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International Development (Brandt Report)

Volume 981: debated on Friday 28 March 1980

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I have not selected the amendment on the Order Paper, but it will be in order to discuss its contents with the main motion.

9.37 am

I beg to move,

That this House takes note of the Report of the Independent Commission on International Development Issues chaired by Herr Brandt.
When I had the fortune to win the ballot for motions today, I decided that it would be of value if I were to initiate a debate on the report of the Brandt Commission and the immensely complex international issues with which it deals. I believe that a debate on these matters at an early stage is highly desirable while recognising that it would be unreasonable to expect the Government to have reached any firm conclusions at this stage. In these circumstances, there is particular value in having a take-note debate at this stage, while the Government are considering the report and its implications. The House of Commons may then have the opportunity to play some part in the discussion process that will take place before the special session of the United Nations at the end of August.

I have lamented before in the House and in my constituency my concern at the almost suffocating parochialism and narrow-mindedness of contemporary British politics. Furthermore, I believe that these dismal attitudes are not only contrary to our national character and interests but are out of tune with public opinion in our nation, and particularly among young people. The remarkable manner in which large sums of money are raised every year from the British people for voluntary organisations working in developing countries and the outstanding popularity and success of Voluntary Service Overseas testify to that. As a council member of the Save the Children Fund and Voluntary Service Overseas, I feel that I am in a good position to emphasise that point.

On 21 December 1976 I made my maiden speech on the subject of the developing nations. It was a somewhat lengthy speech and it prompted my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), whose presence I particularly welcome today as a member of the Brandt Commission, to congratulate me afterwards on "both your maiden speeches". Ever since, I have tried to be rather briefer. In the course of that debate, which was on our national economic situation, I followed a remarkable speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Prentice), who was then the right hon. Member for Newham, North-East, who said:
"However else we tackle our severe economic problems, do not let us retreat into a parochial attitude of self-pity. As a leading European nation, a middle-sized world power and a considerable trading nation, we have a positive role to play, both in the defence of our basic freedoms and in the fight against abject poverty in the developing countries. I hope that we shall not be so obsessed with our own backyard that we turn our back upon these wider responsibilities."
In the course of my contribution to that debate I said:
"I see no way in which we can achieve reasonable political stability on this planet so long as there are these glaring economic inequities between the few and the many—and in the establishment of that political stability no nation has a greater interest and concern than we have."—[Official Report, 21 December 1976, Vol. 923, c. 519, 540.]
I believe that both those statements have equal relevance today.

I hope that this debate will not be shadowed, as have so many in the past, with obsessions about a grievously simplistic view of the world, neatly divided into "North" and "South", or "First" and "Third" worlds. That has little to do with the subject of overseas aid. In the words of the Brandt report,
"The issue today is not only, or even mainly, one of aid; rather of basic changes in the world economy to help developing countries pay their own way."
The very language of development itself has contributed to a lack of public understanding of this subject. It tends to be either dangerously simplistic, emotional and polemic or excessively arid, academic and incomprehensible. One of the many virtues of the Brandt report is that although sections, particularly the introduction, are permeated with genuine idealism—some might even say romanticism—the commissioners have generally avoided these pitfalls. The Brandt report vividly demonstrates that the old language of development is hopelessly out of date.

The so-called rich Western industrialised economies are under great collective strain, grappling with a combination of high interest rates, high inflation, industrial stagnation, lowered expectations and mounting unemployment, which is wholly unparalleled in their experience. The economies of the Soviet Union and the East European Socialist States are under equal, and perhaps even greater, strain. In contrast, the fortunes of several nations previously regarded as Third world have been spectacularly transformed to their advantage, while others are now notably poorer and even more desperate than they were five years ago.

Generalisations are always dangerous in discussing international political and economic situations. In this context they are particularly so. The Brandt Commission undertook its task in a sombre international context, which deteriorated even further in the two years in which it was engaged upon it. One does not have to agree with all its conclusions to accept that its analysis is wholly and bleakly realistic. If it errs on the side of pessimism, it must be bluntly admitted that there is a lot to be pessimistic about.

A world in which 12 million children under the age of 5 in the developing nations died of malnutrition and hunger in one year alone, and in which between 20 million and 25 million children under 5 die from these causes and easily preventable diseases every year, is not one that inspires optimism and congratulation, any more than the grim fact of 18 million unemployed in the OECD countries can cause anything but dismay and apprehension to the so-called rich nations.

This is a world in which the World Bank estimates that the number of totally destitute people in the developing countries is 800 million, including 100 million in Latin America. It is a world in which blindness afflicts between 30 million and 40 million people in the developing countries and in which about 10,000 people die every day from malnutrition or the direct results of malnutrition. It is a world of vast disparities of wealth, literacy, health, opportunity, life expectancy and hope. This is the reality of our world. It is not surprising that the Brandt Commission presented a bleak and sombre picture, because it is bleak and sombre. But, as Herr Brandt writes in his introduction, the report
"sets out to demonstrate that the mortal dangers threatening our children and grandchildren can be averted."
I have reservations about some of the conclusions drawn by the commission and some of its recommendations. For example, it is easy to call for a substantial transfer of resources to developing countries, but the political and practical difficulties involved are so vast that I, for one, question the realism of this proposal. The gross and glaring inequities of wealth within developing countries is a major cause of instability. But we are dealing with sovereign independent nations, managing or mismanaging their own affairs. In this context, the role of the international system is necessarily very limited. The Commission calls once again for the "streamlining" of the United Nations system by a
"high-level and continuing monitoring body",
and that is a somewhat disappointing response to a real and major problem.

