HC Deb 22 November 1984 vol 68 cc417-501
Mr. Speaker

Before I call the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Mr. Johnston), I should announce that I have selected the amendment standing in the name of the Prime Minister. I must also inform the House that, because of the number of hon. Members who have indicated their wish to speak, I intend to apply the time limit of 10 minutes, which was agreed to by the House on 31 October, for hon. Members called between 7 pm and 8.50 pm. As this is the first time that the rule has been applied in its present form, perhaps I should remind the House that the occupant of the Chair will have the power to direct any hon. Member who has spoken for 10 minutes to resume his seat forthwith. The rule also applies to an hon. Member who is addressing the House at 7 pm. That hon. Member will have to conclude his speech at 7.10 pm.

4.7 pm

Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber)

I beg to move, That this House would firmly oppose any reduction in the real value of the already limited Overseas Aid budget; and would reject proposals to maintain this budget by cutting expenditure on the British Council or the BBC External Services. I am happy to be able to introduce a full day's debate on behalf of the Liberal party. It is quite unique for us. I am sad that it should be necessary to present the motion, which has been agreed with our partners the Social Democratic party, to the House. There is no doubt that overseas aid is an issue which, for all its clamancy, plays a minor part in British politics. In terms of public expenditure it represents only 1p in the pound. Labour and Conservative Governments have cut the overseas aid budget. Despite the United Kingdom's support of the United Nations resolution of 1970 which called for a contribution of 0.7 per cent. of gross national product, we now contribute 0.35 per cent. of GNP—exactly half of what was sought in 1970.

Our narrowly drawn motion is directed against the proposal for yet another cut. In such a debate the arguments will inevitably range over development as a whole, but our intention in tabling this very specific and narrowly worded motion is to give Members of Parliament in all parties—whose perception, like that of the public, has been heightened and enlarged by the ghastly and harrowing pictures from Ethiopia—an opportunity to vote for calling a halt to any further reduction in British aid. That view is held strongly by many hon. Members on all sides of the House. Indeed, it transcends party views. I vividly recall the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) intervening recently to say that, considering the amount of money involved, this was a matter on which the Government ought to decide forthwith.

Last night on ITN the results of a public opinion poll commissioned by one of the development agencies showed that 43 per cent. of the population were in favour of an increase in the overseas aid budget, with only 32 per cent.

opposed. Parliament can this evening respond to that public feeling, and can do so without any affront to party loyalties, by firmly telling the Government that it is up to Government to solve their interdepartmental disputes but that this British Parliament will not accept a still further diminution in contribution to the alleviation of the plight of the starving.

I do not intend to dwell at length on the Ethiopian tragedy, but after all it was the catalyst that lifted the scales from so many people's eyes. One must, therefore, give it special consideration, not just because of the horror of what is happening there but because of its relevance to what we think we should do, or might be able to do, in other parts of the world, most of all in Africa but also in the subcontinent of India and in parts of Latin America.

Someone much wiser than I once said that the problem of love was the maintenance of intensity. The same is true of tragedy. We must somehow ensure that the way people feel today is sustained. I was told the other day that in a normal year—that is perhaps the wrong use of the word "normal"—up to 1 million people in Ethiopia will die from some kind of malnutrition. Therefore, what is now happening is exceptional only in scale.

The drought has bitten deep. Villages cannot contain it and, therefore, people wander out by the roadside and die in front of Western television cameras. But that is not different or new from much of Third world experience. It was in 1980 that Robert McNamara said: Up to a billion of the world's people live lives of poverty which are so limited by malnutrition, illiteracy, disease, high infant mortality and low life expectancy as to be beneath any rational definition of human decency". I am sorry that in their amendment the Government repeat that they responded so promptly to the famine in Ethiopia. They say that the House should welcome its prompt response to the famine in Ethiopia". The entire aid world has been screaming from the rooftops for the last 18 months that what has happened in Ethiopia was about to occur, yet it was only when we saw it in colour on the screens in our living rooms that the Government acted—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am afraid that that is true. It is perfectly fair to say that within a week, which is good going, of the first graphic pictures at the end of October, aid was sent from this country.

However, it was on 19 October 1983 that Mr. Edward Saouma, the director-general of the FAO, convened a special conference at which he said: We foresee that suddenly we may be confronted with the situation that a significant proportion of the population of over 150 million of these 22 countries"— he meant the sub-Saharan countries— face the most serious economic distress and shortage of food, which may reach proportions of hunger and malnourishment on a massive scale". That is what happened, but it did not do so because there was a shortage of warning. There was a lot of warning, but we did not respond adequately to it.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)

In no way do I quarrel with the hon. Gentleman's concern that more food be sent to Ethiopia. However, is not he aware that before the television exposure of the famine in Ethiopia, this country, along with other members of the EEC, was providing substantial amounts of food to Ethiopia, even though it was perhaps not enough? Is not the hon. Gentleman misleading the House by suggesting that our aid programme began only after the television pictures were shown, when it had been going on consistently for a considerable time?

Mr. Johnston

If, by a considerable time, the hon. Gentleman means a year, that is true. But before 1983 there was no aid programme within Ethiopia, apart from the actions of the British Council.

I do not wish to be excessively party political, but it is fair to say—not only of this country but of the Western countries—that there was a lot of warning about what would happen. Simply to respond, as has been done, when it happened, is not sufficient.

There is no doubt that the effect on the public has been incredible and astonishing. All hon. Members must have experiences within their own constituencies. In a small primary school in Kilmonivaig in my constituency the pupils of primary 7 decided to give up their "playpiece" for a week and to give the equivalent in money of a packet of crisps to the Save The Children Fund. That happened naturally because the children saw the scenes on television, not because they were told by their teachers, and that well of goodwill is something on which we must build.

Mr. John Townend (Bridlington)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Johnston

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will allow me to develop my argument for a moment. Whatever the Foreign Secretary may say, it is quite extraordinary for the Government to consider, as they have been, cutting aid now when public attitudes are much better informed. In public terms the challenge is to channel the specific generosity that we have seen into some sort of contribution to long-term action designed to prevent these things happening again. The challenge to Government is the same.

One problem, which is not unique to Ethiopia, has caused difficulties for successive Governments of all complexions in the Western democratic world. It cannot be said that the Ethiopian Government, according to any definition, is one to which it is easy for us to relate. Equally, people say, perfectly reasonably, "It is all very well talking about the problem but what about the $250 million they spent on the celebration of their independence? What about the whisky?" In addition, the civil war there consumes large sums of money for arms, to kill those who already obtain enough food to live. That is a difficult scenario to face. We believe, as do many others involved and interested in overseas aid, that it is perfectly possible to devise means of providing aid, either through greater involvement with non-governmental agencies or by a direct agreement with a Government—even one like that of the Ethiopian colonel. James Pickett suggested in The Times today, in an article entitled Feed stomachs and win hearts", that the direction and effect of aid can be much more narrowly focused.

In that connection it is only right and fair to congratulate the Government on improving the effectiveness of European Community aid. It is open to criticism, for dissipating its efforts and for the incredible slowness in the whole cumbersome process. The Community still acts as if it were the same as it was in 1957, when only France was interested in it. The aid process is slow and the Government and the French Commissioner Pisani have worked to improve it.

Secondly, it is fair to say that aid cannot be separated from the broader issues of Third world indebtedness—that is true of Ethiopia and other countries—and the effect that that has on agricultural economies. An effective cartoon in the Daily Star—it is not necessarily my favourite political reading material—showed aeroplanes flying in one direction with aid, in another with whisky and in yet another with melons, and said what a crazy world this was. Ethiopia uses a great deal of energy producing melons to meet its foreign indebtedness. Senegal, which is food-deficient, uses more land to grow groundnuts to sell to Europe for cattle feed, which contributes to the butter mountain, than to grow food for its people.

Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)

Is my hon. Friend aware that in July, in answer to a question that I tabled, the Government admitted that £3 million in loan charges had to be rescheduled because Ethiopia was still repaying debts to the United Kingdom, and that this year it is estimated that Third world countries will pay more money back to developed countries than we will give them?

Will my hon. Friend reflect on the criticism made of the Government to the effect that money will be taken from existing aid programmes this year to feed the hungry in Ethiopia, which will have a long-term effect on other Third world countries?

Mr. Johnson

I note my hon. Friend's points. It is not for me to lecture the Foreign Secretary about foreign debts. However, there is an increasing belief that the International Monetary Fund must be more flexible, more sensitive to the problems of food subsidies and agricultural spending, and less concerned about conditionality, especially regarding poorer countries, than it has been.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle)


Mr. Johnson

With respect, I wish to finish my point. If I give way too often I shall be unable to complete my speech in less than the time usually taken by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey).

Yesterday I was told by a person who works for Oxfam that at a conference last week an American referred to the IMF as the "International Menace to Food." That shows that many people interested in aid feel that the question of debt rescheduling is not being treated with proper sensitivity.

Although we are arguing for the aid budget to be held at its present level, we should like it to be increased. But we would not necessarily like it to be increased and spent in the same way as it has been recently. The 43 per cent. of people polled yesterday who said that they wanted aid to be increased were thinking of what Oxfam now calls real aid.

In the past there has been too much stress on tied aid and on prestige projects, which bring us export earnings. I can understand the argument for it. During the time of the Labour Government the Victoria dam in Sri Lanka cost an enormous sum, but the return in terms of good to the poorest of Sri Lanka was not so great. At the moment we are spending £131 million from our £1.2 billion annual aid budget on a power station for India to support an aluminium smelter. It may be a good project, but too high a proportion of our aid budget is spent in that way. It 'night be good for everyone if it were possible to separate trade aid from pure, direct and simple aid.

Dame Judith Hart (Clydesdale)

When the hon. Gentleman commented on the remarks of his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton), was he aware that the Labour Government cancelled all official debt obligations of all the poorest countries? I think that his hon. Friend referred to commercial debt. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Victoria dam project in Sri Lanka was part of a rural development programme? It does not merely supply power, but has an irrigation function, which helps to resettle many people in dry areas. It was a matter not of trade but of rural development.

Mr. Johnson

I could argue with the right hon. Lady about that, but I do not propose to. I give full credit to her for the first part of her remarks about the Labour Government cancelling debts. However, it is also true that the dam was an important and significant part of a Sri Lankan politician's programme in his election campaign. I am not seeking to be provocative, but I wish to stress that there is not sufficient concentration on projects that help the poor first time round—directly and immediately—rather than trickling help down to them eventually. Such projects would include rural clinics and communications.

We wish to retain, and hope to increase, the quantity of aid, but there are also many arguments for improving the quality of aid. Only about 20 per cent. of our aid is spent on rural development. Within that, only about 6 per cent. goes directly on agriculture. Yet in most of the countries involved, 80 per cent. of the population live in rural areas. Our programme seems to be topsy-turvy. Britain's gross public expenditure on bilateral aid in Africa in 1983 was £236 million. Of that, only £27 million was spent on project aid to the agricultural sector, some of which was to encourage the export of cash crops, such as rubber, rather than the propagation of food to be consumed locally.

In Mali, for example, the desert is spreading at the rate of about six miles a year. We should give more thought to how we can channel our aid directly and, when we are considering multilateral contributions, to areas where the specific targeting is more precise. I shall give the House three examples of multilateral aid which is more precise.

Mr. Tim Rathbone (Lewes)

I suggest that the matter is not so simple. Much of the aid that the hon. Gentleman designated as not going to agriculture is crucial to aid to agriculture—for example, spare parts for trucks and road building. Without it, agricultural aid could not be effective.

Mr. Johnson

I am not trying to argue that the matter is simple. I accept that aid targets are interrelated, but I do not believe that enough money is spent on direct aid that helps people in rural communities. There is proof of that in Ethiopia.

As to Government aid going through agencies, the United Nations Sudano-Sahelian office is a worthwhile organisation. This month Mr. Perez de Cuellar argued that countries should give to that agency and to the United Nations fund for landlocked countries. Presumably the Government are considering that request. Have they yet responded to it? There is no doubt that that agency has been successful and effective, as has the international fund for agricultural development. If a special fund for Africa is set up, money might also be appropriately placed through it.

We have all read a great deal in the newspapers about the European Community's grain stocks and, according to projections, there will be an even greater surplus next year. If we are reconciled to carrying over a stock of about 25 million tonnes of grain, and the requirement for Africa according to the United Nations is about 9.5 million tonnes for next year, we could spare the grain, which would be a direct way of saving lives.

I wish in conclusion to turn to four other matters, two of which are mentioned in our motion.

It has been said that the BBC's external services will be cut. I can do no better than quote an interview of 11 August 1983 on Channel 4 given by Lord Carrington. He said: When I was Foreign Secretary I was told I had to save some money on the overseas services of the BBC. I think that was really totally counter-productive and the money saved was trivial compared to the amount of damage done. I commend that view to the Government, who, I know, respect Lord Carrington. The New York Times called the BBC external services the "Oxfam of the mind." It would be difficult in practice to cut the external services without causing disproportionate effects. If the BBC lost 10 per cent. of its external budget, it would lose 40 per cent. of output, which makes no sense.

The British Council has sent a letter to hon. Members, which I shall not read to the House in full but whose conclusion was this: The Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary has not yet split his frozen cake among FCO, ODA, BBC and ourselves. But if no adjustments were made … we could have to reduce activity by a figure between £6 and £7 million next year. This is equivalent to the cost of 25 of our small offices overseas, or our total expenditure on scholarships or two thirds of our library service. The British Council and many hon. Members believed that the Treasury had accepted that the problem of its overseas rise in costs had been dealt with. The fourth report of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, which was published only last month, stated that the Supply Estimates would apply to the British Council, yet it seems that that is not the case. I hope that the Government will not consider cuts in the British Council's activities.

I should refer to the United National Relief and Works Agency at length because of the growing number of refugees, not only of political refugees but refugees seeking food. South Sudan will be flooded with refugees from Ethiopia. Between 1980–81 and 1983–84 the direct British contribution to UNRWA decreased by 23 per cent. Surely that is not the sort of response that the Government wish to make.

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)

Will the hon. Gentleman compare the relatively paltry sums likely to be saved in such key areas with the sums expended on the fortress Falklands policy? Does it not show the Government's priorities when we compare what is spent on Ethiopia with the £1 million per family being spent in the Falklands?

Mr. Johnston

I have consciously avoided making comparisons in my speech, but hon. Members can make their own calculation. The Treasury representative who gave evidence recently to the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs said that there is ample scope within the FO/ODA annual programme for dealing with emergency appeals. There would appear to be some slack in the Foreign Office budget.

It has been said widely that the Foreign Secretary will use this debate to announce that Britain will leave UNESCO, which will save us about £5 million next year. During our debate on foreign affairs about 10 days or a fortnight ago, I said that a bad thing about British foreign policy was successive Governments' determination to act unilaterally. It must have some effect upon the Foreign Secretary that every Commonwealth country and every European Community country says that Britain should not leave UNESCO. I do not argue against the need for reform of UNESCO—few hon. Members would do so—but it would be better to reform from within. If Britain leaves UNESCO and the United States follow—

Mr. Anderson

We are following the United States.

Mr. Johnston

That is probably true.

Mr. Peter Temple-Morris (Leominster)

The alliance motion seeks to protect overseas aid, the British Council and the BBC external services. It does not mention overseas representation and the diplomatic service. Is the alliance in favour of cuts in the latter?

Mr. Johnston

If the hon. Gentleman wants a direct answer, I doubt whether we could effectively cut our diplomatic service. However, the alliance's priorities are shown in the motion.

The newspapers of yesterday and today have said that the Foreign Secretary will try to do a conjuring trick today — "Now you see a cut, now you don't." I read the rather dense piece that led the story in The Guardian today suggesting that, by using mirrors or some other trick, the cuts that would have to be made will not be made. I did not understand this. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is quite good at explaining things that do not exist. However, I do not think that the public at large, or the great majority of hon. Members, want to see the overseas aid budget cut in any way. This is very important.

The public reaction is clear, and the Government should follow the lead of the people and make sure that there is no reduction in the help that this country gives to the poor and under-privileged of the world.

4.40 pm
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Sir Geoffrey Howe)

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: 'commends the Government's substantial support for development in the Third World including the encouragement of trade and investment; welcomes its prompt response to the famine in Ethiopia and elsewhere; approves the maintenance of the Government's planned aid programme consistent with its overall economic and foreign policy objectives; and endorses the Government's continued support for the British Council and the BBC external services.'. I start by welcoming the way in which the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Mr. Johnston) has opened this important debate. He concentrated on a limited number of the programmes for which I am responsible, and, in the light of the Liberal party's motion, understandably concentrated largely on the aid programme. Nobody doubts the importance of the example to which he has drawn attention—the tragedy, of which we have spoken many times in the House, that has been taking place recently in Ethiopia.

However, I should like to correct the hon. Gentleman on his presentation of the case, because our response to the tragedy did not start only yesterday. Since 1982 we have given more emergency relief to Ethiopia than to any other country. In February 1983 the World Food Programme, on our behalf, sent 19,000 tonnes of food at a cost of £3 million. We gave other contributions during 1983 amounting to £800,000, and in the summer months of 1984 — July, August and September — we made allocations from our food aid programme at a cost of just under £3.5 million. Subsequently, we have approved additional donations of £370,000.

Apart from that, during the past two years we have contributed well over £5 million to more general appeals by voluntary agencies and the United Nations organisations, and a substantial part of that has gone to Ethiopia. It was against that background, to the welcome o f the House, that on 24 October I announced a further contribution of £5 million. It is important to recognise that the scale of our response and the way in which we have taken a lead within the European Community has been appreciated by the people and the Government in Ethiopia, and my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development deserves substantial credit.

Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil)


Sir Geoffrey Howe

I wish to deal with this point first.

Mr. Ashdown

On that point.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I shall not give way, because my right hon. Friend, who will be replying to the debate, will be dealing with this point at much greater length and foreshadowing his visit to Ethiopia.

It is important at the outset of our discussions to set the question in the wider context of the Government's policy as a whole and of the continuing need to maintain tight control on total public expenditure. That was made clear by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his autumn statement on 12 November, and nobody should be surprised when I say that that I give vigorous assent to the objectives described by my right hon. Friend. It cannot be disregarded that the economic recovery over the past three years could all too easily be placed at risk if the Government were to lose sight of their general principle. [Interruption.] Labour Members may groan, but the only consequence of the failure to maintain that central economic policy would be to undermine the country's capacity to sustain finance and defend our interests abroad, to play our full part in the Western Alliance and to make a contribution, which we all want to make, to the needs of the Third world.

That is why it must and will always be unrealistic to consider the aid programme—

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)


Sir Geoffrey Howe

If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I wish to move on.

Mr. Hughes

I can understand why.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

A large number of hon. Members wish to take part in the debate, and I wish to make my speech at a reasonable pace.

It would be unrealistic—the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber acknowledged this point—to consider the aid programme in isolation from our other activities. All the programmes for which I am responsible make their contribution to achieving our foreign policy objectives. The balance between all of them must be kept under review.

Mr. Robert Hughes


Sir Geoffrey Howe

I must get on with my speech. The House would not wish me to give way too often.

