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Column 668Opposition Members have continually called for a reversal of British policy towards Cambodia. We have stated quite clearly what our priorities should be--an immediate ceasefire, an end to arms supplies to all factions, and immediate development aid from Britain and the United Nations. I have called for a public inquiry into allegations of British support for the Khmer Rouge and an immediate end to all such assistance, if it exists--we are anxious to establish the facts--from the west. It is to the west's great shame that, 12 years after the Khmer Rouge devastation of Cambodia, the Cambodian situation still remains desperate.
There is no doubt, and it is not an exaggeration, that the Khmer Rouge is still led by Pol Pot. Hon. Members have continually asked why the Prime Minister is rightly anxious to prosecute Saddam Hussein in a Nuremberg-type trial while she never calls for the prosecution of Pol Pot, who is alive and kicking and actively pursuing his old aims within Cambodia. We are all familiar with double standards, but nothing could be quite as glaring as the double standards in this case.
Mr. Cryer : Are there not also double standards in the press, for example? Members of the press frequently berate Members of Parliament for not being present in the House. Will my hon. Friend note that only the Morning Star is represented in the Press Gallery? As usual it is keeping a close interest in the subject, while The Sun , the Daily Mirror , the Daily Express and the Daily Mail and all the posh papers are busily engaged elsewhere.
Mrs. Clwyd : I thank my hon. Friend for that point. As a former journalist, I am appalled that the Press Gallery should be so empty this morning, when we are discussing a matter which, as several of my hon. Friends have pointed out, is of great interest to the British people. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have said that they have never had such large postbags on any foreign affairs issue as they have had on the issue of Cambodia.
People throughout the country have great interest in what goes on in the House. It will be interesting to read the papers tomorrow morning to see exactly how much of the debate is reported. Certainly the press will have little comprehension of their readers' interests and those of the general population if the debate is not given sufficient space in the papers tomorrow morning. I agree that the Morning Star has consistently shown an interest in Cambodia. A few weeks ago I wrote an article for that paper on this subject. I re-emphasise that the allegations of British military support for the resistance factions, including the Khmer Rouge, are too numerous and too serious to be dismissed lightly. That is why, on 10 October, I asked the Prime Minister for a public inquiry to discover the truth. If it is true, nothing could be more disgraceful than giving the Khmer Rouge training in mine warfare, because between 1975 and 1978 the Khmer Rouge killed at least 1 million Cambodians. It is now reported to have a hit list of at least 2 million Cambodians to be purged if the Khmer Rouge ever gets back into power in that country.
Mr. Mullin : My hon. Friend may recall that when Mr. Khien Samphan who is one of the leaders of the Khmer Rouge was asked what lessons he would learn from the experience of the past few years, he said that the Khmer Rouge had possibly been too generous to its opponents during its four years in power. If that is one of the lessons
Column 669that he would learn from what happened in 1978, presumably he is proposing to draw the appropriate conclusions if the Khmer Rouge ever gets back into power again.
There were three articles on Cambodia in Jane's Defence Weekly this week. I have already referred to one. The second is entitled "An end to peace talks --a return to war". It states :
"Guerrilla commanders and Western analysts say that war could come to Cambodian cities for the first time in the 12-year-old conflict. In the wake of major guerrilla gains in the rural areas in the past year, the Khmer Rouge is preparing an offensive to capture the provincial capital of Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor Wat. Hundreds of villages are already under the control of the Khmer Rouge and scores more under the control of non-communist forces of Prince Norodom Sihanouk in the north."
I am certain that that is a factual account of the true situation in Cambodia at the moment.
The Government have repeatedly denied that there is British Government support for the Khmer Rouge, but to my knowledge they have never specifically refuted the charge that SAS forces have been involved or that former members of the SAS have been to Cambodia on behalf of the Government ; nor have they denied giving military support to the other resistance factions which are fighting alongside the Khmer Rouge.
My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South and the hon. Member for Broxtowe have both talked about the two men who were mentioned in the Pilger programme and elsewhere. I have never made any allegations about them ; I have merely asked questions. It is legitimate to ask these questions, and today I am speaking on an issue that diverts from what we want to see happening in Cambodia now and in the future, because it is important to establish the facts. I am not prepared to be gagged by writs which have been issued against Mr. Pilger and myself by people who seek to prevent us from making any further comments on this issue.
Mr. Mullin : Is my hon. Friend aware that yesterday I received a letter from solicitors representing those two gentlemen in which, of course, they were careful to say that they would not wish to interfere in anything that I proposed to say in the course of my parliamentary duties, but which was clearly addressed to anything that I might say about them in today's debate?
