HL Deb 28 November 1973 vol 347 cc150-216

4.6 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees is to be congratulated on the work they are doing, and we are glad to notice that Her Majesty's Government in 1973 contributed some £210,000 to the ongoing programme of their work. We must all realise that this is simply a drop in the bucket when one considers the sum of degradation and human misery involved in the status of the refugee the world over. There is very substantial work going on in this sphere by the Commission of Inter-Church Aid Refugee and World Service of the World Council of Churches. To take an example from the Near East, the Near East Ecumenical Committee for Palestine Refugees is also doing great work. But, here again, the figures of distress are so immense and the agony so long drawn out that the total of aid is quite inadequate to meet it.

I should like to say a word of congratulation to the United Nations High Commission for the well-printed and well-illustrated literature that they put out. It gives a picture of emerging relief operation in the Southern Sudan; of the big operation to which allusion has already been made; of the removal of Asians from Uganda to other countries; and of help to the Palestine refugees. The reduction of that aid is to all of us unthinkable. But if it is to be continued, not to say increased, there must be taken into consideration the very considerable rise in the costs involved, and this will mean that the overall sum of relief even to maintain the present state will be greatly increased. I would express the hope that the publications to which I have referred might become better known and perhaps produced in slightly cheaper and less glossy editions so that the circulation might be wider. One of the best of these publications is entitled, The Refugee Problem Isn't Helpless Unless You Think So. The difficulty is that so many in the West do not think at all about this problem, partly because it is unpleasant and so they wish to drive it from their thoughts, and partly because it seems to them so vast as to be almost wholly intractable and therefore they lapse into despair. We are all grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot, for making us think about this to-day.

My Lords, there are three points that I should like to touch on in the course of this debate. The first is—and the noble Baroness briefly touched on it in her opening speech—the special problem, one calling for special care, constituted by the great mass of aged refugees. There is always something of a thrill in seeing a tiny baby rescued from death, nursed and brought back to health. This is the kind of thing that hits the headlines, touches human compassion and is good copy for the media. There is a thrill in establishing a young man or woman in a job or profession and setting his or her feet on the ladder to progress. But when it conies to work among the aged there is no such glamour attached; and just as in the field of medicine the study of geriatrics takes a rather backward position, so in regard to refugees there is a signal lack of glamour in the work among the aged. And yet the old refugees, the people nearing the end of their lives, constitute one of the most urgent needs among this flotsam on the world's waters. It is a matter of encouragement that in 1972, to give virtually the latest figure, the organisation called Help the Aged raised over £1 million for precisely this work, to help aged and destitute refugees abroad. This organisation is most anxious to work in the closest co-operation with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in helping in the resettlement of these old people.

My Lords, the young have a resilience which helps them to adapt themselves to new and difficult situations; but, with few exceptions, the old have no such resilience. They are bewildered. They find themselves almost totally dependent on the goodwill of the nations to whom they have been dispersed. They find themselves regarded as a burden on the State. They see no future and they lapse into despair. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, mentioned Dag Hammarskjoeld's reference to refugees as not a liability but an asset to the future. That is true of the young and of the middle-aged, but it cannot be true of the aged, and it is on their behalf that I would make this particular plea in this particular problem.

The second matter to which I wish to draw the attention of your Lordships is the use of help provided by the armed forces in cases of natural disaster. I restrict myself to cases of natural disaster because I fully realise that in disasters such as war there are problems of international complexity about which I certainly would not consider myself adequately equipped to speak: they are of a quite different nature. But in respect of such problems as flood, or drought, or earthquake, or disease, all natural disasters which contribute to the refugee problem, I want to say a word about the use of help provided by the armed forces. I think, my Lords, it is a fact that in all the big disasters of the past three years—for example, those in Bengal, Tunisia, Peru, Nicaragua and not least, and very recently, in West Africa—sooner or later the armed forces of various nations were called in. There is therefore a strong case for a more efficient organisation of the defence establishments of the rich countries to meet this need.

If we take the case of the disaster in West Africa, the principle of armed forces' aid was clearly established, but I think I am right in saying that it came somewhat in dribs and drabs. Half a dozen countries each sent about two or three military aircraft. The countries included Russia, America, Belgium, France and Britain. We did invaluable work in this way. It was a good idea, also, to send a convoy of Land Rovers, driven by Gurkhas, across the Sahara to help with the distribution of vaccine. But all the reports we are getting from the United Nations and the European Development Fund suggest that the effort is not only too little in the case of a major disaster like that, but also extraordinarily unco-ordinated.

My Lords, the lack seems to be of common intelligence, of common supplies and spares, of common fuel depots and, above all, of common contingency planning. A small secretariat is needed to co-ordinate the work of the national contingents. In theory, the work is being done by the United Nations Disaster Relief Office in Geneva, but the personnel there consists, so I understand, of about a dozen men, that is all; and it has an enormous remit of work. The Office cannot do all that is expected of it, and therefore in the case of the West African relief operation it played no part at all. If we face this realistically it seems highly probable that West Africa will be threatened with an equally bad disaster next year. In the past, we in Britain have given help, but we have been too slow off the mark. The help that came from West Germany, for example, was quicker and more on the mark than our own. The key problem here seems to be that of co-ordination, and who is to co-ordinate the efforts of the various nations quickly and efficiently.

Is not this the essence of what the enlarged European Economic Community should be about in its work? Should not Britain be in the lead in this work of co-ordination? Here in Britain we have a very valued link and relationship with Nigeria. We have the tools to do the job—Hercules transports and so on. Let the European Economic Community give thought to this. Let Britain take her share. Let a welcome be given, under an efficient overall planning system, to any nation, however small, that can make its contribution.

My Lords, my third point is this. The provision of immediate relief for immediate needs and disasters is one thing. But behind these immediate problems and disasters lie long-term problems for which there are no immediate answers, but which call rather for long-term planning and long-term giving. Writing only last week about the recent Ethiopian tragedy, which occupied so small a place in our Press, the droughts which caused more deaths than the recent Middle East war, a journalist used these words: It seems odd that we expect the world to be a less awful place when we contribute a mere fraction of 1 per cent. of our gross national product to make it so. I will not debate his figure, for I realise that figures may be used in many different ways to produce very different results. I simply pose this question: is what we contribute of our gross national product a cause for pride to our nation, or is it a cause for shame when the need of the Third World is set against the comparative luxury of our own? I am fully aware that no Government are going to find the raising of our gross national product contribution a policy that adds greatly to the numbers of those who vote for them: it will mean higher taxation. But is not this a case where common compassion must come before political considerations and political expediency?

I have referred, my Lords, to long-term planning and long-term giving. I recall an occasion only last year when I dined in the capital of a Third World country, which shall be nameless, with a woman gynecologist friend. The city, like so many modern great cities in the Far East and the Near East, had its Hilton Hotel and had its leprous beggars. It had its extremes, to which we who travel widely have grown accustomed, of wealth and poverty. I knew very well that outside that city the communications were so bad, the roads so poor, that someone in a desperate state of health, or a woman in childbirth, might well have to travel two or three days on horseback before he or she could find any medical help at all. The talk turned with my gynecologist lady-friend to the prostitutes who plied their trade in great numbers in the city where we dined that night, and who came to my friend in the course of her work. She said: I asked one of these women: 'Do you like this kind of work?' And the girl replied: I loathe it. But what else can I do?'" My friend said: "I can care for her physical need, her gonorrhoea, or whatever, by the use of drugs and quite possibly cure her. But what she needs, and what she wants, is alternative work." That is the kind of think I have in mind when I speak of long-term planning and long-term giving. About this there is much less that is dramatic than an airlift of vaccines to a famine-stricken area. This kind of longterm work will not produce pictures for the world's Press such as the flight in of a place carrying vaccines or refugees will do. But I know, and your Lordships know, which is the more valuable of these works of mercy.

At the back of so many of these tragedies which hit the headlines lies the problem of illiteracy, its eradication, and the provision of suitable literature at various levels as the people of the world become literate. When one thinks of how a nation like Iran has tackled this problem and reduced its rate of illiteracy to a mere fraction of what it was a few years ago, one wonders whether we in the West are doing anything like all we can to reduce it. I think, for example, of the way it is possible for a young man in Iran to give 14 of his 18 months' military service, not to military work, but to literature work; to go out in little teams, with a supervisor, teaching the young by day and the adult by night and so radically reducing the rate of illiteracy in his country. That is what they did in Iran.

I ask myself whether there could not be governmental encouragement on a far greater scale than is now given for the recruiting of many of our own young men and women to go to the villages of underdeveloped countries and teach the children by day and the adults by night. What is the use of a tractor unless a man can read the instructions? What is the use of birth control apparatus if the women cannot read or handle a calendar? I believe that the idealism is there in a great number of our young people who would be willing to give two or three years, a quinquennium of their young lives, but who find themselves stultified through lack of means by which that idealism can find its fulfilment.

This is long-term thinking; it is longterm giving; it is long-term planning: but it has an immediate bearing on these urgent problems of the refugees which we in this House are considering to-day. And, my Lords, I believe that it is only when we relentlessly press forward with long-term solutions that anything approaching permanent inroads will be made on a vast problem such as that of the world refugees.

4.26 p.m.


My Lords, first of all, may I thank my noble friend Lady Elliot for introducing this debate; and secondly, I want immediately to apologise for not being able to stay after my short intervention, as I have to keep a long-standing engagement with an association of the Men of Kent in Maidstone. It is perhaps good that an ex-soldier should follow the last speaker, the most reverend Primate, after all that he said about the powers of organisation and the help the military could give; and also because soldiers have perhaps seen nearly all the types and causes of refugees. Soldiers saw the refugees from the invasions of 1940. Soldiers saw them in Korea. Soldiers have seen the natural disasters of drought and flood. They have seen the political upheaval from the Uganda Asians, and from refugees from other countries where politics have been the cause of refugees. The last of the groupings I am thinking of is the refugee in his own society, the refugee from other men, the leper, often beyond the capability of the particular country to cope with. Soldiers can, and perhaps like to, help in this respect, as all the Defence Services do.

It may also be opportune to say that some of the voluntary organisations originated from military Orders. The Order of Malta, which is a member of the British Council of Refugees and an observer of the International Council—about which I know my noble friend Lord Furness will speak later—is a case in point. It started as a military-religious Order. And the venerable Order of St. John, which has already been mentioned, not only did much to help the Ugandan refugees to come into this country—all voluntary labour, given freely at every camp; hours and hours of unremitting work for them—but also throughout the present Middle Eastern war and, indeed, in the earlier Middle Eastern war, helped the ophthalmic hospital in Jerusalem. Last year, I think it was, 7,500 operations were carried out in that one hospital; and even at the height of the battle this time, and with the difficulty of the Arabs living in the area, over 100 patients were treated every day.

But again, from a soldier's point of view, one saw things at their lowest level. The immediate requirement was food, not money. Money was useless to the people we saw as refugees. It could not buy anything at that stage. It was food that was wanted. It makes one wonder whether we are right to sell butter cheaply to the Soviets when milk powder is probably the best form of protein to be given freely from the West to the refugees. The next thing they wanted was shelter. Above all, they wanted love, service, help. Love has not yet been mentioned in this debate, and perhaps it is the most important of the lot. The last thing they wanted was money. But, of course, I accept that money must be given to help the work of all these international organisations and the United Nations Organisation itself. It needs to be channelled in the right ways and to be used in the right way on the spot. I have apologised to your Lordships for having to go quickly; I do not apologise for having spoken shortly.

4.30 p.m.


My Lords, I can think of no one better than my friend the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot, to call our attention to the world's refugee problems. She has great knowledge of these matters and has travelled and seen for herself exactly what happens. The United Nations comes in for much criticism these days—some of it deserved—but without its organisations and instruments we should not have the continually increasing international concern about human rights in this unhappy family of nations. Two important United Nations organisations dealing with the plight and the rights of refugees are, first, U.N.R.W.A., the Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the Middle East, and, secondly, U.N.H.C.R., representing the High Commissioner for Refugees. The noble Baroness, Lady Elliot, has concentrated particularly on U.N.R.W.A., which she knows well; but I shall speak mainly on the work of the High Commissioner for Refugees. My interest was first drawn to this organisation when, in the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations, we heard the annual reports of both refugee organisations. The High Commissioner always stressed the fact that the work of his office was strictly humanitarian and non-political. This was a change from the political argument and recrimination we were so used to, and it gave a welcome glimpse of something constructive and practical that might be done.

