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MPs want conditions on foreign aid

Fragile and war-torn countries should lose British aid if their governments flout agreements made with the UK, a committee of MPs has declared.

The International Development Committee said it was right for the Government to increase the amount of aid to states in a delicate position, highlighting the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.

The Department for International Development (DFID) is increasing its focus on fragile states and will spend 30% of Official Development Assistance (ODA) - approximately £3,414 million - in these states by 2015.

But in a report published on Thursday, the committee, chaired by Liberal Democrat Malcolm Bruce, has said the aid must be conditional. Mr Bruce said: "There are obvious benefits of providing aid to fragile states. It is, after all, cheaper to prevent conflicts than to deal with wars and their aftermath.

"Nevertheless, there are considerable risks in spending aid money in conflict-scarred states and the Government must be frank and open about this if it wants to convince the public that its approach is the right one, both morally and politically."

He added: "In countries where fraud and corruption are rife, DFID will not always be able to mitigate against this adequately - especially where it sub-contracts delivery of its programmes to third parties. This means it may not be able to guarantee value for money for every pound it spends."

The committee report urges the Government to set out specific governance conditions as a requirement for the receipt of aid - and conditions under which aid will be withdrawn. The DFID budget was one of two protected by the Government following the last spending review in 2010.

Andrew Mitchell, International Development Secretary, said: "This report says the coalition Government is right to focus aid on fragile and conflict-affected states, to tackle crises before they begin. We make absolutely clear to countries that transparency and good governance are vital, and we are prepared to withhold funding through governments when our standards are not met, as we have done in Malawi."

Mr Bruce told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "We are not saying we should embark on an aid programme that imposes conditions. What we are saying is we should make it clear that our objective is to work with governments to reduce poverty in these countries but that they have to play their part.

"If they do nothing and enable us to do it, then of course they are helping those poor people. But if they do things that are actually counter-productive, then that is against the needs of the poor people. The very least we should be saying is our engagement with you does require us to make clear that we don't think that what you're doing is helping deliver what we are trying to deliver for your people."

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