Mrs. Clwyd : That does not surprise me. Clearly the tactic is to prevent us from pursuing the point and seeking to establish the truth. I hope that the Minister will be able to answer the question once and for all. He had prior knowledge of some of the questions that would be raised in the debate today. I suspect that, without a public inquiry, we shall never get at the truth of the matter. The hon. Member for Broxtowe mentioned the two men we met in Cambodia. I want to set the record straight. I have already mentioned that they were on the official guest list when there were no official observers from the United Kingdom witnessing the Vietnamese troop withdrawal. I had a conversation with the two men, as did the hon. Member for Broxtowe. I suspect that he has had more conversations with them subsequently than I have.
Column 670They told me that they were there on holiday, but from conversation, it appeared that they were very hostile to Cambodia. Indeed, they knew few of the historical facts about Cambodia. I suggested that they should go over to talk to some of the non-politicians such as people from the aid agencies, who had lived in Cambodia and worked there for many years. I took one of them across to talk with the officials from the aid agency. They spent less than four minutes in discussion with them.
The following day we were taken with a large number of people from other countries to visit the temples of Angkor Wat. As hon. Members will know, Angkor Wat is one of the wonders of the world. Most people who were looking at Angkor Wat were looking at it from that point of view. Those of us who were carrying cameras were pointing them towards Angkor Wat. Those two men were significant by their behaviour. They had the most sophisticated camera equipment of the whole party of 60 or so guests. I noticed that they were pointing their telescopic lenses towards the undergrowth surrounding Angkor Wat rather than towards the temples themselves.
There is nothing sinister in that chain of events.
Mrs. Clwyd : Yes, they were probably botanists. It would be interesting to establish that they were botanists. They may have been bird watchers or geographers. They could have been any one of a whole series of things.
There was an Indian journalist in the party. I did not voice my feelings about the two gentlemen, even though, as I said, their behaviour was significant. The Indian journalist said, "Those two guys over there stand out like sore thumbs. It is quite obvious what those two are up to." Hon. Members will be able to imagine what he was suggesting.
Mr. Cryer : On the day before the John Pilger-David Munro film "Cambodia--The Betrayal" was broadcast, I saw the film. I wrote immediately to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence and to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. They all had plenty of time, because my letter was on their desks the day after the broadcast, to explain to me why those people were in the party and who they were and to give me the rest of the background information that I requested. I specifically asked the Ministry of Defence to explain the circumstances in which it had apparently sent representatives there. Yet all we have had is complete silence. It is scandalous and disgraceful that elected Members of Parliament are not given information in response to legitimate questions.
Mrs. Clwyd : I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. There have been so many incidents about which we have attempted to establish the truth and have been palmed off--either through questions being blocked at the Table Office or being given half-truths by Ministers. It is interesting that, following the Pilger programme to which my hon. Friend referred, the Foreign Secretary wrote a half-page article in The Independent. As far as I know, that is the first time that a Minister has responded to a
Column 671television programme in this way. I suspect that the Foreign Secretary did not write the article but that it was ghosted for him by somebody quite close to the Chamber and to him.
As some of the things that were said in that article deserve a response from those referred to in it, I wrote back to the Foreign Secretary saying that I had read the article with interest and pointing out that it failed to answer several important questions concerning Britain's role in Cambodia. For example, he had said : "The British Government has never given aid of any sort to the Khmer Rouge, nor will it do so."
I asked whether references to the British Government include former SAS officers who could be pursuing British Government policies in their retirement. In his article he attempted to dismiss my suspicions about the two men whom I met in Cambodia, but unless he is willing to say what they do and why they were in Cambodia, I cannot help but be suspicious.
When I came back from Cambodia, I went along to the Library to try to find out a bit more about the Royal United Services Institute, as I had subsequently discovered that the two men purported to be representing it. The Library made various inquiries on my behalf and I discovered that the RUSI is partly funded by the Ministry of Defence. When I tried to find out whether the two men worked there, the librarian was asked by the RUSI who wanted to know. When the librarian told the RUSI who wanted to know, it replied that the information was classified. If there is nothing to hide, I cannot see why that information could not have been given.
The Foreign Secretary did not deny that the two men whom I met in Cambodia were previously members of the British forces, but said that they were invited by the Institute of International Relations in Hanoi. My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South has nailed that assertion. We know that an official invitation was secured for them by the Vietnamese embassy after they had applied for visas. Their visa applications did not mention such an invitation, but merely stated that the purpose was an unofficial visit to Indochina to assess the prospects for security and prosperity.
That sounds innocent enough, and perhaps their visit was innocent, but if it was, why was there so much secrecy? Why did they tell me that they were there on holiday? Why did they ask the hon. Member for Broxtowe to assist them to get to the front because they wanted to look at some of the fighting at first hand? No one has mentioned this so far, but I am sure that, were the hon. Member for Broxtowe here, he could confirm it. I am sorry that he is not here. Even if one is an ex-military man, I doubt whether one would spend a holiday in Cambodia, one of the most beautiful countries in the world, watching people kill one another or blowing one another up, unless one is there for another reason.
