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Rain Forests

Volume 294: debated on Wednesday 21 May 1997

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To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps she plans to take to ensure that the United Kingdom's international development policies contribute to the preservation of the world's rain forests. [317]

My Department has 200 forestry projects under way in 41 countries at a total cost of £200 million.

At the UN General Assembly special session on environment and development in June, which I hope to attend with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, we shall work to secure more effective international action to improve forest management.

I thank the right hon. Lady for her very comprehensive answer. Is she aware of the tremendous support being given by a range of British companies to a rain forest protection programme in Guyana undertaken by the Amerindians, using modern technology to publicise worldwide the threat to their rain forests? One of the industrial partners in that project is British Telecom. If British Telecom is affected by the windfall tax and has to reduce its expenditure on that project, will the right hon. Lady undertake to lobby the Chancellor of the Exchequer to safeguard that vital rainfall—wind forest—rain forest protection plan?

I am not sure whether I heard the right hon. Gentleman correctly—is he advocating a rainfall tax? I am very disappointed in him: questions about the future of the world and its poorest people and the future of the rain forests are important to the whole of humanity and should not be used to make cheap political points.