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Population Programmes

Volume 976: debated on Wednesday 16 January 1980

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asked the Lord Privy Seal if he is satisfied with the progress being made within the overseas development programme to ensure that population programmes are integrated into all overseas aid development projects; and whether he will make a statement.

I am sure that more might be done, but not all aid-financed development projects can logically contain population programmes, and in any event such projects must obviously be designed in relation to the wishes and policies of the recipient Governments. I accept the argument that there may be a link between economic development and the constraint of the world population.

Is the Minister satisfied to see the largest British aid programme of £100 million which is devoted to the Mahewelli plan project in Sri Lanka remain an economic project without any social input? Does he recognise that land being allocated to families cannot sustain an increasing birth rate and that population growth is an obstacle to progress in many Third world countries? Will he give a firm commitment to integrate into this and other development projects administered by the British Government an element dealing with welfare and population activities?

I believe that in that case the aid is to go to the dam. The Mahewelli project is further down, outside the dam. This is a World Bank project and obviously the Bank integrates those matters.

Does the Minister accept that one of the best ways of dealing with the problem is to improve the general economic well-being of the area as a first priority? If so, how does he justify the £115 million cutback in the aid programme for 1980–81? That is a 14 per cent. cutback and the most savage public expenditure cut by this Government.

I do not agree with those figures. They are wrong, but they were published in The Guardian. If the hon. Gentleman will table a specific question, I shall answer it.