I again ask the Government to explain why the men were assessing the prospects for security in Cambodia at that time and on whose behalf they were there. I have been told that they are not, and were not at that time, members of the SAS, but what was their occupation? The information given to my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South makes us doubt their previous
Column 672occupation. Were they in Cambodia collecting information on behalf of the British Government or any publicly funded organisation? May we please have an answer to those questions today? Whatever the role of those two individuals, broader and more important questions concern British and American training for resistance soldiers, including Khmer Rouge soldiers. There are too many reports from those living, working or reporting in Cambodia and outside for the allegations to be dismissed.
I must remind the House of a statement from a Cambodian Minister earlier this year :
"We're grateful to the British for offering supplies of artificial legs, but it would be much better if first they stopped helping to blow children's legs off".
That is an appalling statement. We must know today whether or not that is true.
It is also important to consider Cambodia's desperate need for aid. Since 1979 it has been isolated by the west and has received no aid or trade to recover from the Khmer Rouge years and the American bombing. While the Khmer Rouge wages an active guerilla war--laying mines, destroying the infrastructure and terrorising villages--the Cambodian Government are running out of money. Soldiers cannot be paid and civil servants are being sacked in their hundreds. There are virtually no medical supplies to treat the victims of the civil war, and no resources to care for more than 150,000 people who have been displaced by the continuing civil war. With aid from the Soviet Union and eastern Europe drying up, the Cambodian Government are spending nearly half their total budget just fighting the Khmer Rouge and other factions.
The Opposition have repeatedly called for bilateral aid from Britain. Contributions to voluntary agencies and multilateral agencies are welcome-- I do not denigrate them--but they are hopelessly meagre in the face of Cambodia's needs. The Government still refuse to give bilateral aid, because they refuse to recognise the Hun Sen Government. A Government who can arm 90 per cent. of their peasants with guns clearly have the support of those people and therefore also deserve support from us. Aid to Cambodia should flow immediately. The Government say that they will wait for a comprehensive political settlement before they establish diplomatic relations and give bilateral aid. However, a comprehensive settlement means including the Khmer Rouge. If we wait for its participation in the peace plan it could leave aid donors and the Cambodian people waiting for months, if not years.
The United Nations General Assembly has now recognised the Supreme National Council as Cambodia's external representative, even though the council barely functions as yet. If the Government really wanted to give aid, they would have seized that opportunity to side-step the legalistic obstacle about diplomatic recognition and started the funds flowing.
The United Nations development programme has $40 million set aside for Cambodia and I believe that another $40 million is in the pipeline, but it is waiting for the go-ahead from politicians. We call for those funds to be released immediately. We have already suggested that a United Nations de- mining and mining awareness programme should be a top priority. Immediate aid would not only save lives now, but change the balance of power against the Khmer Rouge.
Column 673While Cambodia remains diplomatically isolated and economically strangled, it is in the interests of the Khmer Rouge to drag out the negotiations and to pursue its guerrilla war against a Government who are desperately short of money. Obviously, a change of policy today would change the balance of power in Cambodia.
One of the most petty restrictions on aid is the refusal to help with the repair of the main water filtration plant in Phnom Penh, which was smashed up by the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot when they invaded the country. The hon. Member for Broxtowe and I visited that water plant. We understand that only 2 per cent. of the population of Cambodia has access to clean water supplies. That means that one in five children under five years old in Cambodia die from water-borne diseases.
The aid agencies are prevented from putting money into restoring the water filtration plant in Phnom Penh because the humanitarian label under which they are allowed to dispose the meagre aid that the Government give them is extremely tight. While "humanitarian" allows them to provide water wells in rural areas, it does not allow them to put money into restoring the water supply for the whole of Cambodia. That is a petty and short-sighted restriction, and I hope that the Government will have second thoughts about it.
A few countries, led by the United States and the Khmer Rouge representation at the United Nations last year, prevented the United Nations from operating in Cambodia. Some Governments, including ours, lacking first-hand information from Phnom Penh because of the non- recognition policy, are unduly optimistic about the United Nations proposals. While we are anxious to be optimistic about them and dearly want to see them implemented--that would achieve a ceasefire and the cessation of arms supplies--I fear that it will be a long time before they are implemented. For that reason, many western Governments are putting off making any change to their aid and other policies towards Cambodia until there is a United Nations presence there. I fear that such an optimistic delusion recently led the Swedish Government to withdraw support from a trust which was operating a de-mining and mine awareness project in Cambodia. Realistically, a negotiated solution is still far off. Time is on the side of the Khmer Rouge, so long as the West and ASEAN do not come to the aid of the Cambodian people. The Supreme National Council has so far failed to negotiate a comprehensive political settlement and agree what powers should be delegated to the United Nations. Sadly, the joint communique did not even mention a ceasefire. I was in China at the beginning of September and spoke to, among others holding positions of power there, the Foreign Minister. While I was there, the Chinese made a statement which appeared on the front page of China Today. It called for a ceasefire and for all countries to stop supplying arms to Cambodia.
