U.N.R.R.a. (Winding-Up)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th November 1946.

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1.51 p.m.

Photo of Mr William Warbey Mr William Warbey , Luton

The House has been discussing the question of making arrangements to enable supplies of a particular item of food to be made available to hungry people. I should like, for a time, to direct the attention of hon. Members to the wider and more general question of the making available of urgently needed supplies, particularly of food, to countries and to peoples in need throughout the world. In particular, I should like to deal with the decision that has apparently been taken to wind up the activities of that great international organisation, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. A very difficult and tragic situation is going to arise if this decision becomes effective, and if no adequate steps are taken to provide other means of doing the work which that organisation has been and is still doing.

This is not the moment to give anything like a comprehensive review of the work which U.N.R.R.A. has done, but, in order that we can appreciate what is involved in its disbandment, we should, at least, remind ourselves of one or two essential facts. U.N.R.R.A. was set up in 1943 as the result of a recognition that, at the end of the war, there would be widespread need for urgent supplies in many countries which would not be in a position to meet that need from their own internal resources or by the normal process of imports. Forty-seven nations participated in the formation of U.N.R.R.A., and all of them have contributed to its administrative budget. On the other hand, the much higher costs represented by the operational budget have, by international agreement, been borne only by those nations which were not invaded. Some 31 nations have contributed a sum representing, approximately, one per cent. of their national incomes towards the operational budget of U.N.R.R.A. The largest burden has, inevitably, fallen upon the United States, which has contributed, approximately, 70 per cent. of the operational costs. We ourselves have been next in rank, providing something like 17 per cent. of the budget. Altogether, the total contributions to U.N.R.R.A. in the course of the two years in which contributions have been made, have been a little over £900 million, towards which this country has made a contribution of £155 million.

Let me say right away that I think we should place on record our recognition of the magnificent contribution which has come to U.N.R.R.A. from the United States, and that we should also place on record the fact that we, too, have played a very big part in this international relief work, and have made a fine contribution from our own severely limited resources. The Canadian Government—one of our own Dominions—have, I think, been third on the list of contributing nations, and, in accordance with its general tradition of playing a part in international relief work, Canada has made a contribution of which she can justly be proud.

The work of the organisation has been to provide urgently needed supplies, especially of food, but also of agricultural materials and of materials for the resuscitation of industry, to a number of European and Asiatic countries. As they found themselves in possession of adequate foreign exchange resources, most of the countries of Western Europe decided not to take advantage of U.N.R.R.A. assistance. Countries like France, Belgium, Holland and Norway voluntarily forfeited their rights under U.N.R.R.A. Relief has, therefore, been provided to such countries as Greece, Albania, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Ethiopia, the Ukraine, Byelorussia, China, Korea, Italy and Austria. Emergency supplies have also been sent to Hungary, Finland, the Philippines and the Dodecanese Islands.

In carrying out this work U.N.R.R.A. has been helped by having a genuine international staff of some 10,000 persons drawn from 43 nationalities. Under the capable direction, first of all, of Director-General Herbert Lehmann and, more recently, of Director-General LaGuardia, this staff has given a magnificent example of the way in which people of different nationalities—British, American, French, Russian, and many others—have worked loyalty together as a team, giving devoted service to the cause for which they stood. Although criticisms have certainly been made, and must inevitably arise when one is dealing with a totally new international Civil Service, nevertheless, on the whole, I think that all observers will agree that, in the circumstances, this staff has given a magnificent example of loyalty, hard work and devotion to duty. As a result, this organisation has brought aid and succour to the hungry, the sick and the dispossessed throughout the world. Moreover, it has represented something of significance in the international field. It has been, perhaps, the first working example of a supranational organisation possessing its own funds and machinery, and carrying out its work with a minimum degree of interference from the principles of absolute national sovereignty. It has been an example of international solidarity on the highest scale, and I suggest, without wishing to give offence to the few hon. Members present on the opposite side of the House, that it has also been an example of a Socialist principle which some of us regard as being of considerable importance—the principle of "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. "That has been the principle which has inspired the work and operations of U.N.R.R.A.

Finally—and this is no insignificant point—it has been what "The Times" recently described as "a working link between East and West." Perhaps not least of the tragedies in the present difficult international situation is that this working link may be broken. The decision has been taken to terminate U.N.R.R.A. The decision was taken at the fifth session of the U.N.R.R.A. Council held last August at Geneva. The circumstances surrounding the decision are, perhaps, a little strange, because early in the session the Director-General said that as not one of the contributing nations had made any provision for U.N.R.R.A. for the year 1947, this was taken by the Administration as notice that U.N.R.R.A.'s labours were ended. There does not appear to be any record that the Director-General or his staff made any protest against the non-arrival of the third annual contributions, nor is there any evidence of efforts made to find out what nations would be willing to make a third contribution. Apparently, it was just accepted that those contributions were not, and would not be, forthcoming.

The decision was accordingly taken to wind up U.N.R.R.A. formally, as far as Europe is concerned; on 31st December this year, and, as far as the Far East is concerned, on 31st March, 1947, with an allowance of something like three months in each case for the completion of the shipment programmes. There was no uncertainty in the minds of any of the delegates at that Council meeting that the needs which U.N.R.R.A. was set up to serve were continuing and would continue well into next year. The official reports made by the U.N.R.R.A. field teams and investigation committees had shown that in many countries that need would continue well into next year. While it was agreed that one or two countries had made an excellent recovery—Czechoslovakia, perhaps, would be in a position to meet her needs from her normal resources, and that Poland was well on the road to recovery—nevertheless, I think it was not contested by any delegate that, in the majority of the countries which U.N.R.R.A. existed to serve, the need would continue well beyond the period at which it had been decided that U.N.R.R.A. should terminate its activities. Country after country came forward at that meeting to describe the situation in which they would be placed as a result of the cutting off of the supplies which they had been receiving, and particular attention was directed towards the gap which would exist between the ending of the pipeline supplies, roughly in March next year, and the coming in of next year's harvest, approximately in September. Here was a particular gap of some six months which represented the most urgent need of many of these countries and for which no machinery and no means were being provided.

There were two rather curious anomalies about the decisions taken at this U.N.R.R.A. Council meeting. One was that there was to be one exception to the countries which were to cease to receive U.N.R.R.A. aid. That was Korea. One may ask, why Korea? It certainly seems a curious exception. Can it be that the United States is particularly interested in the situation in Korea because of the difficulties surrounding the joint occupation by the Soviet Union and the United States, and that there is a particular anxiety that help should continue to come to that one country? I do not know what the reason is, but one can only speculate, and that seems to me to be a possible answer to the question. Another general exception was made in favour of U.N.R.R.A.'s work for displaced persons, and in this connection a notable statement was made by the Director-General when he said: I am going to ask you not to abandon these people until the international refugee organisation of the United Nations can take over. We will find some way. There was a desperate concern, and a perfectly right and justified concern, that there should be no gap between the ending of U.N.R.R.A. help to the displaced persons and the taking over of that help by the new International Refugee Organisation.

But if there was so much concern about the gap in the case of displaced persons, why was there not equal concern about the gap in the case of the hungry people of Europe and the Far East? Why was a decision not taken that the gap would not be allowed to occur in their case either, and that U.N.R.R.A. would continue at least until new international machinery was ready to take over and carry on the work where it was required? What were the reasons for this decision? Apparently they were financial reasons. It appears that those countries which had made very large contributions to U.N.R.R.A. were unwilling to continue them in the future. For two years they had contributed large sums of money. Now they had decided that they would contribute no longer. They had become weary of well doing, and just at the point when they should have gone on to complete the task, they decided that they could no longer afford it. One wonders here again whether there were not also political reasons behind this decision.

Let us be frank about this. It is well known that in the United States Congress, which would have to vote the largest of the appropriations for a third contribution, there was a considerable feeling that the United, States should not continue to make funds available for supplies to coun- tries in Eastern Europe, particularly to the Soviet Republics of the Ukraine and Byelorussia Now I turn to our own attitude towards this question. The British representative at the U.N.R.R.A. Council meeting supported the decision to terminate U.N.R.R.A. activities. He said that we had made a great contribution in the past, and that this country could not afford to go on making such considerable contributions in the future; that a new assessment would have to be made, and new decisions taken to ensure that relief went only to countries, in desperate need. For that reason, the decision was supported by our representative. But a proposal was put forward at that meeting for a compromise solution, which would have gone very far to cover this particularly difficult six months' gap which is likely to arise next year. The Norwegian delegate proposed that a request should be made to the contributing nations for a further one half of one per cent. of their national incomes. The Norwegian delegate indicated that his own country, which had been one of the occupied countries of Europe, and which suffered the deprivations of German occupation for five years, would be willing to make its own contribution of one half of one per cent. of its national income if U.N.R.R.A. could only be continued for a further period. This, coming from one of the formerly occupied countries, was a magnificent example of the desire of some of the smaller nations of Europe to play their part in international solidarity.

