United Nations (Finances)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 31st May 1963.

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11.0 a.m.

Photo of Mr John Woollam Mr John Woollam , Liverpool, West Derby

We have had Questions in the House on this subject, but I think, although I have not searched the records, that this is the first full debate that we have had on the subject of the United Nations finances. Whether or not this is so, there will certainly be many more debates on this matter in the years to come.

I have selected this subject with another object in mind. I thought that the Foreign Office would welcome an opportunity to say something about the immediate crisis in the financial circumstances of the United Nations. It also gives me, as a back bencher, an opportunity to speak on some of the longer-term problems involved; and if the debate can serve those two purposes—giving both the Government and back benchers this opportunity—it will be an unusual coincidence.

I will not spend a great deal of time on the factual, statistical background. I have no doubt that my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State will say something about that when he replies to the debate. I can summarise the position by making three statements: first, that about 112 million dollars is now owed by the member States; secondly, that those member States which are up to date in their contributions are most reluctant to pay anything more; and, thirdly, that 10 member States face the loss of their voting rights this year if they continue in arrears. The Soviet Union faces the loss of its voting rights next year and France the loss of its rights the year after that.

If all these things came to pass, three of the five permanent members of the Security Council would be without voting rights. That is a short, handy summary of where the financial crisis has led us. I suppose that one policy would be simply to let the member States concerned get away with their arrears and for those who have paid up to pay more. The other approach is to say that we should suspend their voting rights, whatever the consequences to the United Nations, even though that would not bring in their subscriptions which are in arrears. In that case the member States which have subscribed would still have to pay more.

Thus it seems that, either way, those who have paid up fully will probably have to pay more. Either way, there is a real political dilemma to be faced. I have expressed the matter in this way to show how the financial crisis contains within it a political crisis; and at the centre of that crisis, which has caused the immediate financial crisis, is the question of the rôle of the existing peacekeeping forces, such as those in the Congo and Gaza, and the future finance to support them.

I have studied the many formulas which are current on how the extra contributions can be found and I have concluded that, at the end of the day, we will simply have to pay more. The various formulas put forward may help to spread the burden more equitably here or there, but it seems likely that the major member States will have to pay more.

The question of voting rights is a diplomatic matter rather than a financial one. It does not affect the financial problem, certainly not in the long term, so I will pass no view on that aspect because I am not well enough informed or instructed on the full diplomatic consequences of deciding to suspend the voting rights of certain member States. For this reason, I turn to the long-term financial dilemma which the immediate financial problem has presented.

As a result of our experiences in past years with the peace-keeping forces we know that, if we decide to launch any more of them to meet a crisis, they will almost certainly face opposition from one or more of the member States. If that position arises, and we must accept it, then, automatically, there will be some form of financial crisis as to how to finance the cost of those peace-keeping forces which are not fully approved of by all the member States. I have seen that situation referred to—and I think that it is a very good phrase—as a politically motivated deficit. That is what we now have and it is what we will get in the future no matter where the crisis arises, or where the peace-keeping forces may have to go.

If our experience tells us that this is likely to happen and if, at the same time, member States none the less go ahead with another peace-keeping force to meet a crisis, they will have been put on notice that probably they will have to pay more than their standard contribution, so to speak, and that at the end of the day, as now, they will probably have to bale out the United Nations when it comes to contributions.

I find myself driven on quite inexorably by the logic of that to the fact that in the long term the United Nations must obtain a source of finance of its own which will give it some independence and, to put it in the opposite sense, not be within national control. Unless that happens, the crisis which we have now will always occur again whenever a duty is put before the General Assembly to do something about a minor outbreak of war somewhere in the world. In the long term, we have the problem of how to achieve the financial independence of the United Nations.

First—and there is a Motion on the Order Paper on this subject and I hope that other hon. Members will speak on this matter—we have a voluntary approach, voluntary peace-keeping funds, voluntary security taxes which could be instituted because they would have a persuasive value and be of an educative value and because they would simply set an example of things which might yet evolve in decades to come.

On that, I concede two points in advance. I concede that the voluntary approach to this problem can never hope in the near future to raise the amount of money required, and I concede, also, that in the near future voluntary contributions would not alter or ease the nature of the political problem which lies behind this financial problem.

Secondly, it is suggested that the United Nations should find revenue resources by forms of surcharges or charges, such as postal surcharges or charges on items of international travel interest, such as passports. This is clearly getting nearer to the point and nearer to major sources of revenue. But it has the drawback that it is a source of revenue which is still wholly within national revenue. There is nothing distinctive about it and it gives no permanent independence to the United Nations, unless some variation can be found of which I do not know and which would leap over that difficulty.

Last, I come to the thing which interests me most, and I stress again that this is long-term thinking. It is the possibility of assigning to the United Nations exploitable natural resources which could be held to be outside national boundaries. This, I stress again, is long-term but I hope that hon. Members will not think that it is far-fetched. There is something of a distinct possibility here that in time important sources of revenue could be found by this approach. I will take one example and leave it at that.

