This Fund was primarily created to meet the emergency conditions prevailing after the war and our information is that its resources are now running down. There appears to be little prospect of sufficient contributions from other Governments to match the 20 million dollars already appropriated for the Fund by the United States and the Fund will presumably have to spend a large part of its remaining resources on the run-down of its present widespread commitments. It is therefore unlikely to be in a position to continue or extend the work it has been doing in the Middle East, where the serious plight of the Arab refugees needs urgent attention.
We have therefore decided, after consultation with my right hon. and learned Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that we should not make a further contribution to this Fund, but instead should make an additional £100,000 available through the British voluntary societies to the maintenance of the Arab refugees, a large proportion of whom are children.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that this answer will cause very great distress in all parts of the House and also in the country? Is he further aware that only about a quarter of the children in Europe, in the direst need, are receiving even the most elementary assistance from this fund and that it is of vital importance, both for humanitarian reasons and for more general reasons, that the assistance provided by the International Children's Fund should not cease in the middle of this winter?
We cannot go on giving away money all the time. We have to see which is the best place in which to put it and in the case of the Arab refugees we think there is the biggest claim.
While expressing appreciation of what the Government have already done in this respect, may I ask my right hon. Friend to take into account the urgent need that exists outside the Arab States among children in other parts of the world and to see that steps are taken to use the offer made by the United States of matching grants from other countries with dollars from America in order that the utmost good may be done to the children who are so urgently in need?
Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that there are 700,000 refugees from Greece, of whom 200,000 are children, and that that is as high a percentage as that of the Arab refugee children? Will he bear in mind that a contribution in that direction, now that the fund is drying up, will be urgently needed this winter?
The financial aid going to Greece from the United States is very great. I must warn the House that it is all very well to criticise the financial position of the country at one moment and in the next moment to expect us to be able to give to every fund that is raised. When the figures come to be read it will be seen that this country is the leading contributor in the world.
Is it not the case that some of this money is going to help German children in the British zone of Germany and that we are, therefore, receiving aid from the fund, too? Is it not also the case that if we do not assist this fund a large amount of American dollars will be lost to the fund and the beneficent work will be stopped?
I have very grave doubt of that. The response made by other countries to whom the appeal is being made is so small that it makes the matching by America very improbable.
Is it not a fact that the United States promised to add aid very liberally, provided a minimum sum was subscribed by other nations in toto? Is it or is it not the fact that that minimum was subscribed? So far as my information goes, the minimum total has never been reached.
In view of the statement concerning the funds we have supplied, is it not fair to say that America, Australia, New Zealand and Canada have subscribed more individually than we have?
I do not think that that comparison is sound. Certainly some of those countries have small populations and have given large amounts; but although we have a population of 50 million in this country, we have huge liabilities and have suffered much devastation. Therefore, I do not think that the analogy is quite a correct one.
With very great regret, in view of my right hon. Friend's answer, I feel obliged to give him notice that I shall try to raise this matter on the Adjournment.
After consultation with the trustees of the Lord Mayor's Committee which made a similar appeal last year, with British voluntary societies doing relief work abroad, and with other voluntary bodies engaged in social and welfare work, His Majesty's Government have decided not to sponsor the promotion of an appeal in 1949. The Secretary-General of the United Nations has been formally notified of this decision.