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European Development Fund

Volume 23: debated on Monday 10 May 1982

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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.