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Developing Countries (Aid)

Volume 929: debated on Monday 28 March 1977

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31.

asked the Minister of Overseas Development what plans she has for increasing public understanding in the United Kingdom of the need to provide more aid more effectively for the benefit of developing countries.

We shall continue our programme of publications, films and assistance to development education projects and programmes carried out by voluntary organisations. I hope to persuade the public that an enlightened self-interest lies in assisting the Third World.

In seeking to do that, is the Minister aware that many of the Opposition would find it far easier to support the strong moral, trading and strategic arguments for continuing and increasing the aid budget if the Government for their part set their face against giving aid to so-called liberation movements—aid which often goes into the procurement of arms?

If the hon. Member has particular problems in relation to any aspect of the aid budget, I shall be happy to look at them, as will my right hon. Friend, if he writes to us. I am sure that the vast majority of hon. Members would agree that, in terms of cost effectiveness, the limited aid budget of this country is very well spent.

Will my hon. Friend disregard that sort of criticism from the Opposition side of the House but worry rather more that the principal difficulty about aid in the past has been that too much of it has not benefited the developing countries but has simply poured money back into the system of the countries which purport to give the aid? Will he include an understanding of the need genuinely to benefit the poor in the developing countries as one of the points in his education programme?

I am sure that the whole House will support the general direction of the new aid White Paper, which is to make sure that British aid is directed to helping the poorest people in the poorest countries. Of course, I shall not ignore any comment that is made in the House, but, as I said in reply to an earlier question, if hon. Members are concerned about any particular aspect of any sector of expenditure they should take it up with us and we shall certainly look at it. The general principle is that the whole aid programme is directed towards the poorest people in the poorest countries.