Oral Answers to Questions — United Nations (Peace- Keeping Force)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th March 1964.

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Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Rowley Regis and Tipton 12:00 am, 26th March 1964

asked the Prime Minister, in view of his willingness to consider the matter with the allies, and of the recent official joint announcement by the three Scandinavian countries, if he will instruct the appropriate departments to prepare a plan for an allied force, not to be permanently under United Nations control, but to be available as needed to the United Nations for peace-keeping purposes.

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

As I explained to the House on 3rd March, it has not so far been considered appropriate for the permanent members of the Security Council to earmark forces for United Nations service and any departure on our part from this view would need to be discussed with our allies in the light of our existing commitments. An allied force for the United Nations is another matter, and I am doubtful whether it would be a suitable means of giving support.

However, we are giving further study to all these possibilities.

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Rowley Regis and Tipton

Has not the Cyprus situation shown the danger caused by the vacuum that exists while the United Nations peace-keeping force is being organised? Is not there an overwhelming case for the creation of a United Nations stand-by force pending the creation of a permanent force? Will the Prime Minister indicate that, in principle, Her Majesty's Government are in agreement with the action taken by the Canadian and Scandinavian Governments, which have already undertaken to establish such stand-by forces?

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

The right hon. and learned Gentleman's supplementary question illustrates one of the difficulties. He asks whether we have prepared plans for an allied force. In the case of Cyprus, we were unable to collect an allied force, but even if we had been able it would not have been acceptable to a number of members of the United Nations. As for our own contribution, we would always be willing, provided we approved of the situation and of the United Nations resolution concerned, to provide forces to help, and we could do so expeditiously. We want to find the best means of doing this.

Mr. H. Wilson:

I agree with what the Prime Minister has said, including the necessary proviso that we agree with the particular project and the situation, but does not he think that we might now go further in preparation and agree, in consultation with our allies, to earmark perhaps 2,000 or more of our troops at present in Germany for use for such peace-keeping purposes and to see that they get the necessary training—for example, by way of preparation in tropical hygiene and logistics, and so on, because in the case of the really serious problem that might arise at any time, we have a great deal to offer, including mobility, and we also have something in the nature of a command structure, which is usually the thing most deficient in United Nations operations.

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

I will certainly consider what the right hon. Gentleman has said. Of course, it is more difficult for a country like ours with worldwide commitments than for other countries to earmark specific battalions in particular places. We might want them in those places at the time when the United Nations wanted them, I think there will be no difficulty at all in finding necessary troops and getting them to the right places at the right time. I shall consider what he has said.

Photo of Sir Isaac Pitman Sir Isaac Pitman , Bath

While welcoming very strongly what my right hon. Friend has said, may I ask that we should use some word not quite so strong as "earmark", which might apply to bases and facilities for such a force were it at any time to be required? What hon. Members on both sides of the House are asking for is that preparatory thinking should go on about this. We do not necessarily want so many bodies put in a particular place as a requirement to do a great deal of initial thinking on what ought to be done.

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

Yes, Sir. I am in agreement with my hon. Friend and I think I am largely in agreement with the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson). It is a question of how to devise the best way of providing troops when necessary without tying ourselves down too closely to providing troops from a particular place at a particular time.

Mr. H. Wilson:

We have many times in a more controversial atmosphere argued about the question of what we have sometimes called a "stage army". Does not the Prime Minister think that the particular proposal I have put to him related to Germany, provided our allies will agree, might be a more helpful way of doing it than by having to rely on a very small, almost non-existent, strategic reserve kept in this country?

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

It could be, but I do not think I should like to commit myself today to saying that we should earmark particular troops in a particular place for a particular purpose. I should like to give this further consideration because, in the event, it might prove embarrassing to this country.