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Aid (Criteria)

Volume 13: debated on Monday 16 November 1981

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asked the Lord Privy Seal to what extent the granting of overseas aid to developing countries is determined by the character of their political systems; and if he will make a statement.

British aid goes to countries with a wide range of political systems.

In deciding whether to aid any particular country, the Government take account of developmental, political and commercial factors. The weight given to each of these will vary according to the individual circumstances of each case.

I accept that human rights considerations should be important in granting aid. But how can the Minister justify the imposition of double standards when political considerations are concerned, when that may mean perpetuating underdevelopment or relinquishing to a foreign competitor an opportunity that could be taken up by a British industrialist? Comparing Indonesia with Vietnam, does the Minister agree that the Indonesian Goverment's record on East Timor—with the appalling war and slaughter that is taking place—should be considered just as much as other factors that may apply elsewhere?

Does my right hon. Friend agree that a country's political and economic system determines the use to which aid is put and that countries with inflexible political or economic systems are the least likely to use aid effectively?

Yes, Sir. Since becoming Minister for Overseas Development that has been my experience.