Minister 'misled committee' over Turkish dam

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A dispute has broken outbetween ministers and MPs over controversial plans to give government backing to a Turkish dam that will leave 16,000 Kurds homeless.

A dispute has broken outbetween ministers and MPs over controversial plans to give government backing to a Turkish dam that will leave 16,000 Kurds homeless.

Keith Vaz, the Minister for Europe, has accused the Commons committee that published a scathing report on the Ilisu dam project last week of inaccuracy and misrepresentation of the Government's case.

In retaliation the International Development Committee's chairman, Bowen Wells, said ministers had misled MPs by giving inaccurate evidence over human rights concerns about the project. Mr Wells demanded to see all government correspondence on the issue.

The storm broke after the committee attacked proposals to give export credit guarantees under a government insurance scheme to a British firm negotiating a £200m contract to help build the £1.25bn dam.

It said bluntly that ministers should reverse their preliminary decision, claiming the dam could spark war in the Middle East by cutting water supplies to Syria and Iraq and adding that it contravened "almost every internationally agreed test" on social and environmental impact.

Mr Vaz was particularly infuriated that the committee said it was "astonished" the Foreign Office had not raised human rights concerns. In a letter to Mr Wells, he said Foreign Office ministers had explicitly raised human rights concerns in correspondence last year.

Mr Wells' response quoted the Trade minister Richard Caborn, who told the committee all government departments had been consulted: "Nobody ... has come back and raised the human rights question in terms of this dam."

Mr Wells added: "Why should we have 'double-checked' with every department concerned? If we have misrepresented the Foreign Office position it is because the evidence we received was inaccurate."

Mr Caborn corrected his evidence in a letter to The Independent this week, saying the Foreign Office had given advice on the human rights aspects of the project. He said the Govern-ment would not approve the project until four conditions had been met, dealing with resettlement, water treatment, downstream flows and the preservation of historic sites.

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