That review has to take account of the fact that Government spending is rightly planned in terms of the cash cost of each programme. It is in cash terms that the money has to be raised.

In the case of my own Department, I have to take account of a variety of factors, including movements of exchange rates in both directions and differential overseas inflation rates. All that has to be done upon the basis of the overall provision for public expenditure for all my programmes. That reflects the simple fact that foreign policy has to be treated as a coherent whole.

I shall now say a few words about each of my main programmes, and begin by confirming that the overall provision for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1985–86 remains as previously planned at £1,870 million. That was the figure provided for in the February 1984 public expenditure White Paper, which the House debated and approved on 6 March. I want to emphasise that there has been no cut in that overall figure.

The hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber spoke about conjuring tricks, but the matter has been handled in the customary way. The more specific figures will be published in the customary way in the White Paper published next year. Press speculation about a whole range of figures has been thoroughly misleading and has caused unjustifiable anxiety. We have conducted the public expenditure exercise in accordance with the well-established practice with which the House is familiar.

For the benefit of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) I shall tell the House something about the outcome of that process.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Does the Foreign Secretary expect the House and the country to believe that the maintenance of our overseas aid programme, even at the current level, is imperilling our economic recovery? Can anybody believe that that has any relevance to the difficulties faced by people in dire poverty who are starving day by day?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

The hon. Gentleman misses the central point. Almost every spending programme, with friends in every corner of the House, could advance an argument for its increase for good reasons, but all those arguments must be considered against the importance of maintaining control of public spending as a whole. That objective has been achieved over the past three years, holding public expenditure to £132 billion, and within that objective we have to consider the programme that I am now discussing.

I shall begin with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and our diplomatic missions abroad. As the House knows, the volume of work that has to be handled when meeting our worldwide responsibilities is growing and becoming increasingly complex.

For example, no less than one third of diplomatic service staff are employed on trade promotion activities. Essentially, it is demand-led and that demand has risen. Between 1979 and 1983 the number of British business men visiting our posts abroad, and the number of firms participating in trade missions, rose by one fifth.

The same is true of consular services. Since 1968, the number of British visitors abroad, some of whom are likely to require consular services, has increased fourfold to more than 20 million.

The principle of paying for many of these services has long been established. Passport fees, for example, are set to cover the expense of general consular work. It is right that these costs should be met, where possible, by increasing revenue rather than by an increase in public expenditure.

I have come to the conclusion that this principle should be applied more widely to some of the entry clearance operations carried out by Foreign and Commonwealth Office posts abroad. Two changes will be made.

As from 1 January 1985, the standard fee for entry clearance for foreign nationals coming to the United Kingdom will be increased from £6 to £10. That will raise £2.4 million in a full year. From the same date a fee will be payable to cover part of the administrative costs of issuing entry certificates to Commonwealth citizens. That fee will be set at £10, and will raise about £1.6 million in a full year. The fee will, of course, represent a relatively small addition to the total costs of travel of that kind. There are no changes in relation to commercial work.

The diplomatic service has been able to respond to the rising demand with substantially reduced manpower. It is worth reminding the House that that process has taken place under successive Governments. It is a measure of the improvements in efficiency that have been achieved. Diplomatic service manpower is now less than half that of the London borough of Haringey. [Laughter.] That is a formidable fact. The achievement of fewer people carrying a larger burden of work under successive Governments reflects the extent to which the service has over a period of years been giving better and better value for money.

Hon. Members will be familiar with the report of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs published in July this year. I recall the passage where it is said: the squeeze on Diplomatic Service manpower has probably gone far enough and additional significant reductions would only be made at the cost of expecting a reduced level of quality of service. That judgment was worded with characteristic care. It does not exclude—and I am sure it was not intended to exclude—the search for any further sensible economies. But beyond that there is much force in what the Select Committee had to say. I do not believe a reduction in the quality of service would be in the national interest.

There are, indeed, other factors that we have to take into account. In some places, not only in the middle east, there is regrettably a need to provide increased security protection for our representatives overseas. That change reflects the reality that many of our diplomats are working in difficult, and increasingly dangerous, conditions. Many are isolated. It is a striking fact that more than half our overseas posts now have six or fewer United Kingdom based staff.

Since the cost of providing security for our representatives is rising, it makes sense to consider whether we need to maintain that service in precisely the same geographic pattern. There are, for example, some career consular posts where the work can be done instead by a local or honorary consul. In the light of those considerations, I have decided that it would be right to

close about 10 small posts — I emphasise "small" —almost all of them subordinate posts. I shall give further details after consultations have been completed.

The House will understand that this is not a new process. Under the previous Labour Administration 32 missions were closed. That policy was condoned by the Liberal party during the last days of the Lib-Lab pact. Indeed, it was presided over by the present leader of the SDP, the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), when he was at the Foreign Office.

I now turn to an area which covers about a tenth of my total provision and which is defined as "Other External Relations". About half is on the Overseas Development Administration side, providing mainly for the payment of pensions to such people as former colonial civil servants.

Most of the balance pays our subscriptions to international organisations. Our participation in those bodies, which range from the United Nations to the Council of Europe, is an important aspect of foreign policy. In all cases, in partnership with like-minded countries, we have been able to keep strict control over their budgets.

But there is one organisation to which the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber referred, where we have not been satisfied, and, from what he said, he has not been satisfied, that value for money was being obtained. That is UNESCO. Nor were we satisfied that the developing world was getting value from that organisation.

We have long been one of the leaders in seeking reform, and earlier this year we put forward a number of practical proposals. We said that we would review our position again at the end of the year and that, if satisfactory progress had not been made, United Kingdom withdrawal would again be considered. We have now completed our review. I can announce our decision today.

We acknowledge that some progress has been made towards reform; we acknowledge the importance of the views of our Commonwealth and European partners; we are grateful for the co-operation we have had in our efforts from many countries in those areas; but much remains to be done. As we have always recognised, the general conference to be held next autumn will have a key part to play. Throughout 1985 we shall continue to work for reform, in co-operation with other countries, as vigorously as we have done this year. But we cannot be confident at this stage that adequate reforms will necessarily have been achieved by the end of 1985, and it would be wrong not to safeguard our position.

I am accordingly writing to the director-general giving him notice of withdrawal. Unless rescinded, this notice would become effective on 31 December 1985. We shall reconsider our position towards the end of next year in the light of the result of the general conference.

It is only right to point out that that decision will not have any effect on expenditure for 1985–86. But, by giving notice now, we retain the option for 1986, which we should otherwise forfeit, of being able to devote to better purposes in that year the amount which we would be due to pay to UNESCO in 1986.

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)


Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Mr. Winnick.

Mr. Faulds

I was up before he was.

Mr. Winnick

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that that is a shameful decision which simply follows the line of the United States? Why are we acting in a way completely unlike other countries in the EEC? Is the Foreign Secretary aware that the manner in which he has brought the subject to the notice of the House today is wholly inappropriate? We require a statement on the issue and certainly a debate.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I could have wished that the intervention would have had more point. I can think of no more appropriate occasion to tell the House about our decision on this matter than the earliest opportunity.

Mr. Faulds


Sir Geoffrey Howe

Our decision has been taken in the light of our continuing concern—which is, I think, regarded in all parts of the House as well justified—about what has and has not been achieved in reforming that organisation. We shall continue with our partners in the Commonwealth and in Europe, working as hard as my right hon. Friend has been working in the past year, to secure the changes that are necessary. But it would be foolish to discard now the option that I have described in favour of leaving the organisation next year. If the money can be better spent elsewhere, we have that option as a result of our decision.

Mr. Faulds


Sir Geoffrey Howe

I want to say something now about our—

Mr. Faulds

I was on the UNESCO commission.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I want to say a word now about our military aid programme.

Mr. Faulds

Let me get my point in first.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The Secretary of State clearly is not giving way. Mr. Secretary Howe.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I leave the hon. Gentleman to make his own judgment about his own merits in this matter, but I want to move now to our military aid programme.

Our military aid programme of about £12 million is a useful arm of our foreign policy. That sum is divided almost equally between sending British military personnel overseas to train certain countries' armed forces and receiving trainees from those forces here.

Here, too, it has been necessary to identify economies of about £500,000 a year. That will give us less scope to respond to requests at short notice, but existing commitments will be fulfilled as planned.

The last main item in this group is the FCO's own information activity. The sum involved — about £22 million— mostly provides for payments to the Central Office of Information for a wide variety of services. Some economies can be made here without significant loss of effectiveness. I am therefore scaling down what the FCO commissions from the Central Office of Information by about £1 million.

I now turn to the British Council, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year — 50 years of solid achievement. I am sure that I speak on behalf of the whole House in commending its work in promoting understanding and appreciation of Britain overseas.

Given the importance which people worldwide attach to the English language, and their view that it is a worthwhile investment, the benefits of the work done by the council are considerable.

Of course, the council has to live in a world of changing costs and, in doing so, it is like everything else. It faces particular difficulties from inflation in some countries. It has also had to pay a rent increase at its London headquarters. Here, as elsewhere, I have judged it right for the council to absorb part of its risen costs as a contribution towards the overall need to keep the Government's spending within the resources available. I am looking to the council for £1.2 million of savings, which is about half of its total rise in costs during the current year. That represents only a little more than 1 per cent.—

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

The Foreign Secretary is cutting Britain's voice abroad. It is mad.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I wish that I could cut the hon. Gentleman's voice.

That represents only a little more than 1 per cent. of the council's gross revenue from grants-in-aid and from its own receipts combined. But I should emphasise that the council will be receiving nearly £6 million more in 1985–86 than the original provision established for that year.

Mr. Mark Hughes (City of Durham)


Sir Geoffrey Howe

In many parts of the House strong support has been expressed for the BBC's external services. They have more than 100 million regular listeners around the world.

Mr. Mark Hughes


Sir Geoffrey Howe

I am sorry, but I shall not give way. I have already done so several times.

The fact that so many—often denied honest news by their own national media—should turn to the BBC for an unbiased account of international developments, works strongly in our national interest. But the BBC, too, has had to face some increase in costs. I do not believe that it would be right to meet that increase in full. As in the case of the British Council. I shall be looking for savings of about 1 per cent. in its total expenditure.

Mr. Mark Hughes


Sir Geoffrey Howe

Nevertheless, there will still be an increased provision for the external services under this head of about £750,000. It is already apparent that many hon. Members, rightly in my view, attach particular importance to the programme to improve the audibility of those services. A capital programme costing more than £100 million was approved in 1981. I am glad to say that additional funds of over £2 million are being provided for that important programme. The programme is now well advanced, and will be maintained.

Mr. Mark Hughes

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that, given his announcement, I shall, as vice-chairman of the British Council very solemnly consider whether we can continue having a bi-partisan vice-chairmanship on that authority?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

The hon. Gentleman has given his provisional assessment. But in a year in which all programmes face rising costs and have had to be looked at very closely, and in which it has been important to maintain the overall size of public spending alongside an increase in the provision for the British Council, is it entirely unreasonable to ask that efforts be made to absorb about 1 per cent. of the total expenditure for the year?

I want to make it plain to the House that the provision for overseas aid remains unchanged at the previously planned and published figure of £1,130 million. That is the figure for 1985–86 that was published in the public expenditure White Paper in February 1984. That is also the very figure that was published in the 1983 public expenditure White Paper, on which my right hon. and hon. Friends fought, and won, the election. It is that figure of £1,130 million that is being maintained.

I hope that it is clear from what I have said that within that figure our capacity to provide emergency assistance to Ethiopia and other countries suffering from drought and famine will be fully maintained. I know from what has been said that that is a matter of great importance to many hon. Members on both sides of the House, and I can assure them that it is a matter of great importance for the Government as well.

Some aid programme commitments are affected, as they always have been, by changes in international prices and exchange rates. The effects of such changes, whether positive or negative, have always been absorbed within the total aid allocation. Perhaps the crucial fact is that over the three years to 1985–86 expenditure on the aid programme is expected to increase faster than British inflation in those three years. Our aid programme remains the fifth largest targest among industrialised countries, and the Government remains committed to maintaining a substantial aid programme. Moreover, the aid programme is only part of the story.

Private capital flows can, and do, play a vital and increasing role for many developing countries. Direct investment can make a particularly important contribution to their long-term economic progress. I remind the House that one of the first things that the present Government did on coming to office was to abolish exchange controls, with the precise purpose of encouraging investment overseas, not least in developing countries. Despite the disbelief and fury of Opposition Members, that is exactly what has happened.

Mr. John Evans (St. Helens, North)


Sir Geoffrey Howe

I am about to conclude my speech.

Direct private investment in developing countries rose from £300 million in 1979 to an average of more than £800 million a year in the subsequent four years. It must be observed that the declared intention of the Labour party to reimpose exchange controls threatens that major contribution by private finance to development in the Third world. Not satisfied with that, it also threatens to force British companies to withdraw from developing countries the finance that they have put in since the abolition of exchange controls. That is, indeed, a strange way of showing concern for the Third world.

That is the successful background against which we have maintained the planned aid programme, and that is the basis from which I invite the House to conclude that the Government are implementing a carefully considered, effective and wide-ranging aid policy.

Several Hon. Members


Sir Geoffrey Howe

I shall not give way, as I am about to finish my speech. Our ability to honour our international obligations … depends in the last resort on our economic strength. Those words were taken directly from the White Paper on overseas representation which was presented to Parliament in 1978 by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan).

Sir Peter Blaker (Blackpool, South)

I have risen on an important point of clarification. My right hon. and learned Friend said that there would be increased provision of £750,000 in 1985–86 for the external services of the BBC. Will he explain on what base that increased provision rests? Is it the originally proposed provision in the White Paper, or something different? Is it an increased provision to take account of risen costs overseas?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I have explained that we are anxious to maintain the capital programme for the BBC, to which I know my right hon. Friend attaches importance. An additional £2 million has been provided for that programme. Not all of the BBC's risen costs are being met. About 1 per cent. of the total expenditure will have to be found by the BBC. But an increase of £750,000 is being made in addition to the £2 million for the capital programme, which is being maintained.

Mr. Terence Higgins (Worthing)

Will my right hon. and learned Friend give way?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I am sorry, but I cannot give way any more. I am coming to the end of my speech. [Interruption.] My right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) must understand that many hon. Members wish to speak, and I should like to finish my point. The public debt must be contained. The best way in which to reduce the overall debt burden and sustain the downward trend of interest rates is to ensure that the long-term growth of revenue exceeds that of expenditure. Again, those are not my words. They are taken from the European Liberal manifesto on which the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber, who opened for the Liberal party, stood and lost in the European elections. They are wise words to which we must pay attention. It is because of our success in upholding those principles that we have been able to pursue the important objective of promoting and protecting British interests around the world. It is because of that success that we are able to maintain the aid programme which we laid before the House in February 1983—

Mr. Andrew MacKay (Berkshire, East)

Will my right hon. and learned Friend give way?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

—and on which we fought, and won, the election.

On that basis, I commend the amendment to the House.

5.9 pm

Mr. Stuart Holland (Vauxhall)

To cut or not to cut has been the question in the minds of the Government and the Foreign Secretary recently. They have had to decide whether it is better to close an embassy, amputate the British Council cut transmissions by the BBC world service or to reduce the aid programme. Both sides of the House have expressed their anxiety. Neither the level of Foreign Office expenditure nor the overseas development programme should be in question. The reasons are in part complex, but in essence simple.

The Foreign Secretary referred to the increased work that the Foreign Office has had to undertake in recent years, especially in terms of consular services, against a background of falling resources. The House should be clear about the issue. We need to examine more closely the Government's claim today that there is to be no cut in the aid programme. The Government have already scythed the aid programme. The programme fell by 17 per cent. in real terms between 1978–79 and 1982–83. It now stands at the derisory level of 0.35 per cent. of gross national product. That makes Britain tenth among the OECD development aid committee donors—way below Norway and the Netherlands which are smaller countries and which face the same international economic climate. Norway gives just over 1 per cent. of GNP and the Netherlands just under 1 per cent. to the Third world countries.

United Kingdom current expenditure on aid is £1,013 million against £1,214 million at 1983–84 prices in the last year of the Labour Government under the stewardship of my right hon. Friend the Member for Clydesdale (Dame J. Hart), who I am glad to see in the Chamber. Under her stewardship real aid spending rose consistently until the last full year of the Labour Government, whereas it has fallen consistently under this Government. What is true of the aid share of GNP is also true of its share of total public spending. From 1974 to 1979 under Labour the share went up, while under this Government it has consistently gone down.

What of today's statement? We expected that the Foreign Secretary would use the 1985–86 aid figure expressed in cash terms—the £1,130 million. He claims that the increase will be higher than the rate of inflation. How can it be, granted that it is only a 3 per cent. increase? If inflation is over 3 per cent.—and it is forecast at 5 per cent.—the figure will represent a cut in real terms. The House should be clear about this. It is misleading to claim that the increase is greater than the rate of inflation, and I hope that the Minister will deal with that. Where might the money come from? Can we be assured that the programme is secure for the rest of the year? What will happen to the Contingency Fund and to the unallocated reserves? Are they definitely secure?

Under the Government's monetarist policies their response has been, "If at first you don't succeed, cut, cut and cut again." Today we were entertained when the Foreign Secretary's response was, "If at first you don't succeed, but, but and but again."

After all the concessions to the good work done by the diplomatic service, the Central Office of Information, the British Council and the BBC external service, what do we have? We have cuts. There are to be cuts in diplomatic missions. We are interested in which 10 small consular missions will be cut. Will Durban be one of them?

There is to be a £2 million increase in the BBC external services' capital programme, but a 1 per cent. cut overall. We deplore the Foreign Secretary's declaration about UNESCO.

The Government are engaging in a masking exercise. They are defending the aid programme in principle, while camouflaging cuts—and this is when the Government have one of the lowest aid levels for any comparable country in the world.

I am surprised that the Foreign Secretary did not tell us, as he has in the past, that humanitarian aid will be given. A Select Committee examined the matter earlier this week. It is not clear what the Government mean by humanitarian aid. The Minister later will probably claim, as he did during the foreign affairs debate recently, that the aid programme is high in quality, not only because of its humanitarianism, but because it provides aid to the poorest people in the poorest countries. I shall be interested to hear what the Minister says, because 63 per cent. of United Kingdom bilateral aid goes to the poorest countries which now represent 75 per cent. of the Third world's total population. How is bilateral aid biased towards the least developed nations and the poorest people in them? We should welcome such a bias, but it must involve more than 75 per cent. of aid. It must be 80 per cent. or 85 per cent. Why cannot the Government make a commitment now that they intend to achieve that target?

Mr. Robert Jackson (Wantage)

With regard to the precise arithmetic of aid expenditure, I recall that the EC aid budget, the major vehicle for British multilateral aid, is frequently underspent at the end of each year. Does the hon. Gentleman recognise that one of the problems is the capacity of countries to absorb aid and that the aid budget in any given year is frequently underspent?

Mr. Holland

I agree that there is a problem in less developed countries. However, are such countries in a position effectively to deploy and disburse that aid? I agree about disbursement under the EC, the pattern of which is slow, slower, stop. That is discouraging to less developed countries. We must bring pressure to bear.

