be seen in the fields of education for the illiterate, in the teaching of basic sciences and their application to development, in the social and human sciences, in cultural activities and in the problems of human communication, this sub-title, "Dignity for All", sums up their efforts very well.

If it were possible to achieve a Utopian world, all our needs might be catered for through the Specialised Agencies. Although we may criticise the structure of some of these bodies, I think we should do well to remember that many of the problems with which they are trying to deal are almost out of reach, and they do need our encouragement to continue their efforts.

The trouble is, of course, that staffs in these organisations cannot be recruited solely on merit. Each member country has to have a share of the available jobs. I am particularly concerned about the organisation of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, which has been very adversely criticised, especially by the International Committee of which Sir John Fletcher-Cooke was a member. In another place the Minister for Overseas Development has said that the British representative at the F.A.O. had been instructed to endorse the need for changes in the structure of the Organisation, and I should very much like to know whether the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, has anything to add to the Minister's statement in another place. Could he say whether the detailed plan on reorganisation for consideration by the F.A.O. Council has made any progress and what the Government's view is on the almost complete rejection of the proposals by Dr. Sen, who is the Director-General of the organisation? The Report of the Committee of which Sir John Fletcher-Cooke was Deputy Chairman was outspokenly critical of the way the F A.O. conducted its work. The control of the Organisation in Rome has been described as over-centralised, and its regional offices as having been deliberately weakened. Indeed, the whole of the staff work in Rome is said to have been buried under purely administrative tasks. I should like to know what the noble Lord has to say about that.

I do not think that this is an occasion—we are covering a very wide field—for me to discuss the possibilities of reforming the U.N., although it is a subject in which many are interested. Sometimes these proposals look attractive at first sight but on inspection prove to be somewhat unrealistic. Nor do I think I should go into details of United Nation's diplomacy which might prevent armed conflict from breaking out, although the possibilities of such diplomacy could be even more important than the peace-keeping role. Some maintain that the Security Council and the Secretary-General should be more energetic than at present in pressing the parties towards negotiation, in appointing mediators or in suggesting compromises. I think something might be done about reorganising the Secretariat, and above all as Sir Alec Douglas-Home said in a remarkable speech at Oxford in November, the Secretary-General should be provided with a command structure which would ensure that a U.N. force carried out its job effectively and with authority.

Although the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, is here now, I am not going to deal with one or two matters concerning disarmament, because I have spoken too long. But I fear that what this present Government have done has been mainly window-dressing, and I do not think they have achieved anything in disarmament to compare with the part which was played by my right honourable friends, Mr. Macmillan, Sir Alec Douglas-Home and Mr. Hogg, on negotiating the Partial Test Ban Treaty.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for giving way. Would he not agree that the British Government have played a very considerable part in formulating and negotiating the Non-Proliferation Treaty recently placed upon the table in Geneva?


Yes, my Lords, I accept that that is certainly a step forward; but I think that the Test Ban Treaty was an even more remarkable achievement. But I am glad to recognise what the noble Lord has done. Then I should like to say something good about the Pact on Outer Space. I think that the Government's efforts in promoting it should be fully appreciated. I was intrigued by what the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, said about internationalising the sea-bed and the ocean floor on the same kind of basis. I agree with him that there is in the depths wealth beyond our dreams—not only minerals but also sufficient food to feed the under-nourished populations of the world. I should be interested to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, has to say about that subject.

We must all hope that ultimately we shall become one world; it is not only Left-Wing supporters of the United Nations who must have that objective as their ideal. The Labour Party cannot claim a monopoly of interest in the future of the Organisation. But we must be realistic about what the U.N. can effectively undertake. It is heartbreaking, no doubt, that the basic ideals on which the League and the United Nations were set up have not been realised. The U.N. is indeed a kind of "Heartbreak House". In the play of that name—one of the best which is at present running in London—Bernard Shaw says: … the world has a way of slipping through your fingers". There are many other passages in that great play which are pertinent to conditions in Britain and the world to-day. Is this England or is it a madhouse?", asks Captain Shotover. We blunder and muddle along". And in view of his speech yesterday, the noble Lord, Lord Caccia, will be interested to know that there is also a very interesting passage in the play about the duties of the captain of a ship in a crisis.

I am sure I am not alone on this side of your Lordships' House in saying that I have considerable respect and feelings of friendship for many who sit on the Benches opposite. I know that many of them question the policies which the Government are implementing. But, relating them to our present debate, I sometimes wonder whether they will eventually submit the situation in this country to the United Nations for solution, too! It would, after all, be in character for them to do so, since the present situation is obviously beyond their control, as we learned in our debate during the last two days. I do not pose that as a question to the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, for the Government are, I think, fortunate in having him in their ranks, and we must all respect his undoubted abilities. But I do question some of the Government's policies in the U.N., especially, as I have said, in regard to Rhodesia and Aden, and I hope the noble Lord will be able to reply to the criticisms I have made in those cases as well as on the structure of the F.A.O.