Skip to main content

Overseas Development

Volume 164: debated on Monday 8 January 1990

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.



To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on multilateral and bilateral aid to Cambodia.

Following the very useful visit of two British officials to Cambodia in December, I have decided to provide a further £1 million to multilateral agencies for their programmes inside Cambodia in 1990–91. There has been a further meeting with non-governmental organisations' representatives in London to discuss new project proposals, and I have let the Voluntary Service Overseas know that we should be happy to support the opening of a volunteer programme in Cambodia.

Can the Minister be sure that that aid will not go indirectly to the Khmer Rouge? There is growing concern among hon. Members about the escalating war in Cambodia. Do not recent statements by the non-Communist factions of the coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea make it clear that they are now fighting in collaboration with the Khmer Rouge? Is it not, therefore, high time that the Government ceased all direct aid to the non-Communist resistance if they are to comply with their declared policy of giving no aid directly or indirectly to the Khmer Rouge?

I assure the hon. Gentleman that we have been given repeated assurances by the United Nations Border Relief Organisation that British aid is not being used by the Khmer Rouge. In the light of recent events, I again sought and received confirmation of the position from UNBRO. I join the hon. Gentleman in his concern about the war and the reported happenings over the past few days. We want to see a political solution and free elections, and we are working for that with the interested parties, especially the other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. There is such confusion at times about what the three aspects of the resistance movement are saying that I do not feel that I can respond to the hon. Gentleman's last question, but he can be in no doubt that we will not give, have not given and have no intention of giving any support to the Khmer Rouge.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her prompt response to the report by the two diplomats who visited Phnom Penh and on the provision of the extra £1 million. I beg her to use her considerable influence with her colleagues in the Foreign Office to continue to search for a solution to the war. There is no point in an enlarged programme for Cambodia unless the war ends. We read in today's newspapers of the bombardment of Battambang, the second largest city in Cambodia. There is a desperate need for a new road from Phnom Penh to Battambang, but there is no point in constructing it until the war ends. Will my right hon. Friend use her influence with the Security Council to achieve that end?

I thoroughly agree with my right hon. Friend that unless a lasting political solution is found, there is no way in which the aid, which we will willingly give, can be properly used for the benefit of the people. We will continue the efforts that we have been making in recent months.

I welcome the Minister's announcement of additional aid to Cambodia. Does she recognise the widespread concern of the British people on the issue of Cambodia and Government policy? Is she aware that a petition was handed in today at the Foreign Office by Oxfam supporters and an all-party delegation which voiced their worry and asked the Government to reconsider their policy? We all agree that a political solution should be found. Can the right hon. Lady give us a categorical assurance that United Nations Border Relief Organisation food aid, to which we all contribute, is properly monitored? She has received reports from Oxfam supporters who have seen what is happening in the Khmer Rouge camps on the Thai border. Some of that food is parcelled up by people in those camps and goes directly to the military, including the Khmer Rouge, who are fighting inside Cambodia against the Cambodian Government.

I understand the hon. Lady's anxiety about the potential issue which was reported to me by Frank Judd of Oxfam at a meeting with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and me on 14 November. We have repeatedly gone to UNBRO for these assurances. I shall not be entirely satisfied as long as hon. Members and the British people remain concerned about this matter. I shall continue asking for assurances and do all I can to ensure that the food intended for families and ordinary people in Cambodia is not sent to the Khmer Rouge. But I am here in London—not in the camps or in Cambodia—and I cannot say hand on heart that none of the food has gone through.

I was aware of the petition that the hon. Lady, my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) and the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) delivered this morning to the Foreign Office. One can have endless petitions, but a political solution is needed. With the help of United Nations Security Council members, I hope that we can bring that about as soon as possible.

Commodity Prices


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what policy in respect of commodity prices is adopted by United Kingdom representatives to the Lomé convention.

The Lomé convention has no direct role in commodity pricing, but helps commodity dependent African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries through aid for improved production and diversification. ACP states can also get help under the Stabex scheme, if they face shortfalls in export earnings from certain agricultural products, and under the Sysmin scheme if they face shortfalls in production or earnings from a list of minerals.

Does the Minister accept that the attitude of the EEC and of North American countries towards commodity prices has been a major contributory factor in the debt crisis in much of the world? Does she agree that the latest round of Lomé convention prices on exports from ACP countries has resulted in virtually the lowest real terms prices ever achieved by those countries? They are worried about the way in which they have been treated by the EEC. Is the right hon. Lady aware that exports from ACP countries to the European Community are at their lowest level for 25 years? Those countries and many of us are worried about the growing crisis faced by the poorer countries because the richer industrial countries are closing their markets to them and forcing them into debt and low commodity prices.

