United Nations (Finances)

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

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Photo of Mr Reginald Prentice Mr Reginald Prentice , East Ham North 12:00 am, 31st May 1963

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 This attitude is one of old-fashioned nationalism and imperialism which is thoroughly out-of-date.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.