Since 1991, the United Kingdom has committed almost £400 million in bilateral help for Russia to support political and economic reform. We have also contributed one sixth of the EC's assistance programmes.
As I recently visited Russia in the company of Lord Healey, will the Minister accept from me that the reports of Russia's economic crisis are certainly not exaggerated and that the crisis is considerably worsened by the political paralysis there? Does he agree with the view of the German Foreign Minister, Klaus Kinkel, that international aid needs to be increased radically if Russia's economic reforms are to have any chance of success? Will the Minister accept the view of the French Government that an emergency meeting of the G7 countries should take place to organise that effort?
The Government strongly support President Yeltsin's economic and political reforms, which are going through an extremely difficult period. The G7 countries are urgently considering how best to demonstrate support for President Yeltsin, both politically and substantially, and that includes consideration of meetings at some stage in the early future.
Russia will, for example, receive the lion's share of our know-how fund, worth £100 million over the next six years, £13 million of which has been used in Russia so far with many projects now in the pipeline.
Will the Minister accept that whatever the needs of Russia are, the need of sub-Saharan Africa, which contains two thirds of the world's poorest 50 countries, is far greater? Why, then, does he propose a large real-terms increase in British aid to Russia and to eastern Europe at the expense of a large real-terms cut in British aid to Africa? Why does he also propose to triple the proportion of British aid that is channelled through the European Community over the next five years when EC aid policy does not concentrate on the poorest countries, but prioritises eastern Europe and when Commissioner Marin, the Spanish EC aid Commissioner, is now downgrading Africa in favour of Spanish-speaking Latin American countries?
The hon. Gentleman should accept—as he never will—that the increase this year in aid generally to the poor world is 1 per cent. in real terms. Our contributions to European Community aid are determined by our share of European Community aid and are not for decision by the British Government in the first instance.