HC Deb 12 May 1993 vol 224 cc798-9
13. Mr. Peter Ainsworth

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the effect on United Kingdom policy of the result of the recent referendum in Russia.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

We have warmly welcomed the outcome of last month's referendum in Russia. Our policy remains one of firm support for the continuation of economic and democratic reforms. This policy has now been endorsed by the Russian electorate.

Mr. Ainsworth

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the sheer scale of the support shown by the Russian people for Boris Yeltsin and the programme of reforms gives a tremendous boost to international confidence in the long-term future of Russia? Does he also agree that in the near term substantial aid will be necessary to help the difficult process of economic transformation? Will he therefore comment on the quantity and quality of Britain's aid to Russia?

Mr. Hogg

My hon. Friend is right. He will know that last month my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary announced a doubling of United Kingdom direct bilateral grant aid, together with a doubling of Export Credits Guarantee Department cover. Our total commitment to Russia is of the order of $1.7 billion. Referring to the quality of the aid, the United Kingdom's know-how fund is second to none as a mechanism for the delivery of technical know-how.

Mr. Cryer

If the Minister welcomes a referendum in Russia to clarify the position, why does he not take the same view of a referendum in the United Kingdom on the Maastricht treaty? It would clarify the position, and involve the people of the United Kingdom in determining whether to go ahead with this wretched treaty or reject it. If the people of Russia can have a democratic vote, why not the people of the United Kingdom?

Mr. Hogg

I have always known that the hon. Gentleman has a personality difficulty when it comes to judging things in relation to other things. He obviously equates the congress in Russia, which was elected under the Gorbachev regime, with this place. I do not, and I am sorry that he does.