There have recently been reports of Chinese tanks being used in the offensive against the Phnom Penh Government. I raised the matter last week with the Chinese ambassador in London, who told me that the tanks were in the pipeline, as it were, from the beginning of January, before there was any discussion of the United Nations peace plan. I hope that China and other countries that have been supporting various factions in Cambodia mean what they say, because it is imperative that a
Column 674ceasefire becomes operational quickly and all countries are seen to have clean hands on the issue. I am not accusing this country any more than any other of having dirty hands in that respect. No one has clean hands in this matter, and I do not want this country to be indicted more than any other.
We welcome the United Nations intervention in Cambodia. Nothing would be better than a peaceful settlement, but the existing United Nations plan is inadequate. According to it, nothing happens until the Supreme National Council, comprising all the factions, agrees a comprehensive settlement. There will be no ceasefire, no United Nations peace-keeping or administration, and no aid. But with a Khmer Rouge veto on the council, the negotiations, and hence the war, could drag on for months. We all know that those are Khmer Rouge tactics now, as they have been in the past. The British Government, as a permanent member of the Security Council, should insist on a ceasefire and an end to all arms supplies--first, not last. The Opposition believe that Pol Pot and all his accomplices should be in court, not in government. The Cambodian Government have accepted that some Khmer Rouge participation in the peace plan may be necessary for a peaceful solution. We accept that, but with two provisos. Those responsible for the genocide should still be tried for crimes against humanity, and if the Khmer Rouge continues to obstruct negotiations, the West should isolate and condemn them, not just wait for them to change their minds.
Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton) : I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) for her assiduousness and dedication, especially to aid matters. She has asked my hon. Friend the Minister for the truth. I hope that when she hears it she will accept it, and not reject it just because it does not fit her Left-wing political mythology.
Among the catalogue of distortions, half truths, innuendoes and party political cracks with which the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) larded his lengthy speech was his total failure to acknowledge that one of the reasons why we are having an unusually long debate this morning on Cambodia was my forbearance--under pressure from the Whips--to make a speech of appropriate length on the Courts and Legal Services Bill, which was the main subject for debate today. That may be one reason why the Press Gallery is empty and why the Chamber has been empty and is emptying even more now--I see the hon. Member for Cynon Valley departing, no doubt for important reasons. So I should be given some credit where credit is due. I do not want to be too hard on the hon. Member for Sunderland, South, who also seems to have left the Chamber--perhaps he will forgive me if I speak in his absence. I know him to be extremely intelligent, which is why I can only assume that for much of his speech he was talking with his tongue in his cheek. He certainly has no monopoly of concern for the Cambodian people. Everyone wants peace in Cambodia ; everyone wants a democratic development in which the Cambodians themselves decide their own Government and future. Everyone wants the rule of law to safeguard human rights and to protect them against Pol Pot, and no one wants this
Column 675tragic part of the world, where millions have died and the revelation of whose killing fields horrified the whole world, to continue its suffering.
It follows that the conspiracy theory on which Opposition Members are always so keen is manifestly absurd and cannot be contemplated by reasonable beings. That theory has developed to the point at which Opposition Members say that the British Government somehow stand out in opposition to the Vietnamese involvement in Cambodia ; that the United Nations hardly exists in the matter ; that we are nothing more than the puppet and satellite of the United States ; and that we the British have been supporting the evil Pol Pot so that he may commit further atrocities. These absurd suggestions have been repeatedly made by the hon. Member for Sunderland, South and his colleagues and repeatedly denied by the Government, and I expect and hope that the Government will deny them again today.
The hon. Member for Sunderland, South may be well informed, but it strikes me that he does not have too much wisdom. Some might think that his naivety is positively mind-boggling. One of the main parties to the Cambodian dispute was, is, and is likely to continue to be, the Khmer Rouge. It is numerically and militarily extremely large and it is very important politically. We would not be able to exclude it from the settlement. It cannot be wished away. No one can pretend that it does not exist. As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary wrote in an independent article, some of those who are now speaking loudest in condemnation of the Khmer Rouge were those who were speaking loudest in support of it earlier on.
