HL Deb 17 December 1980 vol 415 cc1142-74

5.30 p.m.

Lord Ritchie-Calder rose to call attention to Britain's role in the United Nations and its Specialised Agencies; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. This is much too big a subject for adequate treatment in a two-and-a-half hour debate, but I took the opportunity of the ballot to provide a reminder to your Lordships' House that, while we offer lip-service and, frequently, reproaches to something called the UN, we rarely consider the organisation or its institutions. In our preoccupations with the political aspects of the Security Council and the General Assembly, we tend to forget that over 80 per cent. of the resources of the UN "family" are devoted to positive practical improvements in the human condition like (and I take only one example from hundreds I could cite) the incredible achievement of the World Health Organisation in abolishing smallpox from the face of the earth. I think this is something which, 40 years ago, people would have conceived as utterly impossible in terms of public health. When we are critical and sometimes disenchanted by the shortcomings of the United Nations, we are forgetting that it is not a supranational but an international body, dependent on the loyalty, the input of high-quality personnel, the financial and material resources, the judgment and the experience of member states. Nothing short of that can serve. Hence the reference in the case of this Motion to "Britain's role".

In the debate on the Queen's Speech the Lord Chancellor referred, at col. 24 of the Official Report, to a rather clever American who said that Britain had lost an Empire and had not yet discovered a role". Many, apart from the noble and learned Lord, took umbrage when Dean Acheson, who had been Truman's Secretary of State, discarded us thus in an obiter dictum. Those people included me, a life-long anti-colonialist, who in fact regarded Briain's magnanimous disengagement from an empire as a unique historical gesture, not to be compared in any terms to any part of history. I certainly did not regard myself as a pallbearer of the British Empire, but as a trustee for the heirs of empire.

Nor at that time was there any doubt at all about our role. Britain's manifest destiny was to give a lead to the world community through the Commonwealth and through the United Nations. Our late colleague Lord Boyd-Orr, when he was Director-General of FAO, insisted that the Commonwealth had a tremendous role to play because it was a complete cross-section of the world's problems and opportunities—races, colours, creeds, climate, geography and all levels of development from our industrialised dominions to our emergent colonies. We could make available our experience, and, Yes, we could make available the hard learned lessons of our own mistakes. We did then have influence and respect, and when sometimes we were treated disrespectfully we had the tolerance of our own maturity.

We also had the trained personnel—administrators, doctors, nurses, agronomists, foresters, engineers and teachers—with living experience of our colonial services, which had spread across a third of the world. And there was the back-up of our educational and research stations here in Britain.

I remember the pride and satisfaction I had, as professor of international relations at the University of Edinburgh, in being able to work with and through every department of the university—our prestigious medical faculty, our veterinary department, our forestry and natural resources department, our education department, our botany department, our agricultural department and even (I am sorry; I did not mean that pejorative "even")—and indeed the faculty of divinity as well, with all its experience of missionaries in the field.

We were then instructing our students, not only about the new kind of world which the United Nations exemplified but the relevance of their professions to the new opportunities for service. My vainglorious boast is that I was probably the only professor who ever got a standing ovation from the vets. All I had done was to remind them, with examples from my technical assistance travels, of the crucial role veterinary science and medicine had to play in succouring the multiplying millions. In fact, I just pointed out that all creatures great and small included the hungry human beings as well. I would remind your Lordships that, apart from the British students, who were training in this sense to go abroad, we had students from all parts of the world, and we were helping them to help themselves.

Britain was redeploying its imperial resources in the service of the United Nations and its specialised agencies—FAO, UNESCO, ILO, WHO, the World Bank, the IMF, UNICEF, UNDP and all the other acronyms. In two-and-a-half million miles of travel, mainly for the United Nations and its agencies, in unlikely places and all over the world, I have met first-class, dedicated British experts merged in the field missions under the United Nations flag.

I would remind your Lordships of the cardinal role Britain played in the origins of the United Nations and its agencies: at Bretton Woods, with Keynes shaping the World Bank and IMF; at Hot Springs, where we created FAO—with, I might point out, my noble friend Lord Redcliffe-Maud as one of the delegates—and where we gave effect to the pre-war concepts of our late colleague, Lord Boyd-Orr; at Philadelphia, giving a new remit to the International Labour Organisation; in London, fashioning UNESCO out of the findings of the Committee of Allied Ministers of Education; at Dumbarton Oaks, fleshing out the United Nations itself, with its radical new concept of the Economic and Social Council in which, as never before in history, Governments were accepting responsibility for peoples other than their own and providing the specialised agencies which were functionally to implement that concept. And there were to be the other instruments, like the Intergovernmental Maritime Organisation, now based here in London, in which Britain, notably, with all its history, has a cardinal role to play and a contemporary responsibility to bear in safeguarding the seas that Britannia once ruled.

I would remind your Lordships that the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, who I saw in the House a minute ago, was the executive secretary of the Preparatory Commission of the United Nations; and that the deputy secretary was A. D. K. Owen, who went on to become Assistant Secretary-General of the UN and chairman of the technical assistance board. Lord Gladwyn's personal assistant on the Commission was Mr. Brian Urquhart, who became personal assistant to Trygve Lie, the first Secretary-General, and then became the grey eminence and indeed the biographer of Dag Hammarskjöld. He is still there at the United Nations as under-secretary. He is the last key Briton in the higher echelons of United Nations itself. Indeed—and I hope the Minister will correct me if I am wrong—with the retirement of William Clark, whose vice-presidency coincided with the humanisation of the World Bank, I would venture to say that there is no British personality in any of the top ranks of any United Nations institution today.

Your Lordships, I hope, will not misunderstand me. I am not chauvinistic. I do not believe, and in fact I reject completely, that Britain or any country should have a statutory right to any position in the United Nations. I have even criticised "geographical preference"—which is sound enough in its principle of ensuring that cultures and countries are represented in the secretariats, but totally abused when professionalism, efficiency and integrity are subordinated to political considerations and to government manipulation. The integrity is paramount. Boyd-Orr, as director general of FAO, wanted my help as special adviser at the Washington Famine Conference in 1946. It was a very short, temporary appointment, but he insisted that I take the international oath: that I would not seek to receive instructions from any government or from any authority external to the organisation. That oath, which I took under 51 flags—there are now 155 flags—is embodied in Article 100 of the Charter which, conversely, forbids any member-government to influence any member of staff. I regret to say that this is something more honoured in the breach than the observance.

I am not suggesting at all that Britain should impose its nominees, but I maintain—and believe that we have been guilty of not doing it—that we should seek out and make available the best we have got. I know the bitter complaint in some of the agencies that when they know and want a worthwhile British official, the mere request makes him or her indispensable. And, by and large, we treat people who opt for international service pretty shabbily, almost like defectors or salary hunters or, just as derogatively, as "idealists". My Lords, successive Governments and successive Queen's Speeches reaffirm our dedication to the United Nations; they call it the corner stone of our foreign policy and then, to a lesser or greater degree (according to the government in power), modify their enthusiasm. We certainly pay our dues. We are a good club member; and where there is an option, as in the case of special funds or pledges such as those to UNICEF or UNDP, we have been capable of being generous and of setting a good example. And, as we know, in terms of overseas development, under Labour Governments we have made overseas development a major commitment and, indeed, a Cabinet position.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lords who are taking part but I am especially grateful to my noble friend Lord Caradon, because he personifies the theme that I am illustrating now. He was a great British proconsul who prepared the colonies for their freedom; he was a career ambassador to the Trusteeship Council and then he was Minister to the United Nations. I do not diminish the great services of other British ambassadors to the United Nations, but his appointment, as a member of the Labour Government, was not just as a spokesman but as a policymaker and was an earnest of Britain's commitment to the United Nations. He was—and I can certify to this—more than a British representative; he was a United Nations man. He walked tall in the councils of the world.

Forty four nations in the United Nations are members of the Commonwealth. From long observation and experience I am proud of the heirs of empire. They are no longer wards of our chancery; they have emerged from political adolescence, educated largely by their experience in the United Nations, and they have produced some really outstanding international statesmen. My plea to the Government is to be more forthcoming, less grudging in their support and attitudes towards the United Nations—not just financially, but in fulfilling the British role; and I repeat, the British role. This is a critical time in history. The United Nations needs the kiss of life. It needs genuine peace-keeping functions and disarmament initiatives. It can be the catalyst to peaceful co-existence. It can create a new economic order and remove the blight of poverty and misery. But, above all, it needs the trust which Britain can help to restore. That is Britain's post-imperial role. I beg to move for Papers.

5.46 p.m.

Lord McNair

My Lords, it falls to me to be the first to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, on his luck in the ballot and no less on a magnificent speech. I am particularly glad that he covered in his speech so many of the things which I am all too conscious of being about to leave out. In framing his Motion, he asks us to consider Britain's role in the United Nations and its … agencies". It so happens that in these last nine months I have spent a great deal of my time studying one of those agencies in some detail. This happened as a delegate to the Council of Europe where I was asked to write a report on The Palestinian Refugees and the Activities of UNRWA, and the terms of reference of my committee ordained that this report had to try to be non-political—which, of course, was quite impossible.

That agency, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for the Palestinian Refugees, which we set up in 1950 is today, through the unwillingness of the world community to give it enough money, facing imminent bankruptcy. If it is to keep its relief and health and medical services running at the minimal level needed to prevent malnutrition and epidemics in the camps, then it will have to close down its educational activities, its schools and training colleges, certainly in Syria and Jordan, and possibly on the West Bank, Lebanon and Gaza, as well.

