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International Development (Brandt Report)

Volume 981: debated on Friday 28 March 1980

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

Question again proposed.

11.21 am

I was saying that the Colombo declaration called on the world community to increase its international assistance for population matters from an annual level of approximately £400 million to £1 billion by 1984.

I conclude by commenting on the Government's response. My hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development—the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) —in his statement to the House on 20 February, said that we shall need to look critically at our expenditure on multilateral aid programmes. I trust that he will do so, because they are not adequate. To the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, for example, the Government initially pledged a £4 million contribution in 1979, but this was subsequently reduced to £2 million. One reason was that the fund had unallocated resources carried over from previous years. That condition will not prevail in 1980, when it is estimated that the fund will have a $20 million deficit, together with requests, pending funding decisions, that will require substantial additional resources. I hope that the Government will respond positively, at least in this area, and play their proper part in supporting the fund.

I also hope that a higher proportion of total aid will be tied to population projects. Out of a total of over £700 million given in overseas aid, less than 1 per cent. has been tied to such projects. As my noble Friend Lord Vernon said in another place, aid to a country that is taking no steps to curb population growth is, as likely as not, money down the drain.

I also think that the Government have a responsibility to educate people to the enormity of the crisis with which the world is threatened so that they are more prepared to will the means of its alleviation, if not its solution. I do not think that people fully appreciate the implications of the doubling of the world's population within a generation.

The late Mr. Reginald Maudling was fond of saying that there was a rhythm in politics. There is also a rhythm in the life cycle of a Government. There is a period during which they chart their course and retain the initiative. Then there is usually a period when the momentum begins to run down, when they are afflicted by adverse and unforeseen circumstances, and they stagger from compromise to compromise and crisis to crisis. Happily, we are still in the first phase—and long may it continue.

In the wake of the Rhodesian settlement and the response to the Afghan crisis, I think that our prestige in the Third world is as high as it has been for some time. I hope that we shall hear today from my hon. Friend the Minister that the Government are determined, with the implacability for which they are respected, to commit themselves to safeguarding the future of our children by playing a leading part in moving our allies and friends in the direction indicated by the Brandt report.

When faced with distant threats of future problems of this nature, it is tempting to say that we shall cross that bridge when we come to it. In this case, such an approach is not an option. The bridge will have been swept away long since on an irresistible tide, carrying with it the prospects of a reasonable life for our children and grandchildren.

11.25 am

I join those right hon. and hon. Members who have congratulated the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) on initiating this debate today. I admire his courage in doing so in view of the Government's expenditure paper yesterday.

I take issue with the hon. Gentleman on one point that he raised. He said that this was not a question of development aid and assistance. I suggest that this is very much a question of development aid and assistance, and I shall come to that point later.

We welcome the hon. Gentleman's initiative, but this debate should not be taken as a substitute for a full debate in the House, with responsible Members of the Cabinet taking part, after perhaps having had the benefit of reading this debate, and announcing their decision to the House—a decision that has to be announced not only before the United Nations special session in the late summer but before the OECD meeting earlier in the summer, when some of these issues are to be raised.

But it is not merely a question of saying that the Government must state their position or have an opportunity to consider the Brandt report and then state their position. I believe that the Government have already stated their position and that they must change that position.

Looking at the Government's expenditure plans, published in conjunction with the Budget, in table 2.2 we see it all laid out. There is a reduction in spending on development aid from a peak in 1978–79 of £795 million, falling in 1983–84 to £680 million—a fall over the six years of £115 million, or between 14 per cent. and 15 per cent. In the expected years of this Administration, a fall from £794 million to £680 million from 1979–80 to 1983–84 means a cumulative total of over £307 million. Those figures make nonsense of the Brandt recommendation of 0·7 per cent. of GNP being reached by 1985 by this Government. This is the most serious criticism to be made.

It is no use hon. Members on either side of the House—because this applies equally to Members of the Labour Party—saying "We endorse Brandt. Brandt is lovely. It is like apple pie and mother. It is something to be supported wherever we go", and then refusing to put their money where their mouths are. That significant pointer must be considered. Anything said by the Government about this matter must be considered in the light of the cuts in expenditure.

At the same time there has been an increase in defence expenditure. Looking at table 2.1, we see that over the same period there has been an increase of £927 million over the same period, and cumulatively of £2,278 million. There has been a cut in overseas aid of £307 million and an increase in defence expenditure of £2,278 million. That is the policy of the cold war. We have not learnt any lessons from the cold war.

The Foreign Secretary, speaking before the Select Committee on foreign affairs, said that he feared not so much Russian direct aggression as subversion in the developing world. Subversion is fought not by tanks and cruise missiles but by tractors, ploughs, pure water, rural development, basic hygiene, liberation of serfs, education, and an understanding of human dignity. More is done for the dignity of man by putting a hoe or a spanner in his hand than by putting a rifle in it or by seeing him threatened by a rifle or a tank.

That is what Brandt tells us when he talks about the arms race and the effects of the arms race on human development. That is what the Government are ignoring.

To increase arms spending at the expense of aid is as self-defeating as it is wasteful. It heightens world tensions and instability in developing countries. It is against that failure by the Government that I wish to consider the report and to compare actions with statistics. The hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney), who I regret is not in his place, since we all sat for half an hour listening to him—

I am sorry; I did the hon. Gentleman an injustice. The hon. Member for Wycombe took umbrage when his hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North-West (Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler) pointed out that during the first five minutes of his hon. Friend's speech 60 children had died of diarrhoea. He suggested that we should not be emotional about this matter.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) pointed out graphically, it is human problems that we are talking about—about 800 million people who are destitute; about 17 million children under 5 who die every year in developing countries; about the fact that blindness affects between 30 million and 40 million people; about 34 countries in which more than 80 per cent. of the population is illiterate; and about the biggest cities of the Third world, which are likely to have populations of more than 30 million each by the end of the century.

These are not useless statistics; they represent ordinary individuals like ourselves, who have for themselves and their families the same hopes and aspirations, the same desire for dignity and for a share in the sum of the benefits of mankind. It is right to be emotional about it. If we fail to be emotional, we cannot be concerned enough to think and plan how to improve things. That is why the statistics are important.

Considered in terms of human beings, these complex problems become simple. Once we know what the goal is, everything else that Brandt says about rich and poor, the status of developing societies, the attitudes of different Governments and pressure on resources is put into perspective.

If this debate is to be valuable, it will be in terms of education. There is a massive need to educate public opinion on the importance of co-operation—a need that starts from the Government's White Paper and with the Cabinet and proceeds through the rest of our society. There should be a massive campaign of development education.

The first, and perhaps the meanest, act of this Government when they came to power was to cut out development education altogether. As a result, one of the most important aids that the House could give the nation to understand these problems was lost.

We are cutting aid, and the United States is cutting aid massively. Only Holland, of all the countries of the European Community, has reached the United Nations target of 0·7 per cent. of spending. There must be a massive campaign. That is the first and most important step that the House and the Government should take—educating public opinion.

Then we should educate people about the need to co-operate. Brandt makes much of co-operation between North and South, but we should follow that up with an important programme of industrial restructuring, retraining and investment, so that no cry goes up about universal protectionism.

I make no bones of the fact that I agree with selective protectionism, but it is interesting that the latest cry about protectionism has come in the form of threats not from the Third world but from the United States—about its subsidy to oil supplies, which have so cheapened its textile exports. The real threat may not come from the developing world, but its people will be the unfortunate sufferers. We must be prepared for value to be added to raw materials and resources imported by the West and the East from developing countries.

The hon. Member for Wycombe sought to blame OPEC for these problems, but they existed long before the increase in the price of oil. People from the OPEC countries—their economists and those seeking to develop their nations—will rightly point to the aid that they have given, which in percentage terms far exceeds much that is given by many Western countries. Also, the OPEC countries that are developing cannot get the West to agree, for example, to adding value to petroleum products in their own countries. Anyone who wants to understand what is going on should speak to the Iraqis about their wish for downstream development.

The Third world itself must appreciate that the changes that the West will have to make will be fraught with political problems for the West. Although the Third world has the right to be impatient, it also needs to be patient for change. I do not agree with what the hon. Member for Cambridge said about commodity prices and a common fund. When he said that that was not a solution, he was himself using a common fund approach. However, we must be careful to make sure that that suggestion should not be seen as neo-imperialism. The common fund should give stability in both directions—to the West in prices and to the developing countries in certainty of markets and fixed returns.

I have, finally, a number of criticisms of Brandt. We have to be careful that Brandt's idea in the chapter on the very poorest countries is not sold as cooperation between countries that have the resources and those that have the technical know-how, while the middle band of countries that have neither are left out in the cold. We must analyse why some countries have failed to solve problems of rural reform and redistribution. Why, after all the preaching of the past 20 or 30 years, was Archbishop Romero martyred last week? The answer is that while be looked carefully at economic structures, Brandt failed to consider political structures.

It is true that we cannot interfere with the sovereignty of other nations, but we are at least entitled to say that the mal-distribution of wealth in developing countries must be rectified—whether in the very poorest countries or in the countries of Latin America, in societies such as that of the Fourteen Families—or there will be bloody and horrible revolution.

If we follow Brandt through, it could give us not only a blueprint, such as the Pearson report was, but a return to spiritual as well as economic values. It is only by a combination of both that we shall achieve the world in which we all want our children to be brought up.

11.39 am

I add my thanks to those expressed from all parts of the House to my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) for giving us the opportunity to debate this important subject today.

May I express the hope that this take-note debate will not be a substitute for a full debate at a later stage? It is important for the House to have an opportunity to debate the matter, with Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet Members discussing the issues in the House after the Government have reached their conclusions, presumably prior to the Venice meeting in June.

Without doubt, the Brandt Commission report is one of the major documents of the century. The problems that it describes are of vital concern to the international community, and the recommendations will doubtless be the subject of considerable debate over the next decade and into the future. Energy, trade, international finance, development, food, commodities and disarmament all present problems which affect the whole world and which require a world solution.

The scale of deprivation of millions of people deserves to be, and, if there is justice in the world, will be, the principal preoccupation of men of good will throughout the world for the remainder of my life. If this debate today provides a perspective of the huge problems that exist, within which our own narrow indeed, myopic preoccupation with domestic book-keeping can be seen for the relatively selfish and unimportant exercise that it is, we shall have spent our time well.

With bland understatement, the Brandt Commission report points on page 49:
"Few people in the North have any detailed conception of the extent of poverty in the Third World or of the forms that it takes."
add, sadly, that too few of those who do seem to care.

I first saw the horrors of poverty and disease in Africa 25 years ago. Many right hon. and hon. Members have reminded the House of the horrors, but I also wish to remind the House of some stark and emotional facts. In these days of moon exploration and colour television in almost every home in Britain, millions of people are without homes, sanitation, fuel or fresh water. Those of us who travel overseas in developing countries remember pathetic structures of wood, cardboard or straw that serve as a home in some countries, sited in streets littered with faeces and running with urine. In those conditions, as I said earlier, 8 million children a year die from diarrhoea alone. Fifteen children every minute die from that basic disease.

We have seen women walking 10 to 15 miles a day to pick up their water supplies, and that water is almost always contaminated. We have seen women carrying huge parcels of wood on their heads to take home for fuel to cook their food. The tragedy in some areas is that, as forests are cut down, domestic animal dung is burnt for fuel. That in turn reduces the availability of nutrients for the soil and the possibility of growing sufficient food.

