Skip to main content

Aid Programme (Aims And Objectives)

Volume 980: debated on Monday 3 March 1980

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


asked the Lord Privy Seal what steps the Overseas Development Administration takes to publicise the aims and objectives of the United Kingdom aid programme.

There is a conventional but modest programme of press activities, publications, and external engagements. These supplement anouncements made to this House.

Is it not essential for the support of the programme to have informed and concerned public opinion? Is the Minister satisfied that the present small amount being spent for this purpose will be sufficient in the long run?

Yes, I think that it is. The question to which I was directing my answer was connected with the publication by the Ministry of Overseas Development. As for the general educational programme, I think that a lot can be done voluntarily. It always has been. Voluntary organisations, including, if they wish, Members of Parliament, teachers and churches, could step this up. It does not always need Government money to get a message across.

Does not publicity of this type tend to impress other overseas countries, so that they also contribute?

Other countries must draw their own conclusions from what publicity we provide.

When the hon. Gentleman publicises his aid policy, will he explain how his policy on overseas students' fees is connected with the general principles of aid policy which he announced recently? Is he aware that if this policy continues many poor students who would, in the past, have come to Britain will end up receiving their higher education in Moscow and behind the Iron Curtain?

The answer to that question should come from my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Education. I am, nevetheless, looking into this question myself.

Does my hon. Friend agree that publicity should be directed to British companies, which are now free from exchange control and able to invest overseas? If his Department and those companies combined their activities, this would help overseas development more than any other measure.

Yes. The publicity to which we have been referring goes to business and industry, and the British Overseas Trade Board is also taking a particular interest on behalf of British industry.

Will the Minister accept that one of the best ways of publicising his aid programme would be fully to restore the development education programme started by the last Government, which would have amounted to £3 million this year? Will he also accept that, just as his Government destroyed the Price Commission to conceal price increases, so he has almost destroyed the development education programme to conceal restrictions on the aid programme?

The hon. Gentleman has drawn the wrong conclusion from that. The rundown in Government-financed development education was because we could not afford to spend £3 million on educating ourselves on development when greater needs were to be found in the developing countries.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the only way to expand aid to the underdeveloped countries, which is necessary, is not for one country to do it alone but for urgent action on the Brandt report, so that there is an international effort?

There is a later question on the Order Paper about the Brandt report. There may be something in what my hon. Friend says, but the Government are looking into this carefully, and there is to be a debate in another place next week on this subject.

Is the Minister aware that the best publicity that this country can gain for its aid programme is the service which British Rail Engineering Ltd. has provided in various underdeveloped countries where British aid has been directed, in providing not only a network of railways, but other necessary basic engineering services? The Government should be commended for the service which they have provided for the poorer people of the world.

I agree that where the railwaymen have been abroad they have done good work of great benefit to the developing countries.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that his sudden announcement that the other place is to debate the Brandt report next week is a shade disturbing? He will be aware that there are 130 signatures on one motion and others on another calling for a debate on the report in this House. He told us last week, I think, that it was far too early for him to have reached conclusions on the report. Can he tell us that a debate in another place—which I agree may be admirable and may provide useful guidance for him—will in no way preclude a debate in this House?

Although that must be a question for the Leader of the House, I do not think that it would preclude a debate in this House. I am sure that my right hon. Friend has taken note of what the right hon. Lady has said. The Government will answer that debate in the other place, and one will get a preview of their views there. One factor that we must bear in mind in considering a proper debate on the report in this House is that the report must be available to hon. Members before we debate it.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. How can the Government give a view on the Brandt report when it has not been published and when it is agreed that the Minister has to consider it before he can answer a question in this House?

The Government have received a copy and I have bought a copy in the shops. Unfortunately, the shops have now run out of stocks.