The consequences of such a failure by the world community are unpredictable but alarming in the extreme. However, that particular UN problem seems to me to be so important as to deserve a debate on its own. To that end, I put down an Unstarred Question which is due to be heard on 14th January. Therefore, I shall not say anything more about that today except perhaps this. Our country has, over the years, played its full part in its support of UNRWA. We have a good comparative record. But, as I shall argue when we come back to this matter, I believe there are compelling reasons, both of humanity and of self-interest, why we should do more—and so, of course, should all the other countries which prefer peace to anarchy.

I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, will not feel that I am stretching his Motion too far if I spend a few moments thinking aloud, with a little help from my prepared script, about the United Nations in general. If the House will forgive a moment's reminiscence, I remember as a schoolboy how I used to go out to Geneva with my father in the vacations when he was working at the International Labour Office. I grew up, as it were, with the League of Nations. I shared my father's high hopes in the first half of its short life, and then watched it go down inevitably to abysmal failure in 1939.

Six long years later the United Nations was born, and one could not but wonder whether it would be any more successful than the League. Well, it has of course lasted longer. After 35 years it is at least still there; but is this due to any inherent superiority in its structure, any greater wisdom in its rules of procedure? I fear not. I am afraid it is due more to that most horrible of the facts of life which we have come to call the balance of terror. Surely the fatal flaw which in the end destroyed the League is to be seen, even perhaps in an accentuated form, in the United Nations. That flaw (quite unavoidable, the world being what it is) is that both organisations are based squarely on a recognition of the ultimate sovereignty of the nation state.

I am speaking of the United Nations as a would-be peace-keeping organisation, which is surely its primary purpose. Its agencies represent its acceptable face and I do not want to disparage them in any way. They can teach you how to grow this crop or that. They can show you how to eradicate malaria or smallpox, and so on. These are palliatives to the human condition which we certainly should not despise or undervalue.

Incidentally, to touch on a point which has already been mentioned—and I hope some future speaker intends to develop it fully—I find that there is some disquiet among people who ought to know as to whether we always make our maximum contributions to the deliberations of these agencies. Are we always as well represented as we could be? Do we not sometimes miss opportunities of doing quite a lot of good in the Third World at almost no cost to ourselves? Be that as it may, the United Nations was set up with even higher aims than to improve the lot of the "huddled masses yearning to breathe free". It was set up to keep the peace. If it cannot keep the peace and give us confidence that it will go on keeping the peace, then it must be judged a failure and poor old homo sapiens will have to try again—if he gets another chance.

We have to ask ourselves whether we can possibly be satisfied with a world order in which each one of about 150 nation states retains control of its war-making potential, limited only by a feeble sort of "gentlemen's agreement" which many of them—ourselves, alas!, included—have already shown themselves willing to break when national interests, subjectively interpreted, are thought to be involved.

My Lords, even if one has no cure to offer, it is sometimes a good thing to be able to diagnose the cause of a morbid condition—as it were—to isolate the virus. I suggest that the federalists have done at least this in pointing to national sovereignty as the virus, perhaps the deadliest virus at large upon the planet Earth. As one of them has written: War is the structurally inevitable consequence of armed tribalism. It will be abolished when the cause has been abolished". Federalists come in all shapes and sizes, with varying blueprints, everyone of which seems to contain insurmountable obstacles to its achievement. Perhaps we are waiting for a genius such as we have never yet seen, some super-Rousseau who will show us the way out of this labyrinth. Ariadne found her way out of the Cretan labyrinth by ingeniously noting how she had got into it. Perhaps that may be the way, the study of palaeo-anthropology or ethology. I do not claim to know.

At a political animal, homo sapiens, it seems to me, has not yet learned to walk. He is still in the crawling or perhaps toddling stage. And, playing precociously with terribly dangerous toys, he crawls and toddles at the top of a precipice—Beachy Head without a playpen. We have been doing it for so long and we have so often got away with it by the skin of our teeth, as Thornton Wilder observed, that we have acquired a protective layer of complacency. But when I force myself to pierce that layer of complacency and look hard at our human condition, then I seek comfort in the myth of Pandora's Box. It is a feature of the great myths that they are continually acquiring fresh relevance, and I suppose the most recent opening of Pandora's Box was performed by Rutherford in the Cavendish Laboratories in my native town. To return to the original, however, your Lordships will recall that when the box was rashly opened and all the horrors and miseries spread across the globe—which of course was not even known to be globular in those days—there was one thing which remained in the box. The only thing which did not emerge and fly away was Hope. Hope stayed behind.

Now, I must belatedly try to wrench myself back to within hailing distance of Lord Ritchie-Calder's Motion, and I sincerely apologise to him for having taken such liberties with it, How can we marry hope with Britain's role in the United Nations? If there is any validity in my main thesis that national sovereignty is the name of the disease from which the world at present suffers, then perhaps we can at least discern the direction in which our policies towards our fellow men should try to point. Any avoidable assertion of our sovereignty must be wrong and any tendency to merge our sovereignty with that of others, the more the merrier, that must surely be right. If we, and others, can follow that path, then perhaps we have the right to hope. Perhaps we can hope that homo sapiens, as a political infant, will learn to walk; and perhaps my super-Rousseau will arrive in time to show him how to walk away from the abyss.

6 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Rochester

My Lords, in rising from these Benches to support the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, I am sure that in the same way as he co-operated with the divinity faculty in Edinburgh University, he will be ready for me to say that I believe that there are many Christians of all traditions, and not only within the Church of England, who are concerned that the nations which together make up the United Nations—which has no existence apart from them—shall together enable it to rise to its full potential as an instrument for promoting the long-term interests of Governments and peoples.

Some of us who, like the last speaker, lived through the days of the League of Nations between the two great wars, had high hopes of the United Nations, with its charter that indicates so clearly what potential the organisation could have if it were used to the full. It is fashionable, as your Lordships know, to decry the United Nations and all its works and to point only to its failures in a world where, as the BBC news reminded us this morning, several wars are being waged simultaneously as the Christmas festival approaches; a world where two out of every three persons go to bed hungry each night.

As the risk of being pompously dismissed out of hand by the leader writer of the Sunday Telegraph for responding to what he is pleased to call "noble claptrap", there are many within and without the Christian churches who thank God for the very real successes of the United Nations in the last 35 years, both in resolving conflicts and in assisting development in the third world. These successes would undoubtedly be greater if all the member nations fulfilled their obligations under the charter and put the long-term interests of the whole world before short-term national advantage, as the noble Lord, Lord McNair, said so movingly just now.

While we must be grateful for the part that successive Governments in our own country have played since 1946, I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, is right in emphasising the special and important role there is for the United Kingdom to play in the United Nations today. I believe it is important that we should be undeterred by the attitudes and actions of others, that we should be loyal ourselves to the objects of the charter, and make available our best people in the service of the United Nations and as participaters in its special consultations.

It was encouraging to hear that in the debate on the Brandt Report in another place on Friday the Government spokesman took a more positive line than has sometimes been the case. After spelling out the procedural difficulties inherent in some of the suggestions made for further international co-operation, he indicated that if a summit meeting of the kind proposed in the Brandt Report is held in Mexico next June, the Government will accept an invitation and, moreover, the Prime Minister will herself be ready to attend. This, I believe, is greatly to be welcomed, as are all the indications that the recommendations of the Brandt Report are being actively considered. These include in chapter 16, I would remind your Lordships, the recommendation that the United Nations "system", as it describes it, in facing expanding tasks, should be strengthened and made more efficient.

The authors of the report are at pains to emphasise that for all the weaknesses and compromises of the United Nations, it is the only system that we have for co-operation and communication between the nations, and that we all have a stake not just in keeping it alive and active but in strengthening it as an indispensable force for peace and for development. I have been impressed by the extent of the interest in the Brandt Report in many local communities. A seminar, organised at Church House, Westminster, at which the Minister for Overseas Development and the Archbishop of Canterbury were among the speakers, received widespread coverage, and rightly so. But more impressive in many ways are some of the unreported consultations and discussions held at a much more ordinary and local level.

I have in my hand the report of a day conference held in one of the parishes of my diocese, where the elected members of the parochial church council spent a whole Sunday, between their morning and evening services, considering the Brandt Report. They wrote afterwards to their Member of Parliament and to their bishop, saying they were persuaded that the world faced disaster if there is not much more determined practical action, particularly in making the United Nations agencies more effective. As an earnest of their sincerity, they have recommended to their parish that it should increase the percentage of its giving to relief and development agencies. A drop in the bucket?—yes, maybe; but surely also a clear indication of what ordinary but responsible people are thinking at the present time.

The fact that the world is now interdependent is much more widely understood and accepted than was once the case. If the deadlock in North-South negotiations at the United Nations is to be broken, it will happen only if a Government such as our own Government responds positively and energetically to some of the recommendations of the Brandt Report dealing with world development.

In answer to a Question which I asked in this House in August about our support for the United Nations Children's Fund, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said that the United Kingdom's support for UNICEF had been rising rapidly in recent years but that in the present financial situation we could not always do as much as we would like. I would make a plea that as soon as the change in our fortunes for which Her Majesty's Government are striving comes about, we should have as a top priority the granting of substantial increases in our support for the United Nations Development Fund and for such agencies as UNICEF. In the meantime, I would support the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, in his own plea tonight that this country should give equally high priority to giving moral support to the United Nations and that we should send our best people to take part in its deliberations.