Millions live without sufficient food. Deaths from starvation are estimated at between 10 million and 20 million per annum, which is 18 to 36 each minute. Estimates also suggest that more than 500 million people in the world suffer from hunger and malnutrition. Millions suffer from ill health, without adequate medical services. I have mentioned diarrhoea. Cholera, malaria, blindness and other tropical diseases make life miserable and death sometimes welcome for 700 million people.

Infant mortality in the West is 15 per thousand, compared with 90 per thousand in South America. It rises to a staggering 200 per thousand in sub-Saharan Africa. In Africa one child in every five dies before its first birthday.

Millions have no employment and no cash. For them there are no unemployment benefits, wage-related or otherwise. There are no supplementary benefits. Their only hope is charity from their fellow men and families. Without that they face the spectre of starvation.

Although in the North we face genuine economic problems, such as inflation or a static standard of living, we are rich and fortunate by comparison with those who endure a combination of malnutrition, illiteracy, disease and low income, which is the daily reality for too much of the Third world.

As has been pointed out, there are two main reasons why we should help the developing world. The first is on moral grounds. The second is, quite simply, out of self-interest. The moral case is justified by the distressing facts of human misery to which I have referred.

We should remember that the enormous scale of the problem will be further exacerbated by population growth. In the developing world, that is forecast by the United Nations to be as much as 50 per cent. by the end of the century—from 3,300 million to more than 5,000 million. When one also considers the economic comparison of GDP per head, calculated in 1977 to be £3,023 per head in developed countries and £266 per head in developing countries, and when one remembers that the gap is widening, the unacceptable inequity that exists in the world cannot be denied. By what right can we in rich countries expect to be more than 10 times better off than those who live in the developing world?

I regret to say that in some quarters the moral case might be thought to be "wet", but self-interest does not lay itself open to that criticism. What are our self-interests? Expressed simply, Britain's self-interests are international peace, a stable world economy and the promotion of our commercial interests.

I shall not develop the profound observation of the Brandt Commission report that
"more arms do not make mankind safer, only poorer"
or make any comment on the obscene statistics of world arms sales at $450 billion and official development assistance at 520 billion, but the House must agree with the assertion that
"while hunger rules peace cannot prevail".
Indeed, the House will have noticed that in recent weeks the Foreign Secretary, in evidence to the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Overseas Development in his statement to the House on aid policy both referred to the importance of action to relieve poverty in the interests of world peace and stability.

I turn to the need for a stable world economy. My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor in his Budget speech referred to international inflation and the rich country response. He said that the United Kingdom's economic prospects were poor:
"in part, a consequence of the weakness in world demand, in part a consequence of our own inflation".—[Official Report, 26 March 1980; Vol. 981, c. 1442.]
My right hon. and learned Friend at least recognises Britain's vulnerability to fluctuations in the world economy. However, it is astonishing that in his Budget Statement, although he referred to that, he mentioned no British plans to help find a solution.

My hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Knox), in the debate on the Budget resolution, as reported at col. 1505 of Hansard, asserted—and I agree— that the stability of the international monetary system in the 25 years after the war contributed to the post-war expansion in world trade. He went on to say that since the Bretton Woods arrangement had broken down, the stable conditions for the maintenance and expansion of world trade no longer existed. As we export a higher percentage of our gross national product than any other country of the world—32 per cent. of it—we should recognise that we are the losers.

I turn to the promotion of our commercial interests. Apart from our important trade within the EEC and with other OECD countries, we should never forget our reliance on the Third world for raw materials. Nor should we forget the huge balance of payments advantages of our trade with those countries. Last year 24 non-OPEC Third world countries, with whom our import or export trade exceeded £50 million each, gave us a balance of payments surplus of £1,221 million, and Nigeria alone, although a member of OPEC, gave us a further surplus of £452 million.

High exchange rates and cuts in export service seem likely to reduce our capacity to benefit from increased trade with the developing world and the existence of any tariff or non-tariff barriers against Third world countries against our commercial interests. Unless we accept Third world exports, how will they afford our exports?

Our national objectives and my brief comments on them spell out the inevitable logic of Britain paying the utmost attention to the important document that we are discussing. It is clear that the developing world and Britain have much to gain from interdependence and a good deal to lose from ignoring it. The climate for Britain to take a lead in international discussions and to gain substantial and enduring credit for any material contribution is the most favourable since the end of Empire. Our achievement in bringing Zimbabwe to independence is widely acclaimed in the Third world, and our record over many years in overseas development is well appreciated.

By contrast, Russia's violation of Afghanistan and its growing reputation as a purveyor of expensive and obsolescent arms rather than development assistance provide a major opportunity for us. If the West takes action now to restructure out of international recession, as proposed by Brandt, and if we increase our aid to improve the lives of the world's poorest people and concentrate on creating labour-intensive opportunities for employment in the Third world, we shall stimulate demand for exports and help to avert a world recession. More than that, we shall show the world that the compassionate face of capitalism is more attractive than Communism.

The Government's response to Brandt in another place was, by any standards, muted. The Budget decision to reduce aid in the Estimates published yesterday is not only totally immoral but shows a complete ignorance of our real interests. Are the British taxpayers really so poor that they cannot afford the 15p a week that it would cost to keep our aid at the level that had been planned, especially as two-thirds of that comes back in orders for British industry and jobs for our people? Surely, aid is a small price to pay for the prospect of international peace and a buoyant world economy.

I hope that the Government will understand, before they reach their conclusions on the Brandt Commission report, that if only we can help solve the major prob- lems of poverty in the world, the problem of domestic book-keeping, fascinating though it appears to be to some of my right hon. and hon. Friends, will largely disappear.

11.55 am

I congratulate the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) on introducing this debate, and also the hon. Member for Norfolk, North-West (Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler) on a very good and courageous speech, with almost all of which I entirely agree.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara), I should like to take issue with the hon. Member for Cambridge on his claim that the principle at issue is not principally one of aid. Of course, Brandt rightly points out that the search for a solution is not an act of benevolence but a search for mutual survival. But the theme running through most of the recommendations in the report is that in order to achieve that objective it will be necessary to have a transfer of funds on a very considerable scale and a doubling of the current £20 billion of annual official development assistance.

The issues raised by the Brandt report are not new. However, what is new is the greater degree of attention given to them by the media. In 1972 a document was produced by the Department of the Environment entitled "Sinews for Survival" which was prepared for the United Nations conference in Stockholm on the environment. Its conclusion was:
"It must be apparent that we are by no means complacent about the management of natural resources in Britain or in the world…Above all, we doubt whether our many misgivings can be overcome unless our human population is stabilised. There is rot much time to spare."
That report received little publicity and was never debated here.

In 1976 the Cabinet Office produced a document entitled "Future World Trends". That document has also never been debated in the House and it did not receive the slightest attention in the media. Yet it was prepared by a body of considerable experts, after much high-quality research. After reviewing the problems of population, food, mineral resources, energy, pollution and economic aspects, that document concluded:
"Unless there are resource transfers on a scale many times greater than at present the effective check to world population will be the Malthusian trilogy of war, famine and disease."
Once again stress was placed upon the importance of a large volume of transfer of assistance from the developed to the developing world.

Of course this is a moral issue, and it is right to stress that. My hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) and the hon. Member for Norfolk, North West gave examples of what they had seen, and those examples should stir the compassion of every hon. Member, and, indeed, everyone who sees such examples in print or on television. But we must face the fact that it does not. Massive presentation of human misery is a deterrent to either reading or watching. I hope that one of the things that will emerge from the discussions on the report will be the possibility of debating overseas aid in terms which do not deter the majority of the population from taking an interest in the matter.

It is also a question of survival for ourselves and for our children. It is possible to foresee an uncontrolled world population developing in the way that was outlined by the hon. Member for Northwich (Mr. Goodlad)—growing from the present 4·3 billion to well over 6 billion by the turn of the century, and probably to 15 billion within the following 100 years. Can we foresee, in a world in which nuclear weapons are available and in which such vast numbers of people are starving, any likelihood of maintaining the standard of living that we enjoy in the developed world?

The Brandt report also argues that a large-scale transfer of resources from North to South could make a major impact on establishing growth in the South as well as enabling us to revive the economy of the North. The most important aspect of the report and of the discussions that have emerged from it is the impact that it may have on the population of the world. It was pointed out in Brandt and also in "Future World Trends" that fertility regulation programmes become effective only when the expectation of life has risen significantly and living standards have started to rise. We shall not achieve birth control or a limit to the growth of world population unless we can raise the living standards of the South as well as of the North.

In order to get public interest and public support, it is important to stress the ingredients in the Brandt report that point to the self-interest of the developed world.

It is important also to remember the success of the Marshall plan after the war and the contribution of the relatively rich United States in rebuilding the shattered economies of Europe. That contribution has, undoubtedly, in the long term, benefited the United States, as it has benefited Europe. I hope to see a repetition of that action emerging as a consequence of the report. It is distressing that the immediate response of the Government to the Brandt Commission report is the public expenditure White Paper and the reduction in the figures for foreign aid to which my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central referred. It is even more disturbing to find not only a reduction in the level of aid from £794 million in 1979–80 to £680 million in 1982–83 but a redirection of that aid. Instead of pursuing the Brandt Commission recommendation that aid should be concentrated most on the poorest countries, the Government are reducing the level of aid to India and Bangladesh and increasing it to countries where the need is not so intense.

Many hon. Members wish to speak. I shall be brief. The reactions to the Brandt report that I should like to see are an educational programme, launched by the Government and supported, I sincerely trust, by successive programmes in the media, a sustained effort to educate the public on the need and on the dangers, and about our own self-interest in restraining world growth of population and restoring the economies of the world through a bigger increase in resources applied to aid.

I should like to see a response from the Government to the appeal for a summit of world leaders. I should like the Government to appoint a senior Minister with responsibility for co-ordinating the activities of all the Departments of Government involved in responding to the Brandt appeal, with a view to enabling the Prime Minister, when attending the world summit called by Brandt, to do so on the basis of thoroughly prepared ground and a policy that will enable the world to see some prospect of survival.

12.2 pm

As a member of the trilateral commission that met in London this week to discuss North-South relations, I was fortunate enough to hear two brilliant speeches. The first was made by the Commonwealth Secretary-General, who spoke in such idealistic terms that one could not help being caught up in the emotionalism that he felt about this important issue. The second speech was made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), who, again, spoke in idealistic terms but, being the man he was, also spoke in practical terms of what should be done at this time to deal with the problems that face us.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) on his excellent and short speech in introducing this subject. My hon. Friend realises more than anything else, as the Member for Cambridge, the importance of educating opinion on what is a vital matter. My hon. Friend mentioned the speech in which Winston Churchill, in his young days, saw the importance of the future politics of trade and stressed the importance of commodities.

Whether we are free traders or protectionists, the important issue is to recognise that this problem must be met through co-ordination by Governments. Those of us who, ideally, are free traders realise that we have to face much more managed trade, particularly internationally, to solve this difficult problem.

My hon. Friend the Member for Northwich (Mr. Goodlad) referred to the world population problem and said that the increase in 20 years would be 2,000 million, equivalent to the population of the world at the beginning of the century. I underline his remarks by pointing out that half of the growth of population will occur in China. I do not want to be complacent, but I do not want to be too pessimistic. I recall that in 1938–39, when first dealing with Japan, we talked about a population problem reaching as high as 250 million people, whereas the present population has levelled off at about 114 million. In making estimates one has to fall back on the economist's phrase "other factors being equal".

A better way to limit population is by raising standards. That is why Japan has been able to level off its population. Those who study the developing world would do well to note the industrialisation of that country. There are 18 million unemployed in OECD countries alone. Production could be increased by between $250 million and $400 million. But, because of the oil shock and the price rise in 1973 and the further increase in oil price last year, we have excess capacity in shipbuilding. Anyone who has gone to Korea since 1973 and seen the huge Hyndai yard is able to recognise the waste of capacity in that yard that might have gone into other investments. One realises how oil prices have forced a cutback in demand.

