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Aid Policy

Volume 978: debated on Wednesday 13 February 1980

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48.

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he has completed his review of aid policy; and if he will make a statement.

The Government are just completing their review of aid policy and a statement will be made as soon as possible.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply. In completing the further stages of the review, will be bear in mind the vital importance of aid funds in securing contracts overseas for British industry? Can he confirm that funds will be available for that purpose next year, notwithstanding the heavy forward commitments on both multilateral and bilateral aid that he inherited from the previous Labour Govermnment?

Yes; funds will be available. The matter is being taken very seriously in this review.

Has the Minister taken account of the Brandt report, to which so much publicity was creditably given in The Times this morning, on the imminent dangers of disaster for the entire world as a consequence of the maldistribution of wealth'? Will he discuss with his Government colleagues the question of seking to convene a summit meeting as recommended in the Brandt report? Will he also recommend to the Leader of the House that we should have a debate on the issue and that it should not be left to disappear in silence as was the Cabinet paper, "Future World Trends", which was published some years ago?

The Brandt report is being given detailed study. I should not came to comment on it yet. I have not read it. It is a massive document. I should have thought that, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) had a big hand in it, an attempt should be made by the Community to speak with one voice, if it has one.

Does my hon. Friend agree that trade is often a better long term investment in developing the new world than aid, and that often the best form of aid can be to send out skilled United Kingdom manpower to teach the local people to work and to help themselves?

Yes. Both of those matters are very important in the whole aid programme.

In terms of the review of the aid programme, can the hon. Gentleman give a complete assurance that the conclusions of the Brandt report will be taken into full account and that, if the review is already under way, it will begin again in terms of the Brandt report?

Is the Minister aware that the general thesis of the Brandt report—the interdependence and mutuality of interest between the Third world and industrialised countries to resolve our own as well as their problems—has consistently been advanced for five years by the Labour Party? Whether or not the European Community is able to reach a joint conclusion—a doubt which I share with the Minister—does he accept that we in Britain must have a view?

I certainly accept that we in Britain will have a view, but it will take a considerable time. I do not want to use delaying tactics, but the Brandt report is a big document and it will require profound study before we come to a measured judgment on it.

The thesis may be simple, but the contents of the document are not simple.