The example which I should like to mention concerns what happened in July, 1962, in the Gulf of Mexico, where geological domes were discovered which were exactly similar in character to those to be found in the coastal waters of Texas and Louisana. These have already been subject to commercial exploration by petroleum companies and already judged to be accessible in the technological sense of the word, despite the fact that these domes, of which there are about 21, lie at least 400 miles from the coasts of both Mexico and America and at a depth of at least 2,000 fathoms. We have something which, prima facie, is not national in the sense in which the man in the street or on the top of the Clapham bus would regard it. We have something here which might be regarded as being of international or United Nations interest.

This possibility should be explored. We would have to settle first the somewhat ambiguous legal status which still exists concerning any such natural resources which lie at such a distance from national boundaries. In the example I have mentioned, the United Nations would have to negotiate with America and Mexico and they would have to give up any claims which they might make on the Convention on the Continental Shelf. I was fascinated by the constitutional thinking which lies behind this Convention—that sovereignty claims to the Continental Shelf can occur in proportion to advances in technology.

This is a proposition which medieval philosophers would have enjoyed. It is part of Article I of the Convention, which is described as the "elastic clause" and national States would obviously have to consent to give up whatever rights they thought that that Article and clause gave them. Following that, however, the General Assembly would be free to pass a resolution saying, for example, that seabed resources beyond a given distance ceased to be within national jurisdiction. Once we have reached that legal position, we are in the field of commercial possibilities.

My last point on this matter is that I am not arguing that the United Nations should go into business. I am only arguing that if these things are assigned to the United Nations it could then handle them in the way in which many national States handle such things, for example, by auctioning leases, or leases of rights, and by negotiating royalty payments. The commercial implications would then be handled in the normal way of any other natural resources within a national boundary.

I have argued the case a little hastily because I am aware that other hon. Members wish to speak in this short debate. It seems to me that this is a distinct possibility and not totally farfetched. It is, admittedly, a matter which stretches far into the future, but if anything came of it there would be a clear and major break-through in the evolution of the financial independence of the United Nations.

I have to admit that I have argued as though no one could question either the premise or the conclusion that the United Nations ought to have some financial independence. I know only too well that that point of view would be questioned by many people. They would say that the United Nations should not be independent, that it should not have an endowment fund, as it were, that it should not be in any different position from a national Government, and that all its revenue should come from member States and that it should be answerable to them and within their control in that they should vote the revenue and the money.

Those are weighty and respectable points of view which go right to the root of this matter. Either one can conceive of the United Nations having some financial independence, or one cannot conceive that it was ever intended or should ever come about or that the United Nations should not always be within the control of and totally dependent on the nations who constitute it. I reject that point of view. Already, in the constitution of the United Nations there is a political veto exercisable in the Security Council. I am sure that what has arisen was never intended—a financial veto exercisable in the General Assembly. if we do nothing about the financial veto—and something can be done about it if my arguments and their logic are accepted—then the two together, the political veto in the Security Council and the financial veto exercisable in the General Assembly, between them, in time, will cause all of this wonderful surge forward in peacekeeping forces simply to fade away and peter out, and we will be right back to where we were before 1945.

11.20 a.m.

Photo of Mr William Warbey Mr William Warbey , Ashfield

I hope that the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Woollam) will forgive me if on this occasion I refer to him as my hon. Friend, because I feel that the subject which he has raised and the way he has raised it transcends not only normal party politicis but normal national politics. I congratulate my hon. Friend both on introducing the subject and also on the way he has dealt with it, which I hope I may be allowed to describe, without giving the impression of being patronising, as an admirable combination of imagination and realism.

The reality of the crisis facing the United Nations at present is serious and grave. I thought that the hon. Member demonstrated clearly that, although this present crisis may be resolved and some way may be found of overcoming the present difficulty over the deficit arising out of the Congo and Middle East operations, nevertheless this problem will arise again and again in future if the United Nations is to develop in the way we all want to see it developed as the supreme peace-making authority in the world.

This, in the perspective of history, is perhaps the supreme crisis in the transition of the United Nations from an intergovernmental association dominated by the great Powers into a genuine world authority capable of ensuring peace and developing prosperity for mankind. I want to deal solely with one way in which it should now become possible to supply the United Nations with that independent source of funds, independent of national control, to which the hon. Member referred, by an agreement of the General Assembly which could be made in the current meetings of the Assembly.

The proposal for a voluntary United Nations peace-keeping fund, to which contributions could be made by individuals and non-governmental associations throughout the world, is one which is actually before the General Assembly at present—presented to the Assembly by seven members of the Working Party on United Nations Finance which has recommended that: ..in order to institutionalise and encourage voluntary contributions towards the costs of peace-keeping operations, a voluntary peacekeeping fund should be created towards which contributions would be welcome. presumably from everybody throughout the world.

This was supported by three members of the British Commonwealth, India, Nigeria and Pakistan. It was also supported by the Argentine, Brazil, the Cameroons, the United Arab Republic, and indirectly by Sweden and Japan. I am glad to see now that in the ten-nation Committee set up to try to find a solution of this problem no fewer than six of these countries are represented, the others being the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and the Netherlands. I feel sure that Canada will be sympathetic to this idea. I feel sure that the Netherlands will be, and therefore a great responsibility rests upon Her Majesty's Government at this moment to take the initiative in turning this imaginative proposal into a reality.

