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Nuclear Weapons

Volume 468: debated on Wednesday 5 December 2007

Decisions on the allocation of UK development assistance are made with the primary objective of poverty reduction. Possession of nuclear weapons does not preclude countries from this process. However, we will consider reducing or interrupting aid if a country is in significant violation of either human rights or other international obligations.

Will the Secretary of State confirm that our bilateral aid programme includes aid to India, Pakistan, Russia and China, all of which are nuclear weapons states. Two of those countries have not signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, so will he in future make British aid conditional on all countries living up to their nuclear non-proliferation obligations?

DFID actually closed its bilateral development assistance programme in Russia in March 2007 and our bilateral programme with China is due to end in 2011. It is the case that sustained high levels of poverty are still afflicting India, which is the subject of our largest bilateral programme. Our determining factor is, of course, the level of poverty and what work can be done to address the challenge of alleviating it. That is why I do not anticipate making the changes that the right hon. Gentleman suggests in respect of either Pakistan or India.

Is the Secretary of State aware that when some of us visited India earlier this year, it was confirmed that 1,000 people a day die of tuberculosis? Some fine examples of DFID’s help turned out to be very impressive, so can my right hon. Friend think of any reason why those poor hapless people should be doubly penalised because of the policies of their Government?

As so often in such discussions of international development, I find myself in agreement with my right hon. Friend. Eighty per cent. of the population of India today are living in conditions of poverty or of absolute poverty. That is why we are called on to act to show our support for the poverty reduction efforts of the Government of India. That is why we will continue to support the Indian people on their journey towards development, and why I would reject the apparent suggestion made by Conservative Members.

But should not our aid policy, which is important in its own right, also be seen as a lever of our foreign diplomacy? When a Government take a course of action with which we strongly disagree—whether it be acquiring nuclear weapons or locking up innocent British citizens—should we not at the very least discuss with those countries the reduction of our aid budget so that the country’s Government will change course? Is that not one way of using our aid budget effectively?

I am not inclined to take lectures from the Conservative party on using international aid money effectively, given the experience of the Pergau dam and the tied aid that was provided, and the year-on-year cuts delivered to international development under the Government who were in power until 1997. Since 1997, we have untied the aid that was tied under the Conservative party; we have increased the aid that was cut under the Conservative party; and we have legislated in this House for the International Development Act 2002. If the hon. Gentleman is now suggesting that the policy of international development should simply be an instrument of British foreign policy, perhaps that is a matter that he would like to discuss with those on his own Front Bench.