Asian Tsunami

– in the House of Lords at 2:46 pm on 8 June 2005.

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Photo of Lord Naseby Lord Naseby Conservative 2:46, 8 June 2005

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What proposals they have to report to the British people on the "unprecedented response" totalling more than £300 million given for the tsunami emergency and reconstruction.

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Lords (Privy Council Office)

My Lords, the Disasters Emergency Committee will be reporting to the public on the use of and plans for the disbursement of the funds raised. The NGOs are independent of government although they maintain close links with the Department for International Development. Details of their spending plans are available through their website.

Photo of Lord Naseby Lord Naseby Conservative

My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that the coverage of websites to the ordinary British public is relatively low still and that the Disasters Emergency Committee does not see its primary aim as one of communicating with the British public on the moneys raised? Is she further aware of the perception that the huge sum that has been raised has not all been well spent—a perception that I do not necessarily share? Nevertheless, unless it is refuted, the next time we have a major disaster the British public will not respond as generously as they have on this occasion.

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Lords (Privy Council Office)

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, that there is a perception that some of the money has not been well spent. The Disasters Emergency Committee is well aware of that. It is working on a strategy to address the issue of communicating with the public. I understand that on the six-month anniversary of the tsunami it will be reporting on progress on development in the regions. It is talking about spending some £152 million of the money allocated in the first year.

There is an issue of accountability. The Disasters Emergency Committee is well aware of that and I am sure that it will address it as part of its strategy.

Photo of Baroness Northover Baroness Northover Spokesperson in the Lords, International Development, Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (International Development)

My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that a number of countries have complained that the amount pledged to them has not yet come through? The United Nations has estimated that only about a third of the money that was pledged after the tsunami has been forthcoming. I am aware that the UK's reputation in this regard is far better than that, but will the noble Baroness confirm that the UK money has indeed gone where it is supposed to go? How is the UK dealing with the problems of Aceh and Sri Lanka in trying to ensure that aid gets to the poorest in those areas?

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Lords (Privy Council Office)

My Lords, we need to distinguish between money which has been allocated but perhaps has not been delivered yet because of capacity constraints as opposed to money which has been promised for a particular project during the relief effort and has failed to be delivered. If the noble Baroness could let me have the details, I could look into this. My understanding is that there is a funding gap only in the Maldives because that is a middle-income country with an annual per capita income that is much greater than many of the other countries affected. Bilateral and multilateral donors feel that their money would be best spent in other places.

On the situation in Sri Lanka and Aceh, we are working with the Indonesian and Sri Lankan Governments. In particular, we are hoping that there will be a joint declaration between the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE that will allow donors to operate across the country. We are concerned that money should go to areas under the control of the LTTE.

Photo of The Earl of Sandwich The Earl of Sandwich Crossbench

My Lords, the noble Baroness mentioned capacity restraints. Is it not one of the problems that people are not being allowed to reconstruct their homes close to the shore? There are many communities which disagree with those regulations. Do the Government support those governments who are preventing people rebuilding their homes where they used to be?

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Lords (Privy Council Office)

My Lords, that is a particular issue in Sri Lanka. There have been complaints and concerns that the Government and the bureaucracy have been rather slow in assisting those individuals with the reconstruction effort. We continue to work with the Sri Lankan Government on this, as do the UN and the other multilateral agencies. We want to facilitate a return of those who have lost their homes to assist them in replacing not only their homes but their livelihoods.

Photo of Baroness Chalker of Wallasey Baroness Chalker of Wallasey Conservative

My Lords, will the noble Baroness ask the Foreign Office local offices to get the national governments to look particularly at the needs of offshore islands affected by the tsunami? I have a nephew who is building bridges with his bare hands off the coast of Thailand and there are many working with him from all over the world. But they cannot get support from the Thai Government for equipment to move the boulders rather than having to pickaxe them into smaller pieces so that they can physically carry them away and then start the building of bridges to link islands to the mainland. I have heard of similar reports in respect of Sri Lanka. The situation on the ground is not right and I ask the noble Baroness to get the embassies and high commissions to look into what is happening in the areas which were devastated but are not the big names, as it were, in tsunami relief.

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Lords (Privy Council Office)

My Lords, of course I can do that. We have funded NGOs and others who are working in local areas who can give us that kind of information. There is a particular issue in Thailand; it is a middle-income country and it did not appeal for international aid. So the capacity of the international community to intervene in Thailand is much more limited than it is in Sri Lanka, India and elsewhere.

Photo of The Countess of Mar The Countess of Mar Crossbench

My Lords, does the noble Baroness share my concerns that in southern India girls as young as nine are having to get married because of the loss of so many of the females in the communities and the fact that they have to live in very close proximity with large numbers of men? Can anything be done to relieve the situation so that people can live in their own little communities without having to be crowded into camps?

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Lords (Privy Council Office)

My Lords, I was not aware of the pressure that was being put on girls as young as nine to get married. I will write to the noble Countess, Lady Mar, when I have looked into this, and I will put a copy of the letter in the Library.