HC Deb 23 July 1997 vol 298 cc935-6
3. Mr. Olner

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will meet the US ambassador to discuss bilateral UK-US aid relations. [8358]

Clare Short

I have met the United States ambassador twice, when we discussed a wide range of issues including the need for a strengthened United Nations and for greater commitment to poverty eradication.

Mr. Olner

I thank the Minister for her response. Perhaps one fruitful line for us to pursue with the United States is to reach a joint agreement ensuring, through our assistance to the former Yugoslavia, that the Dayton agreement is fully realised, particularly now that it is soon to expire. Will she also talk with the United States about the role of the World bank and perhaps about postponing its loan to Croatia?

Clare Short

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He will be unsurprised to hear that we did indeed talk about the situation in Bosnia. There is a renewed determination in the United States Government and the British Government to work in every way possible to achieve full implementation of Dayton and greater progress on such matters as refugee return. The United States is reinvigorated in its commitment, and so are the United Kingdom Government. We have considered very sceptically the proposals for the World bank's loan to Croatia, in view of the conditions in that country.

Mr. Fabricant

Is the right hon. Lady aware that the United States is the largest giver of aid to the people of Cuba, although not to the Cuban Government? Will she use her best influences to determine whether the United Kingdom and the United States can work together in promoting freedom in Cuba while simultaneously not propping up its communist regime?

Clare Short

I absolutely share the hon. Gentleman's aim of a stable Cuba with more freedom and economic prosperity for all its people. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the United States Government differ with most European Governments on the best way to achieve that aim. It would be good to reach more agreement and make further progress towards the end which, as the hon. Gentleman rightly says, we should all share.

Mr. Sheerman

When my right hon. Friend discusses those issues with the United States at the highest level, will she impress on her colleagues the importance of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, the value of our having rejoined it, and how good it would be for development throughout the world if the United States took the same decision?

Clare Short

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for those remarks. Some time ago, President Clinton wrote to the director general of UNESCO, Mr. Mayor, to say that he hoped that the United States would rejoin. I am proud that we in this country have rejoined. One of the world's major objectives in poverty eradication is to get every child in the world—especially girls, who tend not to be in education in the poorest countries—into primary education by 2015. Much of the thinking and infrastructure to achieve that aim must come from UNESCO, which is a precious institution. It has increased its efficiency and we must strengthen it still further by being on the inside, rather than on the outside carping.