International Development Committee - UK Aid to Rwanda - Minutes of EvidenceHC 726

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House of COMMONS



International Development Committee

UK Aid to Rwanda

Thursday 8 November 2012

Rt Hon MR Andrew Mitchell MP

Evidence heard in Public Questions 1 - 78


1. This is a corrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee, and copies have been made available by the Vote Office for the use of Members and others.

2. The transcript is an approved formal record of these proceedings. It will be printed in due course.

Oral Evidence

Taken before the International Development Committee

on Thursday 8 November 2012

Members present:

Rt Hon Sir Malcolm Bruce (Chair)

Fiona Bruce

Richard Burden

Pauline Latham

Jeremy Lefroy

Alison McGovern

Fiona O’Donnell

Mark Pritchard


Examination of Witness

Witness: Rt Hon Mr Andrew Mitchell MP, former Secretary of State for International Development, gave evidence.

Q1 Chair: Good morning, Mr Mitchell, and thank you very much indeed for coming in to give us evidence on this short inquiry we are holding on the specific issue of budget support for Rwanda, its suspension and reinstatement, and the circumstances surrounding it. You will not be surprised to know we have had some fairly strong, contradictory written evidence on the issue. We would like to explore how these decisions were taken on your watch as Secretary of State. I would start with a very simple question: why did you decide to suspend £16 million of budget support to Rwanda when you did?

Mr Mitchell: Thank you very much indeed, Sir Malcolm, for extending this opportunity. I am very grateful for that, not least because there have been some somewhat overheated and illinformed comments in the British press about both the decision and the process by which the decision was made. I want to demonstrate today the absolute propriety and proper way in which the decision was made. I will seek to persuade the Committee, if you give me the chance, that it was the right decision.

Of course, in circumstances like this it is possible for people of good will to disagree about the final decision the British Government made. I will seek to demonstrate that we made it for the right reasons, and I hope the Committee will accept that we got it right. In answering you question, I wonder whether it would be helpful if I were to give a timeline for how the decisions were made?

Chair: Briefly, yes.

Mr Mitchell: I should start by making it clear that budget support, which the Committee will be very familiar with, is the best way of doing development if you can trust the Government with which you are working and if the Government has the systems to ensure real accountability. When the Coalition Government came into office, we looked very carefully at budget support on that basis. We decided that the rules governing budget support were not sufficiently tough and the Coalition Government toughened them up very significantly. As a result of the much clearer focus on value for money, ensuring the money was really well spent and ensuring we could account to Parliament, the amount of budget support is set to fall in the programme by about a half over the Parliament. So the rules are much tighter.

As part of those rules we said we would tranche budget support, so some countries would get budget support on a six-monthly basis and others on a quarterly basis. Under the last Government, Rwanda would have received the money at the beginning of the year in full for budget support. We said we wanted to tranche it. The first tranche was due in July and the second tranche would be due in December. That was a way of tightening the rules.

We also made very clear that we would govern whether budget support should be given on the basis of four principles. They are called the partnership principles and are very clear. We also said we would publish the summary of our judgment on the partnership principles. So there is much greater transparency and much greater control.

Given the changed nature of budget support, I would like to go back to the London Summit on Family Planning, which took place on 11 July. On that day the Prime Minister and I saw President Kagame and had a discussion with him. We told him we were concerned about what was happening in the Kivus in the DRC, which affected the British Government’s relationship with Rwanda, and that Rwanda was losing support across the international community because of allegations about activities in the DRC. Later on that day I also had a discussion with President Museveni, who was the Chairman of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and had been asked by the African Union to look at what he could do to try to bring Rwanda and the DRC together.

On 13 July I went to see for myself what was happening on the ground. I went into the eastern DRC and into the Kivus. I had the considerable benefit of travelling with Neil Wigan, the British Ambassador in Kinshasa, who has an excellent understanding of what is happening in the Kivus but has also been briefed extensively by the British High Commissioner to Rwanda. Went I went into the DRC, I visited Ntoto, at the foot of the mountains where the FDLR, that genocidal rump, had been based. I had the opportunity to see a camp for displaced people. I was able to talk to people who had been caught up in the violence and struggles in the DRC and the Kivus. I also had the opportunity to meet community leaders who were able to tell me what was actually happening on the ground. I also had the opportunity of travelling with a British general, Major General Foster, who was the second in command of MONUSCO, the United Nations forces there.

Two days later I had the opportunity of having meetings in Rwanda with the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Defence and others. I was able to tell them what I had seen in the DRC and say that the British Government was dissatisfied with the account from the Rwandans and, therefore, I had decided we would delay this first disbursement-the July disbursement-for at least a month. When we got back we issued a statement, and I have brought copies, if it would be helpful for the Committee. This is the statement of those two visits.

In midAugust, having reported back, had discussions with the Foreign Office and discussions with Number 10, the Prime Minister set down some conditions, where he said budget support should be disbursed only after the August bank holiday and only if three conditions were met. He asked to be kept informed about that. There were submissions on 24 August about whether the Prime Minister’s conditions had been met and what we should do. The conclusion of those submissions was that the Prime Minister’s conditions had been partially met. On 30 August there was a submission to me on three options, all of which involved reprogramming part or all of the budget support. We took a decision on those three options, and I accepted one.

On 31 August I wrote to the Prime Minister. The letter summarised the discussion we had had across Government. As it is not a restricted document, and as it is my letter to the Prime Minister, I am very happy to give it to the Committee.

That set out the basis of the decision. On the same day I spoke to the Foreign Secretary, and he agreed that two of the three conditions the Prime Minister had set had seen progress. He agreed with my decision on reducing by half the level of budget support we dispensed. He noted in his conversation with me that the tranching the Coalition Government had set up gave us the opportunity to take stock again in November, in respect of the second annual disbursement of budget support. Then, on the first available occasion-on 4 September-I reported in a written statement to Parliament on what we had decided. That is the third document I want to give to the Committee.

