Sri Lanka (Ministerial Visit)

Oral Answers to Questions — Overseas Development – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 10th February 1992.

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Photo of Mr Tom Cox Mr Tom Cox , Tooting 12:00 am, 10th February 1992

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to visit Sri Lanka to discuss overseas aid; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr Tom Cox Mr Tom Cox , Tooting

Is the Minister aware that that is a very regrettable answer? Is he aware of the urgent need for aid to Sri Lanka, but aid that is based on the upholding of human rights in that country? If no visit is proposed, will the Minister make clear to the Sri Lankan Government the deep concern of many hon. Members about the rights of the Tamil community, and most especially that we should be given assurances that food and medical supplies reach the Tamil areas in Sri Lanka, particularly in the Jaffna area?

Photo of Mr Mark Lennox-Boyd Mr Mark Lennox-Boyd , Morecambe and Lunesdale

Yes; on many, many occasions we have made known our concerns about the Tamil people. Of course we have not cut off, or completely frozen, all aid. However, we withdrew the conditional offer of £3 million worth of aid last July in order to emphasise our concern about human rights. Indeed, we imposed various measures on the Sri Lankan Government as a result of the high commissioner's expulsion last year.

Photo of Mr Anthony Beaumont-Dark Mr Anthony Beaumont-Dark , Birmingham, Selly Oak

Does my right hon. Friend agree that in many cases people in other countries would not have so much need of aid if they were to stop fighting each other? The great problem about overseas aid is that those countries that receive it often use it to buy arms with which their peoples kill each other.

Photo of Mr Mark Lennox-Boyd Mr Mark Lennox-Boyd , Morecambe and Lunesdale

Of course I accept my hon. Friend's point that if there were no conflict there would be less need for aid. However, it would be going too far to suggest that the poorest countries in the world will not always need aid.