Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 1:46 pm on 15th January 1997.

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Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton , Macclesfield 1:46 pm, 15th January 1997

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on United Kingdom relations with Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet. [9231]

Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

We enjoy excellent relations with the kingdoms of Nepal and Bhutan.

Successive British Governments have regarded Tibet as autonomous, while recognising the special position of the Chinese there. That remains our view.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton , Macclesfield

Does my hon. Friend agree that the plight of the Bhutanese refugees in Nepal merits much greater international attention? Is he satisfied that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is sufficiently proactive in seeking a proper settlement by involving an independent panel to verify the nationality status of those seeking to return to Bhutan? Does he agree that we should drop the easy, quick solution of appeasement and that we should not forget the real plight of the refugees?

Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

We believe that the UNHCR is doing an excellent job. It runs camps for about 90,000 refugees in Bhutan in liaison with Save the Children and other non-governmental organisations. The Government have contributed about £475,000 to those camps in the past three years to support the refugees. We take the plight of the refugees very seriously. I raised the issue specifically with Prime Minister Deuba when I visited Nepal last year and again when he visited London this year. We raise the issue at every opportunity, but ultimately it is a matter for the Bhutan and Nepalese Governments.