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Overseas Expenditure

Volume 721: debated on Thursday 25 November 1965

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21.

asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs how the estimate, given on page 75 of the National Plan, for Government expenditure abroad for 1970 of £510 million at 1964 prices is composed as between military, aid, and other expenditure abroad.

I regret that it is not possible to give more than a broad indication about the level of Government expenditure overseas in 1970 since the Defence Review is not yet completed; moreover, as we said in the National Plan, the level of overseas aid will be reviewed periodically in the light of the progress we make in overcoming our economic problems.

If the right hon. Gentleman wants the Plan to be accepted as a national and not a party document, will he publish those estimates, even those which conflict most startlingly with pre-election promises, and will he confirm that on whatever reading of those paragraphs of the National Plan, despite the fact that many forms of aid involve no balance of payments costs, it is none the less the intention to reduce the proportion of our national income which is given in aid overseas?

The answer to the second part of the question is "No, Sir." The answer to the first part is that the Plan is accepted everywhere except on the benches opposite as a national plan.

Did the right hon. Gentleman take into account the purchase of some islands in the Indian Ocean and the consequent expenditure on them over the next few years, and will he say what other possible purchases by Her Majesty's Government in Colonial Territories are envisaged in the next few years?

There are obviously figures that one works out for the purpose of doing the job, but does not necessarily publish in that kind of detail. I repeat that the Defence Review is now proceeding, and I would invite the hon. Gentleman to await its outcome.

Would the right hon. Gentleman help the House? We have this overall figure, but it is evidently impossible to break it down because we have not got the estimates from the Defence Review. How was the overall figure obtained, and, as the aid is not variable, why can he not give the House the figure for the aid?

If the hon. Gentleman thinks about it, he will realise that there are many reasons why I should not give the figures in that detail to the House and, therefore, the world outside. He may take it that in coming to our decisions we had the figures before us. I do not propose to go any further in public. But on the general question of defence expenditure, I repeat that we must await the outcome of the Defence Review.