We have to examine the practical investment side. Private banks are now more cautious than in 1973. Since that year, deficits and debt of $300 million have been incurred largely by the more advanced developing countries. That is why those countries must now double their efforts to sell. But banks are more cautious.

Developing countries start now with a much higher level of debt than in 1973. Each dollar of new investment debt now contracted also represents a much smaller transfer of resources, since much of it must go to cover the rising cost of old loans. It is an enormous problem.

Much as we would like to see further industrialisation in the developing countries, those of us who visit the new industrial countries, such as Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Philippines, know that this new industrialisation is competing with existing industrial capacity unused in the developed world. It is a problem to which we shall have to apply our minds.

I have travelled in China and Korea. It is important to encourage the rural industries. Eighty per cent. of China's population lives in rural areas. It has been suggested that one of our best exports has been a complete farm to China. I think sometimes, in a lighter tone, that it is a pity that we cannot export the common agricultural policy to the developing world. At least, it would enable a more workable solution in Europe. Much has to be done.

Industrialisation is all very well, but the rural problems must also be recognised. In November, in Peking, I met a 30-year old official from the Peking Foreign Office. I asked how much he was being paid, and he told me £5 a week. Yet prices there are almost as high as in other capitals of the world. Nevertheless, the Chinese are extremely flexible and pragmatic about their problems. I spoke to a Chinese economist who was very high up in the Chinese Government. I asked whether he was a Keynesian or a monetarist, and he replied "Well, after a great deal of study, I am a little bit between the two."

That is the sort of problem that we face, and added to it is Russia's invasion of Afghanistan and her adventures in Africa. I have the feeling that we are playing draughts while the Russians are playing chess. There must be more concerted action. Governments cannot step aside from what is being done at the present time. As a member of the trilateral commission, I was glad to note that many of the bankers and leaders who were represented there were well aware of the problem that the world faces.

The United States, Japan and the EEC, which represent the trilateral commission, must take much more practical action. Personally, I should like to see the appointment of a consultative staff to serve the seven countries which meet at the summit—a sort of joint chiefs of staff—so that we can face the realities of what is happening in the world today. There should be joint chiefs of staff on energy, the economy and on the military side for as long as we must continue the wretched balance of power fight with the Russians.

The GATT is not enough. It is a rich man's club. UNCTAD is not enough. It is a poor man's club. The World Bank and the IMF do not have enough political drive. From a practical point of view, much as I hesitate to suggest the creation of a new international staff, that is why it is important for the summit to have a joint staff to back it up. If that were done we could go some way towards facing up to this very difficult problem.

I repeat that Governments cannot step aside, because the banks have exhausted what help they can give. I recommend my own Government to think seriously about the help that they can offer. I do not refer to help from our own economy, but as we are a good creditor nation we could probably get loans from other countries. If we used those loans properly we could help to solve this problem, which I believe is the biggest that has faced the world in the whole of its existence.

12.12 pm

Together with all Members who have spoken, I welcome the initiative of the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) in introducing this subject. This is an important debate, not least because it is now an urgent one. If the hon. Gentleman will forgive my saying so, it is a sad commentary that we are debating this subject in the same week as the Government have cut hack on their own aid contribution. The hon. Gentleman has demonstrated that within the House there are hon. Members who understand the importance of the Brandt Commission report. I hope that the Government will take on board the fact that we shall expect of them a full day's debate in which they will, if they can, justify their attitude, not just to the recommendations on aid but also to the recommendations on trade. As we have heard from more than one hon. Member, Governments cannot slough their responsibility in this matter.

I strongly welcome the Brandt report. Although it does not say anything that is particularly new, it sets out the facts, which are horrifyingly familiar. It is wrong that at this stage in our development we should be talking about the problems, which have become only larger, that we have debated since the Second World War. It is horrifying that in our own Budget we can talk about expanding the amount of money that we are prepared to put into defence while at the same time cutting the amount of money that we are prepared to make available for aid.

Brandt reminds us that the problems are urgent and that they are capable of solution only if we are prepared to demonstrate not just political will but a willingness to put money and effort into facing the problems.

The hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) said that we should not look for solutions within our own Budget and that the Government should be prepared to use their status and ability as a creditor nation. That is not an attitude that I would support. All politicians have a clear, moral duty to explain to their electorates exactly why they think that the tiny amount of money that we have allocated in the mast in our own budgetary arrangements should be maintained and, if possible, increased.

It is not that I want to give less help. I believe that we should give more, but in the way that I have suggested rather than by asking for more help to be given on the budgetary side, especially at the present time.

The hon. Gentleman and I differ on that point.

Brandt makes clear that in the North there is still no understanding of the scale, scope and enormity of the problems. I was particularly struck, and wryly amused, by the remark made by Herr Brandt himself when he said that when he had responsibility in these matters he perhaps did not give enough weight to those who advocated different aid programmes. In a sense, that is a measure of the difficulties that we face. When people are dealing with the day -to-day problems of their own political lives, inevitably the things that can be regarded as being slightly removed from the immediate can be pushed out of their minds. We all do it. It is almost inevitable. How many hon. Members mentioned the problems of overseas aid in their election addresses? [HON. MEM. BERS: "We did."] I am glad to learn that those who are present actually did so, but how many Members of the full House of Commons were elected by explaining to their constituents that we do not live in a capsule that is insulated from the rest or the world?

My hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor), in a most moving speech, said that she found it difficult to talk in an unemotional way about the deaths of children. I agree absolutely. We do not have to apologise for that. When we lose our ability to be emotionally involved in the death of another human being, we lose our ability to be good politicians because we are no longer sensitive to the problems that human beings face, wherever they may be. If there is one thing that I find infinitely obscene, it is that inside the EEC we can have vast stores of food which, in some instances, are kept until they rot while elsewhere in the world millions of children are dying of starvation. We should ask ourselves about the ambivalence of our own attitudes. For example, we should ask ourselves why we are so proud of the Lomé convention when it does not begin to deal with the problems of the associated States. The Lomé convention actually rules out two of the major areas of the world which are among the poorest. Therefore, the Community has a responsibility to look to its own laurels to see whether it is fulfilling its direct task.

Does my hon. Friend agree that not only does the Lomé convention fail to deal with South-East Asia and other places but that the materials with which it deals are of specific benefit to the West and have little to do with the development of the ACP countries?

I was coming to precisely that point. The Lomé convention seems to be a clear example of the way in which we frequently have dual standards. In effect, the Lomé convention states that we should seek a means of stabilising prices, especially in raw materials and commodities generally. It has STABEX, and it has at long last accepted that it should have the rather inadequate scheme known as MINEX. However, there is a real fear in my mind that we might give the impression to the countries with which we deal that our only interest in trying to stabilise commodity prices is a personal one.

I am concerned that we should seem to be saying to Third world countries "As we are already fairly well developed, and as we have a continuing need for your materials, when it suits us we shall give you support so that we can import your raw materials. However, when you begin to develop to the point where you are exporting semi-manufactured or manufactured goods, our response will be one of horror. We shall close the barriers and ensure that you do not have full access to our markets".

My hon. Friend the Member for Waltham Forest (Mr. Deakins) said that we in the Labour Party have a particular responsibility not to support the cry for import controls, without realising the full implications. I agree with him. However, as Socialists we have a responsibility to look wider than that. I have never been able to understand a world that finds it simple always to find money to support underdeveloped countries when they wish to buy arms. It is astonishing how often lines of credit are available to countries in which people are dying of starvation to buy weapons and military hardware when it is plain that they need implements that will enable them to feed their populations.

The Brandt report makes it clear that we cannot sustain that position for very much longer. We should ask ourselves why the figures that we are talking about are so pitifully small and why we still cannot manage to achieve the level of aid that is desperately needed by the countries of the Third world.

With the one minor exception of the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney), who is no longer in his place, a noticeable feature of the debate has been the demonstration that the House is capable of turning its mind to a wider dimension and a wider responsibility. We must ensure that that is the message that goes out to the peoples of the world generally, and especially to those of the underdeveloped nations.

The Brandt report states that a massive transfer of resources can take place only if the political will exists and if we are prepared to consider what we are going to do today as opposed to tomorrow. We have many abilities in Britain that we could translate into action. For example, we have shown that it is possible to transform our agriculture from small farms to a large and effective industry. We should consider means of translating that sort of technology into areas where it will be of most use. We should consider means of developing the technology that enables us to produce and use drugs and prophylactic medicine to help keep people alive rather than seek means of destroying them. Those are areas in which our own ideas are still not clear.

Multinational companies have a specific role to play, and the Brandt report makes that obvious. However, they must not regard the Third world as a suitable area for their experiments. There are still instances of major drug companies using in underdeveloped countries drugs that would not be found acceptable in more highly educated countries in the area that Brandt calls the North. There are still instances of companies freely offering for use in underdeveloped nations contraceptive methods that they would not offer in the Western world. There are still instances of multinationals unloading, for commercial reasons, harsh tobaccos when they know the risk to public health and when they would find it difficult to justify that sort of transaction in the West.

Those instances demonstrate repeatedly to the peoples of the underdeveloped world that we have dual standards. We talk to them of aid and trade, but we talk always from the standpoint of our own narrow interests. We frequently fail to demonstrate our commitment to the interests of the peoples of the world. Let us consider the idea advanced by the Brandt report for a tax on arms sales. I see nothing wrong with asking those who sell weapons of death and destruction to consider making a positive grant at the same time. We should give careful consideration to the common fund and how best we may act on commodity prices.

Far more important than all the topics to which I have referred is the message that goes out from the House. It should be one of commitment. It should be one that says "We may be inadequate in the amount of money that we have provided and in the political will that we have demonstrated so far, but we shall not be inadequate in future. It is our wish, desire and strong intention to ensure that in a modern society and in a modern world it will not be necessary for children to die of starvation and disease while we have the ability and the will to change that pattern."

12.26 pm

I join all those who have contributed to the debate in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) on choosing this interesting subject and on the inspiring way on which he started our debate. I am sure that he will understand when I tell him that during the past few days there were times when I was not so enthusiastic about his choice as I solemnly waded my way through the interesting 305 pages of the report. It is an important subject, and my hon. Friend has done the House a great service in raising it.

The Brandt Commission set itself a most daunting task. It took the precaution of equipping itself with a membership that measured up to the size of the task. The Government welcome the report as a major attempt to outline some of the great problems that the developed and developing world will face in the next 20 years and to suggest answers. We congratulate its authors. I am sure that the House will join me in paying tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), who is recognised as having played a decisive role in the commission's work. My right hon. Friend explained to me this morning that he was able to express his views in 305 pages and that he wanted to listen to the views of others. Many will regret that we did not have the opportunity of hearing my right hon. Friend. However, we admire the selfless way in which he has made time available for the rest of us.

The report covers activities that are the responsibility of many Government Departments. It is appropriate that a Minister from the Department of Trade should respond to the debate. It is my Department that has to deal from day to day with the practical problems of maintaining the open trading system. Foreign producers, especially from the developing world, seek greater access to our markets. Home producers argue that that access should not be given. There are some on both sides of the House who argue both points of view, by implication, at the same time. There are those who make great speeches about their concern for the developing world but press the Government like mad to introduce import controls when a factory in their constituencies is threatened.

We understand the motives of hon. Members who are under constituency pressures, but I have been heartened to hear Labour Members arguing the case against import controls. I wish them every success in the argument within their party in the face of the growing pressure there for protectionism.