The first job of any refugee organisation is not to allow the world to forget the refugees, past and present, while they are still with us. The office of the High Commissioner has a public information service, which employs the most up-to-date and imaginative ways of informing the public about new and tragic events as they arise, through the Press, television and pamphlets. This is particularly important because of the fact that the High Commissioner's Committee is financed by voluntary contributions, as has been said throughout all the speeches this afternoon, and voluntary contributions from Governments and from members of the public must be kept up in order to maintain and even raise the level of funds needed. The most effective means appears to be television and a steady supply of films; but one of their illustrated journals called A Story of Anguish and Action sums up the role of the High Commissioner's office. The major part of its regular programme since the 1960s has been devoted to African refugees, where independence has taken the place of colonial status. As my noble friend Lord Brockway comments in his excellent reference book, The Colonial Revolution: Some former Colonial Territories do not provide a happy experience of independence. He was referring at that time to Rwanda and Burundi and the troubles in the Sudan. In the last few years, as a purely humanitarian and non-political agent of the community, the High Cornmissioner's Committee has been entrusted with special assignments. I shall mention a few of them. In 1971—and I believe this has already been mentioned —with the help of major Governments it organised the emergency relief programme in India, at a time when there were 10 million refugees on Indian territory. It accomplished a massive movement of East Bengalis into India and the return of refugees to Bangladesh by huge airlifts, in which both the Russians and ourselves took part. Another operation was that which achieved a semblance of stability in the South Sudan, after 17 years of conflict, as my noble friend Lord Shepherd has pointed out. This produced about 180,000 Sudanese refugees in the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Uganda and Zaire, and about half a million refugees in the Sudan itself. The relief programme was intended to help both groups, and 20 million dollars was raised from various Governments.

One thing I remember about our discussions in the United Nations was that African countries often welcomed the refugees. This again was pointed out by my noble friend Lord Shepherd. Then we have the story of the Asians who were suddenly expelled by General Amin from Uganda—those with British passports and those (about 7,000) who were not recognised as nationals of any country.

The United Nations High Commissioner's organisation is only part of the overall picture of aid to refugees. Many Governments, the United Nations organisations, semi-official bodies and private voluntary agencies all take part. The scope of the United Nations High Commissioner's Committee and its financial resources are not very large for the work it undertakes. It is, of course, non-operational, and the Governments or voluntary organisations usually act as operational partners. Its annual material assistance programmes require 8.5 million dollars annually. I support the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot, in her plea for the Government to give an annual grant as well as their voluntary contributions —though I must say the Government are to be congratulated on their generosity and can hold their heads up high. The fact is that the office of High Commissioner for Refugees protects, assists, rehabilitates, resettles and repatriates where possible and appropriate. Though always non-political, this seems to reduce political tensions.

I heartily agree that these two great organisations, U.N.R.W.A. and U.N.H.C.R., are doing excellent work, but with regard to U.N.R.W.A., which concentrates only on repatriation of refugees, reconciliation seems to be utterly frozen. The number of refugees under its care has multiplied enormously, and material assistance continues, and must continue, though the swollen numbers which are bandied about are never explained. The organisation refuses to have a census. I read the 1973 Report of the Commissioner-General of U.N.R.W.A. In the introduction, I noticed for the first time their definition of a Palestine refugee, and I quote from it: A Palestine refugee, by U.N.R.W.A.'s working definition, is a person whose normal residence was in Palestine for a minimum of two years preceding the conflict in 1948 and who, as a result of this conflict, lost both his home and means of livelihood", and so on. Refugees within this definition, or children or grandchildren, are eligible for Agency assistance if they are registered. As I have said, they have never agreed to a census; and when I reflect that one of the demands over the years has been that no Jews should be allowed to remain in Palestine who were not there in 1917, I begin to wonder about many things.

I cannot help admiring the wisdom and freedom from politics exercised by the Committee of the High Commissioner who has used every conciliation method available. I cannot believe that the High Commissioner could not have worked out a way of solving the refugee problem in the Middle East. If he had applied his own methods in the Middle East, I am fairly certain that he could have found a way, for otherwise if U.N.R.W.A. had worked in Europe after the War I believe we should still have a large number of refugees still living in these camps. The international community, plus the Israeli Government, plus Jews all over the world, I believe could get together to compensate and work out with the Arab countries a plan for the resettlement of the remaining Palestine refugees.

4.40 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to join other noble Lords in thanking and congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot, on giving us this opportunity to air a subject which has the double advantage of being non-controversial Party-wise and of involving the health and welfare of countless people round the world. In intervening I should explain that I am directly involved in this matter by my involvement with the Save the Children Fund. I should add an apology that it is possible, having posed one or two questions, that I shall not be able to be present later to hear the answers.

Much of what I have to say will be underlining a number of things which were said just now by the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, whose knowledge of the United Nations and its workings on the social side are particularly expert and meritorious. I have found in a report to the United Nations of the High Commissioner for Refugees a part of a sentence which perhaps is the text of our whole discussion. In his last report to the United Nations General Assembly he said that the ultimate objective must be (and these are his words): To help a refugee to cease being a refugee. That is what we are all aiming at, and I propose to emphasise in my remarks three things. I should like to underline the variety and complexity of the whole refugee problem. Perhaps by way of a preliminary I may say it has involved in our time the least known refugees in the world, perhaps the Bangladesh babies who went into India and back again in recent years, and the most famous refugee in the world at the moment, Dr. Henry Kissinger. I should like then to elaborate a little on the subject of organisation, because I believe it to be very important in explaining the recent success of the United Nations High Commissioner. Finally, I will say a word on what is the function of voluntary organisations in dealing with the refugee problem.

On the matter of variety, when one first comes to the refugee question one is inclined to think it always has to be undertaken in an atmosphere of political tension. This is often so. Classic examples have been quoted already: the decision of the Soviet Union to suppress the Hungarian revolution in 1956, and the trouble between India and Pakistan in 1971 and 1972. But of course this is not the only condition; exactly the opposite political condition may prevail. The splendid operation in Southern Sudan in 1972 could be carried out precisely because there was an improvement in the political situation, and there was the reconciliation in which the Organisation for African Unity played such a great part between Northern and Southern Sudan. One immediately arrives at the conclusion that any organisation which deals with world refugees must be one of immense flexibility and mobility. Another reason for this—and this is a point which may not have been mentioned yet but which is of great concern to those dealing with refugees—is the difficulties which are encountered. I will describe one or two, not to depress any noble Lords who may be interested, but rather because these difficulties explain why you cannot suddenly arrive just as the first refugees arrive and dispose of the whole thing in a few days.

The type of thing that happens to you is that a situation suddenly arises which concerns refugees. An enterprising cameraman appears on the spot, photographs people in misery, and says, "Nothing is being done." That starts you on a bad wicket with public opinion; and it is not in fact wholly fair. The problem is that if you are either a national organisation, or a voluntary organisation, or the United Nations High Commissioner, you have to secure the good will of the country from which the refugees come, the country to which they are trying to go, and any intervening countries for the whole process to be undertaken at all. It does not just involve means of transport or this or that perfunctory permission; you have to go through a whole list of official formalities, quite apart from the problem of political good will. Happily, the way in which the United Nations High Commissioner has carried out his duties is causing these difficulties to diminish; but they still exist, and you still run into them right down from the highest political complexities, to the customs officer to whom you show the medicaments or food you are bringing and he immediately thumps a large customs duty on them. All these things arise when you are trying to do this work. I mention this point not to emphasise impossibilities (because in this kind of work nothing is impossible) but to insist that there are special difficulties which sometimes the general public do not quite understand.

Speaking for a moment for the Save the Children Fund, we ran into a totally unforeseen difficulty in the India/Pakistant situation. At the beginning of the refugee movement it did not seem that India needed further personnel to help with coping with refugee children. Therefore it was established that no extra outside personnel were needed. On that basis we set up two clinics for children at places where the refugees came across. Then the operation assumed a magnitude of not one million but 10 million people, and the policy of course continued. Therefore it was not possible to do anything further because at that moment the whole situation came under what the High Commissioner called "the shadow of war". All these obstacles have to be overcome in the process of actually getting to the refugees and helping them to get moving. You are also faced at the end of the road with the problem of discovering whether the country to which the refugees wish to go is able or willing to receive them. That is the measure of the task. It does many Governments, including our own of either Party, great credit, when one considers what has been achieved despite these apparent obstacles.

Now I should like to mention organisation, and I hope your Lordships will bear with me for a moment while I say a word about history. At the end of the war, at a time when I happened to be working in the United Nations Economic and Social Affairs Department, we were dealing with a mainly European problem because in the late Imperial time the movements which we have now got used to were not so usual; the immediate problem was to get people resettled round Europe. So we dealt with an Inter-Governmental Committee on Refugees. That Committee has specialised in transport and converted itself into the International Committee for European Migration.

To deal with the rest of the world, there was an inter-Governmental initiative to set up an International Refugee Organisation. That organisation became the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. It turns out that this has a great advantage, and this was a very wise or lucky, or both, stroke of fortune. The reason for this is — and many speakers have mentioned it—the co-ordinating role of the High Commissioner. One of the things that need co-ordinating in these situations is the work of the Specialised Agencies of the United Nations: the World Health Organisation, the Food and Agriculture Organisation and so on. They can all help with programmes and people, but somehow or other all this has to be brought together. If the Refugee organisation was just another Specialised Agency, it would be difficult to achieve any co-ordination. But since the United Nations High Commissioner is working directly to the Secretary General he can, if he handles things tactfully, act as a co-ordinator. Indeed, his terms of reference in the Sudan operation were that he was to be a co-ordinator of the whole U.N. system on 'a good offices' basis". The words "good offices"' are basic, because the Specialised Agencies do not exactly accept the authority of the United Nations though they do respect its position in the world. So it seems to me that on the organisational side what has developed is extremely fortunate for people who are engaged in these enterprises.

The flexibility was so great that the High Commissioner in the Sudan was able to co-ordinate a job which was not really his, because the job was in fact a job of repatriation; it was not a job of admitting refugees but of organising the Sudanese who came back to the Sudan. But the confidence in him and in the United Nations and in this way of doing things was such that everybody agreed to coordination by him. In India the situation was even more delicate diplomatically. But, again, it was recognised by the Specialised Agencies and the voluntary organisations that the High Commissioner should be considered what was called a "focal point". These diplomatic two words enabled everybody to co-operate without any feeling of injured prestige or inappropriateness.

I would agree with noble Lords that the United Kingdom record, by and large, is quite good. As Europe is apt to decry its own efforts to help developing countries and people in distress, perhaps I might emphasise, again with reference to the Sudan operation, that the following countries contributed to the 20 million dollar operations: three from North America; five from Africa, which was pretty good considering the level of wealth in Africa; five from Asia and the Far East; none from Eastern Europe, and 12 from Western Europe. So the spirit of this kind of voluntary contribution and governmental contribution is very much alive in Western Europe, and we can be happy about that. But I sympathise with the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot, in feeling that our contribution to the High Commissioner's own effort should be higher than no doubt it originally quite rightly was, because somehow the contribution has not kept up with the work.

There are two points that perhaps I might ask the noble Lord the Leader of the House to help us on when he replies. We have spoken about organisational flexibility of the High Commission. One subject which has been much under debate (and I think that the most reverend Primate mentioned it) is the question of whether there ought to be or ought not to be a stockpile or more than one stockpile of the kind of equipment that will be needed if there is a refugee operation. I in fact have no view on this in the sense that there would be an advantage in having a stockpile because it would be there; there would be a disadvantage because it would cost money for storage and guarding. I hope the noble Lord might illuminate us a little on Her Majesty's Government's thinking and international thinking on this rather difficult point. The other point I would raise with the noble Lord would be whether he is satisfied that Her Majesty's Government have the abilty to take decisions on this matter quickly. If you are serving abroad in a place which is affected by these things, you are hit as nowhere else by the old Latin proverb bis dat qui cito dat—he gives twice who gives quickly. One sits there hoping that one's plea will be responded to, certainly generously, but above all as near at once as possible.

Perhaps I may now say just a word on the role of the voluntary organisations. If again I may refer to a proverb it will be an American one: That a successful general is the one who arrives "firstest with the mostest" at the point of battle. A voluntary organisation can never arrive with the mostest because the most ambitious voluntary organisation cannot possibly arrive with the money that can be produced by an important Government. But it can get there extremely quickly when there is a disaster or refugee situation. The organisation with which I have the privilege of working heard of the Managua disaster on December 23, 1972, and we were able to send off somebody on Christmas Day. One can do that in a small organisation with a simple chain of command; one can devote money right away, or can even start doing something without any money. A Government cannot do that with quite that speed; nor indeed can the High Commissioner, since he needs a mandate from somebody, though he can work remarkably quickly. If your voluntary organisation can get there early, not only can it get started and help a few people, but it can also by direct experience help the High Commissioner and others to know what actually is needed, because there is no alternative to actually doing the job for finding out what needs to be done.

The third thing that I think the voluntary organisations can do—and here I again take my cue from the most reverend Primate—is this. There are many situations in which, in addition to professional help, which is the basis of one's help, you will need a certain amount of devoted, young, energetic, enterprising people, and the voluntary organisations provide opportunity for doing precisely what the most reverend Primate said. For a few young people, you can enlist their enthusiasm, their enterprise, their willingness to do absolutely anything for other people, and this is a great help to your organisation, a great help to the people affected, and a great investment in humanity for the young people themselves.

So, my Lords, if I may recapitulate, dealing with refugees is a matter of almost infinite variety, often beset by formidable difficulties which can nearly always be overcome. It is a sphere in which organisation over the years since the war has developed in a positive direction, and one in which voluntary organisations can play a part. I should like finally to express both my gratification at being a little involved in this matter, and my hope that the natural instincts of our own community, our own nation, will continue to find fulfilment in this continuing help which is needed by our less fortunate fellow men.