That is the timeline of the way in which the decisions were made. As I say, decisions were made entirely properly, through cross-Government consultation, with all relevant departments and Ministers being consulted. That was how we reached our decision.

Q2 Chair: I appreciate that, and I understand that it was important from your point of view to put that on the record, given what has been said. You are anxious to say this was a crossGovernment decision and a proper process. The Committee, as you know, has visited Rwanda and the DRC. Nobody on the Committee had any doubt whatsoever about the effectiveness of aid support to Rwanda in terms of delivering poverty reduction and contributing towards the MDGs. That is not the point of issue. Indeed, Rwanda is almost certainly better than any other recipient country in that capacity. The question that arises is to what extent that support gives cover to practices that are much more disreputable, whether that is interfering with a neighbouring state or suppression of the rights of its own citizens. That is what this concern is all about.

You have explained why it was withheld. You have explained the process by which you partially reinstated it and subdivided it. But at the moment Britain stands alone on that decision. Are you comfortable with the fact that other donors have taken the view that the process of investigation of these allegations is not complete? In your letter you say that you made your conditions, you are satisfied, and on that basis you made your recommendations. Meanwhile, there is an ongoing international process that has not been completed. The question to you is: why did you not wait until that process has been completed?

Mr Mitchell: On the first point about budget support for Rwanda, you are entirely right that, in terms of development and doing what they say with our taxpayers’ money, and enabling us to follow the money and ensure that for a pound of British taxpayers’ money we are getting 100 pence of development, Rwanda is probably one of the best in the world. Over the last five years Rwanda has lifted more than 1 million people out of poverty. There is no question about that. Budget support is the best way if you trust the systems. We can trust the systems in Rwanda: Rwanda does exactly what they say they will do with our taxpayers’ money. That is a way of securing the poverty reduction development objectives of the British Government and of Rwanda.

Taking away budget support would have no effect on the elite in Kigali but, bluntly, it would take girls out of school elsewhere in the country. It might make us feel better to remove budget support and avoid taking these difficult decisions, but it would not affect the people who make the decisions to which you have referred in Kigali. It would have the effect of damaging the poverty programme.

Britain’s relationship is with the country of Rwanda. Both parties have had a candid but warm relationship with Rwanda when in Government. Tony Blair, Clare Short, I and the Prime Minister all have, but it is a candid relationship. In the conversations I have had with the President and others there, I have been very blunt about what was going on in the DRC.

Regarding your specific point: the Group of Experts has produced an interim report, which, at the end of November, will be judged by the United Nations. This is not a complete report. There were issues with that report. The Rwandans had a chance to have their say. When the Rwandans went to New York to have their say, I took the opportunity to talk to the Deputy Ambassador to the UN, Mr Parham, after they had given their evidence in order to hear for myself, before we made this decision, what had come out of that interim meeting. The final report of the Group of Experts is not expected until November. That will enable my successor to decide, on the basis of that, whether or not the second disbursement of budget support should go ahead. Having already delayed the first payment by a month, on the basis of the conditions laid down by the Prime Minister, the British Government decided-not some rogue Minister but the British Government-what the right response was. We made that response very much on the understanding that there would be a second tranche, thanks to the reforms we had made, to be discussed in November or December in the light of the Group of Experts’ report. That was why we took the decision we did.

Q3 Fiona O’Donnell: I apologise, Mr Mitchell, if I missed this in an earlier answer but I was trying to read these documents we have just received. When you took the decision, were you under pressure from other donor countries who had taken the decision to withhold aid and thought that the British Government should also withhold aid?

Mr Mitchell: We talk to the other donors all the time, and the officials talk to the other donors. In terms of donors, Britain is very much in the middle of the pack. There is a suggestion that Britain has gone out on a limb here, and it is not true. Let me give you some of the details: the European Union made no change at all to their programmes; they released budget support as planned in September. The position that payments under existing programmes should be made was agreed on 18 September at the EU Political and Security Committee. We reduced budget support by a half; the EU made no change. The press have pointed out that the American Government cut $200,000 off their military aid, which is correct, but what was not reported was that the development programme, which is $160 million a year-so it is a huge development programme-has not been affected. While I was there, the Belgian Ministers spoke out against aid being withheld or cut.

Q4 Fiona O’Donnell: That does not answer my question, Mr Mitchell, which is: did you come under pressure from other countries to withhold aid?

Mr Mitchell: No, there was no pressure as such. You are correct in saying that the Netherlands and Germany suspended budget support, as indeed they did in 2001 when Britain again, under a Labour Government, did not decide to suspend budget support. Others continued unchanged. Sweden does not do budget support. Other donor programmes have not been affected at all. All those from the United Nations have continued, I am advised. Do not think that Britain went out on a limb; we are pretty much in the middle of the pack.

Q5 Mark Pritchard: Mr Mitchell, you used the term "rogue Minister". From what you are saying it seems that there was a collective decision within Government that went to the very highest level, the Prime Minister, and was also agreed by the Foreign Secretary. Is that a correct interpretation of what you have said or have I missed something out?

Mr Mitchell: Yes. I gave you the words that are recorded in a note of the conversation I had with the Foreign Secretary, so you are entirely right. My point is that the press have suggested that a rogue Minister can sign cheques under the bedclothes and bung them out to dubious leaders. That is completely untrue. It is very insulting: I take deep offence at the suggestion that I would ever behave in such a way. It is also a tremendous insult to the British Civil Service, who would never allow a Minister to behave in that way.

Q6 Mark Pritchard: On the point of the United Nations, my view is-and it is more important what your view is-that the United Kingdom Government and DFID should not have the timing of giving or withholding money as leverage to see changes within a particular donor Government set by a foreign Government, whether it be the Netherlands or Belgium, or the United Nations, which clearly has an issue with not keeping its reports watertight. We have had various leaks of UN reports, so the process, in a sense, was flux. How do you think you could have done things differently given those external factors?