The view of Cambodians and of their leaders, such as Son Sann, Prince Sihanouk and others whom the members of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs have met in the past--it is not only our view--is that it is far better to have the Khmer Rouge within a quadrupartite coalition, in which other parties may be able to exert some control, than to have it excluded and driven to use its military might, numerical strength and political power to destroy the coalition that remains. To ignore that imperative seems to be appallingly naive. A less important absurdity is to suppose-- this is part of a theme that runs through the speeches of Opposition Members--that the United Kingdom controls events in Indochina or somehow can do so. That is preposterous. We have no control over Thailand but we are part of the United Nations, the body which is supported by the leaders of the Opposition parties. I am sure that they would express their support for it if they were here. It is, of course supported by hon. Members on both sides of the House.
The way forward, as my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) so well said, is the United Nations peace settlement proposal. It was agreed at the General Assembly as recently as 15 October. It is not the only show in town, but it is quite a good one provided that everyone gives it support. It is important that everyone supports the transitional arrangements for the administration of Cambodia until an election can be held. It is important that everyone supports the ceasefire proposal and the recommendation that there should be an end to arms
Column 676supplies. We must support the human rights proposals so as to guard the Cambodian people against more Pol Pot atrocities. We must also support humanitarian aid.
Aid figures have been bandied about by hon. Members on both sides of the House. I did not hear my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe say, so I shall do so, that we have given an additional £15 million to help the refugees on the Thai-Cambodian border. That is in addition to the smaller amounts to which reference has been made. We must support the formation of a supreme national council that will represent Cambodia at the United Nations in future. There is no other way forward. Instead of having a debate in which there is distortion, half-truth and innuendo, which characterise the speeches of Opposition Members--I do not want to anticipate anything that the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer), who is now the only Opposition Member in his place, will be saying, but my description characterises the speech of the hon. Member for Sunderland, South, who initiated this important debate--would not it be better if both Government and Opposition Members made common ground, supported, inspired and perhaps guided to improvement the United Nations, leading to the sort of settlement that we all want, a settlement that will bring peace, security and happiness to those most tragic of all people, the Cambodians, about whom all of us in the House care very much?
Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South) : The film by John Pilger and David Munro has stimulated a great deal of public interest and, as has been said, there is continuing interest in the tragedy in Cambodia which, over the years, has been publicised by all sections of the media. Films on the subject have been a useful reminder and a bitter expose of the double standards that are betrayed from time to time by the United States and other western nations.
A number of questions have been asked about the Government's position. As I said in an intervention, I wrote to the Prime Minister who transferred my letter to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. I also wrote to the Ministry of Defence, but it has not yet taken the trouble to reply and clarify the position. Such a reply would have been better than sending round a duplicated letter signed by the Earl of Caithness.
My letter was on the desks of the Ministers concerned the morning after the latest film, "Cambodia--the Betrayal" was shown and it presented them with a first-class opportunity to provide information to a Member of Parliament. Much useful information was provided by the television film. In one instance information was obtained from an American representative of a United States humanitarian institution. It demonstrated that the Khmer Rouge faction has a policy of presenting to western nations what it calls a liberal capitalist face. No doubt that is attractive to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office which, over the years, has connived at the disruption of regimes that it regards as inimical to the liberal capitalist face. It supports regimes that present the opposite picture.
The Khmer Rouge faction headed by Pol Pot has supported that philosophy. It was confirmed in the film that, to the best of the film makers' knowledge and certainly from the direct evidence of an American journalist, such a policy was designed to make the Khmer
Column 677Rouge seem less menacing. The film also presented the view that people who were shown to be supporting the Phnom Penh Government were being murdered. It also showed that in the areas that the Khmer Rouge have overrun men and women are separated and there are forced marriages according to the pattern that operated in Cambodia prior to the entry of the Vietnamese liberators who freed the people from the Pol Pot horror.
I should like to emphasise, perhaps more than my hon. Friends, the matter of aid for Cambodia. It is a wretchedly poor country with a modest population of 6.5 million and, as has been said, pure water supplies reach only 2 per cent. of the population. The film showed the wretched plight of those people who have been unlucky enough to tread in the wrong place when they were engaged in the innocent but useful and important task of farming or when they were in rice fields in which thousands of mines have been planted.
I have asked some questions about our Government's contribution towards relieving the plight of the Cambodian people and about improving water supplies. As the film made clear and as has been known for many years water -borne diseases still kill children in Cambodia. They are relatively simple diseases such as diarrhoea which could easily be eradicated if the water supply could be improved. On 22 October my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, "for what reason a proposal for the repair of a water filtration plant in Cambodia was turned down."
