HC Deb 01 February 1995 vol 253 cc1080-1
15. Mr. Flynn

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what new proposals he has to improve relations between the United Kingdom and Lithuania.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

We already have close and friendly relations with Lithuania based on our strong support for her independence, democratic and economic development and integration into European structures. There have been several high-level visits in both directions over the last year, and trade is increasing.

Mr. Flynn

Rather than concentrate our technical aid for Lithuania on the Chernobyl-type nuclear reactors at Ignalina, would it not be better to concentrate the aid on a sustainable source of energy? Some 40 per cent. of Lithuania is covered by forests, so should we not encourage coppicing and other non-food farm production which would produce a source of energy but which is sustainable, environmentally friendly, inexhaustible, and Lithuanian?

Mr. Hogg

I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman has really faced the enormity of the problem. As Ignalina supplies 90 per cent. of Lithuania's energy needs, closing the reactor, or finding different sources of energy, to which the hon. Gentleman referred, is not an easy decision. We have focused most of our assistance through the nuclear safety account. I suggest that that is the best way forward.

Mr. Ian Bruce

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that we should be responding to what Lithuania wants from us rather than trying to impose upon it what the west believes is good for it? I think that Lithuania probably became fed up with the Soviet Union doing that in the past. Has Lithuania been asking for more advice on how to privatise its industries and to bring free enterprise and an open market into its economy?

Mr. Hogg

My hon. Friend makes an important point. When we are trying to decide what projects we wish to support in a particular country, it is extremely important to have regard to that country's list of priorities.

The answer to the specific part of my hon. Friend's question is yes. The Government of Lithuania are extremely anxious to pursue a restructuring and privatisation policy. Lithuania, like most of the other countries of central and eastern Europe in the former Soviet Union, looks to Britain as having special expertise in this policy.