HL Deb 19 February 1976 vol 368 cc568-71

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what further action the British Representative on the United Nations Security Council proposes to implement the resolution of 22nd December calling for the withdrawal of Indonesian troops from East Timor.


My Lords, as requested in the Security Council resolution, adopted unanimously under United Kingdom chairmanship, the United Nations Secretary General despatched a special representative, Dr. Guicciardi, to East Timor. He has now left the area, and his report is expected shortly. The Secretary General is soon thereafter to submit recommendations to the Council. Our further action will be decided in the light of the report and the recommendations.


My Lords, does this not illustrate the tragic weakness of the United Nations in its present form? Is it not the case that there has been outright aggression by Indonesia on this territory, contrary to the decision of the Security Council, and that the envoy appointed by the Secretary General was not able to reach part of the area? Is it not time that the United Nations was given some power to carry out the decisions which it reaches?


My Lords, the United Nations enjoys, and will enjoy, the power given to it by its own members. I should have thought that this procedure, whereby a united Security Council instructed the Secretary General to inquire into the facts of the situation, which has now been done, with a report to him, and to make recommendations to the Council, was the right procedure to adopt. We shall see, in the light of the report and the recommendations which may be made by the Secretary General, what will be our attitude and the attitude of other members of the Security Council. I would hope that we would not be asked to propose any procedure which might cut across the procedure unanimously adopted by the Security Council, at least until that procedure has had a chance to work to its full fruition.


My Lords, while appreciating that reply, may I ask my noble friend whether it is the case that the United Nations envoy to Timor was prevented by Indonesian forces from reaching part of the territory to carry out his fact-finding commission, and does this not illustrate that the United Nations should have some more power to carry out its own decisions?


My Lords, I think it would need some time to ascertain precisely why the envoy was not able to cover all the ground that he hoped to cover during his visit to East Timor. For instance, it is known that the Australian authorities found themselves unable, on grounds of safety, to make an aircraft available to him. After all, the situation on the ground was one of great danger. Dr. Guicciardi was in fact able to consult a wide range of representative opinion, including sympathisers of Fretilin, who in turn included Dr. Horter, the Minister for External Relations and Information on the Fretilin side.


My Lords, the noble Lord has observed that the power of the United Nations is limited by the power which its members give it, and since its members have had the wit not to give it any power it is necessarily futile on all these occasions. Why do we waste money on these antics?


My Lords, I think it goes a little too far to say that the efforts of the United Nations, particularly of those members of it which consciously and assiduously support its original intentions, should be abruptly ceased. It is precisely because the World Authority encounters these difficulties that countries like ours—and there are many others in the world, still members of the UN—should remain there and do their utmost to get the United Nations to be an effective World Authority.

Baroness ELLES

My Lords, would the Minister not agree that the United Nations Force is the only one in existence in the world which is battling for peace? Certainly we on this side of the House would always support any action of the United Nations which moved towards a peaceful settlement rather than aggression.


My Lords, it is not perhaps the only international organisation battling for peace; but I join the noble Baroness wholeheartedly in saying that the purpose of the United Nations, and certainly the purpose of countries like, ours, who remain active members of it, is peace and stability in our world.


My Lords, may I ask the Minister whether, when we talk about the power of the Security Council and the power of the United Nations, it means that whenever the Security Council reaches a unanimous decision we go to war with a country?


Of course it does not, my Lords. It means that we strive to get an effective consensus within the World Authority, and certainly within the Security Council, to follow correct and effective procedures whenever the peace of the world seems to be threatened. In this particular case, the case of the East Timor situation, the Security Council, under the leadership of the United Kingdom, has adopted exactly the right procedure.