How can some of the least developed countries, faced with crippling drought problems, plan long-term development expenditure in, for example, natural water resource projects when faced with the piecemeal and parsimonious response from the British Government in the past year? The Foreign Secretary claims that we have not responded slowly or inadequately. He says that we gave a little bit here and a little bit there—£3.5 million here and £5 million there. The scale of the problem is enormous. The poorer countries are swamped by the crisis. We need a more imaginative response from the Government.

The Minister told us during the debate on the Queen's Speech that the Government accented quality in aid. He said they give it to the poorest people in the poorest countries. But let us examine the breakdown in the ODA annual report on project aid for 1983. Of a total £308 million, which is nearly one third of the total ODA programme, only £56 million is aid for renewable natural resources and only £3 million is for rural development programmes. That figure is derisory. It is equivalent to a mere accounting error. With such a derisory sum no Government can seriously claim that they are concerned about the long-term drought problem and with promoting agriculture in rural areas so that there is no drift from the land.

I should like to ask the Minister about the United Nations least developed category and the October 1981 conference on that subject. I refer the right hon. Gentleman to the definition of the 36 countries with low income, low literacy and low manufacturing levels. The United Kingdom was asked at the conference whether it would aim at a minimum target of 0.15 per cent. of GNP by the end of the decade. Thanks substantially to the work done by my right hon. Friend the Member for Clydesdale and others during the Labour Administration, in 1980 the United Kingdom gave 0.14 per cent. of GNP in aid to countries in the least developed category. But the Minister would not commit himself to 0.15 per cent. When we talk of Government parsimony, we really mean it. Why can the Minister not commit himself to an increase of 0.01 per cent. in that programme? Unless we can get such a commitment from the Minister, neither side of the House can take seriously the claim that Britain is concerned with meeting the needs of the least developed and the poorest in the poorest countries.

Mrs. Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

It is regrettable that only £3 million is spent on rural development programmes. Does not the hon. Gentleman accept that it is difficult for the United Kingdom Government or any other Government to compel countries to spend their money in a particular way? Not only in Ethiopia but in Mali and other countries the money is spent on prestige projects in the towns. Those countries are not interested in putting the money into rural areas.

Mr. Holland

I am positively delighted that the hon. Lady has put that point to me, because I was going to refer to the basic need programmes in countries that do not have grand prestige projects. Those countries are concerned about housing, health, education and social welfare. One of those countries is Nicaragua, which has an unparalleled record in this respect. What are the British Government doing? The Minister for Overseas Development has still not answered the question why the Government are not pressuring the World Bank to restore the type of development projects in Nicaragua — including agro-fishing, agro-industrial, processing, canning, bottling and dehydration projects—which raise export value as well as improve diet in such countries. The Government have blocked that move. On this, as in other matters, the Government are simply coat-tailing United States policy. Why are the Government doing that? Are the elections in Nicaragua the reason? We have had a debate about those elections, which were free and fair. The United States is shifting the goal posts on article 21 of the Contadora proposals. As soon as it was clear that Nicaragua would agree to the proposals, the United States said, "No, we are not happy." The United States is unilaterally revising the treaty.

Are human rights the reason why the Government are acting in this way? Amnesty International and international observers from both Houses of Parliament are agreed that there are no human right derelictions in Nicaragua. There are, of course, derelictions of human rights in other countries to which similar criteria have not been applied. I cite just one case. A prominent member of the judiciary in Pakistan, Mr. Raza Kazim, has been denied his right to a review of his case under martial law procedures. That matter was raised in general in The Guardian yesterday and in practice has been raised by many hon. Members. The dereliction of human rights in that case should be set right by the Government concerned. In that case, unlike Nicaragua, the British Government are not allowing the issue to influence their aid programme.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary made various points about the timing of the Government's response. Despite all he said, there was an 18-month warning but the Government moved only in October. The Government have talked of the £5 million in disaster cash and the 6.5 thousand tons of food aid. Where was that food aid going? Was it going to Ethiopia or — this is a straight and genuine question — was it allocated to another country? Was the food aid allocated to Bangladesh? Was that aid unearmarked and unallocated? If the food aid is removed from Bangladesh to Ethiopia, the Government will be giving with one hand while taking away with the other. That is not what is needed in response to the Ethiopian crisis.

During the reply to the Queen's Speech we did not have much time to go into the development aspects. I grant that neither I nor the Minister for Overseas Development had much time to go into the development aspects beyond the issue of the food aid shortage. But questions of food aid shortage are questions of income distribution as much as questions of food distribution. The issue is whether people can buy food as well as whether Governments and nongovernmental agencies can transport food aid to drought areas involved. Recently, that point was forcefully made by professor Amartya Sen, professor of political economy at All Souls college, in a letter to The Times on 7 November.

Drought is not entirely an act of God. It is also manmade. There is drought in South Africa, but the only people who are starving are those in the black homelands. There are deserts in Africa, but there is also desertification. The cutting of foliage for food is also done by man. It is a vicious circle of response to earlier droughts where there has not been a sufficient development response. We know the cycle. Crops fail; people leave the land and do not plant; the next harvest never comes; and little hope turns to no hope.

What are the Government doing? This spring in Eritrea, I was struck by the fact that although the area was suffering from drought, rain was falling intermittently and heavily. There appears to be no adequate expenditure on upstream water resource projects — the simple, not the prestige, projects. I refer to the coffer dams that trap and retain water, and therefore syphon water into underground reservoirs for agriculture and for human consumption. What is the Minister doing? Can he do anything, apart from assisting the non-governmental agencies?

We need faster action on the overall EC food programme, rather than the slow, slower, stop response from the Community. If the Community budgets are used up this year, how will the Government budget for food aid from next year? What action is the Foreign Secretary taking in the EC Council of Ministers? The Council must act now, if we are to avoid further disaster. The Common Market Council of Ministers is famous for its stopped clocks when it reaches its deadline. The tragedy here is that the stopped clock today is the timing of tomorrow's disaster in sub-Saharan Africa. Those who pay will be in Ethiopia and Bangladesh rather than Brussels.

The Foreign Secretary did not touch on the International Development Agency replenishment, although I hope that the Minister for Overseas Development will do so. Some of the basic issues are well known and have been well aired in the House. The Government showed their initial willingness to provide an extra $200 million for IDA replenishment if the United States did the same. When the United States withdrew, and despite the fact that Japan and Germany said that they would be willing to supplement the £3 billion shortfall, the Government backed down.

The Minister for Overseas Development (Mr. Timothy Raison)

The hon. Gentleman made that point exactly the wrong way round. It was Germany and Japan that were reluctant to supplement the shortfall and we who said that we would supplement the shortfall.

Mr. Holland

I am glad that the Minister made that clarification. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will now say what he will do with the money. Will he support the new fund for Africa proposals? Will he make that $200 million available for that project? If so, that allocation, although not through IDA, could be extremely useful.

The tragedy in Africa is a special case. It involves more than Ethiopia alone. We have seen several indications of that, and they are very distressing. The drought affects not only Ethiopia but Mauretania. It is reckoned that 3.5 million people in Mozambique are suffering from the drought out of a total population of more than 20 million. I also visited Mali and Chad during the last drought cycle, and the position there is now desperate. What funds will be allocated? It is unlikely that they can be allocated bilaterally by the Government. Will the Government support the new fund for Africa proposal?

Mr. Robert Banks (Harrogate)

The hon. Member mentioned a number of countries. It is worth reminding him that the Sudan is one of our old and trusted friends in Africa. It has suffered greatly from the drought and the refugee problem.

Mr. Holland

I agree that there is a special problem in the Sudan. I saw it earlier this year. It involves refugees from both war and drought. The Sudan has a serious problem and it needs special attention. I reiterate the points that I made in the debate on the Queen's Speech about getting food into Tigré and Wollo. We cannot focus solely on the core drought areas themselves. Sudan will be unable to cope with its refugee problem unless it receives further assistance.

We have heard a depressing and unwarranted decision from the Foreign Secretary on UNESCO. We note that it is, allegedly, a decision in principle, but nonetheless it will not be welcomed anywhere in the Commonwealth. There is outstanding opposition to our withdrawal. We appreciate that the decision was taken by the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister and that the Minister for Overseas Development might have been overruled. But no Third world country is considering withdrawal from UNESCO.

The Commonwealth, the United Kingdom and the West have a total of 22 out of 51 seats on the UNESCO executive board. If the Foreign Secretary would pay attention for a moment to the argument he might be able to respond. Does he believe that reforms can be achieved better by staying in — as the senior Commonwealth country — and working for reforms rather than complaining from without that reforms have not been achieved? We agree that certain internal reforms are needed in UNESCO. By and large, those reforms are in progress, but how can the Government supervise reforms when they are planning to withdraw from membership?

Viscount Cranborne (Dorset, South)

What evidence does the hon. Gentleman have to show that reforms are under way with regard to the undermanning of head office, putting more agents in the field and the extraordinary way in which people are hired on a supplementary basis?

Mr. Holland

We are familiar with the criticisms. Many of them are warranted. I have not only the Foreign Secretary's assurance that he believes the reforms are in progress I have consulted several of the authorities involved and several of those who are responsible on the UNESCO executive board about the progress. Today I spoke to several of the high commissioners in London on this matter. They saw the Foreign Secretary yesterday, and they deplored the fact that Britain might withdraw. He did not tell them what would be in his statement today, only that he would take their argument into account, which he has not.

Viscount Cranborne

What evidence?

Mr. Holland

There was no evidence in the Foreign Secretary's statement that the overwhelming arguments put forward by the high commissioners have been taken into account.

Sir Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)


Mr. Holland

I have accepted many interventions; I had hoped to take less than 30 minutes but I shall have to take more time.

What other agencies are there in the pipeline? What other agencies are targeted by the Government? What about UNCTAD? We know that the Government have reservations about UNCTAD. They claim that it is inappropriate for it to be involved with issues such as the international debt crisis. We do not share that criticism. Debt is a matter both of finance and of the structure of trade and payments.

Development aid—allocated by individual countries, or multilaterally—has little or no hope of success if the IMF follows a policy of cut, cut and cut again towards less developed countries. The IMF, with its monetarist tunnel vision and its cut packages for so many countries, has now contributed substantially to the global slump in trade between developed and less developed countries. We need powerful, wide-ranging agencies such as UNCTAD to analyse the development implications of debt crisis and act as a counterweight to the fund's policies.

It would be interesting if we could have a reply from the Minister as to what will happen about UNRWA, because it appears that there could be cuts in the UNRWA programme. What will its programme be next year? What will the expenditure be next year? Will it be dollar-denominated? If not, the cut in real terms will be appalling. It is crucial for the Arab countries that it should be in dollar terms, and also for Africa and the Sudan, to whose refugee problems other hon. Members have referred.

In the last year of the Labour Government we gave $10 million to UNRWA. It appears that next year the Government will give only $6 million. Those figures are current rather than constant prices. In the overall context of the aid programme, that is parsimonious. It is a pathetic response to the short-term food aid needs and the longterm development needs. The Government's response also is contradicted by everything they have done — and failed to do—in a series of international initiatives.

The Foreign Secretary said that he was seriously interested in co-operating with the Commonwealth. Why was that co-operation not forthcoming at the New Delhi summit, where the Prime Minister was the only Head of Government to block the recovery proposals made by the Commonwealth? She was the only Head of Government to block proposals for reform of the international monetary system. The Government's record is an indictment of their claim to care for the least developed countries and the poorest people in them. We know that while drought and death are stalking the Third world the Government are looking for some way to cover the nakedness of a cut of nearly 20 per cent. in real aid in the past six years. Talk of avoiding further cuts is eyewash against the background of such a lamentable record and such an outstanding response to the food aid appeals from the British public.

The Government should spill some of the cornucopia of the Falklands in the direction of the drought areas of Africa and Asia. At £1 million per family in the Falklands surely the Government can spare a few more pence for the starving of the Sahel.

Instead of minor reactions, the Government should take a major initiative, not just to stave off the cuts but to reverse them. If they cannot commit themselves to 0.7 per cent. as an aid target, whey can they not commit themselves to increasing the aid target to over 0.35 per cent? Instead of snubbing the Commonwealth high commissioners, the Government should be working with them to realise the longer-term development potentials of the New Delhi summit.

Hon. Members will be aware that the Prime Minister came to office quoting St. Francis of Assisi. She has often been quoted in turn since then. I know that some Conservative Members believe more in the parable in which Christ said: Take up thy bed and walk. The starving of Eritrea, Tigré and Wollo and other areas in the Horn are already walking. In Mauretania, Chad, Mozambique and Mali others in their thousands and tens of thousands are following. Can the British Government be so far behind—responding with so little, so late? If so, they should on no account expect the support of Members from either side of the House in the Lobby tonight.

5.39 pm
Mr. Edward Heath (Old Bexley and Sidcup)

It is gratifying to find the interest which has been displayed in the debate and the large number of hon. Members who are listening and wishing to take part. Remembering the sparsely covered Benches during the first debate on the Brandt report in the spring of 1980, one is perhaps justified in feeling that four and a half years' work is at last beginning to bear fruit.

At first sight, the debate appears to be about the future welfare of the billions of people in the developing countries. That is right. Many of us believe that we have a moral obligation to help those who are less fortunate than ourselves. However, from the Foreign Secretary's speech it has also become apparent that it is about our widespread national interests in regard to the developing countries and the resources that we make available to help them in their development. It involves information being given about Britain through our overseas services and the British Council. It is about influencing people and persuading them that our way of life and our culture are worth while so that they will want to be associated with them.

Britain is now fighting a desperate battle in Europe, in North America and in the world generally to maintain an economic position— not to gain an economic position but just to maintain one. Today the growth area is in the Pacific basin. That is where employment and confidence are to be found. In September a Foreign Minister said to me, "Why don't the British realise that they are losing out everywhere?" That is what the debate is really about.

The Foreign Secretary rested his case firmly on the fact that the amount to be spent overall on the Foreign Office is the same as was foreseen in the White Paper. He deserves our congratulations on that, because we know the pressures that he has been under to accept a cut in that basic overall figure. But if the basis of that calculation proves to be wrong in any way, and if currency movements prove to be more damaging than is imagined at present, we want to know that he will ensure that in real terms the sum remains the same. If the Foreign Secretary can give that simple assurance it will remove many doubts from the minds of hon. Members on both sides of the House. That is what we want to hear him say.

The Foreign Secretary said that expenditure on overseas aid has, of course, to be related to overall expenditure and the future of the economy. That is true, but I hoped that he would say that he had found his successor in the Treasury far more flexible than he was himself, and that as Foreign Secretary he had been able to achieve what he wanted to do as Foreign Secretary and not as a former Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is a matter of proportion, and it is that aspect that worries me in considering the approach of the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues.

If I may coin a dreadful word, akin to "privatisation", what worries me is the automaticity of the Government's approach. They insist that inflation must be at 3 per cent., that it must be kept at an even figure, and that we must not expect anything more in the way of expenditure. But it is in the national interest that we should extend our influence in the world. and that does not require automaticity. In the present critical situation it is necessary to spend more on overseas aid. and I hope to show why.

I do not wish to go into detail concerning the development of overseas countries, because my views are well known and are set out clearly in the first and second Brandt reports. But the disaster in Ethiopia has brought home vividly to the people of Britain, of Europe and of North America, through television, radio and press, what is happening in developing countries.

Whenever there is a crisis—a drought, a flood or a volcanic eruption—the British people respond and the British Government respond. That has happened in regard to Ethiopia. But in the past we have never said on the occasion of a disaster, that our contribution to aid must come out of our normal contributions for ordinary purposes. I hope that such a view will never be accepted by my colleagues on the Government Front Bench. If there is a disaster, additional money must be made available. We must have a proper perspective. I am asking for an assurance that there will not be a change of policy, because it has been said that if we contribute aid when there is a disaster such as that in Ethiopia it has to come out of normal expenditure.

Mr. Raison

Surely the important point is that we have a contingency fund in our aid budget, and that contingency fund is available to meet emergencies and disasters. If we did not have a contingency fund for that purpose, it would be a very bad way to construct a budget.

Mr. Heath

I am glad to have that assurance and to know that anything we do to Ethiopia will come out of the contingency fund, and that our normal programmes will not be affected. It will take a long time to deal with the crisis in Ethiopia. There will have to be a sustained effort of at least a year until the next harvest. It will probably take 18 months to deal properly with the crisis.

How are we to help the development of agriculture in the developing countries? There is a lack of confidence between much of the developing world and the developed countries. The developing countries believe that we want to keep them in a primitive state of agriculture, instead of helping them to achieve industrial development. It is in that area that confidence has to be re-established.

We should be giving the developing countries practical help in elementary ways. They need better seeds and better stock. From our funds we should pay for the fairly simple instruments that they need. We can also help in teaching them. They do not require a great central organisation such as there was with the lamented groundnuts scheme. Individual farmers with small plots need to be taught how to achieve greater production. They can then pass the knowledge on to their neighbours. That is infinitely more valuable than setting up a huge central control organisation and telling it to get on with the job.

Mr. Ashdown

The right hon. Gentleman made the very important point that the solution of the problem in Ethiopia will require a sustained effort, extending well over a year. It is said that the immediate crisis will not be over until at least a year from now, when the next harvest is in. Therefore, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is odd that the Government, who claim to take a longterm view of the problem, are prepared to permit the aircraft to assist Ethiopia only until just after Christmas? Would it not have been better if the Government had said that the aircraft could stay in. Ethiopia for a year, or for as long as they were needed?

Mr. Heath

I am delighted that—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I remind the House that intervention are made only at the expense of other hon. Members' time.

Mr. Heath

I am delighted that the Government responded in the way that they did and that they have guaranteed the help until after Christmas. I hope that when they see that the emergency still exists they will extend the effort that is being made with the aircraft. I am sure that the Government will do that.

I should like to see an extension of the development programme in the interests of Britain and of our trade. That aspect is sometimes overlooked. The entire Foreign Office Vote is 0.6 per cent. of total public expenditure. That expenditure has to cover the whole of our diplomacy overseas and the protection of this country's interests as well as those of its citizens. When the whole of the development budget is added, it is still only 1.5 per cent. of total expenditure.

I realise that expenditure has to be kept under control. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his announcement, said that this year his public expenditure borrowing requirement will be £1.5 billion more than he anticipated. Yet, in matters affecting major national interests, the Government are seeking to save £1 million here or £750,000 there. Our expenditure on those important matters is entirely out of proportion. I want to help the Foreign Secretary as much as possible, but these things are very dear to my heart.

It is well known in this House that I do a good deal of travelling. Wherever I am, I listen to the overseas services of the BBC. In doing so, I am aware of the intense competition from European countries, our neighbours in the Community, and of the outpourings of the United States in every part of the world, to say nothing of the broadcasts from the Eastern bloc countries every hour of the day. It is disappointing to see how little the BBC is able to do, especially when one finds how desperate people are everywhere to hear the BBC. They want to hear the British view. It is one of our greatest assets, yet we are told that it is necessary to spend £1 million a year less on the BBC. That policy is not serving the national interest.