I ask the Minister of State, who is to reply, Why did not we at least support that Norwegian proposal for a further contribution of one half of one per cent. of our national income? According to an answer given to me recently by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it would cost us something like £42,400,000. It is said, of course, that this means that the British taxpayers will have to foot another bill, which they can ill afford to pay. But I ask: What are we going to do? What is the British taxpayer going to do about the provision of relief to certain countries in Europe which will be in a very desperate situation next year, and to whom help will in any case have to be given? There are countries like Austria, where, according to the Report of the Select Committee on Estimates, U.N.R.R.A. activities are likely to terminate, not on 31st March next year, but on 31st December this year, and where there will be starvation next spring, if not sooner, unless help is provided from outside. The Select Committee state in their report: The official minimum ration in Austria has provided during the Summer a diet of 1,200 calories, which may be characterised as slow starvation. To meet even this ration there have been large imports by U.N.R.R.A. But U.N.R.R.A. will cease to function at the end of this year, and urgent supplies are necessary to close the gap which will be left. The Select Committee go on to say, on page 14: What is the prospect for the British taxpayer when U.N.R.R.A. relief to Austria comes to an end? Is he to let Austria go without food, so undoing the work already done, and wasting the money already spent? Is he to subscribe to a loan to a borrower who, on all the evidence at present available, will not be able to repay it? Or, is he to continue relief through some new agency …? Austria is not the only country in Europe which, in any case, we shall have to help. I am convinced that the people of Britain will not stand by and see the people of Austria starve. But Austria is not the only country. There is Greece, too, for whom we have some responsibility. I am quite sure the Greek workers and peasants—whatever we may think of the present Greek Government—will not be allowed to starve by this country.

What will all this cost us in any case? Our contribution—even if America helps—to the necessary relief of Austria and Greece, and perhaps other countries, will amount to what next year? £25 million? £30 million? £40 million? It may well be that in the long run we shall be spending as much on direct relief to these countries as we would have spent if it had been decided to continue U.N.R.R.A. during next year. It may be said by the Minister of State that in any case it would have been futile for us to make the gesture; that if we had supported the Norwegian proposal there was no hope whatsoever that the United States would agree, and, therefore, it would have been pointless for us to make the gesture. But I ask: Has this country reached such a point that we are afraid of stating openly what we believe to be right, what we think should be done, and what we are prepared to do ourselves if others will not do the same? Surely, it is up to us to set an example to the world, and to show that we, at least, are prepared to play our part in all legitimate schemes of international solidarity.

Nevertheless, the decision has been taken—the tragic decision—to bring U.N.R.R.A. to an end, to disband its staff, to break up the work, and to leave relief to other methods. To what other methods? What is to replace U.N.R.R.A.? At the U.N.R.R.A. Council it was decided, in Resolution 100, to ask the United Nations to take up this question of providing new international means of giving relief to countries in need after U.N.R.R.A. had terminated. The Council delegates were asked to consult with their respective Governments with a view to the issuance of instructions by the Member Governments to their representatives in the General Assembly to secure the adoption and implementation of the Council Recommendations. At that meeting our own representative, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger), gave what was, in effect, an undertaking on behalf of this country. He said: What we want is not by any means necessarily the stopping of aid, but a new deal, and we think that the deal should be on the basis of a fresh assessment. He then gave this pledge: I can assure the Council that my Government intends to take its full share in obtaining in the General Assembly results which can set at rest the legitimate fears of the countries who suffered so greatly in our common struggle during the last 10 years. So said the hon. Member for Grimsby at the Council meeting. But now this matter has been transferred to the floor of the United Nations. It is being discussed now by the Economic and Financial Committee of the General Assembly, to which the Director-General of U.N.R.R.A., Mr. LaGuardia, made certain specific proposals. He called attention to the decisions of the U.N.R.R.A. Council, and pointed out that so far no agency had been designated to replace U.N.R.R.A. He went on to say that there were three ways of dealing with that problem. The first was that it should be on a national basis, that each rich nation should choose the recipient and impose its own conditions That, he said, was the old-fashioned Imperialist way, and must be rejected Secondly, said Mr. LaGuardia, a group of powerful nations could select the recipients of their charity. That, he said, was not true international cooperation but power politics likely to lead to war. The third alternative was that an international authority could be created to operate under the control of the United Nations and meet relief needs without distinction of race, creed, or political belief. That, said Mr. LaGuardia, was the method which should be adopted.

Mr. LaGuardia went on to make specific proposals that a United Nations emergency food fund should be set up to meet the food needs, in 1947, of countries unable to finance their essential requirements. Notice that very legitimate qualification—"countries unable to finance their essential requirements." He proposed that members of the United Nations should contribute money or goods to make up a fund worth 400 or 500 million dollars. He proposed that the fund should be given an executive board, nominated by the General Assembly, and that the board should establish which countries were in need—and here is the "new assessment" proposed by the hon. Member for Grimsby—the extent of their need, the allocations necessary to meet their needs, and that it should operate at least until the 1947 harvest. Here, you have a proposal which is entirely in accordance with the new situation created by the fact that some of the countries supplied by U.N.R.R.A. may now be able to meet their own needs, a proposal which maintains the principle of international solidarity, and which also seeks to bring in all members of the United Nations as contributors to the resources of the fund.

In advocating this proposal, Mr. LaGuardia said this—and it is important to note this, because it has an important bearing on the financial aspect of this matter: I am convinced that in the long run it will be cheaper, or less costly—I hate to use the word 'cheap,' if we do it on an international basis, without interruption, than to let this thing go, have a gap, and pick it up peacemeal, each nation waiting for some other little nation to come cap in hand. Some months ago, in this House and elsewhere, there were protests against the action of the Soviet Union in making several hundred thousand tons of wheat available to France shortly before one of the French elections. It was said and, quite rightly, I think, that this was an example of food politics, an example very much to be deplored. I think there is probably no more terrible accusation that one could make against a nation in the present state of international affairs than that they are playing food politics. Nevertheless, it appears from reports we have seen of the meeting in New York that Mr. LaGuardia's proposals have been met with a blunt refusal from the United States representative, who definitely stated his preference for national, as distinct from international, action. I have to refer to reports in "The Times," because, unfortunately, our own Government does not do what the Soviet Embassy so conveniently does, circulate official statements made by their spokesmen at international meetings. According to "The Times" our own representative, the Secretary of State for Air, said that he supported the United States' point of view, that he preferred that individual nations should get together on a reciprocal basis. Is this on a much bigger, on an international, scale an example of playing at food politics? I am not suggesting that we are playing at food politics, because we have not any food to play with, and we cannot play food politics, but the United States can on a colossal scale, because they have the food. Quite frankly, their attitude to this question leads me very much to believe that that is what they are doing at present, that they are deciding which nations they will favour with their food riches, that they have scrapped the principle of international solidarity and have set in motion a political competition in the distribution of food to favoured clients.

Photo of Viscount  Hinchingbrooke Viscount Hinchingbrooke , Dorset Southern

I do not quite understand what the hon. Member means by playing "food politics." Is he suggesting that export policy can be interpreted in these terms? If we send cars to the Cocos Islands are we playing car politics? Could he give us a further explanation of what he means?

Photo of Mr William Warbey Mr William Warbey , Luton

What I mean by playing food politics or, if you like, car politics—although it is not likely to arise in the case of cars—is where you have people in a number of countries desperately needy and hungry for a commodity, and you decide to send your supplies of that commodity to one or two particular countries, and not to others, that is introducing a political element of discrimination; it is playing food politics when you are playing with the sufferings of hungry people in a way which no civilised community ought to tolerate. That is the kind of thing we shall get if we scrap this prin- ciple of international solidarity. If it is too late to attempt to resuscitate U.N.R.R.A. at least cannot we give our support to the proposals put forward in New York by Mr. LaGuardia, or any of the alternative proposals for some establishing international machinery to replace U.N.R.R.A., with its own fund, to enable it to buy and allocate supplies to countries in need? Can we not at least do that? Cannot we, in this country, show that we stand for the principle of international solidarity, and that we believe, at least as far as food and vital commodities are concerned, in the principle that each should contribute according to his ability, and each should receive according to his need?

2.30 p.m.