On this subject I would have welcomed specified proposals, because it is absurd to have the United Nations Development Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the World Food Council, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the regional economic commissions all involved in agricultural matters. This grotesque and deplorable overlapping is just within the United Nations system itself. In addition, there is a major emphasis on agriculture by the European Development Fund, the regional banks and bilateral aid programmes. As the commissioners emphasise, agriculture is absolutely crucial, but this vast proliferation of competing organisations is wholly undesirable and unnecessary.

Although reservations can be made about certain recommendations in the report, there are two positive features that I wish to emphasise. First, it was absolutely right to emphasise the mutual interest for all nations in establishing some degree of acceptable order out of the present chaos. Here I would recommend chapter 12, on the role of multinational corporations and sharing technology, and chapter 13 on the international monetary system. These go to the heart of the principle of mutual self-interest, and both the analysis and the recommendations should be taken very seriously. But perhaps the key chapter is chapter 9, which relates to the crucial and intractable problems of commodities.

Hon. Members may remember the passage at the end of Sir Winston Churchill's "My Early Life" when he and his rebellious Tory friends entertained Joseph Chamberlain for dinner immediately after they had denounced and voted against the Government. Chamberlain was highly displeased, but as the evening progressed and the champagne flowed he became more mellow. This was Churchill's account of the end of the evening:
"As he rose to leave he paused at the door, and turning, said with much deliberation, 'You young gentlemen have entertained me royally, and in return I will give you a priceless secret. Tariffs! There are the politics of the future, and of the near future. Study them closely and make yourselves masters of them and you will not regret your hospitality to me'."
Equally, it could now be said with truth that commodities are the international politics of the future, and the near future. As the commissioners say,
"Commodities are the South's lifeblood, especially for the poorer countries, and to know what damage is done by the vagaries of the market is to understand why the South feels so passionately about them."
Here is a classic example of mutual interest and mutual distrust, because the commodity-producing nations—I exclude oil, because that is unique—talk of the need for stable prices. What they are really talking about is high, stable prices. The commodity-importing industrial nations cannot be expected to welcome this addition to their massive existing difficulties. It is this basic problem that has caused the impasse in resolving the matter.

I confess that I do not have the answer to a problem that has baffled resolution for the past five years in a variety of forums. Nor am I personally convinced that the support by the commission for a common fund is the answer. What I do know is that there must be some reasonably acceptable agreement negotiated internationally rather than by bilateral deals. It is not, in reality, a technical, legal or even economic problem. It is a problem of political will and careful political calculation. The mutuality of long-term interest is obvious.

What is intensely difficult to achieve is the realisation of short-term goals by commodity producers and users alike. Until now, the short-term calculation of advantage has always predominated, with the melancholy consequences that we face today. When I say "we", I mean not only this nation but us as members of this planet. We are all the losers from the present imbalance.

If it is said that such international political will is impossible to master and is a chimera, I draw the attention of the House to the eradication of smallpox by the United Nations within seven years. That was a technical achievement of great efficiency. It stemmed from an agreed political will by all nations to eradicate a terrible disease. They did. What was done with smallpox can equally be done with malaria and polio.

It is no more than the truth to say that if the international community could drastically improve the present commodity situation the results could be dramatic in resolving many global economic problems, not only of the poorer commodity producers themselves but of the industrialised nations. Both need a guarantee of supply, some parity between the cost of raw materials on the one hand and the equipment and technology sold by the industrial nations on the other, and stability in the price of both. It is an awesome challenge, whose complexity and difficulty cannot be over-emphasised. I believe, however, that the commodities issue is the key issue.

Although it is fair to say that the commission asked all the right questions but perhaps failed to produce entirely convincing replies to all of them, I do not regard this as a particularly severe criticism. After all, the answers must come collectively from Governments. There is great value in making them face international and national realities. For example, in chapter 11 the commission rightly takes a hostile view of protectionism. In my view, it does not present a wholly convincing argument that substantial industrialisation in the developing countries need not pose a threat to the industrial nations. It could well do so, as Japan and, to a lesser extent, South Korea have vividly demonstrated. I would also comment that the chapter on energy presupposes that the principal oil-producing countries have a sensible understanding of their long-term interests. I personally doubt that.

If the world were governed by people of such experience and reason as the commisioners, the need for their report would never have existed. Their call to reason, based upon facts and perceptions, is particularly welcome. In the words of E. V. Lucas—this is one of my favourite quotations:
"The light is not lost, simply because it shines upon a fog."
I believe and hope that international reaction to the report will be considerably more favourable than that.

I could not cover all aspects of this report without making a speech of intolerable length. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup and other hon. Members will emphasise certain aspects of the report that I have not covered and to which I have deliberately not referred. I should like to conclude by pointing out that in chapter 3 the commission draws attention to the fact that there is a moral as well as a hard-headed and practical aspect to the problems of the developing nations. We are not talking simply about cold statistics; we are talking about our fellow citizens of this planet, hundreds of millions of whom exist in circumstances that to us are literally unimaginable. Not only our heads but our hearts should make us resolve to endeavour to meet these problems and certainly not to ignore them.

It is time for boldness, a time for vision. I do not always agree with Herr Brandt, but I agree totally with his statement in the introduction to the report that
"it is precisely in this time of crisis that basic world issues must be faced and bold initiatives taken."
The report is to the World Bank, not to the Government. I hope, however, that the British Government, with their reputation so justly high, as a result of their remarkable achievements in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, will give to the commission's report the respect, the thoughtfulness, the consideration and the common sense that it deserves. In the words of the commissioners,
"We have to lift ourselves above the immediate constrictions, and offer the world a plan and a vision and hope, without which nothing substantial can be achieved."
I passionately believe that to be true. I believe that the commissioners have rendered a notable public service to us and to the world. I hope very much that when my right hon. Friends consider the report they will treat it with the seriousness and consideration that it merits.

