HL Deb 25 July 1991 vol 531 cc878-9

11.17 a.m.

Lord Desai asked Her Majesty's Government:

How they have responded to the recent talks about the cessation of hostilities in Cambodia and what steps they are taking to help Cambodia secure a peaceful and prosperous future.

Lord Cavendish of Furness

My Lords, we warmly welcome the decision of all the Cambodian parties to observe an unlimited ceasefire and cease receiving outside arms supplies. This and other progress during the Supreme National Council's meetings in Thailand from 24th to 26th June and in Peking on 16th July are important steps in the peace process. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council we remain committed to playing a full part in efforts to agree and implement a comprehensive political settlement in Cambodia. We urge all the Cambodian parties to continue to co-operate in overcoming their remaining differences.

Lord Desai

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Can he say whether there are any imminent plans to recognise Cambodia as a full member of the international community? Furthermore, are there any plans to set up a know-how fund to help Cambodia towards its economic reconstruction?

Lord Cavendish of Furness

My Lords, the recognition of Cambodia remains for the future. The know-how fund was specifically designed for East European countries and the USSR to help their transition to market economics and democracy. There are no plans to extend it to other regions. However, we shall be ready with other donors to contribute to Cambodia's reconstruction and development in the context of a comprehensive political settlement.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, can the Minister say whether it is true that the evil Pol Pot and some of his supporters are having a baneful influence in Cambodia and are preventing any advancement toward civilised behaviour?

Lord Cavendish of Furness

My Lords, we are greatly encouraged by what is happening. The whereabouts and influence of Pol Pot are uncertain, but I do not believe that he is having a baneful influence. That is reflected in the progress that is being made.

Lord Rea

My Lords, is one of the reasons why the situation now looks better that China has stopped supplying arms secretly to the Khmer Rouge?

Lord Cavendish of Furness

My Lords, I believe that that is a contributing factor.

Lord Williams of Elvel

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that we welcome the progress that is being made and hope that it will continue? However, will he confirm that it is still the view of Her Majesty's Government that in order to have a serious and lasting political and economic reconstruction of Cambodia the continuing presence of the United Nations is absolutely vital?

Lord Cavendish of Furness

My Lords, we believe that to be the case for the foreseeable future. The five permanent members of the Security Council, of which we are one, are playing a very important part in the matter at present.

The Lord Bishop of St. Albans

My Lords, I express my gratitude for the Government's support for a political solution; but what are their views concerning urgent relief aid, which is certainly needed for large-scale development in Cambodia? My information is that the condition of over 185,000 displaced people in temporary camps is most serious. Will Her Majesty's Government accept that a key factor in reconstruction is not only urgent relief aid but extensive training for thousands of young Cambodians to enable them to take a full part in the life of the nation? Will they consider helping that process by setting up in Phnom Penh a functioning branch of the British Council?

Lord Cavendish of Furness

My Lords, I thank the right reverend Prelate for that question. I shall write to him regarding the British Council. I have many figures concerning aid from ourselves and other countries for Cambodia. I believe that £2.25 million has been spent or committed since 1988–89 for humanitarian assistance inside Cambodia and since 1979, £15 million has been spent on humanitarian assistance for non-communist camps along the Thai-Cambodia border.

As regards aid to camps, our support for humanitarian needs for non-communist camps continues. We do not underestimate the scope for diversion of assistance from the civilian population or non-communist camps to military activities and the Khmer Rouge. The United Nations border relief operation (UNBRO) and other multilateral agencies and non-government organisations are doing their utmost to prevent the misuse of Western contributions. However, the only sure way to prevent diversion is to cut off supplies altogether.

Lord Elton

My Lords, are Her Majesty's Government assisting the Government of Thailand in the continuing relief which they give to refugees from Cambodia who cannot be repatriated until the political situation has finally stabilised?

Lord Cavendish of Furness

My Lords, I believe that that is the case. However, I must check my information and write to my noble friend.