HC Deb 30 January 2002 vol 379 cc271-2
1. Norman Baker (Lewes)

What steps she is taking to assist the people of Tibet. [29124]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Hilary Benn)

In Tibet, we are supporting two projects run by Save the Children UK. These are providing basic services to poor Tibetan communities to improve their access to education, clean water and sanitation. We also contribute to the EU's programme in Tibet.

Norman Baker

I welcome that news. Will the Minister ensure that any projects supported by his Department enhance the political, cultural and economic rights of the indigenous people of Tibet? That is especially important given that China, the occupying power, is very keen to use its western economic development strategy to "crush splittism", as it puts it.

Hilary Benn

I am aware that the hon. Gentleman takes a particular and keen interest in human rights in Tibet. The House must remember that the poor have human rights too. That is why it is right that we should be involved in the projects that we support. In the longer term, the economic development of China and Tibet provides opportunities to improve the dialogue between us on human rights, for the simple reason that, in the end, a more open society is one in which it is more difficult to abuse human rights.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

I am sure that the Minister will agree that our thoughts are with the people of Tibet as they face the serious illness of the Dalai Lama. However, are the Government doing anything to help the displaced people from Tibet, especially those in India?

Hilary Benn

I am sure that the House will echo the sentiments expressed by the hon. Gentleman. The Government have been funding a higher education project for Tibetan refugees in Dharamsala in India.