HC Deb 22 March 1999 vol 328 cc51-2W
Mr. Jim Cunningham

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement about his recent visit to India and the Maldives. [78413]

Mr. Prescott

I visited India from 4 to 12 March, at the invitation of the Indian Environment Minister, and the Maldives from 12–15 March, as a guest of the Maldives Government.

In India, I had meetings with the Prime Minister, the Ministers for External Affairs, Urban Affairs and Employment, Power, Civil Aviation, Surface Transport and the Environment and Forests, the Chief Minister and Minister of Public Works of Maharashtra, the Mayor and Municipal Corporation in Bombay and the Infrastructure Development Finance Corporation. In most of these meetings I was accompanied by a group of senior business men with interests in India, and a trades unionist. I also addressed the Millennium Tiger Conference, where I announced that the UK would join the Global Tiger Forum and provide further financial support for India's efforts to protect tigers; visited the Ranthambore nature reserve to see at first hand the efforts which the authorities are making to conserve tigers and the rich biodiversity of the Indian sub-continent; visited the Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI); attended a seminar on environment and transport issues organised by TERI; spoke at events organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in Delhi, and the British Business Group and the CII in Bombay; and visited a compressed natural gas station in Bombay, with the Minister for Transport of the Government of Maharashrta. I also witnessed the signature of Memoranda of Understanding between the CII and the Joint Environmental Markets Unit of my Department and the Department of Trade & Industry, and between the CII and Asia House.

En route to the Maldives, I met the Sri Lankan Minister of Foreign Affairs, and a number of other Ministers and business leaders, in Colombo. In the Maldives I had meetings with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Home Affairs, Housing and the Environment, Tourism, and Construction and Public Works, and with the Director General of Fisheries Research and Development; visited the VSO office in Male, the Islamic Centre and the Maldivian Telecommunications Company; and also visited a sewage works and a desalination plant and various environmental projects. I was also able to see at first hand the coral reef damage resulting from climate change, pollution and other human activities, and to announce an extension of DfID funding for the South Asia region of the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network.