HL Deb 24 March 1993 vol 544 cc403-26

7.56 p.m.

Lord Judd rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to ensure the role and future development of UNESCO; and whether they will seek to re-establish British membership of that body.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have the highest regard for the commitment and conscientiousness of the Minister in her humanitarian work. She sets herself a gruelling pace. It is therefore particularly encouraging that she has personally found time for this brief and timely exchange on UNESCO today; aptly timed to follow the debate on world security.

Across the Atlantic, it is clear that the new Clinton presidency will approach the question of US membership of UNESCO positively and with an open mind. This could well prove an embarrassment to us in the UK because our own failure to rejoin is increasingly bewildering. I therefore fervently hope that the Minister will use this exchange today to spell out clearly what really is the current policy and to give a firm indication of when the UK will rejoin.

UNESCO was set up in 1946 with 20 member states. Today it has 172. The distinguished and universally admired Conservative statesman, Rab Butler, was, of course, one of the founding fathers. He envisaged its post-Second World War role as promoting global educational, scientific and cultural co-operation. Over the years, UNESCO has itself directly undertaken an impressive range of projects and supported many more: for example, its Herculean relocation of Philae, the historical temple complex on the Nile which was threatened by rising water levels; its launch in 1990 of the International Literacy Year Campaign and support for numerous international organisations such as the International Oceanographic Commission, the International Geological Correlation Programme and the International Hydrological Programme.

UNESCO's current work includes leading the fight to restore Dubrovnik, drawing up plans to protect the pyramids from the excesses of tourism and taking responsibility for safeguarding over 400 designated world heritage sites of outstanding and universal value. It is also responsible for setting up schools in Somalia—the Island of Peace project —as part of the UN's efforts to reconstruct civil society in that country; training ex-soldiers in Cambodia to work as literacy instructors; and for helping to establish the World Foundation for AIDS Research and Prevention.

UNESCO's founders were very clear about what its aims and objectives should be. Their vision was shaped from experiences moulded by the rise of fascism and by the devastating world war which had been necessary to stop it. The inability of the League of Nations to act as a bulwark against the dictators convinced world leaders that they had to take positive action in the aftermath of the Second World War to promote international co-operation and to construct diplomatic mechanisms which would function effectively to prevent conflict or secure its quick resolution through dialogue and diplomacy.

The international community therefore put its weight behind the United Nations. It is testimony to the vision of the founders that they sought to strengthen the UN's foundations by establishing UNESCO as an organisation which was to concentrate on improving relations between nations, and on enhancing international tolerance and understanding. UNESCO's constitution states: Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed".

That was not an easy task because the good will and idealism fostered by the fight against fascism and the collective determination that things would be very different after the war soon evaporated with the onset of the Cold War. That sad state of affairs dragged on right up until the mid-1980s, when events improved dramatically with the emergence of President Gorbachev and his rapprochement first with President Reagan and then President Bush, and the correlated collapse of communism in Eastern Europe.

The spirit of trust and co-operation that existed between the two former rivals produced a revolution in the prospects of the United Nations. For example, the international action against Iraq was possible only as a result of that dramatic improvement. But ultimately, any sustained, positive development in the role of the UN will depend upon the mutual respect and spirit of co-operation existing between UN member states. It is in that sphere that UNESCO can make an important contribution.

As I stressed, UNESCO was originally given responsibility for constructing the defences of peace. In a world in which, despite all the post-Cold War high hopes, the renewed upsurge in conflict and political instability has again accentuated the need for effective international arbitration, such defences remain critical to the future of the whole UN system, especially if the latter is to adapt to the new, more dynamic world role which unfolding global events have forced upon it. The resurgence of xenophobic nationalism, racial and religious persecution and the horrors of ethnic cleansing are directly relevant to the purposes of UNESCO and the UK's part within it.

The Government announced their withdrawal from UNESCO in December 1984, a year after President Reagan announced that the US was pulling out because it considered the organisation incompetent, profligate and overtly political. Admittedly, there were serious problems evident in UNESCO's structure and organisation, and with the direction it was taking under its then director-general. But it is evident that President Reagan's decision to withdraw owed more to blinkered Right-wing ideology than to anything else.

The Minister will recall that the decision of the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, (then Mrs. Thatcher) was taken despite the pleadings of the Commonwealth and our European Community partners, many of whom shared our concerns but nevertheless urged the United Kingdom to remain inside and to campaign for change from within.

Unfortunately, the then Mrs. Thatcher proved impervious to such appeals and the UK withdrew—a development which did our international standing no favours at all and was lamented by all our friends. It can, I think, be confidently claimed that the withdrawal of the UK was more about the close relationship of the then Mrs. Thatcher with President Reagan than a result of any clear attempt to understand what was happening at UNESCO or to devise a positive strategy to improve its functions. Sadly, Britain's withdrawal was simply, as one commentator put it at the time, "Ron's Christmas box from Mrs. T". That view is certainly supported by subsequent events at UNESCO, where Dr. Federico Mayor became the new director-general in 1987. Dr. Mayor was committed to reforming the organisation. It was a major tragedy that the US and the UK, both of which apparently shared his commitment to reform, were not present to assist him with the task.

The new director-general quickly introduced a whole series of reforms, ranging from administrative reorganisation to the abandonment of controversial initiatives such as the highly questionable "new information order", which advocated that states be allowed to register journalists; and "people's rights", a proposal that in effect threatened to attenuate the international emphasis on and commitment to human rights as usually conceived. Indicative of the sea change within UNESCO, the organisation is currently involved in a wide range of activities designed to promote democracy, freedom of the press, and respect for individual human rights.

Central to the reform process was the work of the Commission chaired by Knut Hammarskjöld, nephew of the late Dag Hammarskjöld and himself a distinguished international public servant held in high esteem. Those reforms have made a considerable impact, to the extent that in June 1992 Knut Hammarskjöld was able to tell a US congressional hearing that: UNESCO is now an extremely well-run organisation". Moreover, UNESCO itself invited the United States General Accounting Office to conduct a review of its operations. The General Accounting Office expressed general satisfaction with UNESCO's work and organisational structure, and made a series of proposals at UNESCO's request. I have here a copy of a fax sent by Mr. Miyabara of the GAO only yesterday to UNA. It says: Attached is the GAO report on UNESCO management. GAO is prepared to testify to Congress that the management problems of the past are no longer a valid reason to justify U.S. non-membership. If you have any questions please call me directly". (Perhaps the Minister will note that).

