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    That Mr. Michael Fabricant be discharged from the Culture, Media and Sport Committee and Miss Julie Kirkbride be added to the Committee.--[Mr. Tyler, on behalf of the Committee of Selection.]



    That Mr. Paul Keetch be discharged from the Education and Employment Committee and Dr. Evan Harris be added to the Committee.--[Mr. Tyler, on behalf of the Committee of Selection.]



    That Mr. David Heath be discharged from the Foreign Affairs Committee and Mr. David Chidgey be added to the Committee.--[Mr. Tyler, on behalf of the Committee of Selection.]



    That Dr. Jenny Tonge be discharged from the International Development Committee and Mr. Nigel Jones be added to the Committee.--[Mr. Tyler, on behalf of the Committee of Selection.]



    That Mr. Michael Moore be discharged from the Scottish Affairs Committee and Sir Robert Smith be added to the Committee.--[Mr. Tyler, on behalf of the Committee of Selection.]

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Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.--[Mr. Allen.]

5.17 pm

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): Had this debate started at 10 o'clock, I would have spoken for a succinct six minutes, and shared the time available with my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon). I went in September to Serbia--the subject of this debate on the reconstruction of the Balkans--with my hon. Friend, and with Tim Gopsill of the National Union of Journalists and Bob Oram of Unison Manchester. However, as it is5.17 pm, I should like to use the opportunity to talk quietly and seriously to my political friend of 30 years, the Under-Secretary of State for International Development. It is no use pretending that there are not deep and rancorous differences of opinion on the Balkan war between myself and the Secretary of State for International Development. What has actually been said can be left at that, although it would be nice if there were a reconsideration as time goes by.

The best way of presenting my case is to give a chronological description of the visit. The first question is who paid for it. Did the Serbs? No, they did not. We paid for it; in no way are we beholden to the Serbian Government.

Because Belgrade airport is covered by sanctions, we arrived, as everyone has to, at Budapest. One has to have transport provided by Serbian authorities, or one does not go. We were met by a senior official of the Serbian embassy in Budapest. That led to several interesting conversations. We were very blunt and said that dreadful things had happened; we never hid that. For example, there was a dreadful occurrence at Rachak. I report his reply to the House. He said that Rachak was awful, but that there had been a terrible occurrence at Waco and asked whether we would condemn a whole nation for what happened there? Would we arraign in court Mrs. Janet Reno, the Attorney-General of the United States, simply because a terrible thing happened?

I do not say that this is the whole story, but the Serbian people deeply resent the fact that they have been blamed when they have more refugees than anywhere else in Europe. Some put the figure at 800,000, some at more than 1 million, starting with the 200,000 Krajina Serbs. My hon. Friend the Member for Halifax will deal at some length with the refugees, so I shall leave that and consider what happened on our first visit, which was to Novi Sad.

We were met by Professor Budhakov, who got his doctorate at the university of Nashville in the United States and went on to do research at the university of Pittsburgh. There were no language problems and no deep-seated hatred of the west or anything of that sort. Here was a man who was deeply hurt at what had happened. My hon. Friend the Minister has not had the opportunity of going to Novi Sad; I understand that. It is not only that there are bridges down over the Danube. Pictures cannot convey the sheer horror of seeing those bridges dumped there.

That point leads me to my first question: what do the Government think that our obligations are to the countries that lie on this greatest of European arteries? I refer to Bulgaria and Romania in particular. Later, we went to the

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ministry of reconstruction in Belgrade. My hon. Friend the Member for Halifax will bear out the fact that the people there said the bridges would not be cleared until they got a clear offer on the table in deutschmarks, not only for clearance but for reconstruction costs.

I understand that eight major bridges were destroyed out of the 11 targeted. One cannot be certain about the costs, but I saw an estimate that the cost of destroying them was about £6 million. We were given a rough estimate of £10 million per bridge for reconstruction. In my opinion, and this was also the opinion of my colleagues, the Serbs are determined not to mend the bridges until NATO comes up with a clear, watertight, firm offer that payment will be made.

Secondly, what happens in the winter, when the ice forms? What happens when there is severe flooding down river, as we have been told could occur? I hope that, in his answer--like me, he will have plenty of time--my hon. Friend the Minister will make some serious comments on the state of negotiations between the British Government and the Danube commission.

However, the worst thing at Novi Sad was not the bridges; it was the bombing of the oil refinery. I repeat the question that was eloquently put by the Finn, Dr. Pekka Haavisto. He asked whether, in modern warfare, it is really acceptable to bomb oil refineries and chemical complexes. We must answer that question. At the oil refinery at Novi Sad, no one knows how long the ammonia, benzene, chlorine, mercury, phosgene, pyralene, and many other chemicals and chemical compounds will last; no one knows where they have gone, and how they got into the Danube water. It is not merely a matter of what happens just after the bombing; the chemicals get into the silt at the side of the river, and can last for an extremely long time. I hope that the Minister's brief contains some scientific advice as to the effect on groundwater.

We have turned an awful, local crisis into a Balkan catastrophe. As my notes confirm, the Prime Minister and other Ministers repeatedly stated from the Dispatch Box that we would rebuild the Balkans. As of the end of September, there was not much sign of that in Serbia. My hon. Friend the Member for Halifax has been to Kosovo and will talk about Kosovo. Perhaps the Government have a good story to tell--as they perceive it--but very little is happening in relation to Serbia. Whether we like it or not, Serbia was the economic engine of the Balkans. How one can rebuild the Balkans without rebuilding Serbia is beyond the imagination.

At Novi Sad, we came across the first instance of the taste of unemployment. In the second city of Yugoslavia, we were told that 30,000 people were now out of work; many were earning only two fifths of the not very great wages that they received before the start of the conflict. The economic situation is horrendous. The following day of our visit was--if anything--even worse. We arrived in Belgrade, late at night, and, in the morning, were taken to the motor vehicle factory at Zastava, about 100 miles south of Belgrade. That was the site of the motor and vehicle industry, manufacturing the Yugo, not only for the whole of Yugoslavia, but for areas beyond that country.

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I have some notion about motor vehicle factories; for 25 years of my life as a Member of Parliament, I was immersed in the problems of the British Leyland truck and tractor division at Bathgate. To put it bluntly, I know my way around motor vehicle factories.

The area of Zastava was seven times greater than that of the plant at Bathgate. I do not pretend that it was the most modern motor vehicle factory on the face of the planet: by modern motor vehicle production standards, much of the machinery was rather old and we saw none of the robots or other technology used at Sunderland and Dagenham. Nevertheless, that machinery provided the bread and butter for 130,000 workers. We had a long session with the trade union representatives, whom I found to be both sad and impressive. They wondered what the winter would bring to a town in an area that is wholly dependent on the motor industry--where else were they to obtain the means to support themselves?

What are our obligations, if any, in the rebuilding of that motor industry? I do not know any western motor company that would look at Zastava and I suspect that the machinery is not repairable. There is a vast number of unemployed skilled people in the middle of central Europe. We were told repeatedly throughout the conflict that it was taking place in Europe and that we had an obligation. The point was made that, unlike Chechnya, Yugoslavia is so near to us that we had an obligation to act. What are we going to do about the massive problems at Zastava?

Is there to be some sort of conference, as the trade union leaders would like? They asked us, semi- humorously, but in earnest, where better for an international conference such as we were promised to be held than on the site of the Zastava plant?

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