Photo of Mr Ronald Chamberlain Mr Ronald Chamberlain , Lambeth Norwood

I do not want to follow the whole field of argument so ably dealt with by my hon. Friend the Member for Luton (Mr. Warbey), but there are a few aspects to which I wish to draw particular attention, if only because I and many of my colleagues on these benches feel gravely perturbed with regard to the closing down of U.N.R.R.A., and we feel there are certain aspects of the matter which should be clearly ventilated without delay. It was decided in Geneva, last August, that U.N.R.R.A. should be closed down, and and in my submission that decision was taken very hastily. The only reason that was given for this very sudden closing down was that there was no money in the till. In certain circumstances that may be a very good reason for not taking action, but as I hope to show, and as my hon. Friend has already shown, when it is a matter of dealings between nations and when the needs of the world are concerned, there should be other considerations besides the mere question of a shortage of money.

It is strange, apart from the financial considerations, that when a great organisation is doing work which is admittedly of the first importance in a shattered world, there should be, in the course of a few months, an attempt to close down that organisation. One does not need to go into details to realise the importance and scope of its work. It may be of interest to mention that during its work U.N.R.R.A. has handled no less than 16 million tons of food, apart from other commodities and goods, to a value of approximately £600 million. One comes face to face with the stark realities of this matter when one recalls that in August, at Geneva, the Director-General, Mr. LaGuardia, admitted that, before the 1947 harvest was gathered and usable in Europe, there would certainly be a need for food alone to the value of £200 million. That is an extraordinary and striking admission on the part of a Director-General presiding at the obsequies on his organisation, and it is worthy of note that at that time he was rather underestimating than overestimating the potential needs of Europe. In fact, in November, at the meeting of the Economic and Financial Committee of the United Nations, he had increased his estimate of the requirements in Europe alone from £200 million to £500 million.

Another aspect of the matter to which I want to call attention is the queer changes and gyrations of policy, in regard to food alone, which have been shown by the Director General. Perhaps there are reasons for these changes of attitude. In Geneva he advocated that an international emergency food council directly under the Food and Agriculture Organisation should take over these responsibilities with regard to food when U.N.R.R.A. closed down. There was at that time, particularly on the part of the United States delegation, a good deal of talk about direct negotiations and arrangements between nations which could supply food and those in need of it. Then, in November, after the Director-General had made a tour of some of the more important capitals, and had seen our Prime Minister and Marshal Stalin, he proposed a different authority to take over responsibility for food after the end of U.N.R.R.A. He suggested that there should be an international authority set up under the United Nations. He suggested that this would be the best and most satisfactory of the three possible alternatives.

One gets a further change of attitude, particularly as far as this country is concerned, when there is a proposal of a scheme which is in many ways a reinstatement of U.N.R.R.A. It is peculiar that we should go full cycle from the abolition of U.N.R.R.A. to the reintroduction of U.N.R.R.A. in a somewhat altered form; but our own representatives, quite recently, have seemed to be supporting the United States representatives, not only in hinting, but in suggesting, that a better method than a new international organisation might be direct arrangements as between one nation and another. I fully share the apprehensions of my hon. Friend the Member for Luton in regard to the fact that this proposal has emanated from the United States, and I fully share his very great regret that our own representatives should appear to be supporting that very ominous proposal.

The magnificent work of U.N.R.R.A. has not in any way been confined to food. The other aspects of its work, particularly some of the minor but important aspects, are often overlooked. It is worth while to recall that at the August meeting of U.N.R.R.A. at Geneva, the Director-General estimated that in Europe alone there would be need for seeds and agricultural implements to the value of some £12 million, with a view to the 1947 crop. When considering ways of stopping up these obvious gaps that is a matter which must not be lost sight of, because the supply of seeds and other implements is of paramount importance with regard to food in Europe in 1947 and beyond. In the closing down of this organisation, the Director-General recommended that £28 million of fertilisers would be required in Europe for the coming year.

With regard to displaced persons, it is all very well to say that an organisation would be set up—a brand new organisation—to take over the work of looking after, and sending to their respective countries, displaced persons. It is not so easy as that. There must be, at the present moment, somewhere in the region of half a million displaced persons still in camps in Europe, under the guidance and protection of U.N.R.R.A. It is not enough that we should be told that U.N.R.R.A. is hoping to carry on until the new International Refugee Organisation is ready. This is not a question of dealing with food supplies, but of dealing with human beings, and all their tremendous needs. It is worth while remembering that U.N.R.R.A. has done this magnificently, not only in the camps and with regard to food, but in looking after the women and children, the transportation of displaced persons returning home, and their clothing, etc. I suggest that we cannot gamble with the chance of another organisation being put in the place of U.N.R.R.A. It is very wrong to think in terms of continuing the activities of U.N.R.R.A. for two or three months until the other organisation is ready to take over. We cannot work on those fines when dealing with human beings.

In the matter of health and welfare, here again, U.N.R.R.A. has carried out a magnificent piece of work. I would call attention to what I think is a rather slip-shod attitude on the part of our representatives. The hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger), at the August meeting at Geneva, referred to this most important matter of health and welfare in these terms: There should be no insuperable difficulty in arranging for continuity to be achieved. There was no suggestion at that time—although I know that there had been suggestions subsequently—as to a practically brand new organisation looking after the health section and social welfare department of U.N.R.R.A. I submit, again, that we cannot do it that way. It is taking quite a wrong attitude to think that we can produce brand new organisations, and that they will take over these functions in anything more than name. They will take them over in name, but, so far as efficiency and effectiveness is concerned, I challenge the suggestion that we can close down one organisation, which has the experience, and experienced personnel, and virtually over-night hand over these tremendously important functions. They cannot be dealt with in that kind of way.

With regard to the question of the expense of U.N.R.R.A. to this country, we have contributed something in the region of £155,000,000 to U.N.R.R.A. It is suggested that that is a lot of money, and I do not disagree; but I think that it is a totally wrong assumption to think that now U.N.R.R.A. is being closed down, we can divest ourselves of any responsibility, moral or financial, for the sufferings of the people in Europe or elsewhere. I suggest that very often, if not always, any brand new organisation will turn out to be more expensive than carrying on with the established organisation, with its trained and experienced personnel. I, therefore, suggest to my right hon. Friend, who is to reply, that if it is a matter of economy, it is totally false economy, and that it will be found, in the long run that financially, apart from any other consideration, we are paying far more dearly for these improvised and rushed-together organisations to take the place of U.N.R.R.A. I would call attention, as illustrating what, I think, was a very wrong attitude which our representative took at Geneva, to one of the arguments which he gave for closing down U.N.R.R.A. He said: The food demands of certain countries now are for reconstruction rather than for emergency rehabilitation. I think that that is splitting hairs. I think that it is more than that—it is very wide of the truth. One has only to turn one's mind to the present and continuing situation in Austria, as we have heard from my hon. Friends, and in Greece and China. Statements of that kind seem to me to be nothing less than evasion and' prevarication. Again, our representative said: The claims on U.N.R.R.A. now are based less on the imminence of famine than on consideration of balance of payments. I think that was a very wrong and unworthy thing for our representative to say. When we talk about the imminence of famine, we have only to turn our mind to Austria or to the declarations which authorities, such as Sir John Boyd Orr, have made, and we will soon come to the conclusion that it is still—and will be for a long time—a question of imminence of famine. I say, in all seriousness, that this matter is becoming the shuttle-cock of politics, when we have the suggestion of closing down because of reasons of finance, the suggestion of an organisation under the Food and Agriculture Organisation, visits of the Director-General to our Prime Minister, to Stalin and other leading figures, the suggestions made in the United States, and the very ominous suggestions coming from our own representatives and from the representatives of the United States that there is a certain advantage to be gained from direct arrangements between needy countries and those able to supply them.

The noble Lord the hon. Member for Southern Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) questioned what was wrong with arrangements of that kind. I think that when we get, on the one hand, people in urgent need, and, on the other hand, countries, particularly America, which have not only the food but the finance, we cannot hope to get any kind of arrangements, whether short term or long term, which are in any way equitable. It is not in the nature of things that that should be so. We are all aware of the fact that America not only entered into an arrangement, which I think was a very uncalled for arrangement, with China, but also said she intends to multiply commercial arrangements of that kind. I do not want to over-paint or to do any scaremongering, but I do say today with regard to the United States, that the proposals now emanating from the representatives of that country are ominous, and I regret, if it is a fact, that our representatives are supporting those suggestions.