It is also worth noting that Howard Berman, chairman of the US Congress Committee on Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Operations, wrote on 25th February last to Ambassador Madeleine Albright, US Permanent Representative to the UN, and said: The findings of the General Accounting Office and of independent outside experts who closely examined management reforms at UNESCO establish that the agency is better managed than most U.N. agencies in which we do participate, and could indeed serve as a model for U.N. system-wide reform. I very much hope that this Administration will take a fresh look at the question, and not be swayed by the rather tendentious record on this issue established by the last one".

In an Adjournment debate on UNESCO in May 1992 Douglas Hogg, the Foreign and Commonwealth Minister, welcomed many of the changes, but stopped short of announcing when the United Kingdom would rejoin. He said, however, that the Government would approach the question of rejoining "with a genuinely open mind". It therefore seems curious that the same Minister did not even mention UNESCO during last December's debate on the UN, despite the promptings of various Members to do so.

Perhaps I speculate, but I imagine that the Minister's uncharacteristic reticence on the subject may have been attributable to embarrassment, because the Government's "foot dragging" now hinges on funding alone. The Minister certainly referred to that during the course of the debate in May, when he stated that the British Government would have to make "a genuine assessment of priorities", and would have to identify, our points of interest and see where the benefits and priorities lie". He added: We must measure spending through UNESCO as against spending under other parts of our aid budget".

That message was the same as that conveyed in a letter from the Foreign Secretary to Dr. Jack Cunningham earlier this month. I should like to quote from it: We have welcomed the positive steps taken by UNESCO towards reform, and we recognise the importance of the Organisation's General Conference later this year. However, there would be a price to be paid if we were to rejoin UNESCO. The cost for 1993 would be about £8 million, and almost £10 million a year thereafter. These resources would have to be diverted from bilateral aid projects—an unwelcome prospect. The costs of additional staff in both London and Paris would also need to be considered. Against that, it is not clear what in concrete terms the UK loses by not being a member of UNESCO". —a curious and uncharacteristically myopic comment from that normally imaginative and internationally minded Minister.

I find it strange, however, that the Government cite cost as the major hurdle, especially since the UK was and is a major net beneficiary of UNESCO funds. Reflecting that, UNESCO expenditure in the United Kingdom during 1991, while we were not members, was, according to UN figures, £9,523,000. Between 1984 and 1990—again during our absence from the organisation—it averaged £8,555,000. Furthermore, unless I am mistaken, the Government's aid budget was not cut by the size of our subscription when the UK withdrew in 1984.

I may be wrong, but it seems to me that the Government have wanted this issue to slip from view. That is why our debate is so important. I sincerely hope that the Minister will use this opportunity to offer a clear outline of the British Government's current position. Failure to do so will, frankly, appear increasingly absurd, particularly as President Clinton is expected to make a quick decision on the matter.

There are other factors which the Government would find it wise to consider. It will not have escaped the Minister's attention that our position on the UN Security Council, for example, has come under increasing scrutiny. I hope she will accept that that position will become still more questionable if we fail to play a full role in the work of the UN and its agencies. In that sense the benefits of rejoining UNESCO are obvious.

The era of splendid isolation is now a dim recollection from the history books. In the century ahead our international relations will be crucial to our national interests. Nothing is more important than education and the development of human resources for the creation of a prosperous and stable world. For that reason alone it is high time that we put an end to the misguided Thatcherite isolationism and started to pull our weight by rejoining and fully supporting UNESCO. At the same time, to remain outside weakens our links with other states and diminishes our influence internationally. Let us be clear about it. That is the real price that the United Kingdom will continue to pay as a result of any further procrastination or obscurantism.

We accept that there were problems in the mid-1980s prior to Britain's withdrawal. But it would have been much better if the United Kingdom had remained and campaigned to reform the organisation from within, as our friends so strongly urged us to do. We and the United States, previously two of UNESCO's most influential members, feebly marginalised ourselves at precisely the time when Dr. Mayor was looking for allies to help him reform the organisation. That said, we should now waste no time in rejoining.

Under the direction of Dr. Mayor, UNESCO has convincingly undergone considerable change. The criticisms which the Government originally made in their attempt to justify our withdrawal have now largely been met Perhaps therefore the noble Baroness can illuminate why we still have not announced our intention to rejoin. I am certain that my personal mystification at that failure is shared by the Commonwealth, our EC partners and the current membership of UNESCO who, I am told, will be awaiting the result of this exchange with considerable interest.

Today the noble Baroness should give those interested countries a very clear signal by stating categorically when the UK will resume its membership. It is particularly humiliating that the UK is still outside such an important organisation at a time when the role of the UN and its agencies has been stretched and expanded by the pressure of unfolding world events. Further delay would be inexplicable, shameful and deeply harmful to our overseas interests. The House looks to the Minister, with her enviable reputation for a genuine sense of global responsibility, to give a positive reply.

8.13 p.m.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

My Lords, few great dreams are simple to realise effectively. So it has proved with UNESCO. At the end of World War II, we saw the foundation of the United Nations as the successor of the League of Nations, with the aspiration toward a new world order. The Cold War cast a blight upon that initiative. Only in the past couple of years have we seen a new clarity of purpose and a new confidence at the United Nations. Along with the aspiration in 1945 for that new world order came the hope of co-operation among nations at the intellectual level for a meeting of minds. It took shape at the London conference in that year where the constitution for UNESCO was written, promoting co-operation in the fields of education, culture and science.

The new organisation started well with a series of valuable projects, a number of which were outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Judd. I am sure that we are grateful to him for having raised the issue this evening. Among those projects was the UNESCO Convention on Antiquities and Works of Art. It is for me a personal sorrow that the United Kingdom has not yet felt able to ratify that convention. But the organisation was not immune to bureaucracy. Unfortunately, it was so ill managed that Her Majesty's Government had to inform the director-general of the day, Mr. M'Bow, that if there were no improvement, the United Kingdom would have to withdraw. We left in 1985.

I agree with most of the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Judd, but it would perhaps be disappointing if there were not one or two points of disagreement between us. Certainly, I could not agree with his evaluation of the motivation for our leaving UNESCO; nor could I agree with his judgment on the justice of that decision. It did not make sense to pay good money to sustain not only an organisation which was inefficiently run but an organisation with whose objectives, at any rate as carried forward in practice, we could no longer feel entirely at one. But we certainly have seen a significant change. There I am happy to be back in agreement with the noble Lord who asked the Question today. We share the aspirations enunciated in the framing of UNESCO and under the supervision of the new director-general, Dr. Mayor, the deficiencies have in large measure been rectified. It is indeed generally agreed that had UNESCO been run in 1985 as it is run today, we should certainly not have left it at that time.

