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Asian Tsunami

Volume 687: debated on Tuesday 21 November 2006

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What progress is being made with the redistribution of funds generated by the 2004 tsunami appeals.

My Lords, the relief phase of the tsunami response has been successfully concluded and evaluated. Despite some initial problems caused by the scale of the devastation, the Governments concerned have generally made good progress in the reconstruction phase. DfID has focused its efforts on Indonesia and Sri Lanka to help the Government to mobilise resources and identify priorities. We also continue to work on helping Governments to reduce the risk of future disasters.

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for her response. I am sure that we are all glad of this update on the appeals. Did the Government or any of the voluntary agencies encounter any particular difficulties in achieving the objects of the reconstruction? What lessons have we learnt so that we might deal better with similar situations, if they ever arise?

My Lords, in the immediate relief or humanitarian phase we did not encounter any particular difficulties. In the reconstruction phase, there have been issues in Sri Lanka, for example, where initially the Government wanted those rebuilding their homes to build them higher up and further away from the sea, which created problems. The conflict in Sri Lanka is also having an impact on the reconstruction phase.

We have done an exercise looking at the FCO consular response, at DfID and the MoD, and the more co-ordinated response from across government, and we have learnt lessons about the importance of co-ordination. We have looked at the role of agencies which operate in this area and how we can help them to build their capacity.

My Lords, given the likelihood of further earthquakes and tsunamis in the area because of the weakened fault line there, when does the noble Baroness think all the early warning preparations will be in place in that region?

My Lords, I am afraid that I cannot give a timescale for the completion of the early warning response system, but we have allocated some £7 million to looking at disaster reduction and working with different Governments on this issue. We have also put some money into the early warning system. If I can give the noble Baroness any more detail, I shall do that by letter and put a copy in the Library.

My Lords, the public gave a considerable amount of money as a result of the tsunami. Has there been a general accounting of all the money raised, how it has been spent and planned spending? I feel that the public have an idea that their money is not being properly used.

My Lords, around the world some $13 billion was given by the public. In Britain, the public gave about £350 million to the Disasters Emergency Committee and an additional £50 million to individual members of that committee. There is no evidence of funds being misappropriated or inappropriately spent, although there have been some complaints in two or three countries, which are being looked at. For the money spent through the United Kingdom Government, we have robust evaluation processes in place, and we are confident that the money has been spent in the way in which we allocated it.