6.8 p.m.

Lord Collison

My Lords, I join with the noble Lord and the right reverend Prelate in thinking my noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder for introducing this short debate. As we know, it is concerned with Britain's role in the United Nations and its specialised agencies. I will devote the short time at my disposal to saying something about one of the agencies—that is, the International Labour Organisation.

The ILO is the oldest of the specialised agencies of the United Nations and it is an agency with which I personally had the honour to be associated as a member of its governing body between 1960 and 1969 and as chairman of the Workers' Group in the 1965 conference when we celebrated the 50 years' life of the ILO. It is the only United Nations agency to survive the demise of the League of Nations. The Treaty of Versailles, which has often been vilified, nevertheless produced through its labour committee Article 13 of the treaty, which established in 1919 an international labour organisation associated with the League of Nations.

It is to me, and I hope to my noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder and to others, satisfying to recall that the main driving force in the creation of this new organisation came from this country, in the person of George Barnes, the wartime Minister of Labour, who took a great part in promoting the idea of such an agency. But it was also largely due—and I can only say that it was typically and precisely British—to British initiative that the organisation broke new ground and established a tripartite basis, so that employers' and workers' representatives could have a vote and an equal voice with Governments. This is a unique structure in international organisations, and I believe it is the source of the ILO's strength and effectiveness. I also believe it is the reason why the ILO survived when everything else went with the League of Nations.

I was in the ILO for quite a long time, not only as a member of the governing body, but after 1953 as one of the advisers to Sir Alfred Roberts, and I saw the ILO grow from a relatively small group of nations to its present size. At the moment—I rang the office today, so that I should be up to date—144 nations are members. The primary object of the International Labour Organisation was, and still is, the creation of international labour standards and the monitoring and supervision of each member country's performance. The impact of this on the conditions of life and work of the millions of workers throughout the world has been enormous.

Some people may think that after 60 years that work should be pretty well completed, but of course it is not and it cannot be completed. As we know, all the time more needs to be done. As higher standards are made possible and, indeed, are demanded in developing countries, the ILO will have a job to do in formulating conventions and recommendations to cover the aspirations and the needs of the people. So of course the work goes on.

For example, only last Friday the United Kingdom Government became the tenth Government to ratify International Labour Convention No. 147, which establishes improved safety and working conditions in merchant ships. Again, only a few days ago, through the ILO's international occupational safety and health hazard alert system, the authorities in this and other countries linked to the system were warned of a new potential cancer-forming chemical solvent that is in wide use. When one thinks of the thalidomide babies, one wishes that there had been an agency which could have explained the dangers involved in the use of that drug, and perhaps in the use of others, too.

I must say it is unfortunate that Britain has yet to ratify International Labour Convention No. 139 for the protection of workers against carcinogenic chemicals, though we were told no less than five years ago—I think it was a Labour Government at the time, and that Mr. Foot made the statement—that it was the Government's intention to do so.

Altogether, 153 conventions have been produced. They have not all been ratified by all the 144 nations involved. Some have been ratified by the majority, others have been ratified by a considerable number and others have been ratified by only a few. Nevertheless, over the whole field, the result of the work of the ILO—the production of these conventions and, indeed, recommendations, too; but conventions in particular—has been notably to improve the standard of living of the peoples of this world.

It has always been the aim of the British TUC and the international trade union movement to seek ways and means of ensuring that workers in the developing countries, most of which export foods to us, should work and enjoy life under humane and fair conditions. To that end, they have sought the inclusion in trade agreements, such as the Lomé convention, of fair labour clauses, to be monitored by the ILO. It is regrettable that these efforts are not always successful, but a large number of them are and, as I said, this has done much to improve standards on a world-wide basis. It is no accident that two countries where labour conditions have been much criticised in recent times—Taiwan and South Korea—are not members of the ILO and are not, therefore, subject to close examination of working conditions, as is the case with states which are members.

Against the background of recent events, I am sure that this is the time to speak of the ILO's profound influence in the field of human rights. In particular, speaking as I do as a workers' representative at the ILO for so many years, there is the protection of workers' organisations. It is a sad commentary on our times when one reads of dreadful things happening. In the trade union movement with which I have been concerned for so long, one hears too frequently about the dissolution of workers' organisations, the occupation of trade union premises, the repression of the right to strike, the arrests, the torture and the disappearance, or even death, of trade union leaders. I know these things to be true, horribly true, because, for more years than I was associated with the ILO, I was President of the International Federation of Plantation and Agricultural Workers and I know what happened to some of our associates abroad. I am also a member of Amnesty International and, where cases of oppression are brought to my attention, use whatever influence I may have in writing letters to heads of state.

The kinds of cases that I have been talking about—the suppression of trade union activities and of the right to strike, the torture and the disappearance of trade union leaders—are the ones which go to the ILO, and since April this year more than 40 new cases have been submitted to the ILO—three times more than in a comparable period in previous years. In some measure, this reflects the confidence which workers' and employers' organisations have in the ILO's procedures for examining, testing and taking action on complaints.

We welcome the continued strong support given to the ILO by the British Government, by the TUC—whose delegate I was, though I have now been followed by my noble friend Lord Plant—and by the CBI. All in all, Britain has played a valuable and constructive part in the creation and development of the ILO, although I agree with my noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder about the paucity now of top people from this country in the ILO establishment. I should like to see more of them.

When speaking of the people who have given such great service, one must remark on the tremendous contribution made by Wilfred James, who I think was the world's greatest international lawyer for many, many years, who became Director General of the ILO from 1970 to 1973 and then tragically died at a comparatively young age. He was a very great man. I knew him well. He was a great diplomat and could handle difficult situations with a touch of genius.

In 1944, the International Labour Conference in Philadelphia adopted what has become known as the Declaration of Philadelphia. This was printed on the walls of the old ILO building. I think it is on the walls of the new one, too. This declaration embodies the basic principles which guide the work of the ILO, and in these troubled times they are worth repeating. Stated quite clearly they are, first, that labour is not a commodity; secondly, that freedom of expression and freedom of association are essential to sustain progress; thirdly, that poverty anywhere constitutes a danger to prosperity everywhere; finally, that all human beings—one's heart rises to this—irrespective of race, creed or sex have the right to pursue both their own material well-being and their spiritual development in conditions of economic security and equal opportunity. That is a magnificent target for us to aim at. Some more fortunate countries have marched further along that road than many others. It is our duty, because we ourselves have been so successful, to do whatever we can to help and to serve those others. Our contribution to the United Nations, the ILO and the other agencies is our intent—sometimes not good enough—to do that.

Finally, in January 1945, at a meeting of the governing body Ernest Bevin said this: The British Government desires to rut the ILO as high in the scale of world organisation as possible". I believe that this should still he the continuing policy of the Government. It is a magnificent organisation, truly democratic, although I personally regret that the dear distinction between workers, employers and Government tends now in some cases to be clouded. One gets people forming groups: the French-speaking Africans against the English-speaking Africans. In the Communist countries one often finds workers, employers and Governments all voting together.

Despite these flaws, which I hope will be cured, I am very happy indeed and have been greatly honoured to have been associated with the ILO for so many years. I commend noble Lords to give some thought, as I am sure they will, to the contribution made to such a unique body because of its tripartite nature.

6.25 p.m.

Lord Caradon

My Lords, I, too, shall declare my interest. I do not forget that for a matter of nearly two decades I have worked in and for the United Nations. With the limit of time in mind, I shall try to restrict myself, first to a general question on policy and then to a particular appeal regarding matters of world development. As I look back over a good many years, I am bound to say that I am deeply depressed by my recollection of the circumstances in which the main issues of the present word have been discussed and decisions have been taken. I speak to the text that there is nothing wrong with the United Nations except the members. The fact is that through the United Nations we have had a growing development of ideals and purposes, widely accepted and forcefully presented, usually to be obstructed and particularly to be delayed by the principal powers, including the United States and the western world. My own experience goes back to 1962, when I remember a vote of the General Assembly that the people of Rhodesia should be allowed to settle their future by free election in their own country, from which no one would be barred. At that time the Government instructed me, as I was ambassador and speaking for my Government on this issue in the United Nations, that we should not take part even in the vote. I resigned and went away. Then 17 years later, the people of Rhodesia were allowed to decide their own future by a free election. I think sometimes of the bloodshed, the suffering, the increase in danger which took place in those 17 years because of the countries which had stood in the way of that advance which was universally recognised by the poorer or the third world countries. Thinking of the high priests of procrastination performing their ceremonies in the capitals of the great world, that seems to me to be an example of delay in order to stop action which the world has already recognised is essential. I see it wherever I look.

Years ago it was decided in the United Nations, by a universal vote, that the people of Namibia should be given their freedom and should be allowed, by free election, to decide their future. Since that time, there has been opposition and obstruction from South Africa. The great powers of the world have gone to the United Nations to plead, to beg, to urge, but not to achieve the purpose which the world had long ago declared to be right and necessary.

