Afghanistan

International Development written question – answered on 30th March 2006.

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Photo of Adam Price Adam Price Spokesperson (Defence; Transport; Economy & Taxation; Miners Compensation; Regeneration; Trade & Industry)

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development whether the British Government has honoured agreements reached with farmers in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, regarding the payment of compensation in return for the eradication of poppy crops.

Photo of Kim Howells Kim Howells Minister of State (Middle East), Foreign & Commonwealth Office

I have been asked to reply.

No recent representations have been made by local community leaders in Helmand Province to the British embassy in Afghanistan regarding the non-payment of compensation for poppy eradication. However, I am aware of claims by the Senlis Council on this subject. As my right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary told the House on 27 March 2006, Hansard, columns 529–31, the Senlis Council campaigns for the legalisation of opium production in Afghanistan on the grounds that it might be used for medicinal purposes. Neither the Government of Afghanistan nor the UK believe that legal cultivation would be viable in the present situation in Afghanistan.

The programme of compensated eradication in 2002 was led by the Afghan Transitional Authority who considered it appropriate to offer a one-off programme of payments to opium farmers on the basis that the poppy crop had been planted during the Taliban regime, before the current regime came to power. The UK provided financial assistance worth £21.25 million to support the new regime's commitment to tackle drugs production, but it was the responsibility of the Afghan authorities to administer the system of payments with farmers. The Government did not set up a bank account for this purpose. Compensated eradication was never seen as a long-term solution to drug control and does not form part of the present Afghan government's National Drug Control Strategy.

We are aware of reports that UK funds for compensated eradication may have been misused in the past. The Government take all reasonable measures to guard against fraud and financial irregularity in the use of public funds. All public expenditure, including that in respect of counter narcotics work in Afghanistan, is subject to the established scrutiny procedures of parliamentary committees and the National Audit Office.

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