HC Deb 14 March 2001 vol 364 cc1009-10
5. Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby)

What assistance her Department is giving to Vietnam. [152213]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. Chris Mullin)

Our programme in Vietnam is currently worth just over £5 million a year and is scheduled to increase significantly over the next three years, in recognition of the Vietnamese Government's commitment to poverty reduction and social equity. Rural development is the Government's highest priority for donor support, and many of our programmes reflect that. In addition we make a substantial contribution to the main multilateral aid programmes, and we work closely with other donors.

Mr. Wareing

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. During a recent visit that I made to Vietnam, people expressed appreciation of Britain's support for flood victims in the Mekong delta. The media in Vietnam highlighted the fact that Britain was top of the European Union league in giving assistance. The Department should be congratulated on that. However, much more needs to be done, especially to strengthen the infrastructure and to support policies that help to absorb a larger proportion of the rural population into the towns. Will the Minister assure us that that is uppermost in his mind?

Mr. Mullin

I thank my hon. Friend for the reported comments about our aid in the Mekong delta; I am glad that it was appreciated. Reducing migration from the countryside to the cities is a problem in all developing countries. The best way in which to achieve it is to help the rural poor to develop sustainable life styles and to raise their standard of living so that they do not feel the pressure to migrate to the cities. The Department for International Development and several non-governmental organisations are currently funding programmes that are designed to do that in poor, rural areas of Vietnam.

I have visited an Oxfam project in Ky An province in the centre of the country, which is regularly hit by typhoons. The project helps to strengthen dykes to protect rice paddies and enable people to derive a living from their land.

Mr. Andrew Rowe (Faversham and Mid-Kent)

The Department has rightly set its heart on operating with partners and other countries, especially in Vietnam. Its sector-wide approach is interesting and means conducting a close relationship with the Government of Vietnam. Does the Minister believe that those objectives are best served by having DFID's regional office in Bangkok?

Mr. Mullin

That was reviewed some time ago. Several minor changes were made, but it was concluded that the advantages of having a regional office for our programme in south-east Asia, which covers about half a dozen countries, outweighed disadvantages in, for example, cost efficiency.

The hon. Gentleman visited Vietnam recently, and he knows that three DFID officials are based in Hanoi. They have day-to-day responsibility for our aid programme in Vietnam.

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