Arms-and-aid details held back by Foreign Office

THE Foreign Office has refused a request from MPs to reveal details of arms sales to countries which have received development aid.

The refusal has angered members of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee which is investigating the Malaysian aid-for-arms scandal. Next week the committee is to question Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, and Baroness Chalker, the Overseas Development minister, over the Pergau dam affair.

They face accusations that the British Government gave Malaysia pounds 234m in development aid and pounds 45.8m in soft loans towards the building of the Pergau dam, which officials warned was 'an abuse of the aid system' in order to secure a pounds 1bn arms export order for British defence companies. A UK company, Balfour Beatty, won the contract to build the dam.

The Foreign Office agreed to supply a list of countries and projects which had received money from the Overseas Development Administration under the Government's Aid and Trade Provision. But officials refused to give details of arms exports to these countries from British companies on the grounds of commercial confidentiality.

Yesterday the select committee met and agreed to press their request for details of arms exports by British companies.

Figures collated by the Independent show a strong correlation between the amount of aid granted and the value of arms sales between 1980 and 1992-93. UK overseas development aid is supposed to support the world's poorest countries. But research by the World Development Movement shows that some of the recipients of the largest sums are relatively rich. Malaysia's gross national product per capita is dollars 2,520 compared with dollars 100 to dollars 120 in Somalia and Ethiopia.

The arms exports figures, compiled by the Stockholm International Peace and Research Institute, show some of the main recipients of UK aid also received some of the biggest arms export orders. The 10 listed in the table are all in the top 33 countries out of the 79 to which British defence companies exported weapons systems between 1980 and 1992-93. India, Indonesia, Oman, Nigeria, Jordan and Pakistan are in the top 12 countries which placed orders with Britain in terms of the value of weapons delivered.

Decisions the select committee is likely to investigate include the granting of pounds 117m aid for another dam project in Sri Lanka. As the Independent on Sunday revealed two weeks ago, the pounds 202m Samanalawewa Dam project won aid in 1985 despite objections from ODA officials on technical and economic grounds. Sri Lanka awarded arms export orders to British firms worth pounds 36m in 1985 and 1986.

Foreign Office ministers will face further challenges in the Commons on Tuesday. Liberal Democrat leaders have tabled a half-day debate on the Pergau dam scandal. Two Foreign Office ministers, Mark Lennox-Boyd and Alastair Goodlad, will face attacks over the misuse of aid funds.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living