This is not to say—and I stress this in anticipation of criticism which I know has come from certain quarters—that this proposed fund is to be a means by which national Governments can avoid their responsibilities to the United Nations. The national Governments have their responsibilities, and they must be called upon to make them good. I am very glad that the Government of this country, despite the fact that it showed its clear dislike of some aspects of the United Nations operations in the Congo, nevertheless has shown itself prepared to pay up in full for those operations. I am glad to see that it is now said that even Belgium, which disliked the operations in some respects even more than did Her Majesty's Government, will be willing to pay its share. I hope that the example of Belgium will be followed by France, Spain, Portugal and other members of the Western bloc.

I hope also that it will be followed by members of the Eastern bloc. The Soviet Union, which voted for the Security Council Resolution which authorised these Congo operations, has a major responsibility to pay its share for them. I hope that it will be shamed into doing so by the actions of those countries which recognise their responsibility to the United Nations.

Nevertheless, we have to recognise that all national Governments have a conflict of loyalties. It is their duty to defend the interests of their own countries as well as the interests of the people of the world, and this divided loyalty of the representatives of national Governments means that we are liable to have this kind of problem arising again and again unless we can call upon people who do not have divided loyalties. Unless, in other words, a nation can call upon individual members of the world community to make their contributions towards sustaining those activities of the United Nations which are for their protection and for their health and happiness.

This is what this fund would do. It would make it possible to call upon that individual loyalty which alone can, and has the right and duty to, transcend national loyalties and show a higher loyalty towards the world authority. I hope that the British Government will help to make this possible, as it can now be made possible within the next month or two.

I am prepared on this matter to give a personal pledge. I cannot speak for my colleagues who joined me in the Motion on the Order Paper to which the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby referred, but I have a feeling that they would be willing to support me in this If the General Assembly of the United Nations will establish a voluntary peace-keeping fund open to contributions from individuals and non-Governmental associations throughout the world, I am prepared to give a pledge to wage a campaign to persuade individuals in this country to make their contributions to that fund.

I am prepared to go further and say that I would carry this campaign into other countries which today are both within the Western camp and within the Eastern camp. I believe that through this it would be possible to make a break-through across the frontiers of the world, across the ideological barriers and, as it were, to get under the skin of the national Governments and, in the course of time, to exercise so much pressure through this collective desire of individuals to display their loyalty to the world community that no national Government would be able to bar its citizens from showing their loyalty to the world community.

I should like to see the General Assembly in this current Session make it possible for the peoples of the world to contribute Is. a year per head for peace; 3,000 million shillings would raise a sum of £150 million a year, five times the ordinary budget of the United Nations, which would enable it to lay the foundations of a solid and firm peace-keeping force capable of dealing, as and when the situation arises, with those many troublesome problems which we know are looming ahead in various parts of the world.

I hope that this will now be made possible. I urge as strongly as I can the British Government in the United Nations General Assembly at this moment to give their support to this proposal and to make it possible for people to pay 1s. a head for peace.

11.32 a.m.

Photo of Mr Gilbert Longden Mr Gilbert Longden , South West Hertfordshire

May I. too, congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Woollam)—I hope I do not have to ask his permission to call him my hon. Friend—on having raised this subject today. He is quite right in claiming that this is the first time we have debated this very important matter, although for a long time it has been the cause of the greatest possible anxiety to everyone who cares for the United Nations, and particularly to the Secretary-General.

I hope my hon. Friend is being pessimistic when he says that this is the first of many such debates which will stretch over the years. I am glad, too, that there is general all-party concurrence with my hon. Friend's proposal, as the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey) said, and I am sure we are all very sympathetic to his proposals, too.

The total expenditure of the United Nations is ridiculously small. Its regular budget for the current year is about £30 million, although, the peace-keeping operations add to that sum quite considerably; and yet the United Nations is in the red because so many of its members are in arrears with their assessed contributions. I asked a Question yesterday and received the reply that on 30th April last 34 States were in arrear with their contributions to the regular budget, 66 to the cost of the Congo operations and 57 to the cost of the U.N.E.F., although it is true that so far only one State, Haiti, is more than two years in arrears.

Now all members of the United Nations have subscribed to Article 17 (2) of the Charter, which provides that the expenses of the Organisation shall be borne by the members as apportioned by the General Assembly and the General Assembly apportions the shares of its members on a percentage basis in accordance with their capacity to pay.

There was, however, a legitimate doubt whether the expenses of these ad hoc forces, which had not been approved—and whose setting up had even been opposed by some members—should properly be considered as expenses of the organisation within that Article, and therefore whether there was an obligatory debt to be shared by the members. I think it was right to ask the International Court of Justice to resolve that doubt. On 20th July last, the Court delivered its advisory opinion to the effect that the expenses of U.N.E.F. and O.N.U.C. were to be regarded as expenses of the Organisation and, therefore, that all members must bear their duly apportioned share.

