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Volume 557: debated on Wednesday 30 January 2013

There is a serious humanitarian situation in Mali, with over 360,000 displaced people since March 2012. We do not give bilateral development aid directly to the Government of Mali, but we provide significant assistance to the region through the World Bank, EU and other multilaterals.

I thank the Minister for that response. My constituents usually recognise the great contribution that our aid budget and programme makes, but they also have concerns about the effectiveness of that spending. Will the Minister confirm that in crisis situations, such as that in Mali, money is being spent effectively and will deliver massively good outcomes that I can be proud of?

My hon. Friend raises an important point. British people who support our aid and development programme need to know that money is being spent effectively and I can give him the assurance he seeks. Even in the crisis situation in Mali, agencies in receipt of our humanitarian support are tried and trusted, neutral and impartial humanitarian organisations with a history of effective operations in the most challenging of environments.

Is not Mali a tragic of example of instability and conflict rushing in where democracy breaks down, as so often happens? In this case, that has threatened Mali’s security. Does the situation not further underpin the importance of focused and intelligent aid to support democracy in the developing world?

My hon. Friend is entirely right. Where instability and conflict reign, into such ungoverned space come threats, not only to those in Mali but to the wider world, including the UK. That is why the territorial integrity of Mali must be protected, democratic government restored, terrorism dealt with, and the humanitarian situation addressed. My hon. Friend seeks assurance. We are providing considerable aid support through the UN, the EU and other agencies to promote increased economic resilience across the Sahel, including Mali.

Is the Minister satisfied with the distribution of aid in northern Mali, and particularly in those parts that have been retaken? Have the Government had any discussions with their French counterparts? [Interruption.]

Order. Far too many noisy conversations are taking place on the Opposition Benches. We are discussing extremely serious matters of life and death.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. If I heard correctly, the right hon. Gentleman’s question was about whether we can access those areas. Health non-governmental organisations are still operating in some hospitals and health centres in northern Mali, although NGOs and aid agencies have in some cases been forced to suspend their outreach work temporarily for security reasons. They want to carry out an assessment in the inaccessible areas. Humanitarian agencies are waiting to return to conduct those assessments so that we can respond to those needs. At the moment, they are pretty much confined to the accessible areas.

Although every country has its particular circumstances, everyone knows that the underlying problems that have led to the situation in Mali could exist in many other countries in west Africa. Will the Government agree to make an international effort on a long-term basis to provide support and development for countries in west Africa a major focus of their G8 presidency, and particularly of the summit in Northern Ireland later this year?

I appreciate that desire, but it is not possible to do everything at the G8 that everyone would wish us to do. However, the hon. Gentleman is right. The only solution in the end is a long-term, measured and intelligent political solution.