4.59 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to join in the general thanks which have been given to the noble Baroness who initiated this debate for her wide and wise review of the problem. I wish to speak briefly on one aspect only of this subject, and that is the tragedy of the Palestine refugees. I agree with the figure given by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, of approximately 1½ million refugees. This problem seems to me to have been brought into the limelight by the conscious knowledge that the whole civilised world looks for a solution of the refugee problem as one of the essentials of any peace settlement in the Middle East. More than any other aspect of Middle East conflict in recent years the refugee problem has become enveloped in passion and in acrimony, and a lasting solution must be part of any political settlement.

This is not a foreign affairs debate, but the Israel/Arab position was touched on by the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, and also by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, so I feel free to encroach in that particular province. It seems to me that there are three obvious requirements for any settlement, which, I repeat, must include the settlement of the refugee problem. The first is that the existence of Israel as a State must be accepted. The second is that both Israel and Arabs will have to concede in any final settlement; and, third, both sides will have to promote and support a big act of statesmanship. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, spoke of a big act of international statesmanship. I say also that there will have to be a big effort of statesmanship by the two main parties in the Middle East conflict, and their act of statesmanship must be to refrain from looking backwards and, instead, to look forward together. Because only thus, I believe, will the refugee problem form part of a general settlement.

If the two sides go on looking at the past, there will never be a future for these refugees. Each side can claim grievances and each side can argue its rights. What is occupied land for one is liberated land for the other. Resolution 242 speaks of "occupied territories": one can ask, "occupied by whom?" Occupied by the Arabs for centuries or by Joshua 4,000 years ago? It does not help to remember past atrocities on either side. The massacre of the Jews in Hebron in 1948; the excesses which have been committed by Jewish forces in the past—it does not help at all to remember those. What I believe we must do is to look forward and not backwards.

That is why I think we must appeal to both Arab and Israeli to put away the past, in the interests of the future of these refugees. But before and beyond the Summit, which we hope will bring about a lasting settlement, I believe that on what I call a lower provincial level communities can start to learn to live together. Outside Nazareth there is a multi-racial community where Christian, Arab and Jew have learned to live together, respecting each other's race and each other's religion. After all, 50 years ago our Churches in this country were divided. Who then would have thought that to-day the Churches would be coming ever closer together in the way they have done in the last few years? That is the sort of ground work on a provincial community level that should be encouraged, parallel with our hopes for a great settlement of the Summit. And I believe that the encouragement of the United Nations Organisation can do a great deal to develop what I call lower level community gatherings. If the United Nations efforts can bring respite while the long-term Summit is being worked out, I believe that they will be contributing much to the hope that the Middle East can obtain peace with justice for all, including those unhappy refugees whose fate we are debating to-day.

5.5 p.m.


My Lords, if I add my thanks to those which have already been accorded to the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood—and I most certainly do—it is as much for the structure of this particular Motion as for the general topic in which it is set, for it is both an invitation to celebration and acknowledgment as well as to the ventilation of a problem.

I shall permit myself to refer historically to some of the antecedents of the activities of the United Nations which I am glad to say have a good deal to do with the Christian Churches. I suppose it could be argued, and I think it would be reasonable so to argue, that it was the formation of the Christian Council for Refugees in the days immediately before the outbreak of the War in 1939 which was the real progenitor of most of the activities which followed and which culminated in the High Commission. In fact it gives me the opportunity to refer to one of the pioneers in this field who has been accorded less than the place to which he is really entitled. His name was Henry Carter; he was a minister of religion and he had the inestimable advantage of being a Methodist. He formed this particular society which became a council and thereafterwards added to it representatives of the Jewish faith, and he was joint chairman with Anthony de Rothschild just before the War. Of course their work fell into abeyance during the war. It was resumed afterwards and it was instrumental (and we have the knowledge to support this contention) in the formation of U.N.R.W.A. and, later, of the work of the High Commissioners in general. It gives me personal pleasure to remember one of those pioneers, as the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, referred to another of them, and I would join in the celebration of the excellent work of the United Nations, not unconnected with the excellent work of bodies which have come in for a considerable amount of criticism in later days, and an expression of the ecumenical movement in which they have been set.

This debate is also an invitation to ventilate the problem, and its wide-ranging opportunity has been eagerly accepted by speakers who have spoken on various aspects, and when I noticed that my noble friend the most reverend Primate was going to take part in the debate I was ready to back my cassock (if there were any takers) that he would bring in education, and, sure enough, he did, most admirably and most cogently.

I want to take this opportunity of selectivity and to speak about one of the problems of the refugees, and one only. Until a month ago the headlines in the newspapers were full of evidence about the events, calamitous, hopeful—as you like to look on them—in Chile. With the outbreak of the Middle East War the Chilean situation was thrust from the newspapers, and I suppose there must be many who would think that it has faded into some kind of subsidiary condition. Nothing of the sort. There is a very great and increasing refugee problem associated with the recent events in Chile and it is about them that I would invite the attention of your Lordships for a few moments.

Who are the refugees, or the potential refugees, in Chile? Le Monde says that there are 14,000 Latin American citizens of other States who have been driven out of those States or who found it prudent to get away from them—States like Bolivia and Uruguay and Brazil. Attracted no doubt by the bright light of a new dawn (as they thought it to be in Chile and expecting to receive accommodation and welcome, they are now denounced by the Junta who, in its pronouncement. recognises about 13,000 of them as enemies of the State. They are in dire need and in fact are condemned to involuntary vagabondage of one kind or another. There are some 2,000 such refugees still within various Embassies, though not our own. They are likely to be continuously in peril. The French and the Swedish Ambassadors were both pummelled by guards only yesterday when they attempted to prevent the taking away from the Swedish Embassy to hospital of a little girl suffering from a haemorrhage. In addition, if we reflect that about 43 per cent. of the population voted in March in favour of the Popular Policy Front, then it is highly likely that the card-carrying members of those Left Wing Parties—they number about half a million—are in great need and great peril; their lives are at risk. We do not know how many more there are, but we cannot quantify the human suffering of the refugee. Let us say there are about 25,000 or 30,000 of them anxious to get away, in constant peril; and, if the evidence is not completely untrustworthy, many are already subject to the tyranny of the Junta. Here is a problem which should be included in any wide-ranging debate on the problem of refugees.

But what has been done? If I may refer once again, without arrogance, to the attitudes of the Christian Churches, the noble and courageous Church in Chile has been constant in its protestation. The World Council of Churches has made its protestation and the Junta only about three weeks ago agreed to set up on a three months' basis a national committee for the help of refugees. This looked a hopeful sign. Alas!, it is nothing of the sort. No guarantee is offered to those who will appear before this committee that the evidence there found will not be used in order to bring them to trial as enemies of the State. The Junta has so said. In fact, by Article 1308 of the Junta's list of decrees they reserve the right first to say what is the crime, and then to particularise the criminal. Not only is that so, but the Junta have offered no kind of security to the various assembly points to which have been invited those who wish to apply before this committee for the opportunity of getting away from the country. In fact, a number of those who have been assembled in these points of assembly under the general flag of the Swiss have been persecuted and are in constant peril.

My Lords, these are the facts. I have endeavoured to speak about them impartially though not unemotionally. What has been done for their relief ought also to be categorised. Something like 4,000 have been processed of those who wish to get out of the country and become refugees if someone will take them. It is assumed that there are another 10,000 who wish to apply before this national council in order that they may have the opportunity of getting out of danger and of finding hope elsewhere. The evidence is that the work of the committee is extremely small, extremely protracted. I hope before I sit down to read to your Lordships' House something received very recently. The problem for the refugee in Chile is a grim and increasingly dangerous one. There are two problems, one of which has an immediate relevance. The other has a long-term relevance.

It is known that some 2,000 potential or prospective refugees have found access to embassies—many embassies, but not our own. Her Majesty's Government have said, "What with our other problems, we cannot take anybody; but if someone should present a particularly appropriate case, an exception might be made". That simply is not good enough. When embassies like the Finnish Embassy, the Swedish Embassy and, above all, the Mexican Embassy have opened their doors whenever they could, rather pathetically an officer of the British Embassy says that if someone did knock on the door and was obviously being pursued by the Carabinieri, whoever they are, they would let him in, but have also agreed to keep the door locked for 24 hours of every day. That is an unsatisfactory and rather humiliating situation.

The other problem is the placement of potential and prospective refugees. Where can they go? Up to now, the latest evidence is that 545 placements have been made available from 21 countries, most of which, of course—as Chile has —have become signatories to the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol of that Convention. Five hundred and forty-five placements—none for this country. The Belgians have promised 60. We do not know how many the Mexican State has promised, but it is a number rather in excess of 100. The Canadians are making up their minds as to how many they can look after. Twenty-one countries, eleven of them European, have indicated that they are prepared to do something.

My Lords, if we are to regard the prospect of Chile as one which suffers from the law of the expulsive power of a new affliction—that is exactly what puts it into the shadows as compared with the Middle East problem—are we not also entitled to renovate the much more important declaration that there is an expulsive power of a new affection? Is it not reasonable and moral to suppose that the more we care, the more we shall improve not only our moral condition but our economic one as well? The World Council of Churches 48 hours ago received what I suppose must have been a telegram. It has now come to hand. I am probably the first who has had the opportunity of making it public. I propose to read it: To parties, popular movements, trade unions, solidarity committees, to the world public opinion. As foreigners unable to return to our countries of origin "— this is particularly the output of those from Uruguay and other countries who came so hopefully to Chile not so long ago— for one month and a half we find ourselves under the protection of the United Nations without being able to leave Chile for lack of countries who would open their doors to us. Under the conditions of the state of war as the present Junta defines it, we consider the security conditions under which we exist to be precarious and fraught with serious danger. The number of people in the refugee reception centres is piling up. The evacuation of these centres is going forward at a minimal rate and there are thousands waiting for space to enter into these places of refuge."— places of refuge which, may I add, are by no means secure— Through your mediation we implore people from all countries to urge your respective Governments to respond to the United Nations appeal to accept us as refugees. We have our problems in this country, and none would depreciate them. I am sure we can, not only as a moral salve to our consciences but as a practical measure of our own rightness and stability, find a place for some of these refuges from Chile who are just as worthy of our help as any other, and it is for that reason that I presumed to speak to your Lordships' House.

5.20 p.m.


My Lords, I too wish to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, for giving us the opportunity this afternoon to debate a subject which has not been before your Lordships' House for some considerable time; and I would also congratulate her on achieving so early in this Session a full afternoon to go into this vital question. I am afraid that I am not able to follow the very moving speech of the noble Lord, Lord Soper, in the area of the world to which he has directed our attention, but I wish to direct your Lordships' attention back to Africa, and also to Asia, and to ask that we concern ourselves with four problems: the Uganda Asian refugees, the Sudanese refugees, Palestinian Arab refugees and the Tibetan refugees. And I hope to cover that field in just a little over ten minutes.

I start off with the Uganda Asian operation last year, because I feel that it would be churlish not to say a very warm word of appreciation to the Uganda Resettlement Board for all their extremely hard work last autumn. Remember, my Lords, that November 7, 1972, was the deadline which President Amin set; and he gave 90 days for the Uganda Asians to leave his country. Those 27,000 Uganda Asians who had passports were received in this country in circumstances which I think we should recognise as being emergency ones, prepared with great speed by the Resettlement Board, and it is greatly to the credit of the Board's Chairman, and of all the voluntary agencies involved, that what took place took place with speed and efficiency and a very great deal of work by those concerned. It is most interesting to see the follow-up in the Press after the Uganda Asians had arrived in this country and proceeded to other countries. One noted headlines from America such as, "Asians from Uganda proving their worth in Canada and the United States of America." That was in April, 1973, only four or five months afterwards. I wonder, my Lords, whether any of us in this country who were placed in similar circumstances would be able to resettle ourselves and find a home and circumstances suitable for our employment with such speed and efficiency.

I would next direct your Lordships' attention to the Sudan, because it was a major event when, some months ago, Mr. Thomas Jamieson (a name in the refugee field of almost legendary significance), a man who came out of retirement after retiring two years after his normal retirement age, was called upon by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees to undertake a special operation. Mr. Jamieson told us at first hand in the Westminster Grand Committee Room some months ago of the precise details of the operation, and showed us a most interesting film, which I am sure many of your Lordships will have seen. But to me, my Lords, this was one of the most dramatic events in Africa in the last 20 years following the February agreement in 1972 when it was announced that the democratic Republic of the Sudan and the South Sudan Liberation Movement had drawn up an agreement at the end of 17 years of bitter civil strife.

My Lords, the U.N. showed itself in these circumstances at its very best in calling upon all the Agencies to participate, and I hope it will not weary your Lordships to know which these were, because those of us concerned in this field feel there is such an enormous benefit to be gained from the co-operation between these Agencies, and it clearly proves the worthwhileness of it all. The Agencies were: The U.N. Development programme; UNICEF; the World Food Programme; the I.L.O.; the Food and Agriculture Organisation; UNESCO; the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development; the International Telecommunications Union; and the League of Red Cross Societies. Gathering together and harmonising these groups, which they were, was a remarkable achievement and a success once again for the efforts of the U.N. High Commissioner in forming a sort of focal point, as he did, your Lordships will remember, in India only a short time ago.