9.55 am

I congratulate the hon. Member for Cam-bride (Mr. Rhodes James) on his speech and on choosing this subject. It is a subject on which politicians may be divided about the solutions, but the report has performed a valuable public service for us, as Members of Parliament, and for the people of this country with whom we are concerned—our electors—in drawing together in one volume—a nice little paperback which I hope will receive wide circulation—the major dimensions of the problem facing the world, with serious implications for this country. I do not wish to diminish the value of the report if I say that much of what it contains is not new. Anyone who has read World Bank reports throughout the 1970s, as well as various OECD reports, will be aware of the dimensions of poverty in the developing countries. Nevertheless, it is invaluable to have this information in one volume.

If I make two major criticisms of the report, that is not intended to diminish my respect for the achievement of those who contributed to the report. The hon. Member for Cambridge, when introducing the motion, said that one or two things were not perhaps impracticable but romantic. My criticisms perhaps go perhaps a little deeper and have implications for our domestic political scene.

My first criticism—it is important—is that the report contains no chapter on the moral dimensions of the problem. The chapter to which the hon. Member for Cambridge referred, chapter 3, on mutual interests, which I have read closely, has a few statements in the opening pages on the need for greater international equity and social justice, which are moral principles, and at the end it has a paragraph headed "The Moral Imperatives". If one reads that paragraph, one sees that there is only half a sentence about what are the moral imperatives. The rest of the paragraph and the whole of the chapter, a vital one, are concerned with mutual interests.

It is in our own interests to help the poor and to reform the world trading and economic systems. No one disputes that. I believe, however, that if we are to appeal to the whole of the electorate in this country—a task that faces all of us as politicians, whatever our political beliefs—we have to put this issue on a more elevated plane than merely that of mutual interest. We have to appeal to mutual interest—we are practical politicians—but there is, I believe, a mood among many people in this country that needs expression in politics. It is not currently being expressed. I hope that this debate will lead to further expressions and further debates where the moral dimension of the problem will be clearly brought out.

The moral dimension is not new. I wish to quote briefly from one of the world's most practical men, a man with perhaps the most impressive record of experience of almost anyone of whom I am aware, namely, Robert McNamara, president of the World Bank, whose background is well known. He said in a World Bank report seven years ago:
"In my view, the fundamental case for development assistance is the moral one. The whole of human history has recognised the principle —at least in the abstract—that the rich and the powerful have a moral obligation to assist the poor and the weak. That is what the sense of community is all about—any community; the community of the family, the community of the village, the community of the nation, the community of nations itself."
Mr. McNamara went on to castigate the United States for being very bad with regard to aid to the developing countries. Therefore, I believe—and this is a criticism of the report—that we as politicians must not merely appeal to self-interest among our electorate, which will be a powerful motivating force in achieving changes, but must put the appeal on the higher plane of morality. I believe that that will appeal to many people in this country who may have become rather dissatisfied with party politics in the last few decades.

My second criticism, which is also a major and fundamental one, relates to economic growth. The report is clear—this is mentioned by Herr Brandt both in his introduction and in the various chapters—that it is crucial to return to the path of reasonable economic growth in the North not only to aid the South much more but to cope with the consequences of increased industrial imports from the South. This is a plausible argument. It is not a new one. It was used by Mr. Tony Crosland in a Fabian pamphlet some years ago and it is an argument that is almost universally accepted. I say "almost universally" because I know that a few people happen to disagree with it.

I should like to state briefly why one disagrees with it. It is a question not of moral principle but purely one of arithmetic. It is what I call the arithmetic of growth. It is a well-known arithmetical fact that to apply the same percentage to a large amount and a small amount continuously over a period of time will lead to the gap between the original and small amounts getting wider. It is a fact—and one need only look at World Bank reports and United Nations' statistical yearbooks to see that there is no improvement year by year—that, on the whole, the rich countries have a standard of living, expressed in GNP dollars per capita, that is many times that of the average standard of living in the poor countries of the world. There are various differences. For example, South Korea is probably very well off in comparison with Chad, Upper Volta, Niger and such places, but, basically, the poor countries enjoy a standard of living between one-tenth and one-twentieth or even one-thirtieth of that which we enjoy.

Whether that is practical is a subject for a different debate, and I make no comment in that regard. I am now talking about the desirability of economic growth. If we feel that we ought to return to 3 or 4 per cent. economic growth a year, which is by no means beyond the range of possibility if we manage to get our economy right either under the present Government or a future Government, that 3 to 4 per cent. as applied to our present GNP per capita—I am using Britain as an example of a rich country —will lead to substantial increases in our standard of living each year. I do not object to that. But if one applies the same percentage per capita to the GNP of a poor country of, say, $200 to $300 a year, the gap will get bigger.

Let me quote one example to show the dimension of that problem. I am concerned only with arithmetic, and if hon. Members cannot accept the arithmetic we shall not get beyond first base. If a rich State with, say, a GNP per capita of only $2,000 a year, which is very small—we are well above that—grows at 3 per cent. a year and a poor State with a GNP per capita of, say, $200 a year—and there are many with less than that—grows at a higher growth rate of, say, 4 per cent. a year, the gap in living standards will increase for the next 209 years, and subsequently, under the laws of arithmetic, it will take another 30 years for the poor State to catch up.

