Wednesday, 5 December 2007

DFID questions

I've just returned to office from PMQs, which was preceded this week by International Development questions. The Tories' front bench spokesman, Andrew Mitchell, had the temerity to attack us for not giving enough aid to Burma.

Fact: we've just announced we'll be doubling aid to Burma over the next CSR period, bringing it up to £18 million. This puts us on a trajectory to quadruple aid by 2013, as recommended by the International Development Select committee following its recent visit to Burma.

In 1997, when Labour took office, how much was the UK giving in aid to Burma? £250,000. And in 1991/2, it was a pitiful £53,000.

As everyone knows, or should know, not all the questions that appear on the Order Paper are the product of MPs' fertile imaginations. Some are what may be described as "inspired" questions - i.e. inspired by someone else! For DFID questions this week, the Tory whips had once again been busy. Two out of the top five questions were Tories asking for a statement on Burma, and another two were Tories asking for a statement on Zimbabwe. They've been pushing these issues at DFID and FCO questions for months now, and don't seem interested in much else. (I have my theories as to why this is....)

Although they're both obviously important topics, it does get a bit frustrating - there have been debates in the main Chamber on Zimbabwe and Burma recently, and there's a three hour Westminster Hall debate on Burma tomorrow. It would have been good to have got on to the next few questions, on issues like climate change (with the Bali conference underway), HIV/ AIDS (coming a few days after World AIDS day), and democracy in Somaliland.

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