The developing world takes about 22 per cent. of our exports and contributes about 18 per cent. of our imports. Trade dominates relations between North and South. For example, in 1977 developing countries' exports to OECD countries totalled $203 billion. Two-way trade, exports and imports, amounted to more than $500 billion. In comparison, official development assistance from OECD donors was just under $15 billion. Two-way trade is 35 times more significant than the flow of aid. In the face of those figures, can anyone deny that trade is by far the most significant element in the relationship between the developed and the developing world?

The report runs to 300 pages and covers a huge area. It will take time for the Government to complete their study and analysis of the report. Since, as the report recognises, only concerted action will be effective, we shall need to consult other Governments, especially our partners within the EEC.

Today, I am able to give only the Government's preliminary reactions to the many ideas and proposals in the report. It would be foolish for me to attempt an instant response to a document on which a group of distinguished people have worked hard for more than two years and that has been available to the public for only three weeks.

However, I can say that in three aspects we consider the report to be notable. First, in its scope, it is a comprehensive report covering a whole range of issues touching on development and the management of the world economy that have been under discussion in the United Nations system and elsewhere in the world throughout the 1970s.

Secondly, in its analysis, it offers a cogent account of the problems that the world, and particularly the developing world, will face in the 1980s. No one will underestimate the gravity of those problems. To solve the problems of underdevelopment, poverty and malnutrition more effectively, we need growth in the world economy to generate the additional resources that are needed.

Yet at the start of the 1980s we face rising inflation and a global recession. The Budget Statement on Wednesday made clear how serious the implications are for our country and for the industrialised West as a whole. The implications for the developing world are still more serious. Rising oil prices, which will increase the already heavy burden of debt referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale), require changes in the plans of all countries, and that will be even more painful for developing countries than for ourselves.

A showdown in world trade will squeeze the export earnings on which developing countries rely in order to finance their import needs. Inflation and recession, which are compelling Governments in all industrialised countries to set tight limits on public expenditure, will inevitably squeeze the resources available for development assistance.

The third reason why we consider the report notable is its timeliness. At a time when Governments all over the world are in danger of becoming obsessed with staring at their own economic navels, the report reminds us that huge problems face the world and will have to be approached in a most imaginative way. The report reminds us that developed and developing countries share a joint interest in tackling those problems. In Herr Brandt's own words,
"A quickened pace of development in the South also serves people in the North."
As many hon. Members have said, the debate is not about who is to prosper at the expense of whom but about how the prospects of all of us can be improved.

I turn to four main themes of the commission's report, summarised in its proposals for an emergency programme in the 1980s. The commission calls for a massive transfer of resources from North to South, an accommodation with the OPEC countries on oil prices and supplies, a global food programme, and reform of the existing system of international economic co-operation.

The commission believes that a massive transfer of financial resources to developing countries is perhaps the best single way to benefit them and that such transfers would provide a stimulus to world economic activity as a whole. I suspect that the reality may be more complex.

Massive increases in aid in current circumstances would imply major changes in the economic strategies of all the major Western countries, with considerable implications not least for the fight against inflation, which must remain our main priority.

I have been waiting for the Minister to tell us why the Government, far from going along with a massive increase in aid, have this week actually cut back on aid.

If the hon. Lady had contained her impatience, she would have found that I intend to deal with that matter.

Whatever conclusions economists and development experts may reach on the optimum flow of resources from North to South—and there is no doubt that there will be many differing opinions—the essential point for us in Britain is a simple one. We have to tailor what we can afford.

Many hon. Members referred to the reductions in the United Kingdom's aid programme which were announced this week. The cuts. like all cuts in public expenditure, were painful, but they were unavoidable if we were to strengthen our own economy, and it is on that that our ability to support overseas development ultimately depends.

One of the most shameful incidents in the history of recent years occurred in 1976, when Britain became the biggest creditor in the history of the IMF, using its position as the second biggest quota holder to become the IMF's biggest ever borrower, pre-empting a huge slice of the fund's scarce resources to prop up a standard of living that its people were not earning.

I suggest that putting our own economy on a sound basis, which enables us to become contributors and not dependants, must be a major objective for the United Kingdom.

Despite the cuts, the aid programme will remain a substantial one of nearly £700 million a year. The Government have also removed exchange controls, thus aiding the private flow of money, which is an important consideration.

I shall certainly draw the attention of my hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development to the interesting speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Northwich (Mr. Goodlad) about the dangers for the world of the population explosion and the need for more of the aid programme to be diverted in that direction. My hon. Friend made a moving speech and a telling case.

Does the Minister accept that if we stimulate other economies they will have money with which to buy goods from us, but if we cut back on encouraging them to improve their own position the effect on our industry will not be that we shall become more competitive but that we shall become unemployed?

I repeat to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara), what I said in my speech. There is something absurd in talking about increasing our aid programme when the result would be that our economy would get in a mess and we would then start pre-empting huge slices—$4,000 million—of the resources of the IMF. What is sensible or helpful about that? What is sensible about one of the better-off countries of the world using scarce resources in huge quantities, at the expense of the developing countries, to prop up a standard of living that has not been earned? That is not helpful to the world economy or to the developing countries.

There are clearly two facets to that argument. The Minister has already said that the Brandt report has been available for about three weeks. Does that mean that the cuts did not in any way take into account the recommendations of the commission? Would it not have been more sensible for the Government to wait for the report and to take some account of it before considering what they were going to say?

I note what the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) said. However, I cannot agree with him. My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer was in the process of putting his Budget together, and that process does not happen overnight. The public expenditure programme has been considered over a long period. It may be unfortunate that we did not have the Brandt report earlier, but I do not believe that by the time it came out there was time to review those pro- grammes. As I said earlier, I do not believe that the country or the Government are being selfish in seeking to put our own economy on a sounder footing and to turn ourselves into a would be contributor and not a would-be dependant of the IMF.

I turn now to energy. The report forcefully presents the case for an attempt to reach an understanding with the OPEC countries on the vital issues of oil prices and supplies. No one will deny that an arrangement of this kind could provide a framework for a revival of world economic activity. Equally, I am sure that no one will deny the practical difficulties of achieving and maintaining such an understanding.

We welcome the emphasis that the report gives to the need and the scope for better relations between oil producers and oil consumers, and on the need to avoid large, sudden oil price increases that are economically damaging, especially to developing countries. However, we accept that the long-term trend of oil prices is upward. The problem is to ensure that the transition is orderly and no more disruptive than it need be.

We welcome the emphasis placed by the Brandt Commission on the raising of food production in the Third world and on making food supplies more secure. We have a food aid programme of our own amounting to about £40 million a year. But I would suggest—the report recognises this—that agrarian reforms within the developing countries have an essential contribution to make.

As Minister for Trade, one of the problems that I find in my travels all over the world is the tremendous drift away from the land and into the cities. In many countries in Africa fertile land is available, but there is a shortage of people to cultivate it. Countries that are capable of providing a substantial part of their own food supplies are actually short of labour on the land while there is massive unemployment in the cities. It is a problem that one finds in all parts of the world and it is one that must be a major preoccupation for Governments of developing countries, which I know it is.

We should not forget the need to liberalise the world trade in food. This is an aspect which, for obvious reasons, we shall have to consider with our Community partners. But as this is a relatively non-controversial occasion I had better leave the common agricultural policy there.

The commission calls for a reform of the existing institutional arrangements for the management of the world economy. I accept that the present system must continue to evolve and adapt to meet new international circumstances and needs. I believe it has done that. For instance, there have been eight renegotiations of the quotas since the IMF was formed. It is an organisation that is continually evolving and changing and it is capable of doing that in the future.

In recent years the GATT, the IMF and the World Bank have amply demonstrated their capacity to meet new changes and challenges. This is a process that should and will continue. But we should aim to strengthen the existing system and not overturn it. I see no advantage in the proliferation of new international machinery or of the new international bureaucracy which would inevitably go with such machinery.

That touches on another point that causes the Government concern. The Brandt report lays much emphasis on multilateral action by Governments. Such action certainly has a role to play, but I hope that we will not allow global discussions to become a substitute for bilateral actions both by Governments and by countries. After all, in the West companies are the custodians of a great deal of the West's technology and capital.

I will give an example of what I have in mind. I led the United Kingdom delegation to UNCTAD V in Manila last year. I was struck by the amount of time, money and effort devoted there to the discussion and negotiation of resolutions which dealt in very general terms with global issues on trade and development. It was difficult to reach any sort of agreement; and the agreements, when reached, were so opaque as to be almost meaningless. One almost despaired about the apparent unbridgeable gap between the developed and the developing countries.

On my way back from that conference I visited three developing countries and I found that the very processes of adjustment and technology transfer that we found it difficult to reach agreement about or pass resolutions on in Manila were happening. We must not allow global negotiations and the need to discuss these problems on a global basis to slow down the process of bilateral action—which is theoretically almost impossible but in practice is happening on an ever-increasing scale.

I referred to the role of trade in the economic development of the Third world. The Brandt report rightly warned of protectionist pressures in industrial countries. Many hon. Members mentioned this problem today. They are increasing as we enter a period of recession and there is a danger of a lapse into widespread protectionism. This country is probably more dependent on international trade than any other industrialised country, and we need no reminding of the disastrous consequences of protectionism. But the preservation of the open world trading system is essential if the developing countries are to fulfil their development roles.

Import restraints have been necessary in a number of areas, but I hope that no one will be tempted to argue that the action that we have taken to give a home-based industry time to adjust to a sudden surge of imports should become the norm. There is a great danger that that mood could grow in the House.

I remind hon. Members, as my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North-West (Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler) reminded us, that those who argue for protection against the import of goods from low-cost suppliers should remember that the West runs a substantial surplus with those countries. In cutting off that trade, the West would be damaging developing countries and damaging its own economies even more. We should not see developing countries as a threat. We should recognise that, more and more, they will not be passengers on the world economy but will be a vital part of the motor that drives it. I hope that all hon. Members will join the Government in resisting pressures for protection.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harwich spoke about the newly industrialised countries. They are a particular problem, but they represent a great opportunity. Many of them, while expanding rapidly, are reluctant to open up their markets. We must urge them to open up those markets and to recognise their new role. They must be persuaded to stop seeking the protection and help that the poor developing countries need. The newly industrialised countries owe it to the rest of the trading world to open up their markets as quickly as possible. Failure to do that will be used as an argument in favour of protectionism.

If we ask our own industrialists to accept import competition from the newly industrialised countries, there will be a displacement of jobs. We have a right to expect those countries to play their part by opening up their markets to our goods and those of other developing countries. We expect trade between such countries and ourselves to be increased. We shall press that case in the renegotiation of the general scheme of preferences.

Is not this a matter for the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade? Will the Minister ask the Secretariat to look at the problem urgently?

The renegotiation has involved pressure on some of the newly industrialised countries to become signatories to the GATT and to accept its rules. They owe it to the rest of the trading community to accept them.

We must accept that our own economy must be adjusted. We must cease the resistance to change which has been a feature of Britain's industrial scene. We must accept that in more and more industries a transfer of technology should take place. That is nothing new to us. In the 1960s and 1970s over 400,000 jobs in the textile industry were lost. Such changes must continue, although they are not welcome. Those who believe that global plans for adjustment will be implemented easily would be wise to think again.

We have had many problems in the steel industry in agreeing that certain works must be phased out so that production can be concentrated more efficiently in other places. It has taken many years to obtain agreement about that. To suggest that it is easy, on a global basis, to fix on a country to be the base for an industry is misleading. Adjustment is a difficult but necessary process. We must do all that we can to aid that process, but we must not pretend that global negotiations will produce short-term answers.