There is no time in this debate to outline the arguments which moved the Court. They seem to me to be conclusive, but the judgment was given by a majority of nine members, including the United Arab Republic, to five, including the Soviet Union, Poland and France; the Mexican Judge being absent.

The next step was that, on 20th December last, the General Assembly adopted two resolutions, both of which were sponsored inter alia by this country. The first accepted the advisory opinion of the International Court that the expenses of these forces were expenses of the Organisation and had to be shared by members; and the second recommended the General Assembly to set up a 21-member working group, to which the hon. Member for Ashfield referred, precisely to study, inter alia, the situation arising from the arrears of certain members with their contributions towards the peace-keeping operations. It was to report towards the end of March.

It should be clearly noted that the resolution of the General Assembly accepting the International Court's opinion was passed by the requisite two-thirds majority; 76 were in favour, including 17 African, 10 Asian and 14 Commonwealth countries, and all the Organisation of American States; and 17 were against, including the Soviet Union and the 10 satellites, and France, Belgium abstained. Yet I am sorry to say that the working group finished its labours at the end of March without reaching any generally agreed recommendations. Instead there were five different methods suggested, including one by this country.

The United States took the opportunity of making it clear that she is no longer prepared to "carry the can" in excess of her normal regular scale percentage, which is 32 per cent., and I do not blame her. Our percentage by comparison is just under 8 per cent., and that is the third highest among all members. Remember that the total contributions of more than half the members of the United Nations put together do not amount to as much as ours alone.

What I regret—and it is the main reason for my intervention in this debate—is that apparently none of the members of the working group looks like being prepared to face up to Article 19 of the Charter, which lays down that if a member's arrears equal or exceed two years' contributions that member shall lose its vote. It is true there is an escape clause for those members whose failure to pay is due to "causes beyond their control", but that cannot be prayed in aid by the countries which will in a few months be two years in arrear.

The last step in this story is that a fortnight ago at the first meeting of the Administrative and Budgetary Committee of the Fourth Special Session of the General Assembly, summoned specifically to discuss this question, the Soviet delegate declared that the so-called financial crisis of the United Nations was only the result of systematic and flagrant violations of the Charter which had given the Security Council sole competence in the maintenance of peace. He added that it was just and fair, therefore, for the entire financial responsibility to be placed on those powers which, he said, were guilty of aggression in the Middle East and the Congo.

I say to Her Majesty's Government that, if that is to be the attitude, no matter what country adopts it—some of our friends, too, are adopting it at the moment—I believe the rules should be applied. I have no objection whatever to the voluntary peace-keeping fund which was outlined by the hon. Member for Ashfield—of course not—but. as he himself said, members must also honour their agreements.

I conclude by saying that I profoundly agree with what was written to The Times on 21st May last by the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) who said: I believe the sanction provided by the charter for those in default should be upheld, and that they should be deprived of their voting rights when the two-year period expires. It would be dangerous to compromise this principle by failing to apply it in the first cases which arise.

11.38 a.m.

Photo of Mr Reginald Prentice Mr Reginald Prentice , East Ham North

I, too, wish to congratulate the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Woollam) on raising this subject today. I think that we need to discuss this matter with perhaps an even greater sense of urgency than has been shown.

One matter that has worried me about the debates in the Committee of Ten, in the General Assembly, and so on, is that these counter-theories and counter-propositions are being argued at some length while the financial crisis deepens and the United Nations is being rendered more and more impotent in relation to possible peace-keeping operations which it might be called upon to undertake at short notice.

I do not think that any hon. Member would deny that the situation in the Middle East would have been chaotic but for the United Nations Force being there in recent years. I do not think many people would contest the proposition that the situation in the Congo would have proved disastrous but for United Nations co-operation. There would have been mass starvation and tribal warfare. The great Powers might have been drawn in and it could have been the sparking-off point for a third world war. At any time some other crisis in another part of the world may require that this kind of operation be carried out. Therefore, this is a matter of very great urgency.

I wish to make three points to the Under-Secretary. It seems to me that this country, and countries which share our point of view on this subject, should engage in a frank and vigorous propaganda campaign throughout the world against the attitude of the Soviet Union. We should attack them in the General Assembly and use every opportunity open to us to oppose the attitude of the Soviet Union, in particular, and of other countreis which have also adopted it. This attitude is one of old-fashioned nationalism and imperialism which is thoroughly out-of-date.

I should have thought that from the Soviet point of view it was a very foolish attitude. From the standpoint of Soviet Communism it is foolish thinking. If it is desired to spread Communist ideas throughout the world and influence the thinking in the uncommitted countries, most of whom put a lot of faith in the United Nations, this would appear to be the most stupid thing that the Soviet Government could do in relation to the United Nations finances. The Soviet Union should be challenged on this in the General Assembly and on every other possible platform in the hope that it may appreciate the point in its own interests, as well as world interests, and take a different attitude. If the Soviet Union did that its attitude would be followed by the satellite countries and the attitude of other countries not in the Soviet bloc might be influenced.