The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, referred to figures, and I must say that I was a little surprised at the figures he gave. I did not interrupt him because I felt that his source might be different from mine, which is the Sudanese Resettlement Commission. It was reported on September 30, 1972, that no fewer than 217,689 displaced persons within the Sudan had been led back to their home villages; and from four countries in the neighbourhood over 28,000 refugees, formerly Sudanese, had also voted in favour of repatriation. It is significant, in the activities of the focal point, that one of the very first cables which went out to the U.N. High Commissioner's representatives in the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Uganda and Zaire, was the following: Your primary duty is in safeguarding the voluntary character of repatriation". This, my Lords, really highlights two factors which I should like to pay particular attention, and to which the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, drew our attention in his speech: The 1951 Convention on Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol.

Those documents may be rather wearisome reading but they are vital to the whole consideration of the refugee question; and as only 65 States in the membership of the U.N. have become party to the Convention—only 54 to the Protocol—it seems that there is a very real need that Her Majesty's Government, in conjunction with the European Community, should press for a succession of further States to be encouraged to join. I hope that further accessions may be brought about in the next twelve months, and I am wondering whether it will be possible to work through other Agencies, too. I suggest, with great deference to your Lordships, that perhaps the inter-Parliamentary Union is one, because so often these international conventions are events in the Parliamentary programme, be it in this country or elsewhere, which are pushed well down in the time table. I remember that some annexures to the Geneva Convention were signed in this country, having received Parliamentary approval, long after other countries had done so. So perhaps the I.P.U. may once again be a forum of discussion. I hope it will be borne very much in mind that further accessions to these two vital documents are one of the real needs in the refugee field.

I should like to say a word about the Palestinian Arab refugee situation. I have concerned myself with, and have worked in, the particular areas of the Near East over the last 18 years at intervals, and I should like to express from my own personal experience some important factors. The budget deficit referred to earlier this afternoon, of approximately 7 million to 8 million dollars, was rightly underlined as a factor brought about by inflation coupled with a rise in world prices. We recognise this, but I beseech Her Majesty's Government to turn to Table 19 in the U.N. Relief and Works Agency Document, for there will be found set out all the contributions from countries in U.N. organisations.

It is most significant that no substantial increase has been made to the contributions by the O.A.P.E.C.—and I stress the "A"—countries since the increase in the price of crude fuel oil in the October Agreement in Vienna, and I suggest to Her Majesty's Government that it is incumbent upon those who are going to benefit from a substantial revenue from oil—benefit derived from the world-wide sale of oil—that some portion should be set aside by the O.A.P.E.C. countries for the benefit of the Palestinian Arab refugees. Those of us who have worked in the area feel that as oil is a major natural resource it should be a means of bringing about some amelioration of the refugee conditions, and it is surely to the O.A.P.E.C. countries that we can look for some further contribution. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will support resolutions, documents or other drafts, in the United Nations encouraging them to do so.

In regard to Tibetan refugees, to whose case I directed your Lordships' attention in a speech some years ago, this appears at first sight to be a very remote problem, until one considers that in this country a pilot scheme has been established in Breconshire, at Talybont-on-Usk, a school of subsistence farming for young people in developing countries. A group of Tibetan students were brought from their refugee camps and have undertaken a two-year course in subsistence husbandry in the Welsh hills. It is a most enterprising establishment where all the implements are home-made, all the crops, and so on, are produced, and a process of recycling is very much in evidence. It is in the context of husbandry using labour-intensive methods, as opposed to the exact opposite, which is the practice in the West, that I feel some solution of the Tibetan refugee situation may be seen. We may through similar schemes to the one in Breconshire encourage small groups of Tibetans, in circumstances not totally dissimilar from their own hill farms, to become skilled in the arts which they have been unable to pursue in their own refugee camps. Thanks to the work of this body, with which several of your Lordships are concerned, really worthwhile technical training is placed in the hands of these most charming people.

I have attempted in the space of a few minutes to draw together four refugee problems. I may not have been successful. The thread which binds all refugees of all nations together is one of very strong nostalgia for their country, for their homeland. They think of others living in their former homes, and perhaps in Africa this may be as marked as anywhere. I should like to quote the words of President Jomo Kenyatta, speaking about his own Kikuyu people, in his book, which I think was called, Facing Mount Kenya. He writes: Communion with the ancestral spirits is perpetuated through contact with the soil in which the ancestors of the tribe lie buried. It is the soil which feeds the child through lifetime and again after death, and it is the soil which nurses the spirits of the dead for eternity. Those may not be theological views held by either the most reverend Primate or the noble Lord, Lord Soper, but it is in understanding the African mind, and above all in respecting the views of other cultures, that we may progress in this field which is so particularly important.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him a question? He asked for the O.A.P.E.C. countries to make contributions to the refugees. I agree with him. But what about the Arab sheikhs? What about their making contributions to the refugees? So far they have made very small contributions to their prosperity.


My Lords, in reply to the noble Baroness, I would say that in certain cases the O.A.P.E.C. groups comprise a number of the sheikhs to whom she is referring. It is a little difficult to discuss this particular point across the Floor of the House, in view of the fact that there are diplomatic niceties with which I may not perhaps be sufficiently skilled to deal.

5.35 p.m.


My Lords, I do not think the noble Baroness needs any thanks from us for allowing us to debate this very important subject. Far more important than any words of thanks are the number of people who have taken an interest in this subject, and, what is more, the calibre of those people—at least until the present time—and the great knowledge and experience they have of it. It is very important that we should have had this chance to talk, particularly at this stage, about this all-important subject. My only complaint, if that is the right word, about this debate is the word itself, the word "refugees". It is always unfortunate when we have a collective noun which is used frequently, because it tends to become stylised in people's minds. I think far too many of us, when we talk of refugees, or when we listen to people talking of refugees, have a mental picture of streams of ragged families walking with their children and their old people along muddy roads, barrows piled high with the few possessions they could take, or huddled in the waiting rooms of some airport having just come out of their jet aeroplane. Sad, yes: terribly sad; but somehow too remote from any of us really to make the impact that it should.

If we are really going to talk with proper understanding about refugees, we must not think of them as being some remote group of people who never have any real contact with us, but as being, as it were, ourselves, just ordinary people, our parents, our children, our grandchildren, who have to leave their own homes, have to leave their surroundings, are no longer, in the words of the noble Lord who has just spoken, able to have communion with their ancestral spirits. It is that uprooting from all the things which really make life dear to us which is fundamentally the problem of refugees. We must look on it in that way, as a real human tragedy of individuals, who might just as well be us or our friends, rather than some remote problem happening in South-East Asia, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, which never can happen to us.

I am not going to deal with what are normally called refugees, because so much has been said, and I am sure will be said, on these matters by people who have had very much more first hand experience than I have. I should like to talk for a short time about what one might call the hidden refugees and the would-be refugees, men and women who are refugees from poverty and from lack of opportunity in their own countries. These are the hidden refugees. They are all over Europe; they are in many other parts of the world, and there are many of them in this country. We call them Commonwealth immigrants, but the majority of them are in fact refugees. They have not left their ancestral spirits, they have not left their families and friends, they have not left the type of food or form of housing that they are used to, the form of climate, of clothing, of work that they are used to, for fun. A few of them perhaps do it out of a spirit of adventure, but the great majority of them do it because they are poor, hungry, frustrated, and do not have the opportunities for which they, as ordinary human beings, yearn, and which they only find by making themselves refugees from their own homes and coming into an entirely alien world.

That is one type of refugee. However, there is also the would-be refugee; the people who would become refugees if they could, but who are not able to for either economic or political reasons. One noble Lord has already spoken about the famine in Ethiopia. There are tens of thousands of people in Ethiopia in the Sahelian district who would gladly have become refugees to escape starvation if only they had had the opportunity to do so. They are condemned to live and to die in their own countries because there are no means for them to escape. Then there are the other would-be refugees (small in number but no less sad in their individual cases); the people who find that life in their own countries is insupportable for political or for cultural reasons. There are people in the Soviet Union who want to get out and are not allowed to do so by the authorities; people in South Africa who want to get out but who have had their passports taken from them; and, as we have heard so eloquently from my noble friend, there are people in Chile who want to get out but who are unable to. They also are the would-be refugees, and we should give some thought to them also.

What can we do in this country to help these "hidden" refugees and these would-be refugees? So far as the "hidden" refugees are concerned, the Commonwealth immigrants, we know what we can do. I cannot go into this matter at any length, but we have these strangers from foreign lands among us and what we can do to help them as individuals, as organisations, as Governments, is to make them feel welcome, to go out of our way to be good to them, to be helpful to them, to bring them into our own society in so far as they want to come into it—some of them do not, and we do not want to force them into it—and, above all, to avoid any action, any words, which make them feel unwelcome and alien. That is what we can do—that is what, in a very minor way, I suppose we can say we have tried to do—but that is where we must admit, in all honesty, that we have signally failed.

So far as the would-be refugees are concerned—the refugees from hunger, famine and starvation—I believe that the most reverend Primate hit the nail on the head; we must concern ourselves, not only with coping with the refugees when they arrive (which after all is only a symptom of the disease), but with the causes of the disease itself. We must concern ourselves with the poverty, hunger and lack of opportunity in all these countries. This can only be done, in one word, by "aid" in one form or another. Again it would not be right in a debate of this kind, and at this stage of the debate, to elaborate too much on what we should do; but we know that there is far more that we can do than give the 1 per cent. of our gross national product—and some people would call it, and I am one of them, far less than 1 per cent., and more like two-thirds of 1 per cent. There must be more technical aid; more investment in the infrastructure, the schools and the literacy, about which the most reverend Primate spoke, in technical education and many other things. There must also be a willingness on our part to take products from these countries, not at the lowest price we can push them down to in an open market, as we have done to our great benefit for many decades now, but at fair prices, prices which enable their people to lead the sort of life, and to give the opportunities to their children, which would mean that they will be able to stay in their own countries and not become refugees to the rich, developed countries of the West.

We must seriously consider positive, active support for the world food programme of F.A.O. I know that there has been much criticism of the Common Agricultural Policy of the Community, and in most cases it is justifiable criticism. There has been much talk of unwanted surpluses—and they have been not so much unwanted as an embarrassment; but we should, in our own rich Western Europe, deliberately plan for a surplus of certain types of food, and particularly, as the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, mentioned, of milk. We should plan for this surplus of milk not for conversion into butter which, after all, is a luxury food, but for conversion into dried milk powder which can be conveniently and easily stored, albeit expensively, to send out to these countries not only in an emergency but as a regular part of a food programme, so that the growing children in the poorer countries do not, as happens at present, suffer from malnutrition and the diseases and handicaps which go with it. We must have in our own rich Western world a food programme which provides for these services to be given to the poor, developing countries.

Finally, I come to what we can do about those who, for political reasons, are prevented from leaving countries. I have instanced the Soviet Union, South Africa and Chile, but there are other countries where this problem arises from time to time. I admit that we do not have as much power as we should like, but I believe that we have far more power than we give ourselves credit for. In the last few weeks we have seen, to our own cost, the power of a small group of Arab countries banded together to impose their political will by economic pressure on a large mass of the richest countries in the world—the United States, Western Europe as a whole, and Japan.

I cannot believe that if the rich countries of the world had the will to bring pressure to bear on those who exercise political oppression on a relatively small number of people, they would not have some measure of success. We do not try partly because we are frightened, partly because we are not really interested, and partly because it is too much trouble and might have some transient effect upon our balance of payments. If that is the way we feel, let us say so, and let us cease talking about refugee problems, oppression, and trying to help the oppressed, whether they be politically or economically oppressed. Let us cease to be hypocrites. The price we are being asked to pay here is not, after all, such a very great one. Our standard of living will go on rising. Perhaps it will not rise quite so fast; perhaps the second car in the garage will come six or eighteen months later, and perhaps the holiday in Spain will have to be postponed or will be only 10 days instead of a fortnight. That is the sort of sacrifice we have to make if we are to succeed. I do not think it is too much to ask. But, as I say, if we are not prepared to do that—if we prefer our second cars and our 14 days in Spain—then let us be honest enough to say so, and let us cease to have debates such as this, although I hope that the latter will not come about.

5.50 p.m.


My Lords, I am speaking to-day on behalf of myself and on behalf of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, to whom my noble friend Lord Monckton of Brenchley referred, a member of whose Sovereign Council I was for two years some years ago, and whose Secretary General of the British Association I am and have been for some 17 years. The Order of Malta has been in existence for nearly 1,000 years and was engaged in hospitaller activities in the wider sense of the term before the term "refugee" was invented. To bring it up to date, its constitutions, which were revised in 1961, provide specifically for activity in regard to refugees. The Order maintains a permanent Delegation to the Geneva Office of the United Nations specialist organisations including U.N.H.C.R., and was admitted by special Statute as an observer to that organisation and attends the various meetings of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's programme. It has always been assiduous in its support of the High Commissioner's activities—whoever he may be—and, of course, for many years in the recent past, the present incumbent of that office.

