United Nations (Military Forces)

Oral Answers to Questions — Ministry of Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th February 1964.

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Photo of Mr William Warbey Mr William Warbey , Ashfield 12:00 am, 19th February 1964

asked the Minister of Defence if he will introduce legislation to place a contingent of British military forces at the disposal of the United Nations, under conditions similar to those contained in proposals submitted to the United Nations by the Norwegian Government.

Photo of Mr Peter Thorneycroft Mr Peter Thorneycroft , Monmouth

Legislation would not be necessary.

Photo of Mr William Warbey Mr William Warbey , Ashfield

In that case, will the right hon. Gentleman take immediate steps to assign a contingent of British forces to the command of the United Nations and available at call, as is now being done by Norway and a number of other countries? If the British Government were to take this step, which would be setting a very good example, would it not also considerably relieve the Government of some of the embarrassments that they are now suffering over Cyprus?

Photo of Mr Peter Thorneycroft Mr Peter Thorneycroft , Monmouth

No, Sir. Whatever else may be said about British forces or the British Government, I do not think anybody would say that we were under-contributing forces to peacekeeping throughout the world.

Photo of Mr Stanley Awbery Mr Stanley Awbery , Bristol Central

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we are spending a very large sum of money on defence in various parts of the world which we can ill afford, and that in some of these places we are not wanted at all? Would he consider the possibility of the United Nations taking over some of these responsibilities instead of this country carrying them alone?

Photo of Mr Peter Thorneycroft Mr Peter Thorneycroft , Monmouth

The Question is concerned with whether I would legislate in order to put forces under the command of the United Nations. No legislation is required. Wider discussions on the rĂ´le of the United Nations had, I think, better be left to a foreign affairs debate.

Photo of Mr William Warbey Mr William Warbey , Ashfield

Has not the right hon. Gentleman missed the whole point, that the forces which Norway and other countries are proposing to put at the disposal of the United Nations are specifically assigned contingents, allotted for that purpose, which are to be handed over to the. United Nations command when called upon by that organisation, and financed by that organisation while they are under its command? Is that what the right hon. Gentleman says can be done without legislation? If so, why does he not do it?

Photo of Mr Peter Thorneycroft Mr Peter Thorneycroft , Monmouth

Certainly it could be done without legislation. While the Norwegian proposal was supported by us, I think, at the United Nations, it was not considered appropriate that permanent members of the Security Council should as a general rule make their forces permanently available upon this basis. As I have said, we really are making very large numbers of forces available throughout the world for keeping the peace.

Photo of Sir Rolf Williams Sir Rolf Williams , Exeter

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that one of the most important principles of war is economy of force, and that all our experience of the United Nations seems to lead us to believe that this principle would not be maintained?