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Aid (Environmental Factors)

Volume 114: debated on Monday 6 April 1987

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52.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on what account is taken of environmental factors in planning the overseas aid programme.

53.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the methods by which he takes into account, in project appraisal procedures, environmental considerations such as impact on soil erosion, deforestation and pollution in developing countries in receipt of United Kingdom aid.

Environmental concerns are at the forefront of our thinking. Our approach is set out in the booklet "The Environment and the British Air Programme", published to mark the European Year of the Environment. Copies are in the Library and have been widely circulated among Members.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. I admire the publication that he mentioned. I am pleased that the Government are taking the environment issue so seriously. However, as 40 per cent. of our aid goes through multilateral agencies, will my hon. Friend ensure that those agencies consider environmental issues with the same seriousness?

I am delighted to be able to assure my hon. Friend that this issue will be discussed at the spring meeting of the development committee of the World Bank this week. I also intend to raise it at the European Community Development Council meeting in May, if not otherwise engaged.

Absolutely. I draw the attention of the hon. Gentleman to what we say in the booklet that I mentioned on that subject, and in particular to our programme on the Korup forest.

Given the Minister's declared commitment to environmental programmes and policies and the fact that this is the European Year of the Environment, why was his Department's environmental unit abolished some years ago and merged into the natural resources section? Will he undertake to reconsider that this year, so that environmental matters can have the precedence in his Department that his statements imply they should have?

I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman has said. We have 23 professional natural resources advisers, backed up by 320 scientists and experts in our scientific units. We have two social development advisers, and we have recently appointed an environment adviser. We have quite enough professional advice, and more than many others.

Does my hon. Friend agree that more scientific research is needed into forestry, so that reafforestation can take place more quickly and effectively?

There is a strong argument for that. I am pleased that our aid to forestry has increased by 80 per cent. over the past four or five years, and also that our research programme related to environmental issues has increased.

When the Minister attends the EEC meeting in May, will he ensure that no EEC funds or, if it is in his power to do so, no World Bank funds, are used to finance development projects in the Amazon rain forest that result in the destruction of the environment of the indigenous Indian community and cause serious soil pollution through deforestation?

As I said earlier, if I am able to attend the Development Council meeting in May I shall raise the sort of matter to which the hon. Gentleman refers, because I wish environmental issues to be discussed at such meetings.