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Volume 526: debated on Wednesday 30 March 2011

3. What estimate he has made of the likely change in the level of official development assistance to Lesotho following the closure of his Department’s bilateral aid programme in that country. (49663)

The DFID bilateral programme in Lesotho has delivered impressive results in, for example, reducing HIV prevalence in Lesotho’s important garment factories from 37% to 27% in just three years. Notwithstanding the planned closure of our bilateral aid programme, we will continue to provide some £10 million in aid each year to Lesotho through multilateral channels. Our assessments indicate that official development assistance to Lesotho is likely to grow substantially in the years ahead.

Churches in my constituency have a link with Lesotho that goes back many years. I recently met a delegation from Lesotho in Durham who told me of their grave concerns about the Government’s decision to stop bilateral aid. Would the Minister be willing to meet a delegation from Durham to discuss how Lesotho can continue to be supported by the international community?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her question, because I know that the Durham-Lesotho link has been an important, effective and long-standing connection of support between the two Anglican dioceses. The bilateral programme is very small, and many multilateral channels will remain available. We believe that they will grow, and that is where the future of Lesotho’s better development will be derived. I would be more than happy to meet a delegation of her constituents to explore how this approach can be additive, rather than negative, which is what she is worried about.

The UK will soon be spending 0.7% of GDP on international development. Following the recent review all of DFID’s money is committed, so if people want more money spent somewhere in the international development framework, it behoves them to explain where they want that money taken from in the DFID budget. We cannot have continuous requests for more and more spending unless people are prepared to acknowledge where they want spending reduced.

My hon. Friend makes an important point, particularly in relation to bilateral programmes. Of course, opportunities are provided through challenge funds, not least the global poverty action fund, and other funds that are available for those with an interest to continue to apply to. That will allow them not least to influence the way in which the multilaterals deploy their resources to which we contribute.