HC Deb 16 February 1999 vol 325 cc726-7
10. Dr. Nick Palmer (Broxtowe)

What steps he is taking to support the Palestinian Authority in developing a sound economy. [69429]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Derek Fatchett)

We actively support the Palestinian economy through an extensive programme of bilateral aid and our contribution to EC aid programmes. We announced last November that we shall provide over £50 million in bilateral aid during the next three years. That aid will not only help to develop health and infrastructure facilities and support refugees, but provide technical support for training economic experts for the technical assistance unit of the Palestinian Authority. That brings our total bilateral aid since the signature of the Oslo accords to £122 million.

Dr. Palmer

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the success of the Palestinian Authority in providing what is perceived to be clean and successful government is very much in the interests of all the countries in the area? Will he urge all those concerned, including the United States, to facilitate the access of Palestinian goods to world markets as a contribution to that success?

Mr. Fatchett

My hon. Friend raises two points. First, it is important, as he rightly says, that the Palestinian Authority is transparent and accountable, and it is important for donor countries that there is clear accountability in the use of aid. Secondly, the best way forward for the Palestinian economy is to be able to trade with the rest of the world, and we should like such opportunities to open up for the Palestinians.

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield)

I welcome that answer, but is the Minister aware that, since the authority's formation, Palestinians' annual income per capita has fallen from $1,700 a few years ago to $1,400? Is he aware that that is partly due to the corruption in the Palestinian Authority? Is he aware that, among all the squalor in the area, some 100 families are building large villas, almost palaces? What can the Government do to ensure that corruption is stamped out and that aid from the United Kingdom and the European Union gets to the people that we are trying to help?

Mr. Fatchett

It is crucial that there is transparency in the use of UK and European Commission aid, and we shall continue to argue for that. Since the Oslo accords, the living standards of the average Palestinian have declined. We need to address the crucial questions in the middle east relating to the peace process and we have to give Palestinians the belief that peace will bring prosperity. I hope that the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority recognise the commitments that they have made under the Wye River accords and that they honour them and implement them in full.

Dr. Phyllis Starkey (Milton Keynes, South-West)

May I take up my right hon. Friend's previous answer and ask him what pressure the Government are putting on the Israeli Government to implement the Wye River accords and not to put them on hold until after the general election? Those accords were made with the state, not with whichever party happens to be in government.

Mr. Fatchett

My hon. Friend is absolutely correct—the agreement was made on behalf of the state of Israel. There is no opt-out clause stating that the agreement should be put on hold while a general election takes place. It is our strong belief that the commitments made by both parties under the Wye River accords should be implemented in full and we call on the Palestinians and the Israelis to do just that.

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