HC Deb 16 December 1998 vol 322 cc951-2
3. Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset)

What assistance her Department has been able to give to street children projects affected by Hurricane Mitch. [62744]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. George Foulkes)

The hon. Gentleman's concern for the problem of street children is well known, as is his support for Casa Alianza, to which he referred during the Government's statement on the effects of Hurricane Mitch. Last month, a team of our experts visited Honduras and Nicaragua to assess the need for further relief. Our experts met representatives of Casa Alianza and discussed proposals for targeting street children as part of the relief effort. The next phase of our emergency assistance will, on our team's recommendation, focus on reconstructing basic infrastructure in transport, health and sanitation. I should be glad to discuss further with the hon. Gentleman proposals for work with street children.

Mr. Bruce

I thank the hon. Gentleman and the Secretary of State for their personal concern about the issue. However, I am sad to report that Casa Alianza was not very happy about its meeting with the team of experts, as it felt that the team had pre-decided the amounts to be spent. I should very much welcome a meeting with the Minister to consider specific projects that the Government could fund.

Mr. Foulkes

I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the meeting lasted 45 minutes. However, the team had also to consider other representations—from Governments, from non-governmental organisations and from the other international organisations working there. As 60 per cent. of roads and bridges, 70 per cent. of hospitals and 80 per cent. of water distribution networks in the area have been destroyed, I am sure that he will understand why the team thought that, currently, reconstructing that infrastructure should be the top priority.

Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill)

I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree that the British public have been responding generously to the disasters emergency appeal. Is he able to estimate, either today or at an early date, how much our own Government have contributed to overcome the disaster, and how much has come from the British public in answer to the appeals?

Mr. Foulkes

I am not able to say how much has been given by the British public. However, the Government have given £4 million for emergency relief and reconstruction, and have pledged £10 million for the debt relief trust fund that we have proposed establishing. We have also suggested improvements in the debt relief timetable for highly indebted poor countries. When I met the five central American ambassadors to discuss those matters, they were very satisfied with the speed and generosity of the British Government's response.

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