Being, so far as the United Nations is concerned, a sovereign State with observer status, and at the same time through its various national associations qualifying as a voluntary body, I feel particularly privileged to mention its activities in this debate. So far as the United Kingdom is concerned, the British Association is a full member of the Council of the British Council for Aid to Refugees and co-operates fully with the activities of that organisation which, as other noble Lords, and I think my noble friend who initiated this debate pointed out, is a valuable one although limited in its field of application to refugees in the United Kingdom. We are most grateful to my noble friend for introducing this debate although it has been said that we should not say so because everybody knows it. I should also particularly like, on behalf of the British Council for Aid to Refugees, to thank my noble friend for her mention of the great work done by Dame May Curwen under whose presidency I was privileged to work for some years.

The British Council for Aid to Refugees, and I think all voluntary organisa tions who work in the field of refugees, are particularly grateful to the U.N.H.C.R. and particularly to the current head of the High Commissioner's office in the United Kingdom, Mr. Warren Pinegar, who so far has not been mentioned in this debate. His enthusiastic assistance and co-operation over the Uganda Asian situation was most helpful.

I wonder whether the world at large, and the British public in particular, are aware of the gratitude which anyone involved in refugee activities internationally feels towards Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom over the Uganda Asian situation, in spite of perhaps some small lacunae which were mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd. We should like to extend a welcome and thanks to the Government for their co-operation and the essential humanity shown in reducing technicalities to a minimum in regard to refugees who would not have fallen into the category of those eligible for permanent residence under the British Nationality Act, but who have been reunited with members of their families who were in fact so eligible and are in the United Kingdom. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, mentioned a number of cases where this had not been done and he pleaded with the Government for it to be done—and quite rightly: I could not agree more with him. On the other hand, I believe that there is a fairly large number of cases where the Government have been able to co-operate, and have so co-operated, and I should like to thank them for it.

The Government in the United Kingdom can also be justifiably proud of their record in signing and ratifying the various treaties concerning refugees. I believe they have not only taken an active part in promoting but have also signed and ratified all possible treaties concerning refugees and stateless persons. In this connection, a slightly historical one, it is interesting to note that one of the earliest of these treaties, the Special Protocol Concerning Statelessness of 1930 at The Hague, which the then United Kingdom Government ratified on January 14, 1932, has, as we learn from the Command Paper 5447, now entered into force on October 11, 1973–43 years later. Nevertheless I think we should be grateful for it.

The most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop of York referred to the work of Help the Aged, a commendable organisation, and talked about their activities for long-term refugees in this country. I might remind the House that other organisations, such as the British Council for Refugees, are also involved, and have been for many years, in that field. So far as long-term planning is concerned, which the most reverend Primate also mentioned, it is perhaps relevant that there are already voluntary activities in this field. In fact, a number of the Members of your Lordships' House present to-day are involved with me in such activities. There is what is known as the Jinja Group—perhaps this is not the time to mention this, as it is not specifically concerned with refugees. But there are such groups, concerned either with specific churches, ecumenically or supporting the Christian ethic, or perhaps not doing any of these things but all doing good work; and it is perhaps worth mentioning that some long-term source charitable activity in all senses is going on at the present time.

This debate, as shown by all who have spoken, is not a partisan one dividing either side of the House or any of the three or four parts of the House—I see that the Cross-Benchers have deserted us. It is a personal disappointment to me that the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, is not able to be here, because I am sure that if he had been here he would have intervened in the debate. He cannot be in his place to-day, so he informed me, because he has to be in Vienna on other business. I know that if he were present he would be paying a fulsome tribute, as he did privately in a Committee Room upstairs, to the work of the United Nations in the field of activity with which we are concerned, and especially to the present incumbent of the office of High Commissioner for Refugees, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan. The noble Lord would certainly not forget the tremendous work done by the many inter-governmental organisations active in the field; and, last but by no means least, the many national and international voluntary agencies.

In conclusion, I should like to echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, from the Opposition Front Bench in thanking my noble friend Lord Windlesham for taking time to-day to indicate to your Lordships and to the British public the importance which Her Majesty's Government attach to this subject, as is indicated by the fact that he, as Leader of the House, is to reply to this debate.

6.1. p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that not only everyone in this House but countless thousands of refugees outside it will have reason to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, for initiating this debate. The number of refugees all over the world has grown alarmingly during the last decade, but it is of striking significance that 71 per cent. of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees Fund has had to be devoted to Africa. Those of us who can recall the prosperous conditions prevailing in the Equatorial Province of the Sudan at the end of the Second World War, under the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium, have gone through endless anxieties about the fate of those magnificent Niletic tribes who were driven into exile with the advent of Independence. A veil was drawn over their fate for many years and, with a complete clamp-down on news, it was for a long time difficult to ascertain how many thousands of lives had been lost. But some 180,000 refugees, at least, sought sanctuary in neighbouring countries, and there it was primarily the United Nations High Commission for Refugees which came to their aid. For many years the plight of these refugees was almost unendurable, and it was only in 1972, after a change of policy by the Sudanese Government, that the vast task of repatriation came under way. I think it is a major achievement of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees that this return of so many thousands to their homeland was carried through so successfully, and it appears that 145,000 at least have already been repatriated. The British Government, to their credit, contributed £750,000 towards the cost of this operation, and no grant in aid could have been devoted to a better cause.

I had not intended to deal with the problem of the Palestine refugees, but after hearing the excellent speech, if I may say so, of the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, on this subject, I am drawn into one or two comments. I only wish—and indeed, we must all of us wish—that the problem of the Palestine refugees could be settled as speedily and as satisfactorily as that of the Sudan refugees, but the two problems are unfortunately slightly dissimilar. The territory of South Sudan is exceedingly vast—larger than the whole of Western Europe. The territory of Palestine, except for the Sinai Peninsula, is quite minute—less than the size of Wales. The numbers to be repatriated are also much vaster: one and a half million Palestine refugees compared with 180,000 expatriates from Southern Sudan. There are already one million Palestine Arabs on the West Bank of Palestine. The Arab territories are vast, and to the Arab States Palestine refugees, so far from becoming a liability, would prove an enormous asset, as the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has indicated, and as indeed they have already proved themselves to Kuwait and Bahrein. It is profoundly to be hoped that they will no longer be treated as political pawns in the war against Israel, and that the fate of these very gifted but tragic refugees will be settled happily as part of what we all hope will prove to be a permanent peace, not bedevilled by anti-Israel hatreds. In fact, Israel has tried very hard to improve their lot both in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and deserves some degree of praise for her efforts at reconciliation.

But to return to Africa. Those 180,000 refugees from Southern Sudan are but a small part of the vast numbers of refugees seeking shelter in the various Independent States of Africa. They are said to total at least a million, with 500,000 of them in the Republic of Zaire alone. With the fearful strife that occurred in Ruanda, and later in Burendi, appalling misery was created among the native inhabitants, and the number of refugees swelled by some 150,000 into all the neighbouring countries. Unfortunately,very little news of these tragedies has leaked into the outside world. All kinds of strains and counter-strains seem to have operated. But it is a mercy that the United Nations High Commission for Refugees was already there on the spot, able to carry out its great work quietly and unobtrusively. It is doubtful whether it was able to do more than deal with the fringe of these many problems, but what it did is deserving of the highest praise, and especially for its impartiality and non-involvement in the political issues, which enabled it to carry out this work of reclaiming human lives.

What is so often forgotten, amid the welter of statistics, is the intense human problems involved. Apart from the agonies of hunger and disease, everything in Africa was aggravated this year by the appalling drought the continent has suffered. It is as if all the elements had conspired to add to the already tragic plight of these unfortunate millions. Yet they are near to us in this country, and should be constantly in our thoughts. I shall never forget an experience we had in Eastern Nigeria in 1947. I was with a Colonial Office delegation under the late Lord Llewellin to what were then our four West African Colonies. We had a forced landing some distance from Makurdi, near the banks of the Benue river, and damaged our landing-gear. At once a crowd of native Africans gathered, mostly of the Fante tribe, some of whom had never seen an aeroplane before in their lives. Seeing our plight, a number of the villagers took us by the arm and invited us to spend the night in the shelter of one of their wattle huts, sleeping on the bare earth. It was a genuine gesture of kindliness and compassion which moved us deeply at the time. Fortunately, a relief plane arrived that evening and took us safely to Kano. But these people feel and suffer just as we do ourselves, and now have to endure agonies which so many of us in this country have never had to face.

If we think of Africa, with its 250 million inhabitants, what of the hundreds of millions in Asia, particularly in India, and of the two-thirds of the world's total population, barely able to ward off the pangs of starvation and disease? It is a strange irony that we in this country should be preoccupied with a strike of ambulance-drivers for higher wages and with miners banning overtime because they seek special treatment under Phase 3. What distorted ideas we seem to have acquired about human values and the sufferings of the world outside! How long can we hope to survive as a nation if we fail to hear the cry of the great majority of those in dire need all over the world's surface? Perhaps to-day's debate about the plight of hundreds of thousands of refugees, living in misery and poverty and degradation, may do a little to restore us to a true sense of human dignity and a willingness to share a little more gratefully with others some of the freedoms and blessings that we have inherited and are able to enjoy through no merit of our own.

6.11 p.m.


My Lords, thanking the noble Baroness for leading us in this debate gives one the opportunity of expressing to her as well as to the High Commissioner for Refugees our sincere admiration for both in the work they have done. I became associated with work for refugees at the time of the World Refugee Year some 15 years ago, and I have known the wonderful work that she has done and is doing now. I think that what has been said in this debate also indicates our admiration for the High Commissioner, Sadruddin Aga Khan, whose powers seem to me to be minimal but whose influence is vast. I heard the other day that there had been an official publication—I did not see it—in which a figure had been put upon the number of refugees that there had been since 1945. That figure was put at 50 million and it was suggested that there were many more, aggregated from 1945 to the present time, covering all the problems which have beset the world since then, be they in the Far East or elsewhere. Whether that figure is correct or not is, I think, immaterial. The size of the problem is vast, the figures stupendous. Even this year, in his 1972 Report, the High Commissioner announces that 2.5 million come under his charge and there are many more who do not—such as, for instance, those who are leaving Russia at the present time. It is a permanent and not a temporary phenomenon.

In some measure I wish I could agree with the noble Lord, Lord Walston, that the main origin and cause of the existence of the problem lay in poverty; but I fear that it does not. I think that that is a contributory factor but I believe it lies in population growth and the problems that arise from that. It arises also from the formation of new States, the development of national identities, perhaps in some cases following colonial rule, antagonism as to minority groups, ethnic and religious, and so on. I do not think it is exclusively related to poverty. Being a permanent phenomenon, as I see it, it raises the importance of the Conventions which have been mentioned and the importance of the office of the High Com missioner. Clearly, the ultimate objective of the international protection afforded by the Conventions, by the States, the parties to them, and by the High Commissioner's Office, must be to ensure that refugees cease to be refugees. But the High Commissioner's Office has remarkably few powers. It is a humanitarian office and has a humanitarian function. The States alone have the power, the money and the capacity to provide the homes, the work, the security and the nationality. The States alone, together with voluntary bodies, have the money and manpower facilities to move refugees and to give them succour in transit. The High Commissioner can help in that regard and above all can oil the wheels. He can co-ordinate and put the plans in motion; but he can really not attack the fundamentals.

My relationship with the refugee problem arose some 15 years ago in connection with a Jewish organisation, the Central British Fund for Relief and Rehabilitation, the main Anglo-Jewish refugee organisation of which I have the privilege to be the Chairman. I thought it might be of interest to refer to two matters removed from statistics because I believe that there are problems, and perhaps solutions, within a smaller compass. Some years ago there were in Morocco 350,000 Jewish people—and there was a Jewish kingdom in Morocco before Mohammed was born; so it is an old-standing community. Those 350,000 have now been reduced to something of the order of 25,000. That means that the 25,000 remaining are the old, the sick, and those who cannot for one reason or another leave. They are able to remain there without molestation; but they have no support from the living community which used to exist because the young, the able and the energetic have left. Therefore it remains for the voluntary organisations to provide support for those who are left behind. I think it is relevant to remember that if the possibility exists for such people to remain unmolested in countries of their origin, the voluntary organisations are really the only ones in a position to assist; because it is only in the most sophisticated countries that the kind of social security arrangements to which we are accustomed exist.

There is another point relating to the reception of refugees from a different culture. I am thinking of the hundreds of thousands who arrived in France from North Africa, and particularly from Algeria. The problem really was this: that certainly the Jewish community in Algeria, quite a substantial one, had lived in a comparatively unsophisticated community and they found themselves shipped (altogether some 300,000 of them) into France, a civilisation and country of the utmost sophistication. Had those refugees—because they were refugees—from North Africa into France not maintained the integrity of their culture as practicised by them, had they not maintained a cohesion and self-respect, I believe the whole morale of that influx of people would have collapsed entirely. In certain cases, where conscious effort and action was not taken to maintain the cohesion of the unit, this has happened.