Mr Mitchell: You are right that there were complaints that the Group of Experts’ report had leaked. I do not know whether that is true or not. That is certainly an allegation the Rwandans make in their submission to the Group of Experts. I have no knowledge of that. When I was Secretary of State, we talked to my counterparts all the time about decisions. But Britain has a leadership role in development in Rwanda. This Committee has pointed out that we have a leadership role around the world in development. We make our own decisions. Britain made the decision to do the Multilateral Aid Review, to do the Bilateral Aid Review and to set up independent evaluations to champion transparency. Many others have followed the lead we gave. On Rwanda we took our own decisions. We did what we thought was right, bearing in mind our central aim of helping alleviate poverty in a country to which Britain has become a close but candid friend under both political parties in the years since the genocide in 1994. The decision we made, I think, was the right decision.

Q7 Mark Pritchard: What consultations took place within DFID before decisions were taken?

Mr Mitchell: There was a huge amount of consultation, which then comes up to the Secretary of State in a submission. I referred to the submissions when I was taking the Committee through the timeline of the way in which the decision was made. I should just say what the partnership principles on budget support that we, the Coalition Government, set down are. The first is poverty reduction and achieving the MDGs. The second is respecting human rights and other international obligations. The third is improving public financial management, promoting good governance, transparency and fighting corruption. The fourth is strengthening domestic accountability. Those were the four conditions that we set, against which we judged whether or not budget support should be disbursed in Rwanda. The judgment of officials, with which I completely concurred, was that on two of those principles Rwanda was doing very well and on two of them they were standing still and not doing so well. It was because of that judgment against those principles, which we published-again as a result of the changes the Coalition Government have made to budget support-that the decision was made.

Q8 Richard Burden: I would like to ask you one or two things about the conditions the Prime Minister set down. However, I would like to check something you said after that, in relation to whether Britain was or was not out on a limb in reinstating budget support. You mentioned that the United States cut its military aid but went ahead with its other programmes. They were not budget support, though, were they?

Mr Mitchell: America does not really do budget support.

Q9 Richard Burden: Exactly, so it was not.

Mr Mitchell: On their development programmes, they made no changes. My point is that Britain did make changes because of what was happening-the wider issues in the DRC.

Q10 Richard Burden: There was a $5 million agriculture programme that they decided to deliver via the World Bank rather than directly.

Mr Mitchell: Yes, but that is a technical point because you will appreciate that the $5 million was still delivered; it was just delivered through a different mechanism. The people who make these decisions often decide that there are better ways of ensuring they get value for money for their taxpayers in the way the programmes are delivered.

Q11 Richard Burden: You put the three conditions the Prime Minister laid down in the letter you wrote to him. Did the Prime Minister publish those three conditions anywhere before that?

Mr Mitchell: No, I do not think so, but I stand to be corrected. But they are conditions that I think the Committee would feel are the right conditions.

Q12 Richard Burden: I just wanted to make sure I had not missed them somewhere. The first of those, in your letter, is that the Rwandan Government should engage constructively with the peace talks chaired by President Museveni. Condition two was the need for public condemnation by Rwanda of M23. Condition three was continuing the ceasefire in the Kivus and practical support for M23 ending. On the first one, you said they did engage constructively with the peace talks. In relation to the second one, you said they had not publicly condemned M23. It is the third one that I have some problems with: continuing ceasefire in the Kivus and practical support for M23 ending. Did practical support for M23 end?

Mr Mitchell: The British Government’s judgment was that they met conditions one and three in part, but they had not met condition two. In terms of co-operation with the Museveni group, the ICGLR, progress had been made. Meetings had taken place between Kabila and Kagame under the aegis of the Museveni group, so we were happy that progress had been made. Having delayed the whole of the budget support, we only paid out half of the first tranche. We made it clear that the issue of the second tranche was on the table. It is for my successor to decide, in light of circumstances today, what to do about the second tranche in December. In terms of the conditions the Prime Minister had set down for disbursement after the August bank holiday, progress had been made on one and three, and on two it had not. That was also the judgment of the Foreign Secretary.

Q13 Richard Burden: Condition three, which you said had been met either in whole or in part, included that practical support for the guerrilla group M23 should end. Did it and what evidence did you have for it?

Mr Mitchell: The Rwandan Government denies it has given anything.

Q14 Richard Burden: They have said that all along.

Mr Mitchell: They deny any support at all, and they contest the points made in the Group of Experts’ report. We will all have an opportunity, when the Group of Experts publishes its final report in November, to take a view on that. The view of the British Government, through various consultations and various ways, was that, in part, that third condition had been partially adhered to.

Q15 Richard Burden: What was the basis of that belief, given that lots of organisations were saying, ceasefire or not, Rwanda was always involved with M23 and remains involved in supporting M23?

Mr Mitchell: That is contested but the fact was that the ceasefire had held.

Q16 Richard Burden: I know, but you are saying that the Prime Minister’s condition three-and the only place we have it written down is in your letter-has two components. One is a ceasefire and the other is the question of practical support for the guerrilla group M23. My question is: why did the UK Government, apparently uniquely, apart from the Government of Rwanda, believe that practical support for M23 had ended?

Mr Mitchell: We did not say it had ended: we were not in a position to say that. The ceasefire had held.

Q17 Richard Burden: I am sorry, but it does say in your letter to the Prime Minister, in paragraph two, "There has been a continuing ceasefire in the Kivus and reporting shows that practical support for the M23 has now ended (condition three)". That is your letter.

Mr Mitchell: Yes, that was the judgment that the British Government, through its different agencies and parts, had reached. That is why it was in the letter to the Prime Minister.

Q18 Chair: "Reporting" means reporting by British Government officials, does it?

Mr Mitchell: That was the judgment that the British Government made.

Q19 Richard Burden: Is that from reporting by British Government officials?

Mr Mitchell: That is the judgment from the reports we had made on that issue.

Q20 Richard Burden: When you made the decision to suspend budget support, did you think there was practical support for M23 at that stage?

Mr Mitchell: From the Government of Rwanda?

