HC Deb 02 March 1992 vol 205 cc17-8
39. Mr. Wareing

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions have taken place with the United Nations High Commission on Refugees over the last month.

Mrs. Chalker

My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs called on Mrs. Ogata in Geneva on 29 January. My right hon. and noble Friend the Minister of State also had discussions with Mrs. Ogata on 7 February. My officials are in regular contact with UNHCR and I shall welcome Mrs. Ogata to London again in a fortnight's time.

Mr. Wareing

When the discussions took place with the UNHCR, did the problem of the Kurds come up? On 25 June last year the Prime Minister said: We have now met most of the humanitarian needs of the Kurds in Iraq."—[Official Report, 25 June 1991; Vol. 193, c. 856.] Is the Minister satisfied that those humanitarian needs have been met and are being met, or that they can be met so long as there is a risk to the Kurdish population from the evil dictator in Baghdad? What do the British Government intend to do to ensure that the Prime Minister's promise of last June is upheld?

Mrs. Chalker

When my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister spoke in June last year, the UNHCR was well on the way to meeting the humanitarian needs of the Kurdish people. Since then, and particularly in the past three months, the economic blockade of northern Iraq by Saddam Hussein has prevented the UNHCR from doing as much as it would like to do. We have made sure that we get on with as much as we can get through in our help for Iraq through UNHCR, but there is one man—and one man only—who stands in the dock for the denial of resources to the northern Iraqi people, and that is Saddam Hussein. Until United Nations Security Council resolutions 706 and 712 are implemented, we cannot relieve the plight of all those people.

Sir Philip Goodhart

As the contribution of Britain to the UNHCR is very much greater than that of France or Germany, will my right hon. Friend encourage our European partners to increase their support for the vital work of refugee relief?

Mrs. Chalker

Indeed, our contribution to the UNHCR this financial year totals some £40 million. I have asked that the United Nations hold a conference this month to ensure that the UNHCR's vital work continues not only in Iraq but in helping all the people who so desperately need our assistance.