HC Deb 25 June 1997 vol 296 cc828-9
4. Dr. Tonge

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will make a statement regarding United Kingdom aid to Tibet. [3858]

Mr. Foulkes

We believe that we can best assist the people of Tibet through small-scale projects that respond directly to the needs of local communities. Since the financial year 1995–96, we have allocated about three quarters of a million pounds through non-governmental organisations to a variety of projects, both in Tibet and for Tibetans living in Sichuan and India.

Dr. Tonge

I thank the Minister for his reply. I am sure that he realises that, over recent years, a million people have died in Tibet and that 60 per cent. of its population are now Chinese. That is due to the actions of the Chinese Government, who have had a very repressive regime in Tibet since 1949. What steps does he intend to take to ensure that aid is not used unwisely by the Chinese occupiers of Tibet? While he is answering that question, perhaps he would like to extend his thoughts to the actions of the Indonesian Government in East Timor, where British aid is still going. They are denying the people of East Timor—

Madam Speaker

Order. One question at a time. The question relates to Tibet. The Minister will answer on Tibet.

Mr. Foulkes

If the hon. Lady wants to table another question on Indonesia, we would be happy to answer that as well.

Our policy on Tibet is also a matter of concern for the Foreign Office, but I assure the hon. Lady that the £750,000 to which I referred earlier goes through non-governmental organisations such as Save the Children Fund, directly to help poor people in Tibet. The Government are concerned about human rights in the whole of China, including Tibet, and we shall continue to raise our concerns directly with the Government of China, both bilaterally and in international forums.

Mr. Wilkinson

I welcome the amount of money dispersed through NGOs to Tibet, but will Her Majesty's Government address the problem of the non-co-operation of the People's Republic of China with regard to developmental aid from Governments, specifically allocated for Tibet? Is the Minister prepared to put pressure on the Chinese authorities to relax their attitude, which is viewed in the outside world as largely negative with regard to Tibet?

Mr. Foulkes

We certainly believe that any money that is allocated for Tibet must be spent in Tibet. As I am sure the hon. Gentleman will be aware, the Pa Nam rural development project is being supported by the European Union. Through our membership of the EU' s Development Council, we shall be ensuring that that money is spent properly, for the purpose for which it was intended.

Mr. Stevenson

I recognise the importance of the project to which my hon. Friend has just referred, but I am sure that he will recognise the considerable controversy surrounding it. Will my hon. Friend ensure that, when efforts are made to direct aid to the benefit of the Tibetan people and local projects, some mechanism is established whereby the Tibetan people can be consulted on what is required in their areas?

Mr. Foulkes

We certainly believe that, in the Chinese provinces and Tibet, the Tibetan people should be consulted about the expenditure of aid money that is allocated by the EU and the UK.

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