A case familiar to me is Cyprus. By a unanimous vote, which is practically unknown there, the United Nations General Assembly decided many years ago that the right answer was the withdrawal of foreign troops and the resumption of the unity of the island, with proper respect for both communities. We accepted the vote, but the great powers have stood aside and refused to take the necessary action to carry out the declared aim. Particularly in all our minds is the fact that on the Middle East the United Nations have declared repeatedly that there must be a recognition of the rights of the people of Palestine: that they must be given their freedom, and that the security of Israel can be achieved only by a reconciliation in which both sides can live in mutual respect and security. But the action is lacking. The great powers hold back, the delays take over, and when we look back on this first decade or two of the United Nations we see that the principal factor is that the world could see and could declare what was necessary but the great powers (including ourselves) knew better! We do not dispute the principle but by various means we delay the action.

So it seems to me that the basic principle of international affairs should be that when a decision is reached, when a purpose is agreed, there must be a readiness of the great powers to take the necessary action. I believe that applies to also the Brandt Commission, where a similar situation is developing. The world knows what must be done but one country after another—including our own, I am sad to say—shows no initiative, no enthusiasm, no readiness to take the lead.

I remember going to call on my friend, the present British Ambassador to the United Nations a little while ago. I used to know him when we worked together in New York and I asked him, "What is the main difference between now and the 'sixties, when we worked together?" He said, "Clearly the main difference is that now the concentration of concern is in economic matters. That is the main change that has taken place since we worked together 10 or 15 years ago". I think that is so. So here again we have a clear purpose stated by people of international reputation but with no readiness to act. Instead of that I believe that in the western world there is a disinclination to face up to the issue which is now before us.

I might also add that in the matters of Namibia, of Cyprus, of the Middle East, I do not find that Soviet opposition is the difficulty. On the contrary, in all those issues it seems to me that they present no obstacle. They have indeed voted—as they did regarding the Middle East particularly, showing courage and concern—to provide for the necessity for a withdrawal of occupying troops.

That is the general factor which I believe we must all recognise. There has been a lack of readiness to act and in many respects our Government stand at fault, with the United States particularly and, I would add, the Soviet Union owing to the confrontation that exists between them; but I do not believe it is a fact that the Soviet Union stands in the way of action that we believe is necessary.

I turn from that general question to a very important particular one. When I had finished my time representing this country at the United Nations, your Lordships may remember that in 1970 there was an unfortunate lapse of the British electorate which led to my removal and I went to work for the United Nations development programme, for the United Nations population fund, in Africa and in Asia. They go together, I may say. It is sometimes said that if you attempt to deal with population without the participation of development that is a delusion, but to attempt to do it the other way round is a deceit. They have to be dealt with together. Therefore I was glad that I had opportunities to work in Africa and Asia for both those organisations.

I mention first the United Nations fund for population. Fifteen years ago, when I was first at the United Nations, it was positively decided in the General Assembly that the United Nations must do nothing in the matter of population. That was 15 years ago. But in the interval one of the most remarkable advances has been made. Under the leadership of Rafael Salas, the head of the United Nations Fund, an organisation is now created, backed by most countries in the world, and it is now a fact that any country in the world can immediately obtain the best conceivable advice on these difficult matters of population. This is a complete and vital change, making, in so many countries, a fundamental difference for the whole future of development.

The amounts subscribed were not very large and in 1948 the British Government gave a pledge that they would subscribe £4 million a year for this purpose. Subsequently they have failed to carry out their pledge and have now said that they will subscribe only £2 million a year. When the population of the world increases at the rate of a million a week it seems to me that £2 million a year—a reduction by one half of the sum we pledged in 1948—is a miserable contribution.

I turn now to the United Nations Development Programme, which is longer in experience and success, and I see now, after the very difficult years in the third world following the oil crisis and the rest, we have come through that difficult period and Mr. Bradford Morse, the director of the United Nations Development Programme, has achieved a worldwide reputation for the vigour and efficiency of his direction. Some time ago the United Nations development programmes said that they would wish to work to a 14 per cent. increase year by year. Many Governments agreed, including our Government, and the increases went on until 1980. In 1980 it was decided that, instead of the increases which would be provided by that agreed advance, we should reduce our contribution to the United Nations Development Programme from £28 million a year to £15 million a year.

Nearly every other country increased its contribution in accordance with the agreed advance. Twenty-five countries increased their contribution, only three reduced it, and two others by a very small amount; but it was the United Kingdom which showed the greatest reduction, by nearly half when one takes into account the various financial considerations. We reduced by nearly half our contribution to the United Nations Development Programme. That in a year when Brandt has called for a massive contribution to the saving of the third world, and to the benefit of everyone.

There is a point I should like to mention in passing. Sometimes it seems that our Government fail to understand the immediate advantages. We do not want to go into it now. We have all dealt with the question of student fees. The Government have decided on these destructive increases in student fees, forgetting that the students bring money to this country. If we calculate all the factors together they are a financial asset. And in regard to the United Nations Development Programme, the benefits of the programme in this country, in contracts, in exports, have been greater than the total contribution we have made; and with the reduction that has now been proposed the amount that we receive from the UNDP will be double what we are contributing. It seems inconceivable. I cannot understand the motive for these drastic reductions in enterprises which bring us financial advantage.

So I believe it is necessary, in regard to support for the United Nations development programme, support for the United Nations Fund for Popualtion, that there should be revision. Surely the £15 million we have taken away, showing ourselves to be the most reactionary Government in these matters in the world, should be restored.

I should like to finish on a slightly more cheerful note. I referred just now to our present Ambassador to the United Nations. I have worked with him and I have the utmost respect for him. He is a man of very wide experience and he is greatly respected throughout the United Nations and beyond. I believe we could not be better represented in New York than we are now. Then, I do not claim to know him personally, but I understand we have a Minister in another place who is said to be capable of learning. I hope that he may be prepared to learn some of the lessons in these matters of which he may have been previously ignorant. And we have in this House the Foreign Secretary, in whom many of us place our hopes and faith in the future. I believe he must see the harm that is done by these narrow decisions, in regard to the students, in regard to the third world; I would hope that when he has time from all his many other preoccupations he will be able to restore our good name in the whole field of international development.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him, because I am rather ignorant in these matters, what is the Soviet Government's attitude to supporting the United Nations agencies as regards development and such matters? Have they increased their grants or do they give grants?

Lord Caradon

My Lords, if I understand the question, I would certainly say that we are very greatly respected, as Lord Ritchie-Calder has pointed out, for our past contributions, and other speakers have given deliberate evidence to that effect, What I am saying is that in regard to recent decisions, in regard to the main political problems of the world at this moment, and in regard in particular to the question of development, we are in danger of throwing away the good reputation which we have earned.

6.41 p.m.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, I wanted to talk briefly about population. Of course, it is difficult to follow the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, on this subject, but I venture to hope that possibly one small voice may also be added. I should almost certainly be able to do this better six weeks hence than now. Some of your Lordships are no doubt aware of the British Parliamentary Group on Population and Development under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Boughton of Sowerby, whom I see in his place, which has members from both Houses and all parties. I have been fortunate enough to be asked by the International Planned Parenthood Federation, along with four Members of the House of Commons, to join a trip to India and Bangladesh early in January. I hope to return far better versed than I am now in this very sensitive question of family planning in some of the most populous areas of the world.

The background is quite simply that the present world population of some 4.3 thousand million souls is inevitably on course for something in the region of 61½ thousand million within 20 years. If the current rate of natural increase—that is, the credit balance, if you like, of births over deaths—is maintained, there will be 8 thousand million people on the earth by 2015. According to Mr. Raphael Salas, director of the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, the world's population could grow to three or even four times its present size before it levels off. Any such numbers, assuming that the world's eco-system will stand them, would certainly spell the end of civilisation as we know it.

Concern about population growth was not always that it would get out of hand. Mediaeval princes wanted larger populations to man their expanding frontiers. It was believed that fertility itself added to natural wealth. As recently as the 1930s the American economist Alvin Hansen, who became a convert to Keynes, was worried that a static or declining population in the United States might seriously undermine the market for manufactured goods and thus the capitalist system as a whole. Even today there are some Governments in the world which are "pro-natalist", to use the jargon term, on the grounds of reclaiming unoccupied territory, defending natural frontiers, creating new markets and so forth. Some of the Latin-American Governments are among them, but even they are showing some signs of faltering in this dangerous course of what might be called nationalistic machismo.

I say "dangerous". Where is the danger? What is wrong with letting nature take her course? Malthus himself, who first published his essay on The Principle of Population as it affects the Future Improvement of Society in 1798, the first edition, went no further than suggesting that population would always expand to the limits of subsistence and be checked there by famine, war or ill-health. But even these checks are now being overwhelmed. There are famines, wars, diseases and natural disasters in abundance—we have the daily evidence of them before our eyes—but population, none the less, has taken off to an extent that is likely to exhaust the finite resources and political adaptability of the planet unless it is brought under control.

Many of the children born into the world today are, in relative terms, going to be far poorer than they ever would have been at any previous time in world history, and far hungrier, and this the age of micro-technology and man-made satellites in space. Here is a quotation—I will not quote it in full—from a report prepared, not by any lunatic fringe body but by the American State Department and the Council on Environmental Quality in July 1980 for the President of the United States: If present trends continue, the world in 2,000 will be more crowded, more polluted, less stable ecologically, and more vulnerable to disruption than the world we live in now. Serious stresses involving population, resources and environment are clearly visible ahead. Despite greater material output, the world's people will be poorer in many ways than they are today". Imagine that: poorer than they are today, when we think of the present condition of one-third of the world's population.