I should like to see, if it is not too late, U.N.R.R.A. altered somewhat in its constitution and in its set-up, particularly with regard to the proportions of finance which are paid. I should like to see Russia coming into the picture, as, indeed, she has agreed to come in. I want to see such an arrangement made that we should get a reconstituted U.N.R.R.A. because if we did that we would effect two very important things. We would avoid all these unfortunate gaps between the ending of U.N.R.R.A. and the starting of these miscellaneous organisations, and the impoverishments which will be part of that change over. At the same time we would re-establish more firmly than ever, I hope, the important principle, not of negotiations and arrangements as between one nation and another, but the much more advanced, and, if you like, Socialist principle of total arrangements between world organisations and those in need of their help.

2.52 p.m.

Photo of Mr Humphrey Attewell Mr Humphrey Attewell , Harborough

I have only a few words to say on this particular subject. I would not have taken part in the Debate at all if I had not detected in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Luton (Mr. Warbey) some kind of doubt as to why, after contributions to other parts of the world have been finished, U.N.R.R.A. is contributing to Korea and to displaced persons. I heartily agree with my hon. Friend; I am pleased at this continued relief to the suffering. I was in Austria just after the visit there of the Select Committee, and I have read the Select Committee's report. Had I been a Member of that Committee I might have wanted to enlarge on the question of why U.N.R.R.A. is continuing to give assistance to displaced persons and to Korea. The answer surely is simple. Displaced persons have no nationality and are of no country, but they are gathered together in one place. I speak now of Austria, not Germany. In Austria someone must take responsibility for those displaced persons other than the government of the country in which they are residing. Otherwise that country would probably take the step which other countries have taken, namely, push them over the border Austria facing a future following the end of this year, in which she herself will lose a certain amount from U.N.R.R.A., is in no position to help these people. I am glad to say that I was assured by the representatives of U.N.R.R.A. that relief would go on even in the New Year for a period, shall we say of three months. It was not put exactly like that, but I was assured that relief would continute until the new organisation was ready to take its place. Because these displaced people are in Austria surely we would not expect Austria to support them. This must be the liability of the United Nations, a liability which they must honour. Hence my reason for intervening in the Debate.

Photo of Mr William Warbey Mr William Warbey , Luton

I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Attewell) did not wish to misrepresent me, but I made it clear that I wanted U.N.R.R.A. to continue to aid displaced persons and Korea and not only displaced persons and Korea but all countries in need of urgent relief.

Photo of Mr Humphrey Attewell Mr Humphrey Attewell , Harborough

Yes, I agree, but I thought I detected in the selection of these two cases a reflection of the attitude of bread politics. I want to dissociate Austria from that political line of thought.

2.55 p.m.

Photo of Mr Albert Davies Mr Albert Davies , Stoke-on-Trent Burslem

One of the most encouraging features in the middle of the grim war just concluded was the proposal, early in 1943, to establish this new international organisation to deal with some of the problems which were inevitable in such a conflagration. What was prophesied at that time, materialised in perhaps a more monstrous form than was imagined, for the Axis countries overran 35 of the nations in Europe and Asia, they employed the tactics of the "scorched earth" policy, and a policy of mass starvation and deportation as well as the destruction of machinery and industry. This has created in a way, never before experienced, great problems for the so called victor nations and indeed for the vanquished nations, too. I was greatly encouraged when I saw a lead given in this direction of trying to set up an organisation which should deal with some of the elemental needs of mankind. It was a great tribute to the sanity of some people that, when passions were inflamed, men should be sufficiently objective and even sufficiently generous as to project their minds into the condition of things which was likely to ensue on this awful catastrophe. Whatever may have been said here today, and in another place and at other times, all of us would agree that in starting this organisation America and Great Britain did a piece of work which is really to their credit, even if it is to stop now.

It is not an easy position in which we find ourselves. The finances of this country are limited. There is not a bottomless pit from which we can draw resources to feed the nations of the world for ever and ever. Indeed, that was never the intention of the organisation. The simple problem which we pose today is this: Has the time arisen when the grand scheme of things, which has been operating for some time has to come to an end? Has the need been met? Have the necessities of the people in terms of health, food, epidemics, rehabilitation even in the embryo stages been satisfied? Is the job complete? I say clearly, in answer to that question, that the job is not completed. Even America, who seems to be more intransigent, and quite on the wrong track in regard to its future activity, would not say so. The question of method of dealing with the problem is exercising the minds of my hon. Friends and myself. It may be quite impracticable to continue the allocation of one per cent. of the national income from this country, from America and from the un-invaded countries. I believe that is the basis of the finances. We could not hope for a continuance of £80 million a year from this country indefinitely or, in the case of the United States, £337 million annually, I believe. Those are very great sums of money. The proposition that we are advancing today is that if this work is to continue it should not do so upon unilateral lines. This great experiment among other experiments in international organisation seems to be one which we should encourage and conserve by every possible means. Mr. LaGuardia said, before the Assembly, that it was a strange paradox that the United States of America, so internationally minded in many matters should, in this case, to meet one of the most urgent needs of mankind, propose to deal with it upon a national basis.

I may not fully share the apprehensions of my hon. Friend the Member for Luton (Mr. Warbey) in regard to the ulterior motives of America's line of thought in this matter. I am supported by the fact that some of the countries which have profited by U.N.R.R.A. gifts have not been unduly grateful to the donors. I will leave the matter there. All these matters of giving help, whether it is financial, or rehabilitation of the country, or in terms of services, are open to suspicion, it seems to me. One is apt to find that however good one's intentions may be, if one acts unilaterally, picking out, as it would seem, a country or a sphere of the world in which one has a particular interest, people argue that one has some strategic interest. For example, if we were to underwrite Greece economically, or in terms of goods and services, that would be said. Indeed, I regretted when we had to give £10 million, or make a loan of that amount, to Greece earlier in the year, to rehabilitate the country economically, stabilise the currency, and so on. However altruistic our motives are, we are always open to suspicion on that account.

We on these benches, and I believe many hon. Gentlemen on the opposite benches, are vitally concerned that the United Nations organisation should work. I hope that we can get beyond the limits of national sovereignty and that, in God's good time, we may build up some sort of collective machine which will give us security in terms of peace and prosperity. Yet here, after such a successful experiment, we are proposing to wind up the organisation at an early stage. If, as I imagine it will be argued, we are unable to pay I per cent. of our national income to this organisation, that we never intended to continue indefinitely, it is certainly a reasonable point of view, but we are prepared to continue to make some contribution, whatever it is, and it should be done on the international level. That is the main point we are seeking to stress this afternoon. Clearly, we cannot go on supporting every nation in the world for all time, but I am arguing that, in terms of some of the needs, the job is incomplete, that this country, the United States, France and Russia will have to take the job a little further, and that we want to do it on the international level.

May I say a word about the need in regard to displaced persons? An unfortunate issue of the recent war has been that so many hundreds of thousands of men and women have been uprooted from their homes and harried across the face of the earth. There are many explanations—political, religious and national. I am not concerned very much with the reasons today. I would follow the line which the hon. Member for Luton advanced, when he reminded us that LaGuardia said we are not dealing with Governments, but with men and women. We are dealing with the human need and, irrespective of the creed or the political belief or the race, we ought to look at this thing fairly and squarely and see what we can do with it on a universal basis.

As we know quite well, in Germany today there are many thousands of displaced persons, and my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Attewell) has just reminded us of the position in Austria. Displaced persons fall into several categories: those outside their own countries who are unable to return without assistance; those who are inside their own national boundaries but for some reason such as that they have lost their family, their home and their goods, are unable to return to their home; and a large number of displaced people who are made up of slave labourers, political prisoners, war refugees and concentration camp internees. These unfortunate, miserable people are a problem in Central Europe today and we cannot afford, nay, we have no right to seek to repudiate responsibility for them, and I do not think this country would ever wish to do so. Indeed, I think the widespread interest in this House in the conditions in Germany appears to show that. We won the war, but we do not desire to pursue a policy of revenge indefinitely. We desire to be firm, but generous within the limits of our means.

So I say, after seeing one of those hospitals provided for displaced persons in Germany, that I should regard it as a great tragedy if this kind of activity were to cease and were to become nobody's particular responsibility. There we saw all kinds of victims of Nazi aggression, homeless people, people who were separated from their families, receiving first class attention with very limited resources from generous-hearted and well-equipped personnel provided by U.N.R.R.A. It seemed to me that the work was by no means completed, and I am sure that if we can be assured by our Government that they intend to pursue this relief in some form or other, above all in the form for which we have argued today—on the international level—it will give a message of hope and encouragement to those people. We do not want to argue in terms of necessity on the ground that it is of political value, but it is surely that. If we put it no higher, as it says in Scripture, if we cast our bread upon the water, it will return to us after many days. But, some people are suspicious that America is seeking to get her feet into this country, and that country, and that Britain is seeking to get her feet into this or that country, and argue that Russia may be indicted on the same count, and that there is competition, and jockeying for position. Here is an opportunity to get together and to clinch the offer made by M. Stalin, who is willing to contribute, at the international level, to a scheme which the United Kingdom and the United States of America will join to tackle this thing in the way outlined. I hope the Government will afford that hope.