A tremendous amount of material could, and should, be debated. Some hon. Members concentrated on the importance of the common fund and commodities. We support the development of international commodity agreements where they are feasible, cost-effective and of benefit to both producers and consumers. We welcome the recent agreement on natural rubber, for example.

We have a certain amount of scepticism about the scope for reaching agreements over the whole range of commodities. We shall press on with negotiations wherever there is an opportunity for improvement and progress. I am glad that the Government back the development of the common fund and that they are taking part in the negotiations on the rules of that fund. We have also committed ourselves to a second window.

I draw three broad conclusions from the debate. The first is that although views may differ on the feasibility and desirability of some of the Brandt proposals, there is no doubt that the commission has done the world a great service in drawing renewed attention to issues which must be debated in the next decade. The debate will be continued in the autumn in the global negotiations on North-South issues at the United Nations in New York.

The second conclusion is that all countries, not only Western countries, have a part to play in tackling development problems. The Brandt Commission rightly underlines the inadequate performance of the Soviet Union and its allies as aid donors and as markets for the exports of developing countries. The commission has emphasised that successful development depends ultimately on the efforts of the developing countries. The prime object of our development policies must be to maintain and strengthen the efforts of the developing countries.

The third conclusion is that it is important not to forget the measures which have been and are being taken for the benefit of developing countries and which the Government support. We worked hard with our Community partners to secure last year's successful outcome of the multilateral trade negotia- tions. As a result, specially favourable treatment for developing countries was agreed as well as substantial reductions in trade barriers.

We hope that the developing countries will be actively associated with the implementation of the MTN package. The new Lomé convention extends and improves the trade arrangements and will provide a total of £3·3 billion in the next five years. The general capital of the World Bank is to be doubled and a sixth replenishment of the International Development Association is in prospect. In total, financial flows to developing countries have greatly increased.

I make no apology for stressing the role of trade, investment and technology. They are the great engines of development. In Western economies they lie mainly in private hands, much as Opposition Members may resent that. Experience in developing countries which have most successfully expanded their industrial base and exports underlines the dynamic effect of private initiative working with Government on development and growth. Theirs is an example to be pondered, not least by Britain. In spite of assertions from Opposition Members, wealth is not created by Governments. Wealth must be created before it can be distributed, either nationally or internationally.

May I put one question to the Minister before he sits down?

Order. I was under the impression that the Minister had sat down.

12.59 pm

There is not much time and, therefore, it is not possible to do more than underline a few arguments. I congratulate the Brandt Commission on its work. I congratulate the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), who has sat patiently throughout the debate. According to The Observer, he played a critical role in ensuring that the commission arrived at an agreed solution. For that he deserves congratulations. I congratulate also the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) on his initiative in raising the issue, which has been debated already in the Lords. I hope that it is not an indication of the degree of priority given to the question either by the Government or by the Opposition—who both have access to time—that the first debate has resulted from the initiative of a private Member.

I was surprised at the Minister's response to an earlier intervention of mine. I shall not argue about his conclusion that there are insufficient resources to increase our overseas aid budget, although I dissent from that. The report deals with a major issue, yet it appears that the Government did not consider the matter in depth before reaching a conclusion on the overseas aid budget.

Overseas aid was not by any means a minor item in the report, which the hon. Member for Cambridge seemed to suggest. It is in that area, perhaps more than in any other, that the moral argument appears. That was referred to by the hon. Member for Waltham Forest (Mr. Deakins). The report said that a number of countries had not reached a gross national product target of 0·7 per cent. and that they should be given until 1985 to do so. Thereafter, they should aim for a target of 1 per cent. GNP by the end of the century. That is not very much. All these matters are relative.

There used to be a time when the Church exacted a tithe from its citizenry, and the tithe was a tenth, not a hundredth, of the resources of the individual. That was accepted as a reasonable action in the Middle Ages and before. Therefore, the Government's sights are aimed considerably lower than they should be.

In the debate in another place, Lord Tanlaw drew attention to the shortcomings of the energy section of the report, especially its failure to contemplate the potential capacity of nuclear energy as a means of alleviating some of the energy shortages. We understand the problems and concerns that are linked with nuclear energy and which are discussed fully in Britain. However, it still represents a major potential provider of power. We are discussing potentials, and that is an aspect to which the commission should have paid more attention.

Protectionism has been dealt with by many hon. Members and there is no point in covering the ground again, except to say that I agree with the Minister. He rightly said that often a Member makes a speech calling for generosity to the underdeveloped world but if, perchance, the ex port from that underdeveloped country affects a factory in his constituency, he rapidly begins to sing a different tune. It would be hypocritical if we condemned that hon. Member, because we would not necessarily find ourselves in his position. However, it is a factor that must be taken into account, and we must be honest about that.

The report emphasises the need for increased food production and for a better emergency food supply. Only the hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) referred to the common agricultural policy, and that was in a somewhat flippant manner. The Minister mentioned it, but only to say that he had no intention of saying anything about it.

The hon. Member for Crewe (Mrs. Dunwoody), in a short but effective speech, said that she was ashamed that we should pile up surpluses of food, which are often left to rot, while people were starving. Should not the Government make proposals for the dispersal of surplus food supplies in appropriate ways rather than selling them to the Soviet Union at reduced prices? There is a relationship between those two matters. Perhaps the Minister will tell us the Government's view about that.

The hon. Member for Northwich (Mr. Goodlad) tabled an amendment dealing with population and he drew attention to a fundamentally important matter. One million new individuals every five days is a terrifying statistic. However, no one said that in the Christian world the main religious organisation, the Roman Catholic Church, is absolutely against population regulation and control. That is an important issue in South America. What do we do about that? In large areas of Africa and Asia fecundity is a sign of virility and strength. It is an approved social activity to have a large number of children.

It is all very well for the civilised bourgeoisie—most of us tend to be bourgeois although we claim to be working class—to project the theory that the world should be satisfied with 1·5 children per family, but it is an illusionary idea. We are not facing the fundamental problem or, indeed, even recognising how serious it is.

The report contains a powerful passage on disarmament. It emphasises the need for detente, to strengthen the United Nations and to control arms sales. In all fairness to the Minister, it must be said that those three points have not been in the lead in Conservative manifestos during the past few years. The Government are not being traditionally enthusiastic about these matters. The subject is best summed up in the first sentence of the conclusion of the report, which states,
"The public must be made more aware of the terrible danger to world stability caused by the arms race, of the burden it imposes on national economies, and of the resources that it diverts from peaceful development."
The map on the cover of the report is divided by a wavy black line. There is a large chunk called the Eastern world, which we have not mentioned, but it has a big influence on these matters, especially in arms expenditure. Lord Trefgarne drew attention to the fact that in 1978 the Soviet Union received £135 million in repayments of loans, whereas we disbursed £1·5 billion. The Soviet Union said that it could not do better because of what it called necessary arms expenditure. Before the Minister says "Yes", I point out that that is exactly the same argument as he advanced in relation to our economy. Neither argument is well founded.

It is vital to stress the urgency that permeates the report. Regrettably, it does not yet permeate the House or the country. As politicians, we have a job to inform the public. I hope that in this regard we shall have the co-operation of the media. The media—particularly the popular media—usually deal with these matters deplorably. They are generally treated as human interest in-fill stories, and no more. Certainly no comprehension of the gravity of the matter gets across. I think that it has got across in this short debate, particularly with such excellent speeches as those made by the hon. Members for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) and Norfolk, North-West (Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler). I again congratulate the hon. Member for Cambridge on taking this initiative, which has been to the benefit of us all.

1.11 pm

Everyone has rightly congratulated my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James), and I add my own thanks for his introducing what has been for me, and I think for all of us, a most interesting debate.

I have not always been the most forthcoming in paying tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), but I am sure that the whole House much appreciates his having listened to the whole debate.

However, my comments about the Brandt Commission will perhaps be less warm than those of others. Of course, its analysis is right; of course, it has put its finger on the right problems; but my fear is that it has not led to the radical conclusion that so much of the evidence warrants.

I was delighted, however, that in its chapter on food and hunger the commission made it plain that the cause of the world's hunger was simply poverty and not what we have been told so often in recent years—a lack of food grown or of resources to enable it to be produced. I find that a refreshing change. It conflicts with so much of what we have heard in recent years in defence of the ultra-protectionism of the common agricultural policy.

According to studies carried out by the United States Department of Agriculture, about 44 per cent. of the world's arable land is not being cultivated. That does not mean that if that land were to be cultivated we should be able to double food production. But, if that conclusion is anything like correct, it must be indisputable that we could, if we had the will and if we were willing to divert resources, effect a substantial increase in food production.

Even on the present figures of cereal production, published from year to year, we see that sufficient is grown to enable every member of the human race to have enough cereals to provide him with about 3,000 calories a day. That is a significant figure. The World Health Organisation has devised a creature called "reference man". He is aged 25 and has an occupation that is neither wholly sendentary nor wholly the opposite. He works eight hours a day, sleeps for eight hours, and for eight hours is engaged in what the WHO calls non-occupational activity. The climate that he lives in is neither excessively hot nor excessively cold.

The importance of reference man is that in the WHO's opinion he should have 3,000 calories a day. If he has that quantity, there is no question of under-nutrition as regards calories. Yet the coincidental fact is that that is precisely the number of calories that could be made available to every member of the human race if the world's existing cereal production were divided equally and we all had the same rations. That takes no account of the fish, fruit, vegetables and other foodstuffs that are available.

Therefore, I do not agree with the Malthusian gloom expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Northwich (Mr. Goodlad) and others. However, the wretched fact is that so much of the 44 per cent. of the world's arable land that lies uncultivated is in the very area where the hunger is worst. In the Sudan, only 10 per cent. of the arable land is being cultivated. That information was given by Mr. Ibrahim at the world food conference in 1975. In Latin America there is 16 per cent. of the world's tillable land. Yet in Colombia, to name just one country, more than half the arable land is not cultivated, though it is a country where many thousands go desperately hungry.

I am sure that the commission was right to attribute some of the blame to existing land tenure and the need for land reform, especially in Latin America. Some of us are only too well aware that certain companies based on the United States have taken over the control of hundreds of thousands of acres and driven peasant farmers off that land in order that they should become cheap labour in the enterprises that those companies control. The companies are mainly engaged in monoculture, not to supply the needs of the people of that country but to supply the United States with food more cheaply than otherwise.

There must be hundreds of millions of farmers in the world. I suspect that they have at least one instinct in common. It is not to begin—I say this as someone who has been a farmer—the long, laborious and expensive process of cultivating land and getting it ready to grow a crop unless they are reasonably certain that by the time the harvest comes they will receive a fair cash price for it. The supply of the world's food depends on that demand being expressed in cash terms. If the money is there in the pockets or the loincloths of the world's poor, the food will be forthcoming. The evidence for that seems to be overwhelming. I am a little sad that the Commission did not give due weight to that, which seems to be indisputable.

How, then, are we to put the necessary money into the pockets of the world's poor, who are going so much hungrier than they should? This is where the report is rather disappointing. My right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup has often visited China. He is, as I am, an admirer of what that country has achieved. In days gone by, many millions went without food in China. That no longer happens. Yet China is a country where the soil and the climate are not always conducive to a high level of food production.

Against all the odds, China has achieved something that verges on a miracle. A lesson is there for all of us to learn. It is their belief that where there is work there is an income, and that where there is an income there is food capable of being demanded in cash terms and ultimately grown. So everyone in China has work to do whether or not it is "economic". The one kind of work, above all, that the people can do in the South is in agriculture. They cannot grow food for their own needs, for the reason that I have given, and they cannot grow it for the North because of the ultra-protectionism that we practise against them.

