HC Deb 18 November 1991 vol 199 cc17-8
38. Mr. Wareing

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has received from voluntary agencies on aid policy over the last month.

Mrs. Chalker

I maintain regular contacts with voluntary agencies in the aid field and these frequently include exchanges of views on policy.

Mr. Wareing

Is the right hon. Lady aware that many voluntary agencies are greatly concerned that after years during which the Government refused to give any assistance whatever to the people of Cambodia, only a miserly £5 million has gone from the Government recently? Tragically, people in that country are still being wounded and killed by the 3 million to 4 million land mines which it is estimated are still there. Countries such as ours, which have been much at fault in not giving assistance to Cambodia, now need to make a real effort.

Mrs. Chalker

The hon. Gentleman is aware that until the ceasefire and the peace negotiations were completed, we were limited in what we could do. We were already working through the NGOs before that, but now we can work much better. We have already opened a diplomatic mission and we are contributing officers to the United Nations advance mission in Cambodia and making a substantial contribution to the cost of the UN presence. In aid terms, not only are we supporting the co-ordination of the donors' assistance, but we are giving £2 million towards the cost of repatriation of people in the camps along the Thai-Cambodia border and £3 million for the new World Health Organisation programme to combat the spread of malaria and other diseases and posting an experienced aid administrator to Phnom Penh. We are making available from the Department a senior medical adviser who is a Khmer speaker to the WHO office in Phnom Penh. We have already told the Cambodians that we shall establish an in-country English language training facility to help train their officials and others involved in reconstruction and redevelopment work and we shall continue our financial support for the humanitarian assistance programmes of the British NGOs. That is no small order for a country which has only just got its peace agreement.

Mr. Lester

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the policy of voluntary agencies assisting in Vietnam has been very helpful to the Government and that many voluntary agencies are now establishing offices in Hanoi to carry out programmes that will do something about the abject poverty in that country and so end the dreadful plight of the boat people?

Mrs. Chalker

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Vietnam certainly needs a great deal of assistance. Vietnam has recently shown improvements in human rights and we can certainly assist such countries. We are glad that there are no reports of human rights abuses against returned boat people to whom we are giving specialist settlement help. I am sure that, as our NGOs develop in Vietnam, more can be done through our joint funding scheme to assist them.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

On the question of good governance criteria in the allocation of aid, do the principles that the right hon. Lady set out in her reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) apply equally to Indonesia? Will she answer yes or no?

Mrs. Chalker

I am well aware of the great anxiety in the House about Indonesia. Only a couple of days ago on 13 November at the European Community Ministers meeting we expressed our grave concern about the situation in East Timor and one of my diplomatic wing colleagues saw the Indonesian ambassador. Of course, good government applies to Indonesia as well and we shall be doing everything that we can to change those aspects in the most encouraging way, because there is much to be done.