HC Deb 20 November 1991 vol 199 cc253-4
3. Mr. Pawsey

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on developments in United Kingdom-Nepalese relations since the general election there earlier this year.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd)

I recently visited Nepal and was greatly impressed by the commitment of the Nepalese people to the multi-party democratic system of government under a constitutional monarchy. I was also gratified by the immense good will and friendship towards Britain which I encountered on all sides.

Mr. Pawsey

I thank my hon. Friend for another illuminating and helpful reply. I believe that he has just returned from his second visit to Nepal—a country with which this country has had good relations for about 175 years. Can he say what further action we may take to establish democracy firmly there?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

We are immensely keen to help consolidate democracy in Nepal. We provide a substantial amount of aid, and £1 million of our aid money is committed for good government projects. Those projects are still to be selected. Following the imaginative suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne), in recognition of Nepal's return to democracy we are presenting to the Nepalese Parliament a throne for its Speaker.

Rev. Martin Smyth

We welcome the positive response from the Minister. Will he tell us whether it is intended to give help for water projects, sanitation or afforestation?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Yes, certainly those are all included in our aid programme which, as I have said, is substantial, amounting to some £17 million a year. That is nearly double what it was four years ago.

Mr. Thorne

I thank my hon. Friend for his kind remarks. Bearing in mind that 500,000 Nepalese soldiers served with the British forces in the two world wars, that no fewer than 50,000 were either killed or seriously wounded, that 13 won Victoria Crosses, that 13 British officers serving with the Gurkhas also won Victoria Crosses, and that under "Options for Change" we are proposing to reduce the number of Gurkhas from 8,000 to 2,500, can my hon. Friend assure the House that the Foreign Office will take into account the reduction in what amounts to aid, currently provided through pay and pensions, in its future plans for aid to Nepal?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

We are all impressed by the Gurkhas, and anyone who has visited Nepal and seen them in operation is even more impressed. We are helping with some specific problems that will occur in the run-down, such as the expansion of the former military hospital at Dharan. My hon. Friend will be aware that the terms of redundancy that are to be provided will be a significant improvement on previous terms. There is also a significant programme to help with the resettlement of former Gurkha soldiers.

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