HC Deb 29 April 1998 vol 311 c313
3. Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley)

If she will make a statement on her Department's involvement in the Russian resettlement project for retraining unemployed former Soviet army officers in Russia. [39060]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. George Foulkes)

The Department for International Development has no involvement in the Russian resettlement project. The Government have spent £3.6 million since 1991 on the retraining of Russian military officers, but that is primarily through the Ministry of Defence. We also contribute to the cost of retraining through the European Community's TACIS programme. The Department provides support to help the Russian transition through the know-how fund.

Mr. Hoyle

That answer was comprehensive, but we know that £496,000 from the know-how fund has been channelled into the retraining of Russian officers. Would not that money be better spent on retraining warlords and on ending poverty in third-world countries?

Mr. Foulkes

The two projects that used money from the know-how fund to resettle and retrain former officers in Russia ended in October 1994 and March 1997 respectively. Effective demobilisation and restructuring of armed forces is vital to development. In Sierra Leone, for example, the coup—and the consequent poverty and tragedy—would have been averted if such a programme had been implemented.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

May I point out that British Government assistance for the resettlement and retraining of former Soviet officers is at least as important in the Baltic states of Estonia and Latvia as it is in the Russian Federation? Will the Minister assure us that if his Department, on behalf of the Government, examine the matter in future, it will give sympathetic consideration to the resettlement and training of former Soviet officers in the Baltic states?

Mr. Foulkes

It may be more appropriate for that to be done under the PHARE programme, but we would certainly consider any sensible proposal that fell within the know-how fund's terms of reference.