HL Deb 12 October 1993 vol 549 cc90-2

3.8 p.m.

Lord Mayhew asked Her Majesty's Government:

What part they have played in recent developments concerning the future of the Palestinians.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, we have used our contacts with all sides in the Arab-Israel dispute to encourage them to negotiate seriously and constructively towards a comprehensive settlement. We warmly welcome the agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. We are giving active political support and providing economic assistance both bilaterally and through the EC.

Lord Mayhew

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her Answer and for the tribute that she paid to the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, who took great risks in making this agreement. I believe that their initiative will be supported warmly in every part of the House. Does the Minister agree that the success of the agreement depends greatly upon the speed with which its benefits can be seen not just in Gaza but in the occupied territories? Is Mr. Arafat to visit this country? Will she bear in mind that the success of the agreement depends also upon the political and physical survival of Mr. Arafat?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, is right about the success of this agreement. Indeed, it will be very important that its benefits are seen by the people in the West Bank and Gaza. For that reason, I was pleased to represent the British Government some 10 days ago at the Washington conference on support to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The pledging that took place at the conference will be of great benefit to the people in those two areas.

My colleague the right honourable Douglas Hogg met with Mr. Arafat a few days ago. On behalf of the Foreign Secretary, he gave Mr. Arafat an invitation to visit this country and we hope that that will take place soon. I am sure that Mr. Arafat's efforts in making the peace settlement work will be most important; but equally important are the efforts of Prime Minister Rabin of Israel.

Lord Bottomley

My Lords, I join my noble friend Lord Mayhew in his tribute to the two leaders. Will Her Majesty's Government do everything that is possible to encourage other Arab states to join in making the agreement lasting and bring peace to the Middle East?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I fully agree with the noble Lord, Lord Bottomley, that it is critical that not only the peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians should succeed, but that the bilateral discussions which are taking place in Washington should continue in order that there may be progress between other Arab nations and Israel, so bringing peace to the Middle East. In that respect, I am pleased to tell your Lordships that the Foreign Secretary will visit Damascus later this month.

Lord Bonham-Carter

My Lords, will the Minister inform the House about the sums of money provided by the European Community? Have they been provided to the PLO; and, if not, to whom? For what purposes are they to be put?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, the noble Lord is a little ahead of the game in this matter. We have had the pledging conference, but the exact manner in which the resources will be utilised and through what channels are still being worked out with the help of the World Bank and the European Community. As soon as that information is available, I shall place it in the Library or answer a Question in your Lordships' House.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, when the Minister is placing that information in the Library or giving it to the House, will she indicate under which title, chapter and item it will appear in the Community's draft budget?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I am most interested in this matter, and I can assure your Lordships that I shall find out and make sure that we all know about it.

Lord Archer of Sandwell

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the peace process is still very precarious and that those on each side who are seeking agreement need all the support that they can obtain? Will Her Majesty's Government press our partners in the EC and in the United Nations to ensure that there are sufficient resources to prime the economy of the West Bank?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I was glad to hear the United States Secretary of State say on 1st October at the end of the conference in Washington that he expected his target for assisting in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to be exceeded during the five-year period. There will be a regional economic development working group meeting next month to discuss the help that the European Community is giving. We plan to host a conference in London next Spring in support of our initiatives on assisting financial markets in the region. The one thing that the region will need is the opportunity to begin and to develop its private enterprise in those areas.