I regretted the need to leave at the time we did so. For two years I was a member of the United Kingdom National Committee for UNESCO which, as I recall, met in the offices of the ODA. In view of her unparalleled experience in that Ministry, I should like to say how pleased I am this evening that my noble friend Lady Chalker will reply. I am sure that she has the sympathy of the House in having to reply to two debates on the same evening, but I am sure she will reply to this one with the same effectiveness and coherence that she brought to bear a few minutes ago. However, I am a little disconcerted that she and I, along with her noble friend and colleague on the Front Bench and my noble friend and colleague on the Back Bench, are but a handful of individuals on this side of the House who are present for the debate.

If, nearly 47 years ago, there was a new world order, that is once again the case today. The Soviet Union is no more but is composed of a number of what seem increasingly mutually hostile states. Eastern Europe is in the process of transition—we hope in many areas for the better. But the noble Lord, Lord Judd, was right to refer to the appalling situation in Yugoslavia, which depends largely on perceptions of ethnicity. The new order certainly has many optimistic points to it: a new Administration in the United States; the European Community in process of evolution; realignments in the Pacific, with the Pacific Rim to the fore; and the hope before too many years of change in China when the present tired old men who rule that country have passed on. The Moslem world is developing in a variety of ways, not all of which we find easy to understand but which will certainly have a great influence. There is also the new South Africa which clearly transforms the prospects for Africa in the future.

Few of those transitions have been of a military character and none has been of a purely economic character. Most relate to changed perceptions in the world in which we live. One of those, as I mentioned, is the resurgence of old ethnicities. As an archaeologist I am appalled at the way in which the past is consistently misused at the present time in the name of national aspirations and ethnicity. That is one of the fields where greater cultural understanding and education could bear fruit. It is a sad verdict upon our time that it is in these times that the concept of "ethnic cleansing" has been formulated.

What should be the place of Britain in this new world order? What positive reasons are there for rejoining UNESCO, assuming that there are no strong negative ones? Let me begin with the altruistic position. The first reason for rejoining would be because of what Britain has to offer. We can offer our facility in what is now the one world language, which is not only the language of Shakespeare and the Romantic poets, but also the language of James Joyce, Rabindranath Tagore and of Hemingway, and of many African writers today.

The next factor to allude to is our own scientific tradition; the tradition of Newton, Darwin, Crick and Watson and of so many brilliant and successful scientists of our own time. There is then the tradition of liberal thought going back not only to the great parliamentarians, but to John Stuart Mill or to great philosophers. Indeed, a number of the philosophers were not born in this country but came to this country precisely because of that tradition. I am thinking of Wittgenstein and more particularly of Sir Karl Popper. We clearly have also an outstanding educational tradition. I shall not speak at length about the universities, but in schooling, despite the parsimonious phrase which the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, felt able to give to the present educational system yesterday, he was fulsome in his praise of the nation's primary schools and I believe that secondary schools also offer an education of distinction.

There is then the field of publication. Communications is an important part of the field of interest and influence of UNESCO. We have the BBC with its apposite motto, "Let nation speak peace unto nation". We have also the great effectiveness of Britain in the field of publication. All those qualities ought to be freely at the disposal of UNESCO; sadly they are not.

Secondly, let us consider Britain's place in the world. We may no longer be in the first rank of military powers. We can scarcely claim to be in the first rank of economic powers. But few would deny that we can claim still to be in the first rank in the fields of education, science and culture today. For instance, if we look at the contemporary arts in this country and at sculpture, there is no doubt that contemporary sculpture in Britain is one of the world's leaders as a field of artistic activity.

It has been correctly pointed out that Britain holds a permanent place on the Security Council of the United Nations. But is it appropriate for a major power to hold back in this important area which we are discussing? A number of us in this country have anxieties in the new world order as to whether Britain will retain its seat on the Security Council in the long term. It is a strange way of securing our place to absent ourselves from one of the major agencies of the United Nations.

The third reason is economic. It may be relevant to the case which will be made by my noble friend—I hope a case which both she and the Government will accept—that if the cost of re-entry to UNESCO is of the order of £8 million to £10 million a year, there will be many spin-offs of various kinds. We have already heard of the direct input which UNESCO continues to bring to this country. But if we participate fully in the range of activities of which I have been speaking, not least publications, then we shall receive economic benefits in terms of growth and influence which ought significantly to outweigh that contribution.

To this day we continue to obtain a number of benefits from UNESCO. The register of world heritage sites to which allusion has been made, includes not only major international sites like Abu Simbel, Angkor Wat or Mohenjo Daro, but it includes Stonehenge, Avebury, Fountains Abbey and Hadrian's Wall. Already that system has played a significant role in securing the position of those sites in this country. The factor of world heritage status has been quoted and found to be influential when planning applications have been made to undertake works which would be detrimental to the environment of those sites. English Heritage has found it convenient to be able to rely upon it. That is one way in which UNESCO, although we are not now part of that organisation, continues to be influential and one would wish to see that influence extended.

We do not need to envisage immediate benefits on a great scale. But it is important that we should take part in shaping the future of that organisation. A number of us may feel that Britain was slow to join Europe and that we continue to suffer the disadvantages of being slow. We shall, I fear, suffer the same disadvantages if we stand back too long from rejoining UNESCO. We should play our part in shaping a more thoughtful world, a more enlightened world, a world which sets a high value on education, culture, science and on international co-operation in those fields. I hope that my noble friend will be able to offer us hope of an early return.

8.27 p.m.

Lord McGregor of Durris

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Judd, for providing us with this opportunity to discuss UNESCO. I intend to focus narrowly on the press because that was a significant factor in our withdrawal in 1985. But I believe that it is no longer a ground for our continued exclusion from the organisation.

First among the guidelines provided by UNESCO's constitution was a call for collaboration in the work of advancing the mutual knowledge and understanding of peoples through all means of mass communication, together with such international agreements as may be necessary to promote the free flow of ideas by word and image. As a political body then made up of 159 member states, UNESCO had a duty to draw up international standards and agreements for the fields of activity for which it was responsible. Thus the international media and discussions of a new world information and communication order fell directly within its remit.

