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Iraq: UK Aid

Volume 711: debated on Thursday 11 June 2009


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many new schools, hospitals and bridges in Basra have been funded by United Kingdom aid since 2003.

My Lords, in the immediate aftermath of the war, the UK completed over 650 projects to refurbish schools, hospitals and bridges in Basra. We have also given £250 million to the UN and the World Bank, some of which has been used to build schools, hospitals and bridges across Iraq. However, the UK Government have been clear that in the long run it was more effective for us to help the Iraqis best use their own resources to fund reconstruction. With our support, the Basra provincial council has spent a further $58 million on schools and hospitals in Basra.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Answer. However, since 2003, despite HMG pledging £744 million, of which £540 million from DfID was meant to go towards the rebuilding of Iraq, plus a visit by the noble Lord, Lord Mandelson, the Deputy Prime Minister, with 23 big British companies, few British firms have invested beyond the oil and gas giants and few schools, hospitals or bridges have been built. Why have HMG not checked on the funds and the reconstruction instead of subcontracting to local Iraqis, many of whom, it was reported, have creamed off millions of the aid money? That report has been repeated today on the BBC website. Can the Minister give a breakdown of the figures and tell the House what the Government have actually achieved?

My Lords, it is at moments like this when I feel really pleased about the fact that I am giving up the DfID brief. Efforts by the British Government have put together commitments up to $10 billion at recent conferences through the Basra Development Commission. Some $1 billion has already been committed for inward investment. We do not take the noble Baroness’s view on the diversion of funds. Our detailed appraisal of projects in Iraq found one instance of fraud in the Southern Iraq Employment and Services Programme during the extremely difficult period of 2004-05 when security deteriorated quickly and DfID was unable to undertake the usual monitoring of how funds were spent.

My Lords, the noble Lord will have noticed the UN Secretary-General’s warm commendation of the British and European Union contribution to the International Reconstruction Fund Facility in Iraq, but as the contributions to that fund come to an end at the end of this month, what is the United Kingdom doing under the alternative UN development assistance framework, which is now being evolved?

My Lords, I do not have the precise details of that involvement but, broadly speaking, we support the UN’s approaches. We are very strongly of the view that Iraq, which has the third biggest oil reserves in the world, will fund its own development. The problem is that Iraq is extremely difficult to do business with. We are trying to help it and, through the UN, build its capacity to do business with the rest of the world.