There has been much talk during the past decade, or a rising tide of talk, of a new world economic order, which has been received in some quarters with, I was going to say derision, but anyway less than enthusiasm, I must confess that I do not much like these bland, high-sounding phrases which ride on the surface of a multitude of practical difficulties, but that does not mean that behind the rhetoric there is no substance. The idea has been given a fresh wind by the Brandt Report, with particular reference to the recycling of the OPEC surpluses and the relief of the growing burden of debt of the poorer nations.

Our somewhat complacent response, it seems to me, is that the present system is well tried and not working too badly and that when the upswing comes all will be well again. Well, everyone is entitled to his opinion, but I wonder whether those who think this way will stick to their guns when a starving, bankrupt, overpopulated sovereign state out of sheer desperation holds the so-called civilised world to ransom with a fairly simple nuclear device, not for the 0.7 per cent. of GDP that the UN recommends as the aid contribution of advanced nations—which we do not meet—but for, say, 10 per cent. or 20 per cent. of our GDP. Science fiction? No, not at all. That is all clean-limbed, silver-uniformed stuff in outer space. This would be a messy affair on earth.

Who is doing what to avoid such an outcome? Well, there is bilateral aid and multilateral aid, both inside and outside the United Nations. We have heard from several speakers about various aspects of it. I simply wanted to refer to the relatively new and relatively small parish of aid concerned with limiting the runaway growth of population, to which Lord Caradon referred. The agencies, or funds, concerned are the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, the International Planned Parenthood Federation and the World Health Organisation, of course. We know the present Government's preference is for bilateral aid as against multilateral aid. There are a number of reasons for that. Bilateral aid is usually tied to procurement in the donor country and it is thus domestically more popular. It is also a means of making or keeping friends and influencing people—that is to say, there is a large political element in its motivation. There are, of course, areas where bilateral aid can serve both political and developmental purposes to the mutual satisfaction of both parties. There is plenty of room for both types of aid.

Bearing that in mind, let us look at the record on population activities. Our contribution to the three multilateral bodies concerned—the UNFPA, the IPPF and the WHO—stood at £6,875,000 in 1978. It shrank to £5.6 million in 1979, it has been fixed at £5.5 million for 1980 and is due to contract to £4.5 million in 1981, or so I am given to understand. The figures which I have given incidentally discount £1,875,000 on account of 1978 which was, in fact, paid in 1979.

Whatever one may think of the rival merits of bilateral and multilateral aid, there is not much doubt that there is some particularly sensitive areas where the receiving countries are much more at ease with the multilateral variety. Family planning comes very much under this heading. After all, it does penetrate to the very core of a community's customs, ritual and self-respect. It is mildly reassuring that the 1980 contribution to the IPPF—the International Planned Parenthood Federation—remains the same as for the previous year at £2 million, although I believe that a decrease is projected for 1981, and perhaps the Minister will comment on that when he comes to reply. Of course, he may not have the answer off-the-cuff, in which case I shall fully understand, but I should be very grateful if he would write to me. It is very important that this contribution should be maintained. It is extremely alarming that the World Health Organisation's special programmes contribution is to slip from £1.5 million in the current year to only £600,000 in 1981, particularly as the very difficult work undertaken by the WHO in the field of abortion—a particularly difficult area—is far too sensitive to be handled bilaterally.

I believe and understand that the ODA rightly prides itself on the flexibility of its approach to population activities, so one could hope that the bilateral component at least would balance out any losses from cuts on the multilateral side. I should also like to ask the Minister to confirm that when he comes to reply, particularly in relation to India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. While certain activities, as I have indicated, are better handled multilaterally, there are others which are perfectly susceptible to bilateral aid, notably census and survey work and educational programmes. There is also the question of institutional support. The ODA has provided support for various bodies, among them the Centre for Population Studies at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Centre for Population Growth Studies at University College, Cardiff.

There is the further question of joint funding with voluntary agencies and there is also the question of research projects, some ofwhich can be carried out in the United Kingdom. I should like to give, as an example, the cross-cultural study of the effects of oral contraceptives on women of different ethnic origins which was carried out between July 1976 and January 1977 in London. The whole question of the relationship of oral contraception and heart disease must be researched with great thoroughness, to the hilt, and it would be a great pity if any funds were lost for this purpose.

Finally, may I quote from the Minister, Mr. Neil Marten, in the foreword of the ODA Paper No. 21 entitled Report on Population Activities, where he says: In response to approaches made to me by British Parliamentarians following the International Conference of Parliamentarians on Population and Development in Sri Lanka last year I have instructed that a population component should wherever possible, be incorporated in new development projects financed by ODA". It was the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, who made the point that these two are inextricably entwined. That is good news as far as it goes, but I hope that it does not mean that existing activities of proven value are going to suffer. If cuts are to be made, there is bound to be a temptation to cut voluntary contributions, such as these are. These do not come under the main budgetary provisions of the United Nations; they are voluntary contributions, and this temptation must be resisted. I venture to suggest that every penny spent in this field is good value for money. If population growth is not stemmed somewhere short of saturation of our planet and its resources, most of the other problems we discuss here will seem trivial and academic by comparison.

6.55 p.m.

Lord Brockway

My Lords, it is much more than in a formal way that I want to thank my noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder, for opening this debate and for his informed, constructive and inspiring speech. I say that because all of us who know the work of the noble Lord appreciate how, over the years, he has been contributing to the welfare of the world. I do not know how many years ago it was that I read his Man Against the Desert and Man Against the Jungle which first made me realise the enormous economic possibilities in the world if international action were taken. His initiation of our debate today is only typical of the service that he has rendered.

Those of us who believe that we must have an international authority to maintain liberty in the world, to maintain justice in the world and to establish peace in the world, have been a little depressed during the last few years by a lessening of support for the United Nations that has taken place among politicians, as indeed has been expressed in this House. It has also found expression in the media. There has been some justification for that view in the long delays that have taken place in realising decisions which the United Nations has reached. That situation is largely because the world is now divided between great powers of military and economic strength. The great powers—the United States of America and the Soviet Union—appear to be more effective in controlling the events of the world than the United Nations can be. Now we have the emergence of a third great power—China—and there is the feeling that the United Nations, representing so many of the smaller nations of the world, will be ineffective in controlling events because of the power of the great nations.

There is another and contradictory development in the world. It is the development of the unaligned nations. In a world where the two great super-powers seem able to impose their views, the unaligned nations are now proving that they can be a bridge for peace between them. I take recent events. The Madrid Conference, which is now proceeding and which, after a difficult beginning, may move towards a European disarmament conference, was saved only by the unaligned nations of the world. It was only saved when the difference between the two great powers threatening the end of the conference was resolved by the unaligned nations coming forward with proposals which enabled it to continue.

I take the Law of the Sea Conference which has recently been held; it was the contribution of the unaligned nations, carrying out the principle that the oceans of the world are the heritage of mankind, which secured the adoption of an international authority which in the future will control the use of the oceans and all the great mineral resources that are underneath them. Take the war that is now occurring between Iraq and Iran. The only hope of ending that war will be by the conciliatory measures which the unaligned nations are taking. To those three contributions many more could be added.

I turn to the two great international issues that are now before mankind. The first is the threat of a nuclear weapons war, destroying the whole of mankind. Who is taking the initiative to prevent that war? The United Nations Special Assembly on Disarmament which met two years ago, was the result of the initiative of the unaligned nations of the world. One had the extraordinary result that, at the end of that assembly, the Prime Ministers, Presidents, Foreign Secretaries and Defence Secretaries of 149 nations declared in favour of ending all nuclear arms, declared in favour of ending all weapons of mass destruction, declared in favour of phased progress towards ending all conventional arms, and declared in favour of moving towards general and complete disarmament. Again, those recommendations were the result of the initiative of the unaligned nations of the world.

In addition, there is now in Geneva a committee which has been instructed by the United Nations to carry out those recommendations. Fortunately, a majority on that committee—21 out of 40—represent the unaligned nations, and, despite all the obstruction that is taking place at Geneva by the great powers, they have formed the Committee of 21 to carry out and implement the recommendations of the United Nations' Special Assembly. That is the contribution which the unaligned nations are now making to the peace of the world.

I turn to the other great issue that faces the world today—the gulf between the South and the North; the fact that one third of the population of the world is now living in hunger. Who is making a contribution towards a solution to that problem? Again, it is the unaligned nations. Seven years ago they put forward their proposal for a new, international economic order to end the hunger and starvation in the world and to bring about co-operation between the North and the South. It was that initiative which led to the creation of the Brandt Commission and its report. It does not go so far as the demands of the group of 77 unaligned nations (now a group of 120), but it goes very far indeed. Once more it is not the great powers—it is neither the United States of America nor the Soviet Union, and unfortunately it is not our own Government which in a disgraceful paper denounced the Brandt Report—no, it is the unaligned nations of the world which are now forward-looking and are urging a solution to the problem between the North and the South.

I emphasise this because all this indicates that today one need not have great military or economic power to be determining the progress of the world. It is immensely significant that it is the smaller, unaligned nations—those without military power and with little economic power—which are now the creative force in the world, with ideas and with constructive proposals which give us hope about the future of the world. If that can be the contribution which the unaligned nations can make, then again we may have hope in a United Nations which does not merely represent the great powers, but which represents the middle and smaller nations in the discussion of ideas and in co-operation for liberty, justice and peace in the world.