Cambodia is a poor country. Only 2 per cent. of the population have pure water supplies. It might therefore be thought that, on the basis of common humanity and concern for poor people, the Government would respond. The Minister for Overseas Development replied :
"Oxfam applied in 1988 for co-funding of a water distribution project in Phnom Penh under our joint funding scheme. When we told non-governmental organisations, including Oxfam, that we were prepared to support projects in Cambodia, we indicated that we would prefer to consider smaller-scale development projects with a humanitarian element and not infrastructural projects concerned with restoring or maintaining major public utilities which are more usually the concern of government rather than non- governmental organisations.
This project fell into that second category and was therefore rejected. Since 1988-89 we have committed £565,000 to co-fund 12 projects in Cambodia carried out by non-governmental organisations, including five from Oxfam, and are currently considering five new proposals, including three from Oxfam".--[ Official Report, 22 October 1990 ; Vol. 178, c. 23-24. ]
The Government's concern is that the rural population should have pure water supplies, but not, apparently the population of Phnom Penh. The Government must surely be aware that Cambodia, which is a small, agrarian nation, has suffered massive carpet bombing by their allies, the United States, that it has suffered the incursion by Pol Pot and that it is now suffering from a war within its borders. Therefore the task of overhauling city water supplies is large. Facilities are limited.
Mr. Bowis : The hon. Gentleman makes an important point about water supplies and that nation's health. Presumably, this kind of project could come within the orbit of the United Nations agencies, to which our Government and many others contribute. I should have thought that, with a healthy water supply, the provision of
Column 678rehydration tablets and so on being part of the United Nations health campaigns, that body, rather than any individual Government, would be authorising such a project.
Mr. Cryer : If the United Nations were doing this, I should be delighted, but it is not. That is the problem. A fund of $40 million is earmarked for Cambodia ; the only problem is that it has not been released. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman agrees that the Government could have made a gesture through Oxfam, an organisation held in high esteem and without a political axe to grind. This project is ready to go ahead to improve water supplies in a highly populated area, thereby benefiting more people. I should have thought that, in common humanity, the Government would say yes, particularly given a ministerial answer to me. On 22 October, I asked
"the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list for 1988, 1989 and 1990 to the most recent practicable date the development aid given to Cambodia by the United Kingdom Government".--[ Official Report, 22 October 1990 ; Vol. 178, c. 22. ]
The Minister said that in 1988-89 we provided £46,656 for rural water supplies. In 1989-90, we provided nothing and we are not committed to providing anything in 1990-91. Elsewhere under the same heading in the answer, we were told that the United Kingdom will provide £7,570 in 1990-91. When I said that that might be the annual cost of the Minister's drinks cabinet, I was exaggerating--it would perhaps be the cost of the drinks cabinets of four or five Ministers. It is a paltry sum. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office may think that there are no adequate schemes suitable for financing, but there is an alternative and it should be adopted. It is disgraceful for the Government to turn down a scheme that could provide near-immediate relief to some people in Cambodia. A massive programme is needed. We are talking about many millions of pounds to provide pure water for the population of Cambodia.
The Government have allocated £7,570 for a pure water supply in the rural region of Cambodia. They are the same Government who, this week, proposed that £34 million should be allocated to ease the unification of West Germany and East Germany. I do not object to the money being used in that way, but I believe that the two cases are very different. West Germany and East Germany both have relatively sophisticated economies and the provision of pure water is not questioned in either country. I criticise the Government's paltry efforts in those terms.
In the written answer, the Government say that the amount committed for primary and secondary schools is nil. Nil is committed to community schools and to the World Council of Churches. The amount committed to preventive health care services in Kampot is £192,250. Nil is committed to primary health care under the first heading. Under the secondary heading, £61,433 is committed. Nil is committed to the Takeo canal irrigation. As I have mentioned, £7,570 is committed to rural water supply. The sum of £43,604 is committed to the animal vaccines project and the Ministry of Agriculture, for some reason, gets the magnificent sum of £54. Agricultural development gets nil. The engineering assistance programme will receive £35,985, which contributes to the grand total of £340,896. That is relatively paltry in view of the needs of the population, which is currently 6.5 million.
Column 679However, if action is not taken on the political front to give support to the Phnom Penh regime, the population will certainly diminish.
The sums for medical aid are relatively--and significantly--paltry, bearing in mind that it has been reliably reported in the John Pilger programme and in the press that there are 80 new amputees a day. Let us be conservative and say that there are about 500 new amputees a week. If we, with our national health service, had to cope with a sudden influx of 500 new amputees a week, we should be hard pressed. There is a need for massive sums of aid which the Government are not prepared to give. It is true that in 1990-91, there is a commitment of £1 million--which is very welcome --through the United Nations Children's Fund, through the Food and Agriculture Organisation, through the World Health Organisation and through the World Food Programme. However, it is still not enough to make Cambodia a well-fed, healthy and confident nation.
