HC Deb 29 January 1973 vol 849 cc939-41
28. Mr. Barnes

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to offer the Government of North Vietnam aid for rehabilitation and reconstruction in the event of a peace settlement.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

As I told the House on 24th January, I am considering the question of British aid for post-war reconstruction both in North and South Vietnam and in Indo-China as a whole, in the context of the expected international effort. I am therefore in touch with a number of other Governments on the best way of proceeding. I am also in touch with the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

As urgent preliminary measures, we have responded to a request from the Government of the Republic of Vietnam for medical supplies; we are helping the Save the Children Fund to provide medical supplies and facilities for emergency relief work in Indo-China; and, in response to a request from the British Red Cross Society, Her Majesty's Government will contribute to an appeal launched by the International Red Cross for the protection and relief of the civilian population of Indo-China following a cease-fire in Vietnam.—[Vol. 849, c. 461–466.]

Mr. Barnes

Does not the Foreign Secretary agree that with some fighting still continuing it may be difficult for the United Nations to organise anything effective, certainly in the short term, and that perhaps the best hope would be to meet the most urgent needs on both sides on a government-to-government basis? Will he bear this very much in mind, in addition to what he has already said about medical supplies?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I will bear this in mind. The hon. Gentleman is right in the sense that we arranged this urgent supply on a government-to-government basis and we have, therefore, been able to meet the need for vaccines for which there was a particular request. I think that we shall deal with this on a government-to-government basis for the time being. Nevertheless I am certain that the United Nations will have to be brought into this matter to ensure that it is properly organised.

Sir D. Dodds-Parker

Will my right hon. Friend see whether it is possible to involve the United Nations disaster relief organisation, whose establishment hon. Members on both sides of the House have been urging for many years?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Yes. My hon. Friend will remember that I took initiative in this respect with the Secretary-General. There is now such an organisation in existence—at least the nucleus of one—and I should like to see it develop.