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Third World

Volume 163: debated on Monday 4 December 1989

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of whether more funds could be provided to United Kingdom non-governmental organisations for work in the Third world; and whether any such increase is planned.

On 26 October I announced an increase in our joint funding scheme, under which we support non-governmental organisations' agreed long-term development projects by 25 per cent. next year to £20 million. I am also increasing support for the United Kingdom volunteer recruiting agencies—most notably the Voluntary Service Overseas—by 10 per cent. to £14·3 million. We will also consider sympathetically requests for assistance from non-governmental organisations for disaster and emergency relief measures.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for those increases. Has she suggested that special attention should be paid to small projects, which in return for a modest outlay—such as the installation of water tanks—can have tremendous consequences for the welfare of women in the Third world?

As my hon. Friend knows, we are keen to use not only the joint funding scheme for the non-governmental organisations, but the heads of mission gift scheme and the heads of mission small projects scheme. Those three ways can help women in development, particularly through the provision of water storage, so saving them the awful problem of carting heavy water urns for many miles.

I recognise the important contribution of VSO. I should like to thank the Minister and ask whether she will have discussions with her right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science to ensure that the implementation of the student loans scheme does not affect the financial ability of young people to work for at least two years in the Third world with VSO and to work when they get back?

Although the Government have a good record, does my right hon. Friend agree that more should be done to assist NGOs with population programmes? Is it not a fact that at the moment less than 1 per cent. of all aid is used on population programmes? Does my right hon. Friend agree that if that percentage were increased, the effectiveness of the rest of the programme would be greater? Does my right hon. Friend agree that if that percentage were increased the effectiveness of the rest of the programme would be greater?

I agree with my hon. Friend. At the meeting that we had with Population Concern in Harrogate on 14 November, we agreed on how valuable those contributions that we are already making, and those that we shall make, to Population Concern and other agencies concerned with population planning are in the general development of those countries.

In the league table of all 18 western aid givers, why has Britain dropped to 14th place when we were in sixth place in 1979?

The hon. Lady knows that the cuts made in the overseas aid programme under the last Labour Government had to go through. We are now increasing our aid programme and intend to go on spending it wisely and getting the best value for money out of every penny of taxpayers' money.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on this welcome increase. Will she join me in paying tribute to the send-a-cow scheme? What further steps can she take to give that excellent organisation and endeavour more money?

I shall look into what my hon. Friend says. While send-a-cow is a good scheme, many other schemes deserve our support.