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International Development Strategy

Volume 413: debated on Thursday 16 October 1980

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3.12 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Queston was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what policy they adopted at the recent special session of the United Nations on development issues.

My Lords, we made a constructive contribution to the formulation of an international development strategy for the 1980s. We worked for agreement on an agenda and procedures for the global negotiations on economic co-operation for development. We regret that agreement did not prove possible. However, we will continue to work during the current General Assembly for the successful launch of the global negotiations on a generally acceptable basis.

My Lords, would the Minister agree with the President of the World Bank, Mr. McNamara, when he says that a major re-examination of the function of the Bretton Woods institutions is essential? Secondly, is it the case that the British Government, the United States Government and the West German Government blocked this re-examination at the special session despite the fact that the other seven members of the EEC and Japan all supported the compromise resolution which was produced before the end of that conference?

My Lords, I am not sure that that is an entirely accurate representation of what occurred. What actually happened was that the other European members felt, although they had the same reservations in principle as we had, that the resolutions met the point. We felt that they did not. As for the views of Mr. McNamara, one of the other things he was suggesting was that our aid programme was not growing at the rate he would wish. For that purpose he considered our contribution in 1985 to be inadequate. We find this a bit puzzling, because we have certainly not decided, much less announced, our programme for that year.

My Lords, is the Minister aware how much ill feeling is being engendered about the attitude of the British Government at this special assembly? Is he also aware that the new economic order, with or without capital letters, is no longer a matter of rhetoric, but of burning necessity? What are the Government proposing to do about it?

The new economic order, my Lords, is one of those things which has been talked about for a very long time, as the noble Lord knows; but the fact remains that if we are to adhere to these very fine sentiments—and they are indeed that—we have first to find the money to do it with.

My Lords, may I ask the Minister, despite what he said, whether he would not agree that a deep deadlock still remains between the richer and the poorer nations? Will Her Majesty's Government give authoritative and consultative consideration before the Summit conference to finding some means of ending this deadlock, which would not only end the hunger of millions in the world, but would help unemployment in this country by increasing the demand for goods?

My Lords, that last assertion, if I may say so, is unproven. It is not necessarily the case that increased aid to Third World countries would improve the industrial situation here at home. For example, the Third World countries might choose to purchase their goods elsewhere. I would say again, however, that the solution to these grave problems does not lie in beggaring ourselves.

My Lords, I am really disappointed by the reply of the Government. After all, this is really one of the great burning issues in the world. I am not just thinking of the Brandt plan; the United Nations also is concerned about this, and I hope that the noble Lord will be a bit more sympathetic than he has shown himself today.

My Lords, I am sorry if the noble Lord thinks that I am unsympathetic over these matters, because that is not the case; but we must look at them realistically.

My Lords, the Minister referred to aid, but aid is not the means of solving this problem. Is not the means of solving this problem a new economic order which would correct the balance on behalf of the great industrial powers against the Third World?

My Lords, is it a question of solving it on our own, or of taking an initiative—which the United Kingdom, with its proud history, ought to take, as a previous very substantial colonial power? Is it not a fact that what the Minister has been saying this afternoon is really rendering all the investigations of the Brandt Commission and all the advocacy of his own right honourable friend Mr. Edward Heath completely nugatory?

I think not, my Lords. The Brandt Commission report, which was a very lengthy and comprehensive document, as the noble Lord will know, and one which your Lordships have discussed at length on at least two occasions, had a number of very good things in it which we are pursuing.

Can we understand, my Lords, that the Brandt Report will be high on the agenda for consideration at the next meeting of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Commons?

My Lords, I believe that Committee is already considering the Brandt Report.

My Lords, the Minister really cannot get away with this. He knows perfectly well that when—

Is the Minister aware that when Mr. McNamara was speaking in critical terms of our aid programme he was talking about the 14 per cent. reduction that this Government have brought in?—and whether it is 1985 or 1983 makes no difference at all to that issue. Could I ask him: does he agree and do the Government agree that in the present chaos of the world economic situation the use of the IMF's conditions for the developing countries is quite inappropriate and is not only hindering their development but, as my noble friend Lord Brockway has pointed out, is also hindering the recovery of this country by denying them purchasing power which they could use to buy our goods, particularly when 75 per cent. of our aid is tied to British goods?

No, my Lords. I would not agree to that. The fact is that the IMF have recently loosened their arrangements and now, for example, allow drawings up to 600 per cent. of annual quotas.