In Khartoum the British Council has a magnificent library. Every hour of the day it is packed with people who are trying to read about Britain, British literature and British culture. They are eager to read British newspapers. The British Council should be enabled to do more. Criticisms about people being asked to play a guitar in another part of the world are out of date. The work of the British Council is of immense value for our national interests. It helps to spread our influence and to win trade for Britain in the desperate battle that we are fighting. I had hoped that the Foreign Secretary would say, "I have now been able to convince my colleagues that in the national interest we must give more to the BBC overseas service and to the British Council."

The Government have taken a lamentable and illogical decision on UNESCO. Increased influence in diplomacy is never achieved by opting out. One example is that of the United States and the International Labour Organisation. President Ford, a Republican President, gave notice that he would withdraw from the ILO. The ILO was not affected. It took no notice even of the United States once it said that it would withdraw. President Carter withdrew from the ILO in 1977. Two and a half years later, President Reagan went back to the ILO. The Americans realised that they had lost all influence in the organisation. They realised that the only way in which they could deal with industrial relations affecting any part of the world was by going back to the ILO. They followed the simple advice that was given by Mr. Attlee and which has been recounted in the House before. He attended a Labour party meeting and he was told by others, "We are organising a walkout and you will lead us." He refused to do so and he was asked why. He replied, "If you walk out, you have always got to go back." That is true. It happened with the United States and the ILO.

Why do we not use the Community and the Commonwealth to achieve the objectives that we want in UNESCO? No one would say that there is nothing wrong with UNESCO; it is clear that some things are wrong. Some developing countries want to have press control and they are wrong, but we must understand why they adopt that approach. They do so because they believe that they are not getting fair treatment in the Western press. An impartial observer will probably accept that there is a good deal to be said for that view. The way to deal with the problem is not to have censorship of the press, and it is up to us to show them why that is so. It is illogical to say that by withdrawing from UNESCO we shall be able to make greater progress with the reforms that we want to see take place within the organisation. We shall not do so by that means.

Let us get the Community and the Commonwealth together and reach an agreement on what we require. If we do that, no one will be able to resist us. After all, the Commonwealth contains 43 developing countries. Those countries know what the position is and they feel strongly for the Commonwealth. That is the right form of diplomatic activity. I lament the decision that has been taken on UNESCO, which I consider to be wrong. It will achieve nothing and I hope that the Government will change it. It will certainly fail to extend our national influence. Indeed, we shall lose influence if we opt out of a major organisation that has done great things.

When John Foster Dulles reneged on the Aswan dam and Anthony Eden was forced to follow suit, the Egyptians went to Moscow and the Russians went into Egypt and went on to occupy a large part of the middle east. Only when we said that we would support UNESCO to an extraordinary degree over moving Abu-Simbel, one of the great treasures of the middle east, above the Aswan dam, and ensure its presence for eternity for all to see did we begin to regain some of our prestige in Egypt and the middle east generally. That was a tremendous job.

UNESCO has done an excellent job in China in Sian with the four armies, especially with the one which is on view and protected. It has also been carrying out investigations in the Ming tombs. This is invaluable work and it should not be spoilt because of our concern about some of the central expenditure and with some of the actions which some developing countries want to take. I urge my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary not to go ahead with the UNESCO decision. Let us use our influence with the Commonwealth and the Community.

It is clear that we are debating British influence throughout the world. That is paramount and I know that my right hon. and learned Friend has it at heart. I hope that he will benefit from the debate in the decisions that he makes. I hope also that he will be able to give us some of the assurances that my right hon. and hon. Friends want.

5.55 pm
Mr. Roy Jenkins (Glasgow, Hillhead)

It is not for the first time that I find myself in substantial agreement with the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath). I note that the Foreign Secretary is leaving the Chamber. Surely this is a debate that should command his presence for most of its duration. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is probably the most resonant speaker in the House—he is generally lucid and anxious to put his arguments clearly before the House — but I have never heard him less resonant than he was this afternoon. He gave the impression that he wished to move as quickly as he could from one topic to another without allowing too much time for the House to take hold of what he was saying.

Things are not very good but I suppose that they might be worse. The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup placed emphasis on the Foreign Secretary having made much of the fact that the combined Foreign Office budget will not be less than the figure which was originally contemplated in February. But where is sterling in relation to its level during February? How much of a cut does the weakening of sterling involve in our ability to perform tasks overseas, whether in providing aid or diplomacy? The Government do not deserve congratulations on making no cut in money terms in the aid budget. It is disgraceful that such a cut was ever contemplated seriously, and there is no doubt that it was.

There is a growing food shortage, an increasing population, an overhanging burden of debt and the real possibility of a financial collapse if we are not careful. To contemplate a cut in the aid budget against that background, when it is 0.35 per cent. of national income and lower in real terms than it was 15 years ago when the target was laid down — there is no question of any advance and there has been a retreat over the past 15 years — is in itself disgraceful. Why is it that the Government, having seriously contemplated a disastrous cut in aid, should now draw back?

Some credit for the Government's decision lies with the timeliness of the motion. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Mr. Johnston) on having used the first day of Liberal Supply time for the debate. I do not wish to be divisive among the pro-aid forces, but the first day of Liberal Supply time has been used with a good deal more relevance than the vast number of Labour Supply days are mostly used. Some of the threatening noises that have come from Conservative Members on overseas aid have helped substantially.

The Ethiopian famine has been vividly portrayed on television screens over the past few weeks. There was a dispute this afternoon between the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) and my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber about whether enough had been done earlier by the Government and the European Community. Not enough was done, but something in advance was certainly done. But that is not the precise point of the impact of the Ethiopian famine upon our affairs. That which has happened in Ethiopia is only an eruption, even though it is a horrible and harrowing one.

The underlying issue is the advance of the desert and the retreat of agriculture across six or seven countries in northern Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, with the same thing happening in southern Africa. That is a long-term development which, when accompanied by a high rate of growth in the population, spells an almost certain increase in starvation in the medium term. That spells the Ethiopian crisis 10 or more times over. Medium-term water is as necessary as short-term grain in these circumstances. For the Government seriously to have contemplated a cut in aid is a consideration of extraordinary irrelevance.

Had the Ethiopian famine not occurred and had it not suddenly attracted the attention of the world, including millions in their sitting rooms in Britain, I believe that we would have had from the Government an announcement of a cut in overseas aid. That is the underlying shame. I do not believe that any member of the Government could deny with conviction the underlying truth that it took the Ethiopian famine to prevent overseas aid from coming under the Chancellor's insensitive chopper.

Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas (Chelmsford)

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, I am not unsympathetic to that view, but is he not being somewhat unfair to the Foreign Secretary? Could one not equally conclude that in certain respects the parliamentary system actually works and that the expressions of opinion in all parts of the House have evoked a positive and welcome response from the Government?

The right hon. Gentleman has rightly set the issue in the much wider context of the problems of Africa. That must surely mean, however, that the problems cannot be solved by any one country but only by co-operative international effort. Does he agree, therefore, that this should be one of the most important questions on the agenda for the forthcoming EEC summit?

Mr. Jenkins

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman on both points. I said that the Government had resiled from their disgraceful intention to cut aid, first, because of the mobilisation of parliamentary opinion and, secondly, because of the shock effect of the Ethiopian famine on public opinion. Those two factors together were necessary to make the Government withdraw from a position that they should never have contemplated taking up.

I agree entirely that we cannot do everything on our own, but if we are to give a lead to a co-operative effort in Europe we must rapidly move from having one of the lower percentages to having one of the higher percentages of aid provided by Community countries.

Cuts in real terms in any other aspect of the Foreign Office budget are equally regrettable. One of the favourite thoughts of Lord Stockton—rightly in fashion at this time — over many years was the perhaps somewhat romantic view that, although the Americans may be the Romans of the modern world, we can be the Greeks. The Americans may have the power, but we can have the influence, the wisdom, and the rayonnement, as the French, who pay great attention to these matters, would describe it. But if we are to achieve that, we cannot rely on the refulgence of the Foreign Secretary's personality unsupported by the BBC external services, the British Council and, indeed, the sometimes maligned Foreign Office itself and our diplomatic representation abroad.

The Foreign Office is the only one of the three beat traditional Departments of State of which I have never been the ministerial head, but I have had quite a lot of dealings with it — sometimes in a semi-adversarial capacity when I have been attempting to represent a wider interest than the British interest. In the great majority of cases, I have been impressed by the quality of the Foreign Office. If I have any doubt, it is not that the Foreign Office is weak, ineffective or unsupportive of British interests, but that within the public service as a whole rather too much talent is concentrated there at the expense of some of the other Departments. Equally, I have no doubt that the British system of government works better when morale at the Foreign Office is high than when it is thought that everything has to be decided at No. 10, which produces a very unsatisfactory balance of power.

At a time when British influence in the world is not great, I do not favour selling off or getting rid of every good bit of real estate that we have in the capitals of the world. It is a great mistake to think that retreating into a villa, as we have done in Copenhagen, increases British influence. In general, I do not believe that there is extravagance in our diplomatic representation abroad. It is vital to keep a sense of proportion when considering these matters. On fortress Falklands we spend between £500 million and £1 billion per year. On our defence budget, of which on the whole I am in favour, we spend £17 billion per year. Over a period of five years or so we propose to spend £10 billion, perhaps even £11 billion or £12 billion, on Trident. I hope that the primary purpose of that defence expenditure is not to blow up the world but to increase our influence in world affairs. To spend such vast sums and then to niggle about a few million pounds to make Britain's voice heard in the world shows a total lack of proportion. The trouble is that the Government, the Prime Minister and especially the Chancellor have little sense of history, proportion or compassion, and the absence of all three qualities in confluence is a devastating weakness.

6.6 pm

Mr. Edward du Cann (Taunton)

My right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) caught the mood of the House exactly when he said that this debate was about British interests, and those interests and the desperate needs of the developing countries are certainly linked. The right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins), too, was right when he said in effect that in prosecuting those interests through the satisfaction of the needs of the developing countries there must be no faltering and no parsimony. I agree entirely with that.

I wish to speak about aid in a practical sense. First, I declare an interest. Since 1972, I have been a director and am now deputy chairman of a British trading company which employs many thousands of people in the developing countries, especially in Africa. The hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Holland) was right to stress the urgency of the need for action to help people in that enormous continent. Those whom we employ work in manufacturing, agriculture, mining, and so on. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup said, few people in the past have been alive to the needs of the Third world, and we are glad that more are now taking an interest. I am therefore proud to have been associated for several years with a dedicated and competent team doing what it can in a practical way to help, to produce food, and to create employment and wealth, often in partnership with Governments. The company with which I am associated has put more acres under the plough than any other company in Africa, and I am proud indeed to be associated with that work.

On aid in general, not so many years ago Mr. Disraeli defined the purpose of political endeavour in our own country as the upholding of the constitution and the elevation of the condition of the people. We can all agree that there is much yet to accomplish in our own nation. In the first respect, we did a good deal in the defence of democracy in the last Parliament by improving the machinery for the surveillance of the Executive. On the second aspect, the elimination of social, economic and political injustice, wherever it exists in the world, is an equally important objective. Famine, poverty, disease and hopelessness, I swear, are none of them inevitable anywhere in the world. All can be overcome if we have the will, the wit and the imagination to do what is needed. I hope that I have said enough to make it clear that I speak of what I know.

I am not alone on these Benches in welcoming the Government's commitment to aid on the substantial scale outlined in the Queen's Speech, and in welcoming the growth in money aid — over £1 billion to over 130 countries. I rejoice in the devotion of so many who are engaged in its administration. I am glad that our country, as my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development pointed out, took the lead in bringing aid to Ethiopia.

In the 28 years that I have represented Taunton, I have never before received so many letters on a humanitarian subject as I have lately received on overseas aid. A few of the letters are couched in roughly identical terms. No doubt they come from members of pressure groups. But most of them are from individual citizens appalled by the suffering that they have seen on television or read about and genuinely want to help.

It is easy, analysing that correspondence, to list a whole series of measures that the Government might pursue or persuade other Governments or international agencies to adopt. For instance, more liberal trade policies are suggested. The United Kingdom has set a good example in that area. Some letters suggest giving the greatest help to the poorest nations. That is the direction of our policy. Other writers suggest longer-term credits and lower interest rates. That is something else that we are working towards. Some people suggest that there should be a greater voice for poorer countries in world forums. I agree.

Many of the letters end with a plea for greater expenditure of British taxpayers' money. Some people think that money is the cure for every ill throughout the world. I do not agree. Some argue that it cannot be right to give aid to countries where the rulers are corrupt, as too many are, or incompetent, as unfortunately many more are, or antagonistic to the interests of this country. I believe that it is right to give the maximum aid to those countries which are bravely attempting to put their economic houses in order—Ghana is a splendid example —but I do not share that general view. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup that there is no moral dilemma. There is only a moral imperative. We do too little for our fellow men, and it is our duty to do all that we can. I hope that we will say clearly to my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Government during the debate that we are doing less than we might, and that we must do more.

According to a letter in The Times on 5 November: a larger proportion of Western aid should be devoted to helping food production in poor countries". However, it is not aid alone that will make the difference. If one examines, for example, any recent disaster in central Africa, one finds that the reasons are usually the same. The climate is perhaps to blame for a large proportion of the disaster. But equally important, more often than not, are two man-made factors. First, the politicisation of the Civil Service of many Third world Governments has made them no longer competent to provide essential services for their people. Second, there is the destruction of the will to cultivate on more than subsistance level, caused by the reorganisation of agriculture on political lines. In too many countries in Africa that reorganisation has, in effect, been a criminal act.

The peasant farmer—or, indeed, any farmer—will not produce food unless it is worth his while and unless he is encouraged to take pride in his land. No amount of aid can alter those realities. If the United Kingdom and the free world were to ostracise those with whom we disagree politically, or send them to an economic Coventry, that would be folly indeed. Attitudes will not change unless we use our influence and help people to put their houses in good economic order.

The Indian example is most encouraging. Two decades ago universal opinion was that India would always require food aid. India's greatest achievement since independence is that she is now self-sufficient in basic foods.

Cash aid is not enough. Success — consistent improvement in a desperate scene — will come only from persistent and painstaking effort in a variety of fields. However, cash aid—finance in all its forms—is crucial, and it would have been wicked if Britain's cash contribution to mankind's problems had been reduced in any degree.

statistically, aid comparisons are notoriously difficult Flows are made of many elements and can be defined in various ways. My own view of the figure which are often quoted and have been quoted today—not least by the hon. Member for Vauxhall — is different from conventional. The Government have always encourage British industry and entrepreneurs to invest abroad. That is what the amendment states, and my right hon. and learned Friend made it clear that it is Government policy. If one counts official aid and private flows together, they now amount to 1.25 per cent. of the gross national product, which is well ahead of the accepted United Nations target of 0.7 per cent.

We should remember how effective private flows can be. could give a long category of examples of private sector work from my own experience but I shall give only four. The Sudan is one third the size of the United States and twice the size of the enlarged EEC. In 1971 my colleagues initiated t-he world's largest sugar project there. Mozambique lost most of its maize crop this year. We flew 14 sorties carrying 500 tonnes of seed maize. That action may have rescued many thousands of people from future starvation. In Ethiopia we are having discussions about bringing into cultivation many tens of thousands of hectares of land which at the moment produce no food. Perhaps the best example of co-operation between our friends in the developing world and the expertise that is so readily available in the developed countries can be found in Zambia, where high technology expertise has been brought to bear on agricultural production. The secret, of course, is water. Utilising overhead irrigation systems sourced from boreholes, we are now producing very large quantities of produce from previously infertile land—10 million eggs and 1 million litres of milk per year. We also farm over 8,000 pigs, there is a significant dairy herd, and we produce 2 million kilos of vegetables every year.

That is what one British company has done. Much more could be done, and much more should be done by private industry.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup rightly said, there is great good will towards us in Africa and in every part of the developing world. We enjoy the warmest respect, and it is essential that we should capitalise on that respect not only in our own selfish interest, because there is so much that we can offer and teach, but because so many countries are in a desperate state and it is our Christian duty to assist them out of it. The quickest and most effective way to help is not only to bring pressure on the Government to increase the size of the taxpayers' subvention, but to make greater use of the private sector. I believe that to do so will not only help the United Kingdom economically in terms of direct exports, influence and in a hundred other ways, but, most important of all, enable us to keep faith with those who trust us.

6.19 pm
Dame Judith Hart (Clydesdale)

It is a pleasure for me to follow the right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. duCann). I welcome his participation in this debate. I also very much welcomed, as always, the speech of the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), who has been making speeches on these matters for a very long time. The right hon. Gentleman was very polite about his Front Bench colleagues. I shall be less polite. As an Opposition Member, it may be my privilege to spare no blushes on the Conservative Benches.

I am sorry that the Foreign Secretary is not present to hear me say that his speech was one of the most disgraceful speeches that I have heard in the House for a long time. As the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup said, the debate is about Britain's interests and how far we care for the world in which we live and those who inhabit it. I find it inconceivable that a Foreign Secretary can tell, us that he has had to give way to the Prime Minister and the Chancellor and impose cuts.

The BBC's external services have already been pared to the bone. The British Council has suffered grievous cuts. Heaven knows what else the Government can find to cut. Perhaps it is all right to close 12 small consulates., but is that really the way in which to approach the major issue of Britain's having a voice in 1984? It is ludicrous that a monetarist policy, which is so dear to the heart of the Prime Minister and her favourite colleagues, should extend to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the British Council, the BBC", information services and overseas aid when the issues at stake are fundamental to Britain's role in the world.

Of course the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary can say, "Stop the world, we want to get off," but it is despicable for them then to announce the United Kingdom's withdrawal from UNESCO. Of course there are criticisms of UNESCO, but they have tended to be exaggerated. I heard West Germany's permanent representative at UNESCO speak on the subject last week. He had criticisms of UNESCO, as do other EC countries, but he observed that only 13 per cent, of UNESCO's programmes are controversial.

I should like to underline what the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup said about UNESCO's excellent work. I have had my tussles with it. In 1978, when the new information order was first proposed, I spent a whole week in Paris negotiating and drafting in an attempt to postpone what looked likely to be a pretty hard UNESCO declaration limiting press freedom. We did not solve the problem, but at least we averted the worst.

UNESCO does some excellent work and it is not possible to reform from outside. Just as the United States no longer has the slightest influence in UNESCO, so we, henceforth, will cease to have any influence there. We will no longer be able, with our Commonwealth and EC colleagues, to promote the type of reforms on which we are set. The Government's decision is utter folly and it is disgraceful because we were one of the founder members of UNESCO. It was registered here in London. I maintain that UNESCO is one of the three major international organisations — the others being the World Health Organisation and the Food and Agriculture Organisation. If we begin by leaving one, where do we end?

There is a principle attached to participation in United Nations agencies. There is a principle attached to international commitment. But, by today's disgraceful announcement, we have destroyed that commitment with the concept of internationalism. I deplore that. I am sure that a few Conservative Members would like to indulge in similar vituperation, but their ways are more polite.

As we know, and as my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Holland) said, the aid programme has suffered since the Government came to power in 1979. There has been a cut in real terms of up to 20 per cent. There are two estimates—one of 17 per cent, and the other of 20 per cent. When the Labour Government left office in 1979 we had achieved expenditure of 0.53 per cent, of gross national product on overseas aid — the United Nations target is 0.7 per cent. We were committed in the next four years, as our White Paper on public expenditure showed, to the highest increase in any public expenditure programme on overseas aid. We were committed to a 6 per cent, per year increase.