That is a small, conservative estimate, because many poor States are not growing at anywhere near 4 per cent. per capita a year. Indeed, many have a declining growth rate per capita. Of course, the normal pattern in rich States is to have a growth rate of 3 or 4 per cent. regularly, although we may have dropped below that at present.

I do not know the answer to that problem, but what I know is that if we merely put our faith in faster economic growth in the rich countries as a means of closing the gap, it is arithmetically impossible. Unless the poor States grow at something like 10 per cent. per capita—and that does not take account of their increasing population problems or distribution—we shall not get out of the mess in which we are at present.

I turn briefly to where I agree with the report, and I am sure that all hon. Members will agree with the fundamental points that it makes. The report is excellent on the problems that divide the North and the South. It is particularly encouraging to see a whole chapter devoted to the problems in the poor countries themselves. I congratulate the commissioners on their courage in embarking on a sphere of criticism that might provoke a counter-criticism that we are interfering in the internal affairs of the poor countries of the world. However, that is a nettle that must be grasped, because a lot is wrong with the internal organisation in most of the poor countries of the world, whatever their forms of government. They face many problems indeed.

Here I draw particular attention to the work, of which I am sure the commissioners were aware, of that great Swedish economist, Gunnar Myrdal, who in his book "Asian Drama", which was boiled down in a small Penguin called "The Challenge of World Poverty", published a few years ago, said that the problems in poor countries—this is echoed in the report:
"centre on breaking up inegalitarian and rigid economic and social stratifications. In agriculture, land reform stands out as the crucial issue. Birth control must be spread among the masses of the people. A fundamental redirection of education and a vigorous adult education campaign are needed. Corruption must be stamped out and stricter social discipline enforced."
In echoing those comments and in reinforcing them, I believe that the report has done a great service in raising for public debate a matter that is of interest to all of us and not merely to the people in the poor countries themselves. I believe also that the report is excellent in drawing attention to the problems in the rich countries, such as selfishness and the fact that they are not willing to make real sacrifices, which are based on ignorance among much of public opinion. We need a much better informed public opinion, and the report will play a great part in that respect.

The report also draws attention to the problems of world recession, which is a great difficulty and of increasing pressure on world energy and mineral resources. It echoes the fact, which has been echoed in World Bank reports over recent years, that the rich countries are hogging —if that is not too inelegant a word—a disproportionate share of the world's resources, be they energy, raw materials or food. The report is invaluable in drawing attention—I particularly congratulate the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) on this—to the waste that is involved in arms spending throughout the world, be it in rich countries or poor countries. We all suffer from the same disease in that regard.

My final comment is directed to my colleagues in the Labour Party. It is up to each of us to develop this theme in ways that are best suited to the needs of our own political party. Therefore, I speak only to my own colleagues. This is important because the Labour Party is moving towards policies which I rather fear will hinder the task of closing the gap between the rich and poor countries of the world. I refer particularly to suggestions that we should have import controls on exports from rich countries. There are arguments for and against, but I do not want to develop them now. However, there is absolutely no argument whatever for imposing import controls on the poor countries of the world. The only acceptable basis for having import controls by a rich country on poor countries is, as in the multi-fibre arrangement. a mutually agreed international arrangement which is accepted by the poor countries themselves.

I believe that we in the Labour Party must do a lot more serious thinking, even though many declining industries in Britain are affected, such as textiles, footwear and electronic components. As politicians, we in the Labour Party must face that challenge. I hope to play my part, along with my hon. Friends who agree with me, to ensure that if at the next general election we have a policy of import controls, it will not be one that will harm the interests of the poor countries of the world.

10.10 am

I am happy to join all hon. Members in congratulating most sincerely my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) on his good fortune in the ballot and on his wisdom and percipience in offering to the House the opportunity to debate a most important report. It is a debate of great significance, because there is no doubt that the Brandt Commission report is an important document. It is remarkable that so many people of such eminence and distinction, not least my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath)—I echo my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge in welcoming my right hon. Friend's presence—and others from a wide diversity of countries and experience brought their acute perception to an enormous problem about which there can be no dispute.

It has not been a perfunctory venture. It has taken about two years. It is a unique contribution to a vital world debate. My reaction to it is not one of unalloyed joy and an absence of criticism. It strikes me that the report has something in common with the Bible, the works of Shakespeare or even the selected sayings of Chairman Mao. It is possible to take a selection of quotations from the Brandt Commission report to justify any viewpoint that one has or any policy that one wishes to advocate. That makes it rather difficult to disagree with about 90 per cent. of the report.

I believe that the fundamental analysis of the problem is essentially sound. However, the report ignores, or in some instances fails to consider, some rather important issues. There is a tendency to approach the problem from a materialistic point of view and, indeed, from a Western point of view.

The hon. Member for Waltham Forest (Mr. Deakins) rightly referred to the moral dimension. There is a danger of considering the problem in only that dimension. We tend to examine it with Western eyes. Many of Herr Brandt's colleagues are not from the West, but they are members of the Western materialistic culture. We have begun to see the strains that Western goals can impose upon different parts of the world. That applies to the world of Islam. We have seen it in Iran and, in different ways, in Kuwait, Venezuela and Algeria. These countries are beginning to pause and to draw back from the road down which we have progressed, and progressed very far. The Western approach may not be the answer.

That is not a recipe for saying "We are rich. We like this. You cannot have it. You have missed the bus and you should not get on the bus." We must understand the different cultural backgrounds. I am not sure that the Brandt Commission report takes full weight of that factor, which is a growing one.

