Douglas Thmopson - Author and International Journalist


The Party For The Poor
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The Party For The Poor

Daily Mail 1976

PETER SHORE puffed on his cigar, relaxed in his £125-a-night suite in one of Vancouver's grandest hotels —and wondered what all the fuss
was about.

The Environment Minister, along with 28 other British delegates and a secretariat of six, is on a £50,000 trip to the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements, 'mown as Habitat, which is discussing—among other things—poverty.
It is a six-minute walk from his fourth-floor suite in the opulent, old-style Hotel Vancouver—the Queen stays there when she visits.
But yesterday, a black limousine with a Union Jack collected him.
The car, his advisers quickly put out, was rented on an hourly basis to keep costs down and to sustain his standing as a British Minister travelling to the UN's biggest ever conference. The minimum charge is around £20 and jumps by the-minute.
The car took him to restricted 15 minutes, he told the representatives of 140. nations where the United Kingdom stands in regard to pollution, population pressure, urban development and other related problems.
It was his first major statement since taking over the Environment Department on April 8.
On "the- eve of .his. speech, he held a briefing in his suite and also commented -for the first time, on the controversy over the taxpayers' money which paid for the trip.
'I am surprised by the criticism,' he said. 'It is unthinkable that we should not be here and our delegation is not out of scale with any other country. It is very much in line.'
Could he say what the £50,000 trip would have achieved for Britain when the conference was over ?

'We will have had a chance to discuss some problems and exchange ideas,' he said.
His wife Dr Lisa Shore, a senior principal medical officer with the Department of Health and. Social Services, is with him — to exchange ideas with representatives of other countries.

All 'but two of the British delegation are staying at the Hotel Vancouver.
In Vancouver at present are around 5,000 delegates, plus assistants, typists, interpreters, telex and telephone operators, secretaries, observers.

If  you   dial  7672  on the Hotel Vancouver house telephone there are diamond tiaras to order ; 7638 will get you a mink coat and room service guarantees fresh salmon poached, in, champagne at your door within 15 minutes of a call.
. Most of the British delegation breakfast at the hotel where fruit juice goes for nearly 50p a glass; a Continental Breakfast -is £1-50 and bacon and eggs with toast and coffee is nearly £4.

Simple

A one-course lunch.in . the coffee shop is a conservative £5. A simple dinner selection—without vegetables—starts at £6.
The delegation is sensitive about the criticism back home. Members feel it has been warped by the 7,000 miles they travelled to attend a - conference on which some here feel the future of the world depends.
But     already,     with only four days gone,-the disillusionment is setting in among many of the delegations.

The cost, the time, the effort and the ideal of it all are lost on the more cynical.
' 'What will be the results of the two weeks? they are asking. So far, no. answers are forthcoming.
The UK accommodation was. arranged by the Canadian organisers of Habitat with the British , Consul-General in "Vancouver acting as a. middle man.
But the British representatives- point out that security is involved. At such a gathering, who knows who could plant or throw a bomb or pull the trigger of a, high-powered rifle ?
Indeed, the hotel and conference theatre are citadels with Mounties everywhere, private security guards on patrol, and frisking and metal detectors part of the day.
And, say the UK delegation, they a r e not alone. The French, Spanish and Italians are under the same roof. Others are at equally splendid places.

The Russians saw it differently. Twelve members of their delegation were booked into -the Bay-shore Inn (up to £30 for a single room ; £40 for a double) but decided it was much too lavish.

Impact

They walked out to the Tropicana, where the going rate is £15 a night. The Cubans moved for the same reason.
The biggest impact so far from Britain has been from Barbara Ward, Lady Jackson, whose warnings and ideas have been warmly received, Many ask why she is not an  official  member  , of  the  delegation from  i the UK.

The conference has received a message from Pope Paul, urging them to concentrate their efforts on programmes to provide better housing for the poor.

The Pope, condemning 'false standards of consumerism, hedonistic refinements and sumptuous luxuries' while millions of persons struggled. for survival, asked the delegates to seek 'original and magnanimous' solutions to the problems.

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