The moral is this: that where you get a group of substantial size coming from one culture into another you must have regard to the maintenance of the morale and culture of that group and not expect or wish them to integrate immediately into an entirely different type of morality and customs. If you do so, their morale will disintegrate straight away. It is interesting—and we are accustomed to hearing and perhaps making attacks ourselves—that certain of the people who have arrived here, refugees like those from Uganda or others, have been able to maintain and have maintained a certain communal unity which has added great strength to them and to this country; for this country depends for its strength greatly upon diversity, not conformity.

I will refer now, by contrast, to the position in Russia. It is estimated that a total of 80.000 Jews will have left Russia by the end of 1973. I mark the difference—that people do not go as refugees to Eastern Europe and to Russia. It is a remarkable fact, and it is public knowledge—there is nothing new about it—that in September (that is, just before the commencement of the Middle East war) there came from Russia a total of 3,500; in October, 4,137, and in November, up to the 20th, 2,470, mostly via Austria despite the blackmail of the terrorists against the Austrian Government in respect of the Schoenau transit camp. Anyone who has been concerned with this problem owes a great debt of gratitude to the Austrians for the assistance they have given in allowing these transit arrangements over so many years. It is worth mentioning that these refugees, for they are refugees, do not come under the High Commissioner but under the International Committee for European Migration. In Russia the applicant for an exit visa, as we know from practical experience over so long a period now, loses his job once the application has been made. Pressure is put on parents and relations to prevent his departure; and also he loses the social security to which otherwise he would have been entitled.

If your Lordships will forgive me, I will mention a case which is currently much in the news, the Panovs, because I think it is typical. I mention them not because they happen to be well-known people, but because I think they typify the situation. There is Valerie, who is Jewish and who is one of the leading people in the Kirov Ballet, and his wife, Galina, who is also a leading figure in the Ballet and who is not Jewish. They applied for exit visas in order to enable them to leave Russia. As has been well publicised, both lost their jobs on application for the visas. Then there was the hunger strike by Valerie and, perhaps consequent on that, the visas were promised, but after all these months they have not even yet been granted. We know that pressure was brought to bear on Galina's mother from the K.G.B. to try to persuade the wife and to prevent her from going, and to prevent her husband from going. But, as I understand it, they are determined to go. It may sound pompous and turgid, but it is fair to say, I think, that those who preach human solidarity must practise it with compassion and human understanding. My Lords, at this point may I interject that I have been fortunate enough to be able to attempt some assistance to refugees. In that context I have had contact with the Home Office and I cannot pay too high a tribute to the way in which they administer their duties.

In his moving statement to the 24th Session of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's programme, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, referred in her opening remarks—it is the first Annex to the Report published by the United Nations dated October 18, 1973—the High Commissioner refers to the problems with which his office is confronted. Political events affecting individuals and groups are inevitably linked with refugee problems. About these the High Commissioner can and is supposed to do nothing. Likewise, countries to which refugees would like to go restrict entry on grounds of difficulty, either real or imagined, of a financial or political character, and these have to be recognised. New refugees are, therefore, often as unwanted in the countries to which they seek admission as they were at home.

May I quote a sentence which very much struck me, and which appears very close to the extract that the noble Baroness quoted? What the High Commissioner said was: At an abstract point in space and time stands U.N.H.C.R.,"— the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees— which is not supposed to be concerned with politics, U.N.H.C.R. which is non-political, humanitarian, U.N.H.C.R., which is supposed to be endowed wih some magical capability to assume responsibility for those groups and to find permanent solutions for them". The High Commissioner can do much by his influence, by promoting international conventions and practices and by personal intervention, but in the end the problem rests squarely on the States themselves in treating minorities fairly and not simply by expelling people whom they regard as unwanted; by providing transit facilities and, above all, by accepting within their capacity those who seek asylum and according to them the right to work and the security which alone can enable them to integrate into the community which they seek to join, with compassion and humanity.

My Lords, I believe that over the centuries this country has a marvellous record of humanity, from its liberal traditions, in relation to refugees; and I believe that within the difficult confines in which we find ourselves this Government, as previous ones, have done very well by refugees. There are only two things which I would ask of the Government. One is, if they feel they can, to increase the financial subvention to the High Commissioner's Office. I am sure that this is a good investment and would be well worth while. The present amount is quite small. But above all I would ask them to maintain, and if possible to increase, the representation and the secondment from this country of officers, so often Government officers, ex-Government officers and others, for refugee work at the United Nations and associated organisations. For it is remarkable that so much of the leadership in this field comes from individuals who derive from this country.

6.27 p.m.


My Lords, it is with some hesitation that I rise to make, I hope, a useful contribution in this debate. Circumstances prevented my being present at the beginning of the debate and therefore I want to apologise not only to your Lordships for any absence then but in particular—it always gives me great pleasure to refer to the noble Baroness as "my noble friend"—to apologise to the noble Baroness for not being present when she spoke. Also to my noble friend Lord Shepherd and, in part, to the most reverend Primate as I heard only part of his speech. Therefore I say that it is with some reluctance that I participate.

My Lords, I am never quite sure what useful purpose is served by debates in your Lordships' House. Frankly, I do not know whether they make any impact on the community. Much depends, of course, on the reporting of debates and those in your Lordships' House do not find much space in the national Press. But this is quite an occasion. I thought I knew a fair amount about the refugee problem, but it was not until I took my seat in your Lordships' Chamber that I realised that I knew very little.

This problem, as an earlier speaker has said, has been with us for so many years that now we accept it as part of our way of life. If this debate does nothing more than merely highlight the problem and indicate what is being done about it, and what more can be done, it will have served a useful purpose. Even a casual study of the situation shows quite clearly that of all the humanitarian situations with which mankind is concerned the plight of the vast and growing army of refugees should arouse not just our sympathy —that is fairly easily given and pretty cheap—but aso our most active help. This is of supreme importance. We may differ on the rights and wrongs of the various situations causing the problem, but in the last analysis it is our humanitarian obligation to do something tangible for those on the suffering end. Too often it is said that poverty is a threat to peace, and that from poverty stems a good deal of violence. That is quite true. Wherever we find situations where large numbers of people are deprived of a normal healthy life then we can expect the seeds of violence and perhaps a threat to peace.

My Lords, I do not wish to refer to the work done by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, but I want to make some reference to the work done by the United Nations Relief and Work Agency, because I have over the years seen a number of refugee camps for which they have been, and still are, responsible. I think that the United Kingdom record in the matter of refugees is one of which to be proud. I cannot find any reason for criticising the Government for what they have done and what they are doing. I think the record is good. I am not only referring to the contribution to U.N.R.W.A., but to the general fund of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for emergency relief programmes, from which has been spent a considerable sum of money both in Bangladesh and in Southern Sudan.

I want to refer to the situation so far as U.N.R.W.A. is concerned, because I wonder how many people in this country realise how much the United Kingdom are doing. Of all the European Economic Community countries, there is no country making a greater contribution to the United Nations Relief and Work Agency than the United Kingdom. We are in fact contributing nearly 5 million dollars to that fund. It is true that Germany is contributing something like 4,800 million dollars, and recently the E.E.C. have decided to give as a group something just over 7 million dollars. But every other E.E.C. country is giving considerably less. The United Kingdom contribution has risen by 8½ per cent. over the period to 1972. My only comment is that not only does this not reflect the rise in U.N.R.W.A.'s costs, but I would go so far as to say that it does not reflect our growing responsibility. As I have already said, I do not intend this as a criticism of the Government. The other Common Market countries—and we must bear in mind that they are giving considerably less—have, on the other hand, increased their contributions by 27 per cent. All I would say to the Government is that if they can see their way clear to increase the contribution, not only do I think that they will do so, but I feel certain they will. I think we should all be extremely glad that the United Kingdom are doing as much as this.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but I would, with respect, suggest that the contribution of the United States of America is of great significance to U.N.R.W.A.


The noble Lord will recall that I was talking about the E.E.C. countries. I accept what he says, although I should be tempted to say that having regard to the vast resources of the United States, compared to our contribution theirs is quite small. In October, 1972, U.N.R.W.A. wrote to OXFAM in these terms: We should end this year with a total income of 59.4 million dollars. Our expenditure is currently estimated at 62.7 million dollars. Consequently, we foresee a deficit of some 3.3 million dollars. As I think the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, pointed out, to a large extent this is due to inflation, devaluation and a whole variety of increased costs. But the estimated expenditure for the current year is likely to be in the region of 70 million dollars; and if the present level of income is maintained, by the end of next year there could be a deficit of something like 10 million dollars. If reductions have to be made, this would cause much more hardship, frustration and bitterness. It could even wreck the hopes for future self-support of many thousands of refugees, and would, I think, have immense implications for peace and security.

My Lords, what has impressed me more than the contribution made by the United Kingdom Government, which of course has been invaluable, is the work undertaken by 27 voluntary organisations in the United Kingdom, working for refugees under the guidance of the Standing Conference of British Organisations for Aid for Refugees. Between them they do an enormous amount of work. Yet each organisation is dependent on help from large-hearted and generous people. I think it would be true to say that every one of those organisations could do far more than they are doing at the moment if only they had the financial means. I wonder how many people in the United Kingdom realise not only the depth, breadth and height of the problem, but also what is being done by those 27 organisations. Knowing as we do of the existence of such an enormous problem, I can only hope that as a result of this debate some real evidence of the need, and of the value of the work being done, will reach the people of the United Kingdom.

My noble friend Lord Segal referred towards the end of his speech to our concept of human values. It appalled me recently to see a full page advertisement in one of our national daily newspapers, which was repeated, I think, in one of our Sunday nationals, for fine clarets and fine burgundies. I find that I can buy one bottle of Chateau Latour 1899 for £295. If I want one not quite so good, I can get it for £253. If I want a Chateau Beychevelle I can get it for £231.40. Perhaps your Lordships will forgive me if I say that I should be happy indeed if those people who bought it choked when they drank it. Most of us have been inundated in recent weeks to buy—presumably as a hedge against inflation, though I do not know—all sorts of things, such as a Royal Wedding plate by Annigoni, and I find I have been invited to buy one in solid gold for £1,500. I have recently received a brochure—and I know that other noble Lords have received similar ones—from a well-known West End goldsmith, which asked me to start my collection modestly with an embossed cherub silver wine label for £5, or to indulge myself "in the splendour of a single-stone diamond ring at £12,000."

My Lords, this type of advertisement is possible because there are people in this country who have the money to buy these things. I hope that a message may go out from your Lordships' House today that if people have that amount of money, they should get their priorities right; they should get their values right, and they should ask themselves whether some part of their spending at that level ought not to go to some of the 27 organisations in the United Kingdom which are doing great credit to this country, working for a vast army of men and women who are less fortunately placed than most other people in this world.

6.42 p.m.


My Lords, I entirely agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, has just said about conspicuous consumption, though I am not sure that your Lordships' House is the best institution from which to send out such a message to the general public. I do not propose to follow the noble Lord in his extremely interesting and thoughtful discussion on the budgets of the refugee organisations, except to say how very much I welcomed the proposal made by the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, that we should use whatever influence we have to persuade the Arabs, that is, the O.A.P.E.C., the Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries, to use some of the greatly increased oil revenues that they will derive from the rise in prices to alleviate the problems of the refugees, and especially the refugees in Palestine, for whom I would suggest they have a great responsibility.

The other day I was reading a stockbroker's circular referring to the oil crisis which showed that with no increase in production by the Middle East States between 1973 and 1974 the revenues of those countries would go up from 10 billion dollars to 15 billion dollars. If one looks at the projections which have been made of revenues accruing to those countries up to 1980, with fairly modest increases in their output, by that year they will reach 90 billion dollars. This is more than the total overseas investment of the United States going to nations which have very small populations. It would be no hardship whatsoever to them to devote some portion of that increase in revenue to the victims of the Palestine situation. In saying that, I am not trying to apportion blame to one side or the other; I am merely saying that a vast quantity of money is flowing into the Middle East and that an even greater quantity will flow there, some of which might be used in a humanitarian way.

The noble Lord suggested that one of the purposes of debates in this House, which does not attract much attention in the national Press, is to get something tangible done. I agree with him, and I should like to make some proposals to which I hope that the Government will listen. But I cannot go along with the noble Lord in saying that there is no reason for criticising the Government in respect of their record on refugees. This statement was also made by the noble Viscount, Lord Furness, and it was touched on too by the noble Lord, Lord Sandys—although he was speaking principally of the Uganda Resettlement Board and not of the Government themselves.

I want to discuss the problems of a small number of refugees from Uganda who went to India at the time of the emergency and who have been stranded there ever since, separated from the rest of their families now in the United Kingdom. That problem was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd. While these people represent a small number of refugees, their problem is none the less significant and important to them. I am afraid we have allowed it to be lost sight of in the welter of self-congratulation over the way in which we have resettled those refugees who have been fortunate enough to reach this country.