It is possible to get carried away by statistics. The hon. Member for Waltham Forest referred to World Bank statistics and year-books. The statistics are horrifying, but the differences are equally horrifying. The reality of the figures in the year-books does not equate to the reality of life on the ground.

The hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) knows the country people in Sylhet, in Bangladesh. I spent about two years in that country, and I think that the hon. Gentleman spent a few days there. In the World Bank atlas the villagers and country people in Sylhet would rate an income of $40 a year, with perhaps a footnote stating "This cannot be measured". That would distort statistically the difference between the British, the Swedes and the Americans to an enormous extent. The real difference in life is not that much. It is a great deal, but not as much as the arithmetic indicates.

I find these remarks deeply unacceptable. Is my hon. Friend aware that since he has been talking—for about 5 minutes—60 children have died of diarrhoea?

I much regret that my hon. Friend finds my remarks unacceptable. I do not believe that the offering of a statistic about 60 people—

dying of diarrhoea takes the debate a great deal further forward. We have a problem, but we must approach it in a realistic manner and not in such an emotive manner that leads us to offer statistics about how many children die from diarrhoea. We must recognise the realities of the problem. When we have achieved that, we shall have a much better chance of dealing with it.

Although we may agree or disagree marginally on the findings of the Brandt Commission, the problem is what to do in practice. Does the hon. Gentleman agree, from his own experience, that the role of Great Britain as a member of a truly international organisation of nations, namely, the Commonwealth, is crucial? As the Commonwealth represents many of the problems in microcosm, there is a moral obligation upon Britain and the Commonwealth, by co-operation and discussion, to take the lead.

I happily agree that there is a moral dimension to the problem. I shall suggest solutions in which, most definitely, Britain has an important part to play from the point of view of its history, wealth, traditions and Commonwealth links.

Another gap in the analysis in the Brandt report—reference is made to the factor, but, in my view, not sufficient attention is given to it—is the effect of the succession of oil price rises on the economy of the world and, of course, the economies of developing countries. As I said earlier, it is possible to find references to everything in the report. There is a recognition that there must be a move from aid to the structure of the world economic system.

That is the factor to which my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge drew attention. However, there is a tendency in the report, having stated an acceptable and fundamental truth, to turn back the spotlight, or the heat, on to the North. I suggest that more of the spotlight should have been directed on to the OPEC countries. Every time that the price of a barrel of oil increases by $1, the cost to the non-oil developing countries, the less developed countries, is nearly $2 billion. In 1979 they had a current account deficit of about $45 billion. This year, following the latest round of oil price increases, they will have a deficit of about $65 billion. When we begin talking of these figures we are, even in arithmetical terms, moving outside the realms of development assistance. As we have already agreed, it is a problem that extends beyond that. We must understand that development assistance is barely tinkering with the problem. There is a role for such assistance, but I was particularly glad to note in the report the emphasis on the need for more programme aid.

I do not want to detain the House on that aspect. It is one of my hobby-horses. After the creation of the Ministry of Overseas Development I spent 10 years in practical administration in the field—if a diplomatic compound in a capital can be called the field. At least, it is nearer to the problem than is Stag Place or the Palace of Westminster.

On the basis of my experience, I became increasingly disenchanted with the development aid industry and its phobia for massive projects that always seem to take at least 10 years to generate and eventually usually go wrong. I offered some suggestions in the recent debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill on a much simplified way of implementing programme aid. It caused a shock and horror to the professionals in the development aid industry because it was simple. They did not like it. Like any other Parkiesonian group, they have built up a superstructure of vested interests.

The hon. Gentleman, perhaps inadvertently, is being discourteous and unfair to those in this country concerned with development aid. The development aid industry going in for massive projects is a political decision of the Western Government concerned. The development aid industry actually consists of those who are in favour of small projects, immediate help to the poor and assistance to those most in need. If the hon. Gentleman had read the recommendations of various Select Committees, including those chaired by the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine) and Sir Geoffrey de Freitas, he would have seen that that view was always taken by those to whom he has been referred.

I hope that I am not being unfair to the practitioners of the development aid industry, but each of us, when we get into our specialisations, understandably tends to become blinkered. Like the rest of us, the development aid industry is not exempt from fashions. Sometimes there are fashions for helping the poorest sector, and sometimes there are fashions for appropriate technology or other developments. For example, when the British development aid industry had discovered the needs of the rural poor, the World Bank, under the leadership of Mr. McNamara, was moving back towards the urban poor. My remarks were not meant to be a total condemnation of dedicated and knowledgeable people, but I believe that they are often led astray by their own enthusiasms and structures.

I particularly welcome the idea of programme aid, because I do not believe that the enormous projects that are still being undertaken can go on. I believe that they do considerable harm and cannot work if the structure and fundamental political background of the country are wrong. That needs endorsing time and again. I endorse what the commission said when it pointed out that whatever is done by the rest of the world cannot remove the principal responsibility from individual countries. I quote the example of Tanzania, which has enjoyed many advantages, not least that of stable government. It has also received massive aid from the West—about£2 billion—for a relatively small country of 16 million people.

However, we all know the economic state of Tanzania. Massive emergency relief aid is called for. Tanzania should have succeeded, because it has natural possibilities, but even with the £2 billion it has failed, not only in economic terms but in broader terms, including human rights terms. Again, we come back to the question of moral values.

