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Overseas Aid Policy

Volume 980: debated on Monday 3 March 1980

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asked the Lord Privy Seal what action he is taking to ensure that aid provided by the United Kingdom is used efficiently to raise living standards of poor people whilst promoting trade and employment in the United Kingdom.

Within our overall programme, which will reflect increased commercial and industrial emphasis, the developmental value of specific projects will be fully appraised.

Will my hon. Friend ensure that British aid is not used for uneconomic prestige projects which do comparatively little to raise living standards? Will he say what he is doing for the poorer countries of the Commonwealth?

On the second part of the Question, we shall, in the allocation of our bilateral aid, continue to attach great importance to the Commonwealth, which currently receives 70 per cent. of the bilateral share of the aid programme. On the first part of the question, all projects proposed for aid finance are fully appraised. In recent years the average rate of return on United Kingdom capital aided projects is calculated to be over 15 per cent.

Will the hon. Gentleman try to determine, when assessing aid projects for appraisal, whether the benefits are likely to go to a small minority in the country concerned or to benefit the mass of the people?

We shall always try to benefit the poorest sections in our projects, which are designed for that purpose.

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the most effective ways of aiding poorer countries is through the Commonwealth Development Corporation? Will he confirm that he will make no reduction in its long-term investment programme in the review that he is undertaking?

Yes. I confirm that the aid passed through the Commonwealth Development Corporation is nearly always extremely effective. On the second part of the question, my hon. Friend must await the publication of the White Paper on expenditure.

Will the hon. Gentleman give an undertaking that no money from the aid programme will be spent on defence projects, such as the £50 million that went to Turkey, and that such money should come from the Contingency Fund or the defence fund, and not from the overseas aid development fund?