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Wednesday, 4 April, 2001, 16:08 GMT 17:08 UK
Fresh criticism of Vaz
Keith Vaz
Mr Vaz is on eight weeks sick leave
Europe Minister Keith Vaz is under fire again - this time from a group of influential cross-party MPs.

The Commons international development committee has criticised the answers provided by Mr Vaz following its enquiries about a controversial dam building project in Turkey.

Last week, the Commons foreign affairs committee criticised Mr Vaz for failing to travel to the Balkans since his appointment as Europe minister in 1999.

Mr Vaz is on eight weeks sick leave after collapsing in his office last week.

He has faced numerous calls to resign in recent months and has been the focus of sustained media coverage over his links with businessmen.

Foreign Secretary Robin Cook has blamed the media for provoking the collapse, and called for an end to the "harassing" of Mr Vaz.

Criticism upheld

This latest report follows a previous investigation by MPs into Foreign Office aid for Turkey's Ilisu dam.

A report published last year criticised the ministers for backing a grant for the project without considering the human rights implications of the dam.

Site of the proposed Ilisu dam in Turkey
Plans for the Ilisu dam in Turkey have caused controversy.
The Foreign Office rejected the criticism but MPs have decided that their concerns were justified.

They have criticised the way the Foreign Office - in this case Mr Vaz - dealt with the issue.

Foreign Office statements on whether it had included human rights in its evidence to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) had been "vague, unconvincing and, on occasion, desperate", the report said.

This is considered to be a clear reference to correspondence from Mr Vaz to the committee's chairman Bowen Wells, the Conservative MP for Hertford and Stortford.

British company Balfour Beatty is hoping to be granted export credit guarantees by Trade Minister Richard Caborn, to enable it to become part of the consortium building the dam.

Trade Secretary Stephen Byers has said he is "minded" to give the green light to the project.

Recommendations repeated

But in a report last year MPs said they were "astonished" that the government had failed to properly consider the broader human rights implications of the dam.

Mr Vaz wrote to Mr Wells, insisting that the Foreign Office had indeed included human rights issues in its discussions of the project with the DTI.

But he said the relevant correspondence could not be published, citing two paragraphs from the code of practice on access to government information.

The matter was then brought to the parliamentary ombudsman, Michael Buckley, who ruled that a summary of the contents of the correspondence could be made public - despite Foreign Office protests.

The committee now claims the results support its original view, and the latest report concludes that any information between the Foreign Office and the DTI "was limited to the issue of resettlement, and that it did not extend to the more general issues of human rights and conflict in the region."

The MPs repeat their call for the full human rights implications of any project to be considered before projects receive an export credit guarantee.

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See also:

01 Apr 01 | UK Politics
Cook accuses press over Vaz collapse
31 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Eight weeks sick leave for Vaz
28 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Vaz criticised over Balkans absence
23 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Vaz: I will help new inquiry
12 Jul 00 | UK Politics
MPs' anger over Turkish dam
10 Jul 00 | Europe
Refuge for Turkey's dam victims
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