I support what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey) about the proposal of India and other countries regarding a special peace-keeping fund. We can waste too much time arguing about the merits of one type of finance or another. I think that the nations should meet their commitments. Part of the process of handing over part of our sovereignty to a world organisation is the handing over of part of the proceeds of taxation to that organisation, and what we pay to the United Nations is pitifully small. What the richer nations pay cannot be a great burden upon them. We should support any constructive proposal for more money and this is a constructive proposal. It would give a chance to people throughout the world to demonstrate in a practical fashion in the way which has been suggested.

In the last analysis, if nothing else is available—and it may well be that nothing else will be available—Governments of good will will have to keep this organisation afloat. The hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Longden) said he sympathised with the United States' attitude that it was not prepared to pay more than its share, and I sympathise, too. But it seems to me that the United States, Britain and other friendly countries may have to be prepared to pay more than their share rather than see the financial crisis deepen.

This is all wrong, and we ought not to have to do it. We should attack those countries who do not pay their share. But, above everything else, this organisation must be kept afloat and if the funds with which to launch peacekeeping operations of the type which have been launched in recent years are not available we cannot let it collapse in financial chaos. This is a real danger.

I hope that Her Majesty's Government will, if necessary, face the fact that we may have to pay more than our share, and ask others to do so as well, rather than see this organisation become impotent.

11.45 a.m.

Photo of Sir Isaac Pitman Sir Isaac Pitman , Bath

I am delighted that there has been this debate and that, as has been said, we are all friends together. My first plea to the Government is that they should take up the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Woollam) and ensure that nothing is done in any way to compromise the oil rights and other mineral rights below the sea and prevent potential world property from being purloined either for individual or even national property. Such potential world wealth could be a most important factor in the long term finance of a world peace-keeping organisation.

Disarmament has clearly proved a failure, because it has gone in inverse order to what is needed. The world has never been more insecure, and therefore people are absolutely determined that they shall see an effective world security organisation set up and effectively operating before jettisoning their present national security organisations. It is clear that to emphasise disarmament first and to postpone the idea of the alternative security is the wrong order. To indicate that we will talk later about what kind of security we shall then enjoy has been a procedure which has not got us anywhere, and never will. The reverse approach, the idea of what alternative security organisation we might first build up so that national Governments might then disarm, is the only approach which will ever work.

Our constituents, as we all know, regard the peace-keeping functions of United Nations as the real purpose for which the United Nations was set up. That purpose is the important one, rather than that of an inter-governmental debating chamber in which aspirations may be aired and pious resolutions passed, resolutions for the implementation of which there is no responsible executive and no effective government. The peace-keeping organisation is thus what really matters. I hope that the Gov- ernment will do everything possible to see that such an organisation is set up and given the financial sinews with which to carry out its beneficial purpose. It is important that such an organisation should be set up because at present it does not exist. At the present time it is the peace-keeping organisations of national Governments, not of the United Nations, which are being used and which, like those of the old feudal lords help the United Nations to perform a function for which it itself has no facilities of its own.

It is highly desirable that there should be a separation between such a law enforcement organisation which is to be the world's peace-keeping organisation and the other section of the United Nations, the body which makes the laws or conducts political debates. There needs to be that same separation in the enforcement of laws within a nation. When history comes to be written it will be thought that the Congo incident represented a error on the part of the United Nations which set back the development of the peace-keeping organisation of the United Nations. It was absolutely right that national troops at the request of the United Nations should go into the Congo in order to stop international disorder which might have disrupted world peace. But we shall never get anywhere with a world peace-keeping organisation if it is used also for only national disorders in which only the national peace is disturbed. It was thus quite right that such United Nations troops should have gone into the Congo at the time when world peace was threatened by potential international disorders. It would have been even more right had they left once the international disorder leading to a threat to world peace had passed. National order should be kept by national Governments, and not by a world peace-keeping organisation. Misemployment of world forces for national purposes compromises their efficacy in their proper function. The principle that was operated in the Congo would justify a world peace-keeping organisation performing similar functions in Alabama. If we have national Governments it is their job to keep the national peace and not the job of a very important organisation like a world peace-keeping organisation.

Sooner or later we must have direct taxation. After all, let us face it, when parts o: this country was divided into the Kingdoms of Wessex and Mercia—in all there were seven kingdoms in this country—the essential peace-keeping function was a charge on the citizens of Mercia and Wessex. Now that we have one kingdom the costs of the army is borne by taxes direct on all of us and not through, say, Wessex. Sooner or later we shall have to have direct world taxation instead of preception of national taxation, and it will be a good financial bargain because we shall obtain our security much more certainly and more cheaply. All these things begin by private enterprise. It is always private enterprise which starts these things. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will encourage private contributions. For myself would give a contribution to such fund if what the hon. Gentleman said were to come about and would support his campaign.

I hope that Her Majesty's Government will do everything that they can to foster what, I believe, is probably the most important issue facing mankind today: how to organise and set effectively acting a world security authority. We shall get one sooner or later either in this way or by the complete victory of one of the two sides, which will then immediately have to organise it to ensure that world war does not break out—if there were indeed anything then left to organise.

11.50 a.m.