3.13 p.m.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff Central

I am deeply grateful to my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Luton (Mr. Warbey) for having brought this matter to the consideration of the House today. I believe it is one of deep human principle. I am also grateful for the fact that the Minister of State has sat throughout the Debate, and shown such an interest in it. It is unfortunate that from the other side of the House, no one has risen all through the long Debate, in order to try to make a useful contribution. This is a problem which, I, believe, appeals to the ordinary people throughout the United Kingdom. U.N.R.R.A. was born in a time of great suffering when the bonds of unity were strong, because we shared common diffi- culties. I am of the belief that the idea was conceived in the mind of that greatest statesman of our time, President Roosevelt. It was he, along with the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), who gave the world the phrase, to express what we were fighting for: Freedom from fear, and freedom from want. I believe that U.N.R.R.A. is the attempt on the part of the United Nations to put into practical expression that aim of freedom from want. It would be a foolish man indeed who suggested that we have now reached a position when Eastern Europe, or Far East Europe could be said to be able to stand on its own.

Recently I was privileged to visit Poland, and, as I toured that country, I saw many evidences of the magnificent work which has been done by U.N.R.R.A. Let me say at once how deeply the people of these distressed countries have appreciated the fact that the ordinary folk of Britain and America have contributed to the relief of their suffering. When I went into a great cotton mill at Lodz, the Manchester of Poland, I saw a huge stack of wool, the raw material of the industry. I was assured that it came from U.N.R.R.A. Poland would not have survived the dreadful experience through which she has passed had it not been for the friendly hand of U.N.R.R.A. I believe that Hungary is in that position, although she was not an ally. Poland was a gallant Ally, as her sons showed in the days of the war. I like to think that even while accepting this fait accompli that U.N.R.R.A. is now to end, we will make every conceivable effort to have an international organisation which shall deal with this human problem. We are not dealing merely with Poles, or Czechs, or Yugoslavs, we are dealing with men and women, boys and girls, people who bore so much more than we bore here in this island, severe as was our trial in the days of the war. I thank God that we were spared occupation, but there they had that severe trial added to that which we knew, of bombing and the loss of loved ones.

Mr. LaGuardia has been referred to this afternoon by a number of my hon. Friends. I think that the House should know that when he was speaking at the U.N.O. Committee on economic and financial questions on Tuesday, 12th November, Mr. LaGuardia told the United Nations that he had had discussions with Marshal Stalin, with Mr. Attlee, with President Truman, and that he had learned from Marshal Stalin that the Government of the U.S.S.R. would like to see international relief action continued into 1947, and would contribute its share of operational expenses, provided that such enterprise was entirely divorced from political considerations. It would, indeed, be ironical, if we in this country, or if the noisy idealists in America, were to say, now that Russia is prepared to join in an international enterprise and pay her quota, that we prefer private deals between States.

I am proud of the contribution of this country towards U.N.R.R.A. I know it is unusual to say a kind word for the Foreign Office and I hope the Minister of State does not mind, but in this question the Foreign Office showed all that wide and deep understanding which we desire in the early days of U.N.R.R.A. But now, I fear, it is about to spoil its grand record. I hope that even at this hour the good name of Britain, and its concern for suffering humanity, will be held as high as I like to think it has been throughout our chequered history. I hope we shall say now that we stand for collective dealing with the human problem of these people, because we recognise that the sorrows and the troubles of these people are due to a common cause with our own.

3.20 p.m.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel David Rees-Williams Lieut-Colonel David Rees-Williams , Croydon South

I feel that it would be improper if this Debate did not include some reference to the position of China, in regard to U.N.R.R.A. supplies. U.N.R.R.A. has poured into China an immense volume of goods during the last year or so but, owing to the vast population of China, as has been pointed out by the head of the Chinese National Relief and Rehabilitation Association, which in effect acts as the agency of U.N.R.R.A. in China, it only means that one dollar 20 cents per head of the population has been spent as against 46 dollars 90 cents in Greece. I know this cannot be helped. I realise the immense population of China as against a country like Greece, but these figures show that what has been done is trifling compared with what has been done in other countries. China has passed through great hardships during the last year. If I might refer briefly to the re- port of the Friends' Ambulance Unit in China relating to the province of Hunan, I think it would be helpful. As hon. Members probably know, Hunan in normal times is one of the granaries of China. It is not by any means a depressed area, but it is one of the places from where China reckons to get most of its food. This is a description of this normally fertile province early this year: Never had the rivers been so low. Fonda had dried up. The ground was too hard to plough, and anyway there were no buffaloes left to plough it: they had not survived the Japanese occupation. There was going to be a famine, even if it rained within the next month. Fields were more like a desert—parched, yellow, cracked, they stretched for miles in all directions. Here and there an attempt had been made to plough, but the farmer bad given up in despair. Not much, it seems was being done to meet this situation. Rice was expensive, but still procurable. Few people realised how small the stocks were, or how slim the chances of replenishment. Hospitals were piling up stocks of pills and tablets, which would be available when the crisis came, ft seemed to be a case of putting the horse after the cart for relief organisations to wait for the famine to start before doing much about it. The obvious thing was to import food. But there was a larger issue. It was grevious to see vast agricultural areas lying sterile when, if ever, they should be productive. I will not trouble the House by reading the whole extract, but it goes on to say that the farmer had no seed and no agricultural implements, even the primitive implements of China. As I have said, I know a great deal has been done for China by U.N.R.R.A. but, unfortunately, a lot of the goods which were intended for the Chinese in need never reached them, for one reason or another. Also, some of the goods were quite unsuitable for the Chinese. It so happens that there is a strong suspicion that some American business firms dumped on U.N.R.R.A. certain goods for which they could no longer find a market in the United States. For example, the Chinese were surprised to receive a large consignment of women's body belts at one period Whatever relief and rehabilitation these body belts may have given to the ladies of New York, they are not really the type of thing to give to the women peasants of China, who, I understand from hearsay, do not wear these articles.

In addition, there are very persistent stories of corruption with reference to the Chinese organisation and to U N.R.R.A. operating in China. I think probably both sides are to blame. It is unfortunate, how- ever, having regard to the dire need of the country, that the source should be tapped in this way and that goods should be going not to the community at large but into the black market. Most serious of all, there is a suspicion that U.N.R.R.A. goods and services have been used in China to build up supplies for military purposes. I hope that the Minister, when he replies, will say that this is not so, and that the suspicion is unfounded. I have evidence, however, from members of U.N.R.R.A, in China who believe that base hospitals, roads and the like are being built up by U.N.R.R.A. supplies, not for the purpose of supplying the needy in China, but for military purposes, for purposes of carrying on the war which has been going on for some time, and which, unless we are very careful, will be the beginning of a third world war.

The present position with regard to U.N.R.R.A. was outlined by the Minister himself in reply to a Question that I asked him on 21st October last. He said: The U.N.R.R.A. programme for China is not likely to be completed until the autumn of 1947. The question of what needs, if any, there will be in the countries now receiving assistance from U.N.R.R.A. after the termination of the tatter's operations, has been referred to the General Assembly of the United Nations in a resolution by the Fifth Session of the U.N.R.R.A. Council which met at Geneva on 5th to 16th August. It will be for the General Assembly to decide how the problem should be handled, but the first essential is to establish whether any external assistance is required, apart from loans from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and other leading agencies. This is largely a question of deficits on balance of payments, which cannot be reliably estimated so long in advance, and not a question of relief and rehabilitation for which U.N.R.R.A. was constituted."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st October, 1946; Vol. 427. c. 299.] That is rather a bleak prospect for China. It seems to be quite obvious that, when the supplies end next year, any assistance given to China will be very largely on a commercial basis, and will certainly not be the type of assistance being given at the moment.

