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The Secretary of State for International Development (Clare Short): High levels of corruption and poor economic management have caused enormous damage to the economy and people of Kenya. The UK, along with all other development agencies, has made it clear over the past three years that support to Kenya would be conditional on firm action on corruption. A strong package has been negotiated with the IMF, which we support. We are now at the beginning of a difficult reform process in Kenya, which will require sustained Kenyan and international support.
Mr. Allan: I am grateful for that answer, but the Secretary of State will be aware that concerns are increasing over political stability in Kenya, with daily rumours about early elections and whether President Moi will stand down as required by the constitution. Two separate constitutional review processes are in competition. In that context, will the Minister consider increasing direct support from her Department to good government initiatives in Kenya, so that we see a successful election process? Small investment in such initiatives now may avoid the huge economic, social and human costs of further instability in east Africa, which would be caused by a flawed election process in Kenya.
Clare Short: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. The situation is fragile. On top of the history of corruption, poor economic management and growing poverty, there is a very serious and terrible drought in Kenya, which is having bad consequences, so we should all worry for the future stability of that country. We are already providing assistance to try to ensure that there are fair and proper elections. We will do all that we can to ensure that that happens.
Clare Short: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is why one must constantly make difficult judgments. There is no such thing as a perfect Government, even in the UK. Therefore, one is always trying to offer assistance and support for reform to improve the life of ordinary people, working with whatever Governments one can find. He is also right that President Moi's decision to appoint Richard Leakey and his team to take over the leadership of the reform process in Kenya represents a big commitment to change, reform and to tackle corruption. That has led us to back a new IMF and World Bank package, which we hope will focus on improving the lives of ordinary people, which are getting worse because of the drought.
Mr. Gary Streeter (South-West Devon): Does not the Secretary of State share my concern about reports in The Eastafrican newspaper on 5 October that the Kenyan drive against corruption lost steam the very second that the IMF endorsed its $198 million aid package, causing many diplomatic sources to comment that the Kenyan Government were simply out to hoodwink donors? Given that Britain has just increased bilateral aid to Kenya, is she confident that our aid is not simply propping up a Government who have no real intention to reform? Is it not time to make it crystal clear that British aid to Kenya and all other Governments will in future be more closely linked to specific delivery on governance and corruption, and that if they fail to deliver their aid will be stopped and the same amount of money will be pumped through non-governmental organisations and charities in that country, where it has a better chance of reaching those really in need?
Clare Short: The hon. Gentleman must learn that one cannot reform Governments who are performing badly by giving aid to NGOs and charities. That happens when one is simply bringing humanitarian relief and cannot lever any reform. That is an important point that the hon. Gentleman needs to learn. Our recent increase in aid to Kenya was £10 million for drought relief because people are going hungry. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for South-West Devon (Mr. Streeter) did not heckle me, I could answer his question.
I do not agree with the report in The Eastafrican that people have been hoodwinked. This is a sophisticated and complicated IMF programme with many conditions that must be met constantly so that support and help will continue to flow. That remains true of our support in Kenya and elsewhere. We have tightened up on conditionality since our Government took over from the one supported by the hon. Gentleman. I agree that we cannot be confident of success in Kenya. There are many difficulties and many corrupt forces. The economy is in bad shape and the drought is serious. We will have to do all that we can to try to keep the reform process on track, and we will do that.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. George Foulkes): About 62 per cent. of our bilateral programme supports Commonwealth countries, of which 85 per cent. goes to low income countries.
The Commonwealth has the potential to play an important role in poverty elimination and we are working to increase its effectiveness. The strengths of the Commonwealth are its informality and its ability to mobilise a wide and diverse range of countries.
Mr. Baldry: I thank the Minister for that answer and I am sure that the House agrees with his sentiments about the role and potential of the Commonwealth. Given that we have to give a fairly substantial amount of our aid budget to multilateral aid through the European Union, does the Minister have any proposals to increase the 60 per cent. of our bilateral aid budget that we give to the Commonwealth? Given that we can give to other countries through the EU multilateral aid budget, should not the first claim on our bilateral aid be Commonwealth countries rather than spreading it too thinly?
Mr. Foulkes: Yes, we want more of our direct assistance to go to the least developed and poorest countries, whether they be Commonwealth countries or others. We want the European Community to put its aid into the poorest countries as well and we are pressing strongly for that.
Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley): Will my hon. Friend confirm that we all want to see Pakistan return to democracy and full membership of the Commonwealth as soon as possible? Will he also confirm that we still regard Pakistan as a member of the Commonwealth and that we are still helping with many projects in that country to deal with its problems and poverty?
Mr. Foulkes: Yes, we are certainly concerned about the poor people in Pakistan. Whatever the Government, there are still many poor people and we look at ways to ensure that our help gets to them as quickly and effectively as possible.
Mr. Gary Streeter (South-West Devon): How can the Minister justify the recent announcement of increased bilateral aid to Malawi, a Commonwealth country, when we learn that it has just spent vast sums on buying 39 brand new Mercedes cars for Government Ministers? Does he agree with our high commissioner in Malawi, Mr. Finlayson, who said that the British Government would be embarrassed by that, particularly as it is not yet known whether it happened with the benefit of what he called
Mr. Foulkes: As usual, the hon. Gentleman is trying to use diversionary tactics. Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, and 64 per cent. of its people are malnourished. I give the hon. Gentleman and the House the absolute assurance that we ensure that our assistance goes to help the poorest people--
Ms Oona King (Bethnal Green and Bow): I have just returned from Bangladesh, where I witnessed for myself some of the most devastating floods that it has had for a century. Can my hon. Friend outline whether, and how, Bangladesh will benefit from the United Kingdom's disaster relief fund?
Mr. Foulkes: Our long-term development programme in Bangladesh is increasing in the next two years from £70 million to £90 million. Moreover, we have just approved about £1 million for flood-related assistance to the affected populations in the west of Bangladesh. We also anticipate approving more immediate flood relief and contributing to flood rehabilitation once the floods recede. I hope that my hon. Friend will be very pleased that this Government are taking quick and effective action.