Photo of Mr Christopher Mayhew Mr Christopher Mayhew , Woolwich East

The hon. Member for Bath (Sir J. Pitman) threw a large pebble into a calm pond by referring to the Congo, but I think that the debate has shown that there is a great measure of agreement in the House about the United Nations' finances. I hope that we all agree that, in relation to the issues involved, the sums we are discussing are absurdly small. On my calculation, the total expenditure of the United Nations is equal to one-fifth of 1 per cent. of the world's defence expenditure.

I do not know whether the Joint Under-Secretary of State has some comparable calculations, but this matter is worth checking, because it shows a striking fact. On my calculation, the total expenditure of the United Nations equals about half the cost of Britain's independent nuclear deterrent. We should bear these facts in mind, because this is essentially a political and not an economic problem with which we are faced.

On the surface, there are some cheering signs from the economic point of view. For example, U Thant is reported as having said on 15th May that there was a definite improvements as far as collection of arrear costs is concerned". Earlier, he had said that the cost of the Congo operation would be down from 10 million dollars a month to 51 million dollars a month during the last six months of this year and that it was not unreasonable to anticipate complete military disengagement by the end of this year. My feeling is that if this were a purely economic question it would not be the great crisis for the United Nations which it is. It is true that certain countries find their contribution a considerable strain economically. There are absurd anomalies, such as that concerning China's assessment due to the fact that the People's Republic is not a member of the United Nations, as it should be. But this hardship on individual countries is recognised already in the assessments, as the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Longden) said. It is also recognised, I think, in a number of the recommendations put forward at the United Nations recently for overcoming this problem.

It is the political side which is so difficult, and here the United Nations is presented with a very serious crisis indeed. Of course, the political reasons are not all the same. The reasons which prompted the Arab countries to abstain from making a contribution to the U.N.E.F. are different from those which prompted the French Government to abstain. My personal feeling is that these political problems can be circumvented in a number of cases. The Belgians, for instance, have now paid up their contribution for the Congo operation. Because the great majority of the members of the United Nations do not want to challenge the basic principle of collective financial responsibility, there is the prospect of progress in overcoming some of these political objections.

It seems to me that the real crisis comes from the denial by the Communist countries of the Assembly's right to raise money for peace-keeping activities. Here I agree very strongly with my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice). I think that this is the major stumbling block with which we are faced. The absolutely uncompromising statements of the Soviet delegate, to which the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West referred, are discouraging and disturbing.

For example, Mr. Federenko has said that any decision aimed at placing on members of the United Nations a mandatory requirement for payment to the expenses of the operations in the Middle East and Congo incurred in a way that was contrary to the Charter and in circumvention of the Security Council was unacceptable and could have no binding legal force; that the Soviet Union could not pay that part of its assessment for the regular budget which would go for interest and writing off the cost of the bond issue; and that the financing of the United Nations Force should be decided in each case by the Security Council. In my view, this is the most important and difficult problem facing us.

We on this side of the House have always welcomed the increasing powers of the Assembly. We supported the Action for Peace concept. We regard the flood of new members into the United Nations and a very great increase in the influence and size of the Assembly as, on the whole, a great and hopeful new development. We hope that that is true of the Government, although it is not the impression we got from a famous and unfortunate speech by the Foreign Secretary on this subject. We say—and I am sure that this is right—that the essential thing is not to prejudice the powers of the Assembly peace-keeping activities. I hope that the Government will regard the preservation of the powers of the Assembly as the most important factor of all in this crisis and as something on which we should not yield.

There are other things which we can do. I hope that the Government will say that they will consider very carefully the conception of a voluntary peace-keeping fund. Hon. Members will have appreciated the sincerity of my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North on this subject. I also hope that the Government will give us an assurance about a somewhat larger subscription by our country to the United Nations bond issue. It is hard to haul Britain over the coals for its contribution to the finances of the United Nations. If all countries made half the contribution which we make, there would be no crisis. Nevertheless, when we consider the practical results, it seems to me that this is something which would not really cost this country a great deal, but which would strengthen the United Nations at this very critical point.

I hope that, diplomatically, we shall try to reach a formula with all those who do not challenge the principle of the powers of the Assembly. Surely it is possible to find wide agreement among countries which, for instance, opposed the troika principle at the United Nations, because, essentially, this is a similar thing to the troika demand of the Soviet Union. It is a demand that the peace-keeping activities should, in practice, be subject to the Soviet veto at some stage.

I therefore hope that there will be wide support for an attempt by those who oppose the troika principle to find a new formula which takes into account the economic difficulties of certain countries but which maintains the principle of collective financial responsibility and the power of the Assembly in peace-keeping activities. I hope that the Government will regard this as their major task. Even if we reached such a formula on a wide basis, it would, perhaps, leave out the Communist countries and the issue might arise of the voting rights of the small number of countries in default on the new formula. Personally, I see no reason for rushing into a decision on this question now.

It could be argued that, rather than face the deprivation of its voting rights, the Soviet Union might leave the United Nations. On the other hand, it could be argued that no great Power would be willing to leave the United Nations on an issue such as that unless it had widespread sympathy. It is of the greatest importance that Article 19 and the principles embodied in it should be upheld.