Perhaps I might very briefly remind your Lordships how this situation arose. During the 90 days' grace period (if one might call it that) of General Amin's decree, the heads of households who already possessed British passports were admitted here, and also, so as to ensure their own safety, we admitted the wives and children who arrived here without any documentation, together with students under 25 years of age who were wholly dependent on their parents, so as to enable the adult sons and daughters who were still studying in Uganda at the time to accompany their parents to this country. Afterwards, as a further concession, we agreed to admit the men from refugee camps in Europe whose wives and children had already arrived in Britain. But the general rule was still that families would be expected to follow the head of the household to whatever country he ultimately settled in. That principle was given effect to in paragraph 47 of the new Immigration Rules, which says: An entry clearance will be granted to a husband if the Secretary of State is satisfied that there are special circumstances, whether of a family nature or otherwise, which render exclusion undesirable, for example, because of the degree of hardship which in the particular circumstances of the case would be caused if the wife had to reside outside the United Kingdom in order to be with her husband. Most of the husbands who, following expulsion, ended up in India have been living there ever since on the charity of relatives—distant relatives, in many cases. They have no home of their own and many of them have to share rooms. They have no prospect whatsoever of getting employment because, as non-citizens, they would not be entitled to take jobs in India; but they have been admitted by the Indian Government because the constitution of that country says that anyone of Indian origin has the right to come there but not to take a job. I have asked Mr. David Lane very frequently in correspondence to say how you can treat a man who has neither a job nor a home as being "settled" according to his understanding of the word. So far he has failed to answer that simple question, and I should be grateful if the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, in winding up, would give a definition to your Lordships.

I should like to quote one or two cases from my correspondence with Mr. Lane. There is the case of Mrs. Popat, who was in West Mailing for some time. I wrote to Mr. Lane as follows: The question is, how can a person be said to have been resettled if it is impossible for him to work and thus support his family? That letter was written on August 15, and I am still awaiting an answer to the point that I raised there. On September 3, I wrote about Mrs. M. C. Radia, who was also in West Mailing; and I said this: You have repeatedly said that families would be expected eventually to be reunited in the countries when the heads of the household have been resettled, but as far as I am aware you have never defined what you mean by the word 'resettled'. It must surely imply the opportunity of taking up employment, among other things, and if Mr. Radia has no chance at all of getting a job in India he cannot be said to have resettled there. Mr. Lane has not yet condescended to give me a reply to that letter. I should also like to quote from a third letter from a separated wife herself, a Mrs. S. B. Samani, who was in West Malling. She says to me: It has been a heartbreaking experience for me to see my children constantly crying for a reunion with their father. My Lords, this is happening to several hundred wives whose husbands are stranded in India—the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said that there are 300 of them, and I will accept his figures. I know of no case in which husbands in this position have been able to satisfy the Secretary of State that they qualify for admission under the paragraph of the Immigration Rules that I have quoted. It is quite obvious that if the wife and children had to join the husband wherever he happened to have ended up, in a country they had probably never seen before, there to become the hangers-on of distant relatives who could scarcely keep themselves, they would endure the most severe hardship imaginable. If they are in this country, even though they are deprived of the support of the husband and father, at least they are assisted by the State in the form of social security payments, and the children can go to school. They have a roof over their heads; they have something to eat, and they have hope of a better future. Whereas in India they would simply join the army of the destitute from which there is no discharge but death.

That is the stark contrast. It is impossible to think of any circumstances which would justify the exercise of the Home Secretary's discretion under paragraph 47 if those which I have described are insufficient to do so. The continued exclusion of these husbands is as illogical as it is inhumane. If it was right to admit the men who were lucky enough to have arrived in Europe last January, when the Home Secretary made that concession, how can it be justifiable now to exclude those who landed up elsewhere simply because they got on a different aircraft at the time of the emergency? Nor is it a question of numbers, and thus a possible conflict with the Government's policy of restricting immigration to the bare minimum if one accepts Lord Shepherd's figure of 300 as correct. If we are discussing only a few hundreds, the admission of those people would hardly be detectable in these statistics, and I suggest that noble Lords try to experiment as I have done. If noble Lords ask people who normally agree with Mr. Powell that immigration should be severely restricted what is their opinion about the admission of these husbands, they almost invariably say that an exception should be made so as to enable families to be reunited and that they would not carry their opposition to immigration so far as to deprive wives and children of the support of a husband and father and force them to live on social security.

The noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, was rather critical of the scale of the Government's support for the work of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Here is one way in which the size of the High Commissioner's problem can be reduced at a stroke, and without costing the taxpayer any money at all—in fact, the revenue would increase. Government spending would fall because the social security payments to families would no longer have to be paid and the husbands would be paying tax on their incomes.

What does the High Commissioner for Refugees say about this problem? I wrote to Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan in the summer and I asked him to use his influence with the British Government to secure the admission of separated hushands. In the absence of the High Commissioner his deputy replied to me in terms that indicate clearly their opinion that this is a United Kingdom rather than an international problem, although he does not say so explicitly. What the Deputy High Commissioner said is: We can do little more at present than advise them to apply to the British Diplomatic representatives for entry to the U.K. Having summarised the problem, that was the conclusion he reached. We are at an impasse because the British Government say that the people responsible are the United Nations High Commissioner, and the United Nations High Commissioner tells me in these terms that it is the responsibility of the United Kingdom Government. After a whole year, it is time we sorted out this point.

Apart from husbands I want to mention briefly the problem of the young people who were studying in India at the time of the emergency and who now, because they are over 21, cannot be admitted as dependants. As I have mentioned already, the students up to the age of 25 who were studying in Uganda at the time of the emergency were admitted. Here is another example of the Government's illogicality, because if the students were studying in the Indian sub-continent they are to be denied the opportunity of rejoining their families here, whereas their brothers and sisters who perhaps were studying at Makerere are able to do so. It is unlikely that we should even agree to admit them as visitors. Knowing the Home Office, I am sure they would say that young people would use this as an excuse to come here temporarily with the object of seeking permanent admission once they had arrived.

I could quote several cases here, but I will give your Lordships one example out of the many in my files. It is the case of Miss Bharania, who was detained following her arrival at Dover just before November 12, when I wrote to Mr. David Lane at the Home Office about her case. She was pretty determined: she had arrived here twice before; this was the third occasion. She had been studying in India and completed her course there. Because she was 24 she would not qualify for admission under the Immigration Rules. Her mother is totally blind in one eye and partially blind in the other, and has a history of heart trouble. As I should have explained, she is settled in the United Kingdom with the other brothers and sisters.

When the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants interceded with the Home Office on Miss Bharania's behalf on previous occasions when she arrived here she was told that the mother had other children to look after her and did not need this particular one. I am repeating what I have been told by the J.C.W.I. I have said to Mr. Lane that it is almost impossible to contemplate the inhumanity of that reply given to somebody who is being deprived of the support of a daughter. I hope very much that I have got the wrong end of the stick but, knowing some of the other answers that have been given by the Home Office officials, I am not sure that I disbelieve the report which has been made to me.

The most reverend Primate said that we should put compassion before political considerations and political expediency. In the case of both the separated husbands and the students I have mentioned, these forces should all be working in the same direction, because those who ought to be admitted for compassionate reasons would then make a valuable contribution to the economic well-being of our country. It is both inexplicable and immoral that we should deliberately separate families and cause untold misery to small children and their mothers and, at the same time, damage the interests of the whole community.

6.58 p.m.


My Lords, in a sense it is a coincidence that this debate and the last debate in this House on the subject of refugees, which was in 1967, should both have taken place in the immediate aftermath of a war in the Middle East. But it is no coincidence that the debate should have taken the form that it has and aroused such a great degree of interest in your Lordships' House, and such thoughtful and well-informed contributions. All wars produce refugees, and the recurring war in the Middle East cannot fail to remind us that we have not yet managed to solve one refugee problem which now, alas! has persisted for more than a quarter of a century.

Before commenting on some of the main points made in the debate, I should like to refer briefly to the United Kingdom Government's record regarding refugees and their policies, concerning not only refugees in the Middle East, but those in Africa and elsewhere. May I make one or two short remarks about the underlying ideas because they have been important for generations in this country, and they animate our public response to refugee problems.

The first is that we have a long tradition, and one of which we can be very proud, of concerning ourselves with the plight of other people, particularly refugees, regardless of whether the United Kingdom has been involved in the political upheavals which have given rise to the refugee situation. Of course, where we have no involvement we have no right to intervene, but what we can do is to provide help in money, help in food, help in supplies and in kind generally. Here of course all Governments—to-day's debate has shown again that ours is no exception—inevitably stand to be accused, to a certain extent, of a lack of generosity. I should like to return to that point, which was raised by several speakers—the scale of our financial support for the United Nations Agencies in this field—a little later. Here I make only the obvious point that Governments have to take account of the many other calls on their resources, notably in this field the need to provide assistance for development in countries where the poor are no less poor for not being refugees.

However, Government assistance is only one side of the practical aid which can be given, and which has been given so readily and so generously on many occasions. The second strand in the British tradition is the conviction and the vigour of its voluntary organisations, with which I am proud to have a particular relationship on behalf of the Government. The major British contribution to World Refugee Year—which has been mentioned already this afternoon, and which I remember so well in 1959 and 1960—amounted to the extraordinary figure of £10 million collected by the voluntary agencies. The noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, who moved this debate to-day, has had many achievements to her credit in her public career, but I should be inclined to think that one of her greatest achievements was bringing together all these voluntary agencies—each admirable in its way, with long traditions but with very different opinions of how to go about things—into that one co-ordinating Committee which she chaired so successfully in 1960 and for some time afterwards.

One of the consequences of World Refugee Year was that it left behind it a permanent structure for channelling assistance to refugees: the Standing Conference of British Organisations for Aid to Refugees. The Government recognise that much of the work by British organisations on behalf of refugees is to-day concentrated in the developing countries. There are almost thirty organisations collecting funds in this country and providing direct assistance to refugees, or to international organisations engaged on refugee questions. Nearly all of them direct some part of their effort to the developing world. Notable recent examples mentioned by several speakers have been in the Sudan and in Uganda. The need for co-ordination has been apparent to these organisations and to the Government. The organisations need to exchange information, to prevent overlap, and to find a common channel for communicating on refugee problems, both internationally as with the United Nations' High Commissioner for Refugees, and at home in keeping contact with the Government. This function has been carried out, and carried out very successfully, by the Standing Conference of British Organisations for Aid to Refugees, under its chairman Mr. Airey Neave.

We accept that the importance of such work does not diminish at time goes on. The facts, alas!, continue to speak for themselves and the public often respond generously with their contributions. So the Government applaud the work of the Standing Conference, and we believe it helps to ensure that the money provided by British charities is used to the best purpose.

The last speaker in the debate, the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, referred to his desire to get something tangible out of a debate of this kind. I will come back to the specific points he raised concerning East African Asians a little later on. But I agree with him: actions speak louder than words. I am therefore happy to be able to announce, on behalf of my right honourable friend the Minister for Overseas Development, that the Government have to-day agreed to provide a grant of £1,000 towards the administrative expenses of the Standing Conference in this and in the next financial year—a total of £2,000 in all.

To turn now to the world refugee situation confronting us to-day (I shall do this briefly), the consistently large numbers involved might all too easily lead us to a feeling of near despair. At times the problem seems so deeply rooted as to be almost incapable of solution. The most reverend Primate put this very well. He said that refugee problems are not hopeless unless you regard them as such, unless you think that they are. That should really be one of the themes for a debate of this sort and for public discussion outside. At the same time, we all know that there are no instant solutions to be found. So long as we have wars and racial, political, religious or any other form of persecution we shall continue to have refugees seeking asylum wherever they can find it. But there is another side to the picture. There are the unremitting efforts of the voluntary organisations in this country and elsewhere. There are the acts of many Governments who have given help either to single refugees or to very large numbers of refugees. We might just recall here that some African countries, whose administrative and financial resources are barely adequate for their own populations, have given help and succour to some of the largest groups of refugees. This fact might be kept in mind when we criticise, and criticise rightly, often in Parliament and in public opinion generally, the policies and practices from which these sad refugee events flow.

Above all, there is, as we look around this general area, the existence of and work of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. I should like to repeat on behalf of the Government the tributes that have already been paid to the work of these two organs of the United Nations and in particular to their heads, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan and Sir John Rennie. The noble Lord, Lord Nathan—I shared what he said so warmly—commented on the great contribution made by British officials who had been seconded to the international agencies in this field. Sir John Rennie is a British subject; he served with great distinction in the Foreign Office for some years; and Sadruddin Aga Khan also of course has very close ties with this country. The work of these two organisations represents a constant spur to hope.

As regards U.N.R.W.A., the Relief and Works Agency for Palestine, recent events in the Middle East have highlighted once again the plight of the Palestinian refugees who have been cared for by the Agency for, I am sorry to say, 23 years, since 1950. Mercifully, the fighting which has just ended did not create, in this instance, a new category of refugees, unlike the fighting in 1967 which left many thousands of persons displaced from their homes in Gaza and the West Bank. It is true that in the course of the fighting some 15,000 Syrian and Egyptian villagers have had to leave their homes, but unlike 1967 they have not been cate- gorised as "displaced persons". The Israelis were also prepared to see them return to their homes, subject to the Syrians' agreement to an exchange of prisoners. The Government welcome the agreement that has already been reached between the Egyptians and Israelis on certain immediate problems relating to the cease-fire. It is our hope that it will be possible to move on rapidly to an opening of negotiations between Israel and her Arab neighbours towards an overall solution of the Middle East problem. I do not think this is the occasion for me to speak at length about the Middle East situation. We have discussed it on a number of occasions in this House in the past and I have no doubt that we shall on other occasions in the future. I would only say to the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, to whose speech I listened with close attention, that it is of course accepted that an important element of a solution would be a just settlement of the refugee problem. That was one of the features of Resolution 242 of the United Nations in 1967.