The phrase, "new world information and communication order" was coined by the non-aligned movement and entered the language in the early 1970s with the emergence of the North-South division as a major issue in international relations. The demand for a new order became a recurrent theme of the claims which developing societies made upon industrialised countries. That insistence stemmed from the dissatisfactions and anger of third world countries with what they regarded as their dependence on western media for news, information and entertainment. They talked of the delivery of these services, often by multi-national companies, as a cultural imperialism that constituted a form of neocolonialism that imperilled their economic growth, impugned their cultural autonomy and undermined their national identity and sovereignty. These and many other items in a catalogue of discontents soon brought the concept of a free flow of information into question, and it came to be seen as no more than a device to sustain the world-wide dominance of western news agencies and media. The next stage in the argument was to affirm the need for some form of international control to prevent western media abusing their power. Naturally, the Soviet Union and the other communist countries strongly supported such views and became ardent advocates of the new world information and communication order.

Among UNESCO's member states, lines were soon drawn between the large majority, supporting the new order, which treated their media as instruments of government with a duty to justify and explain official policies, and a small minority of opposing states in which media are independent critics of government and all other concentrations of power.

The new world information order made its way in UNESCO's world. In 1976 a conference in Nairobi discussed a Soviet-inspired "Draft Declaration on Fundamental Principles Governing the Use of the Mass Media in Strengthening Peace and International Understanding and in Combating War Propaganda, Racism and Apartheid". The director-general, M'Bow, moved the debate on to a new plane by setting up a 15-member International Commission for the Study of Communication Problems under the chairmanship of Mr. Sean MacBride. The commission reported in 1980 and proposed a range of governmental interventions to control the international press and news agencies and to emasculate them as critics of government and reporters of news, as well as imposing an international licensing system for journalists in which UNESCO would have played a major part and would have been the administrator of such restrictions on the world's free press.

Senior officials of UNESCO stumped the world to promote the attack on freedom and to publicise the narrow, peevish, cultural nationalism embodied in their new communication order. Western governments and media were slow to respond effectively to this development. In Britain a committee chaired by Sir Edward Pickering succeeded, after initial difficulties, in alerting the Foreign Office to the dangers of what was happening. I hope that it is not improper to mention the name of a now retired senior official, Lord Nicholas Gordon Lennox, who brought the anxieties of the Pickering Committee to the attention of Ministers, after which they became active in stating the Government's concern at many UNESCO gatherings.

In the United States a World Press Freedom Committee had already been set up as a result of what had been happening in UNESCO and it was reporting the concerns of the American press to the State Department. The State Department notified the director-general, M'Bow, that it would withdraw from UNESCO because its experience had, extraneously politicised virtually every subject it deals with; exhibited hostility towards the basic institutions of a free society, especially a free market and a free press; and demonstrated unrestrained budgetary expansion". Britain also withdrew from UNESCO for similar reasons in 1985.

The situation has now changed completely in all these respects though I shall mention only the press in order to save time. When Federico Mayor was elected director-general in 1987 in place of M'Bow, he immediately promised new policies. In a lecture which he gave three months ago in Washington he said: UNESCO's new strategy in communications … has three aims: to ensure the free flow of information at national and international levels, to ensure wider and better balanced dissemination without any obstacle to the freedom of expression, and to strengthen communication capacities in developing countries especially through our International Program for the Development of Communication … The adoption of democratic language and free-press principles led directly to action, to concrete, practical programs and results. The new communication program commits UNESCO to work for the development of free, independent and pluralistic media both in the public and private sectors". Mr. Mayor demonstrated great determination and courage in seeking to return UNESCO to democratic and realistic policies as far as the press is concerned even before this task was eased by the collapse of the Soviet Union. UNESCO has now so transformed its policies and attitudes towards the international press that I understand that the World Press Freedom Committee in Washington believes that the United States should re-examine its position and indeed is urging the State Department to do so. I hope that Britain will do likewise.

A number of positive reasons for our returning to UNESCO were listed impressively by the noble Lords, Lord Judd and Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn. I wish to add one positive reason—the value of UNESCO in promoting a free press not only in developing societies but also in those societies now attempting to substitute democratic for authoritarian regimes. They all face extraordinarily difficult problems of financing a free press and they are also having to deal with the problems of regulating the press. Many countries in eastern Europe, for example, are now having to face the issue that, to many of the new governments, the vigorous criticism to which they are being subjected by their newly freed press appears simply as attempts to undermine democracy itself. All those countries are urgently concerned to discover some means by which a press can be regulated by an institution which stands between the press and the government, which imposes ethical standards on the press but does so without endangering freedom of criticism of political institutions. It is for that reason that many of these countries have been showing a particular interest in what is happening in that respect here at home.

I believe that UNESCO is singularly well-equipped to assist in that vital development. It is perfectly true that over the years Britain has provided a very great deal of bilateral assistance to the press in developing countries and currently to the press in eastern Europe. But I believe that it is desirable that that assistance should be accompanied and balanced by the efforts of an international organisation which is now dedicated to establishing and assisting a free press.

When we return to UNESCO and in the course of considering what might be done, I hope that the Government will examine carefully why it was that so many of those developments which I have been talking about came as a shock to civil servants and Ministers in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I believe that a very important factor in the situation was that too much of the content of UNESCO's work and its programmes was being monitored by junior officials and was not being effectively scrutinised by senior Ministers. On our return I hope that that deficiency may be remedied.

8.43 p.m.

Lord Rea

My Lords, I intended to make only a few points in support of my noble friend's Question. In fact, he has made his case so comprehensively (and the two noble Lords who followed him have also added such good arguments) that I shall be very largely repeating those arguments but in slightly different words.

The first point is one which my noble friend developed initially. It is that most of the reasons why the United States and Britain withdrew from UNESCO in 1984–85 have now been put right. He quoted Government Ministers as admitting that that was the case. Doctor Mayor has made impressive progress in tightening up the administration of UNESCO and targeting programmes more effectively. The unconstructive and inappropriate Left-Right and North-South confrontational positions of UNESCO when it was under the direction of Mr. M'Bow, as the noble Lord, Lord McGregor, pointed out very clearly and described in great detail, have largely now been defused. A much more co-operative climate prevails.

