Orders of the Day — United Nations (Specialised Agencies)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th June 1952.

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Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Billericay 12:00 am, 19th June 1952

I think we can all agree about the deep sincerity of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson), but I rather disliked the implication in the early part of his speech that one side of the Committee was more deeply interested in this problem than the other. I am sure that he did not really mean that.

At the same time, I should like also to say that I deprecated the reference which another hon. Member made earlier to the thinness of the attendance in the Committee, when he knows that most of us, on both sides of the Committee, sat right through last night and have had no sleep at all. Indeed, the Foreign Secretary himself has found time to come to listen to part of the debate, and that, at least shows the intense interest which hon. Members on both sides of the Committee show in this important subject.

Of course, as our world is getting smaller and becoming more interdependent, we can less and less afford to ignore what is going on elsewhere in it. We know that if Communism sweeps over Indo-China that will affect our security in the long run. We know that if there is drought in Australia, or the rice harvest fails in Burma, these events must affect our economy. Only last year, the rise and fall in the prices of only three commodities, not produced in Britain, precipitated the balance of payments crisis which this country is fighting to overcome at the present moment. Those commodities are wool, rubber and tin.

There is no escape for us from what is happening elsewhere in the world. Anything which encourages international cooperation, which fosters awareness of these problems about which we have been hearing in the course of the debate, and which makes us aware of world economic and social trends is therefore to be welcomed. To that extent, of course, the United Nations Organisation and its Specialised Agencies fulfil a most useful function.

I want to refer to the World Economic Survey, a work of particular significance at the present time, prepared annually to aid the Economic and Social Council to take stock of the world economic situation and to make recommendations This year's report is an immensly important document. I would make it compulsory for everybody engaged in public life in this country to read it. It tells a story which we should be foolish to ignore. It says: World supplies of food continue to increase less rapidly than its population and far less rapidly than its output of industrial goods. In the world as a whole the consumption of food per capita is less now than it was 10 years ago. Moreover, inequalities in food consumption are now greater than before the war; some countries enjoy substantially increased supplies of food per capita while others have suffered reductions. I have been doing a little research on this subject and I find that the situation has worsened since that report was published. Let us consider the situation of India which is, of course, part of our Commonwealth system. In the last 10 years, the population of the Union of India has increased from 318 million to 361 million, an increase of 43 million. In the same period, however, its cereal production has dropped from 44.8 million tons to 41.6 million tons despite this vast increase in population.

The figure of 41.6 million tons is a key figure. Of course, millions of tons mean nothing at all to the individual—but this figure means that the availability of food for each adult in the Indian Union declined from 364 lb. per annum in 1941 to 318 lb. per annum in 1951. If present tendencies go on unchecked, by 1961 the population of India will have reached at least 404 million, and instead of India being, as she was before the war, an exporter of wheat, she will be obliged to import 8 million tons of wheat and other cereals in order to sustain her existing standard of living, which is below the prewar level anyway.