HC Deb 26 June 1991 vol 193 cc982-3
6. Mr. Simon Coombs

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the Government of Romania.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Douglas Hogg)

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary had wide-ranging discussions with the Romanian Foreign Minister, Adrian Nastase, in London on 9 May. He announced then the extension of the know-how fund to Romania.

Mr. Coombs

Will my hon. and learned Friend take this opportunity to pay tribute to the tremendous efforts of the voluntary sector in this country and to the many individuals who, over the past 18 months, have brought relief of many sorts to the people of Romania? I thank my hon. and learned Friend for telling the House that the know-how fund has been extended to Romania. What do the Government hope will be achieved by that?

Mr. Hogg

The know-how fund is a very important instrument of policy to assist the transformation from a command economy to a market-oriented economy. Officials were in Romania recently discussing a number of priority projects with the Romanian Government and we have been able to identify a number of areas in which it will be helpful to make progress there. I entirely agree with what my hon. Friend said about voluntary workers. I had the advantage of attending a meeting last week where I met many of those directly involved.

Mr. Janner

Will the Minister take an early opportunity to raise with the Government of Romania, directly or through its ambassador, the fears of Romania's small Jewish community at the resurgence of anti-semitism in that country, especially in the influential and popular press? Is he aware that an all-party group of hon. Members was recently in that country—where 400,000 Jewish people perished in the holocaust—and received assurances from the highest level of the Romanian Government that they would deal with an anti-semitic resurgence if it came about? As it has indeed come about, will the Minister ask the Romanian Government to take action now before the problem gets worse?

Mr. Hogg

The hon. and learned Gentleman makes a serious point, the force of which I accept. We have already made representations on precisely that issue to the Romanian authorities, and we shall keep the matter under careful watch because it is important. As and when necessary, we shall make further representations to the Romanian Government.

Miss Emma Nicholson

On behalf of the all-party parliamentary group on Romanian children, of which there are other honorary officers in the Chamber this afternoon, I thank the Minister and Foreign Office staff for the support given to that group and to other aid groups in the United Kingdom when they were addressed last week.

There is much hunger and starvation in Romania. That was particularly true during last winter's dire conditions, and the position is not yet improving. Will the know-how fund be able to bring in expertise on food production, processing and distribution, perhaps by privatising the shops as there is a critical need in that country which will become even greater next winter?

Mr. Hogg

First, I thank my hon. Friend for her kind words. The work that she and other hon. Members have performed in the all-party group has been extremely welcome.

The know-how fund's application depends slightly on the project put forward. Some projects such as the kind that my hon. Friend has just described might well fall within the remit of the know-how fund. I will ask its officials to look sympathetically at the point that my hon. Friend has just raised.

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