Very recently, on February 23rd, the Foreign Secretary is reported to have said: If the United Kingdom was considering leaving UNESCO now they certainly would not leave". On that occasion he was speaking to a group of MPs of all parties, together with Douglas Hogg and Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials. Other noble Lords have pointed out that it is very much to our advantage to be within UNESCO for several reasons. Conversely, we lose out by not being a member. As the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, and my noble friend Lord Judd have pointed out, we gain economically from being in UNESCO and we still do even though we are not a member of it. We certainly did when we were. According to Cyril Townsend MP, who was a long-term supporter of the United Nations, we regularly used to earn more money from UNESCO than we put in in any one year.

I feel that that alone should demolish the argument that we cannot afford to be in UNESCO. It is true of course that the money does not come directly back into Government coffers as such, but it comes back to the United Kingdom economy. We could do with more arrangements like that just now. We should not forget that the organisation was formed here in Britain only a stone's throw from your Lordship's House: at the Institution of Civil Engineers. Its founding fathers embodied many ideas from British cultural and scientific leaders. In fact they were the instigators of the organisation as the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, has pointed out. If we do not get back into UNESCO, we shall lose influence in the world, not only culturally and scientifically but because of the principle of universal membership of United Nations organisations that all permanent members of the Security Council should hold.

As my noble friend pointed out, our position on the Security Council as a permanent member is now being strongly questioned, particularly by Germany and Japan—and with some justification. We definitely weaken our position in our argument for staying on as a permanent member by staying out of this important United Nations organisation. If we re-enter UNESCO soon we shall be in a position to compete for some of the most important offices in the organisation and we can influence it powerfully from the inside. Already "Francophonie" is asserting a bid to be the most influential force in the organisation. Japan is anxious to buy in to increase its influence. I feel that it is quite urgent for Britain to get in, if possible, before the United States does so. They are going to do that quite soon. With their much bigger financial clout, they will be in a position to occupy top positions and steer policy—possibly not to our advantage.

I am sure that one of the arguments which the noble Baroness will put forward—unless tonight she is going to announce that it is the Government's decision to rejoin—is that the cost of joining will be at the expense of other vital ODA activities. If she is going to argue that, I fully agree in advance. That must not happen and it need not. Looking at debates held in another place, I note that Cyril Townsend points out that the £9 million required to rejoin UNESCO represents just two tanks in the Rhine Army.

We shall do far more for Britain and the world by being in UNESCO which is a strong weapon against Beveridge's three evils of ignorance, disease and squalor, than we will by maintaining two tanks when there is no longer an enemy in sight.

8.48 p.m.

Lord St. John of Bletso

My Lords, I join in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Judd, for introducing this evening's debate which has certainly come at an opportune time now that almost all of the objections to Britain, the United States and Singapore leaving UNESCO in 1985 have been met and of course following the election of the new Administration in the United States. I used to question the efficacy of UNESCO and of the Commonwealth. However, against the recent global trend of ethnic and cultural intolerance, the population explosion, violence and civil wars, famine, environmental pollution and destruction, and the consequential human misery caused, the need for a meeting of minds representing all countries and engendering mutual understanding and common values becomes all the more important.

Clearly, the anti-Western and anti-free market rhetoric of UNESCO before the election of the current director-general, Dr. Federico Mayor, has ceased to be a major problem to critics of UNESCO, which has now developed a more independent, professional and dynamic management. While many would argue that most of UNESCO's past weaknesses have been overcome, it will take many more years to totally rectify all of them. I have heard several arguments that Britain should not have left UNESCO in 1985 but should have worked from within the organisation. I personally am of the view that Her Majesty's Government were justified in leaving UNESCO in 1985 and that that, together with the more enlightened approach of the new director-general as well as Britain's, the USA's and Singapore's non-membership of UNESCO, has effectively promoted the current reforms to the organisation. However, all that is in the past. As has been argued by all noble Lords this evening, surely now is the time to rejoin the organisation and thereby promote future reforms by taking a more positive and active role within UNESCO.

It is well known that UNESCO is currently experiencing a major cash crunch with a large deficit of, I believe, almost 80 million dollars, largely as a result of the failure of the Commonwealth of Independent States and Brazil to pay their dues. UNESCO's spending—I am again speaking from hearsay—runs to approximately £150 million a year. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, has already mentioned what UNESCO has contributed to projects in the United Kingdom since we left that organisation in 1985. Surely the money saved from not being a member of UNESCO (and thus not subscribing) is totally out of proportion to the overall benefits, not just in terms of what Britain can get out of UNESCO but also in terms of what it can contribute to the organisation.

Among the major reforms achieved by the new director-general, he has trimmed the budget and achieved an overall reduction in costs. He has not only achieved a better management of financial resources but human resources have been strengthened also. There has been increased decentralisation of staff and activities from the Paris headquarters to the field. I understand that he has also reduced the major projects from 15 to seven. Her Majesty's Government have raised that point in the past as one of their objections to rejoining UNESCO.

As many noble Lords have mentioned, the organisation has abandoned its controversial media policy and is now committed to promoting a free press. That point was illustrated and elaborated upon by the noble Lord, Lord McGregor of Durris. Clearly, the director-general is determined to be practical and more focused.

As the noble Lord, Lord Judd, mentioned in his opening remarks, the objectives of UNESCO include the promotion of environmental research, the improvement of global education and literacy, the protection of members' cultural heritage and the provision of a forum of discussion on general global problems.

Turning to a point stressed by the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, it is my premise that education has a major role to play in resolving many of the major problems facing the world today. It is noteworthy that the director-general has recently commissioned Jacques Delors to head an international commission to seek ways in which education can be employed to fashion a more tolerable and less violent world. It is Dr. Mayor's contention that non-violence, equality and liberty should be, the basis for education in all countries no matter what their beliefs, cultural sensibilities or religious principles are". The director-general is clearly committed to not allowing UNESCO to be used as a political tool, as it was pre-1985.

So where do we stand today? In a Written Answer to the honourable Member for Lewisham West, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, on 16th December last year, listed the scope for further concentration of programmes, the need for better evaluation of programmes and the need for more decentralisation as the major current objections of HMG to rejoining that organisation.

Considering the extent of the reforms so far achieved since 1985, which we have all mentioned, and the fact that UNESCO is the only major international forum for intellectual, scientific and cultural exchanges, I hope that the Minister this evening can give us some assurance that HMG will soon be rejoining this worthwhile organisation. To paraphrase the late Lyndon Johnson, is it not better to be inside the tent facing out that on the outside facing in?

8.56 p.m.