Therefore, I should not at this stage make any clear pronouncement on this issue, but merely try to reach a formula with the maximum support at the United Nations of those who believe in the powers of the Assembly and the principle of collective financial responsibility. I hope that that, in general, will be the approach of Her Majesty's Government to this problem.

11.59 p.m.

Photo of Lieut-Commander Peter Smithers Lieut-Commander Peter Smithers , Winchester

I should like to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Woollam) for giving us the opportunity to have this most valuable debate. If I may say so with due respect to those who have taken part in it, it has been a debate from which the United Nations itself could well take a lesson, for we have heard six excellent speeches in rather less than an hour. Anyone who has attended the United Nations as a delegate, as I have on a number of occasions, will know how refreshing an experience that would be there.

My hon. Friends have made my task a good deal easier because out of their wealth of learning and experience of this matter they have already covered a very large part of the background of this complex subject. I shall content myself by, first, sketching very briefly what the latest position is in these budgetary matters, and then try to pose the political dilemma with which we are confronted —I agree very strongly with the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) that this is a political rather than a financial issue when we come to analyse it—and then say something about the present position.

As to the regular budget, up to 30th April the unpaid sums owing from member States were 7 million dollars. There were 34 States in default for 1962 and 17 in default for 1961. I want to pause here to say a word about what I think is a popular misconception on the subject of being in default on the regular budget. Because the accounting practices of the United Nations and the different member States do not entirely correspond, it often happens that a State is technically in default on its regular contribution, but with a perfectly honour-able explanation. Sometimes I think that member States of the United Nations get an undeservedly bad name for being in default when the default on the regular budget is often only a technical matter.

So far as the U.N.E.F. account is concerned, the assessments made up to 30th June are unpaid to the extent of 27 million dollars. My hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Longden) has given some of the further figures, so I need not repeat them. It is, however, worth saying that there are unassessed costs in respect of U.N.E.F. running at about 20 million dollars a year. In the case of O.N.U.C., the assessments unpaid up to the same period amount to 72 million dollars. And here it is worth noting that the unassessed costs are running at the rate of 11½ million dollars per month. So this is a very serious and substantial matter.

The United Nations as a whole at present is owed 106 millon dollars by member States, and the present expenditures are being met out of the bond issue. I agree with hon. Members that a very serious position indeed will arise during the summer, and I am sure that it is correct to say, as the hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) did, that the vital question is that of keeping the organisation going—and it is to that that our efforts are bent at the present time.

Under Article 19, at present, no member State forfeits its vote, although one member State has had a rather narrow escape. But it is the case that the Soviet Union would forfeit its vote, in our view, on 1st January, 1964, and France on 1st January, 1965. The more one looks at this problem, the more one is driven to the conclusion that, although it is extremely complicated in financial detail—and I, as a member of the Fifth Committee during one session, found myself hard put to it to follow the intricacies of United Nations finance in all their ramifications—the essence of the matter is simple. There is no question here, on the whole, of difficulties arising due to inability to pay.

There are two kinds, broadly speaking, of non-payment: one is non-payment by member States which have no political objections to paying but which doubted their obligation to pay their assessments to the peace-keeping funds. Here I am pleased to say that since the decision of the International Court in this matter, some of these doubts seem to have been resolved, and there is a perceptible improvement in payment, which is very gratifying, although the amount, unfortunately, is not very large.

Of course, the big problem is of those States which refuse to pay as a matter of political objection. This is an objection I think, generally speaking, although not invariably, in principle rather than on any particular issue. It is. in fact, as the hon. Member for Woolwich, East pointed out, a difference over the concept of the purpose and methods of the United Nations. This is the real problem.

I want to diverge for a moment from this theme to say to my hon. Friends who have been putting forward various interesting suggestions for voluntary funds and other such devices for raising money in ways other than by means of Government contributions assessed by the Assembly, that, although, of course, these suggestions are worth while examining, and some of them, indeed, may be found to have merit, they do not go to the root of the problem.

The root of the problem is the profound difference in political purpose. Her Majesty's Government's attitude here is. I think, quite clear. Article 17 states that the expenses of the organisation shall be borne by the members as apportioned by the General Assembly. Although I see the attractions which, for example, a voluntary fund, or some kind of source of revenue independent of Governments may have, I believe that there is an idea deeply rooted in our institutions in Britain—and I think that it is a sound one—that responsibility for policy and finance are closely connected, and that if, in a political institution, people expect to exercise political power. they must be prepared to shoulder the financial burden of doing so. One cannot very easily divorce the one from the other.

Therefore, we were very glad when the General Assembly accepted by a large majority the view of the International Court that the peace-keeping expenses of the United Nations are expenses of the organisation in the sense of Article 17, and, in our view, the Soviet Union will, in fact, forfeit its voting right if it continues to ignore the ruling of the Court as accepted by the Assembly. The political dilemma which will then arise has been well put by my hon. Friend the Member for West Derby, and is, I think, well understood.

