HL Deb 14 September 2004 vol 664 cc1027-8

3.13 p.m.

Baroness Falkner of Margravine asked Her Majesty's Government:

What efforts are being made to assist the people of Grenada following the recent hurricane in the area.

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos)

My Lords, a significant regional and international relief effort began as soon as possible following the impact of Hurricane Ivan to the island of Grenada. At the forefront of the immediate response was HMS "Richmond", supported by R FA "Wave Rider" pre-positioned in the area to provide early assistance. This included re-establishing the island's emergency operations centre, restoring power and providing medical support to the general hospital.

Baroness Falkner of Margravine

My Lords, I thank the Leader of the House for that Answer. Does she agree that an urgent and necessary impact assessment needs to be carried out on the needs of the people of Grenada, and that timely and generous assistance is due to them? Does she also agree that, in the longer term, HMG needs to work with Commonwealth partners to provide the Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean with longer-term technical assistance in terms of hurricane resistant buildings and public buildings infrastructure so that we can minimise future loss of life?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, before I address the noble Baroness's question, perhaps I may express my sadness at the loss of life in Grenada and in other parts of the Caribbean and offer the support of the House to the people of the Caribbean in trying to reconstruct their lives. I also give a particular mention to my noble friend Lady Howells, who has very strong family ties with Grenada.

I agree with the noble Baroness that there is a need for an urgent and necessary impact assessment. That is already being carried out by the World Bank and by the International Committee of the Red Cross. An assistance programme will be put together, which we will of course support.

I also agree that Commonwealth partners need to work together. In this area the Commonwealth Secretariat is well able to give technical assistance.

Lord Walton of Detchant

My Lords, I must declare an interest. Until last year I was chairman of the UK friends of St George's University on the island of Grenada and made annual visits to the medical school. Is the noble Baroness able to tell us what effect this hurricane has had on the teaching and clinical programmes of the medical and veterinary schools in Grenada and to what extent the UK Government will offer support to the work of that university?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, it is too soon to say what the longer-term impacts might be. In terms of the current situation, the hospital is up and running. The immediate problem is with respect to shelter. Some 60,000 Grenadians lost their homes and that is the immediate priority for the Government of Grenada.

Baroness Howells of St Davids

My Lords, I begin by saying that I was able to get through to Grenada at one o'clock today. I was told that one cannot imagine the devastation in Grenada—90 per cent of the houses are down. There are problems with elderly people going into shock. I should like very much to thank the Minister for the very quick way in which the Government responded to Hurricane Ivan's terrible devastation of Grenada. We appreciate the promptness, but we are more concerned about the long-term strategies that will be put in place for the welfare of Grenada. The nutmegs, cocoa and tourism have gone. The people of Grenada are without water and few have any food left because there is still no power. I should very much like to hear from the Minister on the long-term strategy for Grenada.

Baroness Amos

My Lords, perhaps I may first say that I am very pleased that my noble friend was able to finally get through to Grenada. On the long-term strategy, we have to wait for the needs assessment. We have been told by the International Committee of the Red Cross that it expects to conduct its assessment within the next week. The World Bank assessment may take slightly longer. My noble friend may be aware that we intend to work through the Caribbean Development Bank, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which all have concessional lending facilities available for countries recovering from such disasters.

My noble friend is quite right: islands like Grenada were just recovering from the difficulties they experienced post-11 September and we must do all we can to support them in terms of their longer-term recovery.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, I have visited Grenada, which is a beautiful spice island. Is this not a wonderful opportunity to organise volunteers to go and help with the vegetation in the long term?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, in the longer term it may well be possible to organise groups of volunteers in particular areas. Given the current scale of devastation in Grenada, the immediate need is for those who are expert in humanitarian relief.