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United States Proposals

Volume 932: debated on Monday 16 May 1977

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36.

asked the Minister of Overseas Development what study she has made of the recent proposals of the Carter Administration in the field of overseas aid and development.

Last month I had very useful talks in Washington with Governor Gilligan, the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development. The development aid appropriations sought by the Carter Administration for the United States fiscal year 1978, which begins on 1st October 1977, represent, on a comparable basis, an increase of 6 per cent. over the former Administration's request for that year. The United States Government, like our own, is party to the declaration of the Downing Street Summit that

"we shall work to increase the flow of aid and other real resources from the industrial to developing countries."

May the House take it from that answer that the Minister will be pressing her colleagues to do everything possible to emulate President Carter's example in this respect? In particular, will the Minister seek to ensure that there is no mismanagement and inefficiency in our existing aid programme and that we get the best value for money, to which President Carter attached great importance in his statement to Congress?

From consultations with Governor Gilligan and his staff, it is fair to say that there is no doubt that our aid programme is extremely effective and efficient. Therefore, we do not need to feel guilty in that respect, although of course we shall keep a close eye on these matters. I do not like to use such phrases, but we must ensure that we have a full, frank and free dialogue with the Carter Administration on these matters. That is what I tried to do in Washington three weeks ago. I hope that we can help each other.

During my right hon. Friend's discussions with the Carter Administration did the question arise of co-operation over the provision of aid to countries that deny elementary human rights to their citizens?

During my discussions in Washington I had conversations with Governor Gilligan and the lady whom President Carter has appointed to be responsible for human rights issues. We had considerable discussions about the problems of deciding exactly how one relates an aid programme to human rights. My hon. Friend will be aware that there are great problems in that respect. We certainly began an interesting discussion on that matter.

Would the right hon. Lady please answer my previous question? Is she going to implement the cuts in aid in the current year and the next financial year which were announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer last December? Alternatively, has there been a change in Government policy on aid as a result of the meetings at the Downing Street Summit?

I thought that the hon. Member was familiar with the process. The cuts announced in the last White Paper are being implemented this year. I have already indicated that although this will cause considerable difficulties in the aid programme—and I do not underrate them—we hope that we shall not have to cut any country's allocation. The hon. Member will be equally aware that in the public expenditure review that takes place this summer we shall review all future years. I should be very happy indeed if Opposition Members supported the idea of resisting cuts to the aid programme in the context of public expenditure.