We cannot, however, allow the organs of the United Nations such as the International Court and the General Assembly itself to be flouted with impunity. To do so would be to inflict a serious setback on the development of the United Nations and to deal a blow at our hopes of establishing it as a powerful instrument to bring about a more orderly world.

The Soviet attitude differs radically from that of the United Kingdom and it is worth considering seriously what the Soviet argument is. As we see it. the United Nations should play an increasingly important part in world affairs and should exercise a degree of power commensurate with the importance of the task and with its ability to carry out its duties justly and effectively.

The Soviet Union, however, takes a restrictive view of the purposes of the United Nations. It has already been pointed out in the debate that the attempt to impose a troika upon the United Nations Secretariat is parallel with the present controversy as to the provision of finance. It would, in fact, impose a veto upon executive actions by the United Nations and would, therefore, be restrictive in its operation. The Soviet Union takes a precisely similar view as to the relationship between the Security Council and the General Assembly and regards the peace-keeping operations as the exclusive prerogative of the Security Council.

It follows from this, therefore, that in the Soviet view the financing of the peacekeeping operations by means of a General Assembly Resolution is ultra vires the Charter and that those expenses are not expenses of the organisation. Therefore, the Soviet Union would argue that it does not lose its vote because no debt is owing and, as has been said to the House, it does not accept the opinion of the International Court or its endorsement by the General Assembly.

There is, therefore, a fundamental difference of purpose between us, and in present circumstances Her Majesty's Government feel that there is, unfortunately, little hope of resolving the long-term political difference in the immediate negotiations. In the Fifth Committee, we have frequently put forward suggestions and argued in the direction of coming to some kind of agreement as to general purpose. When the Fifth Committee meets again in the autumn, in the regular session of the General Assembly, this debate will be resumed and pursued by us with vigour. Meanwhile, I shall take the opportunity to bring the views expressed by hon. Members today concerning the long-term problems to the attention of our delegation in New York so that it may study and take account of them in advance.

Meanwhile, however, in face of a Soviet attitude which seems, as hon. Members have said, entirely inflexible, we think it right to concentrate all our efforts on getting as wide a measure of agreement as possible amongst as many States as possible as to the nature of a resolution which can now come before the General Assembly.

Therefore, intensive and complex negotiations are taking place between the various States represented, and interested particularly in this matter, to bring that about. The Fifth Committee has been in session most of this week. No resolution is yet before it, but there has beer a great deal of activity in the corridors designed mainly to reconcile the interests of those wealthier States which inevitably have had to carry, and are carrying, the major part of the financial burden, and some of whom are, naturally, getting rather weary at carrying such a disproportionate share, and those States who are only with difficulty able to bear the contributions which they are called upon to pay.

We hope that there will be a successful outcome of these delicate negotiations and that a suitable resolution which will receive the support of the vast majority of States will shortly come before the Assembly.

Photo of Mr Christopher Mayhew Mr Christopher Mayhew , Woolwich East

Can the hon. Gentleman give just a little further information on that? Is the delicacy of the negotiations really due to the difference of wealth between certain delegations? Does it not also involve political objections apart from the Communist political objections?

Photo of Lieut-Commander Peter Smithers Lieut-Commander Peter Smithers , Winchester

I think that the political objections are of relatively minor importance, I am glad to say, in present circumstances. Other than the great division between East and West, there seems to be a remarkable consensus of opinion and a general desire to see the Assembly playing its proper part. It is mainly a discussion as to the distribution of the burden rather than the political issues which is at present involved.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

Does my hon. Friend agree that the proper role of the Assembly under the Charter is not in any way concerned with the peace-keeping function and that that is, indeed, solely the responsibility of the Security Council, and that the "Uniting for Peace" resolution, to which, I am afraid, we lent our name, was a gross breach of the Charter?

Photo of Lieut-Commander Peter Smithers Lieut-Commander Peter Smithers , Winchester

My hon. Friend's views would not be acceptable to the great majority of members of the Assembly, although he might find a good deal of support amongst some of the Marxist-Leninist States.

Photo of Mr William Warbey Mr William Warbey , Ashfield

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but as he appears to be making a kind of policy statement, would he go so far as to give an assurance that if any resolution is promoted during the current session of the General Assembly, the British Government will do nothing to obstruct the inclusion of a reference to the desirability of a voluntary peace-keeping fund?

Photo of Lieut-Commander Peter Smithers Lieut-Commander Peter Smithers , Winchester

I wanted merely to say this to the House about the hon. Member's speech, to which I was just coming.

The suggestion of a voluntary fund has been put forward by a body of opinion in the United Nations and here and we shall, of course, give it serious consideration. These voluntary funds, however, have serious limitations. They tend to encourage people to think that they may be relieved of part of the burden. It is all too easy to raise hopes in that way.

One must be somewhat sceptical about the amount of money which is likely to be raised by that method. However, I gladly accept the hon. Member's offer to go on a crusade if such a fund should be set up. I am sure that his support would be welcomed. I do not think that there is anything to prevent the hon. Member, or, indeed, any other person, making a contribution to United Nations funds, and I therefore suggest that he should pay his shilling right away.