Under that programme we should have reached the 0.7 per cent, target this year. Instead of that, we are back to half of the target. Perhaps the Minister for Overseas Development could give us a rather more meticulous elucidation of that, as we were clouded in confusion by what the Foreign Secretary said. Our impression is that, taking inflation into account, there has been a cut in real terms of the cash figure. We should like to have the matter spelt out precisely so that the constituents of the right hon. Member for Taunton, who have been writing to him in their hundreds, may be under no false impression as to what has been announced today.

Mr. Spearing

Perhaps it would be convenient for me to give an answer to my right hon. Friend's question and that asked by the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath). In Cmnd. 9367, in reply to the Select Committee report on Estimates, the Government made it clear that if cuts were not to be made in the existing programme by virtue of differential inflation or exchange rate movements, and if Ministers refused to make such cuts, there would be additional Supplementary Estimates in the spring. The Foreign Secretary did not make that clear, but it is clear from the White Paper. The choice as to whether the Supplementary Estimate is submitted or whether cuts are made rests with Ministers.

Dame Judith Hart

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I do not see any sign of the Minister leaping to his feet to reply. No doubt he will couple his answer to me with one to my hon. Friend later.

Another little matter has been undone by the Government. When I left the Ministry of Overseas Development in 1979, the disaster unit, which we had set up to respond quickly to emergencies such as Ethiopia, had 59 vehicles such as trucks, Land Rovers and Land Rover ambulances. That stock meant that there was no delay in getting equipment on to a Hercules or a ship. I recently asked a couple of questions on the subject and discovered that the stock is now down to two vehicles. That is yet another tiny reduction in capacity.

The Government have also reduced the status of the Ministry of Overseas Development. The Minister will correct me if I am wrong, but I am pretty sure that he did not have the opportunity to attend Cabinet discussions about whether there should be a cut in the aid programme. The Government have also destroyed the development education programme and reduced the proportion of the aid programme that goes on rural development.

The Government's record has been disastrous. I hope that public anxiety will continue and be translated — there are signs that it will—into action whereby Britain and other industrialised countries provide the basis for development to prevent famine such as we have witnessed in Ethiopia this year and will continue to witness in other parts of Africa and possibly Asia within the next couple of years.

The special committee of the United Nations development programme, on which Bob McNamara and Sunny Ramphal, among others, served, has just reported. I listened to the result of that report on last night's BBC world service, although if these cuts go ahead I shall no longer be able to do so. It says that to promote the kind of development necessary to prevent famines in Africa and Ethiopia, about $18 billion should be ploughed into development there during the next two years.

That sounds formidable, if not impossible, but it is not. We are effectively talking about £6 billion a year, which should be compared with planned expenditure on Trident and defence generally. If that sum were divided among the major industrialised nations, it would not amount to much. It is certainly within the capacity of the developed world to raise such a sum.

About three nights ago, also on the BBC world service, I listened to an Indian talking about the politics of India. He came from a very poor rural area. Although I agree that much has been done in India, and that India has now reached more than self-sufficiency in food production, that has largely been achieved in areas with the capacity to undertake tropical agriculture. Such areas as the Punjab, and Tamil Nadu do not suffer from the drought which afflicts other areas. The dry areas still suffer from poverty, and that Indian politician said quite frankly, "If it rains, you eat." The right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. duCann) is right to suggest that the key is water, but the key to water is either small-scale tube wells or the larger-scale projects, both of which cost money.

The right hon. Gentleman referred to Zambia, where his own company has been able to increase food production but, as I am sure he will agree, such production tends to concentrate on cash crops and does not touch the 70 to 80 per cent, of poor peasants who suffer famine because there is no rainfall or water. The infrastructure of water supplies and irrigation is needed for them. That costs money and, unfortunately, there is no profit in it for private companies. That can arise only through someone's public expenditure.

If the developing countries fall into debt because the price they receive for their primary commodities has declined and they cannot meet the cost of imported fuel following the successive increases in oil prices, they will not have the expenditure to invest in these necessary irrigation projects. Therefore, it is obvious that the money must come from somewhere else.

This is where aid programmes, be they multilateral or bilateral, come into the picture and matter so much. If we are to begin to see any hope of ending the starvation, malnutrition and high death rates among the millions who try to scrape a living from the land in the poorest countries, there must be an understanding and realisation that the rich countries — in their terms we are wealthy beyond belief—must be responsible enough to accept that what we do will make all the difference.

I deplore what thr Foreign Secretary said. We ought to have the same commitment that we had from the Government in which I was privileged to serve. There should be a commitment to reach the 0.7 per cent, target within three or four years. Steady increases in overseas aid should follow. There should also be a commitment to participation in the international community in which we live. We should hear no more nonsenses about cuts in the BBC and the British Council or the international institutions of which we should be proud and privileged to be members.

6.35 pm
Sir Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)

One fully understands that the right hon. Member for Clydesdale (Dame J. Hart) should think that the sun set when she left Overseas Development, but she should not exaggerate. A certain amount of work, albeit under great difficulty, has been carried out since her departure.

It is tempting to say that the United Kingdom does not give enough overseas aid. In a way there could never be enough, though it must be properly applied. It is, however, nonsense to suggest that the United Kingdom is doing so much less than others. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary said, we are among the top seven or eight aid donors. In real terms our official expenditure is a steady percentage of GNP. That remains the projection to ensure that in the immediate future our spending is not less than that of the immediate past.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. DuCann) made a valid point. One is entitled to add to official aid the private enterprise aid from this country, unlike many others, to developing countries. Together, those two types of aid far exceed the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent.

Because of the training which it automatically gives to local people, not to mention the employment that it provides, private enterprise aid can in some way be even superior to official aid. It should not be despised.

In considering this matter we should divide the short term and the long term. In effect, the short term means Ethiopia. I understand that over the last two years the United Kingdom has made special payments to Ethiopia totalling £13 million. To that we have now added £6.5 million, and we have joined the EEC in spending £16 million in that country. We have promises from the EEC and the United States of £35 million each, which means that at present there is plenty of money for the next ensuing months. We have plenty of money now, we have promises of money for the future, but lack the grain which people can eat. My information is that only 9,000 tonnes of grain is quickly available in Ethiopia because transportation has not been sufficiently energetically used. That may be the result of bureaucratic delays, particularly in Brussels. Aid to Ethiopia could be put on its feet if such delays were avoided, and we must now concentrate on supplying the food which people can eat.

It is alleged that the ODA was not alert soon enough to the tragedy that is about to take place. I do not know whether that can be established. After all, the ODA has a special disaster unit whose duties include giving warning of such things. I have no doubt that it did, and the amount of money we spent last year shows that some people were aware of what would happen.

One can only operate in a country where the Government of that country are co-operative. They must let us know what they want as well as how it can be done. Unfortunately, until recently, Ethiopia, either through a certain shame, which one can understand—the civil war or other reasons—did not ask and did not co-operate. Therefore, the local agencies operating in such countries have been shooting at the wrong target by blaming the British and other Western Governments for getting aid to Ethiopia so late.

I do not accept the moral blame for that disaster, which many people appear to think we should shoulder. We did not cause the drought, cut down the trees, overcrop the land or start the civil war. Why should we be blamed? The holier-than-thou attitude which many people seem to adopt is attributable more to a political sense than to a love of mankind.

Nevertheless, I recognise, as will all hon. Members who have received letters from constituents about this, that there is genuine anguish among those who have the welfare of their fellow men at heart. Because the necessary and possible steps have been taken and are now funded, a reduction in aid would not in the short term have an adverse effect on staving off starvation in Ethiopia. If aid is sharply reduced at the end of 12 months, it may make a difference, but for the moment one can be confident that all practicable aid is being given. Therefore, I do not condemn the Government, and I shall support them tonight.

We have paid a lot of attention to the development of the Sahel area in the long term. We have concentrated, correctly, on rural work and raising food. I disagree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) that we should try to organise industrial expansion and activity in the poorest countries. They want to be able to grow their own food to eat, not in plantations, and they should not produce rubber or grow corn for export. We already provide aid for that sort of food growing as we should do increasingly, and we are aware of the problem.

The effects of the no doubt necessary and to some extent desirable public economies in other parts of the Vote cause me anxiety. I must declare an interest as a vice-president of the British Council. It thought that it had an agreement with the Foreign Office about risen costs and domestic inflation. The sum involved tonight is about £3 million. The British Council needs £7 million to carry on work which it is already doing, and has been given £5.8 million.

That is divided into £1.2 million risen costs caused by foreign inflation, and the remainder, a little less than £2 million, which is due to domestic rises in costs. That presents not a 1 per cent, but a 3 per cent, cut in the British Council's activities. Hon. Members may say that 3 per cent, is not much, but it is important to remember that there has been a percentage cut every year for the past five years. No private or public business can sustain a diminution of resources year after year without losing efficiency and morale. That is an important point, and it should be considered.

I am gratified to know that capital expenditure on the BBC overseas services based in Hong Kong, the Seychelles and the United Kingdom is going ahead. However, the long-term damage of changing programmes, which will be necessary, should not be underestimated. One cannot keep an audience if one chops and changes programmes. If one abandons 30 minutes of air time to a country, the Russians or the Chinese will leap in at once and take up that wavelength and half-hour. After years of trying we shall not be able to get it back, even after audibility has been increased. Radio programmes are extremely sensitive and cannot be changed year in, year out, because of the withdrawal or addition of a few hundred thousand pounds.

As my right hon. and learned Friend said, the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs advised that the diplomatic service should not be further cut without expecting a drop in efficiency. That is true. If it must be cut again, which I deplore, it is right to cut posts. I do not understand whether the Foreign Secretary proposes to cut only consular posts. I understand that that will not be possible and that some diplomatic posts will have to be cut. Furthermore, some of the those diplomatic posts are almost bound to be in the Commonwealth. Hon. Members should reflect what a bad impression would be caused if the United Kingdom withdrew a diplomatic post from a Commonwealth country.

Expert and efficient work is necessary abroad. The diplomatic service is already cut to the bone. Our diplomats cannot work harder, and they could not work with such purpose with fewer staff. They could not cover the country or provide the service which is required.

The Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence are the easiest targets for cuts because the Government know exactly now many are employed and how much will be spent, except for risen costs. When one tries to attack social services, which have a monstrous expenditure, it is like cutting a blancmange. One does not know what is happening or whether genuine savings can be made. Because the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence are easy to knock about, they have been made targets. I deplore that. It should not continue.

6.45 pm
Mr. Eric Deakins (Walthamstow)

I welcome the debate and congratulate Liberal Members on devoting a day to this important subject. I, like the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), welcome the many new faces in debates about aid. I congratulate hon. Members from all parties on turning up to debate this subject which, until now, has been an unpopular one in terms of parliamentary attendance.

We have not yet had an assurance that the aid budget for 1985–86 will not be cut. I invite the Minister, when he replies, to say whether the total, which will be unchanged in cash terms, will represent a cut in real terms of between £40 million and £50 million. Will the Minister re-examine some of our aid project priorities? In the past we have, rightly, given large sums for projects in developing countries for cash crops. With the growing onset of famine in parts of Africa—we shall have to face many more famines in future—we should place greater emphasis on the selection of aid projects for growing food for local consumption, even if that is not always the priority of the Government of the country in question. We do have some choice in these matters.

Will the Minister tell the House whether he has considered, and, if so, has reached a decision on, support for the World Bank project for sub-Sahelan Africa for the future. It seems that Africa is one area where disasters will loom almost every year from now on. We must do something about it.

I congratulate the Minister for Overseas Development on the speech, of which he must have approved, of his noble Friend Lord Glenarthur at the Mexico City conference on population during the second week of August. As he knows, I am joint honorary secretary of the parliamentary group on population and development, and I had the privilege to attend as a non-governmental organisation observer. It was an excellent speech. I hope that whatever else happens in the aid budget the Minister will continue to give increasing priority to a population component in development projects.

For hon. Members who worry what all the fuss on population is about, I shall give some figures. The current world population is about 4.6 billion, of whom 1.2 billion are in rich countries and 3.4 billion in poor countries. On World Bank projections, which were mentioned at the Mexico City conference and in this year's world development report, by the year 2050, which is within the lifetimes of children alive today, the world's population will have increased to 9.8 billion, of whom 1.4 billion will live in rich countries and 8.4 billion will live in poorer countries. The proportion of the rich countries will have shrunk from 26 per cent, to about 13 or 14 per cent. That must be a sobering thought for those who consider the economic future of Britain and the other rich countries.

A fact that is not widely appreciated by many aid agencies and voluntary organisations is that people consume resources and that the more people there are, the more resources they will need, including food. The current population of Africa is about 480 million. By the end of this century, which is only 16 years from now, its population will have increased to almost 800 million and it will increase by leaps and bounds well into the 21st century.

In the Sahel, an area which worries us all—Ethiopia is only part of that area — the population of several countries is increasing by 3 per cent, a year, with little prospect of a reduction. I invite the House to consider some simple arithmetic. If a population grows at 1 per cent, a year, it will double within 70 years. If it grows at 3 per cent, a year, in the same period it will increase eightfold. That is the prospect for sub-Sahelan Africa and other parts of Africa, which at present are more fortunate in terms of food supplies.

Aid alone is not enough. The debate, although primarily about aid, has been about other factors. The House should invite the Minister to say that the Government will sign the United Nations convention on the law of the sea by the closing date of 10 December. This debate is about sharing resources, and that convention will enable the resources of the deep sea, which at present belong to no one, to be shared equitably among rich and poor countries. That would be a vital step for the Government to take and would be a sign that their heart is in the right place.

Poor countries must trade more if they are to improve their living standards and make the best use of their natural resources. A mood has grown in the House during the past few years—it has also grown in the United States and in other rich countries—which could be characterised as protectionist. Many Conservative and Labour Members believe that we must protect our industries and jobs above all else. But Britain is a rich country and we should be able to restructure our industries, given time and financial assistance, so that they can meet the challenge that is being posed increasingly by the developing countries.

My hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Holland), who is an expert in such matters, made several useful suggestions to the Government about the debt burdens of poor countries. I hope that the Government will follow those suggestions.

More aid to and trade with developing countries will involve social and economic costs to the United Kingdom. I should be interested to hear whether the constituents of Conservative Members, who have written to them about the Ethiopian famine and the need to help poorer countries, recognise that in the long term we must make material sacrifices to help the poor and to narrow the widening gap between our living standards and those of the people in poor countries. I am not sure whether those who have written to the Members of Parliament on moral and Christian grounds—or whatever grounds are appropriate — appreciate the full implications of what they are asking the Government, the House and the nation to do. We have a duty to tell them that the growing gap cannot be narrowed without our making some sacrifices. That is a problem for politicians on both sides of the House. It is not a popular thesis, but it will become increasingly inevitable that if we give more in aid and do more about trade with the poor countries we shall have to examine our material resources to see how best they can be shared with the poor.

The only way in which politicians can make life easier for themselves as we approach the 21st century, when the problems of famine will become much greater and will impinge much more on everything that we do in the House, is to give more resources to development education. I appeal to the Minister, who has so far maintained the development education budget to the Centre for World Development Education, of whose council I am a member, not to allow it to disappear in two or three years. I have worked for many voluntary organisations, but it is by far the most efficient Third world voluntary body in the country. It gives tremendous value for money, and I hope that the Minister will recognise the value, not only to development education but to politicians in general, of the tasks on which it is engaged.

6.56 pm
Sir Peter Blaker (Blackpool, South)

Although my later remarks may be somewhat critical of the Government, I should say at the outset that their decision on UNESCO is correct. They have not, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) implied, opted out of UNESCO; they have given notice, thus keeping open the decision at the end of next year. I have seen something of UNESCO, and I believe that that is one of the few methods available to us to exert pressure during the next 12 months to change that organisation. I hope that it will be changed.

The reply of my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary to my intervention in his speech confused rather than illuminated, and I hope that my right hon. Friend who replies will clarify the position. The simple question was this: do the Government propose any measures to compensate the entire Foreign and Commonwealth budget for risen costs outside the United Kingdom as a result of the reduction in the value of sterling or inflation in overseas countries?

We should ask ourselves why Britain's influence in the world is so strong. Britain is not a super-power, nor is it as rich as Germany and France, but from many travels I believe that our influence is greater than that of those two countries, and in some parts of the world it matches that of the United States. We are in that position partly because of our record of empire and decolonisation, of both of which we should be proud. It has given us long experience of overseas affairs and resulting skills, and we have developed instruments to use those skills to good advantage. The instruments are those which we are discussing today: the diplomatic service, which has been criticised in recent years, but I do not know of a better one; the BBC external services; the British Council; the military assistance programme, which is an important part of the Foreign Office armoury; and the aid budget. They give us an influence out of all proportion to our real strength.

I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup that our influence in the world is important not only in helping to protect the interests of the free world as a whole but in protecting our national interests, which can be summed up as peace, trade and jobs. However, every few years for some time past—I am speaking not only of this Government but of previous Governments, because the Labour party did it, too—the Government of the day have taken steps to make more blunt the instruments for protecting our interests. I would describe it as a recurrence of "Operation Ha'porth of Tar". The savings about which we are talking are tiny. They are small change in the pocket of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, let alone my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, as they are for any other Department. Wherever these cuts are made in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, they will have potentially devastating effect.

Do Ministers realise how the Government are viewed by other countries? Our enemies are delighted when they see us blunt these instruments of foreign policy. Our friends are incredulous, but they are consoled by the fact that British weakness in trade helps them to compete in the markets that we share. They are incredulous simply because the sums involved are so small. I do not know for sure, because I have not been told, but the cuts probably represent about the cost of three Tornado aircraft. Is it sensible to damage so seriously our instruments of foreign policy for such a saving?

The British Council's total receipts from the Goverment are about £79 million. The diplomatic service receives £374 million, but that includes many other activities aside from the diplomatic service proper. The military assistance programme, which is of enormous value, has £12 million, the diplomatic service has been cut by 20 per cent, in numbers over the past 20 years, but my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary explained in a rather powerful passage, how much more work it is having to do. How true that is. Having seen their work in many parts of the world, I know that our diplomatic offices are overstretched.

My right hon. and learned Friend went on to say that the Government were proposing to cut out 10 career consulates. But that conclusion did not seem to me to follow from the point he was making about the burden on our diplomatic service, not least from greater travel by British subjects abroad. He said nothing about what will happen to the budget of the diplomatic service, and that is an ominous omission. We have already heard about the British Council, which has had a cut of 20 per cent, in its grant over five years. The external service have been cut in scope and the capital spending programme is running behind schedule. We have fewer hours of broadcasting than Albania. In all this, the time has come to say that we have had enough.

I used to know a maxim which was relevant in many circumstances — "reinforce success". We appear to be destroying success, so we appear to have the thing upside down. Have Ministers, in distant continents, ever fiddled with the dials of their short-wave radio receivers, in a desperate attempt to get the BBC external services, in competition with the louder signals from Germany, Yugoslavia, Australia, the Soviet Union, the United States, France and others? It is an enlightening experience.

