Mozambique — 16 Mar 2000

[Relevant document: Minutes of Evidence taken before the International Development Committee on 14th March, HC 326-i.]

I beg to move,

That this House notes with concern that the Government's response to the humanitarian crisis in Mozambique was hampered by indecision and delay, and that infighting between Ministers in the Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence contributed to the delay in sending helicopters and boats to assist in the rescue of the people of Mozambique; deeply regrets that lives were lost as a result; deplores the absence of 'joined up government' and the failure by the Prime Minister to intervene until Her Majesty's Opposition and the media exposed the Government's failings; calls upon Ministers to accept responsibility for such delays; and seeks assurance that the response to any future disasters will be more immediate and co-ordinated.

As for my Department's response to emergencies, it is true that the capacity of the British Government to respond rapidly sits within my Department. It works very smoothly and very fast. When there is a need to move, Ministers are not consulted. We have delegated powers and resources available to us, and we move immediately.

We can move over a weekend. There is no need to consult lots of Departments and delay our response.--[ Official Report , 11 February 1998; Vol. 306, c. 375.]

We have received many offers for the hire of helicopters both from the region and also further afield.--[ Official Report , 7 March 2000; Vol. 345, c. 622W.]

The problem is not shortage of money, either, but getting resources deployed in theatre quickly.

I am sorry, but the hon. Gentleman is misinformed. There is absolutely no problem about co-operation with the Ministry of Defence.--[ Official Report , 1 March 2000; Vol. 345, c. 409.]

charging very high prices and coming in very slow.

The British Government was last night accused of cynically attempting to manipulate public opinion--

over its humanitarian response to the Mozambique crisis after announcing an extra £70 million in aid--only to be forced to admit the figure was less than the amount it had already announced would be spent on aid to the country prior to the recent flooding.

After a week of chaos over the Government's response to the tragedy in Mozambique, International Development Secretary Clare Short pledged to spend £70 m over the next two years in an aid package. The Government had hoped to offset criticism over Whitehall haggling and lack of financial assistance to the victims by announcing this "new" aid package.

In a statement released to The Observer , Short said: "We are also planning to increase our programme of support to Mozambique to £70 m over the next two years and will take a lead role with the World Bank and the EC in assessing the implications of these floods for Mozambique's future needs."

Department for International Development officials claimed the extra money had been agreed with senior civil servants at a meeting only last Tuesday.

But, following inquiries from The Observer the DFID was forced to admit that its annual report, published last March, had projected spending on Mozambique of £38.5 m in 2000-01 and £38 m in the following year--a total of £76.5 m.

Embarrassed DFID officials, confronted by the apparent cut in aid to Mozambique, then quickly increased the aid package to £76.5 m.

I beg to move, To leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:

commends the Government for its speedy and effective response to the humanitarian crisis in Mozambique.

charging very high prices and coming in too slow?

In a less stable world, we have seen more international operations of this type. The trends identified earlier suggest that this will continue. Britain will play its full part in such international efforts. At one end of the spectrum, this might involve logistic or medical support to a disaster relief operation.

following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Mitch in October and November 1998 in some of the world's poorest countries, a Royal Navy task group led by NHS Ocean and with Royal Marines embarked, gave emergency life-saving assistance to Nicaragua and Honduras. We helped to search for and rescue people.

In any case, the British have responded very late and almost grudgingly.

I think it was 25/26th at about 8 o'clock at night.

On Saturday 26 February at around 2 o'clock,

that was my understanding from advice that I received from the Ministry this morning--[ Official Report , 28 February 2000; Vol. 345, c. 23.]

The answer on the Saturday was that they--

had nothing within 3,000 miles.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:--

The House divided: Ayes 125, Noes 310.

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Party Summary

Votes by party, red entries are votes against the majority for that party.

What is Tell? '+1 tell' means that in addition one member of that party was a teller for that division lobby.

What are Boths? An MP can vote both aye and no in the same division. The boths page explains this.

What is Turnout? This is measured against the total membership of the party at the time of the vote.

PartyMajority (No)Minority (Aye)BothTurnout
Con0 125 (+2 tell)079.4%
Independent1 0033.3%
Lab284 (+2 tell) 0068.8%
LDem25 0054.3%
Total:310 125070.2%

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MPs for which their vote in this division differed from the majority vote of their party. You can see all votes in this division, or every eligible MP who could have voted in this division

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no rebellions

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