I should like to quote from a document produced by the American State Department. Some hon. Members may think that that damns it for a start, but it was produced at the time when Mr. Andrew Young was riding high and the Department could not be written off as an anti-Tanzanian, anti-African agency. The analysis states:
"Tanzania tends to ignore, or at best to justify in the interests of state security, most domestic violations of human rights. National security laws empower the Government to detain indefinitely without trial or public hearing any individuals considered dangerous to.… safety …. Prosecution and the threat of prosecution are used to harass opponents of government policies."
Of course, Tanzania is not the only such country. I use it as an example in relation to one of the solutions offered by the Brandt Commission, namely, that there should be a tax or levy on, for example, world trade. Is it within the realms of political reality to expect that we should tax our trade to enforce a levy and to offer it to a regime that produces that sort of country? It might be possible, but I believe that it would be difficult to sell it to the citizens of this country. A tax on trade is surely a damaging way of solving the problem about which we are agreed. The solution must come through an expansion of trade and not through crippling it. Hon. Members can imagine the practical problems involved in a world tax on trade.

The hon. Gentleman is misinterpreting what the Brandt Commission stated. It called for a tax on the arms trade, not on trade generally. The hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) referred to the estimate of the United Nations Children's Fund that in 1978 alone 12 million children under the age of 5 died of starvation. That is five times the total population of Wales. That was the year before we celebrated the Year of the Child. Surely, when the public are made aware of such facts they will want us to do more than we are doing at present.

I do not dispute that the problem exists. I am trying to help us all to reach a realistic solution. The hon. Gentleman suggested that I had misinterpreted the recommendations. I do not believe that I had done so.

The summary of recommendations includes:
"Introduction of automatic revenue transfers through international levies on some of the following: international trade".
If we arrived at such a situation we could face the sort of problem that we were discussing in the Budget debate yesterday, namely, the levying of VAT on traders in this country. That creates problems, even in our own law-abiding, controlled and disciplined country.

I shall be interested in the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup, but the Brandt Commission proposal seems to offer an international VAT, with scope for international fiddling on a scale that extends beyond my imagination. The commission's proposal is an example of trying to take national policy methods which have not worked well, or at all, and extend them internationally, suggesting thereby that we have not learnt from our mistakes when we are trying to solve this huge international problem.

This is also a danger in the talks on the commodity fund which my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge discussed so sympathetically. The report mentions the desire to stabilise prices and expand the commodity system, but that is a problem that has been wrestled with year after year in exchanges which have not yet produced satisfactory results.

We cannot ignore the problems. We must be careful not to take a national or European problem and elevate it. If we got it wrong, we could end up having the same problems as we have with the common agricultural policy. We risk having an international problem similar to that which we have with the CAP if we enforce a straitjacket on a stabilisation scheme for commodities and if we try to escape from the realities and pressures of economics.

I have already detained the House for too long. I do not wish to be as destructive or as cynical as some hon. Members may think I am. I believe that we have to grasp this problem, and I should like to offer a few positive suggestions.

We must look more closely at the role that the OPEC countries have to play. I hope that there will be a translation of the paperback into Arabic or into Spanish, as is appropriate, and that copies are left in all the embassies and chancelleries of the OPEC countries, because this $100 billion overhang on the world economy is one of the major causes of the structural problems that are at issue.

Though this must be a series of arbitrary judgments, the World Bank has estimated that the net capital need of the non-oil developing countries for this year is $70 billion, increasing in 1985 to $122 billion and in 1990 to $184 billion in a single year. With financial needs of that scale, everyone has to be involved, not least those who have that sort of money—such as the OPEC countries.

At present an especially dangerous problem faces the world because the OPEC countries, on the whole, keep their money on short credit. They put it into the Western banking system, which then produces long credits of various kinds for the developing countries. It is very dangerous, using the old banking cliche, to borrow short and lend long, because that is a recipe for inevitable banking disaster. Therefore, if we involve the OPEC countries, we must guarantee that they do not contribute to inflation, and there are many aspects of the Brandt proposals which seem to imply inflation.

I believe that the suggestion to double the gearing of the World Bank fund is highly dangerous and needs to be looked at. We must look more closely at the contributions of the IMF. Over the last few years the IMF has been maligned. It has become one of the boo words, like monetarism. When the IMF's sensible policies are abandoned, that is damaging not only for the fund but for the countries involved. It is worth looking at some of the failures of the IMF when it has gone soft.

Finally, we must look at energy. I was encouraged by the remarks of Sheikh Yamani the other day about the way in which we should handle oil and energy as a whole. As part of the solution to the energy problem we must consider the energy needs of the whole world, which include the use of nuclear energy.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge suggested that many who were interested in aid tended to verge on protection, and there is a paradox there which they must resolve. Similarly, many who are interested in aid are anti-nuclear energy development, and that is another paradox which they must resolve themselves. Nuclear energy must make a contribution to the development of the world and help in solving its problems.

In conclusion, I suggest that we should not fall into the trap of taking interventionist and Socialist solutions, which have patently failed the developed and otherwise strong economies of the West, and impose them on other countries of the world which have weaker economies and greater problems. There, too, they will fail.

10.36 am

I congratulate the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) on bringing the Brandt report to the attention of the House and also those who compiled it. It has brought to the attention of all nations the dilemma that exists between the North and the South—the rich and the poor—and puts forward at least some suggestions that must be considered in great depth to enable us to bridge the gap before it is too late. If we take it on board, it is a charter for survival. If we do not, it will be the death knell of not only the countries about which we are concerned but many of the countries that regard themselves as advanced and industrialised.

