Eastern Europe (Hansard, 3 December 1990)
HC Deb 03 December 1990 vol 182 cc17-8
37. Mr. Barry Field

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress the Minister for Overseas Development was able lo detect during her recent visit to the three know-how fund countries of central and eastern Europe on the transition in these countries to a free market economy.

Mrs. Chalker

Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia have already made considerable progress in coping with the enormous challenges that they face. We shall continue to help them, targeting our assistance on privatisation, financial services, management and other aspects of the creation of a market economy.

Mr. Field

Will my right hon. Friend consider modest funding for the Polish Resettlement Act 1947, which has never been repealed? That would assist Polish citizens who so wished to return to their country, taking with them the considerable wisdom and experience that they have gained from living in one of the most dynamic economies and democracies in Europe.

Mrs. Chalker

I thank my hon. Friend for that suggestion. I know that the Act was designed to meet a highly specific and now historic need. The present position is very different and I shall consider what my hon. Friend said. I believe that British residents of Polish origin are not only very happy living here, but very happy with their involvement in the rehabilitation of Poland, including some who are assisted through the know-how fund.

Mr. Canavan

I do not begrudge the assistance given to eastern Europe, but will the Minister give an assurance that it is not simply a transfer of resources that would otherwise assist developing countries in the third world?

Mrs. Chalker

Yes, Sir.

Miss Emma Nicholson

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the wide-ranging ministerial expertise that she brings to her current portfolio and on the shining example of intellectual rigour and first-class work that she gives us all—

Hon. Members

Reading.

Miss Nicholson

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that it is the United Kingdom's expertise that is changing the economies of Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia and that it is British input—with the London School of Economics arguing about competition, as opposed to Harvard arguing about ownership—that will ensure that those countries' economies will really bowl forward?

Mrs. Chalker

I thank my hon. Friend for her remarks. I was privileged to see implemented at the unique Tonsil factory in western Poland—one of the first to be privatized—the know-how that my hon. Friend described. I was impressed also by the attitude shown by the works council towards its involvement. We should congratulate the Polish Government on publishing last Friday details of their first five privatisations; that development also is receiving considerable help from British know-how.

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