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Volume 546: debated on Tuesday 19 June 2012

I visited Bangladesh at the end of May. In conversations with the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and the leader of the opposition, I was able to stress how important it is to have free and fair elections with full political party participation by early 2014. Improving human rights, democracy and the rule of law—all foundations of political stability—are key parts of the UK’s development assistance programme there.

I thank the Minister for his reply, but does he agree with me that the British Bangladeshi community could do a great deal more to help with this process, rather than adding fuel to the divisions, as is sometimes the case?

My hon. Friend has made an important point. It is true that Bangladeshi political culture is very confrontational. The stand-off between the leaders of the major parties is very deep and very bitter, and in my time in Bangladesh I encountered many people who believed that the country—which is doing very well in many respects—would do better if there were a more co-operative political process. I think that the diaspora in the United Kingdom could indeed play a part in that.