Q21 Richard Burden: The Government all the way through were saying, "We are not doing this." Did you reach a conclusion at the point you suspended budget support that there was practical support for M23?

Mr Mitchell: When we delayed making the payment of the budget support in July, following the visit I made to the Kivus, I thought there was sufficient evidence on the ground not necessarily of Rwandan Government involvement but of crossborder involvement. Bear in mind that this is a colonial border, and families and relationships across that border can be very strong and deep. On the basis of that visit and what had been reported, I did not feel that it was in Britain or Rwanda’s interest to make the payment at that point. We then put in place a process, which I have set out in some detail to the Committee, for how a decision should be made after the August bank holiday. Regarding the conditions the Prime Minister set, the view we took across Government was that those conditions had been met partially, not in total. That was why we made half the first payment but not the second half. The second half was then channelled into education to the tune of £5 million and agriculture to the tune of £3 million.

Q22 Pauline Latham: I would like to put on record that I have been out to Rwanda four times with the Conservative Party’s Project Umubano, where I believe we have done some very good work. I would like that on the record. It is not a pecuniary interest; it is just the fact I have been out there. We talked about the UN report and the leakages. How credible do you think the UN report is, which alleges the involvement of the Governments of Rwanda and Uganda in arming and training the M23 rebels?

Mr Mitchell: I cannot second-guess the report. It is for those countries to defend themselves against the allegations from the UN Group of Experts and for the United Nations to reach a conclusion. So far we only have the interim report. The Rwandans would point out that the Group of Experts identifying munitions from Rwanda in the Kivus is not necessarily evidence of illicit Rwandan activity because, as a result of the agreements between Kabila and Kagame-the DRC and Rwanda-two companies of Rwandan special forces have been under Congolese command in the Kivus. So the fact they had ammunition, the Rwandans would argue, is not conclusive evidence of illicit activity by the Rwandan Government. All of us are in the same position on this. We will all no doubt read the report of the Group of Experts and come to our own conclusions.

The point for me as Secretary of State at the time, on the basis of a contested interim report, was about the impact that should have on the four principles and the disbursement of budget support. That was why I called the British lead in New York to find out what happened at that interim meeting: I thought I needed to have that information in order to reach a decision. As I say, that informed the decision we made to restore or pay out half of the first tranche.

Q23 Pauline Latham: Can you tell us what role the interim report had in your decision when you decided to suspend and then reinstate budget support?

Mr Mitchell: It was part of the mix that led to that decision.

Q24 Pauline Latham: So it did not have a high weight in your decision making or a lower weight than anything else?

Mr Mitchell: It was not just my view. It was part of the mix that led to officials and Ministers working out what to do. Officials advise, Ministers decide, and it was one of the pieces on the board.

Q25 Alison McGovern: Thank you for providing us with the letter you wrote to the Prime Minister. I have a couple of brief questions on that. What nonformal contact did you have with people in Downing Street around this letter?

Mr Mitchell: What nonformal contact?

Alison McGovern: Yes. What discussions did you have with the Prime Minister’s advisers?

Mr Mitchell: We are a very joined-up Government. Relations are harmonious in the Coalition. It is a highly functional Government; we talk all the time both informally and formally. The Foreign Secretary and I, when I was Secretary of State for International Development, had done these jobs for five years while we were in opposition together, so we know each other’s thinking very well. The letter sets out very clearly the position of the Government and the decisions we made. Formal and informal contact, as I am sure you know, takes place all the time in Government.

Q26 Alison McGovern: So did you speak to somebody in Downing Street about the preparation of the letter?

Mr Mitchell: I would always keep the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, Ed Llewellyn, in the loop on any decisions that I thought were important and Number 10 would need to know about. I certainly did that on this occasion.

Q27 Alison McGovern: You mentioned the Foreign Secretary; is that also true of the Foreign Secretary or one of his team?

Mr Mitchell: The Foreign Secretary and I discussed Rwanda on a number of occasions. In my timeline I have given details of the discussion with him that took place on the day we tied these decisions together.

Q28 Alison McGovern: You gave a timeline of the events earlier. Within that timeline, was there contact with the Rwandan Government?

Mr Mitchell: Yes, there was. There was contact, which I explained and which is in the note I have given you, when I was in Rwanda and the DRC. From memory there were three calls with President Kagame. The first was a meeting with the Prime Minister on 11 July, to which I referred. I subsequently saw him again later in the day to reinforce the messages the Prime Minister and I had given him at the London Summit on Family Planning. I spoke to him again on 28 July in a conversation where I set out the concerns the British Government had on the Kivus. I urged him to avoid any steps that would cause further deterioration of stability in the Kivus. I stressed that the UN must be able to operate unhindered and any attack on MONUSCO would be completely unacceptable: there had been suggestions that there might be an attack on the United Nations. I urged him to condemn, unambiguously, the indicted ICC war criminal Bosco, who had been rampaging and destabilising across the Kivus. I also urged him to respond to the Group of Experts’ report. That was the basis of that conversation. Then on 1 September I called him and the Minister of Finance to tell them the decision the Government had made in respect of the disbursement of the first tranche of general budget support.

Q29 Alison McGovern: During those conversations did you ask about practical support to M23?

Mr Mitchell: I have given you the note I made. I urged Rwanda to avoid allowing the situation to deteriorate further in the Kivus. I think that is the answer to your question.

Q30 Alison McGovern: Did you ask for factual information during that conversation?

Mr Mitchell: The Prime Minister and I both asked him in detail what was going on and what was the extent of Rwanda’s involvement in the DRC.

Q31 Alison McGovern: So when did the Prime Minister speak to President Kagame?

Mr Mitchell: He and I had a meeting with Kagame on 11 July, in the margins of the London Summit on Family Planning.

Q32 Alison McGovern: To your awareness, did the Prime Minister speak to President Kagame between 28 July and 1 September?

Mr Mitchell: I am not aware that he did, no. The Foreign Secretary certainly spoke to him in the margins of the Olympics. The Prime Minister saw him on 11 July. I was at the meeting and the Prime Minister made Britain’s views on what was happening in the Kivus very clear. He asked the President directly about Rwandan involvement.

