Iraqi Refugees

Part of Constitutional Reform – in the House of Commons at 5:54 pm on 3rd July 1991.

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Photo of Mr Ivan Lawrence Mr Ivan Lawrence , Burton 5:54 pm, 3rd July 1991

There will be plenty of time. The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) takes up an enormous amount of the House's time by asking all sorts of impenetrable questions. It would be much more helpful if he were to remain silent.

There is a desire for democratic Parliaments clearly to identify visible aid projects, like so many tonnes of wheat or so many helicopters, and they desire not to have their money disappear into book-keeping or be wasted because the distribution system from the ports is inadequate or wasteful.

All that points to a desperate need to have somebody or some groups to co-ordinate all the aid activities. It is astonishing that, in this electronic age, there seems not to have existed in this disaster a computerised information system to identify the places of urgent need, the sort of aid on offer and the areas where no offers of the right type of aid have yet been made. Such a system could co-ordinate the offers of aid with the correct areas. It is almost incredible that no computer appears to be planning the routes available for distribution and delivery vehicles.

We need a blueprint for future responses to international disasters. We need rules about when the Government of the disaster-riven country take control and when they do not. We need rules about who takes control when the Government of the country is incapable. We need a rule book of actions that can speedily bring together, co-ordinate and redirect the substantial aid that is available from the world at times of heartbreaking disaster, whether natural or manmade. It should not be necessary to start from scratch with every new disaster, learning the same lessons again.

The British Government, in co-operation with the British people, have acquitted themselves well in providing resources, assisting our NGOs, helping to co-ordinate European Community assistance, bringing about safe havens, in getting resolutions past the Security Council, pursuing an initiative with the Germans for the appointment of a senior United Nations co-ordinator and, of course, providing the military assistance necessary to end the instability and anarchy in the region. If the Government could convene a conference in the near future of all those involved in the recent emergency planning and field work to draw up a blueprint for the future, they will have made an outstanding contribution to the cause of humanity.