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Russian Federation

Volume 510: debated on Wednesday 2 June 2010

3. What his Department's policy is on the provision of aid to the Russian Federation; and if he will make a statement. (443)

DFID’s bilateral project work in Russia totalled £1.5 million in 2009-10 and is estimated to be some £1.4 million in 2010-11. The new Government will wind down bilateral spending in Russia as soon as is practical and responsible.

I thank the Minister for his response and offer my congratulations to him on his position. Those of us who have been involved in our commercial careers in Russia would certainly agree that giving aid to such a prominent G8 country could risk confidence in the aid programme as a whole, but Russia still has a long way to go in developing a full civil society. Will the Minister look at how non-governmental organisations in Russia working towards civil society might be encouraged to do their job?

I thank my hon. Friend for his kind words. I am well aware of his work in the past on the know how fund and I appreciate his continuing interest in the matter. As I said, we intend to wind down bilateral aid to Russia in an orderly way. Ministers and officials regularly discuss with Russia both bilaterally and as part of the EU a range of issues, including human rights and freedom of expression. We remain committed to maintaining our dialogue with Russia as a donor colleague in the global effort to provide good quality aid.

Further to that answer, will my hon. Friend also consider moving the aid that has been going to Russia to Russia’s former satellites in central Asia? For example, in Tajikistan more than 1 million people are living on less than $1 a day, and five years on from the Andijan massacre, Uzbekistan is desperately in need of help for rebuilding civil society and democratisation.

As I said, we intend to wind down bilateral aid to Russia in an orderly way, and we are carrying out a review of all bilateral programmes so that we can better prioritise the United Kingdom’s development assistance. At this stage in the review, I cannot make commitments to increase aid in the areas that my hon. Friend proposes, but I am happy to take his comments on board.

I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his post. A moment ago he mentioned raising the issue of human rights with the Russians. He will be aware of the disgraceful and homophobic comments of the mayor of Moscow in his various attempts to ban gay rights marches in Moscow. What message can the Minister take to the Russians and to all the recipients of UK aid money that such disgraceful homophobic attacks and oppression will not be tolerated?

The hon. Gentleman may be surprised to know that that is the one homophobic comment of which I had not been fully aware. I am usually well on top of these matters. We take human rights issues in Russia very seriously and they will continue to be an important part of the dialogue between our diplomats and members of the Foreign Office and our Russian counterparts.