Q33 Alison McGovern: Turning to the submission officials gave to you, you mentioned earlier that there were three options and you chose one. What were the other options you did not choose?

Mr Mitchell: That is official advice that I am not making available in the way I made my own stuff available to the Committee. That would be improper. I can tell you that the three options were alternatives, which I had asked for, to disbursing in full the general budget support, which we had decided not to do. They were: partial disbursement, disbursement through other means, and other forms of partial disbursement. We took one of those three options.

Q34 Alison McGovern: Did you have reason to think that taking that decision was time sensitive?

Mr Mitchell: It was a delay; it was not an advance of a decision, because the first tranche should have been in July. We put it back following the Prime Minister’s injunction that disbursement should only take place after the August bank holiday. This was the week after the August bank holiday.

Q35 Alison McGovern: Were there other decisions you made on that day? Can you recall taking other decisions that were put to you?

Mr Mitchell: Secretaries of State make decisions every day. I am not quite sure where your question is going. When I left DFID, it was very unusual, because normally when there is a reshuffle you are in and out very fast; you have to clear your desk and off you go. I had known for more than a week that I would be moving to be the Government Chief Whip. So I made sure, in the interests of my successor, that all the decisions on my desk should be made so she had a clear desk when she arrived and could get up to speed on the various issues. All the decisions that were pending and needed to be made, I was able to make in an orderly way in that week.

Having said that, this particular decision, following the Prime Minister’s injunction, was set to be made in that week anyway. For us to have delayed it further would itself have been a breach of the partnership principles with the Government of Rwanda. With budget support you do not want to mess around with the timing, which then makes it much more difficult for them to budget. Budgets are often on a shoestring anyway in very poor countries. You want to try, if you can-it is part of the deal on budget support-to stand by the commitments and timing unless there are serious infractions of the principles that mean you cannot. That was the case in this situation.

Q36 Alison McGovern: So on that day you had evidence that you were looking at from across Government about practical support to M23.

Mr Mitchell: I did not have evidence about practical support to M23.

Q37 Alison McGovern: My apologies: you had evidence that condition three was partially or wholly met.

Mr Mitchell: The judgment of officials was as I have set out. Two of the three conditions had been partially met and one had not. The one that had not been met was the second condition about condemning M23 and condemning violence. The Rwandans would probably argue that they had made it implicitly clear, but we did not feel they had made it as explicit as the Prime Minister would want.

Q38 Mark Pritchard: It is clear that, on condition three, you had your own field visit experience, direct discussions with President Kagame and a collective discussion with the Government here at the very highest level. You just mentioned also the "judgment of officials". Earlier you mentioned, to paraphrase, "following advice from British agencies". Whilst you may not want to, or be in a position to, show the advice or judgment of officials on this point, I wonder whether it is easier for you or those agencies to make available the advice they gave with regard to condition three being met?

Mr Mitchell: I have gone as far as I feel I can, and I think I have been very open with the Committee on the way these decisions were made. Ministers receive advice from officials and then make decisions for which they are accountable in Parliament. Although by the time the Parliament came back I had moved to a new position, I immediately honoured that principle by issuing a written statement at the first available occasion, which set out the decision we had made. Ministers must be accountable to Parliament for their decisions. The advice Ministers get from across Government, rightly, should remain confidential.

Q39 Fiona O’Donnell: Mr Mitchell, I have two quite short questions. To put this on record: is it your belief that the Rwandan Government has, at some point, been involved in practical support to M23?

Mr Mitchell: I am not in a position to say that. It will be necessary for us to read the report of the Group of Experts when it is completed for the United Nations in November. The Rwandan Government specifically deny it. The Group of Experts, in their interim report, suggest that those denials are not credible. I am not omniscient. You will have to read the Group of Experts’ report and make your own judgment.

Q40 Fiona O’Donnell: Given that you acknowledge you are not able to make a judgment before you see that final report, do you not think you should have waited for the final report before reinstating budget support? That is not support to NGOs or local charities, but do you not think you should have waited for that final report?

Mr Mitchell: No. Because of the way we have tightened the making of general budget support, because it is now tranched and the second tranche was due in December, it was right, in my judgment, on the basis of the principles laid down by the Prime Minister and agreed across Government, to release half the first tranche. It will be for my successor and the British Government to take a view about the second tranche on the back of the Group of Experts’ report. That could not have been done before. Under the last Government, all the money would be made available at the beginning of their financial year. It is only because of the changes we have made that we have been able to have a much tighter grip on the payment of general budget support.

Q41 Fiona O’Donnell: You said you did not receive any advice or pressure from other Governments when you took the decision to withhold budget support. Did you consult with any other donor countries before taking the decision to reinstate it?

Mr Mitchell: Officials did. We told a number of other countries what we were planning to do.

Q42 Fiona O’Donnell: What was their response?

Mr Mitchell: These are discussions that take place all the time. In terms of budget support, I spent much more time this year on the issue of Malawi, where there was a change of Government. These were counterparts I had known for up to seven years in some cases. We talk about these things all the time. We respect each other’s judgments and we do not always reach a collective view.

Q43 Fiona O’Donnell: What was their response? Did they support it or did they try to convince you otherwise?

Mr Mitchell: No other donor country tried to convince us. Officials talk all the time as well, and they were able to gauge reactions too.

Q44 Jeremy Lefroy: I would also like to place on the record that I have been helping to lead the small business project in Project Umubano for the last three years. I would like to talk about the sentence in your letter of 31 August where it says, "Reporting shows that practical support for the M23 has now ended." I realise that you cannot give details of where such reports would have from. Given the fact that MONUSCO is the biggest UN peacekeeping mission in the world and the UK is a permanent member of the Security Council and it comes under a Security Council mandate, I would imagine that the UK is privy to information on that mandate through its position on the Security Council. You also mentioned that the Deputy Commander is a UK General. We also have a strong DFID representation locally and the UK High Commission. Would I be right in thinking the reporting you received would have come from a mixture of those sources?