We have talked about the political solution. I intervened in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) to say that I was afraid that programmes such as, "Cambodia--The Betrayal" are in the minds of those who tabled the amendment in the House of Lords to ensure that balance is a legal obligation and subject to challenge in the courts. That would mean producers looking over their shoulders the whole time, whether they were producing programmes for radio or television. No such restriction would apply to the press, because the Government are certain of the press. The press is mainly owned by friends of the Conservative party so it can be relied on.
The problem about which I am concerned was amply demonstrated in the debate yesterday. The hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Riddick) seriously suggested that "Start the Week" was a subversive programme which did not put forward the doctrine of the enterprise culture with sufficient vehemence and zeal to match his standards. I am happy to say that he was laughed at, even by a number of Conservative Members. He supported the amendment because he is on the far right of the Conservative party, which wants comment on the position in Cambodia to be stamped on by the threat of legal action whenever pressure is brought to bear by the Government and their acolytes.
Suppose that the Government get wind of the fact that a fourth Central Television programme is to be presented by John Pilger and produced by David Munro. A couple of people could go off to the courts to obtain an injunction to prevent the programme from being shown, supposedly in the interests of ensuring that Central exercised due impartiality--now no longer merely the subject of a guideline but the subject of an obligation. That spectre raises its head. The Government know that, with a few honourable exceptions, the British judiciary would warmly welcome such a request, and that an injunction would be granted with a speed that would stun those who have sustained industrial injuries and who are waiting for a court hearing. The broadcasts to which we have referred with much praise are in the minds of those who have introduced the legislation. The two are not disconnected.
In the programmes, serious questions were raised about the malevolent attitude of the State Department of the United States towards Cambodia--the result of the
Column 680Americans' continuing hatred of Vietnam and the fact that the liberators of Cambodia following Pol Pot's holocaust happened to be on the wrong side of the political tracks. In that, the Americans have been aided by the Chinese Government--of whom the British Government were rightly critical following the Tiananmen square massacre. The traditional hostility between Vietnam and China is being exacerbated because the United States and China have a common purpose--although perhaps not a direct purpose : they are isolating Cambodia because of the assistance that it received from Vietnam, which it recognised and does not repudiate.
I welcome the United Nations intervention but I seek a solution that excludes the Khmer Rouge. The hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) advanced the extraordinary argument that, because the Khmer Rouge has a lot of arms and a lot of supporters--although he did not specify how many--they must be included.
That argument does not find favour on the Conservative Benches when it is applied to the IRA. The Provisional IRA has some support in Northern Ireland ; there is no question about it. If it did not, its campaign could not be sustained. The Provisional IRA keeps blowing people up--innocent people, very often--although not on anything like the same scale as Pol Pot. The principle is the same.
What do the Government say about the Provisional IRA? Only this week, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said at the Dispatch Box that the Government were having nothing to do with these people and that their outrages would not divert us one millimetre from our purpose of bringing peace to Northern Ireland and combating terrorism. If that argument is good enough for the Provisional IRA--whose activities are on a minute scale compared with those of Pol Pot--why is it not good enough for the Khmer Rouge?
The hon. and learned Member for Burton argues that, because the Khmer Rouge are there, they must be embraced and padded round with a few liberal capitalists to prevent them from bringing about another holocaust. The argument seems to be that we should somehow shroud the Khmer Rouge round to stop them massacring people. Humanity's view is usually that those who kill people on a massive scale are beyond the pale and outside accepted standards of conduct and that we must therefore isolate them rather than embrace them.
The hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) said that it was a pity--what an unhappy chance--that the Khmer Rouge was given a seat in the United Nations. He argued that it was just unfortunate that in the embrace of the Pol Pot regime, it became part of the coalition which had United Nations representation, and that it had nothing to do with the fact that it was a Pol Pot faction. Imagine what would happen if the Provisional IRA were invited to take part in a scheme and was presented with a seat at the United Nations. Would we say that we supported the IRA because it had been given a seat in the United Nations? That sort of logic does not stand scrutiny. The Opposition believe that we must have nothing to do with Pol Pot. We must isolate and separate the Pol Pot faction. It must not be involved in the negotiations. If the Pol Pot faction is well armed, as the hon. and learned Member for Burton claimed, with justification, how are we to disarm it? Are we going to disarm the Phnom Penh Government and the population of Cambodia which fears for its life in the face of the Pol Pot terror 40 miles from
Column 681the capital and leave Pol Pot alone? Or are we going to disarm Pol Pot first? What is to be the procedure? Once arms have been given to people, it is very difficult to take them away, as we found in Zimbabwe before the Smith spectre was finally laid to rest. I support the United Nations. The Government are now invoking United Nations support, but I wish that they were a little less selective with regard to the United Nations. For example, I wish that the Government would support the United Nations nuclear non-proliferation treaty and stop building Trident nuclear weapons because that is a United Nations obligation. I support that treaty and I support United Nations intervention in Cambodia on a fair and square basis and I support the United Nations in other areas.