Have Ministers asked their opposite numbers in other countries what they, the Prime Ministers, the Foreign Ministers and so on, think of the external services, because many of them listen to them? All over Asia and Africa, that has been my experience. Have Ministers seen the numbers of people who attend the British Council libraries, in many parts of the world, not least in the Communist countries? Have they talked to scientists and politicians about the benefit to them in their careers of having had British Council scholarships? The other day my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moynihan) told me that he has come in touch with a Nobel prizewinner who, when asked to what he attributed his success, included his experience as a British Council scholar.

I shall say little about the aid programme because many hon. Members have spoken about it, and I am pressed for time. We have done well for the relief of famine in Ethiopia, but why do we spoil the effect that we have created by saying, in effect, that the aid programme will suffer a cut in real terms? I hope that the Government will take note of the strength of feeling that I sense on Conservative Benches. If they do not, and if there are more real cuts in the budget of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Conservative Members may begin to question other parts of Government spendings.

For example, I have in mind the Falklands. We know how much the Falklands are costing. Some £552 million of spending is forecast for next year. So far, I have been a firm supporter of the Government's policy on the Falklands. It is not conceivable that we should be debating sovereignty at the moment, but if the central organs of our foreign policy are to be cut and damaged as seriously as I fear they may be if the Government are not more generous, many Conservative Members may begin to question the Falklands policy. I am not taking any position on it now, but simply pointing to what I regard as a danger.

Some of my hon. Friends might regard it as ridiculous to spend about £550 million a year to sustain a small territory, 8,000 miles away, with only 1,800 inhabitants while at the same time we cause irreparable damage to the central organs of our foreign policy, which are of benefit in relation to the whole world, and affect much bigger issues than the Falkland Islands, important though they are.

Unless assurances are given by the Government that the overseas risen costs faced by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as a whole are provided for, the Government have not got their priorities right.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Paul Dean)

Order. Before I call the next hon. Member, I remind the House that the 10-minute limit on speeches is now in operation. I appeal for the co-operation of right hon. and hon. Members in observing the limit.

7.7 pm

Mr. Geraint Howells (Ceredigion and Pembroke, North)

Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am delighted to be the first hon. Member to be called under the 10-minute rule. History is being made, and I am sure that my family and constituents will notice that I am the first hon. Member to have made a speech under the new rule.

We have listened to leading politicians from both sides of the House making major contributions to the debate. I am convinced that they have been inspired by the public, who believe that more time should be given to debate the needs of the young, the elderly and the needy in the Third world. I hope that, by a concerted effort by hon. Members on both sides of the House, we shall be able to persuade the Government to give of their best to help those in need in the Third world from now on.

What has inspired this debate today is not particularly a wish to score party points over the Government, although they have laid themselves open to criticism from all sides, but a genuine desire to put forward a view that reflects the strong feelings of ordinary people throughout the country about our responsibilities as a nation to our fellow human beings in other parts of the world. I do not think that any hon. Member, of whatever political persuasion, can now be unaware of these feelings or can remain unconvinced that a majority of people want the Government to take positive action to improve overseas aid.

Following the harrowing pictures of starving children in Ethiopia and the appalling statistics that have come to light as a result, the conscience of the nation has been stirred as never before. I am sure that we are all aware of the influence of television on the family, and I am convinced that what has been seen on television of what is happening in Ethiopia has stirred the consciences of many in Britain.

All over the country, groups of people have come together to organise appeals. I know of several in my constituency—many other hon. Members have said that their constituents are doing similar work — including farmers' unions, chapels, churches, women's organisations and many others which hold the view that help should be given to the needy and to those in the Third world. They are all meeting with a generous response, and I am delighted that people are taking up the challenge to help others who are less fortunate than we are.

Letters have been pouring in to hon. Members — many have said so during the debate—and we all agree that they are sincere in their deliberations. They ask for pressure to be put on the Government not only to take urgent action to help Ethiopia and Eritrea, but to resist any cuts in overseas aid. I am sure that the Minister is well aware of the letters that pour in to his office as well as to those of hon. Members.

The constituents who write to me—I am sure that they reflect a substantial opinion throughout Britain—do not understand why, of all times, the Chancellor has chosen now to cut back those resources, which will inevitably mean a cut in aid, when we should increase it. My constituents ask: does Britain no longer care? Should we not still aspire to a moral leadership when it comes to humanitarian causes? Should we not be ashamed of a reduction in the amount of aid in real terms since 1979 of between 17 and 20 per cent.?

Another aspect highlighted by the public response is the stark contrast between the surpluses that have accumulated as a result of the unsatisfactory common agricultural policy and the starvation in parts of Africa. To the ordinary person — I include myself in that description — there seems to be no rhyme or reason for the continuation of that discrepancy: the total imbalance between need and provision. People cannot believe that we have not yet devised a way of transforming a glut in one part of the world to provide for the needs in another.

When we consider the money—millions of pounds—that is wasted in keeping so-called unwanted food in intervention stores and how it could be better used in transporting that food to other parts of the world where it is needed, most of us are horrified and disgusted.

I am well aware of the arguments against direct food aid. I accept that food aid at the wrong time can bring about disastrous consequences in social and economic terms. It seems that I shall have to deliver the remaining part of my speech on another day, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

My hon. Friend has another four minutes by my reckoning. Before he continues, does he agree that what has come across to both of us is that, no matter whether we represent poor constituents in rural Wales or equally poor constituents in Britain's urban centres, the view is the same? People cannot understand the economic policies of cutting back when money in Britain is spent to stockpile resources that we do not need while millions away from home, whom the British people want to help, are not being helped through the Government's agency. That is a shared feeling across Britain.

Mr. Howells

I agree with the sentiments expressed by my hon. Friend, although he took two or three minutes of my time to express them.

Here we are in 1984 with a surplus within Europe. We produce enough food for ourselves and we have a surplus. If there is a will to help our friends in the Third world, I am sure that there is a way. If we believe in Christianity, as some of us do, we should urge members of the Government and others in authority to take action. I hope that they in turn will be able to influence their friends and counterparts in Europe to release the surpluses that we have in Europe so that in the short term—the public are interested in the short-term issue—we may save many of those who are dying in Ethiopia.

When I was at school I learnt a little verse. I am sure that many hon. Members have learnt the same verse: Let us sow the seeds of friendship As our way we wend, And we will reap a blessing At the journey's end. I am convinced that this is the opportune time to sow a few seeds of friendship to help others in need in the Third world.

7.15 pm
Mr. Francis Pym (Cambridgeshire, South-East)

I find it painful to have to say to the House that I am afraid that I found the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary not commensurate with the realities and needs of the international situation and inadequate to the maintenance, and where possible the extension, of British interests and influence.

I think that he was saying in his speech that, no doubt as a result of pressure, the aid programme will be maintained at its existing level in real terms — I am thankful about that—but that that is to be done at the expense of the diplomatic service, the overseas service of the BBC and the British Council. That means that in the public expenditure round he has, unhappily, been defeated. I criticise all his colleagues, as well as himself, for that, because it is to misjudge priorities. They have got their priorities wrong. As many of my hon Friends have said, the amount of money that we are talking about is trivial.

I also want to criticise the Government's amendment which, among other things, asks us to endorse the Government's continued support for the British Council and the BBC external services, when they then say that they will cut that support. The kindest thing that I can say about that is that it is lacking in integrity.

There are two separate issues—overseas aid, and the diplomatic services and the overseas services. They are related in various ways which I shall deal with if there is time. It is an extraordinary moment even to contemplate reducing aid. Happily, that has now been stopped. It is a moment when aid should be increased, even if that could only be a modest increase. For decades our aid programme has been a part of our strategy to invest in the under-developed countries to help them help themselves. Of course the programme is never enough. It never could be, but it has been effective. In the past four years we have maintained it through the extremely difficult period of a world recession, which has hit every country and the Third world hardest of all. Its deprivation has been increased. It has also hit us and the other developed countries and constrained the amount of aid that we can give.

Therefore, from every point of view it has been a central object of international policy to lead the world out of the recession which has brought that hardship and bedevilled relationships. The. economic recovery has been a major objective and various attempts have been made to bring that about. One of the most significant has been the summit of industrialised nations, the latest of which was held in London. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister used the occasion with her characteristic vigour and enthusiasm as chairman to take the most positive line to lead the world out of recession.

Paragraph nine of the London economic declaration of 9 June said: It has therefore been agreed and sub-paragraph (4) said: to maintain and wherever possible increased flows of resources, including official development assistance and assistance through the international financial and development institutions, to the developing countries and particularly to the poorest countries. I do not quite know how today's decision fits in with that. At least the resources are not now falling, but there is nothing about an increase. Three months later, the Commonwealth Finance Ministers' meeting took place in Toronto. The communiqué was quite positive.

Paragraph 12 states: Ministers endorsed the general objective of maintaining and enlarging, wherever possible, the net transfer of resources to developing countries. Paragraph 15 states: Ministers expressed serious disappointment at the continuing sluggishness of aid flows … Ministers urged all donors to make determined efforts to increase aid flows in line with agreed targets". I do not know how all that fits in with what we have heard today. In addition to that and since then we have heard of the famine, and Mrs. Gandhi's murder. I referred to her murder last week, and consider it a very significant and important international event that may have all sorts of repercussions that we cannot, of course, assess. Thus, it is clear that the next year or two will be particularly risky and difficult. We must be very positive and constructive in our response, and willing to give extra support. But the Government's decisions do not reflect that need.

Given the restrictions of time, I turn to UNESCO. My view is that the Government's decision is unwise. It is totally right to bring the maximum pressure to bear, and my right hon. and learned Friend is doing that. I just question whether giving notice now will not be counterproductive. We know that virtually all the high commissioners took a strong line yesterday with my right hon. and learned Friend, and that our European partners take a strong view. As there has been progress, I would have inclined to the view that we should continue in membership and let it be known that, if there is no satisfactory progress next year, we shall contemplate giving notice then. The empty chair policy, or the threat of it, is not a very effective way to proceed. The contemplation of somehow using a subscription to an international organisation to balance the United Kingdom Budget is a grotesque solution to the problem of priorities.

However, I should like to give the Government one bouquet—I come to a matter raised by the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Holland) — over the IDA, as determined efforts have been made to obtain a replenishment that is better than the one proposed.

The second part of the equation concerns the diplomatic service, overseas representation and the overseas services. The problem stems from the drop in the value of the pound and overseas inflation rates. I do not know what the cash cost of that is, but I think that it is somewhere between £5 million and £10 million. We have the same problem this coming year, but as the pound has dropped and will probably be at low levels throughout the year, the cost may well be considerably more. Therefore, to maintain our overseas services at a constant level will require more cash, which has clearly not been allowed for. It has not been said that the Treasury will top that up. Therefore, it is not accurate to say that there is no change. The same factors are bound to affect the BBC, the British Council, VSO, UNCTAD and so on, which all face cuts.

Whether or not the Government like a $1.25 pound, they have no intention of interfering, so the costs are unknown and speculative. To go on from there and to argue that the level of our service overseas and our overseas representation, the workings of the British Council and the BBC should become the accidental consequence or the fortuitous function of the exchange rate is an abdication of responsibility and absolute nonsense. There is a right size and structure for our diplomatic service, the British Council and the BBC, and that must be maintained.

The Treasury must compensate for the fall in the value of the pound and for overseas inflation. In 1982 I felt that the cuts in the Foreign Office had gone too far. Indeed, as soon as I had settled into that office I came to that conclusion. No further cuts were made in my time and in the spring of 1983 I started a process that was going to lead to a recommendation to colleagues to make increases which I would have fought for strenuously. However, I was not there to carry that through and since then further manpower cuts have been announced. I think that I am right to say that a further cut of more than 5 per cent, is required by 1988. That is worse than just short-sighted — it is positively damaging to British interests. The diplomatic service is now being starved to the point of foolhardiness.

There are facts and figures that I could give about the extra work load on the political and commercial side, but I shall skate over them for now. However, if one adds to all that the present state of the world, this is no time to reduce the effort. Rather it is the time to increase it, and that includes the British Council and the BBC.

There are, therefore, two distinct facets to our vital international work. Each stands in its own right and each contributes to British interests. Each should be judged on its merits and then given the resources needed to fulfil its role and carry out the level of activity decided upon.

7.25 pm
Miss Betty Boothroyd (West Bromwich, West)

Given the consistent stand that the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Pym) takes, I would be tempted to vote for him at the next election if he was still my Member of Parliament.

However, I wish to draw attention to two areas of aid, and to do so in detail. One area is the United Kingdom's funding of the United Nations development programme. But I want first to underline some of the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Deakins), who referred to aid for population activities. If World Bank projections are anything to go by, those nations that are classified by the World Bank as developing countries will find that in the next 60 years or so their populations will rise from the present 3.5 billion to 8.5 billion. That is a devastating increase of 133 per cent, in little more than half a century.

In trying to meet such a situation, I see little use in tackling economic problems in development unless the population problem is tackled with equal vigour, because the two are inextricably intertwined. To achieve a slowdown in population growth a number of social inputs are needed. For example, access to health care for the rural and urban poor is necessary if we are to reduce the incentive of parents who desire more children in order to ensure that a few survive. Again, we need to advance the status of women and to provide access for them to education. That is crucial. We already have evidence to show that women in developing countries who have completed primary education have fewer children than those with no education at all. As the education of the mother advances and her awareness increases, the number of children she gives birth to declines.

Therefore, to slow down the pace of population growth is not to take one area of concern in isolation from others. A variety of factors in social development are needed, as well as the provision of the means to limit the number of births. It is the many ingredients working together that provide a powerful combination with which to put a brake on population growth. But the Government have lost ground, because they have failed to build on the momentum generated in the late 1970s. Multilateral funding has been reduced and has not yet been restored to the levels that we achieved in 1979. Much ground has been lost as a result. Even bilateral funding does not look too healthy. Look at the bilateral side of donor aid. Even bilateral funding does not look healthy.

Judging by the long list of countries in the ODA report, many earlier recipients now get no contribution at all to assist with population activities. Four or five countries in that long list have had their allocations increased but the overwhelming number of countries in that list have had this form of investment sharply reduced.

Kenya has the largest population growth rate in the world. A survey by the World Bank shows that the need for population programmes goes unmet in that country. Yet British funding to Kenya for population problems has been reduced from an average of £150 million in the late 1970s to £3 million in recent years.

Although Ethiopia is much in our minds, the emergency in the Sudan is looming large. Last week I received a letter from a friend who is filming there. Soon our television screens will show us the millions of people who exist in abject poverty and are dying of starvation. The population of Sudan is more than 20 million. Nearly half of that 20 million are under the age of 15 years. Its projected growth rate will take its population to the 50 million mark. Yet that country's funding has been reduced to zero.

No serious-minded person believes that policies to stem population growth are a panacea. They cannot replace action to provide advantageous trade terms, stabilise commodity prices or increase food production and so on. But equally, it has to be recognised that the loss of momentum on the population front cannot fail to slow down other forms of development, and the poor in those countries are the major victims of that slow-down.

The Minister has been asked numerous questions tonight. Perhaps he can tell the House his proposals for increasing the percentage of bilateral support for population activities.

Another issue relates to the United Nations and, in particular, to the United Nations development programme. A few weeks ago, an all party group of Members of Parliament met Mr. Brad Morse, the director of the development programme. He happens to be an old friend of mine, but anyone who meets him will agree that his dynamic and dedicated personality is suited to the post. He left us in no doubt that at one time the United Kingdom was high on the list of donors. I am sad to say that that no longer applies. Our contribution has been reduced in recent years. It is now back to the level of 10 years ago. I have news for the director and hon. Members—it is much worse than any of us realised.

In constant price terms the United Kingdom will be contributing £15 million to the United Nations development programme this year. Ten years ago, in 1974, our contribution was £23.5 million. The cut in our contribution is about £10 million and it is a loss to the programme. In 1978, which was the peak year, our contribution to technical co-operation was close to £35 million. A cut of £20 million has been made in that single programme since this Government came to office.

If the Government are serious about their commitment to halt the movement of people from the countryside to overcrowded cities, we must put the story of Dick Whittington into reverse. We must encourage ambitious young people in developing countries to remain in the rural areas. To do that we must provide facilities and improve living conditions. We must improve the infrastucture and help to improve the standard of life. We must invest in rural electrification and irrigation plant and help with new techniques in agriculture and mining. We must expand technical co-operation so that developing countries can become wealth creating and achieve some self-reliance. That cannot be done by denying the means to bring about that reversal.

I understand that the pledge for the UNDP for next year has not yet been made. The question is whether the Government intend to remain feeble in their approach to these urgencies or whether they have the will to restore the British contribution to levels which a former Government were able to maintain.

7.34 pm
Mr. Jim Lester (Broxtowe)

I shall not follow the arguments of the hon. Member for West Bromwich, West (Miss Boothroyd) because in 10 minutes I wish to make a constructive speech. My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Sir P. Blaker), in his elegant way, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-east (Mr. Pym), made the case for many of us on this side of the House. I do not intend to repeat their arguments, but I have a shared sense of disappointment at what has been said from the Government Front Bench.

I am a member of the Select Committee which carefully scrutinises the Foreign Office budger in a dispassionate way. The Committee came to a conclusion that would have avoided the need for this debate and the agony and saved us from a petty cash policy by PESC, which many of us find so devastatingly irritating. I shall find it impossible to support the Government tonight.

I do not want to minimise what has been done for the Ethiopian crisis by the ODA special committee, which has done remarkably well, nor by the rapid use of the £5 million to stem some of the initial problems. However, I want to suggest constructive ways in which so much more can be done to mobilise the genuine feelings of the British people.

The Minister knows already of the value of the non-governmental organisations, such as the Save the Children Fund, War on Want and Oxfam, which have been doing much good work in Ethiopia for some time. The Government believe in increasing support for such organisations, as does the public. From the money raised in constituencies and advertising efforts, we know there is tremendous support and a genuine heartfelt response that goes wider than famine relief.

Under the joint funding scheme, the Government give thousands of pounds for specific projects suggested by those organisations. In 1983, 290 specific projects were funded, 33 per cent, of which were for agriculture, 15 per cent, for health and 18 per cent, for non-formal education schemes. The budget is comparatively small, but it has been expanded this year.

That is only the tip of the iceberg which the Government should encourage and develop. Just over a year ago, with the help of the local BBC station and the local newspaper, over £42,000 was raised in the four east midlands counties to provide 1 million sachets of oral rehydration salts. That was before the starving children were seen on television. Oral rehydration techniques save children's lives. People were told that if they gave 5p, that would buy a sachet and save a life. I am delighted that the 1 million sachets were in place in February this year. According to UNICEF, which distributed them throughout west Sudan, the lives of about 18,000 children were saved.

I use that as an example because I am convinced that there are many similar possibilities for people-to-people assistance. One thinks of blankets made in Ethiopian refugee camps which are of value to the people and can be distributed immediately to those in need. One thinks of water in the wells. Young farmers and people who understand the value of water can contribute to schemes to raise money for wells. One thinks of trees in the Sudan. Those who understand the value of trees could undertake to raise money to plant trees. I think of blackboards. In the Sudan, one can see children writing in the sand. Surely we can provide blackboards so that children can work and learn. Those are examples of what people realise in general terms can be done through a heart-to-heart gift.

