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Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): May I express support for the fact that my right hon. Friend did say that the Indian Government and the Indian authorities were well organised? I went last night to a big meeting in the
Clare Short: My hon. Friend is right to say that there is always a tendency for the media to look for someone to blame; they say, "If only there were not all this chaos and disorganisation, it would all be okay." This was a natural disaster of monumental proportions. People were going to be hurt and there was nothing anyone could do to stop that. However, we can respond quickly to people's needs. The Indian Government's lead has been excellent and we have been fast in assisting, which makes a lot of difference. In other countries where disasters have occurred and where there has been bad local organisation, there has been much more disruption, death and ill-health because of the follow-on chaos. In this case, not every village has been reached, but the organisation is good. That is a blessing and the Indian Government are to be congratulated.
The oil slick to which my hon. Friend refers has been caused by a fracture in a tank, as a result of the earthquake. I do not know whether we have offered help, but I shall find out and get back to him.
Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park): My party wishes to join all hon. Members in sending sincere condolences to the Hindu communities affected by the earthquake, both here and in India. We commend the speedy action by organisations such as the UK search and rescue team and the £10 million of assistance pledged by the British Government. We commend also the action taken by the Gujarat communities in the United Kingdom which, amazingly quickly, have established appeals and information centres for Gujarati people who live in this country.
With regard to the point made by the hon. Member for South-West Devon (Mr. Streeter), are any specific measures being taken to combat cholera which no doubt will spread if the water supply is not secured? Does the Minister agree that it is buildings, not earthquakes, that kill people? Can we have an assurance that any reconstruction that takes place with money from this country will involve the building of earthquake-resistant buildings? Can the Government help the relatives from this country to get information about their relatives in India or to go out there to join other family members?
Clare Short: The Red Cross issued an early appeal and, if people want to give, the Red Cross is efficient, on the ground and getting help through. People should be proud that their tax money is contributing, as the £10 million is taxpayers' money. Every British citizen
Many measures have been taken to deal with health problems and possible cholera. The major hospital in Bhuj was flattened, but there is a military hospital and mobile hospitals. A lot of effort is being made to provide health care and prevent the spread of disease. On whether buildings and not earthquakes kill people, we have no evidence of the really dreadful building that was seen following the earthquake in Turkey, although we will find out more as the information comes in. However, many villages with traditional low-rise buildings have been flattened, too. It is a question not of bad building, but of a dreadful earthquake.
On reconstruction, the Indian Government will wish to learn lessons about what kind of buildings should be built. It will take big support from the IMF and the World Bank; we must remember that an area the size of Wales will have to be rebuilt. The UK aid budget will not be enough and major resources will be required. Gujarat is not one of the poorest areas of India and local resources can be mobilised.
The Foreign Office is providing all the help and information to relatives that it can. Satellite communications have been established and telephone calls are getting through. However, I would not advise people to go out to look. The area is in chaos, and it would not be helpful. I understand how worried relatives must be, but if lots of people start arriving, it will add to the strain on airports and make matters worse.
Dr. Brian Iddon (Bolton, South-East): I represent a large Gujarati community, and I add my expressions of sympathy to those of my right hon. Friend, especially to those directly affected, whether they are living in Gujarat, in Bolton or anywhere else. The local community has mobilised very quickly, and the first shipment of clothing and blankets is due to leave Bolton this afternoon. Will my right hon. Friend do everything in her power to help those communities to get goods and finance through to Gujarat as quickly as possible?
Clare Short: Many people in the UK have families in Bhuj, where 95 per cent. of the buildings have been destroyed, so there must be terrible worry in our communities, and we all feel deeply about that, but it is much better to offer money than goods, because of the shipping costs and the organisational effort. I appeal to those who want to help to give money, which is much more flexible. We will then be able to purchase vast supplies of what is needed. The bulk of clothing and other goods makes all the arrangements more difficult. I hope that all hon. Members will encourage their communities to provide money rather than goods.
Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South): I appreciate the report that the Secretary of State has given us. On behalf of my colleagues, I express our sympathy, too. As minister of a church that has been closely associated with work in Gujarat for about 150 years, I know something of what the people there are going through. I know that the House will also feel sympathy with and empathy for the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz), because I understand that his family background is in Gujarat.
In the light of press reports that there are some in the Gujarat authorities who want to go ahead with clearing away the rubble, I urge the Secretary of State at least to encourage them to let the searchers continue, in the light of experience elsewhere, where some miraculous escapes have taken place. We understand why they want to get on with clearing up, but it is equally important to consider searching for those who may still be alive. We will pledge our support at any level to the Department, as it continues to co-operate with others in the search and rescue and rebuilding operations.
Clare Short: Yes, indeed, we learned in Turkey that it is extraordinary how long people can survive under the rubble. India has provided a lot of military personnel, but outside teams have the expertise and the listening equipment. Some villages have not yet been reached. We must be careful to save all the lives that we can. Obviously, time is running on, and we all worry about that, but I completely agree that we must save every life that can be saved.
Mr. Barry Gardiner (Brent, North): There are 10,000 families of Gujarati origin in my constituency, and approximately 3,000 specifically from Bhuj. As can be imagined, the whole community, especially in Wembley and Kenton, has been traumatised by recent events.
I thank my right hon. Friend for her statement, and in particular for the increase to £10 million in the money that is to be made available. Will she ensure that there is co-ordination of local community relief efforts in this country, which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, South-East (Dr. Iddon) said, are already under way? I understand her point that it is much better to contribute money, because that can buy the necessary goods that are immediately available on the ground, but communities have already mobilised and collected blankets and foodstuffs to send, and there will be an understandable frustration if all the efforts that relatives here have made appear to be thwarted and not to be productive.
My right hon. Friend said that Gujarat was one of the wealthier states in India. That is true: it has a £29 billion development programme of inward investment. Will she consider not only the immediate relief but how Britain can be involved in the long-term programme of building that will be necessary in the state?
My right hon. Friend spoke about remote villages and the need for the relief effort to reach them. Many families in my constituency who have been contacted by their relatives have been told that nothing is happening in the remoter villages. I urge my right hon. Friend to expand the efforts to reach the British citizens' relatives who are trapped and without relief. I also urge her to liaise with her Cabinet colleagues about any counselling that is available to relatives in this country who are traumatised by events in India.
I thank my right hon. Friend for her remarks about the Indian Government, who have made every effort to provide telecommunications for people to contact their relatives. I believe that 2,000 lines have been made available, and I want to record the praise of my