One thing that is clear throughout the whole report is that since the United Nations took up responsibility for areas of the developing world we have discovered that many of the lessons of the past 30 years had not been learnt. The message that I get from the report is that we have ignored problems that were staring us in the face. I was moved by the comment of Herr Willy Brandt, who said that when he was head of a Government he ignored—because he was involved in matters of State—what some of his advisers in his own country and other parts of the world said to him about what was happening in the developing world and how that had an effect on his own country and a country such as our own.

Reference has been made to the moral dimension here. When I read the report last night I wondered whether some of those involved had been tempted to flirt with the moral appeal of aiding the underdeveloped countries. If the moral appeal does not get across, it may be that we shall have to remind the rich countries of their interdependence and that their survival also depends on what happens in the developing world.

Even though I am not a Christian, I have always believed that I am my brother's keeper and that the rich have a responsibility to the poor and the strong have a responsibility to the weak. However, the initial impact of the presentation of poverty on the industrialised world is always very short. People are easily moved by poverty, an earthquake and destruction, but only for a short while. It is easy for them to write cheques or serve in an Oxfam shop on a Saturday morning and feel that they have made their contribution. It is not so easy to say "I will make a positive contribution and support my Government or any Government who are willing to say we must change direction" when looking at the riches that surround us. We might have to suffer, but we have a responsibility for what is taking place in the developing world. We are discussing a moral problem. The survival of us all is at stake.

I was depressed by the report in one respect. It says that countries that have not reached the 0·7 per cent. aid target must do so by 1985 in order to make a positive contribution to the developing world. It says that the annual target should be raised to 1 per cent. before the end of the century—that is, within 20 years. It says that the quality of aid should be less tied—that it should be more multilateral and more concessionary. We have heard that before. The statement by the Foreign Secretary on 20 February was depressing and sobering. That statement moved away from the direction taken in the report. We must take that on board. We should not examine the report and make eloquent speeches while allowing to go unchallenged statements by Governments, and particularly that by the Foreign Secretary in February.

I disagree with the Government's public expenditure cuts. Statements about the direction of aid and our responsibility to the developing world are undermined by our internal policies.

We have heard about the 12 million children who die from malnutrition each year. It has been said that that is not the underlying factor in the report. When confronted with such suffering on television, people are moved. It is difficult to speak about the sight of hundreds of children who one knows will die within a few weeks of having seen them. When one has picked them up and held them, it is difficult to accept that they and others like them will be dead perhaps before one leaves their country. It is not easy to talk about it. The magnitude of the problem is unbelievable. It is difficult to speak of children who are blind because of poverty and malnutrition when the resources and means exist to prevent them.

The Brandt report emphasises the benefit to the developed world of helping the poorer countries. I am no different from thousands of people in Britain. We have not been successful in bringing home to people the magnitude of the problem. The report does not deal with that adequately. A strong moral issue is involved. I do not believe that the majority of people are sufficiently selfish to be concerned solely with their own survival. I find it distressing when politicians say on television that we canot afford aid to poorer countries because we are so poor ourselves.

The mass media indulge in advertising techniques. Everybody is told that status depends upon having the latest shower or washing machine. People are educated to believe that that is all that matters in our society. The selfishness of the West and the industrialised world is created by advertising and politicians.

Several other aspects of the report struck me. A total of 0·5 per cent. of one year's military expenditure would pay for all the farming equipment needed to increase food production in the developing world and would allow countries suffering from food deficiency to approach self-sufficiency within 10 years. That is a staggering thought. We must face the fact that if the world is to survive, the case for military expenditure must be set against the question of human survival.

Defending ourselves is not all that is at stake. The more that human beings, particularly in developing societies, see the massing of weapons and the preparation for war, the more insecure they become and the more terrified they feel about the future. Some may say that the stockpiling of weapons is a preparation for peace, but it is also a preparation for war. We must state that our priorities are the survival of the world and the survival of 12 million children. They must have greater priority than the stockpiling of weapons upon which the economy depends because they can be exported.

The West is characterised by a growing pessimism about the future. Import controls have been mentioned. I do not wish to become involved in Labour Party arguments, but the whole question must be examined deeply in terms of the developing world. Any short-term gain must be balanced against the long-term cost. The' only successful import controls have been agreed with the country against which they are imposed. Import controls are likely to hurt the developing world. We must remember that 60 per cent. of the world's exports of major agriculture and mineral commodities, other than oil, originate in Third world countries. It is important to remember that when examining the impact of protectionism.

There is a connection between steel workers in this country being unemployed and people in the developing world being too poor to buy the steel that they need to improve their economies. Such connections, as well as the moral issue, must be made clear to the British people and to the people of all nations which are rich in resource and enjoy high standards of living.

One of the greatest indictments of our age is that mass hunger exists in a world where technological advance could enable us to feed, clothe and protect millions more of the world's inhabitants in the next 10 years. The Brandt report stresses the stark reality of the gaps between the rich and the poor and the North and the South. The report brings out the moral issue and condemns the wanton selfishness of the West. It presents us with a challenge. When the poor countries are victimised, we share their woe. Our survival depends on what we are prepared to invest in their world.

10.50 am

I associate myself with the congratulations expressed to my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) on bringing this motion before the House and on the eloquence and expertise that he brought to bear on it.

I share the pride of the House in the role played by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) in the composition of the motion.

The hon. Member for Waltham Forest (Mr. Deakins) said that we should not be too reticent about emphasising the moral aspects of the matter. I share that feeling with him. Many do not share some of the cynicism that we apply to our affairs. They are more idealistic than we realise.

