|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Clare Short: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and I am sure that we all feel for his constituents. I stress that I am grateful to the Treasury for the £10 million. We are nearly at year's end, and all our money in India is programmed. We were therefore planning to redeploy money that would otherwise be spent elsewhere on other poor people in that country. However, the Treasury came forward with extra money, and I am very pleased about that.
I understand my hon. Friend's comments about people who have collected blankets and foodstuffs. However, I ask anyone who has done that to consider selling them and giving money instead. I am sorry, but it is not right to use resources inefficiently simply to make people feel better when it is desperately urgent to get money to buy food and other necessities. Some people have lost everything; they have simply walked out of their houses. They have no clothes and it is cold. We cannot make ourselves less efficient in those circumstances, and we will not be able to send bulk supplies. I therefore encourage people to give money to the Red Cross or other agencies that are working in India. I am sorry to disappoint people, but the point is important; this is about saving people's lives.
My hon. Friend is right about the massive rebuilding effort. As I told the hon. Member for South-West Devon (Mr. Streeter), it will take a great deal of resources. We shall therefore look to international agencies to which we contribute, such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, to provide large, long-term loans with a low rate of interest to accomplish the enormous rebuilding effort. We work with both banks in India. Apart from our existing commitments to those institutions we will do any partnering that we can to help them bring their programmes forward.
I agree with my hon. Friend about the remote villages. The effort to reach out is happening now. Everything happened so fast, and it is true that some villages have not been reached. We must do everything in our power to get to those people.
Mr. Tony Baldry (Banbury): I think that everyone would commend the Chief Secretary on providing the £10 million so speedily. As the Secretary of State says, a massive rebuilding effort will be required, backed by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. After the Turkish earthquake, the Minister for Housing and Planning led a construction mission to Turkey. The United Kingdom construction industry is carrying out much rebuilding in the earthquake zone in Turkey. Could the right hon. Lady liaise with the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions to establish whether there is again scope for the UK construction industry to contribute in the Indian earthquake zone?
Clare Short: Yes, indeed. I hope that everyone will welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) to the Front Bench to speak on international development. He said that a Minister from DETR had telephoned earlier on the very matter that the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Baldry) raised. We must be ready to go, but we must not go too early and get in
Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley): I recognise that most of the tragedy has occurred in India, and, as secretary of the all-party Pakistan group, I extend sincere sympathy to all who are affected. Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is an opportunity not only for the Commonwealth to respond positively, but for Pakistan, India's nearest neighbour, which is also affected, to work with India, despite those countries' differences, to tackle the tragedy?
Clare Short: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. It is my understanding that, because buildings tumbled, there has been some loss of life in Pakistan and Nepal--but on nothing like the same scale. My hon. Friend is right: if any help can be offered to Gujarat from Pakistan, I am sure that Pakistan would want to consider that. My hon. Friend's suggestion will have been heard and I am sure Pakistan will do what it can to help.
Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate): I congratulate the right hon. Lady on her Department's initial response and, with other right hon. and hon. Members, echo her remarks about the performance thus far of the Government of India. Clearly, this matter is a priority for the UK because of our historic trading and family relations with India. However, as half our aid is disbursed through the European Union, will she tell us how the matter can be made to have the same priority for the EU that it so clearly has for us?
Clare Short: The hon. Gentleman is right: a third of our development budget goes through the EU. We are in touch with Brussels and I think--I speak from memory--that about 3 million euros have been pledged. That is not in proportion to the need, so we shall hold further talks both about the size of the pledge and about speed. Often, in such disasters, Governments make pledges, but it takes months and months before anything arrives and it is then discovered that the money was already in their budget for India in any case. We must make sure that the money is new money and that it is rapidly disbursed--we shall be working on that.
Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington): My right hon. Friend referred to 3 million euros. That is an extremely small amount--incredibly small. Is my right hon. Friend aware of how much individual EU nation
At present, a Swiss search and rescue team is in the area--because of the geography of Switzerland, the Swiss are extremely good at such work. The Russians are there; they too are good at that work, because of the size of their country. They have never previously operated internationally, but we have linked up with them and they are going to undertake more of that work.
I do not yet have information about pledges from EU member states. We shall find out, and I shall let my hon. Friend and the House know about that. During the next few months, we shall need a great deal of resources for emergency relief. All development agencies throughout the world will need to contribute because so many people are affected. We shall encourage everyone to do so. I shall keep the House informed.
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): I congratulate the right hon. Lady and her Department on the fast action that they have taken. She touched briefly on one aspect of co-operation with the Ministry of Defence. Is she satisfied that arrangements for co-operation and co-ordination between her Department and the MOD are working well? In particular, were there other major MOD assets in the area--such as naval units--that might have been able to help? Have any steps been taken in that direction?
Clare Short: Yes, I am pleased to be able to say that, since the discussions on the Mozambique disaster, arrangements are better and the price is better. I am grateful to the House for securing the outcome that I think everyone, on all sides, wanted to achieve.
I am not aware of any request for naval assets. The Indian armed forces are large and efficient. A large number of them are in theatre. They have not requested our armed forces. I will find out whether we have ships in the vicinity--if we did, I suspect that I would know. The Indian Government are controlling the emergency; they are appealing for certain kinds of help--for example, there are many military bodies, but they do not have search and rescue or listening equipment. We are complementing their capacity to bring many people into play. I will check on that matter.
Mrs. Theresa May (Maidenhead): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I gave you notice that, on 18 January, during the Opposition day debate on teacher supply and standards in education, the Secretary of State for Education and Employment moved a motion in the Prime Minister's name stating:
Mr. Speaker: I believe that the hon. Lady is referring to an amendment in the name of the Prime Minister. During the debate, it was open to the hon. Lady, or any other hon. Member, to put the record straight as to the accuracy of the amendment.