Skip to main content

Overseas Development

Volume 23: debated on Monday 10 May 1982

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

European Development Fund


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he is satified with the developmental quality of schemes initiated by the European development fund.

Not entirely. We have long been concerned about the design and implementation of the programmes of the European development fund. Partly owing to our efforts, their quality has improved in recent years. We shall continue to work to secure further improvements.

I am grateful to the Minister for his frank reply. Will he now look at some of the criticisms of the fund that have been made in the House? In particular, will he investigate why development investment in overseas territories enjoys the same criteria as that of the European Investment Bank inside Western Europe? Is that not an anomaly that should be looked at?

What percentage of the total European budget accounts for the European development fund? What efforts will he make to achieve a greater coordination of effort between the various member States of the European Community in their approach to overseas aid and development?

We constantly try to get better co-ordination at the Council of Ministers' meetings. I regret that I cannot give the hon. Gentleman the exact figures off-the-cuff.

Will my right hon. Friend place in the Library an exact definition of the words in the question "developmental quality"?

Jamaica (Agricultural Products)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assistance is currently being given to Jamaica to improve the production and marketing of agricultural products.

The Commonwealth Development Corporation is involved in development projects in forestry, coffee, the dairy industry and the flour milling industry. We are providing experts under the British technical co-operation programme for the Forestry Department and the Forest Industries Development Company.

The Tropical Products Institute gives advice to both Government and non-Government agencies in Jamaica on many aspects of production and marketing.

That is a welcome and constructive reply. Is any particular help given to the Jamaican banana industry, which in recent years seems to have fallen far short of the quota that it could use in the European market?

Throughout the Caribbean the banana industry is in considerable trouble. One of my senior officials was in Jamaica last week. If the Jamaican Government want any help, I am sure that they will have put that request to my official and I shall hear about it this week.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the major problems that Jamaica faces in marketing its products is the lack of managerial and administrative muscle? The principal cause of that is the lamentably low literacy rate on the island. Will my right hon. Friend consider assisting Jamaica by helping it to make primary schooling mandatory?

Mandatory primary schooling must be a matter for the Jamaican Government.

Will the Minister's decision to close an important sector of his Department dealing with land tenure and agricultural production and distribution, reducing the number of employees from 90 to 40, have any effect on the Government's assistance to Jamaica?

Aid Programme


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth affairs what proportion of the United Kingdom's aid programme is devoted to supporting preventive health measures.

We attach considerable importance to preventive health measures. Apart from specific health aid, we engage in agricultural, educational and engineering projects which help to promote good health, and in particular we are increasing our expenditure on water supply projects. I estimate that 8 to 10 per cent. of the total aid programme is spent on health, but it is not possible to say what proportion of this is for preventive measures.

Is there not an inconsistency between the fact that we are providing money to improve the health and well-being of people in the developing world and the fact that British tobacco companies are exporting their products to those countries under terms that are no longer acceptable in Britain? Are we not being hypocrites? Should not the Government seek to enforce the standard applying to British tobacco companies in Britain to their exports to those countries?

Developing countries must set their own standards. It is not for us to set standards for them.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that one of the most effective and cheapest ways of ensuring an improvement in the standard of health of mothers and young children in developing countries is to ensure the proper availability of family planning services? Will my right hon. Friend also confirm that in future aid programmes that are approved by him he will try to ensure that proper precedence is given to population policy considerations?

I agree with my hon. Friend. About two years ago I gave an instruction that the question of population should be looked at in relation to every project that was being considered.

Is there not a lack of liaison between the ODA and our multinational companies in the marketing of goods which might be prejudicial to the health of people in the developing world? Surely we do not want our aid efforts undermined by marketing practices which, with a little good will on both sides, could be prevented in the first place.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. This is primarily done by the World Health Organisation, on which we are represented.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there has been a serious outbreak of malaria in Sri Lanka in the past few months? Can he give the House any facts or figures on that and say what preventive steps he can take to help?

No, I cannot. If the Sri Lanka Government bring it to our attention and ask for help, we shall certainly consider what we can do.

The Minister will be aware that grave concern was expressed last week at the World Health Organisation conference in Geneva regarding the high price and efficacy of drugs in Third world countries. Is it not high time that the Government set up an investigation into the dubious practices of some pharmaceutical companies?

I was not aware of what happened at the World Health Organisation conference, because I was in the Caribbean. However, I shall certainly consider the hon. Gentleman's suggestion.

European Development Fund


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the discussions he has had with M. Pisani about the administration of the European development fund.

In my discussions with M. Pisani on 16 March I was glad to find that he fully shares our concern that improvements in the European development fund should be made wherever necessary to ensure that aid funds are used to the best effect.

Does the Minister agree that there is a long way to go in the light of the criticisms made by the Court of Auditors and by other bodies about the inefficiency of this scheme, its high administrative cost and the inappropriateness of much of the aid that is given? Will the Minister advise the House whether it is possible for the Government to transfer funds which they are currently making available to the European development fund to the Commonwealth fund for technical cooperation, which is efficiently run, cheaply administered and highly effective?

I take note of the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question.

We are committed to our contribution to the European development fund for a specific number of years. We do not want to increase our contribution at the next round of talks on the EDF, because we are not happy with multilateral aid. We prefer bilateral aid.

Does the Department monitor the contracts that are awarded country by country within the Community to ensure that there is an equitable distribution of orders among companies? If not, would it not be a good idea to do so?

Yes, Sir. We keep an eye on the percentage of contracts awarded to British companies. It is primarily a matter of United Kingdom businesses getting orders. They used not to do that, but they are getting better at it. With help from our embassy, we hope to improve matters for Britain.