I am more than conscious that the clock is moving very fast, and I would merely say this to those who have criticised the Government today for cutting back on overseas aid. How many of them have consistently gone into the Lobby in recent years to oppose legislation designed to protect those industries whose pressure groups have urged us to give them some kind of protection? Casting my eye around, I regret to say that the answer seems to be nil.

I hope, therefore, that in the months to come, when we consider more fully this most valuable report, we shall also consider how the House might play a better part in bringing down the barriers of protectionism that exist against the Third world and prevent Third world countries from doing the very kind of thing that they can do best—to grow the food and to produce the textiles that this country could enjoy.

1.21 pm

On page 8 of his introduction to the report, Willy Brandt describes how, as a young journalist opposing dictatorship, he was not blind to the problems of colonialism and the fight for independence. He goes on to describe how he met Nehru, Tito, Nasser and other leaders, at a time when most people in Western Europe had not even heard about a Third world or the beginning of a non-aligned movement. Then we come, on page 9, to two crucial sentences:

"But it is nonetheless true that, as a head of Government, other priorities took up most of my time and kept me from realising the full importance of North-South issues."
Brandt confesses:
"I certainly did not give enough attention to those of my colleagues who at that time advocated a reappraisal of our priorities."
The cynics might say that it is all very fine to come up with a document such as the Brandt report when one is out of office but that when in office matters would seem so different as to make Brandt-like proposals unreal. I do not go along with that cynical view. What Brandt says is probably true of a lot of leaders in positions of power. It is not that these men had been disregarding the world at large; it is rather that they had been preoccupied with other problems at the top of their in-tray which had kept them from realising the full impact of what anyone reading this powerfully written report must now realise—the gigantic significance of the North-South situation.

There are not many new and original ideas in the report. Many of us who have participated in conferences or seminars have heard most of the ideas before. What makes the message compelling is the stature of the Brandt commission—an independent group of 18 top-level politicians. What is important about the Brandt report is that it clothes with respectability ideas which, at any rate until recently, would have been thought to be "way out" and over-idealistic, if not cranky.

I pay tribute to the courtesy of the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), who would have been entitled to an hour of this debate, and who has sat so patiently to listen to all of us. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]

On page 284 the report states:
"The public must be made more aware of the terrible danger to world stability caused by the arms race, of the burden it imposes on national economies, and of the resources it diverts from peaceful development."
A globally respected peacekeeping mechanism should be built up. In my opinion, this is more urgent in 1980 than in 1979, in spite of Afghanistan. I go back to the topic that was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe (Mrs. Dunwoody). There is a strengthening role here for the United Nations in securing the integrity of States. Such peacekeeping machinery might free resources for development through a sharing of military expenditure, a reduction in areas of conflict, and in the arms race which they imply. Military expenditure and arms exports might be one element entering into a new principle for international taxation for development purposes. The tax on arms trade should be at a higher rate than that on any other trade.

I recollect that on the last occasion on which I was talking with ministerial colleagues in my party, albeit privately, on an arms sale tax for international purposes—I claim no originality for the idea, since it was one of the many ideas in the Brandt report which have been thrashed out at international conferences—the answer from the Minister, who must be nameless, was "Oh, Tam, don't start getting into political bed with Frank Allaun again."

I have always had a considerable regard for—though I am by no means in total agreement with—my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun). But it is not my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East who is now proposing an arms tax for development. Indeed, I say to the present Secretary of State for Defence that it is no longer the parliamentary "way out" guys but his former mentor and boss, the former Prime Minister, whose Chief Whip he was, who has solemnly put his signature to such a proposition.

The question of giving these ideas respectability is, therefore, of considerable importance. Increased efforts should be made to reach agreements on the dis- closure of arms exports and exports of arms-producing facilities. Do the Government agree? If they do not, they had better say so. I would have asked this question equally roughly if my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) had been in office. Incidentally, we wish him a speedy recovery.

The international community should become more seriously concerned about the consequences of arms transfers or of exports of arms-producing facilities, and should reach agreement to restrain such deliveries to areas of conflict or tension. I want to know what Labour and Conservative Governments intend to do about the export of arms to areas such as the Argentine. Such exports should be subject to international tax—and I say that as one who has many Ferranti workers in his constituency.

We shall have to face up to the employment consequences, although if the Brandt recommendations were put fully into operation there would be more jobs, not fewer, for skilled workers in firms such as Ferranti. More research is necessary on the means of converting arms production to civilian production, which could make use of highly skilled and technical manpower currently employed in the arms industries. Brandt is right on this. Do the British Government intend to do anything about it?

I turn now to what are called "automatic revenues", and I speak as a former member of the budget committee of the European Parliament. This is a proposal to raise revenues for development by automatic mechanisms. The attraction from a world development point of view is that this is a means of raising revenue without repeated interventions by Governments.

We all know that Governments are subject to enormous short-term pressures. The fact that revenues are raised automatically does not, of course, imply that their transfer should be automatic. If one does not have automatic revenues, the amount of aid will depend upon the uncertain political will of the countries giving it. This, alas, is all too dependent on the shifting priorities of Governments in making their annual appropriations and and the vagaries of legislatures.

Do the British Government accept Brandt's argument that, with more assured forms and methods, developing countries could plan on a more predictable basis, making aid more effective? It is like internationalising certain built—in benefits such as pensions, which we take for granted.

This morning, in listening on the radio to the right hon. Member for Sidcup, I heard Brian Redhead say that of course there might be universal assent, but would there be universal inaction? It is a solemn obligation on those of us here and outside to go on and on and on, campaigning to see that there is not universal inaction. If we do not, we humans have had it.

1.28 pm

I congratulate the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) on the tone and style of his speech. I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) on his introduction of the debate. He is a most distinguished export from Oxford in recent years and he has used his good fortune at Cambridge to very good ends.

I join in the general message to the Government that in the near future—I realise that this is a matter not for the Minister but for the Leader of the House—we want a full day's debate on this matter. I hope that in that debate we shall be fortunate enough to hear my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) on this important issue.

We in this House often have our eyes fixed on the South—North divide in our own country, as I see it, and on debating ways in which to bring about a more fortunate and better distribution of our resources. But that should not prevent us from looking beyond the shores of this island to countries in the less fortunate part of the globe which greatly need our help.

We in the Western world have too often done our bit—and it has been a very small bit—in giving aid to the South largely by the technique of throwing cash at it. Having thrown that cash, which many of us think inadequate, we feel that we have salved our consciences and can turn our backs on the problem. We have not been sensible in the ways in which we have disposed of that cash, but on some occasions it has been beneficial.

I enjoyed the speech by the hon. Member for Waltham Forest (Mr. Deakins). I do not think that one should despair of the arithmetical gap which opens up in the growth of GNP between developed countries and the less developed and newly industrialised countries. Very small though that percentage growth may be, the growth which takes place in those countries may serve to trigger off the great leap from below poverty to above poverty. At that stage it will have its own multiplier effect on the economy.

We cannot go on simply throwing cash at problems. The Brandt report does not suggest that we should. It is more hard—headed in its approach, and I applaud it for that. I also applaud the suggestion in the report, to which no one thus far has referred, concerning the vital need to bring the Communist world—Russia and the Eastern States—into the giving of aid in different forms overseas. We should encourage that approach but treat it with care and watch out for economic as well as military imperialism. After all, we have been guilty of both economic and military imperialism in the past.

I cast a little doubt on the validity of the common techniques that the Soviet bloc has used within its own area to try to solve the problems of its undeveloped regions. We have seen planning being not particularly beneficial in many parts of the Soviet bloc. Steel plants have been put down in places where, under normal locational theory and practice, no steel plants should have been placed. We have seen the failure of the USSR's agriculture programme. We have seen the failure in many ways of national planning in five—year and 10–year plans. If these techniques do not work in fully—blown Communist countries, I do not think that, if exported to Third world countries, they are likely to work there. Therefore, we must be cautious in attempting to get Russia, China and countries in the Soviet bloc to face their responsibilities for bringing aid and trade to Third world countries.

In dealing with the way forward, which the debate on the Brandt report has been important in stimulating—I look forward to another chance to discuss these points in a full day's debate in the House —we must find ways in this country of involving people more in what we are doing in the giving of aid and trade to Third world countries. We are used to being very involved in the problems of our own country because the electorate puts pressure on us all the time to pay attention to our involvement in the solution of the problems. The media—sadly, very few are watching our proceedings today—are all too eager to pressurise us to get on with solving the problems of the South—North divide in this country. They are all too delighted, during some ghastly famine or industrial disaster in Third world countries, to flash on our screens for a brief moment appalling pictures of poverty, destitution or misery. Other programmes—"Blue Peter", for example—take it up, there is an appeal, some cash is raised and we have salved our consciences and thrown the cash away. We can no longer afford to allow that approach to continue.

We must do all we can to increase the involvement of the British people in the problems of the Third world, not just in an idealistic way—the need for more education, more programmes and better cover by the media—but by ensuring that the aid they give involves them directly, not only through what they see and hear but perhaps through their own pockets and through working in organisations which recognise the interdependence of world economic development.

Although we cannot spend as much money on foreign aid as many of us would like—I would certainly want that amount increased, not decreased, in future years because of its vital importance to our economy and people, let alone the people in the Third world—when we use our financial muscle to help countries in the Third world we should at the same time use our standing in the world to ensure that the international organisations that use and distribute the aid from First world countries do so in the best way.

We ought perhaps, for example, through an organisation such as ECGD, to try to get the aid into genuinely interdependent development between First and Third world countries; to try to monitor First world investment in the Third world; to try to give guarantees to Third world countries that they will not be just exploited, that they will not be open to all the abuses of transfer pricing and transfer payments, while at the same time ensuring that First world countries and companies that invest are not subject to the nationalisation and takeovers that have sometimes been practised by Third world countries.

With their notable successes in the foreign arena in the 10 months since they came to power, Her Majesty's Government can do much more in this direction to try to reform the structure of international aid into more genuine and more interdependent avenues.

1.37 pm

We are all grateful to the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) for making this week in Parliament a debate about two books instead of just about one. The problem for Opposition Members is to remember that the first book that we had this week—the Blue Book—will increase arms expenditure and reduce aid, whereas the Brandt report asks for just the reverse.

We need not apologise for the emotion or the statistics in this debate. Both must be put before the Government and the people. It is too easy, when discussing aid, to make it seem that it is a problem for politicians to favour it. If politicians would take the case to the people and give them the statistics—perhaps in the vivid way used by my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor)—the political will would be put behind us to carry out a decent aid programme.

However, I would add a word of caution. The Minister said that 450,000 jobs had been lost in the textile industry. There are still 750,000 jobs in that industry.

I would say—not as someone from a textile town; Stockport has long ceased to be a textile town—that the aid lobby and those, including myself, who want a larger aid programme should not appear to say "I believe so much in the developing world that I am willing to sacrifice your jobs." People are sceptical about that.

My hon. Friend the Member for Waltham Forest (Mr. Deakins) talked about the problems of an open trade policy. Brandt rightly warned that such a policy will be increasingly difficult in a recession and in a world of rapid technological change.

We must be cautious in our trade policy. I do not believe that the GATT covers the problem of a major advanced technological industry being implanted in a developing country when that industry is as advanced as any industry in the developed world. The textile and shoe industries employ about 1 million people, who cannot simply be written off. The adjustment must be planned.