For many years it has been an accepted orthodoxy in politics in Britain that the better-off have a duty as well as an interest to help the less-well-off. It is widely accepted also that the better-off countries have a duty to help the less-well-off countries.

The hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) wisely adopted a belt-and-braces approach by saying that mutual self-interest should be emphasised in the way that it was in the report. We should adopt that approach. The coincidence of morality and self-interest has been a British tradition for many years.

I shall deal briefly with the population aspects of the report, contained mainly in chapter 6. Last autumn, Mr. Robert McNamara said that short of nuclear war itself population growth was the greatest issue that the world faced over the decades immediately ahead. Similar public concern has been expressed in recent months in various fora by President Giscard d'Estaing, Chancellor Schmidt and Prime Minister Ohira.

The commission said that the staggering growth of world population would be one of the strongest forces shaping the future of society. The report recommends that development policies should include a national programme aimed at appropriate balance between population and resources.

Unlike my hon. Friend for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney), who, in his otherwise admirable speech, said that we should not be carried away by the statistics, I believe that we should be carried away by them. There is no precedent in world history for the numbers being added to human population. We took thousands of years—up to 1830—to reach our first billion. The most recent addition—the fourth billion—took just 15 years, between 1960 and 1975.

Because half of the inhabitants of the less-developed countries are under 15, there is a built-in momentum for further growth, even if the average family size should decline substantially. World population will continue to grow from., the current 4·3 billion to more than 6 billion by the end of the century because of the tremendous number of young people entering their reproductive years.

The figures are difficult to comprehend, but it is the equivalent of adding in two decades more than 20 countries the current size of Bangladesh or adding the entire population of the world as it was in 1914 to our population by the end of the century.

Despite the widely publicised decline in the overall growth rate from 2 per cent. to 1·7 per cent. a year, world population will increase each year until the end of the century because of the expanding base. Overall, our population cannot stabilise until 50 or 60 years after the average family size of two children is reached, and we are a long way from that. For each decade of delay in reaching that norm, the eventual stabilised population will be at least 11 per cent. higher.

Barring a substantial natural catastrophe or nuclear war, the population will not stabilise below 10 billion—more than double the current level. In the absence of co-ordinated international efforts—as the report said—it could reach between 11 billion and 15 billion. That is a conservative estimate, with incalculable implications for human condition.

I do not dispute the force of my hon. Friend's remarks, but does he not agree that in the past demography has proved to be an inexact science? In the late 1940s demographers suggested that world population would be no more than 2 billion by the year 2000. I do not dispute the rate of growth projected by my hon. Friend. However, will he recognise that in the less-developed and undeveloped countries that have begun to experience demographic decline and transition—such as Taiwan, Korea and Singapore—once the decline has begun it has proceeded rapidly?

My hon. Friend is right in saying that demography is an inexact science, but even if the present generation were to restrict its reproductive rate to two children per family—which is highly unlikely—we would be faced with a problem of terrifying dimensions.

The present symptoms of imbalance between world population and its resources and productivity are appalling. Twenty per cent. of the world population is seriously under-nourished—with millions of children starving each year—60 per cent. is without health care, 50 per cent. is without safe water and 50 per cent. is illiterate.

We could continue to discuss the symptoms for a long time. The International Labour Organisation estimates that within the next two decades about 700 million will enter the labour pool in developing countries. That is more than the total current labour force of the industrial advanced countries. An enormous amount of investment is required to provide work for them.

What, if anything, can be done to help them? Should Governments, metaphorically, put their heads back under the blankets and hope that the problem will go away? Should we wash our hands of the matter and let the developing countries stew in their own juices? I think not. As the report indicates, the search for solutions is not an act of benevolence but a condition of mutual survival.

The world population plan of action was ratified by more than 130 countries in Bucharest in 1934. In recent years most developing countries have established programmes aimed at limiting population growth. It is estimated that 95 per cent. of the Third world population lives in more than 60 countries that are adopting such policies.

The programmes vary widely in effectiveness. Several countries, such as China, South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Chile, Colombia and, more recently. Mexico have achieved significant success in reducing fertility rates. Others, including Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Egypt, have made little progress, while sub-Sahara and Africa have barely begun to face the problem. There are still about 317 million couples with no access to family planning information. It is vital that they should be assisted to make a reasonable choice.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe said, the most important factors are political will and determination at the top levels of government in the countries concerned, together with effective administration, properly trained field workers and medical staff, and some sort of community involvement and enthusiasm.

External assistance has played—and will continue to play—a vital role. The United States of America has, needless to say, been far in the lead, both in providing bilateral aid and in supporting multilateral and private organisations. The main donor programmes at 1977 figures show that the United States contributed more than $140 million; the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, $78 million; and the International Planned Parenthood Federation, $51 million. Norway, Sweden, Japan, Canada and Germany all contributed, the United Kingdom gave $7 million, and France and Italy gave negligible assistance.

Measured against the magnitude of the problem, current global levels of assistance in population matters are very small, They amount to only about 2 per cent. of total aid flows.

It is vital for the success of world development and for the survival of the human race in anything like tolerable conditions that people everywhere should have access to information on and the means of regulating the size of their families if they so desire. All aid programmes should include population elements. Research into reproductive physiology and contraceptive development must be stepped up. The need for support is urgent. The United Nations Fund for Population Activities can now meet only two-thirds of the requests that it receives.

The international conference of parliamentarians on population and development, jointly sponsored by the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, which I attended in Colombo last August, called on the world community to increase international assistance.

It being Eleven o'clock, Mr. SPEAKER interrupted the proceedings, pursuant to Standing Order No. 5 (Friday sittings).