Tories poured aid into Belize

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The Independent Online
A TINY Caribbean state with strong links to the Tory tycoon Michael Ashcroft received pounds 38 in British aid per head of population under the last government. And Belize also accepted a pounds 400,000 gift from Britain in the last year of the Tory government.

William Hague has been under increasing pressure on the issue amid a series of revelations about his treasurer's interests in Belize. Mr Ashcroft, who is Belize ambassador to the United Nations, has denied strongly that his Belize Bank could have been used to launder drug money.

In 1996-97 Belize got pounds 7.6m from Britain, despite having a population of just 200,000. The 2.6 million Jamaicans got pounds 9.6m, or 26 pence per head. India, far poorer than either with 900 million people, received pounds 112m, or 12p per head. In the year after Labour took power in the UK, aid to Belize dropped to pounds 2.3m.

Last night the Government could not give details of a pounds 400,000 gift from Britain to Belize in 1996-97, the biggest present given by the UK that year. That is believed to have consisted of military equipment and supplies from the Ministry of Defence. In the same year three other gifts from Britain, cost more than pounds 100,000, and one of those was a donation of a vintage plane to a museum.

Mr Ashcroft gives pounds 1m per year to the Conservatives, and is known to have persuaded the last government to lobby Belize on his behalf. The Tories also agreed to spend about pounds 10m on rebuilding two main highways in Belize, projects that must be paid for by the current Government. Last night Peter Bradley, Labour MP for The Wrekin, said Mr Hague should reveal full details of his party's relationship with Mr Ashcroft.

A spokeswoman for the Department for International Development said Belize received only a small proportion of British aid.

Donald Macintyre, Review, page 3