Lord Ennals

My Lords, I could complain that the luck of the draw has made me the last Back-Bench speaker and that everything has already been said, but I do not look upon it in that way. I look upon it as winding-up a debate of remarkable unanimity. I hope that the Minister will not break the wonderful spirit that we have established in the Chamber because the same message has come from all Benches, which I should perhaps say are not packed in case those who read the report of the debate think that they are. There may have been some slight differences between us as to whether it was right or wrong to leave UNESCO at that time, but all of us have said that the time is now right for Britain to re-enter. If we delay very much, it will be to our loss.

I should like to join those who have paid a tribute to Dr. Mayor. His election as director-general has changed the situation dramatically. I am certain that the Government would not disagree with that. He has been very generous in the sense that during the period when Britain has been out and he has been in, he has always demonstrated his wish to see us back in and has sought to give us assurances that so many of the issues which caused the Government to feel that the time had come to get out have now been resolved. This debate has emphasised that point.

Perhaps I should have begun by declaring an interest—or rather two or three. I was chairman of the United Nations Association in 1984–85 when the United Kingdom Government were planning to pull Britain out of UNESCO. I was involved, unsuccessfully, in seeking to persuade them not to do so—and I was not alone in being unsuccessful. An all-party campaign was unsuccessful. If we are going to pay tributes I should like to pay a tribute to Bowen Wells in another place who has been absolutely constant in sustaining his commitment to get Britain back into UNESCO.

The other interest is that I am joint president of the Friends of UNESCO which, since the opt-out, has worked extremely hard to keep the spirit of UNESCO alive in Britain, especially among academics, educationalists, scientists, librarians, archaeologists and, indeed, politicians. There has been a sustained campaign both to keep the spirit of UNESCO alive in Britain and to seek to persuade the Government to return Britain to our rightful place in UNESCO, having played such an important part in bringing it into existence.

If I am paying tributes to Members of Parliament, I should also pay tributes to two or three other people who are not Members of Parliament, but who have been vigorous in their commitment to UNESCO. One of them is Dr. Maurice Goldsmith, who is a former chairman of the Friends of UNESCO. Another is Rashid Kareh who, for the United Nations Association, has shown constant commitment and interest. I shall mention the names of Malcolm Harper, director of the United Nations Association and David Church, who was secretary of the UK National Commission for UNESCO until 1985. There are many other names that I should like to mention but those people deserve credit as well as the all-party parliamentarians who have sought to press the Government.

In my view it was a mistake to leave. The quotation given by the noble Lord, Lord St. John, was an indication that it is better to be in because one can fight better from the inside. We should have resolved some of the problems more quickly if Federico Mayor had had the support in UNESCO of British and American Ministers in trying to resolve some of the real difficulties. All of us have recognised that there were valid criticisms but I believe that the principle of universality of the UN and its specialised agencies is of great importance. The list of countries which have opted out or withdrawn from the UN or its agencies is not distinguished. I look forward to the time when Britain is a member once again and can proudly claim the universality of the membership of the UN and its agencies.

Having fallen over myself yesterday to congratulate my noble friend Lord Judd on the speech which he made it may be a little repetitious of me to do so again today. However, I believe that he has judged the mood absolutely right and that we have won the argument. The statement made by Mr. Douglas Hogg in another place echoed that. It is sad to think that it can only be that we cannot now afford to rejoin. We should look at how much we have lost by being out and perhaps we shall see that we could have afforded membership had we not been out. However, I am pleased that the Minister who is to reply is the Minister who presumably holds the purse strings; of course, with the approval of the Treasury. The money comes out of her budget and I cannot but believe that she is enthusiastically campaigning for Britain to rejoin at the earliest moment.

My figures are not those of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, because many figures flush around. I was told that in 1985 the UK put £6.4 million into UNESCO and received £50 million in consultancy fees, books and so forth in return. That would be as much the case today as then. If the auditors did their work we should find that, of each year of Britain's membership, it received from UNESCO in terms of fees and payments more than it put in. I believe that that will prove to be the case when we are a member once again.

I wish to make two points about the sad period of Britain's opt out. We followed the United States but I hope that we shall now lead the United States in rejoining. We know that we shall be followed by the United States. From my impression of the views of Congressional leaders and from what one hears of the new President there is no doubt about that. It would be a sound move for us to rejoin first and for once to be seen to be giving the lead.

Secondly, I suppose that in 1985 the UK Government hoped that many other UNESCO member states would follow suit and that our leaving would result in a disintegration. We must have thought and hoped that our colleagues in the Community would have followed and that more than only one member of the Commonwealth would have followed us. It must have been hurtful that only three countries quit UNESCO following the United States' lead.

I want to see us back in as members. I do not know how many existing member states care about whether we return but I like to believe that they do and that they will respect us for rejoining at this time. There are many good reasons why Britain should be back in UNESCO. I received a letter only today from the Royal Society of Chemistry. I am not a chemist but I thought that its argument was strong and I wish to quote two paragraphs from its letter. First, it stated: Although scientific links of some kind have continued through the funding of the Overseas Development Administration, the UK could benefit from rejoining the evolving UNESCO activities in the environmental sciences and UK expertise in the management of science and technology (and in its evaluation) could be useful". The Parliamentary Affairs Officer of the Royal Society of Chemistry put forward a second argument. He stated: The Society … is also mindful of the important work that there is still to do in the science and environmental area — such as the need in 1992–95 to provide advanced training to 3,000 mathematicians, physicists, chemists and biologists; to award research grants; and to establish 15–20 pilot projects for up-dating teaching materials and science curricula". The Friends of UNESCO organised a highly successful conference in the Palace of Westminster. It took place in February and the Grand Committee Room was packed. Many points were raised by people from all parties and the different interest groups about the reasons for our rejoining. Language is one reason. It was said at the conference that the English language is our intellectual North Sea oil. That is right; it is an enormous advantage. But unlike North Sea oil, which will disappear, our language will grow and gain but only if we are inside the organisation. It is a global language of trade, commerce, finance, communications, computers and education. I believe that we must capitalise on that. British educationists need to join UNESCO's expert networks, in particular at the higher education level. I believe that British influence is widespread via the Commonwealth and that we can use our influence in education a great deal more than we do.

