HC Deb 24 November 2000 vol 357 cc345-6W
Helen Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the Assistance to Support Stability with In-Service Training programme; and what changes to the programme are planned. [137177]

Mr. Vaz

[pursuant to his reply, 6 November 2000, c. 51 W]: An administrative error led to an omission in my answer of 6 November to my hon. Friend. The correct answer should read as follows:

The ASSIST programme was established on 1 April 1998 to replace the UK Military Training Assistance Scheme (UKMTAS), with the main purpose of re-focusing support to the Government's priority of promoting respect for human rights and good governance.

The ASSIST expenditure for 1999–2000 was £8.95 million which was spent in accordance with FCO priorities for engagement with the armed forces and law enforcement agencies in a broad range of countries. All expenditure was compatible with the ASSIST criteria.

Examples of projects funded from ASSIST include:

  • Regional Peace Support Operations training for senior and junior military officers from over 20 African countries;
  • Courses for Indian police trainers to promote best practice in ethical dealing with women, victims of violence, and ethnic related incidents;
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  • A joint exercise involving British, Jamaican and other Caribbean Defence personnel and elements of the Jamaican police force to enhance peacekeeping skills, promote democratic policing methods and respect for human rights;
  • Assistance to reduce stockpiles of ex-Soviet military equipment in Moldova;
  • The secondment of a UK police officer to the Royal Nepalese Police Academy to develop the Academy's human rights training programme.
  • English Language Training in countries throughout Central and Eastern Europe as well as in Guatemala, Vietnam and Mozambique.

Following an evaluation of the performance of the ASSIST programme, minor revisions to the criteria have been introduced. The changes continued the process of redirecting expenditure towards a wider range of training and assistance for military, law enforcement agencies and civilian bodies. The need for a strong emphasis on human rights in all ASSIST projects remains.

These changes:

  • allow the funding of some classroom based training equipment within projects;
  • allow the specific inclusion of Customs, border guards, prison officers within the range of eligible recipients of ASSIST funded training;
  • provide increased flexibility to support the fight against drugs and international crime.

A copy of the revised ASSIST criteria has been placed in the Library.