I do not want to weary the House by going into this matter at any great length. I think that I have shown that the position in China is one which should give us cause for great anxiety. To my mind, it has not had the attention it deserves because China is 10,000 miles away, and a famine 10,000 miles away is nothing like as serious as a slight shortage of food ten miles away. Unfortunately, geography has a good deal to do with the realisation of disasters, as we found out only too well in South Wales during the inter-war years. Therefore, I should welcome some hope expressed by the Minister this afternoon that the position of China is having very special attention paid to it by the Great Powers. The Chinese deserve it if for nothing else than because they waged a war against the Japanese many years before any one else, and because of what they did during the war, in Malaya and other places, for our people who were either imprisoned or interned. In my opinion, there has never been in the Far East such a good relationship as there is now between the Chinese and the British. I believe that the two nations have a great future of friendship in the years to come. But this friendship will undoubtedly be in peril and, in fact, the lives of many Chinese will be jeopardised, unless some sensible plan is inaugurated by the great nations with regard to the rehabilitation of China.

3.29 p.m.

Photo of Mr Tufton Beamish Mr Tufton Beamish , Lewes

I am glad to have this opportunity of saying a few words on this subject. I have listened very carefully to all the speeches that have been made, starting with the one by the hon. Member for Luton (Mr. Warbey) I only wish to make a few observations, the first of which is about what the hon. Member for Luton called "food politics." After listening very carefully to all that has been said on this subject today, I, at any rate, was unable to find any evidence in any of the speeches made which could lead me to suppose that either this country or the United States has been playing, what certain hon. Members choose to call, "food politics."

I am not sure whether it was intended to suggest that food politics had been played rather more than it might be played when U.N.R.R.A. comes to an end. I think that was the intention of previous speakers, but, as far as I can see, "food politics" has not been played. It may have been played by Soviet Russia to a certain extent in rather a different way, which I will mention in a moment. To give one example of a contribution which they made, they sent a shipment of wheat to France during the elections, with the fairly obvious intention, I would have thought—at any rate, it was fairly obvious to me—of having some influence on Communist votes in France.

If food politics has been played in connection with U.N.R.R.A. activities, it has been played within countries and not on the international level. I had a most interesting short stay in Poland at the beginning of the year, and one of the matters into which I inquired carefully—and the U.N.R.R.A. officials there, under an efficient Canadian officer, were very helpful—was the distribution of U.N.R.R.A. goods inside Poland. I was disgusted at the partisan approach of the Provisional Government in Poland to the distribution of U.N.R.R.A. goods. The distribution was in the hands of the Provisional Government, and I have definite and irrefutable evidence, which the U.N.R.R.A. officials admitted, but which they could do nothing to stop, that U.N.R.R.A. beds which were being provided went, first of all, to the N.K.V.D., and in no circumstances went to anybody who was not a Communist, or a crypto-Communist if you like, supporting the Government. There is no doubt in my mind that there was a great deal of "twisting" and playing at "food politics," or U.N.R.R.A. politics, within Poland. That may have occurred in other countries. I do not say it was the responsibility only of the countries which had Left Wing governments.

There have been accusations that it has occurred in Greece. I do not happen to have been to Greece, and I am not in a position to deny it, but if it has occurred I would say that, obviously, it is equally bad and undesirable. The solution would obviously have been a vastly increased U.N.R.R.A, staff at increased cost, to ensure that distribution was fair within these countries. I think that argument means, if it means anything, that the activities of U.N.R.R.A., particularly in connection with distribution, have not been nearly satisfactory enough. I think that fact will, to some extent, build up an argument against the continuation of U.N.R.R.A. for very much longer.

Photo of Mr Stanley Tiffany Mr Stanley Tiffany , Peterborough

Before the hon. and gallant Gentleman leaves the question of "food politics," I would like to ask him a question. If he explains the sending of wheat by the U.S.S.R. to France on the basis of influencing votes, how would he explain the sending of wheat to the British zone in Germany?

Photo of Mr Tufton Beamish Mr Tufton Beamish , Lewes

The sending of wheat to the British zone in Germany by whom?

Photo of Mr Tufton Beamish Mr Tufton Beamish , Lewes

I am sorry, but I simply do not understand the question. One of the main factors about Germany which has struck me most forcibly has been that the wheat producing area is the Soviet zone in Germany, and always has been. Another way in which Soviet Russia has been playing "food politics" has been by deliberately starving Germans in the British zone, and one of my main causes of complaint about our handling of the situation in Germany is that we have not made it clear to those people in our zone that they are going short of bread because Soviet Russia will not cooperate. It seems to me to be an argument which reinforces my point, and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for intervening. I am afraid we on this side of the House have not had a large attendance.

Photo of Mr Sydney Allen Mr Sydney Allen , Crewe

Would it be correct to say that the number was three?

Photo of Mr Tufton Beamish Mr Tufton Beamish , Lewes

I think the hon. and learned Gentleman has counted quite accurately.

Photo of Mr Ronald Chamberlain Mr Ronald Chamberlain , Lambeth Norwood

It is three times as many as it was.

Photo of Mr Tufton Beamish Mr Tufton Beamish , Lewes

We on this side of the House have not taken a particular interest in this Debate, for one reason, namely, that on the whole, I and my colleagues with whom I have discussed this subject feel that the administration of U.N.R.R.A. has been performed as efficiently as it could have been in the circumstances. We have no particular criticism of His Majesty's Government in this connection. If we had, we should be here to make it. If hon. Members opposite have any criticisms to make—and they have not been particularly critical today, but have all spoken on the same lines—they are entitled to make their criticisms. I have really risen to speak very largely to support what has been done and what is to be done. Quite frankly, I think we have had some very dull and very uninspiring speeches from hon. Gentlemen opposite. They rambled about a good deal, and there was a great deal of unpractical stuff in connection with what they said, although I found a great deal to admire in the sentiments that were being expressed As everybody has stressed, U.N.R.R.A has been run at an immense cost to this country, and at far greater cost to the United States, who are in a much better position to pay. For that reason alone, if for no other I would say the time has come when we cannot go on asking for contributions from our taxpayers—who, heaven knows, are intolerably overburdened already under this Government. We cannot allow this vast expenditure to go on bearing on the backs of our taxpayers. It seems to me to be another argument for returning to some more direct form of trading. The United States have been very self-sacrificing in this matter, and have made a vast contribution.

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Cardiff (Mr. G. Thomas) mentioned that when Mr. Fiorello LaGuardia was in Moscow he was given an assurance by Marshal Stalin that Marshal Stalin would like to see U.N.R.R.A being continued into 1947, and for his part would be prepared to make an effective contribution. I hope I am correctly paraphrasing what the hon. Gentleman said. The question I ask in that respect is this: If that is so, have the Soviet Union told His Majesty's Government that they are prepared to turn over a new leaf in connection with U.N.R.R.A activities, and, if U.N.R.R.A. is perpetuated, are they prepared to make an effective contribution in proportion to the contribution which their position as one of the world's greatest granaries entitles them?

The Minister of State (Mr. McNeil):

I am sure the hon. and gallant Gentleman will not wish to misrepresent the position I must say, quite fairly, that we have not had any official indication from the Soviet Government of their intention. I think it ought also to be said that the U.N.R.R.A. contributions were fixed in ternationally, and were confined to countries which Had not been invaded. Therefore, the hon. and gallant Gentleman's criticism of the Soviet Union in that regard is entirely unjustified.

Photo of Mr Ronald Chamberlain Mr Ronald Chamberlain , Lambeth Norwood

Surely, even if Marshal Stalin made an offer to Mr. LaGuardia, who is the Director-General there was no call for him to make it also to His Majesty's Government?

Photo of Mr Tufton Beamish Mr Tufton Beamish , Lewes

I entirely agree, I am sorry if I perhaps exaggerated somewhat in making my point. I entirely agree with what the hon. Gentleman says. Naturally, to what better person than Mr. LaGuardia could he make the suggestion? I am also grateful to the Minister of State for his intervention. My point is really this. I know Soviet Russia has gone through an appalling invasion. On the other hand, I think I am right in saying that bread rationing has been taken off recently in the Soviet Union. [HON MEMBERS: "No."] I understood it was so. At any rate, it is true that they have had an exceptionally good crop I think it is reasonable to say that in the light of that, it would be fair to expect them to make a, greater contribution in 1947 than they have been able to make in 1946. Perhaps I was exaggerating slightly before, and I apologise if I was doing so. I am grateful to hon. Members opposite for their correction.

In conclusion, let me say that U.N.R.R.A. has tided us over from VE-Day until today extremely effectively. Mistakes have been made, of course. It was a most difficult organisation to set up at fairly short notice. A large number of people have put in a great deal of work to considerable effect, and I think we should be extremely grateful to them. Transport facilities in Europe have improved immensely since VE-Day; and the world grain crops, fortunately, have been very much better than any of us, I think, dared to hope. Those are two further reasons why we should return to some form of more direct trading, although I would not for one moment suggest that an end should be put to international cooperation at the highest level possible.