Therefore, we must not be depressed by the attitude of the last few years towards the United Nations, but must begin to understand that an international authority, representing the co-operation of the nations of the world, is the hope for the future. Our Government and all Governments should give it support.

7.9 p.m.

Lord Noel-Baker

My Lords, the scientific and technical achievements of our century have been very remarkable indeed: conquest of the skies by aircraft, colour television, the release of atomic energy—the greatest miracle of all—and man's journey to the moon. But the historians of the future, if there is a future and there are historians, will not be mainly concerned with our scientific advances. They will regard as vitally important in our century the evolution of international institutions.

I pay a warm tribute to my noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder and his fundamentally important speech this afternoon, and I express my full agreement with what my noble friend Lord Brockway said about the non-aligned nations. I want to speak briefly about the history of the evolution of international institutions since I was born. I deal with history because I think Sir Winston Churchill was right when he said, "If you say that the past is the past, you surrender the future". We have to learn from the mistakes of the past, which have been very grievous indeed.

I first became familiar with the evolution of international institutions when my father led a deputation of churchmen to the second Hague Peace Conference in 1907. His deputation demanded the stopping of the arms race, drastic reduction of the then growing armaments, and the international obligatory arbitration of international disputes. I think that no one who went on that deputation believed that it was possible that the conference, having met to deal with the arms race, would separate without a positive result. They forgot the militarists. The militarists destroyed the conference.

In the following year, a British manufacturer of arms, Mr. Mulliner of Coventry, came back from Germany with the story that the Germans were building secret dreadnought battleships to overwhelm the British Navy. Here I address particularly members of the Conservative Party. There was not a word of truth in Mr. Mulliner's story. Sir Winston Churchill, in his record after the war, said that there were no German secret dreadnoughts and no German had said anything that was untrue. But the Conservative Opposition in the House of Commons, without inquiring into the facts, took up Mulliner's story, proposed votes of no confidence, and started a panic in the country, "We want eight, and we won't wait!" They demanded eight battleships a year, and created a panic and a dreadnought race, for the Government gave way and built the eight.

They started a dreadnought race with Germany which Sir Edward Grey, our Foreign Secretary, said in 1909 was the most dangerous factor in creating international tension in the world, and which Sir Winston Churchill, as First Lord of the Admiralty, said in 1912 would lead to war if it were not stopped before 1914. The war broke out in the very year which Sir Winston Churchill—and, as was also the case, Bethmann-Hollweg, the German Chancellor—had predicted. The Conservative Opposition took a very heavy responsibility when they took up Mulliner's false alarm.

After the war, the League of Nations was created. I had an astonishing experience. I was four years at the front. On 30th November 1918 I was still at the front. On 1st January 1919 I was in Paris as one of the secretaries to the commission which drafted the Covenant of the League of Nations. It was to me a vision of radiant hope. An experience that no man of my age could possibly forget. I was at every meeting of the Commission which drafted the Covenant of the League.

I knew what its authors expected and hoped for, and I say without any hesitation that by 1931 the League had achieved results far beyond the hopes of any of its authors. It had stopped four wars. It had settled innumerable international disputes. It had done so by the method of public debate between senior statesmen, to which I shall refer again. It had made astonishing advances in administrative matters; the repatriation of prisoners of war; the rehabilitation of the finances of Austria and Hungary; the development of a world health programme; and the development of a world education programme.

When the disarmament conference met in 1932 and the arms race was brought to an end—always, as the Covenant laid down, an indispensable condition of the long-term success of the League of Nations—it seemed that the path was opening to a period of long and happy human progress. But, alas, again we reckoned without the militarists. Before the conference met, the Government which had secured its summons—Arthur Henderson was the British Foreign Secretary who achieved this result; I was his Parliamentary Private Secretary—had fallen, and a Government with militarist Ministers came to power.

The problem was to make a disarmament treaty which would give Germany equality. Germany had been totally disarmed by Lloyd George in 1919. She had been forbidden to have large armed forces and any of the weapons which were classed as offensive because they had enabled the victors in the First World War to overcome the long defensive stalemate of the first four years. The offensive weapons were battleships, aircraft carriers, submarines, all military aircraft, tanks, heavy mobile guns, and poison gas. The President of the United States, President Hoover, proposed a treaty under which virtually all those abolitions should be made effective for all the nations of the world. The only exception was that he would allow the retention of some small fighter aircraft.

The Germans said yes; the Russians said yes; the Fascist Italians said yes; and the small and middle powers said yes. But Britain said no. We had a First Lord of the Admiralty who said, "We must keep battleships". We had a Secretary of State for Air who said, "We must keep bombers". We had a Secretary of State for War who said, "We must keep tanks and heavy mobile guns". The Germans of course would not agree. The Foreign Secretary, Sir John Simon, said in the House of Commons, "The choice is plain before us. Shall we disarm ourselves, or shall we allow Germany to rearm?" The hawks in power chose to allow Germany to rearm. It was a terrible responsibility, for it led—with the subsequent betrayal of the League over Manchuria and Abyssinia, in which our Government played far too large a part—to the Second World War, and when the war came the battleships were really useless, more of a burden than a help. Bombers and tanks were the weapons with which Hitler conquered Europe.

We had six years of world turmoil and 53 million dead, an appalling disaster, and all the time a great number of people in this country were agitating that the League should be upheld and that the Covenant should be supported over Manchuria and Abyssinia. If I had the time I could go into it in great detail. All the time Sir Winston Churchill was following those who worked for the success of the League of Nations, those who organised the peace ballot, and Sir Winston took an intimate and active interest in the result of the peace ballot and congratulated Lord Cecil on its great triumph. There was overwhelming evidence that the British people wanted the League to be used to stop the aggressors in Abyssinia, Spain and Czechoslovakia, and there was ample evidence that sanctions would achieve that result.

When the war was over—this is something I hope noble Lords will remember; I have quoted it before and I shall quote it often—Sir Winston Churchill gave his long-considered verdict on what had happened in the 'thirties. The Second World War, he said, could easily have been prevented if the League of Nations had been used with courage and loyalty. That is the great lesson we should learn from today's debate. The international institutions must be upheld against those who have wanted, and those who still want, to destroy them. The United Nations has had some startling successes; the Suez war I regard as an immense service to our country as well as to the world; my noble friend has spoken of the magnificent work of the ILO for the workers of the world; and my noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder spoke of the World Health Organisation which, if it had a few more million pounds, could wipe out many other diseases and save the third world from an appalling sum of suffering and hardship.

I have used up my time and I must sit down. I appeal to noble Lords opposite not to allow their Government to do again what was done before the First and Second World Wars; namely, not to allow the negotiations for disarmament in the United Nations to fail. I appeal to the Secretary of State, to whose personality and great abilities I have often paid tribute, to play a personal part in public debate in the organs of the United Nations, perhaps in the Disarmament Commission, to secure that the greatest of all world reforms shall be carried through—the reform of which my noble friend Lord Brockway spoke—the abolition of armaments and of world hunger, the twin evils which must be dealt with together if they are to be dealt with at all, because only the wealth now given to armaments can abolish the appalling hardship, poverty and hunger that so many nations now suffer.

7.25 p.m.

Lord Goronwy-Roberts

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder deserves our warmest thanks for introducing this important debate and for the manner in which he did so. It is right that we should from time to time attempt an assessment of the role and contribution of the United Kingdom in the work of the United Nations, in the General Assembly, in the Security Council, of which we are a permanent member, and in the special agencies and similar institutions which carry on what I think sometimes is the major and possibly some of the best work of the United Nations. As my noble friend Lord Noel-Baker said, it is easy to decry the United Nations for its many mistakes, but we need only envisage a situation in the world in which there were no United Nations; and indeed if there were not, like Voltaire's God, I suspect it would have to be invented.

In assessing our role, it is right that we should be constructively critical, remembering of course that, while Britain is not a major power, it is still a very considerable power. Indeed, my experience, which extends over quite a few years now, at the Foreign Office is that despite our size and paucity of our resources comparatively speaking, we are always listened to with respect and attention by the wide range of countries which now belong to the organisation, some of them friendly to us and some of them somewhat critical.

My first question, therefore, is whether we are satisfied that in the last few years—I make no point about any particular Administration—we as a country have been contributing to the United Nations and its agencies not only the money but the manpower and womanpower that in the first enthusiastic years after 1945, in the wake of the work of Stettinius, Vandenberg and the late Lord Avon—Sir Anthony Eden as he then was—inspired a good deal of practical idealism, particularly in the United Kingdom. I was part of it, as were many other Members of this House and the other place. One has a feeling that that first enthusiastic devotion to the United Nations has somewhat fallen away in the last few years. It may be that our dwindling resources, soon to be improved we hope, have had something to do with it. Nevertheless, let us constantly question whether, within our capacity, we are doing all we can and should, for instance, to help the developing world, to alleviate dreadful disasters like the Italian earthquake, and to bring succour to the 16 million refugees who are a standing reproach to our world. We cannot do it all ourselves, but we are doing all we can in our contribution in this respect?

We have made a very creditable contribution, as we heard from my noble friend, to the work of the World Health Authority, the Food and Agricultural Authority, UNESCO, UNCTAD and in the Disarmament Commission and its predecessors. Indeed, the British initiative and the results flowing from quite a number of British initiatives in the sphere of arms control reflects very creditably indeed on successive Governments in this country. I need mention only the 1963 comprehensive test ban treaty, negotiated by the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, in Moscow, followed by the Labour Government within a few years, the agreement on biological warfare, and the British draft treaty, which a year or so ago looked hopefully to the future for implementation, on chemical warfare.

