HC Deb 08 November 2001 vol 374 c364
13. Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion)

What the additional expenditure has been on (a) humanitarian aid and (b) military action in Afghanistan and surrounding countries since 11 September. [11341]

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Paul Boateng)

The Chancellor has made it clear that the Government will meet the costs of measures related to our response to international terrorism while continuing to deliver our spending plans within the fiscal rules. Additions to departmental expenditure limits will be announced to Parliament via parliamentary answers in the usual way. It would be inappropriate to give detailed figures about the costs of military operations and related activities at this relatively early stage. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development has announced humanitarian aid worth £66 million to benefit refugees in Afghanistan and in the surrounding countries.

Mr. Thomas

I thank the Minister for his reply and hope that we see the figures as soon as possible. May I draw his attention to the World Bank report published this morning? It talks of billions of dollars being dedicated to the reconstruction of Afghanistan and of the need to establish an international trust fund to oversee and co-ordinate that work. Is the Minister aware that it will cost $3 billion to reconstruct the west bank and Gaza over the next two years? Does he agree that it would be better to spend money on reconstruction rather than destruction?

Mr. Boateng

The sum of $700 million was pledged by the international community and international institutions to meet the challenges of the crisis in Afghanistan. We are working with our international partners not only in the European Union, but in the United Nations, to meet the scale of the crisis.

I think that all recognise our contribution—not just the £66 million to which I referred the hon. Gentleman, but the assistance we are giving to Pakistan specifically through writing off some £20 million of debt to the Commonwealth Development Corporation. All that is designed to ensure that our response is a generous one that meets the needs and challenges of these times.