Mr Mitchell: You would be absolutely right, yes.

Jeremy Lefroy: So we are talking about sources that are, by all accounts, very credible.

Mr Mitchell: It is the combined wisdom of officials in the British Government.

Q45 Jeremy Lefroy: The statement that "practical support has now ended" implies that it had begun, was continuing, but has now ended. What practical support was being provided that you or the Government were aware of?

Mr Mitchell: I cannot answer that question. We were aware of allegations of practical support, which were being widely ventilated. As I say, there is a huge amount of allegation and counter allegation. That is why, it seems to me, that the sensible thing to do is wait for the interim report of the Group of Experts to turn into a final report that is accepted by the United Nations. That will give us the best view of questions like that.

Q46 Jeremy Lefroy: So in terms of the decision the UK Government came to at the end of August-that practical support had ended-was that based on very solid evidence from sources the UK Government at the time believed to be reliable?

Mr Mitchell: Yes.

Q47 Fiona Bruce: Could I also put on record that I have been involved in helping to lead the Project Umubano business project?

Could I just ask you why you made the decision, when you reinstated the £16 million aid, to split it between general and sector support? Did you consider, pending looking into the issue further, applying it all to sector support? Could you assist us by explaining what the position on the ground in Rwanda would have been had you removed the £8 million you decided to continue as general support? What would the impact have been if you had not applied that to the general budget support at that time?

Mr Mitchell: This goes back to my earlier point that, in changing the conditions of budget support, you endanger very important poverty programmes. I think that 6.5% of the budget support goes to support the Rwandan PAC and the Auditor General’s office. That is very important work and it shows the extent to which a large chunk of budget support is being used to build systems in Rwanda that are very important indeed in tackling corruption and promoting accountability. If you change budget support, you have to recognise the danger that you will not have an impact on the elite but you will degrade or damage very important poverty programmes. That is the balance. I remember Clare Short making the same point about Ethiopia after the 2005 election; there had been specific problems in the aftermath of the elections that Britain felt were intolerable.

You have to work out what you do to support, within the partnership principles, the pro-poor, poverty elimination programmes, but you also have to take account of the wider situation. In this circumstance that involves the wider situation in the DRC and the Kivus. That is the metric through which these decisions are made. As I say, they are profoundly consultative and are the decisions of the British Government.

Q48 Fiona Bruce: Clearly the sector support you have described, which would have been food security or education through targeted DFID programmes, would have involved a considerable degree of accountability and reporting back.

Mr Mitchell: There is a considerable degree of accountability in budget support. In any of these programmes, we have to be satisfied that we can follow the money.

Q49 Richard Burden: I just wanted to go back on the timeline a little bit. A number of other donors have either suspended or delayed their support to Rwanda in different forms. The European Union, as you said, released their budget support in September, but they have deferred two new programmes. The World Bank delayed seeking a board decision on its policy loan. The African Development Bank delayed a decision on a policy loan until after the World Bank board meets. The USA cut its military aid. The Netherlands and Germany have suspended budget support. Sweden does not provide budget support anyway but froze any projects they were providing to the Government. Those decisions have all been reported as a reaction to the leaked UN interim report. Is that your understanding of those decisions?

Mr Mitchell: Which decision?

Richard Burden: Those other donors deciding to delay or suspend their arrangements.

Mr Mitchell: I am not in a position to answer that; you must ask the other donors.

Q50 Richard Burden: I am asking for your understanding.

Mr Mitchell: I have no idea. The important point is that the EU and the US, which are two of the biggest, made no effective changes as a result of that.

Q51 Richard Burden: Well, Mr Mitchell, that is not true, is it? The USA suspended military-

Mr Mitchell: The EU made no change. It released budget support, as planned, in September. The US suspended military aid of $200,000.

Richard Burden: Yes, absolutely.

Mr Mitchell: That did not affect a $160 million programme on development. You have to get these things in proportion.

Q52 Richard Burden: I am not talking about the effectiveness of it.

Mr Mitchell: No, it is about the scale.

Q53 Richard Burden: They did delay the programme.

Mr Mitchell: Let’s be absolutely clear about this; let’s not have any unnecessary misunderstanding: $200,000 of military aid was suspended and cut by the US; the development programme of $160 million per annum has not been affected.

Q54 Richard Burden: That is not budget support.

Mr Mitchell: No, that is a huge development programme and much bigger than the $200,000 that was tied to military aid. Given the situation in the Kivus, it would have been surprising if they had not done something about the military aid.

Q55 Richard Burden: There are a lot of things that are surprising about this whole story. Is it your understanding that they made those decisions-I am not asking you to speak for them but I am asking about your understanding-in light of the leaked interim UN report? Did they make the decisions before you made your decision?

Mr Mitchell: The leaked UN report is a fact, so they would have been aware of that. The US then decided not to change their $160 million development programme. So I have no doubt that on the one hand they knew about it, but on the other hand they decided not to make a change. Perhaps the two things informed each other.

Q56 Richard Burden: Were those other decisions-World Bank, African Development Bank, USA on military aid, the Netherlands and Germany-made before or after your decision to suspend budget support?

Mr Mitchell: I cannot recall. As Mr Burden will be aware, the World Bank and the African Development Bank do not apply political conditionality to loans. That too is a factor in this. As to whether I knew about that decision when I helped make the decision for Britain, I cannot recall.

Q57 Richard Burden: The conditions the Prime Minister laid down were conditions imposed after the suspension; they were not there before.

Mr Mitchell: The delay in making the first of the two tranche payments was made in the way I described. The issue then was for how long to delay it and what to do. The Prime Minister’s three conditions and the decision on the timing point were made in respect of what to do with that delayed disbursement.

Q58 Richard Burden: So you made the decision to delay in July, after your discussions at the UN and your visit. Then, having delayed, two or three weeks after that the Prime Minister laid down conditions for what needed to happen in order for the delay to come to an end.

