Skip to main content

Overseas Development

Volume 21: debated on Monday 29 March 1982

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

East Caribbean Islands


asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement about the level of development assistance to the East Caribbean islands.

British bilateral aid to the Eastern Caribbean islands in 1980 was £12 million. A table showing expenditure by country will be published in the Official Report. The 1981–82 figure is expected to about £13 million. About 40 per cent. goes to the dependencies and the rest to independent Commonwealth countries and regional projects.

The East Caribbean islands also benefit from British contributions to the Caribbean Development Bank, the European development fund, the Commonwealth fund for technical co-operation and the United Nations agencies.

Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that these economies are highly vulnerable and will be dependent on overseas aid from Britain—which has a special responsibility towards them—for many years to come? Does the right hon. Gentleman also recognise the special difficulties facing Dominica, following hurricane David? As a result of the damage done by that hurricane, its economy has still not been restored.

The answer to both parts of that question is "Yes". I met the Prime Minister of Dominica, Miss Charles, to discuss the problems involved. We have given considerable aid—which is at sea on its way—to the island's banana industry, which has suffered considerably as a result of hurricanes.

May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the assistance that he is giving to the East Caribbean islands? Will he review the whole programme in the light of the fall in prosperity in almost all those islands because of the reduction in the price of their natural products, such as bananas, nutmegs and other tropical produce? That reduction in prosperity will lead, in turn, to even greater instability than in Grenada, Dominica, and to some extent, St. Lucia. From the Select Committee's recent visit to the area, I know that such action would be welcomed throughout the British Commonwealth.

What applications for aid have the Government received from the Government of Grenada since the coup? What aid has been given and what is the British Government's attitude towards applications that they may receive now, or in future, from the Government of Grenada?

In 1980—the last year for which we have figures—Grenada received £53, 000 of technical cooperation, £10, 000 of capital aids and other grants and £195, 000 in loans. We have made it clear to the Government of Grenada that we do not like their human rights record. I shall not go into that point now, as I have done so before. However, when their record improves, we shall consider their problems.

Following is the table:

Gross Bilateral Aid Expenditure 1980


Technical Co-operation

Capital Aid

Gross Aid Expenditure

British Virgin Islands2769551,231
St. Kitts-Nevis305472777
St. Lucia230693923
St. Vincent295525820
Turks and Caicos Islands4128491,261
Regional Caribbean7412621,003

Costa Rica


asked the Lord Privy Seal on what projects the United Kingdom is currently assisting in Costa Rica.

The United Kingdom is currently assisting with the following projects: the Central American School for Animal Husbandry at Atenas; the National Apprentice Institute at San Jose; and the Centre for Research into Food Technology at San Jose. Expenditure for the current financial year is expected to be about £450, 000.

Is the Minister aware that Costa Rica's economy has been savagely hit by the fall in coffee prices and the rise in world oil prices and that it now has a balance of payments crisis on its hands? Will he consider helping Costa Rica to develop energy resources, particularly hydro-electric power, in order to reduce its dependence on imported oil?

Costa Rica's financial problems are largely a matter for it to negotiate with the International Monetary Fund. I shall bear the hon. Gentleman's second point in mind.

Overseas Students


asked the Lord Privy Seal how many overseas students are currently being assisted by funds from his Department.

We have trained over 13, 000 people in the past 12 months on courses of varying length. I hope to sustain a similar programme in 1982, but I cannot at this stage give a total for the whole year. At the moment there are 6, 200 people under training in this country.

Is the Minister aware that since the Tories came to power there has been a decrease of 25 per cent. in the number of new overseas students coming to Britain, and that the most significant decreases have been found in the number of students coming from developing Commonwealth countries, such as India, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe? Is he further aware that there has been an increase in the number of Common Market students coming to Britain, who are exempt from paying full-cost fees? If the Department of Education and Science is too blind to see the injustice of all that, will the Minister ensure that his Department helps more students to come from poorer countries, especially Commonwealth countries?

I should very much like to do that. As the hon. Gentleman may know, the Overseas Students Trust has been looking at the problem and hopes to publish its report within a matter of months. It will consider the whole question of students from the Commonwealth and elsewhere and the report will be made available after publication.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that many of the students who attend courses in Britain do not attend universities? Some of them attend private enterprise organisations such as the Air Service Training at Scone, where they learn to be technicians and pilots?

Not all students are at universities. Students also attend technical colleges and a wide spread of educational establishments, which, we hope, will be of help to the developing countries.

Does the Minister agree that the training of students in Britain is of substantial commercial benefit to Britain in the long term? When those who have been trained here return to their countries and attain influential positions, they are likely to purchase our manufactured and scientific goods and our publications. That reflects substantially on our long-term earnings capacity.

Prima facie, that is one of the views taken, and it is probably a good view. That is precisely the type of point that the Overseas Students Trust has been considering, to see how relevant such arguments are.



asked the Lord Privy Seal what has been the total official development assistance disbursed to Zimbabwe since that country's independence; and how much has been spent on the land transfer scheme.

Disbursements of official development assistance to Zimbabwe since independence total £50 million. The Zimbabwe Government have submitted claims, which we have met, for £2·6 million in respect of the land resettlement programme.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that reply. How confident is he that the total amount of aid promised at, and since, independence will be disbursed within the time scale envisaged? What progress has he made in persuading other countries to join the United Kingdom in helping to fund the land transfer scheme?

I hope that all the money will be spent within the three years in which it was promised. So far, the Netherlands, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have agreed to help with the land resettlement scheme. Contributions will also be made from the European development fund and the African Development Bank.

Will my right hon. Friend do his best to give every possible assistance to the Jairos Jiri centres in Zimbabwe, which do such excellent work with the disabled? Will he help them to spread their knowledge of how to deal with the disabled to other developing countries in Africa?

I have met Mr. Jairos Jiri and discussed the problem with him. We were of considerable help to him during the International Year of Disabled People. It is primarily a matter for Mr. Jiri and the Government of Zimbabwe to spread to other countries knowledge of what he is doing.

Can the Minister tell the House what proportion of the £2·6 million that he mentioned is spent on land purchase? Even if all of it has been spent on land purchase, does he agree that that is a small proportion of the funds that have been made available? Can he tell the House where he believes the constraining factors are in what is a crucial programme to Zimbabwe?

It is a complicated subject and one that requires a lot of study before the Zimbabwe Government go ahead with any particular area of that project. There is no hold-up on our side. We are entirely ready to honour anything that is submitted to us, but it is a much bigger problem than the average outsider realises.

Aid Statistics


asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the current proportions of United Kingdom overseas aid allocated through bilateral agreements, through United Nations agencies and through other multilateral agencies.

In 1980, the latest year for which figures are available, the proportions of United Kingdom aid, on the basis of gross public expenditure, were as follows: bilateral 70 per cent.; European community group 14 per cent.; World Bank group 9 per cent.; United Nations agencies 5 per cent.;other multilaterals 2 per cent.

I appreciate the work done by many international agencies. Can my right hon. Friend say whether it is Government policy that, wherever practicable Government aid should be through bilateral agreements? Does he agree that only by direct negotiations between Britain and the recipient country will it become more likely that the aid will be effectively deployed and go to those people most in need?

Yes, Sir. That is absolutely right. However, we have a problem in that we need to meet existing commitments, many of which were entered into a long time ago. We must honour those.

Statutory Instruments &C


That the draft Grants by Local Authorities (Appropriate Percentage and Exchequer Contributions) Order 1982 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.—[Mr. Mather.]