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Volume 164: debated on Monday 8 January 1990

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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.