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Malawi: Foreign Relations

Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs written question – answered on 29th November 2011.

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Photo of Ben Gummer Ben Gummer Conservative, Ipswich

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the relationship between the UK and the Government of Malawi.

Photo of Henry Bellingham Henry Bellingham The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Britain and the Government of Malawi maintain formal diplomatic relations. But the relationship remains strained, following the Government of Malawi's unwarranted and unjustified decision to expel the British high commissioner, Mr Fergus Cochrane-Dyet, in April. In response to this action, the British Government expelled Malawi's acting high commissioner. Officials also carried out a review of the full range of the Britain's relations with Malawi, the results of which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs announced to the House in a written statement on 14 July, Hansard, column 46WS. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development, my right hon. Friend Mr Mitchell, has also suspended General Budget Support to the Government of Malawi, due to our serious concerns about the Government of Malawi's record on economic and political governance, public financial management, and human rights.

Despite the strain in our relationship with the Government of Malawi, Britain's commitment to the people of Malawi remains undiminished. We are seeking to maintain planned levels of assistance from Britain to Malawi this year, and officials at the Department for International Development are reallocating the full amount originally set aside for General Budget Support to programmes that directly assist the poor. As evidence of this commitment, we have recently announced increased support for fertiliser and seeds, together with Norway and Ireland, to ensure food security for the poor people of Malawi.

A delegation from the Government of Malawi, led by Foreign Minister Professor Peter Mutharika, visited London on 12 October for talks with the Foreign Secretary, the Under-Secretary of State, Department for International Development and me. We discussed the normalisation of diplomatic relations between Britain and Malawi, and the deteriorating political and economic situation in Malawi. We emphasised to the Malawian delegation that we would appoint a new high commissioner to Malawi only when we could be confident that he or she would have full and unfettered freedom to engage not only with the Government of Malawi but with all political voices, whether or not they are sympathetic to the Government of Malawi, including the press and civil society. The appointment of a high commissioner remains under review. Similarly, the Under-Secretary insisted that General Budget Support would remain suspended until we saw concrete progress from the Government of Malawi in addressing our concerns over economic management, governance and human rights. We will continue to monitor the situation in Malawi closely.

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