Mr Mitchell: Yes.

Q59 Richard Burden: So did anybody, either you or the Prime Minister, when you delayed in the first place, say to the Rwandan Government, "We are delaying this money because you are not doing this and this is what you have to do to get it reinstated," or was that an afterthought?

Mr Mitchell: If you recall, I mentioned the conversation I had with President Kagame on 28 July. It would be pretty clear from that conversation and from conversations the British High Commissioner in Kigali had with the Government of Rwanda that the British Government was concerned on the basis of the partnership principles. The partnership principles are the agreement we signed up to with Rwandans to govern general budget support. They were very clear about what our concerns were and what needed to happen for those concerns to be addressed. The three points the Prime Minister made in mid-August underlined that.

Q60 Richard Burden: So, essentially, were you saying to Kagame in July, "If you do not co-operate with the peace talks, we are going to suspend your budget support"? That is the only thing that really changed, wasn’t it?

Mr Mitchell: On behalf of the British Government, I was expressing concern about what was happening in the Kivus, the extent to which Rwanda may or may not have been involved, and making clear that we were looking for co-operation with the Museveni group and the other things I hope I have set out very clearly.

Q61 Richard Burden: The thing I just do not get about this is, if what you are saying is right about your reasons for reinstating the budget support and reallocating it, why did you suspend it in the first place?

Mr Mitchell: We were trying to discover what was actually happening and we had to go through these processes ourselves to reach a conclusion on what we should do. As I have explained on a number of occasions, the decision we came up with was an alteration of making the first tranche payment in full. So we delayed until we worked out the right thing to do. All the relevant parts of Government engaged to reach a conclusion on what was the best thing to do in these circumstances.

Q62 Richard Burden: So you suspended because you had worries and suspicions that were reinforced by your own visit to the Kivus. As a result of that, whilst things were being clarified, you delayed.

Mr Mitchell: Delayed, yes. Then when they were clarified, we made our decision.

Q63 Richard Burden: The picture you were looking at, which led you to have that concern about not knowing quite what was going on, was partly the discussion you had with the Rwandan Government, partly the evidence of your own eyes when you visited the Kivus, partly the discussions you had with other agencies and partly the leaked UN report. Those are the things that led to the delays.

Mr Mitchell: All of those things were part of it. Then I and officials in other parts of Government looked at all those things during the period in which the first tranche was suspended, reached our own evaluation, reached our conclusions, and made our decisions accordingly.

Q64 Richard Burden: This is the thing I do not get. When we have been asking you about a really key part of that, which is alleged support, before and ongoing, for M23 by the Government of Rwanda, what you appear to have said, unless I have misunderstood you, is that there were allegations there, Rwanda was denying it all the way through, and it looked like there was something there but it was difficult to put your finger on exactly what it was, and we will only know the result of that when the second UN report comes out-the final report.

Mr Mitchell: That will be the UN report, because the first one was an interim one. That will then enable my successor to make a decision on the second tranche.

Q65 Richard Burden: The question is: if you are only going to know the answer to that question then, and if not knowing the answer to that question before led you to delay aid, why did you reinstate aid before that second report had come out?

Mr Mitchell: I think I have been pretty clear about that, Mr Burden. The reason is that budget support enables the Government to fund propoor poverty programmes, which deliver value for money to the British taxpayer in terms of objectives we are seeking to pursue.

Q66 Richard Burden: But that was the case when you delayed it.

Mr Mitchell: Hang on. That is one of the factors determining whether and when you make budget support payments. Ideally, if we had not had these concerns, we would have been able to stick to the agreement and ensure we were able to make the payment on time. Unfortunately, that was not possible in the wider circumstances.

Chair: I think the difference of opinion is clear.

Q67 Mark Pritchard: Mr Mitchell, do you stand by your decision?

Mr Mitchell: Absolutely.

Q68 Jeremy Lefroy: As far as I can see, the reason for suspending budget support in the first place is to put pressure on a Government to change its ways. It is the same with sanctions on Iran: you want to make a change. By 31 August the Government believed from reports from reliable sources that there had been some changes, which enabled it to make some movement towards restoring partly direct budget support and partly sectoral budget support. Do you think the partial reward for having done this has led to any improvements since the end of August or beginning of September in the situation in Rwanda and the Kivus? Do you think this partial reward has had a positive effect on the situation? We are talking about people’s lives. The M23 is a terrible organisation that has been conducting-and probably continues to conduct-some pretty awful things in the Kivus. That is what we want to see stopped. Whatever support has been given to it should be stopped. In your assessment, has the decision made by the British Government had an influence on that?

Mr Mitchell: You are entirely right: the M23 is a mutiny and Britain and other countries take a very tough line on mutineers, particularly Rwanda. I have not seen the reports but my understanding is that the ceasefire has held, which is incredibly important for promoting security, particularly for women and children in this very troubled area. There are a myriad of lawless groups there, which, as a result of the M23, have proliferated. They have been recruiting, they have involvement with arming children, and there is deep instability across large parts of the Kivus as a result of this mutiny. If the ceasefire has held, that will have improved the security situation for some very vulnerable people there. The answer to your question will inform the British Government’s approach to the second tranche of budget support in December. In my judgment it is the right question and I am sure that will be at the heart of that decision.

Q69 Fiona O’Donnell: Mr Mitchell, you are appearing before the Committee this morning at your request.

Mr Mitchell: At my request? I was asked whether I would like to come and I willingly assented.

Fiona O’Donnell: That was not the account we were given.

Chair: He is here willingly, if that is what you are saying.

Fiona O’Donnell: Yes, so you have not been dragged here.

Mr Mitchell: No. You might have read that in the press but it was not correct.

Q70 Fiona O’Donnell: No, I did not; the Chair told the meeting that.

Mr Mitchell: I mean about my being dragged in front of the Committee.

Q71 Fiona O’Donnell: No, I did not see that. I have read some accounts but not that one.

