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Development Education

Volume 33: debated on Monday 6 December 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has received in the past 12 months about the level of Government funding of development education in the United Kingdom.

Two organisations, one previously in receipt of a Government grant and the other still in receipt, have made representations. In addition, about 50 letters from members of the public about this issue can be readily identified from our records.

Is the Minister aware that the British Government currently give three-tenths of a penny per-head of population to this activity, compared with more than twice that amount given by Italy and Belgium and six times that amount given by West Germany? Is he not terrified that, if British public opinion is made aware of the abysmal poverty in Africa and Asia, it will be more critical of the Government's stinginess in the overseas aid programme?

Not in the least, but I do not want to divert aid funds that should be devoted to the developing world to educating the British.

In the light of that remark may I ask whether it is the Minister's intention to end development education in 1984? Will that not do tremendous damage to aid prospects from this country in so far as voluntary societies will be less informed and less able to encourage their memberships to play an active part in assisting the poorest countries overseas, which is what they are doing at present?

No. Development education can well be taught in school, which is the place to learn, as well as in the voluntary agencies, the Churches and so on. The Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee, of which the hon. Gentleman was then a member, was critical of our grant to the Centre for World Development. I have now changed this to a conventional accountable grant at the original maximum value of £150,000 this year and £100,000 next year. I still expect this organisation to be independent of offical funds by April 1984.

Is this not a subject which even people of mediocre intelligence could study without the assistance of public money?

I do not entirely agree with my hon. Friend, because the Centre for World Development is a place to which all intelligent, semi-intelligent and subnormal people can apply for advice on the education that it proposes to give.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not the slightest bit concerned about the figures quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley)? Does he not realise that development education is a vital aspect of education in this country, in the sense that people need education in unstable world economic conditions and the reaction that we ought to be making to them? Does he not also recall that the Heads of Government of the Commonwealth and the Archbishop of Canterbury, as well as the Select Committee, have criticised him heavily for withdrawing support for this aspect of policy?

One gets criticised a lot by a variety of people for giving too much, too little and so on. Nevertheless, I still believe that it is up to our education system to educate.