I do not understand why the Government are coy about a future multi—fibre agreement. Our textile industry and workers have a long tradition of care and compassion for the developing world, with which they have always had a close relationship. It would be easier for the industry to plan if the Government said now that they intended, beyond the present MFA, to organise orderly trade with access for developing countries but not at an inordinate cost to our own workers.

We must appreciate the concern of trade unionists who are aware of the role of multinationals. Our trade unions will not sit back and watch multinationals move jobs from countries that have organised trade unions and established standards of safety and so on to developing countries, and consequently destroy jobs. That is not a Luddite attitude.

I welcome the comments in the Brandt report. We must ensure that the industrialisation of the developing world does not bring about exploitation and the loss of jobs.

I echo the call for a fuller debate. Many issues are apparent that require wider discussion. I, too, would welcome a considered statement from the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), and I appreciate his courtesy today. We should bring home to our people that damning and obscene statistic in the Brandt report of world arms spending compared with world aid, which illustrates the economic madness and lies at the heart of the moral case that we should advocate. We cannot help but be outraged at those statistics.

It may be said that the debate has been a "wets" benefit, but the feelings expressed come from all parts of the House. We must carry the debate outside the House.

In a week when the country has perhaps been over—preoccupied with the fine tuning of our economy, we have at least lifted the vision of the House and perhaps the country to these terrible problems. We are grateful to the hon. Member for Cambridge.

1.43 pm

I wish to mention one specific point in our aid budget and propose a way in which we can practically help. We have the toools on our own doorstep in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The Brandt report gives us the prospect of planning to cone with the difficulties that will face the world in the coming years, beyond the end of the century, with the rising world population and chronic lack of raw materials and food. In this country we cannot escape the consequences of that lack of food and competition for raw materials.

This is far from being a "wets' benefit". We are talking about the real world and the economics that will affect every person in this country, from Stockport to Stevenage. Therefore, we must direct attention, with the aid of the Brandt report, to these vital matters.

What can we in Britain do about Brandt? Mention has been made of the large cuts in percentage terms made in the Government's expenditure plans to 1984. This may be necessary, as my hon. Friend the Minister suggested, in order to get our economy back on the rails. Of course, one of the major contributions that we can make to the developing world is not to use resources wastefully, thereby being able to send more aid and administrative skills overseas to help other countries. A poor Britain is no help to anyone—in fact, it is a positive hindrance. If we are poor, we cannot buy goods from the poorer countries.

I wish to speak particularly about the Commonwealth Development Corporation, which is part of the aid budget. It was my privilege to serve with that organisation during my early adult life, and I believe passionately in its task, which it does so well. The aid budget cuts have brought about a consequential cut in the amount of money available to the Commonwealth Development Corporation. They have also brought about a cut in the other part of our overseas aid programme—the ODA programme of grants and infrastructural aid to developing countries. We must consider these two institutions within our aid budget, but I must point out immediately that they are not the major absorbers of that budget.

The term "aid" in this context would hardly be recognised by any hon. Members as being genuine aid. It includes many other things. For example, it pays the pensions of former colonial civil servants. That money does not even leave the country, yet it is described as aid. We know that the figures are bogus and that they are built up for international comparison. The CDC and the ODA are the instruments that we would have to use immediately if we were to do anything at all about Brandt.

What exactly is happening to the Commonwealth Development Corporation under present Government proposals? In 1979–80 its planned investment programme was £38 million; in 1980–81 it was £41·8 million; in 1981–82 it was £47·6 million; in 1982–83, £47·6 million. However, those figures have been reduced to £18·8 million in 1978·79, £30 million in 1979–80 and £25 million in 1980–81. Even if we reach that target of £25 million, the CDC will be paying more money back to the Treasury in interest and capital repayments than it will be drawing from it. That is the reverse of what we are trying to achieve and what the Brandt report asks us to achieve. It is a ludicrous situation.

The CDC invests our money on ordinary concessionary interest terms on private enterprise lines. This debate must record that following the abolition of exchange control the private sector should be able to contribute and take a much greater lead. However, the private sector will not take that lead without an organisation such as the CDC.

In Indonesia, for example, which is outside the Commonwealth, the CDC is co-operating with, and is the reason why, five major British companies have invested in that country. That is an exceedingly difficult country in which to invest. Anyone who knows it talks of interminable delays in administration, which illustrates the point made earlier that developing countries have to put their house in order to enable the Brandt proposals to have the remotest chance of success. They, like this country, are prone to all the frailties of human nature and all the pressures of politics.

It is valuable for the House to think in practical terms about action to be taken on the Brandt report. The last thing that any hon. Member wishes to see is the whole of this effort dissipated into the sand and to find ourselves in crisis situations in terms of our own economy because we have been so blind. I pay tribute to our fellow colleague, the former Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), in leading and giving us the vision to go forward with confidence to help our people understand the problems in which they, as much as anyone else, are involved.

As the hon. Member for Crewe (Mrs. Dunwoody) said, our determination, our administration and managerial skills, and our enthusiasm are things that do not necessarily cost money. These are ways in which we can begin the long and essential task that will be forced on us if we do not take action—a situation put so eloquently before the House and the world by the Brandt report.

1.51 pm

I join the hon. Member for Hertford and Stevenage (Mr. Wells) in paying tribute to the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) for his part in producing this tremendous document. If not the document of the century, it is a historic document. If it is not read, digested and acted upon, we shall find that no further documents will be needed. We might see the end of civilisation on this planet.

The House is obligated to the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James), following his luck in the ballot, for giving the House the opportunity to debate this issue. Like other hon. Members, I hope we can have a day or a two-day debate on the issue. I am sure that if the Government gave a day the Opposition would provide a Supply day to debate the fundamental issues addressed to the world by a remarkable group of international statesmen and leaders from many spheres, of all political and religious persuasions, dealing with the urgent problems of inequality and the failure of the present economic system. I hope that the debate will take place in the near future. Although the Minister gave only a preliminary response, it was disappointing. I should have thought that a senior Minister from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office would reply to the debate, not a Minister from the Department of Trade, although trade matters are involved.

This is a major document, involving major international issues. It is timely that this Friday, between discussions on the Budget, we should address ourselves to the larger problems I was disappointed with the Minister's response on the aid given by this country. The public expenditure document shows that aid is to fall from £790 million last year to £779 million in the new financial year and to £680 million in 1982–83. The Brandt document talks about the need for the rich countries of the world to divert more aid to underdeveloped countries, while the Government plan a 14 per cent. cut in expenditure in the next few years. The Minister makes the point that we must get our own house in order before thinking of the 12 million children under the age of 5 who died of starvation in the year before the International Year of the Child.

What are the same Government proposing to spend on defence? We find that this year, at constant 1979 prices, there will be an expenditure of £7,720 million. Next year that will rise to £7,997 million. In the following year it will be £8,240 million, and in the year after that £8,490 million. That brings us to 1984—shades of George Orwell—when we shall spend £8,740 million. Therefore, defence expenditure is to be increased at a rate of 3 per cent. in real terms at a time when there is a cutback in overseas aid.

That is the whole purpose of the document. There is a madness in the world, and everyone wants to avoid a third world war because everyone knows that it will mean the end of civilisation. Yet we are joining in the arms race, and the Government are playing their part in furthering that arms race. What a sad state of affairs. In fact, a senior Cabinet Minister is in China, and rather than talking about overseas aid he is discussing the sale of Harriers to the Chinese. That is the crazy situation in which we live.

A barrier to the control of the arms race exists in the vast bureaucracy among the great Powers, both East and West, which deals with military affairs. The total vested interest in maintaining and increasing the level of military spending is so huge and diverse that it is difficult to resist. World military expenditure is now running at an annual rate of $410,000 million, or $1 million per minute. I wonder how much the world has spent on arms preparation during the time that we have been debating this subject of world poverty today. In constant prices, taking inflation into account, there has been an increase of about 50 per cent. in arms spending in the last two decades. While the problems for two-thirds of humanity have got worse, the richer countries have spent more on arms. To put it in pound terms, about £200,000 million has been spent on arms preparation, or £1 million every two minutes.

The Brandt Commission rightly says that
"mankind may well face a threat in the decades ahead of us not only from an uncontrolled arms race, but also from the shocks emanating from a growing or unchanging differential between poor and rich countries".
Surely it is a threat to world peace if people who live in starvation can see a nonsensical preparation for war, with all the sophisticated weapons that that entails.

The report continues:
"But if serious efforts are undertaken to curb a further rise in arms spending in the coming decade, that will give rise to the important question of rechannelling of resources".
That should pose no difficulty. For example, the Government are cutting back steel production by 6 million tonnes. They are closing factories at Port Talbot, Llanwern, Consett and elsewhere. Yet countries such as India want steel and wish to have it. Why cannot there be a more sensible Budget whereby, instead of closing down such factories and throwing people on to the unemployment queue, they are allowed to produce steel that can be given in aid to India?

We all know of the recent arguments about the Olympic Games. I am glad that the British Olympic Association has decided to go to Moscow. I hope that the Games will be covered by the BBC, because its slogan is:
"Nation shall speak unto nation."
I deplore the invasion of Afghanistan, but we should fight to maintain detente. We should strive to bring the peoples of the world together to compete on the athletic field. It is far better that the competition should be there than in the buildup in the arms race.

We face a real nuclear threat in the world. Preventing the spread of nuclear weapons is crucial to world security. In the tactical nuclear arsenals there are calculated to be several tens of thousands of nuclear warheads, each on average about four times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. The warheads represent a total TNT equivalent of about 13,000 million tons, the equivalent of about 1 million Hiroshima bombs. Someone talked about 3,000 calories for every human being in the world. The world's capacity for destruction is three tons of high explosive for every man, woman and child on earth. The British Government intend to increase the capacity.

I was in India during the time of political independence. I saw the abject poverty of the masses on the subcontinent. I read a book by Tolstoy. It was entitled "What then must we do?" He wrote:
"In reality I merely understood what I had long known—the truth transmitted to mankind in remote times by Buddha, Isaiah Lootze and Socrates, and to us particularly clearly and indubitably by Jesus Christ and his forerunner John the Baptist. In reply to the question 'What then must we do?', he replied simply, briefly and clearly 'He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none: and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.'"
I believe that the report will deal with a fundamental problem of the ages. If we do not turn our minds to it, civilisation as we know it will be at an end.

2.3 pm

In my view, there has been a gross failure by Churches, schools and all other education bodies to educate our people to understand precisely what the brotherhood of man means. If we talk of the world being our neighbour and if we think in terms of the brotherhood of man, it must mean that the man on low wages in Tanzania or Kampuchea is my neighbour and my concern as much as my neighbour next door.

During the days when I was the prospective Conservative candidate for Stepney I had dialogues with the dockers, Jack Dash in particular. There were large meetings. They were sometimes attended by Bishop Trevor Huddleston, Bishop of Stepney and a great and long-standing friend of mine who is well known to the Minister. Jack Dash would speak against me. He spoke of £100 a week for dockers. That was about 10 years ago. On one occasion the Bishop intervened. He said to Jack Dash "You talk about £100 a week for dockers, and in the same breath you talk of workers of the world uniting. What do you say when I tell you that I have shortly returned from Tanzania, where workers receive 100 pence a month?" I remember Jack replying "When we have got it, we shall see about them".

I do not wholly condemn that attitude. However, it has to be considered in a wider context. We cannot consider this important issue of the Brandt report without bearing in mind political concepts. The gross failure of Marxism must be condemned. It has totally failed actively to recognise the world's peoples as a brotherhood when taking over other countries. We have seen the rape of Kampuchea and the gross tragedy of Vietnam. We have seen the massive lowering of standards of caring for and feeding people in both countries.

The hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) spoke about arms production. I should point out that Russia is spending more on arms as a proportion of her GNP than all other countries. At the same time, she is failing totally to pull her weight in improving the lot of underdeveloped countries, for many of which she has direct responsibility having taken them over.

By committing 0·7 per cent. per annum of our GNP on overseas aid to the Third world, the developed nations run a minimal risk of slightly lowering their standard of living. However, if we do not make that aid available, we put at risk the survival of the poor in developing countries.

I should like to give the House other statistics. In Africa, one child in seven dies in its first year. In Asia, the figure is one in 10, and in the West it is one in 40. The immediate benefits of aid are those that we take for granted—reduction of poverty, decrease in hunger and the introduction of health and education schemes. With those comes a gradual but important increase in self-dignity and a greater freedom to act as the shackles of poverty are shaken off. Beyond those areas, there must be for us a moral commitment to democracy, the total dignity of the individual and equal rights for all in all nations.

In all aid programmes, it is necessary to ensure in the transfer of resources that money goes to those who really need it rather than to leaders like Bokassa, Nkrumah and Azikwe of the golden bed to spend on self-aggrandisement.

Trade barriers have been mentioned and I support those who say that where such barriers exist we need to be compassionate in moving towards lowering them for Third world countries as a means of bringing them into trading arrangements on which we, in our turn, shall survive.

I should like to concentrate on the moral arguments, particularly as they affect children. I gave my life to service in schools before being elected to the House. How can we condone the fact that 45,000 children, many of them only 4 or 5 years old, work from 11 to 13 hours a day in the match factories of India? We need to treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves. That is a fundamental axiom of Christianity which we must never forget. We need to help those children to be brought to a better life, dignity, full bellies, healthy bodies and educational provision, without their being put into factories in such an unacceptable way.

About 2½ million children in the cities of Brazil are estimated to have been abandoned by their families as a result of neglect, fecklessness and poverty. This is a society which has neglected, in some areas, the crucial value of education. We talk so much about money and the economy that we forget what really matters—namely, ideas, education and the ability of the individual to handle himself and to have a common humanity in relation to those around him in his community and in the rest of the world.

About 156 million children under the age of 15 are living in crowded slums, shanty towns and makeshift dwellings in the major cities of developing countries. On the subject of the quality of life, I should like to mention another book that is in many ways almost as valuable as the Brandt report. It is called "Mr. God, This is Anna", by Fynn. I commend the book to all hon. Members. It deals with the quality of life seen through the eyes of a small girl. She says to the author:
"Why did Mr. God rest on the seventh day?"
The author replies:
"When he was finished making all the things, Mr. God had undone all the muddle. Then you can rest, so that's why rest is the very, very, biggest miracle of all. Don't you see? Being dead is a rest".
She went on:
"Being dead you can look back and get it all straight before you go on."
The author writes:
"Being dead was nothing to get fussed about. Dying could he a bit of a problem, but not if you had really lived."
Death is acceptable then, is it not? But for the child who has never lived, or the middle-aged person who has never had a fulfilled life, death is a battle. The book goes on:
"Dying needed a certain amount of preparation but the only preparation for dying was real living, the kind of preparation old Granny Harding had made during her lifetime. We had sat, Anna and I, holding Granny Harding's hands when she died. Granny Harding was glad to die; not because life had been too hard for her, but because she had been glad to live. She was glad that rest was near, not because she had been overworked but because she wanted to order, wanted to arrange, 93 years of beautiful living, she wanted to play it all over again.
I hope that more and more people will be able to play their life again having lived fulfilled lives in the way Granny Harding did. In the end that is what life should and could be about if we were more compassionate to others in our own society and throughout the world.

Following the International Year of the Child, many matters were brought to the attention of our society and it responded well. But Brandt's deep-seated solutions to the problems which were posed to his commission by its members and by others are worth reading and implementing.

Lord Mancroft said:
"Youth looks forward; middle-age merely looks startled; old-age looks back."
At the start of a new decade it is important to take stock of our position and to move forward in a way that will give children in so many parts of the world the life that they have not yet had. We should remember that children are the future of their own societies and the world in which we all live.

2.14 pm

I join other hon. Members in congratulating the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) on his wisdom in giving us the opportunity to debate this important document. I also join hon. Members in expressing appreciation to the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) not only on his part in preparing the report but on sitting here without speaking and listening to what we have had to say.

We have all looked at the report in different ways. I begin by quoting from page 31 of the report, where a short passage sums up the subject. It says:
"we have all come to agree that fundamental changes are essential, whether in trade, finance, energy, or other fields, if we are to avoid a serious breakdown of the world economy in decades of the eighties and the nineties, and to give it instead a new stimulus to function in the interest of all the world's people."
The reference to "a new stimulus" is what the report is all about. It has been said that perhaps there is not a great deal that is new in the report, but as one who does not specialise in this area I find it valuable because it brings together the catalogue of potential catastrophes that the world may suffer if we do nothing. The report is not only a new stimulus. It is a trigger, it is a peg and it gives us a new opportunity to consider our position.

Although some hard-headed remarks have been made about our various shortcomings, there has been a distinct absence of acrimony and bitterness in this debate. I am impressed by the visions contained in the report. I shall point out one or two that have made a graphic impression on my mind. The statistics about world population are of special significance. As has been mentioned more than once, an additional one million new souls appear on the earth every five days and by the year 2000 some 2,000 million more people will have been born. Ninety per cent. of those new births will be in Third world countries.

One must consider what might happen beyond the year 2000. The population growth may accelerate if fertility does not slow down. The report tells us that by the year 2000 the populations of Nigeria and Bangladesh will be greater than the population of the United States today. The mind boggles at the thought. The world population is at risk from a number of potential disasters as a result of economic, social and political conflicts.

Certain phrases in the document bring home to us what the report is about. They stress a mutual interest. The report refers not to "them" or "us" but to "we" as we move through the century. I am sorry about the Government's attitude. The Budget is a sad commentary on Britain's priorities. The Minister said that we cannot afford to do any more. Britain cannot afford not to do more.

A total of 1,200 million people cannot read or write. About 400 million people have no schools in which to be educated. In 1978, 12 million children under the age of 5 died not from disease but from hunger. They are graphic facts which are brought to our attention in the report.

The report has been debated in the House of Lords. Lord Listowel spoke about trade and the responsibilities of certain groups. He drew attention to the oil-rich OPEC nations and their responsibilities. The OPEC States must be prepared to give much more aid to the 45 poorest countries in the world. The situation is ludicrous. For example, one third of Kenya's foreign exchange goes to pay for oil which it needs to survive. We can contrast that with the aid provided by the OPEC nations. Between 1973 and 1977, a total of 77 per cent. of the aid given by OPEC nations went to neighbouring Arab countries and only 7 per cent. went to black Africa. The Arab countries benefit from oil, but struggling Africa must pay the price.

In 1979, OPEC nations were enriched by £80.000 million. By 1980 they are expected to be enriched by £120,000 million, and yet they have set aside the comparatively small sum of £2,000 million for aid. Some of the OPEC States—Indonesia, Nigeria and Venezuela—are still developing, but most of the Arab oil-producing countries are not. OPEC has a responsibility. The EEC has a responsibility for Lebanon and EEC countries have guaranteed loans of $30 million compared with the $24 million promised by the Arab countries. More people were killed in Lebanon in its terrible civil wars than were killed in the Arab-Israeli wars.

The report contains a number of valuable lessons for Britain and the world. It is not only sober, but sombre. It is an assessment of the moral and resource challenges facing the world. The hon. Member for Cambridge has done the House a service, and we are grateful to him.

2.20 pm

I have listened with great interest to every speech. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) on initiating the debate. I indicated to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I would be happy to speak towards the end of the debate. I did not realise that my offer would be taken quite so literally.

I shall make only one positive addition to the debate. It would have been my pleasure to make a wide and expansive speech about many of the aspects of the report, because they are of the greatest importance. However, I shall refer specifically to overseas aid. I considered paragraph 3 of the report in great depth. It deals with the mutual interest and imperative of trading between North and South—the developed and the underdeveloped countries.

I turn on those in Britain—and there are many—who believe that overseas aid is only a gift or a grant to nations or people who are less fortunate than ourselves. At a time of major cuts in education, health and other areas because of our economic position, it is quite easy for hon. Members to receive applause at a political meeting—especially at a Conservative meeting—by saying that charity begins at home and that overseas aid, regrettably, must be reduced. That is a mistake.

I wish to make it clear to those critics that overseas aid is, and can be proved to be, entirely in Britain's self-interest. That will become more evident in the next three or four years as Europe and the developing world sink further into economic depression. There will be a great need for the industrial countries to look for new demands for their products. From where is that demand likely to come, and where are our products needed most? It must be obvious to even the most critical that the greatest demand will come from those less well off. They will need consumer goods, engineering goods and capital goods of all sorts which could be provided by the industrial nations.

Surely, it must be obvious to even the meanest intelligence that if we reduce the gross national product and the ability to expand of the underdeveloped countries, the demand that we wish to stimulate for our goods will not occur. Their ability to earn the foreign currency to pay for our goods begins to disappear. In our own self-interest, we must realise that the investment and the aid from the developed world to the underdeveloped world will be one of the major steps towards a quick recovery from economic depression. For that reason, I now turn to the reduction of 6½ per cent. next year and the year after in Britain's overseas aid programme. It amounts to £99 million over the two years, a total cut of just under 13 per cent.

I accept the need for the Government to get our economy into shape, and I believe that they are right to think that overall Government spending must be cut in order to achieve that, but are there not other areas where it makes much more economic sense to cut spending? The White Paper, "The Government's Expenditure Plans" shows that a cut of a mere 12½ per cent. in unemployment payments would easily provide the £99 million necessary to raise our overseas aid to what it was before the cuts. Surely that could be brought about by the stimulation of the economy to create more business and jobs.

Similarly, I should like to have had an undertaking from my hon. Friend the Minister on the following matter. Table 2.2 on pages 24 and 25 of the White Paper shows that in the period 1980 to 1984 expenditure on overseas aid and other overseas services is expected to be £2·2 billion, £2·8 billion, £2·38 billion and £2·63 billion, respectively. But those figures include over £1,000 million, and in the latter years £1,500 million, in payments to Europe. If, as I believe, we shall be able to renegotiate those amounts and thus reduce those figures considerably, will the Government undertake within the same account to restore the amount of overseas aid to what it was before the cuts, to bring about the economic stimulation that I have described?

I have a positive new suggestion to make. Other aid being given by the Government to industry totals in 1980–81 the sum of £440 million, leaving out shipbuilding and aircraft. In the coming year over £300 million is to go to British Leyland. Will the Government consider the routing of that aid to industry via developing countries? Some of the £300 million for British Leyland will be for capital projects, but why should not the remaining £200 million be used to stimulate the purchase of British Leyland products by underdeveloped countries?

All that is necessary is to feed in the extra money to British Leyland in order to balance its accounts. If we can stimulate its production and at the same time provide necessary equipment for the Third world, that will be of major benefit to both sides of the account. It applies to the engineering side just as much as to transport. I do not believe that that suggestion has yet been considered by the Government. They should consider it thoroughly.

I conclude my speech now, because my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge should have the last word.

2.29 pm

With the leave of the House, I thank hon. Members warmly for the quality of the debate. I am very glad that I had the opportunity to open it. I am deeply grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) for his characteristic courtesy and interest throughout the debate.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House takes note of the Report of the Independent Commission on International Development Issues chaired by Herr Brandt.