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Overseas Development Administration

Volume 82: debated on Monday 1 July 1985

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Bilateral Aid Programme

42.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what priority his Department gives to renewable natural resources and other agriculture-related sectors in the bilateral aid programme.

I continue to attach much importance to these sectors. Within the bilateral programmes we support a substantial number of renewable natural resources and related activities. There are also activities in other economic sectors, such as transport, of which one major objective is to bring benefits to agricultural areas.

If the Minister regards this part of the bilateral programme as so important, why has he cut it by almost £40 million, from 28 to 19 per cent.? Where has the money gone?

I do not believe that the sector has declined as a share of our bilateral aid over the past few years. I attach great importance to these sectors. It must be remembered that, in making decisions about the sectors in which money is spent, we must have regard to the requests of recipient countries as well as to our own desires.

Will the Minister consider the problem of the agrarian subsistence areas which he assists, within the terms of the supplementary question of my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Barnett)? In view of the need to have self-help co-operatives and resource centres, will he consider reinstituting a committee of his Department which was wound up by the previous Labour Government? I refer to the Co-operative Overseas Aid Committee, which, I am glad to say, continues to support the work of overseas students at the co-operative college at Loughborough?

I shall consider the hon. Gentleman's remarks. We continue to receive advice about co-operatives, but there are considerable difficulties about co-operative farming ventures in many parts of the world.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that an important factor releates to the policies that are adopted by many of the Governments in the countries that come within the programme, and that bilateral aid, despite the suggestion of the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Barnett), is not the only issue? A great deal of progress would have been made if it had been possible for the Governments concerned to adopt policies to encourage agricultural development instead of encouraging a drift to the towns.

My hon. Friend is right. The House has to be reminded from time to time that we are heavily dependent on the policies that are adopted by the recipient countries. In many of them, alas, the policies of their Governments run counter to effective agricultural development.

Aid Policy (Strategic And Political Reasons)

43.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much United Kingdom aid was given for strategic and political reasons in the latest year for which figures are available.

Our fundamental objective in making aid allocations is to assist economic and social progress in developing countries; but we take account also of political and commercial considerations where appropriate. It is not possible to relate these factors to precise statistics.

Is it not wrong for Britain's aid policy to be geared to any extent, however small as a percentage of our total aid budget, to giving aid for strategic and political reasons when aid should be going to the poorest people in the poorest countries as a matter of priority? Surely it is no aid policy to give money to repressive or military regimes scattered around the world for purposes which may coincide with the policies of the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office, but not with the administration of the Minister's Department.

My budget is a civil aid one, and it is not spent on the provision of military aid. There are many calls on my Department's budget, and we concentrate to a great extent on the poorer countries. I believe that we have a good record in that respect, and that is how it will continue to be.

They give a bit, but, taking Ethiopia as an example, the amount of food that they have given has been minimal, exceeded by India, let alone the West.

Africa (International Fund For Agricultural Development)

44.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the International Fund for Agricultural Development regarding assistance with its project in Africa.

The president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development called on me on 19 June. We agreed on the need for early agreement on the second replenishment of IFAD'S ordinary resources. Thereafter, member Governments could consider whether or not to make voluntary contributions to the IFAD special programme for Africa.

Has the apparent logjam that is developing over the compromise agreement that was reached earlier this year between other donors been caused by the United States Administration? Is the right hon. Gentleman using his best efforts to break that logjam?

Within the last fortnight I have had talks both with the administrator of United States aid and with Dr. Jazairy, the president of IFAD, and I have done what I can to try to resolve the disagreement. I believe that it should be possible to get a constructive result.

In our aid to famine in Africa, has the airlift component been met outside, and in addition to, our overseas aid budget? When representatives of the Church of England meet the Foreign Secretary later this week, will it be suggested that it would be more helpful if they would encourage hon. Members in all parts of the House who wish to see new money found for our overseas aid projects rather than to criticise us constantly and, indeed, threaten to vote against us at the next election?

The greater part of the airlift has generously been provided by the Ministry of Defence out of its funds. I am grateful to that Ministry and to the Royal Air Force for the way in which they have carried out this operation. As for the bishops, the Church and the Synod, we should all stand firm in advising them to vote Conservative at the next election, not least because of the effectiveness of our aid policies.

Ethiopia

45.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will report progress on the Ethiopian Government's contribution in the provision of vehicles to transport aid for the relief of the famine.

The United Nations co-ordinator in Addis Ababa, Mr. Jansson, continues to press the Ethiopian Government to provide more trucks for relief efforts. We understand that at a meeting on 17 June Colonel Mengistu told Mr. Jansson that a further 400 trucks would be made available.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that information. Does he agree that some time ago the Ethiopian Government gave an unequivocal commitment to provide 4,000 vehicles, but so far they have provided not even one tenth of the number? Does he further agree that Her Majesty's Government owe it to the millions of people in various countries who have donated to the relief of famine in Ethiopia to make the strongest representations to the Ethiopian authorities on this issue? Will we make it clear that unless the Ethiopian authorities keep to their commitment, the relief that has been given by many countries will rot on the wharves because the food will not get to the people who are desperately in need of it? The result will be that more people will die, and that will be the fault of the Ethiopian Government.

It is difficult to say exactly what number of trucks has been provided by the Ethiopians at any given time. The numbers appear to fluctuate. I agree with my hon. Friend that the Ethiopians need to fulfil their promise to provide many more, and we are prepared to support any representations to that effect.

Aid Projects (Women)

46.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what measures he has taken to assess the benefits of British aid projects to women in recipient countries.

We take account of the role of women when designing projects. New procedures have been introduced to enable us to assess the benefits derived by women. I have seen these benefits for myself, for instance, when I visited the Orissa family welfare project in India and the Mbeya referral hospital in Tanzania. Recently we redesigned a project in Malawi to ensure that extension services reached women farmers.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that one or two projects hardly meet the point and that there is widespread concern that the role of women in development is not sufficiently recognised by his Department? For example, does he have an adviser on the role of women in Third-world countries? If not. will he either appoint one, a woman, or a team, to take this important factor into account in development issues?

We have a social development adviser whose role certainly includes concentration on the implications for women of the projects that we put forward. However, the essential point is that in our procedures for assessing and appraising projects, we consider the impact on women as a matter of course. I believe that that is the right way of doing it, rather than creating a separate department to deal with the matter.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many on this side of the House take a dim view of aid going to one particular quarter? Does he agree that aid should be for everyone in a country affected by problems of this type, not uniquely for women or anyone else?

There is much good sense in what my hon. Friend says. As I have already said, women face many hardships, especially in agriculture, and it is right to consider those. However, I am against the notion that we should split the aid programme into different sectors by age, sex, class, creed or anything.

Indonesia

47.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the level of overseas aid from the United Kingdom to Indonesia.

In 1984 we spent £6·72 million on capital aid, including the aid and trade provision, and £3·81 million on technical co-operation. In addition, the Commonwealth Development Corporation invested £15·473 million.

In view of that substantial commitment to overseas aid in Indonesia, does the Minister believe that he should speak against blatant abuses of human rights in that country, including the execution of political prisoners, some of whom have been in prison for 12 to 15 years?

We are against abuses of human rights wherever they occur. The Government's position on this matter is well known.