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Poor Countries

Volume 516: debated on Wednesday 13 October 2010

6. How much each of the three poorest countries in receipt of aid from his Department received in such aid in the last 12 months for which figures are available. (16520)

In 2009-10, the Department for International Development provided £13 million of bilateral aid to Burundi, £12 million to Liberia and £109 million to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Those figures were published in “Statistics on International Development” on 7 October. I will place a copy in the House of Commons Library. [Interruption.]

Order. There are far too many private conversations taking place in the Chamber. I want to hear the question from Mr Philip Hollobone.

Taxpayers in the Kettering constituency would like to know what steps my hon. Friend is taking to ensure that the poorest, most deserving countries receive most British aid, where British aid can make the biggest difference. Will he please tell them?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend because he makes an important point, not least following the recent Institute of Development Studies report, which states that the bottom billion reside as much in middle-income countries as in low-income countries. However, the key for us, as we go through our bilateral and multilateral aid review, is to measure and to design programmes that will carry the highest impact. The poorest countries of the world are where we can make the most impact with well-designed programmes and with great transparency, monitoring and evaluation.

If we are to meet our commitments, not just to the poorest countries but to the developing world as a whole, we must reach the 0.7% aid target by 2013. Will the Minister assure the House that he and the Secretary of State will fight to ensure that the comprehensive spending review means year-on-year progress to the 2013 target? We have asked before, but can he now tell us when the Government will introduce legislation to make the target binding?

First, may I take this opportunity to welcome the hon. Gentleman to his post and congratulate him on his appointment? We are committed to ensuring not only that we get to 0.7%, but that we introduce legislation as and when we have had the opportunity to finalise the work on it. He can be assured that, as we run up to the CSR announcement, he should have, I hope, something to look forward to. However, he will have to wait for the precise details at that time and during the days immediately thereafter.

Is the Minister concerned by how little of the aid that we spend through the EU goes to the poorest countries in the world, given that less than half the EU aid budget goes to lower-income countries and that some of the largest recipients of EU aid are countries that we would not normally consider poor? Could we not get more money to poorer people and poorer countries if we spent through our own Department, rather than through the EU?

I thank my hon. Friend for his important question, because a considerable amount of our aid budget does indeed go through the EU. However, that is as subject to the multilateral aid review as any other part of our programme. The question that he raises will be closely examined during that process. Indeed, I shall be going to meet like-minded European Ministers later today and spending time in Brussels on Friday, so I will be able to take his message directly to those who are engaged in that programme.