HL Deb 10 May 1991 vol 528 cc1276-8

11.9 a.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

How much assistance the European Community has decided to give to the Kurds of Iraq, since the provisional cease-fire in the Gulf.

Lord Reay

My Lords, since early April, the European Community has allocated 105 million ecu (about £70 million) for emergency aid to Iraqi refugees, a majority of whom are Kurds. Over 70 per cent. of this amount has now been committed. British non-governmental organisations have benefited from this help and the European Community has partly funded the United Kingdom's 90-strong humanitarian teams which left for Turkey and Iran last Monday.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for his reply. While the United Kingdom initiative on safe havens, supported by all the other members of the EC, has provided immediate practical help, what are now the most urgent needs of the Kurds? Is an international police force a necessary part of the present proposals?

Lord Reay

My Lords, for the refugees still in the camps in Turkey and Iran, the priority remains the distribution of tents, blankets, food and medicines. It is also essential to improve conditions in the camps. To help tackle this problem, we sent 90 volunteers to work in camps on the Turkish border to provide basic medical care, to improve sanitation and to provide other practical assistance.

With regard to my noble friend's second question, one way of providing the security that the refugees need would be the deployment of United Nations civilian police. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary received strong support for this proposal from the European Community Foreign Ministers in Luxembourg on 28th April.

Lord Mellish

My Lords, does the Minister recognise that as concerns the action of the police force that is required to safeguard the Kurds, Saddam Hussein has already said, as reported in the press, that he does not approve and will not allow it? Will the Minister comment on that? Would he also say how much Belgium has paid towards the European Community costs? It did nothing during the conflict.

Lord Reay

My Lords, I know of the noble Lord's interest in the matter of Belgium's contributions. I do not have the figures with me, but I shall look into them and write to the noble Lord. On the first point made by the noble Lord, we have to view that situation as not being the end of the road. In the past the Iraqis have shown reluctance in certain situations but have subsequently acquiesced. We continue to hope that the Iraqis will acquiesce.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, does my noble friend the Minister agree that the important thing is to provide the Kurds in the mountains with enough security to enable them to come down before the weather makes it wholly impossible for them to stay on the mountains? However, this can only be achieved if they are provided with security. Far from wishing to assist in this, the Secretary-General of the United Nations seems to be reluctant even to consider it.

Lord Reay

My Lords, I agree with my noble friend to the extent that it is necessary to provide a haven for the refugees to enable them to come down from the mountains and to live in the haven on a temporary basis in conditions of security. That is what the joint forces are attempting to do.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, what proportion of this aid has gone to the Kurds in Iran and to the Shi'ites on the Iran/Iraqi border further south?

Lord Reay

My Lords, of the EC aid, around 60 per cent. of the commitments has been allocated to Iran, 30 per cent. has been allocated to Turkey and the remainder has been allocated to projects in Iraq.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, following the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, and the very important point made by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, will the EC be told—to make our Prime Minister's initiative a reality—that what is really needed is the construction of public buildings and homes so that the Kurds have somewhere to return to and do not have to continue their appalling existence in tents? That is vitally important. As the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, has said, the Kurds must be shielded while the construction of a haven is under way.

Lord Reay

My Lords, I entirely agree with the noble Lord that in the longer term the priority remains to achieve secure and stable conditions within Iraq so that all the refugees, both those in the north and those in the south, may have the confidence to return to their own homes.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

My Lords, is it the case that of the £30 million new funds announced by the Prime Minister on 29th April for the aid programme,£10 million has been allocated to the concert organised by Mr. Jeffrey Archer in aid of the Kurds and the other £20 million has been allocated to the Ministry of Defence to fund the use of Chinook helicopters and Hercules aircraft? Is it also the case that the vast bulk of the £70 million ODA contingency reserve for emergency relief has already been committed? If that is so, will new funds be allocated to the contingency relief fund, because clearly the demands placed upon it will still be very great?

Lord Reay

My Lords, I do not have figures with me as regards what proportion of the contingency reserve has already been committed. It has, of course, been heavily drawn upon because of the tragedies that we have seen in the Horn of Africa and in Bangladesh as well as the tragedy of the Iraqi refugees. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister announced on 29th April £30 million of new assistance. The noble Baroness is correct to say that £10 million of that money will be allocated to the concert which is due to take place this weekend.