Mr. Mullin : A couple of years ago I had quite a long conversation with the Foreign Minister of Vietnam, Nguyen Co Thach about United Nations solutions for Cambodia. He told me that the Vietnamese were a little sceptical about them because over the past 40 years four of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council had invaded Vietnam.
Mr. Cryer : My hon. Friend has made a valid point and he is right to be sceptical. People are looking to a peace plan simply to gain support for their hope that peace will come to Cambodia and that the Pol Pot terror will not be inflicted on that poverty-stricken country once more.
We need a commitment from the Government to provide more aid to that poverty-stricken, illness-ridden country. We also want a commitment from the Government to isolate Pol Pot completely. It would also not be a bad idea for a Government commitment to arraign Pol Pot before an international court of justice. The Government are talking about doing that with Saddam Hussein, and his infringements of civil liberties, although manifest and to be condemned, are not on the scale of Pol Pot's. A commitment to try Pol Pot would be extremely important. With those commitments, we could begin to accept the integrity of the Government's attitude.
Mr. Harry Barnes : This is a very important debate and the commitments requested by my hon. Friend must be taken seriously by the Government. When the Minister replies, will he tell us whether the situation is likely to shift or will we simply plough on with the situation that existed before and with expressions of sympathy and concern while there is back-door assistance to the Pol Pot regime? People outside this place will not understand if we do not today get the commitments that my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) has requested.
I have received a letter from Mr. Jeremy Barlow, the Oxfam area campaign organiser for Yorkshire and Humberside. I am not aware of his political views so I am not quoting someone who I know is sympathetic to the Labour side, the Conservative side or any other side. He said :
"While Oxfam has welcomed the UN peace plan as offering some prospects of peace in the country, we are deeply concerned that there is still no ceasefire in the country. While the political negotiations continue, ordinary people continue to suffer and more innocent civilians are maimed by mines. Furthermore, while the fighting continues there is little prospect of increased international aid being forthcoming. We understand that the United Nations development project has around $40 million set aside for projects in Cambodia. It is a
Column 682tragedy that this money cannot be released given the urgent needs inside Cambodia which Oxfam sees in its day-to-day work inside that country. The continuing conflict in the country and the lack of large-scale Government and UN aid is severely hampering the efforts of the Cambodian people to recover."
That is from an agency which has been doing more than most to help the Cambodian people to recover.
We do not visit all the faults on the Minister. We say that it is not his individual fault, he may be a decent individual, and so on. However, he represents the collective responsibility of the Government today. Everything that he says has been vetted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He dare not step out of line. What he says represents Government policy. If he disagrees with it because he feels that the Government are supportive of a bloodthirsty terrorist on a scale not seen on the face of the earth since Adolf Hitler, if he thinks that the back-door assistance to Pol Pot is wrong, immoral and outrageous, if he thinks that overseas development aid to the Cambodian Government is a tiny fraction of the amount of money spent on the privatisation of electricity, for example, lining the pockets of City gents and organisations that are doling out money to the Conservative party and if thinks that the whole matter is immoral, he has a course open to him. He can either stay within Government policy and regurgitate the platitudes of concern or he can resign. The Minister is not just an innocent pawn ; he represents collective responsibility, and we shall judge him on that. 1.13 pm
Mr. John Bowis (Battersea) : The hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) referred to a balance in broadcasting. I hope that this broadcast debate will be shown to have that balance. I agree with many of the points that were made by the hon. Members for Bradford, South and for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin). However, I depart from the hon. Member for Bradford, South when he seeks to put the entire blame for the history of Cambodia on the shoulders of the Government and suggests that all the solutions to the future of that unhappy nation also rest within the House of Commons and within Government Departments linked to it.
My interest in Cambodia began with some keys that my children were collecting to take into the local "Blue Peter" collection point. That excellent programme stimulated them into doing something about raising money for the children of Cambodia. My interest has been stimulated by subsequent programmes, such as John Pilger's television documentaries and films such as "The Killing Fields" which have dramatised the scene for us. I say that in a good sense and in a less good sense. Documentaries and films have brought the matter to light for us, but they have occasionally over-dramatised the reality. I pay tribute to the work of Oxfam and the way in which it has kept us informed. I pay tribute also to a young constituent, a photographer, who has twice been to Cambodia and brought me pictures of the terrible devastation of the people and to the land. I was saddened by the latest of the Pilger films. I had hoped that it would continue the good elements of the Pilger documentaries, but it trod on too many matters of controversy and exaggeration for its own good. When a case is exaggerated and when there is too much political sniping, the message is undermined--and the message is : what can the world community do to look after those people?