In the meantime U.N.R.W.A. continues to be of the utmost importance in giving the Palestinians an existence to-day and a stake in to-morrow. We believe that U.N.R.W.A. has done a first-class job over the years and the British Government will continue to give it their support. We are already easily the second largest contributor to U.N.R.W.A. this year, with a contribution of £2 million. We are also a member of the working group on U.N.R.W.A.'s finances and have played an active part in stimulating efforts to solve U.N.R.W.A.'s financial problems. Our aim is two-fold: on the one hand to continue to give our backing to the work being done by U.N.R.W.A., and on the other hand to do everything we can to make that work unnecessary by bringing about a settlement—and a lasting settlement—in the area which has eluded us for so long.

In a different way the achievements of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees are worthy of comment. Although the High Commissioner has a responsibility for some two million refugees, half of whom are in Africa, and although this number is greater than when we debated this subject some six years ago, the intervening years have been marked by some really outstanding achievements. First, in connection with the aftermath of war between India and Pakistan, to which I shall return in a moment, there was what could be described in this field as an almost complete solution of the resulting very large-scale refugee problem. Second, there have been great achievements in the Southern Sudan, which were referred to in most interesting speech by my noble friend Lord Sandys, and also by the noble Lord, Lord Segal; and, third (this is also related to the Southern Sudanese situation), in the little publicised introduction of the concept of "zonal development." This is the resettlement of refugees in the regional zone, if not in the actual country from which they originated, in such a way as to assist the development of the zone.

In the sub-continent of India between April, 1971, and February, 1972, the Government of India had to cope with one of the largest refugee problems of recent years when several million refugees from East Pakistan crossed their borders. The plight of these refugees during the 1971 monsoon, as we can all remember from the reporting on television and in the other media, was a terrible one. But the Government of India and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (who co-ordinated aid from other Governments) nevertheless did a magnificent job in housing and caring for them. Britain made a total contribution of £14.75 million towards the cost of this work, and a number of British charities also played a very significant role in the work of relief. This particular refugee situation was remarkable, and I think we can all regard it as encouraging for the speed with which it resolved itself, once the cause of the migration was removed. Within three months of the independence of Bangladesh virtually all the refugees had returned to their homes, leaving behind little trace of their camps. I think this shows—and we can take some encouragement from it—that not all refugee problems need be enduring and prove resistant to any solution.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has also made an international appeal to Member States in connection with the situation in Chile, which was first raised by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, and then taken up by the noble Lord, Lord Soper, and other noble Lords in the debate this afternoon. The U.N.H.C.R. has appealed to Member States to do all they can to help to absorb the substantial number of refugees at present seeking to leave Chile. In keeping with our normal traditions Her Majesty's Government have answered this appeal. Subject to the personal acceptability of individual applicants, we will give shelter to those refugees who have given this country as their first choice and who, because of their knowledge of the English language, or ties with this country, have the greatest claim to come here and can most easily be assimilated. We do not think that the situation is one which would justify specifying a particular quota: experience in this field has shown that quotas are hardly ever realistic. This is not to say that an applicant who satisfied the entry criteria I have mentioned would be turned away.

As regards the situation of the British Embassy in Santiago, the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said in another place on November 20 that a total of 14 direct requests for asylum had been received, three from British subjects and one from an Irish citizen. These were accommodated by the Embassy for short periods until they were able to leave. There were ten other requests which were not from British or Irish citizens. Mr. Amery continued: It is not the policy of Her Majesty's Government that British Embassies should be used for providing asylum to non-British nationals. An Ambassador has discretion to offer sanctuary to non-British individuals who are under immediate threat of death or injury in the vicinity of the Embassy. Those non-British persons mentioned above who requested asylum did not come under this category."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons Vol. 864, col. 395.] This policy, which has been a traditional one applied by successive Governments for some years, of not granting asylum in Embassies, has stood the test of decades of practice. On occasions it has of course been morally distasteful for British Ambassadors abroad to have to refuse asylum to individuals—for example, in Eastern European countries during the immediate post-war years. However, we must remember that the business of an Embassy abroad is to safeguard British interests and to conduct business with the Government of the country concerned, and to take care not to take any part in the internal affairs of that country. I understand that this policy is currently shared by many other Governments who are represented in Chile.

The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, asked me a number of other questions. One concerned a questionnaire which had been sent by the United Nations to a number of Governments, including the British Government. He asked whether any reply had been sent. I have made inquiries and understand that a reply has not been sent, but I shall certainly do everything I can to expedite it. I am told that it is a long questionnaire which covers a wide field and has involved much consultation. I agree with the noble Lord that replies to questionnaires of this sort should be sent with despatch and I will certainly try to speed it up with the Minister concerned. I am grateful to the noble Lord for raising this matter.

The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, also asked about travel documents. The Home Office do issue travel documents to those in the United Kingdom who are accepted as refugees, and similarly refugees settled in the United Kingdom are entitled to social security benefits in the same circumstances and on the same basis as our own nationals.

The noble Lord asked about further assistance for emergency relief in the Southern Sudan. In response to an appeal by the U.N.H.C.R. for further assistance with the transportation of relief supplies purchased in the United Kingdom, the Government have offered £25,000, which sum is additional to the £500,000 already donated to the U.N.H.C.R. general appeal, to be spent on air freightage of supplies to the Sudan in civil aircraft. As regards transfer of people between Bangladesh and Pakistan arising out of the India/Pakistan agreement signed in New Delhi on August 28, 1973, in order to keep two R.A.F. Britannias in the air—the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd asked about this—we are already committed to using a third aircraft for rotation purposes. If I may move on, because I do not wish to take up the time of your Lordships' House—


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but this is important. The plea I made was that there should be a third aircraft to replace the Russian aircraft now unfortunately withdrawn. I do not expect the noble Lord the Leader of the House to reply now, but would he look into this matter, because these aircraft are desperately required?


My Lords, I will certainly look into it, and I am sorry if the answer I gave did not quite meet the point of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd. However, we have three aircraft and the noble Lord can rest assured that the aircraft will be used for this purpose.

My Lords, may I turn to the most constructive speech made by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York, to which we listened with close interest and attention. He was well supported on the Bishops' Bench when he made his speech, although I notice that his companions on that Bench have melted away. I was very glad that the most reverend Primate raised the question of closer international co-ordination of relief operations in the case of natural disaster. The United Kingdom played a prominent part in helping to establish the Office of the United Nations Disaster Relief Co-ordinator. All these offices are abbreviated to initials, and this one abbreviates to U.N.D.R.O. This office was established rather more than a year ago, and the first Co-ordinator was Ambassador Berkol of Turkey. It has already been put to the test and has earned widespread respect. We have always stressed that what is required is a Co-ordinator, and not an organisation to duplicate the immense resources of the United Nations system. That is what we now have. We have also stressed, and are doing so in New York (where the work of the U.N.D.R.O. is being debated by the Third Committee of the General Assembly at this moment) that there is also a need for U.N.D.R.O. to give increased emphasis to the co-ordination of pre-disaster planning.

In this context I can tell the most reverend Primate that our delegation will be referring to the value of the knowledge of military contingency planning. We shall be suggesting that when countries seek the help of U.N.D.R.O. for pre-disaster planning, U.N.D.R.O. in responding should look for consultants with military planning experience. In our view, this will help the national authorities to make the best use of military resources and to recognise what types of military assistance may be available for elsewhere. But we have to remember that some of the countries may have reservations about drawing on military assistance from the developed countries of the West, many of them, of course, with a colonial past.

My Lords, this leads on to the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, about the possibility of international stockpiles. The noble Lord told us that he would in all probability not be able to remain for the end of the debate, but even in his absence I wish to pay tribute to the magnificent work he has done as Chairman of the Save the Children Fund. I have seen some of this work. The work done by members of the staff and volunteers in that organisation has been beyond praise. The noble Lord asked in particular about international stockpiles. Some work has been done on this. When the United Nations Disaster Relief Office became operational last year, careful consideration was given to the desirability of world or regional stockpiling and the need for strategically placed supply depots. On balance it was decided, not only by Her Majesty's Government but by most of those concerned with the United Nations Disaster Relief Office, that the problems connected with large stockpiles, particularly their siting and maintenance, outweighed the possible advantages. In the argument on the stockpiling of supplies for possible refugee situations, one important factor in reaching a decision was that relief supplies could be sent from Western Europe or North America, where substantial national stockpiles were already kept, to a stricken country as quickly as from a stockpile which was near by but happened to be located in a different country from the one in which the disaster occurred.

Financial support for the United Nations Agencies concerned with refugees was mentioned by many speakers. The noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, referred to some comparative figures, mainly within Western Europe. The noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, also referred to the scale of support, as did the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, and others. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office got out for me a league table showing the general picture in terms of donations by this country and other major donors to the U.N.H.C.R. and the U.N.W.R.A., and the special grants made to either of these organisations in 1972. The figures are given, for convenience, in United States dollars. I have described the items that make up the table and give the whole picture, and the United States is easily in the lead. I think we must recognise the generosity of the United States. The noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, has just referred to this in reply to an interjection from my noble friend Lord Sandys. The United States' contribution in 1972 was 35,911,000 dollars. The United Kingdom was second in the world, taking all the items I have mentioned, with 6,530,000 dollars; Sweden, 5.4 million dollars; West Germany, 4.9 million dollars; France, 1.9 million dollars. So, by comparison with other highly developed industrialised countries, I think we can hold up our heads. We ought to be the last to say that this is enough, and the noble Baroness and others will be on the tail of the Government on future occasions if we do.

I hope the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, will forgive me if I do not follow him in detail on the points he has raised concerning the Uganda Asians. It is not in any way to deny the importance of his speech. I know very well indeed the active role that the noble Lord plays in furthering the interests of those unhappy Asians who have left Uganda and who have either come to make their homes in this country, or would like to do so. I know my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Home Office, who does the job I used to do when I was there, shares the same outlook as that of the noble Lord and the Home Secretary, that this is an exceptionally difficult problem, and one we must handle in the interpretation of regulations with as much flexibility and as much sympathy and sensitivity as we possibly can. I should like to take up with my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary what the noble Lord said. He spoke in some detail. We must see whether we can move things along a little more in the direction in which he would like to see them moving.

My Lords, in conclusion, may I once again on behalf of the Government and of your Lordships' House, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot, for her initiative in raising this debate. I should like to end with some words that I noticed were spoken by the then United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Dr. Goedhart, High Commissioner in the early 'fifties, on the occasion of the giving of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Office of the U.N.H.C.R. in 1955. He said: The refugee problem has nothing to do with charity. It is not the problem of people to be pitied, far more of people to be admired. It is the problem of people who somewhere, somehow, sometime, had the courage to give up the feeling of belonging, which they possessed, rather than abandon the human freedom which they valued more highly.

7.30 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, very much for his splendid speech, and more particularly for his immediate response to my very tentative suggestion that the Government might give more money to the Standing Conference. I am bound to tell the House I did not expect to receive an instant reply like that. I cannot thank him sufficiently, and I know that everybody to do with the Standing Committee will be deeply grateful. I hope that he will convey that feeling to the Government, to Mr. Wood and to those responsible.

I am also extremely grateful to all who have taken part hi this debate. It has been extremely interesting and well worth our afternoon here. I am most grateful to Lord Shepherd, who raised many points of great importance which I myself did not know about, and we are all very grateful to the most reverend Primate. We do not alas! hear his voice in this House as often as we should like, but when we do we all feel that we are listening to someone of supreme distinction. All that he has said has, I am sure, been noted by all of us.

I was particularly interested in what the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, had to say, speaking as a soldier and from the Order of St. John, an Order which does a magnificent job. I always listen to Lady Gaitskell with the greatest interest since she has had direct experience at the United Nations, and particularly in the Commission for Human Rights. What she says we all appreciate, and it carries great weight.

The noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, equally has great experience in the Foreign Office, and in many other ways he makes a great contribution; and the same applies to the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye.

I was most interested in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Soper, particularly when he talked about the Council for Christians and Jews, a body for which I have always had great respect and for which I have done some occasional work. The noble Lord, Lord Sandys, and the noble Lord, Lord Walston, also made excellent contributions. I am grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Furness, for speaking, and also to Lord Segal, who knows so much about the questions of refugees, particularly in the Middle East; to the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell who I know had to make some considerable effort to come here, and the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for their contributions.

My Lords, I think this debate will have given great encouragement to all those people who work in refugee organisations, and I am sure the High Commissioner will be very interested to read what your Lordships have said. The Report will certainly go to his office.

I thank all noble Lords very much indeed, and I now ask leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.