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Palestinian Authority

Volume 300: debated on Wednesday 12 November 1997

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If she will make a statement on the level of financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority in the current year; and what is the projected level for 1998–99. [14115]

Bilateral assistance to the Palestinian National Authority in this financial year will amount to about £10 million. That is in addition to our £6 million contribution in 1997 to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees and our one-sixth share of the European Commission's 50 million ecu programme of assistance to the West Bank and Gaza. Bilateral funding for the next financial year will be decided early in the next calendar year.

I thank the Minister for that reply. Will he give particular attention, when he has some additional funds, to the needs of the Palestinian National Authority and projects in Palestine? I am sure that he is aware of the disappointment felt by people who live in Gaza and the West Bank at the restrictions on their borders. It is important that we ensure that progress is made in that territory to support arguments to put to those who wish to take up arms to support their cause. We need to urge them to join in the work to make the peace process effective.

I am sympathetic to the point made by my hon. Friend. Expenditure in the past three years has ranged between £3.5 million and £6 million. I am sure that he will agree that £10 million in the current financial year is a significant and welcome increase.

As the Palestinian refugee question is one of the final status issues to be negotiated between Israel and the Palestinian Authority by May 1999—in 18 months' time—does the Minister agree that Governments should be budgeting now for their donations to the cost of resettlement out of the 59 camps, as well as their contributions to the Palestinian Authority and to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency? What initiatives does he have in mind to draw that need to the attention of Governments during the forthcoming British presidency of the European Union?

We shall certainly take account of those points, and we shall raise them on behalf of the United Kingdom Government in our discussions with UNRWA.

As the White Paper stresses the importance of private investment in helping with development effort, does my hon. Friend agree that the current closure of the west bank makes it incredibly difficult for private industry to invest there or in Gaza, because industries have almost no stable future in that environment?