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Least Developed Countries

Volume 15: debated on Monday 14 December 1981

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asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will take steps to increase United Kingdom aid to the least developed countries.

It remains the Government's intention to continue to give priority to the poorest countries, including the least developed, in allocating aid. When the health of the economy improves, the Government hope that they will be able to do more.

Will there be any increase in British aid in real terms to these countries next year as a result of pledges made by the Government at the recent United Nations conference on this subject?

At that conference we pledged ourselves to the target of 0·15 per cent. of GNP but no specific time was given for it. We shall attempt to achieve it as soon as we can.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the best aid that we can give to the least developed countries is to provide a market for their goods in this country? In this regard, will he be particularly delicate with the least developed countries in respect of the multifibre arrangement negotiations, because they have not increased their markets substantially in this country, and if we are genuine in our desire to help them we must provide a reasonable market for their textiles here?

Yes, I take note of the points that my hon. Friend has made. They are points of which the Community, which is the negotiating body on this occasion, is well aware. It is a question more appropriate to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade.

Are not double standards revealed in the Minister's answer? Will he confirm that in Mexico the Prime Minister approved a subsidy of £30 million to a British firm for a steel project in that country, which is not one of the poorest countries? Will he also confirm that she approved a grant of £150 million to the same British firm for a steel project in India without that project going through the normal procedures in the right hon. Gentlemen's Department? If that is so, how does the Minister justify the disgraceful fact that this money came from a much reduced aid budget?

It came from that section of the aid budget called the aid/trade provision, which was set up under the Labour Government, and it is doing exactly what that Labour Government wanted to do, which was to use a certain proportion, albeit a small proportion, of our aid to help our industries in Britain with orders that have to be subject to developmental appraisal.

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the best ways to increase aid to the least developed countries is through the Commonwealth Development Corporation, which has considerably increased its dispersals to the least developed countries in the past five years? Is my hon. Friend yet able to tell us the conclusions of the interdepartmental review on the future of the CDC?

I agree with the first part of that question. On the second part, perhaps my hon. Friend would await the answer to his question later on the Order Paper.