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House of Lords

Thursday, 6th April 1995.

The House met at eleven of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Birmingham.


Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their assessment of the reconstruction and rehabilitation needs in Rwanda following the genocide in 1994 and what contribution they will be making towards meeting them.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): My Lords, donors have pledged £360 million towards the Government of Rwanda's recovery and rehabilitation programme, which is costed at £469 million for 1995. During 1994, we spent £71 million in emergency aid. This year we have committed a further £18 million of bilateral aid so far. In addition, we continue to contribute through the European Union and other multilateral channels.

Lord Judd: My Lords, I must declare an interest as someone closely involved professionally and voluntarily in some of the NGOs engaged in that awful situation. Does the Minister agree that Rwanda is a grim example of the dreadful human cost and prohibitive financial cost of failing to act in time at a less costly level by intervention when clearly a state has collapsed? How are the lessons of Rwanda being learned and applied to the future of the UN and the Security Council? What urgent action are the Government recommending in the instance of Burundi, and indeed central Africa as a whole, to prevent a repetition of that appalling catastrophe?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I certainly agree with the noble Lord that we want to do everything that we can to avoid in the future the human cost, and the prohibitive costs that have obviously followed from that. We have learned—the whole international community has learned—lessons from it. We were much influenced in the plan that we already had to work for preventive diplomacy—that is, conflict resolution and conflict prevention, which my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary launched at the United Nations last year —by work that we are doing with African nations with the backing of the UN and the Organisation of African Unity. We are beginning to make progress, so that African nations themselves will be able to give advice.

The noble Lord went on to ask about preventive action on Burundi. Certainly, it is quite clear that we need to stem the extremist violence on both sides from Hutus and Tutsis in Burundi, as well as continuing to help the Rwandans. We are in close touch with UNHCR and others to make sure that the Government of Burundi understand very well what could happen

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and what must not happen. We are giving as much help as we can in a variety of ways to achieve a prevention of disaster in Burundi while helping the people of Rwanda.

The Earl of Lauderdale: My Lords, can my noble friend tell the House what help other African countries—countries such as Nigeria, South Africa, Morocco and Tanzania—are giving or what steps they are taking?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, my noble friend is a little specific. Off the cuff, I cannot tell him about Morocco. I do not believe that there is any Nigerian help in Rwanda or Burundi. In Rwanda there has been Ghanaian help, Ethiopian help and Tanzanian help. There are a number of nations involved, and I shall give him a full answer by letter. It is obviously important that he should have a list.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, has the noble Baroness had an opportunity to look at the report of Amnesty International, Crying out for Justice, which was published this morning? Does she have any comment to make on the particular question raised by Amnesty, that by giving inadequate help to the reconstruction of the judicial system in Rwanda, the international community is betraying the victims of crime against humanity?

Will the Minister also take note that the UN Commission on Human Rights agreed to send a special rapporteur and field officers to Rwanda but that the officers whom they sent were inadequate in number and poorly trained? Does she agree that that is a specific question which the international community ought to address as a matter of urgency?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, the Amnesty report arrived in my office five minutes before I left this morning. Obviously, we have seen the press coverage. I have not yet had time to read the report, but I shall do so. I understand that the Government of Rwanda have prepared 300 cases ready for consideration by the courts. That is important because they are well aware of the need to alleviate the terrible situations in the prisons in Rwanda. We take all reports of human rights infringements very seriously. Those come up in the Amnesty Report. We have made our concerns known to the Government of Rwanda. The War Crimes Tribunal has identified 400 ringleaders suspected of genocide and crimes against humanity, but it will take time to carry out thorough investigations.

Britain has been very much to the fore in helping the Government of Rwanda meet their judicial needs. We are contributing to the work that is being done by the international tribunal and by the Ministry of Justice, which was one of the first Rwandan Ministries that the British Government helped in Kigali. I shall go into other points at a later time. The detail and the complexity of the issue remind us that we should be extremely careful about judging others. We must go through this matter in a thoroughly proper judicial way.

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Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, can the Minister say what the British Red Cross—one of our finest organisations—is doing in that area?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Federation of Committees of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and our own British Red Cross have been extremely helpful, along with other non-governmental organisations, in helping to bring water, food, clothing and shelter to the millions who fled. They are also helping people return to the safer areas of Rwanda and that is something with which we can assist. Last week we provided another £4 million for ICRC and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to top up their emergency funds so that that work can go on with the Red Cross and the other NGOs which have given such sterling service in Rwanda.

Air Crew Duty Times: Proposal

11.15 a.m.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the proposed European regulations on flight and duty times for airline crews will provide for substantially longer working hours than present United Kingdom regulations and fewer safeguards against undue fatigue on aircrews; and, if so, whether they intend to take any action in view of the serious safety implications.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, the Joint Aviation Authorities have decided to give further consideration to the requirements for flight and duty time limits. Consequently, they were not included in the Joint Aviation Requirement on Aircraft Operations (known as JAR-OPS) which was approved last month. The Civil Aviation Authority, which is our independent expert adviser, will need to satisfy itself that any revised proposals by the JAA will provide an equivalent level of protection against fatigue to that provided under the current United Kingdom requirements.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that satisfactory reply. Will she confirm that Her Majesty's Government will not agree to any extension of flying hours which is not approved by the Civil Aviation Authority?

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, Her Majesty's Government will not agree to anything that the Civil Aviation Authority feels is unsafe for this country.

Lord Molloy: My Lords, while acknowledging that the reply given by the noble Baroness is very welcome, will she ensure that there is no way in which an outside organisation can despoil the brilliant record of British aircrews? It has meant the safety of British and other peoples. Others should be taking a lesson from us; they have nothing to teach us.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord.

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Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, perhaps I can take this opportunity to thank the noble Viscount who courteously received a delegation from the British Airline Pilots Association, which I led as its president, on this issue. However, is the noble Baroness aware that, according to the most recent exchanges we had on the matter in this House, the Civil Aviation Authority approved the JAA proposals notwithstanding that they mean a diminution of the standards that we deploy in this country? Is the Minister also aware that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration stated that the JAA proposals exceed safe limits by introducing excessive duty times and inadequate rest periods? Is that view shared by the Government?

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, first, I shall pass on to the Minister the kind remarks of the noble Lord. He is right in saying that the Civil Aviation Authority agreed the regulations at the JAA. But the JAA took the decision to withhold their report for the time being to allow themselves time to make a full and thorough review of a new memorandum from NASA on flight time limitations. That has now been examined. The JAA have satisfied themselves that there is nothing in the NASA proposals which would cause the JAA proposals to be revisited. I understand that the JAA intend to reach a final decision on the matter by the end of the year. I can only reiterate to the noble Lord that the Government are advised by the Civil Aviation Authority. The authority has its own medical experts and sources of advice, as do the JAA. They take medical advice from all the countries. In those circumstances the noble Lord can rest assured that nothing will happen that is not safe.

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