I should like the Government to match, pound for pound, all the money raised by the non-governmental organisations and, wherever possible, to encourage specific projects. People will give when they know that the money they are providing will buy something tangible. They are giving at the moment because they feel so desperately upset and sad about starving people, including children, but they will give even more if they know that the money will provide something tangible. I am sure that if we provided the objects for people to buy and the Government matched, pound for pound, the cost of transportation and dispersal in the countries to which they choose to give money, we would have a major impact in the world in terms of our wider constituency. People at every level in our society understand that.

Those of us who have travelled in the Third world are conscious of the humbling scale of the problems. It is difficult for ordinary people to understand the complexities of multilateral agencies, bilateral aid, and all the rest. The problems are immense. Instead of debating petty cash alterations, we should be debating how, with our experience in Europe and the Commonwealth, we can be the catalyst to mobilise the efforts of the world to deal with some of these dreadful problems. Our role is to lead, not to diffuse, public opinion, to develop an awakened conscience in this country and to help those who recognise that we live in one world, that we are all one with another.

7.41 pm
Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

I shall follow the catalytic point made by the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) later, but first I shall thank the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary for the compliment he paid me after my intervention, albeit from a seated position, earlier in the debate. I wish that I could be equally complimentary about the Foreign Secretary, but I have to tell him that the content, delivery and logic of his speech went back to the bad old days 10 years ago when he was the Solicitor-General. The cause about which he spoke today was just as mistaken as his cause was then.

Two main themes, which I wish to bring together, have run through the debate so far — Britain's role in the world and the need to sustain rural subsistence societies. Britain, as the leading and founder member of the British Commonwealth, has inherited an unmatched system of international linkages and scientific institutions that relate to the Commonwealth and are now brought together under the unlikely umbrella of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I refer to the scientific units of the former Ministry for Overseas Development. The Foreign Affairs Committee in the 1982–83 Session looked at those units in report HC 25-I Unfortunately, they were dealt with in a most unscientific way by our Prime Minister. I make no apology for making a strong attack on that right hon. Lady. She, as a scientific person, should have known better. Those units were "Raynered." Sir Derek Rayner and his assistants looked at those important scientific institutions whose expenditure would have been about £14 million a year out of an aid budget of £1 billion.

Those institutions comprised the Tropical Products Institute, the Centre for Overseas Pest Research—both of which have been combined into the Tropical Research Institute—the Land Resources Development Centre, and the Directorate of Overseas Surveys. As it happens, all of those institutions were working in Ethiopia or had had projects there in the recent past. One distinctive feature was the fact that they were called in as consultant bodies and assisted institutions in different parts of the world, both inside and outside the Commonwealth.

The Directorate of Overseas Surveys was concerned with mapping, particularly geological and soil mapping, which is fundamental to most developments of any sort. The Tropical Products Institute is and was concerned with the preservation of food, its efficient and effective storage, its protection from pests and its marketing and distribution. What could be more basic than that when considering rural development and food supply?

The Land Resources Development Centre, situated in Tolworth, was a multi-disciplinary group concerned with surveys of a geological, petrological and hydrological character, which provided the basis for rural development schemes all over the world. The centre had developed an enviable expertise, including the interpretation of satellite pictures which help in this sort of work. Finally, and not least, there is the Centre for Overseas Pest Research about which the Prime Minister should have known but did not. If the Prime Minister had made some observations of that centre and found that there were entomologists, biochemists and biologists on the payroll of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, I can imagine the tantrums that may have ensued on that discovery, particularly if it were found that the centre occupied what were thought to be the relatively expensive premises behind what was Pontings in an old warehouse in Kensington. That might be extravagant, but in fact Kensington is one of the entomological centres of the world. Entymology is the study of beetles, bugs and other pests that eat food and get into human beings' bloodstream. Why is Kensington one of the entomological capitals of the world? That is due to the Victorian virtues of the Prince Consort—virtues that the right hon. Lady does not recognise. She only perpetrates Victorian vice. That is why Kensington was important; yet the Government wanted to move the centre.

The Centre for Overseas Pest Research gave great aid to the International Rice Institute in Manila in dealing with the brown plant hopper. Only that place, due to its combination of meteorological and climatological skills, was able to deal with that pest. The centre is now working on the East African soldier insect, which bores into the roots of plants. If the centre is successful, the success will not be due to the right hon. Lady.

The Government wanted to cut those institutions down and were successful in doing so. The number of people involved in those important scientific institutions has been cut from 561 to 410½. The Directorate of Overseas Surveys has been cut to a greater degree from 328 to 180. The manpower of those vital institutions has been cut by about a third by this Government—all for the sake of between £4 million and £5 million. That is all. I am angry because that action shows an awful lack of common sense. It shows also the way in which the Government have gone about their normal tasks. The institutions were involved in the prevention of famine.

What the Government have done is unbusinesslike, uneconomic, unprofessional, unscientific and uncharitable. That was the theme of the concluding remarks made by the Earl of Stockton last week in another place. He talked of the dreadful, wicked systems which have crept into our lives".—[Official Report, House of Lords, 13 November 1984; Vol. 457, c. 241.] Can one of those dreadful wicked systems be a system that says, "Cut public expenditure if you can and if it is easy to do so, irrespective of the effects"? That is the dreadful, wicked system that our Prime Minister and those who continue to support her—I suspect that is a declining number—are putting in place. The noble Earl spoke also of charity and St. Paul. We know that charity begins at home, but of course it does not end there. This Government do not even practise charity at home. It is, therefore, not surprising that they are incapable of practising it abroad.

7.49 pm
Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)

The leader of the Liberal party and his colleagues should be congratulated on giving us the opportunity for this debate; it comes none too soon. Black Africa is dying. Some 1,000—it may be more—Africans will have died of hunger while we have been talking here. What could be even more serious is the fact that the land is dying—the land upon which the survivors and their dependants must depend if they are to have any kind of life. They may be acts of God—if it is not blasphemous to say that—that cause the drought, erosion and over-population, but we also carry our share of the blame. We abandoned our responsibilities in black Africa far too soon; and although we spent a great deal of money on aid—the totals are large—we were ineffective in controlling how it was spent. A great deal of it was wasted through inefficiency and in other ways.

Our debate has focused to a considerable extent on Ethiopia, where the position is apocalyptic. The famine prevails in the Government administered parts of the country and those controlled by the dissidents. We are right to give all the help we can. I hope that we shall give it to both sides through the voluntary organisations operating from the Sudan and through the airlift in Ethiopia; but the civil war hampers distribution of essential food.

I understand that the Eritrean and Tigrean movements have offered a ceasefire, but that that has not yet received any response from Colonel Mengistu's Government. I urge my right hon. and learned Friend to apply ail the pressure that he can to try to get the Ethiopian Government to agree to the ceasefire, even if only for a limited time. It is obscene that the Ethiopians should be devoting so much effort to adding to the death roll which the famine has already produced.

The spotlight is on Ethiopia but, as many right hon. and hon. Members have siad, many other countries are awaiting the charge of the Four Horsemen of to Apocalypse, in particular, the Sudan and Somalia—two countries with which we have long had historical associations. I do not know whether, even now, we shall be in time to avoid the same kind of tragedy taking place in the Sudan and Somalia as is occurring in Ethiopia. i am not sure that we can. The disasters taking place in Ethiopia at least help us to focus on the disasters that could lie ahead.

One of the difficulties of the debate is that we tend to measure aid in terms of the money supplied—the input—but that is only one standard of the value. What is the money producing? That is tine only way in which we can form a judgment as to whether the Government are doing right or wrong with what they are supplying. We should monitor what the money is producing in welfare for the people.

I confess to having grave doubts about the amount of our aid contribution that goes towards multinational organisations. UNESCO is a caricature. They are not all like that. I entirely support my right hon. and learned Friend in pulling out of UNESCO, although I should like an assurance from him that when 1986 comes the £5 million saved will not be pocketed by the Treasury but will be used for other foreign service purposes—for aid or in other ways.

It is interesting to see—if I have my figures right—that about half our aid goes to multilateral organisations, whereas France gives about one sixth to multilateral organisations and the remainder is on bilateral aid. Our French allies give much more than we do. They spend twice as much on aid as we do. It seems to me, without expert knowledge, that the former French territories, which receive the bulk of tine aid, are among the most stable and prosperous countries in the Third world. I wonder whether we should.not look more carefully at their example.

We are still obsessed with the fear of being called neo-colonialists, but, when people are dying, there is something to be said for concentrating on humanitarian causes and being a bit tough with Governments to ensure that they spend the money that we are supplying in the right way.

It is a paradox, but I believe that the best way to help the Third world is to help ourselves. If we promote Britain's recovery and the recovery of the European Community, we shall provide a market for the goods that the countries of the Third world make and supply. If we became richer, we shall have more money available to spend on suitable and sensible aid projects. Our prosperity is essential to their recovery.

There are many ways of fostering that. We went through them in the days of the colonial empire— preferences, the old sterling area, bulk buying, commodity agreements, and so on. There is not the time tonight to deal with all those matters.

I should like to see some recognition that the European Community, and Britain in particular, has a major part to play in nursing Africa back from the death throes into which it is now sinking.

7.56 pm
Mr. D. E. Thomas (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)

At the very time when the deflationary policies which are part of monetarism and its effects are ravaging the southern countries, we see the same monetarist policies in terms of controlling public expenditure at home reducing the aid budget.

It is important that we should have the figure right. It is clear, if I understood what the Foreign Secretary said, that we are talking about a cut in real terms. If we are talking about a level of aid which increases at 3 per cent. while the inflation rate is 5 per cent., that is a reduction of 2 per cent. That is my simple economics. I am sure that if the Foreign Secretary were listening, he would confirm that.

Our level of aid, in terms of proportion of GNP, is the lowest that we have ever seen. We can compare it with the high peak of 0.52 per cent. achieved in 1979. We can also compare the 1982 figure for raw materials from the southern countries, which was the lowest for 50 years. That is the equation with which we must work. We have seen not just a reduction in the amount of aid but a shift in its nature.

In the 1970s there was a growth in multilateral aid through international institutions such as the World Bank and, to a lesser extent, UNESCO. This Government and the American Government are now reversing the trend—underfunding aid, withdrawing from the multinational agencies and redirecting ODA resources into bilateral aid.

That is a shift away from the opportunity for southern countries as a group to have a greater say in the way in which aid is spent. That is part of the issue that we should be considering tonight. We are talking not just about aid, but about the way in which those countries that receive resources control them and can influence the world macro-economic trends which affect them.

In the reply that I received from the Minister on 15 November about the criteria for aid allocation, it was clear that he was, in reality, talking about an aid programme to assist the export of British goods and services and to improve the procurement of British goods. Therefore, the bilateral aid programmes are not aid programmes; they are investment programmes. When Conservative Members try to include the commercial input as part of the aid programme in GNP terms by throwing in the commercial investment of companies, clearly they fail to understand the reality of economic aid.

If we consider the position since 1979, there has been a move from aid to aid-trade provisions. That is an example of how a bilateral programme is not being used to enhance the position of the poorest countries. That is why we see a shift of aid from rural programmes into aid trade provisions which are, in reality, commercial transactions with the poorest countries.

It is important, when looking at the pattern of our bilateral aid programmes, to identify our targets precisely. I was appalled to find that our bilateral aid to Turkey is £62 million. Turkey is, of course, one of our great NATO allies—with about 6,000 political prisoners. Our aid to Ethiopia is about one sixth of that amount.

There have been continual allegations about the withholding of aid from Ethiopia on ideological grounds. The Government have not responded to the criticisms made, both outside and inside this House, by those who are very concerned about the issues. From a letter that I received from the Prime Minister, and from Ministers' responses—they do not, however, appear to be listening—it is clear that the Government have been trying to cover up the figures.

The Prime Minister told me that in 1982 the United Kingdom provided £5.2 million of food aid to Ethiopia. She told me that in 1983 our bilateral food aid to Ethiopia consisted of 19,000 tonnes of cereals. She omitted to mention that the aid had dropped, in monetary value, to £3.4 million in that year. Not only was the Prime Minister giving misleading figures to me and to the House; but earlier she had claimed credit for achievements of the previous Labour Adminstration as though they were her own. She said that after the change of Government in 1979, aid to Ethiopia averaged over £2 million a year, and that in 1982 it rose to £5.6 million, of which £5.2 million was in the form of food aid. She omitted to mention that, according to the Government's own figures, aid to Ethiopia fell in 1980 to £1.5 million, and in 1981 to £166,000. When I saw the figure in Official Report I thought that it was an error.

It is essential to repeat in this House that it is quite clear to those of us who have been concerned about the political drift of the Government's aid programme and its political intentions that there has indeed been a deliberate attempt not to provide for Ethiopia the level of aid that should have been provided by the Government from the late 1970s onward. The fact that the Government are now arranging a ministerial visit and trying to have a higher profile in response to public concern must not cover up the political intent of the Government in not maintaining their aid programme at a consistent level. The Minister may want to respond to that point at the end of the debate.

The Government's political attitude is again reflected in our relationship with international organisations, and in particular in our threatened withdrawal from UNESCO. The Government are not concerned about the inefficiency of UNESCO. They want to follow the United States line. UNESCO is a multilateral agency in which southern countries have some power. The free flow of information internationally is an issue that this House should take seriously, and it has not done so. It should take seriously the critique that has been mounted over the years of the press agencies of the West and their coverage of activities in the southern countries.

Those who have been looking at the media coverage in Britain of our home affairs in recent weeks can surely understand what it means to Third world countries to be continually stereotyped in the international media. There are serious arguments within UNESCO about the role of the media in the international flow of information. We should be dealing with those arguments within UNESCO, not threatening to withdraw because the United States wants to do so.

We have to link the present economic crisis and deflationary policies with what the Government are doing in regard to their own aid programme. We must support international agencies, we must direct specific aid to areas of crisis, but we must never fail to realise the structural nature of international poverty. We need to tackle the debt crisis and we need to spend far more time in this House considering ways of genuine international collaboration. We should be talking about genuine internationalism rather than the kind of narrow parochialism that this House often displays in international affairs.

8.5 pm

Mr. Colin Moynihan (Lewisham, East)

It is much to be regretted that we face a day when once again we are moving away from the United Kingdom goal — the declared intent of both major parties—to move towards the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent. of GDP for aid to the Third world. Our contribution was at 0.35 per cent., it slipped to 0.34 per cent. and is now at 0.33 per cent. of today's figures. That is a safe fact of life and is to be regretted on both sides of the House.

It is also a sad day when the cash figure for the net aid programme for the next financial year is, as stated in the public expenditure White Paper, unchanged, without reflecting the substantial public and political developments and reactions. That figure is £1,130 million. Hon. Members should bear in mind that that represents a 3 per cent. cash increase on the present figure of £1,099 million but—that seems to be the in word of the day—after allowing for inflation it is effectively a 2 per cent. cut in real terms, before taking into account the relative decline of sterling against foreign currencies, particularly as the dollar is a key currency for many of our multilateral programmes.

With regard to Ethiopia, hon. Members should note that food aid can make a temporary disaster permanent. It is vital to provide food aid but it is equally important to provide a longer term developmental package to develop the indigenous industries, and to use multilateral schemes to make sure that that aid is effective in the long run. That means encouraging Governments to face up to price structures which are reasonable to farmers in the countries concerned, and to look at infrastructure projects such as road building and regional development. It is essential that the emergency aid should be seen by those concerned as part of a longer term development strategy to assist broad areas of sub-Saharan Africa.

I welcome the Government's decision concerning UNESCO. The key criterion of our aid policy must be effectiveness — to ensure that as much aid as possible goes to those in need. I think that it was wise of the Government to put before UNESCO conditions, suggestions and recommendations for improvement as long ago as the spring of this year, giving UNESCO 20 months in which to study and implement the proposals. But those proposals should be tied to a decision to leave UNESCO by the end of next year if the proposals are not put into practice. I hope that the Government will not stop there, because we have an important opportunity to investigate all multilateral agencies to which we subscribe. we must make certain that those to which we donate—the Government have added to the list the African development fund — are working effectively through their multilateral aid programmes.

I should like to take this opportunity to try to break down a distinction which has been created by several right hon. and hon. Members between humanitarian and concessionary aid. It is a false distinction. If in talking of humanitarian aid the word "emergency" is implied, why not say so? There are many concessionary aid projects where a factory may be built, a nucleus estate developed and infrastructural and outgoer schemes implemented, followed by significant humanitarian inputs such as hospital schemes, facilities for housing and general projects with a humanitarian bias which are attached to what otherwise we would term concessionary schemes. It is wrong to make a distinction between humanitarian aid and concessionary aid such as aid and trade provision, implicitly claiming they do provide humanitarian benefits. There are substantial humanitarian benefits on that side of the aid programme.

The House will recall that in May £4 million was agreed to be added to the British Council's budget for 1984–85. That sum represented the rising costs that had been added to the expenditure survey figures for the current year together with the rent increase for the Spring garden premises for a further 10 years at a fixed sum following 10 years of a fixed and low rent.

The council, in common with many other bodies involved in our aid budget, has experienced overseas inflation costs. These costs have amounted to £2.3 million for the council in the current year net of exchange adjustments but that sum has not been added to the council's public expenditure survey figures for 1985–86 in the autumn statement of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

It must be recognised that increased costs overseas for a body such as the British Council that are granted in one year must be carried forward into the next year. That is vital. If that does not happen, there will be another real cut to the programme. I am a keen supporter of the council's work and the fact that increased costs have not been added to its budget may mean reduced expenditure on scholarships, academic links and visits by specialists to and from Britain. That is to be deeply regretted, especially after a period when the council has suffered substantial cuts and has become a lean and efficient organisation.

I share the view of a number of hon. Members that we are talking no longer of cutting into the fat of an overweight operation. Many parts of the budget are already lean and efficient. The additional cuts—some of them are paltry but some are more substantial—will be painful to all the recipients of the FCO Vote at the end of the day.

Stop-go policies for diplomatic representation overseas do nothing to promote British interests abroad, be they commercial or diplomatic. The announcement that 10 further posts are to be closed must be viewed with great regret by hon. Members on both sides of the House. The closure of Stuttgart was a bad move. It is important to have commercial representation in that city. Which other commercial cities will be among the 10 closures that are to take place? British influence abroad requires a long-term presence, the nurturing of contacts, experience and the presence on the spot of our representatives. I am concerned about the effect of another cut to our diplomatic Vote, which is so important in developing British interests overseas.

Politics is about priorities. A strong diplomatic representation overseas to promote Britain's role in the world is an important priority. A strong aid programme to alleviate hunger and encourage development is an important priority. A trusted and respected BBC external service which reaches the hearts and minds of many who regard it as a lifeline of political credibility and external reality coming over the airwaves, is an important priority. A flourishing British Council that promotes Britain's educational, technical and cultural interests is a priority. I regret that today we are unable to sustain the real value of all these budgets.