So there have been achievements that rarely hit the headlines, and when we become a little discouraged about the progress of affairs in the United Nations let us remind ourselves that this is probably the greatest task that the human race has ever given itself, a greater task than the waging of any war. This is the real revolution—what the United Nations was set up to achieve. The magnitude of the task is what we should remember, not the extent of our own failure to carry out all of it at once.

I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord McNair, that the overriding priority is the maintenance of peace and stability. Without that we can of course do nothing for the third world. We can do nothing about the Brandt Commission. Here I wish to join with my noble friend Lord Brockway in hoping for a much keener, more enthusiastic approach by Her Majesty's Government to the Brandt Commission. Nevertheless, we must remember—and the commission's report itself admits this—that there is there a deficiency: the totalitarian countries are not included, and it is very difficult to advance at the right speed in this matter hopping on one leg. If we are to be effective in terms of the Brandt recommendations, it must be a joint action, a common action in which the democratic West and the totalitarian East take part equally. But I agree with my noble friend; we need a bigger thrust in favour of the general import of the Brandt recommendations.

However, we can do nothing about these things unless we achieve peace and stability. The task, as I see it, is not so much to avert a third world war—I hope that I am not putting it too highly. Many of us feel that the immediate task, and possibly the final task, is to contain the areas of danger, to prevent the many areas of friction in the world from becoming so inflamed as to cause a third world holocaust. The Middle East, which has been mentioned by a number of speakers, is obviously the area in which the situation is the most pressing. It is an area of violent instability which is a constant threat not only to itself but to the rest of the world, geographically, strategically, and economically. It is probably the most significant of the areas of friction with which we have to cope. So, as the Foreign Secretary reminded the General Assembly a few weeks ago, our best efforts must be addressed to a solution, by negotiation, of the Middle East problem. The House will know what is the basis of this. It is contained in the resolution successfully negotiated in the United Nations by my noble friend Lord Caradon: I refer to Resolution No. 242, followed by Resolution No. 338. It is all there; the machinery, the resolutions, the policies are there. It is for the members of the organisation, governments backed by their peoples, to express a will to carry the intentions into practice.

There is no need to fashion a policy for the solution of the problems of the Middle East. The need is to move corporately, to substitute conference for conflict; and "conference" means that everybody concerned with the problem should be called in—Arab and Jew, Israeli and Palestinian, Russian and American. Everybody concerned with the problem should come into the conference; otherwise there will be no solution. In the way in which the Foreign Secretary, with brilliance and courage, solved the Rhodesian problem we found an example of this technique of bringing in everybody, no matter how obnoxious one group of attenders may be to another group. This is the key to the solution of the problem of the Middle East and indeed other problems which beset us in other parts of the world.

On the very perimeter of the Middle East the area of friction, of uncertainty, has been added to by the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. The Soviet Union may well claim an interest in the stability of Afghanistan as one of its neighbours, particularly as a neighbour bordering on a very big population of Moslems in the Soviet Union itself. Very well, the Soviet Union has that interest. But unilateral action to safeguard an interest never succeeds in an enduring way, and I welcome what Mr. Brezhnev said last week. He said that as soon as there is stability, as he sees it, in Afghanistan, the Russians will withdraw. Presumably a modus vivendi for Afghanistan and therefore for the area would be negotiated. Let it be a multilateral settlement of the problem of that area, of the outer Middle East. I say that because not only Russia but the Indian sub-continent, South-East Asia, as well as the West, have a very great interest in such a solution.

I must truncate my remarks because the beneficient operations of the rules of order require that a short debate shall be a short debate. I end on this note. The task for which the United Nations was set up was to define the common interest binding its members, to get away from the adversarial relationship among nations. This is the real change for which we are working—to approach one another, not in a spirit of manoeuvre, of suspicion, of attempting an advantage, of driving a hard bargain, "doing down" the other chap, but rather in a desire to assess together a common interest and to work together to achieve that interest. It is the interest that binds all countries, all systems, since no country, however large, and no system, however entrenched, can long survive the present persistence of the old-fashioned mood of adversarial argument. That is the heart and centre of the United Nations purpose and, I very much hope, of the foreign policy of Her Majesty's Government.

7.38 p.m.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, first, I wish to thank the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, for keeping his remarks so commendably short at this rather awkward moment when the time is running out. The noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, has done your Lordships another valuable service in providing this opportunity to take stock of the activities of the institutions within the United Nations system. Many of your Lordships, having achieved distinction in the professions or in diplomacy, have close knowledge of the work of one or other of the organisations that we have been considering today.

In recent years the membership of the United Nations has greatly increased. With the accession of the two Germanies and of Vietnam, and with the virtual completion of the process of decolonisation, the total membership is now 154, and bearing in mind the transfer of the Chinese seat a few years back to the Government of the People's Republic, the UN is now near to being a universal institution. The admission of Zimbabwe was the latest major step in this evolution. For all its imperfections, the UN is the parliament of the world, and every member state, in this age of inter-dependence, both political and economic, must take it into account and seek to work through it in the search for solutions to the problems that beset us.

The institutions of the UN system are numerous and wide-ranging. It is scarcely possible in one comprehensive phrase to sum up the Government's view of them, or to state how we see our own role in them. Nevertheless, against the background of the grave problems which the world community faces in almost every area of human activity, the Government are anxious to play a positive role whenever there is evidence of a general will to seek common ground and practical advance.

The prime original purpose of the United Nations proper—that is to say, the political institutions in New York—was the maintenance of peace and the promotion of the peaceful settlement of disputes. Some disparage the institution on the grounds that the peace has been frequently broken since 1945 and that disputes between states continue to rage. But the United Nations has also had many successes; and the criticism is based on a fundamental misunderstanding. Whatever the powers ambitiously conferred upon the Security Council by the war-time allies, it is not practical politics to expect the United Nations to impose solutions by coercive means.

The Security Council—and the General Assembly, too—are committees of states, not supranational institutions, and their ability to act and to influence events is a function of the willingness of states to work out common positions and strive for common goals. If that will is not there, then it is the policies of the states concerned that should come under attack, not the forum in which they meet. To suggest that it is not worth their meeting, or having a United Nations at all, is a real counsel of despair. The United Nations provides means for the international community to inform, to persuade and to exert pressure. It provides an extra armoury of devices that diplomacy can use in the effort to avert conflict or to bring it to an end. As Churchill said, "'Jaw-jaw' is better than war-war'." Through the UN, "jaw-jaw" can be made to continue beyond the point where the processes of the old diplomacy might have been exhausted.

One of the hopeful developments has been the growth, without much in the way of formal principles or guidelines, of UN peace-keeping. It has also been notable that governments have been increasingly willing to have recourse to the good offices of the Secretary-General. These are trends we wish to encourage. The recent trend towards informal consultation among Security Council members also has value. As a country which continues to have worldwide interests, and as a permanent member of the Security Council, we have both a need and a duty to contribute to the United Nations' work for peace. We shall continue to play our part.

Many of your Lordships will agree that one of the key elements in the political work of the United Nations is the search for greater security through arms control and disarmament. Not everyone appreciates that wide-ranging negotiations take place under UN auspices on disarmament matters virtually throughout the year. The search for balanced and verifiable measures of arms control is a painstakingly difficult one, but no one should doubt the effort that is put into it, or the high priority the British Government attach to it. It is disappointing that there is so little to show for these efforts, but the fact is that arms control discussions, whether conducted under the auspices of the UN or elsewhere, cannot be divorced from the wider political context; the prospects for agreements are closely related to renewed progress in building up international confidence and security.

Nevertheless, the Government are committed to the search for multilateral arms control measures. The United Kingdom is a party to all the multilateral arms control treaties negotiated since 1945; and we shall continue to play a full part in the work of the Committee on Disarmament in Geneva and in other UN disarmament fora. We have also, of course, given our strong support to key bilateral negotiations, such as SALT, and we welcome Mr. Reagan's statements about the importance of continuing the SALT process.

Another key role of the United Nations is its contribution towards the development of international law. In addition to other considerations, our position as the source of one of the main legal traditions of the world makes it appropriate that we should play a leading role in this sphere. Among the major achievements of recent years has been the codification under UN auspices of the Law of Treaties and the law relating to diplomatic and consular relations. I hope we shall soon witness another: a comprehensive review of the earlier codification of the international law of the sea, together with a new international régime for the deep seabed, to which the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, referred in his speech. Progress was made at the last session of the Law of the Sea Conference on the composition and voting arrangements for the Council of the International Seabed Authority. The next session, due in March and April, will have to concentrate on the important issue of participation, which we hope will be resolved so as to enable the European Community to be a party, and on the preparatory commission and preliminary investment protection.

Another welcome development in the United Nations is the growing acceptance that, despite the provision of the Charter which rules out interference by the organisation in the internal affairs of states, human rights questions are the legitimate concern of all members. It is satisfactory to note that in recent times such subordinate organs of the General Assembly as the Commission on Human Rights have been able to debate human rights subjects concerning various parts of the world without becoming ossified on ideological lines. There has also been some move away from the selectivity that marred much of the United Nations human rights work in recent years. We and other like-minded countries must play our part in using the United Nations system to promote the fundamental values on which not merely western civilisation but civilisation in general must rest.