UNESCO provides a unique scientific global forum and we want to be in on that. In thinking about some of the changes, I made reference to the environmental challenges which Britain can face within UNESCO. In looking at sustainable development, Britain can benefit from and contribute to UNESCO's activities in the UNCED follow-up process, particularly as that is the only UN body concerned with science training, scientific capacity building in developing countries and with a sustainable management of environmental systems and ecosystems. I believe that resumed UK membership of UNESCO would re-establish UNESCO's cultural agenda at the heart of the UN system and would strengthen the ability of UNESCO to deliver its programme objectives. Rejoining UNESCO would enable UK artists and experts once again to participate fully in international programmes and to enhance cultural understanding in addition to maintaining cultural standards in the preservation of the national heritage. I could continue with argument after argument as to why Britain should be inside and not on the outside looking in, as was said by my noble friend.

I hope that the Minister will agree with those arguments. I hope that she will give us some encouraging news. If she does not tell us today, I hope that the Prime Minister will make a Statement within the next few weeks. I hope that he cares enough about the arguments voiced in this House to state that Britain wishes to rejoin UNESCO. He must recognise its importance for us in our role in the UN. His presidency of the Security Council in January of last year was extremely important. The Prime Minister now has the opportunity to show a degree of leadership in relation to our role in UNESCO which would be to his advantage. I want Britain to be back in UNESCO, and I want the Prime Minister to play his role in that.

9.10 p.m.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Judd, for providing us with this opportunity to debate an extremely important subject. I am grateful also to all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate.

At the opening of UNESCO in 1945 it was written: Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed". Coming, as this debate does, immediately on the heels of a debate on non-proliferation, I thought that those words are truer tonight than I have ever believed them to be before. There was only one error in that quotation. Of course, in 1945 we talked only of the "minds of men" but this evening I should like to add the words "and women".

It has been an interesting debate and it is too long since we debated in this House UNESCO, its role, and the United Kingdom's relationship with it. The last debate was on 14th January 1987. However, as some noble Lords have pointed out, the issues have been debated in another place most recently on 22nd May and 4th December of last year. They have been discussed more and more as a very energetic campaign for rejoining UNESCO has warmed up. I do not believe that I have ever heard the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, speak more energetically than he did this evening as regards rejoining UNESCO.

During the May debate, the Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Douglas Hogg, gave an assurance that he approached the question with a genuinely open mind. I confirm to your Lordships that that is still the situation and it is certainly my position.

Serious problems caused us to leave UNESCO in 1985 but I must point out to the noble Lord, Lord Judd, that it was not for the reasons which he gave but rather for the reasons given by the noble Lord, Lord McGregor of Durris. It does not come well from the noble Lord, Lord Judd, to make the remarks that he did about my noble friend Lady Thatcher when she was Prime Minister.

Lord Ennals

My Lords, it was the Prime Minister who signed. That is obvious.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, it is not obvious. I shall take on the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, as regards this matter. Although at that time I was not a Minister in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, I remember looking into what was going on at that time. The noble Lord, Lord McGregor, was extremely fair and interesting when he gave an extremely full explanation of what went so totally wrong with that committee of 15 people as regards the essential question of freedom of the press. Of course the Prime Minister of the day must undersign our membership or withdrawal of membership of any organisation. However, what I was saying to the noble Lord, Lord Judd—and from the look on his face he knows that I am right—was that he was wrong in the motives which he ascribed to my noble friend Lady Thatcher. It was the state of UNESCO under Mr. M'Bow which caused us to leave in 1985, as the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, said.

I want to welcome the steps that Dr. Mayor has made since 1987. My goodness, what a task he had to take on because the organisation was indeed in a perilous state. The noble Lord, Lord Ennals, made a claim tonight that we might have hoped for the disintegration of UNESCO. He was entirely wrong in that statement; what we wanted was the reform of UNESCO. I shall return later to the stage that that reform has reached.

Many noble Lords accepted that the problems were real, but they still believed that we should not have left. The inimitable phrase that, "we should have stayed in the tent and not gone outside" was used. However, I have been told many times over by people in this country and by other UNESCO members that the fact that the United Kingdom—a founder member of UNESCO—found it necessary to leave acted as a stimulus to the reform process.

It is possible that the politicisation of UNESCO which the noble Lord, Lord McGregor, described so well—now a thing of the past—might have become a dead letter in any event as a result of the sweeping changes in the world's political system over recent years. I firmly believe that without our being outside the organisation, and yet still strongly encouraging from our position as an interested observer, the progress achieved in such matters as administration, management, budgetary improvements and programme planning and evaluation would have been much less marked than it is.

I should like to pay a very sincere tribute to Federico Mayor and his team of reformers. The noble Lord, Lord Rea, was absolutely right, they have made impressive progress. But that does not mean that there is not more to be done. Of course, I am well aware of the parliamentary interest with over 200 signatures to the Early Day Motion in another place and of the parliamentary interest in this House. However, I have to say that the progress that is being made is something that we need to keep seeing develop. I shall return to that aspect in just a moment.

I think that the aims of the organisation now are so much clearer and better. The noble Lord, Lord McGregor, described them and I shall not repeat what he said. Ensuring the free flow of information, a wider and better balance and strengthening the communications capacity is exactly what we always hoped UNESCO would achieve from the beginning. For reasons of, perhaps, lack of interest on the part of some member nations, they went diametrically in the opposite direction towards the end of the 1970s.

One of the reasons for our withdrawal in 1985 is now a dead duck. However, I believe that the new UNESCO is fully aware of the problems now to be tackled. There are so many newly-emerging democracies. UNESCO needs to co-operate to promote the concept of a free and pluralistic press in those democracies. They are not the only people doing that work; indeed, I have been very glad that through the know-how funds we have been able to give much help to the emerging democracies of Eastern Europe. We welcome the action that was taken at the Windhoek Conference of UNESCO in 1991 and at the Alma Ata Conference last year when declarations were issued in support of the free flow of information in Africa and Central Asia respectively. That is what UNESCO was set up to achieve. It is now being achieved gradually. But I must say that many countries both in Africa and Central Asia have some way to go before they achieve that free flow of information and a free and fair press. I believe that we should always be mindful of that fact in all the other decisions that we take about assistance to those developing countries.

I was most interested to hear the quotation given by the noble Lord, Lord Judd, about the General Accounting Office. I think that he probably knows that he has been exceptionally lucky to have a copy of the review which was presented only yesterday to Congressman Bermon in the US Congress. The State Department in Washington has a copy, but I have to tell the noble Lord that the United Kingdom Government do not yet have a copy, so I shall be borrowing his if he will allow me.

Lord Judd

My Lords, I shall be delighted to lend my copy.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Lord.

