Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 1:45 pm on 12 March 1997.

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Photo of Paul Flynn Paul Flynn , Newport West 1:45, 12 March 1997

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what new proposals he has to improve relations between the United Kingdom and Romania. [18295]

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Foreign Secretary

We are very keen to build on our excellent relations with Romania, which I recently visited. We have offered every assistance to the Romanian Government's ambitious reform programme. Later this week, my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the hon. Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor) plans to lead a trade mission there.

Photo of Paul Flynn Paul Flynn , Newport West

Is the Secretary of State aware of the grave danger in the well-meaning donations of drugs to Romania by almost 700 charities in the United Kingdom? Has he heard that more than 60 children were killed in Haiti this year by a contaminated type of paracetamol which was donated by a major country? That incident is similar to one that occurred in Nigeria, in 1991, in which 100 children were killed. Has he read about the tragedy in Lithuania in which seven pregnant women were blinded by a drug intended for animal use, because they could not read the instructions, which were in English?

Is he aware that many companies in other countries gain tax and other financial advantages by not dumping drugs in their own country and instead sending them overseas? What will he do to reduce the number of deaths? Those very well-meant drug donations are leading to drug deaths.

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Foreign Secretary

The hon. Gentleman is making some serious allegations. I think that we all wish to praise those charities and individuals who are trying to help Romania receive the drugs and other medical supplies that it urgently needs. Efforts must of course be made to ensure that there is no abuse in such arrangements. If he has evidence suggesting that there is a serious problem of the type that he mentioned in Romania, he should make it available so that the case can be properly investigated.