However, Malawi’s future needs to move beyond a heavy reliance on aid. Malawi must stimulate the creation of growth, markets, jobs and incomes for all its citizens, as the noble Lord pointed out. To that end, the UK is supporting Malawi’s economic development. We are working to improve the business-enabling environment, and the diversification and development of Malawi’s export market. We support smallholder farmers to diversify their production. We are helping to connect these farmers at local markets in Malawi to regional markets.

The new Government now have an opportunity to address the issues which have long held Malawi back from the most sustained growth and progress. They have an opportunity to set a strong vision for poverty reduction and to implement essential reforms to public financial management and the civil service, necessary to restore the confidence of the Malawian people and investors. I welcome those who are attending the debate today. They have an opportunity to rebalance the Malawian economy from one heavily supported by

23 Oct 2014 : Column 858

donors and reliant on the state to one more driven by private-sector investment and entrepreneurship.

The people of Malawi have seen past Governments promise much but fail to deliver. The new Government will want to show that they are different by working hard to deliver real change for all their citizens. This is what we want to see.

We welcome the first signs from the Government that they are serious. We welcome the civil service and public service reform commission, the President’s stated commitment to zero tolerance on corruption and the fiscal discipline prioritised in the recent budget.

The noble Lord, Lord McConnell—indeed all three noble Lords—flagged up the issue of visas. We are very keen for Malawians to be able to travel to the United Kingdom. We have alternative payment methods for those who do not have credit cards. This was an issue that was mentioned. Poorly paid people from Malawi are not discriminated against in applying for visas. There is no income threshold. I hope that it reassures noble Lords that 84% of applicants processed in Pretoria are successful. About 1,400 visas were issued last year.

The noble Lord, Lord McConnell, was critical of our online system. A recent IT upgrade has improved this capacity by about 33%. I will of course pass on to my colleagues in the Home Office the comments made in this debate. I note that there will be a future debate in the other place. I hope that I can also reassure noble Lords that these are areas that of course we will keep under review to balance the costs of our process and its purpose, and at the same time encourage visits.

We value our relationship with Malawi and Malawians. It is a country with such a bright future. We are closely engaged in trying to ensure that it can deliver that bright future for the people of Malawi, whose level of poverty has been made extremely clear in this debate.

The United Kingdom, which I am extremely glad also includes Scotland, has been a long-standing supporter of the people and communities in Malawi. While working hard to protect all UK taxpayers’ money, we will continue to provide much-needed continued assistance for sustained improvements in poor people’s lives.

House adjourned at 5.36 pm.