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Sanctions

6. Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): Pursuant to the answers of 10 December 1997, Official Report, column 615, and 16 March 1998, Official Report, column 454, what progress has been made in her plans to develop sanctions which hit elites rather than the mass of the people. [46870]

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The Secretary of State for International Development (Clare Short): Work is being undertaken within Whitehall and we are working with other countries in the UN to ensure that future sanctions are as closely targeted as possible on offending regimes and that, when sanctions are agreed, appropriate humanitarian exemptions are included. I will, as I have promised, write to my hon. Friend when our review is complete.

Mr. Dalyell: Before there is another crisis in October or November in Iraq, will the Department and my right hon. Friend make inquiries about the behaviour of United Nations Special Commission personnel in Baghdad, information on which I have given to her Department?

Clare Short: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for informing me earlier today of the allegations about UNSCOM staff. I have checked with my officials, and we have no knowledge of any such behaviour, so I should be grateful if my hon. Friend would let me have as much information as he has. We will most certainly check it out. However, I have to say that the real answer to the suffering of the people of Iraq is for Saddam Hussein to cease manufacturing weapons of mass destruction. We must all do all that we can to bring that about as rapidly as we can.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): Further to the hon. Gentleman's question, does the Secretary of State agree that, if a country's human rights record is bad, there is often a compelling case for shifting aid previously given to it to a neighbouring country in a similar income category in order conclusively to demonstrate that aid is linked to governance, respect for human rights and the concept of an ethical foreign policy?

Clare Short: I agree, as I said to the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), and we are keen to back Governments who have serious good intent to reduce poverty, which requires good governance, respect for human rights and successful models of development. When Governments do the right thing, they succeed, and the international community gets behind them. Then there is sustained and successful development. We cannot turn our back on people who live under bad Governments. We have to find other ways of bringing relief to them through non-governmental organisations, not through Governments. The hon. Gentleman is right. We must back good Governments and achieve success in development. In the other cases, we can bring relief, but we shall not achieve development where there is not good Governance.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South): I appreciate the concerns about looking after the poor. One of the arguments against the Jubilee 2000 campaign is that wiping out debt will increase the money for bad Governments, who will just take it. Are any steps being taken to mobilise world banking communities to watch out for money being invested in their banks that was sidetracked from aid by bad Governments?

Clare Short: The hon. Gentleman is right. There are conditions on debt relief in the HIPC initiative that Governments must have a good track record. That means that good Governments get debt relief and not bad Governments, who might spend the relief on more arms

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or more prestige projects. The hon. Gentleman is also right in that the OECD is calling for a great tightening up by all our Governments and institutions on corruption. It calls on all our Governments to make it an offence to offer a bribe overseas to a public official. Banks do not deal with corrupt regimes. We back successful Governments and freeze out the unsuccessful so that we get a better world order.

Peace Corps

7. Mr. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby): If she will assess the advantages of establishing a Government-sponsored peace corps of young people to assist with aid work. [46871]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. George Foulkes): We are encouraged by the numbers of young people who already take a great interest in development and we are seeking ways of engaging them further in development co-operation issues. However, developing countries require access to know-how rather than inexperienced volunteers. We provide such help through our own programmes and through our support for the four volunteer sending agencies, which have more 2,000 qualified volunteers overseas.

Mr. Mitchell: I hope that my hon. Friend will not rest satisfied with that answer but will look at the sustained success of the American peace corps, which every year sends abroad 6,500 young people with an average age of 29 to engage in English teaching, health, sanitation and development work in developing countries and even in eastern Europe. Could we not mobilise the commitment, enthusiasm and energy of our young people and perhaps even give them a remission on their student loans for going in exactly the same way and help developing countries at the same time?

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield): There is VSO.

Mr. Foulkes: Voluntary Service Overseas, as the hon. Gentleman says, and the three other sending organisations already do that. I draw my hon. Friend's attention to another organisation, British Executive Service Overseas, BESO, which sends older, experienced volunteers overseas to offer their services. I am assured by the Government Chief Whip that, if my hon. Friend wishes to do that, he would not stand in his way.

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley): The Minister mentions four organisations that do much good work with young people. Can he ensure that publicity for those organisations is increased? Ultraframe, a private business in Clitheroe in my constituency, is investing much of its own money in providing food aid in Sudan. Many other private companies wish to assist in that way, and perhaps if we could get more links between business and charitable aid organisations such as the ones that the Minister mentions, more young people could be assisted to go abroad to help in aid projects.

Mr. Foulkes: The hon. Gentleman makes a sensible suggestion. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State

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and I regularly meet the NGOs that are involved, and I specifically met the four volunteer sending organisations recently to discuss exactly the areas that the hon. Gentleman mentions, and also spoke about increasing the profile and participation of VSO and other voluntary service organisations.

Russia

8. Mr. David Watts (St. Helens, North): What assistance her Department is providing to Russia in the current financial year. [46872]

The Secretary of State for International Development (Clare Short): The know-how fund is the primary source of the United Kingdom's help to Russia and the former Soviet bloc countries that are making the transition to democracy and a market economy. In Russia and elsewhere, the know-how fund has a good reputation for providing fast and flexible assistance in support of reform. Given the worrying continuing growth in poverty in Russia, greater emphasis in future will be placed on assistance for the social, environmental and governance aspects of reform.

Mr. Watts: I thank the Minister for that reply. I agree that a great deal of benefit has been derived from the use of the know-how fund in helping Russia to reform its economy. However, is it not time to focus all our help in that area on dealing with poverty and the environmental problems that face the Russian people?

Clare Short: I agree with my hon. Friend. Of course, dealing with poverty partly means having an efficient economy that generates the wealth to care for people. We shall continue that aspect of the work, but we are shifting the focus to social reform. Too many people are falling through the system and Russian men have lost nearly 10 years of life expectancy since the fall of the old system. We are about to publish our Russia country strategy paper and that will give details of the way in which we intend to make that change.

Mr. David Atkinson (Bournemouth, East): Will the right hon. Lady ensure that the aid and assistance to which she has just referred goes to the Russian people and does not end up being laundered by the Mafiosi, who are certainly part of the problem of the present Russian crisis?

Clare Short: The hon. Gentleman is right. The problems of corruption are great. The know-how fund does not go through Government; it goes direct to projects. It is tightly monitored and has a reputation for not getting embroiled in corruption in the way in which many other programmes do. Corruption is part of Russia's problem and it is hurting poor people in Russia.

Guatemala

9. Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset): If she will make a statement on the Government's assistance to street children projects in Guatemala. [46873]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. George Foulkes): Although we have no direct development programme in Guatemala, we provide assistance for street children through the joint funding scheme that supports NGOs that work with street children, and through our contributions to the European Commission's programme.

Mr. Bruce: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that reply and remind him of the excellent work that my constituent Bruce Harris does with Casa Alianza in Guatemala. Will the hon. Gentleman's Department look particularly at indirect aid to try to get law and order sorted out in countries such as Guatemala, because street children are being persecuted by quasi-judicial organisations and people are not being punished by the courts there, and that causes even more problems?

Mr. Foulkes: We do financially support Casa Alianza and our contribution to the European Commission's programme is £23 million, a not insubstantial amount. We are working in Brazil, Ecuador, Kenya, India, South Africa and many other countries with street children. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that that is a significant contribution by the British Government.

PRIME MINISTER

The Prime Minister was asked--


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