One further point which I would like to make before I sit down is in relation to displaced persons. Quite frankly, in this connection, I find very little to agree with, if anything, in the part Mr. LaGuardia has played. I understand that he was very much in favour of bringing a great deal of pressure to bear on displaced persons in Europe to return to their own countries. He made several speeches in Europe which gave me, at least, the impression that that was what he wanted to do. I am against that. Mr. LaGuardia's name has been used in connection with the phrase, "human kindliness," a sentiment with which I entirely agree, but that does not seem to tie up when we talk, in the same breath, of the appalling problems of many people in Europe. Mr. LaGuardia's policy is to bring far more pressure to bear on displaced persons than I would like to see brought. Speaking for myself, I feel that U.N.R.R.A. has tided us over extremely well, and that the time has come to return to some form of more direct trade. I am satisfied with the way His Majesty's Government have handled this whole matter, and I feel sure that when the Minister replies, he will satisfy those who have made criticisms today.

3.43 p.m.

The Minister of State (Mr. McNeil):

I am sure that, even more than usual, we are indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Luton (Mr. War bey) for this Adjournment Debate, because it has offered many points of criticism—some constructive—and it enables me to state the policy of His Majesty's Government on this subject. I am very confident that there is no reason why we should apologise for our past, or our intentions in the field of international relief.

May I deal, first, with three points which have been made rather off the main line of the argument? Reference has been made to the offer which Mr. LaGuardia says was made to him by Marshal Stalin. I have no reason to disbelieve Mr. LaGuardia, and I am delighted to hear of the offer, but I differ both from my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Chamberlain), and the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Major Beamish), when they say that it was most proper and obvious to make the offer to Mr. LaGuardia. Mr. LaGuardia is an eminent international civil servant who, if reports are true, is just about to leave office. But a Government does not make such an offer to an international servant. The place to make the offer is the relevant committee of the Assembly. If the Soviet Government have an offer to make—and I am not criticising them in relation to international relief, because I do not know the facts sufficiently well to say that there is any reason why they should make an offer at this time—I hope they will make it to that committee—

Photo of Mr Ronald Chamberlain Mr Ronald Chamberlain , Lambeth Norwood

I cannot for the life of me see why the offer should not be made by Marshal Stalin to the person who, after all, is in charge of U.N.R.R.A., who is their Director-General. I cannot see what argument my right hon. Friend has adduced to show why that should be out of order.

Mr. McNeil:

I suggest, most respectfully, that it can hardly be said that Mr. LaGuardia is in charge of U.N.R.R.A. He is an employee of this international organisation.

Photo of Mr Ronald Chamberlain Mr Ronald Chamberlain , Lambeth Norwood

But he does represent it abroad.

Mr. McNeil:

So do other representatives, of U.N.R.R.A. totalling, I believe, some 40,000. I suggest, and I think I am right, that the proper place to make the offer is in the committee of the Assembly.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff Central

And we would welcome the offer.

Mr. McNeil:

Naturally. I hope the Soviet Government will be in a position to make the offer there.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Mr. Rees-Williams) asked a question, in relation to China, about women's body belts. I do not speak so confidently on this subject as my hon. Friend.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel David Rees-Williams Lieut-Colonel David Rees-Williams , Croydon South

Perhaps my right hon. Friend has not been married so long as I have.

Mr. McNeil:

I am relieved to hear that my hon. Friend is married [Laughter.]I must choose my language carefully here or I shall elicit some further laughter. However, if my hon. Friend will give me any particulars of the allegation, I shall be most glad to have inquiries made into it. On the broader question of food in China, no part of this House can be unconcerned about that. I should say that our most recent information is that the harvest has been better than was expected, but distribution is the main problem. The picture is very patchy. I am not claiming that there are any areas in which there is plenty but I am most firmly of the view—and my hon. Friend, who is an expert on this subject, will not disagree—that there are areas in India which make the worst of China look comparatively adequate, if I can use that phrase. No member of this Government is at all acquiescent about the Chinese situation, and it will be considered in relation to whatever plans for international relief are developed.

Several Members have spoken about displaced persons. It was essential that special provision should be made for displaced persons, because they could in no sense be laid at the door of any one country. Theirs was a terrible international problem, which must have an international solution. There is, of course, the large problem of displaced persons in eastern areas of Europe. In this respect, the record of His Majesty's Government will bear very close examination. We have been in the lead in affirming, from the beginning, that an international organisation was needed for this purpose. If our advice and lead had been accepted then an international refugee organisation could have been set up last January, when the Assembly was meeting for the first part of its session in London. I regret to tell the House that the latest advice we have does not lead me to conclude that it is certain that we shall have an international refugee organisation after the present session has been completed in New York. If that does happen, I am sure that His Majesty's Government cannot be blamed for the delay. I hope they will not. This is no administrative problem, as some insist; it is a subject involving hundreds of thousands of the most miserable and distressed people in the world, and no Government could be excused for playing politics while, at the same time, prolonging their distress.

When my hon. Friend opened the Debate, I felt rather guilty and was getting ready to apologise, because it is quite well known to the House that the hon. Member for Luton has several attitudes which he holds very firmly; and when he looks West, he does not always use the kindest language. I was delighted to hear him pay tribute not only to the not insignificant part which this country has played in U.N.R.R.A. but to Canada and the United States of America for their part. I am glad that he did so. I thank him for doing so and offer my congratulations. But I was very disappointed that he spoiled his party piece by the suspicion, if not the venom, which he brought to the discussion of certain parts of the U.N.R.R.A. programme. For example, I find it difficult to believe that the hon. Member, who is an expert on this subject, does not know the full context of the Korea programme. The full context is that the programme of Korea is only permitted within the dated programme for the rest of the East, and, moreover, it could only take place provided there was no curtailment of the rest of U.N.R.R.A.'s Eastern programme. Further, the programme was agreed unanimously by the Council. Therefore, if anyone was playing food politics—hunger politics—it was not the United States of America, it was the whole Council of U.N.R.R.A. They accepted this programme, they carried it out, and they are jointly responsible for its organisation. It was mean and highly illogical to make such an innuendo in this House.

I want to say something else very strongly, on these lines, about hunger politics. My hon. Friend knows that allocation was not the job of U.N.R.R.A., and even if U.N.R.R.A, or any international relief organisation, disappeared, allocation would continue undisturbed by such a decision. My hon. Friend knows that the Food Board and the Coal Organisation are the allocating organisations, and the disappearance of U.N.R.R.A. makes no difference to that situation—none at all—except that the former U.N.R.R.A. countries will have to be represented by their own representatives on these organisations.

Photo of Mr William Warbey Mr William Warbey , Luton

My right hon. Friend will, I think, agree that what is now the International Emergency Food Council or Board, while it may be concerned with allocation, is not concerned with the procurement and distribution of supplies; and that, after all, is what really matters. What matters is whether we can get supplies and actually send them to the countries which need them, and not simply the making of paper decisions about where supplies are to come from, and where they are to go.

Mr. McNeil:

Distribution, I agree, but the United States would not be responsible for distribution in any case. Neither the United States nor any other State playing this game of hunger politics, to which the hon. Gentleman referred, would be distributing to countries needing such supplies. As long as they continued in need they would appear before the Food Board where they would make their application. They would be dealt with according to international standards. Where the difficulty comes in, of course, is that they must have the foreign exchange. Mere allotment is no good to them. They must be able by some method or another, to secure that allotment. There, I think, we do see the final conversion of my hon. Friend the Member for Luton. When he last spoke in this House—as he did with his usual directness—his argument, if I understood it, was two-fold. It was that the United States should be shut out from Europe. We were to have an economic council for Europe. Secondly, if I understood him correctly, he argued that we should sever our close economic connections with the United States.

Photo of Mr William Warbey Mr William Warbey , Luton

I am sure my right hon. Friend does not want to misrepresent me. What I said was that we should get together with those countries which had the control over their own international economy, and try to form an economic union of these countries. But I did, at the same time, emphasise that we should maintain the greatest possible degree of international exchange of commodities and services, with countries outside the union and with non-European countries like the United States.

Mr. McNeil:

I am glad that the hon. Member for Luton has had the opportunity of elucidating his argument. Either the countries of Europe are to be invited to trade with America, or they are not. I understood him to say that until this union was developed, that trading should be discouraged.

Photo of Mr William Warbey Mr William Warbey , Luton

indicated dissent.

Mr. McNeil:

That is a very great advance. I now understand the hon. Gentleman the Member for Luton to say that America would be welcomed in Europe until such a union was formed.