Of course, I understand that the document is broadly favourable to UNESCO. But, once again, it is pointed out that no progress has been made on decentralisation. I should like to tell the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, that there are still some outstanding reforms. The latter noble Lord said that there were fewer programme activities. It is true that some progress has been made, but noble Lords may be aware that, at the last executive board in October, a clear impatience was displayed by members that so much more needs to be done to concentrate the minds, settle the priorities and work clearly for those priorities without spreading the efforts over too wide a field.

There have been improvements, most noticeably in administration and management. Certainly, good work is being done by bodies under UNESCO's auspices such as the World Heritage Committee, the Inter-Governmental Oceanographic Commission and the Inter-Governmental Council of the International Hydrological Programme. Although we do not contribute to UNESCO's general budget, we have retained our membership of those inter-governmental bodies and we have been able to contribute to selective bodies such as these. They have been of benefit to the UK, and what the UK has been able to contribute has been of great benefit to UNESCO.

However, those organisations represent only a small part of UNESCO resources. That is why I still contend—I know that the director-general is seeking to change the position —that the organisation continues to lack sufficient focus. I am uneasy at a recent decision of UNESCO to increase by two-thirds its participation programme at a time when it has a cash flow crisis. At such a time it is quite mad to add 10 million dollars of expenditure to the participation programme which is not even properly evaluated. It is a programme where member states make bids to get funds for projects but there is absolutely no follow-up at all. If the money that goes into UNESCO, whoever contributes that money, is going to be properly used in the way we demand our aid programme money is properly used, there must be a proper evaluation and follow-up of the resources that are put in. While the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, may disagree with me on some matters, I am delighted to see that he appears to agree with me in this instance.

As I said, there have been some improvements. The draft programme is better, as is the budget document for 1994–95. But, frankly, past experience shows us that just publishing documentation—although that process has improved—is not enough because it has borne little resemblance to the reality of spending. Therefore it raises big question marks in the mind of even the most enthusiastic but objective observer.

The noble Lords, Lord Judd and Lord Rea, commented on the benefits of UNESCO to the UK. Of the £9.5 million cited by UNESCO as expenditure in the UK, £5 million went to meet the salaries of UK staff. However, those staff were not necessarily located in the UK and the resources were not necessarily deployed in the UK. Some of the staff were in Paris and in other places around the world. Therefore, the figure of £9.5 million is rather misleading.

I am aware that we benefit from UNESCO's spending and from the contribution that we put in and receive from UNESCO. However, I must warn noble Lords that the total financial benefits to the UK do not outweigh the cost of membership. The figures show that most of the money spent over the years has been spent on UK citizens employed by UNESCO. I am not yet convinced that resumption of membership will bring us great extra financial benefits. Perhaps that is not what should be uppermost in our minds. I believe that all noble Lords would agree with me that the principal concern is whether we are getting real value for money and whether we can truly improve the situation if we decide to resume membership.

Lord Rea

My Lords, I just wish to mention a small point. We referred to the financial aspect not because we felt it was important but because we felt the Government might consider it important.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I believe that I have put the matter in context. I would say to the noble Lords, Lord Judd and Lord Ennals, that the American Administration have not yet decided whether to rejoin. That administration have difficult resource implications to consider which amount to about 55 million dollars a year. We shall take our own decision based on British interests and British priorities. We await confirmation of various pieces of information. We are certainly in close touch with the Americans, not only here in London but also in Washington and in Paris. There is no question of our hanging on to their coat tails or trying to beat them to it. It is a question of value for money and what we might otherwise be doing.

I turn now to that question of cost and what we might otherwise do with the money. Considerable costs would be involved if we were to rejoin, both on the diplomatic wing and on the aid wing, where funds are under enormous pressure. We estimate that should we rejoin on 1st June our contribution would be £4.5 million this year. In addition we would be required to make an advance payment of £610,000 to UNESCO's working capital fund. Any such payments this year would simply be redistributed to existing members under the UNESCO rules. They would not go towards projects which would not otherwise be undertaken, as I believe many Members of both Houses have assumed. In 1994, provided no change is made to the existing budget level, our membership contribution would be about £10 million. It would rise thereafter.

It is not only the budget which we must consider. There are also staffing costs. We would have to face staff increases in London and once again set up a permanent delegation in Paris. Such money for UNESCO would have to come from existing programmes. I would have to consider whether those existing programmes, which are giving us excellent value for money, are worth sacrificing to rejoin UNESCO, for reasons which may be sound on some counts. However, on other counts the situation has not yet improved sufficiently to make me certain that we would achieve better value for money.

We have had a good debate tonight. I am glad that we have had the debate. I believe that we have some way to go before we come to a decision. I am appreciative of the efforts of those who are so much in favour of rejoining. However, as an old hand in these matters, perhaps I may give one word of advice to the noble Lord, Lord Ennals. It is important that we should view the matter objectively. I say to him only that the follow-up from UNCED will be fully covered not by UNESCO but by the Commission for Sustainable Development and the United Nations Environment Programme, and some of the development issues by UNDP. Therefore, we should not claim for UNESCO a role which it will not have in the future.

Lord Ennals

My Lords, is the noble Baroness saying that the Commission for Sustainable Development will not turn to UNESCO for some of its scientific work? I understood that it would.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, it is a moot point as to whether it will be UNESCO as an organisation. Persons who contribute to the work of UNESCO are likely to be the same persons involved in advising the Commission on Sustainable Development. However, it is not a role of UNESCO to carry out the follow-up to UNCED. I understand that that is the role of the Commission for Sustainable Development, which will call on scientists.

There is a real problem, which the comments that have been made bring fully to mind. There is a real problem in the UN organisations as a whole of overlap and, from time to time, duplication. I am a great supporter of the UN organisations, but, goodness me, it would be so much better for the people they seek to help if there was not so much overlap and if people were not second-guessing others and trying to invent the wheel.

I come to my final remarks. I believe that we must wind up the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, is tempting me to allow a further intervention but I shall not be tempted tonight.

We shall continue to review our position on UNESCO. I am grateful to noble Lords for their contributions and I want to ensure that all your Lordships' views are taken fully into account in reaching the decision. I believe that I have said enough for noble Lords to realise that the decision is a difficult one. We have to balance the excellent arguments advanced by noble Lords against our duty to gauge, in the light of considerable competing pressures on our resources, where our priorities lie and how the interests of the recipients of our aid budget can best be served. I shall do that to the best of my ability, but it will not be an easy decision.

House adjourned at half past nine o'clock.