HC Deb 22 April 1991 vol 189 cc768-9
37. Mr. Cyril D. Townsend

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions the Minister for Overseas Development has had with her German opposite number on development assistance.

The Minister for Overseas Development (Mrs. Lynda Chalker)

I met the German Minister for Co-operation, Herr Spranger, at the Anglo-German summit on 11 March. We reached agreement on a wide range of current development issues. I hope to see him early in May. In the meantime, we are in touch by telephone.

Mr. Townsend

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that Germany's criteria for the provision of such assistance are very similar to our own? In her recent discussions with her German opposite number, did she raise the matter of how Germany could best help to solve the vast problem of Kurdish relief, bearing in mind that that country will not be sending any military personnel into the region?

Mrs. Chalker

The answer to my hon. Friend's first question is yes. Obviously, the answer to his second will be embodied in my statement. At this stage, I would say simply that while the Germans may not have a presence in the region, they are contributing to the relief of suffering there.

Mr. Canavan

In view of the need for more international effort to provide appropriate assistance to Kurdish refugees, can the Minister explain to her German counterpart and, indeed, to this House what on earth possessed her to hand out chocolates to starving Kurdish children? Does not such a patronising gesture indicate a degree of insensitivity almost akin to Marie-Antoinette's infamous statement, "Let them eat cake."?

Mrs. Chalker

In a few moments, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, we shall come to a statement on this issue. In the meantime, let me say to the hon. Gentleman simply that a large number of things were donated for me to take to the children. It would have been wrong to keep those things. What ought I to have done? Should I have prevented those children from having a little joy? How can the hon. Gentleman be so mean?

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her reply to the last supplementary question. Can she tell me what progress is being made to persuade Germany and other developed countries to implement the Jamaica conditions, which were put forward by the Prime Minister with a view to reducing the indebtedness of developing countries?

Mrs. Chalker

At the Commonwealth Finance Minister's meeting last September, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister put forward what are now known not as the Jamaica conditions but as the Trinidad conditions. Last week I discussed these with the IMF and the World bank. We are hopeful that debt relief provisions—that is to say, easier terms for heavily indebted countries—will be agreed later this summer. We are working with our partners on the issue, and the Germans are particularly supportive of what we are doing.

Mrs. Clwyd

Did the Minister discuss with her German counterpart the enormous famine facing Africa, with the threat of starvation hanging over 29 million people? What action have the Government decided to take?

Mrs. Chalker

I did indeed speak with my German counterpart about the tragic situation to which the hon. Lady has referred. As she has rightly said, up to 29 million people are affected. I asked the Germans to provide more assistance and to help me to make sure that European Community aid was more speedily delivered to the region, particularly the Horn of Africa. They have agreed to do so, and in my next talks with them I hope to hear more evidence of the movement that has taken place over the past six weeks. I know that the Germans are committed to taking action, their earlier problems having gone away.

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