Mr. McNeil:

I think that is much more reasonable, but certainly it means that the hon. Gentleman says, "Since I am asking America to contribute to these receiving countries in Europe, I have no objection at all to America trading in this and neighbouring areas." I am heartily glad I have had that misconception removed from my mind. Secondly—and I am sure I am not wrong about this—the hon. Gentleman wants—and I think properly—Great Britain to continue to play its part in relieving the distress of Europe and the Far East. He has referred to Austria as have a few other hon. Members. What Austria will need within a few months will be wheat. If Britain is to relieve that need, she can do one of two things. She can reduce her rations—which I make it plain my hon. Friend was not suggesting—or she can buy that wheat in Canada, the United States or the Argentine. With what will she buy it? With what can she buy it? With dollars, nothing but hard, massy dollars. I understood my hon. Friend to brag, the last time, that we debated this matter, that he had gone into the Lobby against the American loan—

It being Four o'Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Captain Snow.]

Mr. McNeil:

If we are to continue with this relief, we cannot cut ourselves off from these dollars. It is essential that those of us who have the purest and loftiest ideals—I deny these to no-one—should talk coherently and realistically on this problem, and related problems, and talk in the same terms in one Debate, as in another Debate.

The main worry of the House has been that the United Kingdom should not lend itself to unilateral relief, if it were satisfied that the case for multilateral relief had disappeared. I suggest firmly, that the case for continuing an organisation like U.N.R.R.A. has disappeared, because the vast emergency relief problem does not exist any more. I am not suggesting for a second, no-one is, that there are not places which still need relief, but the huge emergency area in Europe has grown, happily, much smaller. The view of His Majesty's Government, as of all the other members contributing to operational costs, was that the problem had now become substantially a problem of finding foreign exchange for the comparatively few distressed countries and that there was no longer a case for continuing this vast organisation of U.N.R.R.A., to which, most properly, every member of the House who spoke paid tribute—although the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Major Beamish) in paying his tribute, if I understood him correctly, wanted to extend U.N.R.R.A. to supervise distribution.

Photo of Mr Tufton Beamish Mr Tufton Beamish , Lewes

I am sorry to interrupt the Minister, but I did not say that. I tried to point out that the only way, in fairness, would be to increase the size of U.N.R.R.A. but at a vastly increased cost, and I was not advocating it.

Mr. McNeil:

The hon. and gallant Member will understand my fear—almost horror—at hearing such a phrase as "an increased U.N.R.R.A." We decided, with the other contributing countries, that the size of the job was no longer such as to justify all those countries continuing it. It started with procurement, went on to ocean transport, missions in the field, regional offices, sub-regional offices and right down to towns, and in some cases to villages. I thought my hon. Friend was a little unjust in asking why we had not made a stand at Geneva in August of this year. Of course, if such a stand had to be made, then it should have been made in the previous August. He quoted Mr. LaGuardia, but I did not think he paraphrased Mr. LaGuardia's actual words, because Mr. LaGuardia made it quite plain that it was in August, 1945, that the decision to end in 1946 had been taken because when the countries then agreed to contribute their second one per cent. it was framed to end the U.N.R.R.A. programme. However, that is by the way.

The next question was: If there was no need for U.N.R.R.A., was there no need for international organisation to do the job of meeting these limited needs? I say most emphatically that it has been the view of this Government and let us be fair it is the view of the United States Government, that international collaboration is needed for this job. Perhaps I am being unjust to the hon. Gentleman. He may not have seen the full records of the relevant committee debate at the Assembly, although that does not mean for a second that I shall argue that we ought to accept his suggestion, and see that our speeches are circulated in the same way that the Soviet sees that the speeches of her leaders are circulated.

Mr. McNeil:

Because those who want to understand what His Majesty's Government are saying and what is their attitude, can discern that easily in a variety of ways—by reading HANSARD, by reading the free newspapers of this country, by reading the free reports which we permit reporters—there should be no credit in this—to export to any country, to which they want to send their news. As long as we have that kind of system in the United Kingdom, there will be no need to spend public moneys in circulating the speeches of such insignificant persons as myself, or the hon. Gentleman the Member for Luton.

Photo of Mr William Warbey Mr William Warbey , Luton

Does my right hon. Friend seriously maintain that the views of the Secretary of State for Air are correctly made known to hon. Members of this House through their being able to read one and a half inches in "The Times"?

Mr. McNeil:

No, but if the hon. Gentleman goes along to the Library, he will find the proceedings of the United Nations summarised.

Photo of Mr William Warbey Mr William Warbey , Luton

They have not yet reached the Library.

Mr. McNeil:

No, but the hon. Gentleman can find out at any time what is the attitude of His Majesty's Government on this subject and can be quite certain that the Secretary of State for Air—or whoever represents His Majesty's Government at New York—will say the same thing. We do not speak with two voices; we do not say one thing today and another tomorrow. The Secretary of State for Air made it quite plain in New York that there would be no hunger politics.

Now, having made a decision to give up U.N.R.R.A., what kind of machinery are we proposing We are proposing—and we have said it publicly and it is now engaging the study of the relevant committee of the Assembly—that there should be a committee of experts to decide what international need still exists that cannot be met by the normal commercial methods. To that conception the United States have also committed themselves. In fact, I do not know, any one who disagrees because, of course, that is, substantially, what the Council meeting in Geneva recommended its members to do. It is substantially what the committee on Devastated Areas endorsed; it is precisely what the Social and Economic Council endorsed at its last meeting, and it has now been endorsed by the Committee which is meeting in New York at present.

I hope it will be plain that His Majesty's Government have not been villains in this matter, or, if they have been villains, that they are in a very large company of villains. His Majesty's Government have also made it plain that when that need has been ascertained and reported they are willing, by informal international collaboration, to decide how the needs shall be met. Perhaps I used a curious phrase, "informal collaboration," because I wanted to make it plain that there is, as yet, no need to create a new organisation. The work of coordination can be done by the secretariat of the Social and Economic Council. Each of the contributing countries will accept what obligations they can accept, and those which can most fitly be discharged by them. To that machinery, the United States, Canada, and other contributing countries, have also agreed. If that organisation seems humble and not ostentatious, if it has not a proper name like U.N.R.R.A., if it is not going to have a definite headquarters, and a very hefty staff, I hope the House will not, therefore, assume that it is not going to be effective.

Two hon. Members referred to the external commitments of this country, which are very heavy. But all of us are agreed that no one in this country would seek to shirk international obligations towards greatly distressed people. British people never have done so, and, indeed, if I may say so humbly, they do not seek to do so even with changes of Government. I might put it this way, it is a quality of the British people, and not the peculiar character of any British Government. In this case, we will not seek to escape the obligations which, I agree with every hon. Member who has spoken, are very real.

Of course we are peculiarly concerned about the next harvest period. We have been geared up for that period, and we will meet whatever need we can without discrimination, political or national, or in regard to colour. We are quite willing that these transactions should take place in public, and that methods should be devised as to how international agree- ments shall be discharged. I hope it is plain that any difference there is between His Majesty's Government and hon. Members who have spoken is not a difference of principle. We are all agreed on that. There may be grounds for differing opinions about the methods we are going to employ, but the methods, we hope, will be economical, direct, and impartial, and we do not ask for any other qualities than those.

Photo of Mr William Warbey Mr William Warbey , Luton

Do I understand from the statement my right hon. Friend has made, that His Majesty's Government are, in effect, opposed to the setting up of an international body, or machinery, to which contributions could be made by all members, and from which allocations of supplies could be made on the basis of a generous estimate of need, without regard to special political, or commercial considerations?

Mr. McNeil:

I took my hon. Friend to ask me if we were opposed. Of course we are not opposed, but I have made it plain that we are committed to ascertaining by a committee of experts what proven international need exists. By international collaboration we are committed to make our contribution towards meeting that need, and coordination, where necessary, will take place through the Secretariat of the United Nations organisation.

Mr. Ivor Owen Thomas (The Wrekin):

Is it ensured that this new arrangement will operate immediately where U.N.R.R.A. leaves off, and that there will be no gap in the present arrangements for relief?

Mr. McNeil:

There is no gap. The carry-over period was designed at Geneva to meet that. The carry-over period for U.N.R.R.A. will be until March. I am not suggesting for a moment that, in every field where U.N.R.R.A. is operating, some other relief will immediately be applied, because the whole basis of the change is that we do not expect to find all these needs continuing. But where there is a proven need, ascertained internationally, that need will be met internationally.

Question put, and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at a Quarter past Four o'Clock.