I am sure you agree that it is right this Committee should take an interest in the process around how the decision was made and its transparency. However, also, at a time other Departments are facing cuts, this is an issue that the public increasingly takes an interest in. In defending some of the accusations that have been made against you as a "rogue Minister", you said that officials would never allow a Minister to behave in that way. There were 53 days between the issuing of the statement saying you were withdrawing aid and aid being reinstated.

Mr Mitchell: Not withdrawing: delaying.

Fiona O’Donnell: Yes, delaying-suspended. Thank you for correcting me. During those 53 days, did you have any conversations with President Kagame or any other Ministers or officials in the Rwandan Government that your civil servants were not party to? Were there any telephone conversations, text messages or emails that did not go through official routes?

Mr Mitchell: The conversations with Kagame are always listened in to and recorded by officials. That was the case then. The meetings I had in Rwanda are included in the note I gave you. The decisions we made on this were made with complete propriety. There is no question of any of what is behind your question taking place. Everything I have done in making this decision I did in consultation with my colleagues, with total propriety and in a way the Committee would expect.

On your point about the Committee taking an interest in this, I have always had an immense respect for the International Development Committee. The Chairman will confirm that I have always appeared when invited. I have certainly appeared in front of the Committee during my time as Secretary of State more than most secretaries of state would have done. I have nothing but respect for the work this Committee has done.

Q72 Fiona O’Donnell: So there is a clear audit trail over those 53 days of all communications between you and your officials and those in Rwanda should we wish to see it.

Mr Mitchell: Do you mean with Rwandan Government officials, so Ministers and officials?

Fiona O’Donnell: Yes.

Mr Mitchell: Yes, absolutely.

Q73 Fiona O’Donnell: That is reassuring. It is unfortunate that some of the allegations have been made at a time when we are all out trying to convince our constituents that aid is something that should be protected in this country and indeed increase. Why did you not register some of your personal interests in voluntary organisations and development work in Rwanda?

Mr Mitchell: Which organisations?

Fiona O’Donnell: The Conservative charity that has been referred to.

Mr Mitchell: Project Umubano? I was a volunteer.

Q74 Fiona O’Donnell: Just in terms of making sure you absolutely could not be said to have any personal favour, do you not think that would have been wise?

Mr Mitchell: Absolutely not. I had no involvement in the organisation of Project Umubano once I became the Secretary of State. Before I was the Secretary of State, since it started in 2007, every donation that Project Umubano received-not as a charity but as a political donation-was properly recorded.

Q75 Chair: Secretary of State, you were Shadow Minister for five years. You and the Prime Minister perfectly properly and honourably have invested a lot of commitment to Rwanda and personal engagement with the President. You will be aware that some of the press comments are suggesting not that it coloured your judgment but that you had such an investment in the country, in terms of the rapport and the engagement, that you clearly wanted to maintain that, and that other donors take a slightly more detached view. How do you respond to those kinds of allegations?

Mr Mitchell: Britain has a close relationship with Rwanda. That was very clear in Tony Blair’s relationship with Rwanda. The Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative started in Rwanda. Clare Short, when she was Secretary of State for International Development, gave priority to helping Rwanda following the appalling events of 1994 after she came into office in 1997. This is a close relationship between Britain and Rwanda. It is a relationship that is candid but has been pursued by the Labour Party and the Conservative Party when in Government.

Q76 Chair: So your view, as you have asserted very clearly, is that you have taken these decisions objectively, on the basis of information and with full consultation. All of that is on the record and understood. Why do you think, in those circumstances, all the other donors who took the decision to suspend it are still suspending it, at least pending the conclusion of the United Nations report?

Mr Mitchell: As I said, if you look at the donor position, we are pretty much in the middle of the pack. We have gone through what the EU and the US have done. Belgium has spoken out against the cutting or withholding of aid. The Netherlands and Germany suspended budget support. Sweden does not do any budget support. Other donor programmes have not been affected, including those of the United Nations, which are a very powerful part of that donor support. Britain is very much in the middle of the pack on that.

Q77 Chair: This was a specific allegation, but let’s be clear: it is against a background that goes back many years, with cross-border disputes, engagements and movements. When the Committee was in the DRC, there was a general view that Rwanda was always interfering. Of course, with the family links, it is a very fluid and porous border. On a more positive note: do you think this episode will have any material effect on the Rwandan Government’s recognition that they have to be seen to be much more proper and disengaged, or otherwise this very good relationship they have with donors will ultimately become prejudiced and prejudicial?

Mr Mitchell: That is correct. This year Rwanda has seen a much more difficult relationship with donors, including Britain, as these events make clear. I very much hope that will influence their thinking.

Q78 Chair: Thank you very much on behalf of the Committee.

Mr Mitchell: Could I just draw the Committee’s attention to the evidence the Permanent Secretary at DFID gave to the Public Accounts Committee on 24 October? I am sure the Committee will want to see the evidence, but I would just like to quote two pieces of what he said. He said, "What happened was that we were due in July to make a decision on the budget support release, and Andrew Mitchell delayed that decision until August. In July, having consulted across Government-this was not a decision just made in DFID; it was a shared decision-he told the Rwandan authorities a bunch of things that he wanted to happen before he made the release in August. August arrived-he was still in post-and he consulted his colleagues again, and he decided that he would release half the money and use half of it in another way. He said to the Rwandan authorities, ‘There is a bunch of other things that we think you need to do to normalise this situation.’"

In answer to a question on the reinstatement of budget support and whether it might be irregular or improper he said, "I was not concerned about that … I was satisfied that officials provided balanced, honest, objective advice, that there was crossGovernment discussion, and that Ministers reached a decision and communicated the decision. I had no regularity or propriety concerns."

Chair: That is on the record. Again, thank you very much for helping us with this inquiry. As you know, we will have the Secretary of State in front of us next week, so she will have the opportunity to comment on what you have said and give us some indication of how she is approaching the next tranche. Thank you very much indeed.

Mr Mitchell: Thank you very much, Sir Malcolm.

Prepared 30th November 2012