The answer to the hon. Gentlemen's first question is no. The answer to his second is that the Lomé convention contains no provision on commodity prices or participation in international commodity agreements. The three main areas of co-operation in commodities matters in the convention are the national indicative programmes, Stabex and Sysmin and the consultations. It is through the national indicative programmes that we seek to help countries that are heavily commodity dependent. Resources for diversification, including aid for processing, marketing, distribution and transport, are considered when individual country programmes are drawn up, and that will be happening this year.

The best way in which to help commodity-dependent countries is to enable markets to work efficiently and openly and to strengthen and restructure the countries' economies. That we are doing, not only through the EEC but directly.

How on earth can it help to have economies working more openly when the EEC is spending £220 million every week simply destroying food and dumping it at crazy low prices, with the sole consequence of spreading death, starvation and destruction throughout the Third world? Given her responsibilily for overseas development, will the Minister make it abundantly clear that she will do everything in her power to fight against this dreadful policy of dumping food on the Third world at crazy low prices and spending lots of our taxpayers' money on dumping high-tar tobacco in places such as Africa, which in my view, is an affront to the civilised world.

My hon. Friend knows that I have always been against subsidising the overproduction and dumping of food. I hope that he realises that Lome agreement EDF VII, which represents a 46 per cent. increase on EDF VI, gives the largest ever United Kingdom commitment to the Lomé countries. We are doing our best—through the EC programme and bilaterally, through the economic reform programmes—to help the countries, especially those that have been commodity dependent. Nevertheless, I agree with my hon. Friend that dumping excess provision created in Europe is no way to solve the problem.

But, specifically, does the Minister accept the importance of bananas to the economies of the West Indian islands, and the threat posed by the ending of the banana protocol in 1992? Does she recall the pledge of the Prime Minister in Jamaica in July 1987 to fight to protect their position? Will she say how far the Government have been able to fulfil that pledge?

That has nothing to do with commodity prices. The hon. Gentleman will know, however, that it was the British Government who fought hard for the banana producers during the recent negotiations on Lomé. The response that I have had from the banana producers has been one of gratitude for what Britain was able to achieve under the EDF discussions and the Lome convention.

Ambulance Dispute

3.32 pm

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Can you make it clear to me, to the House and to anyone else who may read about or watch events here that you have had no request from the Secretary of State for Health to make a statement this afternoon, at the start of the new year's parliamentary business and in the 18th week of the ambulance dispute? It is now quite clear—and not only in my area—from statements by leading doctors and medical personnel that people are dying because of the Government's pigheadedness in refusing to settle the dispute.

I can confirm that I have no notification that there is to be a statement about that today.

Bills Presented

Raoul Wallenberg (Memorial)

Mr. David Amess, supported by Sir Bernard Braine, Mr. Ivan Lawrence, Mr. Greville Janner, Mr. Michael Latham, Mr. David Alton, Mr. Peter Archer, Mr. David Atkinson and Mr David Sumberg, presented a Bill to enable the Secretary of State for the Environment to set aside land, not being Crown land, within the Greater London area, for the erection of a permanent memorial to Raoul Wallenberg: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 30 March and to be printed. [Bill 38.]


Mr. Edward Leigh presented a Bill to reform the law governing licensed premises: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 20 April and to be printed. [Bill 39.]

Sunday Trading

Mr. James Couchman presented a Bill to reform the law governing retail trade on Sundays: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 27 April and to be printed. [Bill 40.]

Road Traffic Regulation (Speed Limits)

Mr. John Bowis presented a Bill to amend the law relating to speed limits on roads and motorways: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 11 May and to be printed. [Bill 41.]

Indecent Displays

Mr. David Sumberg presented a Bill to amend the law relating to the display of pornographic material in public places: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 4 May and to be printed. [Bill 42.]

National Service

Mr. Tony Marlow presented a Bill to enable the Secretary of State for Defence to introduce a scheme allowing young people between the ages of 16 and 21 years to volunteer to fulfil a period of national community service for a period not exceeding 18 months: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 6 July and to be printed. [Bill 43.]

Performing Animals

Mr. Andrew Mitchell presented a Bill to amend the law governing public exhibitions by performing animals: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 30 March and to be printed. [Bill 44.]

Reform Of The House Of Lords

Mr. Graham Allen presented a Bill to abolish the House of Lords as presently composed and to provide for a new directly elected membership based on parliamentary constituencies: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 26 January and to be printed. [Bill 37.]

Horses (Protective Headgear For Young Riders)

Mr. Harry Greenway, supported by Sir Bernard Braine, Mr. Iain Mills, Mr. Stuart Randall, Miss Ann Widdecombe, Mr. Ronnie Fearn, Mr. Michael Colvin, Mr. Robin Cook, Mr. Henry Bellingham, Mr. John Carlisle, Mr. Terence L. Higgins and Mr. Gerald Bermingham, presented a Bill to secure the wearing of protective headgear by minors while horse riding; to prescribe offences and penalties; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 2 February and to be printed. [Bill 45.]

Caldey Island Bill


That the Caldey Island Bill be referred to a Second Reading Committee— [Mr. Greg Knight.]