HL Deb 12 February 1990 vol 515 cc1088-9

2.39 p.m.

Lord Molloy asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assistance they are giving, through the European Communities and in other ways, to the Government of Tunisia to help deal with the severe flooding which threatens that country's infrastructure.

Lord Reay

My Lords, we have provided bilaterally 50,000 US dollars —that is to say, approximately £30,000 —for the local purchase in Tunisia of emergency supplies of blankets, mattresses and clothing for those directly affected. The relief assistance is being co-ordinated by the United Nations Disaster Relief Office (UNDRO) working in conjunction with the local Red Crescent.

The European Community has contributed 300,000 ecu (£200,000) through UNDRO for relief items, Britain's share of which amounts to some 60,000 ecu (£40,000).

Lord Molloy

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that encouraging reply. Is he aware that the British public have taken holidays in Tunisia in increasing numbers, not merely because of the climate but because of the remarkable, wonderful way in which they are treated? Is he further aware that the trade balances between Tunisia and the United Kingdom have increased enormously in our favour? While I am grateful for the noble Lord's Answer, can he assure me that our Government will keep in close touch with Tunisia to see whether we can help in any other way?

Lord Reay

My Lords, I can certainly give the noble Lord that assurance. He makes a very good point that I shall draw to the attention of my honourable friend.

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the great British public at the moment are very much concerned with the flooding in this country? Possibly they would like to see their own floods cleared up before we start operations in other parts of the world.

Lord Reay

My Lords, my noble friend also makes a very good point, but one that is wider than that on the Order Paper.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

My Lords, can the Minister give any information as to whether there has been damage to crops, forestation or roads from the floods? Have there been any requests from the Tunisian Government for technical assistance to help them rebuild after such destruction?

Lord Reay

My Lords, yes, I can give the House some idea of the damage that has recently been caused. Since 21st January of this year torrential rains have caused serious floods that have severely affected more than half of Tunisian territory. Twenty-five deaths have been reported. Approximately 30,000 people have been affected.

Eleven thousand houses have been destroyed. We shall continue carefully to monitor the situation in consultation with our European Community partners and UNDRO.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that those of us who have been to Tunisia to see what has happened are conscious of those very brave people who are doing their best to repair the effects of this terrific onslaught, a tragedy that neither they nor anyone else expected? I am sure that the Tunisian Government will be grateful for what our Government are doing to help them in their very serious predicament.

Lord Reay

My Lords, I note and welcome what the noble Lord says.