My reference to like-minded countries makes this perhaps as good a moment as any to refer to the importance we attach in the UN context to our close contacts and collaboration with western and other countries who share our interests and pre-occupations. This is particularly true in the case of the European Community. As your Lordships know, the member states of the Community seek to harmonise their political positions on all the problems that concern them, not merely those that fall within the scope of the treaties. Co-operation at the United Nations has been one of the most successful aspects of this effort. At the last Assembly our delegation in New York joined in more than 300 meetings to harmonise Community attitudes, and a common voting position was achieved on the great majority of the resolutions. The Community has already achieved a cohesion which is widely respected in the UN organisation. We welcome and will continue to foster this trend.

The Motion put down by the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, brought in the specialised agencies as well as the UN proper. This is obviously right, as these important institutions account for more than three-quarters of the resources of the UN system in terms of staff and funds. Not enough is generally known about the practical work that the agencies conduct and the services they provide to the world community. We attach high value to this work. As your Lordships are aware, there has in recent years been a regrettable tendency for political matters, which are properly for the General Assembly, to be brought up in the agencies. We shall continue to resist this, whatever view we may take of the political issues involved.

There is one issue, however, which is both political and also properly the concern of an agency, which I should like to mention. This is the pressure in UNESCO for a new world information order, pressure for which was renewed at the recent general conference in Belgrade held in October. The Government understand the wish of the developing countries to reduce their dependence on the western media, and are willing to play their part in assisting with the training of journalists and the development of communications in developing countries. But we are determined to resist any further encroachment on the freedom of the media to gather and disseminate information; and we are determined to see that proper weight is given to the rights of individuals in UNESCO's negotiations, and not merely to the rights of countries, which is to say, governments.

May I turn now to some of the points that have been raised during the course of this evening's debate? Again, if time prevents me from dealing with all of them I hope your Lordships will forgive me and allow me to deal with them in correspondence subsequently. The noble Lord, Lord McNair, referred to the peacekeeping role of the United Nations, to which I, too, referred earlier. The United Kingdom has of course consistently supported peace-keeping operations. We currently supply the largest national contingent to the United Nations peace-keeping force in Cyprus, together with the logistic support for the entire force there; and, indeed, we provide facilities and supplies for the UN interim force in Lebanon. I hope that will indicate the support that we show for that activity.

The noble Lord, Lord McNair, also referred to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine. The agency is of course vital to stability in the Middle East. The importance that we attach to it is reflected in our own contribution of £4.5 million for the current year. We have been the second largest contributor to the agency overall since its inception; and, indeed, we have just pledged £5 million for 1981, which is, of course, subject to parliamentary approval. However, like the noble Lord, we are seriously concerned at the agency's continuing financial problems, but I fear that these can be solved only in an international context.

My Lords, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester and several other noble Lords referred to the Brandt Report, which perhaps falls a little outside the scope of this debate. My honourable friend Mr. Hurd dealt with our views on the Brandt Report very fully in the other place quite recently. Perhaps your Lordships would care to read what my honourable friend has said. We have discussed that report in this House before today and doubtless we shall do so again; but in view of the time I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I do not dwell further on this point now.

The noble Lords, Lord Caradon and Lord Kilmarnock, referred to the United Nations Fund for Population Activities. The present Government, recognising the importance of population programmes in the development process, continue to make every effort to provide assistance to population programmes commensurate with other priorities in the aid programme. Because of the diversity of population programmes and their complex links with development, the ODA supports a number of multilateral organisations working in this field. The United Nations Fund for Population Activities is the focal point of thes activities. I can assure both noble Lords that their views will be taken into account, and if I may I will write to the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, about his point concerning our contribution to the International planned Parenthood Federation.

The noble Lord, Lord Collison, referred at some length, and convincingly so, to the International Labour Organisation. As he said, the organisation is not only considerably older than the United Nations but is unique for the tripartite structure of government, employers and workers. Thus, in a sense, it is the most widely representative of all the United Nations institutions. There was a time, not so long ago, when the ILO's future as an effective forum for setting and maintaining international labour standards seemed in doubt. Failure scrupulously to observe established procedures led to the withdrawal of the USA in 1977. Happily, the danger has receded and I am sure that noble Lords will share the Government's satisfaction at the United States decision to return to the organisation in February this year.

The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, referred at length to the role of the non-aligned movement in its various activities related to the UN. We respect the original principle of non-alignment and acknowledge the important role played by many non-aligned countries in international affairs. Partisan Cuban chairmanship, however, has affected the credibility of the movement's claims to genuine non-alignment. The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, also dealt at some length with disarmament matters. I will not refer to those again now, but, as I said a week or so ago, it might be posssible to have a special debate on disarmament in this House in the not-too-distant future. The noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, in his usual convincing and moving way, spoke as always, from the depth of his considerable experience in these matters. I must say that I listened with fascination to his recounting of the 1907 conference at The Hague, which I think he said he attended with his father, and the 1919 conference in Paris, by which time he was a fully-fledged delegate in his own right.

I must refer briefly to some of the other main agencies. We could justify the existence of the World Health Organisation with the single word "smallpox"—for the WHO has succeeded in eradicating one of the greatest scourges that man has had to suffer since time immemorial. I would also mention the work of the UN bodies devoted to relief and development. Among these are the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, UNICEF and the United Nations Development Programme. We are major contributors to each of these. At last month's UN pledging conference in New York we announced, subject, again, to parliamentary approval, increased pledges for 1981 to each of these organisations. The reduction this year to UNDP, which the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, so regretted, was part of an overall reduction in the aid programme which, like other Government programmes, had to bear its share in the public expenditure cuts necessary to reduce inflation and to strengthen the economy. We are still among the 10 major donors to UNDP.

I must pay particular tribute to the High Commissioner for Refugees who has responded with great dedication and efficiency to the terrible increase in the number of refugees in recent years. Nor should we overlook the vital food agencies, the largest of which, of course, is the Food and Agriculture Organisation. Perhaps I may take this opportunity to announce that we have decided to offer a further 30,000 tonnes of cereals for four countries who are facing serious food shortages: Somalia, Mozambique, Zambia and Kenya. This will be in addition to the nearly 40,000 tonnes we have already supplied this year under our bilateral food aid programme to needy African countries. We are also paying about 20 per cent. of the cost of the food-aid supplied by the Community as deliveries of cereals to African countries, which, in the last harvest year, totalled almost 400,000 tonnes. I am sure that noble Lords will agree that, while we must help to relieve the suffering of those afflicted by famine or disease, we shall never solve their problems unless energies and resources are channelled into projects that will yield lasting results. We cannot ignore the need to feed the starving, but we must prevent starvation by helping organisations like FAO to invest in programmes designed to produce sufficient food for all.

A debate on UN agencies would be incomplete without a reference to the only one with its headquarters in the United Kingdom. The Inter-governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation is of fundamental importance to us, since we are both a major shipping nation and a country with a coastline greatly exposed to risk of marine pollution. IMCO has a crucial role to play in providing a forum for negotiation on a large number of international conventions and in drawing up detailed recommendations and codes of practice over a very wide range of technical matters affecting ships. It is vital not only that high standards be set in this field but that they should be set by international agreement. Unilateralism in the technical regulation of shipping would interfere with the freedom of navigation, create inefficiency and possibly result in lower standards.

Successive governments have encouraged Britons to become international civil servants, and over the years the secretariats of the United Nations and the specialised agencies have benefited from the disinterested work of a number of distinguished British nationals. There are some 123 Britons occupying professional, senior posts in the UN secretariat compared with the 96 to which we are entitled under the complex formula for deciding equitable geographical distribution. The position is not quite as unsatisfactory as the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, has suggested. It is a measure of their quality that, despite intense pressure for jobs within the UN system from all parts of the world, the United Kingdom should be technically over-represented in the UN. A similar proportion of Britons work for the specialised agencies. By contrast with their colleagues from some other countries, British international civil servants attach great importance to loyalty to the UN rather than to the country of their birth, and I should like to pay tribute to their devoted efforts. Although it would be invidious to name those who are still serving, perhaps I can single out one well-known to noble Lords, who has already been mentioned tonight, the late Lord Boyd-Orr, who was the first Director-General of FAO and who did so much to set that agency on its present course.

I am conscious that in attempting to respond to this debate I have touched only cursorily on some of the numerous aspects of the UN system and have left unsaid much that could have been said in response to the varied and instructive interventions of so many noble Lords, but I hope I have been able to give your Lordships some idea of the positive and practical spirit in which the Government approach their responsibilities as partners in the UN system.

7.59 p.m.

Lord Ritchie-Calder

My Lords, I will not detain your Lordships, apart from thanking very much everyone who took part and thanking also the Minister for his response, supplementing very constructively what we have been talking about. I would say that what we have done here tonight is a bit of fly-casting and simply alerting, I hope, everyone concerned in this House to the fact that we must pay more attention to the United Nations and its agencies. We do not want to go through this performance again in the sense of simply having a quick look round the shop, as it were. We ought systematically to ask ourselves what is really happening. We know little about it, as the noble Lord has said. Some of us know more than we are able to impart. The fact is we must do something about it. I accept what the Minister said about the figures in the United Nations; but what I want to see far more is in this country a regeneration of that vitality that we had in the 1930s. The noble Lord referred to IMCO. I am serving notice that I want a debate on the implications of the Law of the Sea Conference and I hope that we can find time for its full discussion. I thank your Lordships very much, and I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.