HC Deb 18 June 1984 vol 62 cc16-8
34. Mr. Chapman

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what proportion of United Kingdom Government's overseas aid goes direct to recipient countries; and what proportion goes via international or multinational agencies.

Mr. Whitney

In 1983, 59 per cent. of British aid was given bilaterally, mostly on a Government-to-Government basis, and 41 per cent. went through multilateral institutions.

Mr. Chapman

Does my hon. Friend agree that, in the generality of these things, it is far more effective for British aid to be given after direct negotiations with the Government of the recipient country than through multinational agencies? If that is so, and bearing in mind the fact that there is a role for British aid through such agencies, does my hon. Friend agree that it would be greatly to the benefit of recipient countries if aid was provided direct?

Mr. Whitney

In general we wish to give priority to our bilateral aid programmes, but, as my hon. Friend will recognise, we have extensive multilateral commitments.

Mr. Rhodes James

Is my hon. Friend aware that my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman) is totally wrong?

Mr. Whitney

It is difficult for me to enter into a debate between my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) and my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman). However, it is true that we get good returns on bilateral aid and on multilateral aid. As is revealed by my hon. Friend's question, the computation of those returns is a somewhat complex art.

35. Mr. Stuart Holland

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if, following the discussions on economic recovery at the London summit, he intends to bring about any changes in the volume or the use of British aid.

Mr. Whitney

The Government's current plans for the aid programme take account of the global economic situation. We shall continue to explore ways by which aid can make a more effective contribution to solving the problems facing developing countries.

Mr. Holland

By that, does the Minister mean that "the global economic situation" explains what is meant by "wherever possible" in the post-summit communiqué, which declared the intention to maintain and wherever possible increase flows of resources, including official development assistance"? Is he aware that increasing official development assistance to 0.7 per cent. of gross domestic product would be of almost inestimable value to the South and could create 2 million jobs in the OECD countries? Was the Prime Minister among those who wished to activate a common fund for commodities? If not, why not?

Mr. Whitney

The hon. Gentleman goes down familiar paths. The important thing that has been agreed at the summit and in previous ones, including those attended by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan) when he was Prime Minister, is that the key to recovery is keeping public expenditure under control so that the recovery of national economies will permit an increase in world trade. The vital significance of world trade for developing economies should be recognised by all of us. The hon. Gentleman will understand that we have not abandoned the aspiration to the 0.7 per cent. target, but he will remember that the Labour Government remained well short of that target as well.

Mr. Holland


Mr. Speaker


Mr. Teddy Taylor

Would not economic recovery in the Third world be helped more if, instead of increasing the percentage of aid, the Government tried to persuade the EEC to stop spending £100 million a week on dumping food on the world market, thereby depriving Third world countries of a decent and fair return on their agricultural produce?

Mr. Whitney

My hon. Friend will be aware of the significant efforts of my right hon. Friends to reform the budget and, as part of it, the common agricultural policy.

Mr. Tom Clarke

Bearing in mind that this is a familiar road, did the Government say at the summit when they expected to achieve the 0.7 per cent. target? If not, will the Minister tell us now?

Mr. Whitney

No, Sir. As I said in reply to the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Holland), it is important to restore the economies of the developed and developing world. I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that, for many years, Britain has exceeded the United Nations target of joint private and official aid flows of more than 1 per cent. of gross national product.

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