8.14 pm
Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West)

The hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moynihan) was at his best when he drew to the attention of the Minister for Overseas Development the plain and undeniable fact that the figures that have been presented to us do not represent an increase in real terms in our overseas aid. I was pleased that the hon. Gentleman advanced that argument. I do not agree with everything else that he said, especially on UNESCO.

Hon. Members will recall that during business questions this afternoon I asked the Leader of the House whether a statement would be made on UNESCO by the Foreign Secretary during this debate. The Leader of the House replied by quoting Mr. Asquith and said, "Wait and see." I have waited and I have seen, and in common with most hon. Members I do not like what I have seen. We are still waiting for a reasonable explanation of the decision on UNESCO.

The Foreign Secretary failed to give this House a clear exposition of the Government's thinking. If we are giving UNESCO 12 months' notice, and if we are doing so on the flimsy evidence available to us, we are failing to stand up to American pressure. Against that background it is not likely that we shall say in 12 months' time that we shall remain a member of UNESCO. It is more likely that we shall respond to American pressures and pull out, despite the overwhelming weight of opinion, which has been echoed by a former Prime Minister and a former Foreign Secretary. Their opinions are shared by Commonwealth countries, by western European countries and by almost every country apart from the United States. Other countries share our view that UNESCO has a contribution to make in a democratic setting, which we cherish and which we are encouraging other countries to endorse. It is profoundly wrong to pull out of an organisation because there are members of it who do not agree with us.

The Minister for Overseas Development might be interested in informing his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and his right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary that they will be disappointed if they think that the Reagan Administration will warmly welcome their compliance. They will be making a great mistake if they take that view. During the summer recess I was at a meeting that took place at the Pentagon. I was in the company of some Conservative Members and some of my hon. Friends. We were told bluntly that the Pentagon was highly critical of the comments of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary following the invasion of Grenada. The sentiments that we heard expressed were not those that we expected from an ally to which we are responding by giving notice that we are withdrawing from UNESCO. The United States Administration should see us as an ally but as a nation that is capable of expressing its own opinion and not necessarily responding to its every whim, which in fact we are doing with our decision on UNESCO. There should be a full debate on the UNESCO decision and I hope that it will take place.

The debate was to be about overseas development. Given the views of the British people, it seems reasonable that the House should consider the problems of overseas aid. It is a subject on which all hon. Members have received many letters. The hon. Member for Stroud (Sir A. Kershaw) struck a note that was somewhat different from that of his right hon. and hon. Friends. He said that there was no real reduction in overseas aid and that we must consider the issue in terms of foreign policy. He argued that Britain cannot be blamed for the deforestation in Ethiopia and the mismanagement which, I concede, takes place in that country.

The British people are not interested in that sort of argument. We realise that people are suffering, starving and dying. I received a letter from Turnbull high school, Bishopbriggs, which was typical of many others that I received. The young people who wrote to me made a comment which I thought was appropriate. They argued that we should not be penalising hungry people because of the regime that happens to be in control of Ethiopia. They added that some Ethiopian people would be unable to tell the difference between Karl Marx and Groucho Marx. That was fair comment. The problem of world poverty is far too serious to allow us to assume that every decision that we take should be based on how the member states will vote in the United Nations.

The imagination of the British people has rightly been captured and they expect a better response from the Government than today's statement. The Guardian today carried the headline: Overseas aid saved by Howe dodge". That is an absolutely correct description of a profoundly cynical exercise. It is not sufficient merely to maintain the present inadequate overseas aid commitment at the expense of other important functions of the Foreign Office—from the British Council to the BBC foreign service and the diplomatic service. I am sorry that the Foreign Secretary is not present. It would have been far better if he had simply told the Chancellor that the Foreign Office could not meet the figures demanded. The Minister said in response to the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) that the money for Ethiopia was to be found from the contingency fund. He was less polite when I put the same point in the debate on the Queen's Speech. If that is so, it is time that we re-examined the contingency fund because it cannot be big enough. No one was surprised about Ethiopia. The crisis was predicted by Members on both sides. It is nonsense for Ministers to say that they were taken by surprise. The British public simply do not believe that.

The former Prime Minister referred to the Brandt report. It is a poor reflection on our Government and others that the Brandt commission had to produce a second report, "Common Crisis", because its original recommendations had not been taken seriously, by our Government and others. I end by quoting the words of Willy Brandt in his introduction to that report. He said: We too often forget that even today the depth of human suffering is immense. Every two seconds of this year a child will die of hunger or disease. And no statistic can express what it is to see even one child die … 'to see the uncomprehending panic in eyes which are still the clear and lucid eyes of a child' … A new century nears, and with it the prospect of a new civilisation. Could we not begin to lay the basis for that new community with reasonable relations among all people and nations, and to build a world in which sharing, justice, freedom, and peace might prevail? I regret to say that on the basis of the Government's statement today we are still a million miles from that objective.

8.23 pm
Mr. Reg Prentice (Daventry)

Many of us entered the Chamber today in the hope of hearing from the Government a statement representing a real shift from the position taken by the Chancellor in his public expenditure statement last week. We have been profoundly disappointed. In assessing what has happened, I rely upon the analysis made by many of my right hon. and hon. Friends, especially my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Sir P. Blaker). If we have got it wrong, perhaps the Minister will tell us how we have got it wrong. I shall simply state the position as it appears to me at this moment.

The figures for Foreign and Commonwealth Office expenditure next year, including the aid programme, will be higher in cash terms than this year and will represent an increase in terms of the expected rate of domestic inflation. They will not, however, contain an element for the higher rate of inflation overseas and they will not contain an adjustment for differential exchange rates. The real value of the aid programme and of the other FCO programmes will thus be cut.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary spoke earlier of two developments. The first was a series of specific, niggling cuts affecting the BBC overseas service, the British Council and other important services. The other was a more generalised cut in the real value of the aid programme. This was not specified. Perhaps it could not be specified at this stage. Certainly it need not be specified. It means, however, that the already inadequate programme will be even more inadequate in a year's time. I shall be delighted to hear from the Minister if I have made a mistake, but that seems to be the picture given by the Secretary of State.

It may be argued that allowances have never been made for overseas inflation. There are two replies to that. First, the need to do so has never been more urgent. Secondly, the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs has done a great deal of work on this and provided a techinique for Ministers to use. It would be of some comfort if my right hon. Friend could at least say that those proposals will be carefully considered and might lead to some adjustment. I should certainly be very glad to hear that. At the moment, however, we face an effective cut.

That reflects very badly on the way in which the Government carry out the public expenditure exercise. That applies not just to this Government but to any Government. As a Labour Minister, I faced the same situation. At least once a year—perhaps more often—there is a scramble, with all the paraphernalia of the star chamber, special Cabinet meetings, and so forth. The spotlight, perhaps necessarily because of lack of time, is on those programmes about which the spending Minister is making the most fuss. There is neither the time nor, perhaps, the inclination for a real analysis of the value of the various programmes or for a proper assessment of priorities. The Government and the House must tackle that general problem urgently and seriously.

I do not quarrel with the Chancellor's overall strategy or with the Foreign Secretary's comments about the need for discipline in public expenditure, but I believe that the aid programme is a very special case. I have been saying that in the House for well over 20 years, but the same arguments have to be made time and again. Basically, there are four arguments, and they are largely the same as they have been for years. Indeed, we may still be making them in 10 years time. Those arguments must be constantly recycled and re-examined.

The first argument—this argument, indeed, would stand alone—is that there is a moral compulsion on people living in the most affluent one third of the world to assist those living in the poorest one third of the world. It is important to try to assess what that duty is. We cannot feed these people all the time, although we can provide aid in special emergencies, such as the crisis in Ethiopia. We cannot do the development for them—basically, that is up to them—but we can help them to help themselves. We can put a small part of our capital and technical skills alongside theirs to enable their development plans to work more effectively.

As for how much we should do, I believe that the target of 0.7 per cent. of GNP, which was fixed by the United Nations General Assembly 15 years ago, is the bare minimum. It was fixed at that modest level so as not to have too much impact on the selfishness of taxpayers in the affluent countries, and I find it deeply embarrassing that this country is now achieving less than half that figure.

There are many other ways of helping. Trade may be more important. Private investment may be just as important. The quality of the aid programme may be more important than its quantity. Nevertheless, quantity is the clearest single test of our commitment to helping those people to help themselves. We are not meeting that test and we shall slip even further from it next year. In my view, that is a disgrace.

The second main set of reasons is connected with economic self-interest and can be expressed in the word "interdependence". I echo what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Pym), when he reminded us of the communiqué of the London economic summit a few months ago. The seven leading industrial countries of the West, together with the European Community, said in that communiqué that the programmes of development assistance should be at least maintained and, if possible, increased in the period ahead. If ours drops in value, we will be letting down our partners in the affluent Western world as well as people in the developing world.

The third set of reasons is connected with our political stance. This is part of the battle for ideas between the free countries and the Communist countries. We provide aid on a bigger and better scale than the Communists. Inadequate as our efforts may be, theirs are abysmal. The gap must not be allowed to narrow. There is no reason why we should not derive the maximum advantage from the fact that we are helping people to help themselves and at the same time helping to win the battle of ideas—freedom and free enterprise against totalitarianism. That message should be better understood in President Reagan's While House.

Finally, this is the worst possible time for a reduction in the aid programme. It is a question of trust and understanding between Her Majesty's Government and the British people. Thousands of people in this country are deeply shocked by what is happening in Ethiopia. They have been sending donations and organising sponsored events. In villages in my constituency, special action groups have been formed by people who have never done such things before. This is not the moment to cancel out the totality of their efforts several times over by a stroke of a Treasury pen.

People understand that relief must carry on into development. I have spoken to three village Conservative branches on this matter in the past 10 days and found that people understand that development is the real answer. They urge me to resist—as I am resisting—any cut in our aid programme.

I hope that the discussion that is emerging in our country will continue. Two countries in western Europe — Sweden and the Netherlands — have engaged in continuing constructive internal debates on these matters for many years. Their aid programmes are bigger than the average. I hope that there will be such a debate in this country leading to a similar result.

8.33 pm
Mr. Mark Fisher (Stoke on Trent, Central)

As a former Minister of Overseas Development, the right hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Prentice) speaks with authority when he adds his voice to the almost unanimous criticism by hon. Members of the Foreign Secretary's speech.

This debate is overshadowed by the thought of the people starving and dying in Ethiopia. I doubt whether the debate would have taken place but for the crisis there and the television coverage of it. I pay tribute to the Liberal party for choosing this subject for debate on an Opposition day.

The Government have responded to the crisis, as the Foreign Secretary said. I welcome the £5 million in aid that has been announced, the 6,500 tonnes of grain, and the Minister's decision — recently announced — to visit Ethiopia next week. However, many people who have written to me and to other hon. Members fear that the Government are doing too little and too late. The Foreign Secretary addressed that criticism in his speech, but he failed to convince me and I suspect that he failed to convince many other hon. Members.

Is it not a fact that the Ethiopian Government first approached Her Majesty's Government formally for aid in 1983? I believe that it is, because the Minister for Overseas Development himself gave me a written answer to that effect a few weeks ago. Is it not also a fact that our aid to Ethiopia this year, apart from the allocation of EEC aid, has amounted to the princely sum of £300,000 of food and medical supplies and £70,000 of transport aid? I believe that that is true too, because the Minister told me so in another parliamentary answer. I believe that the House and the country were looking for a far more urgent and positive lead from the Foreign Secretary and the Government.

As hon. Members on both sides have said, the Foreign Secretary's speech was wholly inadequate. The debate gave him an opportunity — in fact required him — to survey the whole globe and to evaluate Britain's interests, responsibilities and contribution. Instead, we listened to the Foreign Secretary myopically stumbling around in an undergrowth of irrelevant detail, quite unable to see the farther horizon of famine and deprivation in the world. In one especially demeaning and irrelevant passage, the right hon. and learned Gentleman fidgeted around with information about an increase in the price of entry certificates. What on earth was he doing? He should have been addressing the real problems.

The other details were even more depressing because they were far more substantial. There was the news about UNESCO, the cut in the British Council, and the cut in the world service of the BBC. Those announcements may have sounded the death knell of British influence in the world. Surely that is not the Government's intention. It is certainly not what the House or the country wants.

There was another and even more crucial announcement. If I understood the figures correctly—my mental arithmetic may not be as good as that of some other hon. Members—there is to be, in effect, a 2 per cent. cut in our aid budget in real terms. The speech will have to be read very carefully. It will certainly be read carefully in the underdeveloped countries, as an indication of the British contribution and of Britain's priorities. I hope that people will read the report of the whole debate as well, because I believe that it will forcefully represent the views of the House and the people of this country. In their letters to hon. Members, the British people are showing a far more energetic and generous response to the problems of Ethiopia than the Government are.

The debate has also, rightly, embraced the longer-term problems. As the right hon. Member for Daventry said, there is a question of political will in connection with the United Nations' 0.7 per cent. target. It is a disgrace that we have never reached that target. No hon. Member can be proud of the fact that we now contribute only half that amount. Of course we could do more. Nine other OECD countries contribute a higher percentage than we do. Smaller countries and poorer countries, such as the Netherlands and Norway, do more. We cannot be proud of our record.

There is also the question of the effectiveness of our aid. I believe that the debate has severely blurred the distinction in terms of effectiveness and in financial terms between bilateral project aid and food and humanitarian aid. We could publish our aid figures in net rather than gross financial terms. We could show the receipts which are connected with project aid agreements — receipts from firms for equipment, staffing, salaries, materials and technical expertise. Those receipts could be netted off against our gross aid and then the real net financial effect of our country's aid programme would be seen to be very different. That might help to concentrate the minds of hon. Members and of the British people on the net financial benefit or loss to this country of our aid programme. That was the altruistic aim behind the 1974 United Nations resolution.

What are the immediate steps that we could take to improve our approach to aid? We could support the World Bank's initiative in September this year for an emergency programme in Africa. I hope that the Minister will reassure us that the $200 million will be devoted to that purpose now that it cannot be allocated for its original purpose under the International Development Association's programme. The Foreign Secretary could encourage greater co-ordination of aid programmes and therefore greater efficiency. Most crucially, he could be encouraging the Government to negotiate immediately and effectively within the EEC to enable food surpluses to be released more swiftly and to be directed more accurately and flexibly. Our correspondents have pressed for that. Much aid goes to countries where it undercuts the price of locally produced food. It distorts local markets and acts as a disincentive to local production and investment. We could scrutinise our aid. Although 63 per cent. of our aid goes to the 50 poorest countries — we have a good record in that respect — is the Minister convinced that the aid gets to the poorest people in those poorest countries? I doubt whether any hon. Member could say that it does. Such scrutiny would be supported by most hon. Members and it would ensure much better use of available resources.

As the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) and others have said, the debate is about our national interest, complex choices, political issues and priorities. Far more than that, however, it is about the fact that in spite of our producing vast surpluses, human beings in other continents are starving. The debate is about life and death. That cannot be said of many of our debates. It is a chilling responsibility for the Government which we cannot ignore. From his actions and sincerity I am sure that the Minister understands that. It is also obvious that those who have spoken today understand it. However, from their actions and priorities and from the Foreign Secretary's speech today. there is grave doubt about whether he and the Prime Minister understand it.

The British people have warmer hearts than the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary. They have responded, especially to Ethiopia, with characteristic and magnificent generosity. They expect the Government to match their generosity and to translate it into political action. They expect the Government to rise to the challenge of Ethiopia and other countries where people are dying. In spite of its fine though rather complacent words, the Government amendment fails dismally to meet that challenge. I hope that the House will support the Liberal motion, stand against the Government and, with constituents who have written to us, reject the Government amendment. If the House does that, it will have made a gesture and have put down a marker on behalf of people who desperately need our assistance.

8.42 pm
Mr. Bowen Wells (Hertford and Stortford)

I rise in anger and sorrow. What we have heard from my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary is short-sighted, politically inept, unnecessary, meaningless in total public expenditure terms and mindless in its pursuit of a budgetary target. It undermines the work that my right hon. and learned Friend and my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development have done since they came to office. It undermines the Government's good record in overseas matters. Even if our overseas development programme is not as large as many of us would like, it is effective and has helped and continues to help many people throughout the world. The Government have undermined their good name and let down the British people by the manner in which they have conducted the debate.

I must balance that statement unless I am to be treated as some kind of nut case who favours aid and ever more aid. Much of the work that has been and is being done is excellent. I wholeheartedly disagree with what the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) said about the Government's record on Ethiopia. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development imm ediately sought ways in which to assist Ethiopia to prepare for the famine as soon as it was clear, two years ago, that famine would come. Bearing in mind the nature of the Government in Ethiopia, the only means by which he could use the overseas development budget was through non-governmental organisations such as Oxfam, Save the Children Fund and the Red Cross. The Government doubled the amount of money available to such organisations and relied on them to get aid to the very people the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central, talked about—the poorest people in the poorest areas.

We have to work in the context of the country concerned and the Government that rule it. We are not a colonial power and we cannot simply say, "You must do development work in this way." The Ethiopian Government's policy involves large state farms producing crops for export. That Government have carried on a vicious civil war against many of their people, especially in the drought-affected areas of Tigré and Eritrea. The Government wanted to stop secessionist movements in those areas and have used despicable tactics to that end.

The drought has not been rainless. As the Foreign Affairs Select Committee heard last night, there are flash floods. What must be done and what local farmers know how to do is to conserve such water as there is by using small earth dams. Such dams increase agricultural production dramatically. If there is a war, the dams are broken by the passage of troops and vehicles and by the fighting. That has happened and the Ethiopian Government bear a heavy responsibility for that. We can only try to do something about it, even though the Ethiopian Government might oppose our efforts.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) said, the Ethiopian Government have not yet declared an amnesty to get food which British people, the EC, America and latterly the Soviet Union have sent. The Soviet Union has sent only small amounts of aid and it has supported the Ethiopian Government's iniquitous policies. We have a good record. As I understand it, the Government propose to maintain the aid budget in line with the autumn statement and the White Paper. As has been said, that means a cut if the budget does not compensate for exchange rate variations and rising costs because of overseas inflation. In their reply to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, in which it was suggested that we establish an equalisation fund, the Government said that instead of establishing such a fund they would bring forward in the spring Supplementary Estimates, sums to compensate the Foreign Affairs budget and the ODA budget for risen costs.

Neither my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary nor my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development has said whether that remains the case. If it does, the cuts are a matter on which my right hon. and learned Friend should be congratulated. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor has said that some of the risen costs in the diplomatic budget must be met but that he will leave the ODA budget alone and let it increase by the amount of its overseas risen costs. If that is so, far from condemning, we should be congratulating my right hon. and learned Friend as this would be the first time that any Government had compensated any Vote for overseas risen. costs. I hope that we shall have a reply so that the House can know what we are talking about. My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary has left the House in complete bewilderment about what he is talking about, and that cannot be the proper way in which to present a case.

We live in an interdependent world. We need our Foreign Office posts overseas principally to present our position on major political items such as peace and defence. They should also be concerned with commerce and its promotion. Our economy will not expand unless we export more. That is the nature of Britain. We must export, not only to expand the economy but to enable us to provide overseas development in greater quantities. It is counter-productive and short-sighted to cut posts overseas in the context of expanding our economy in real terms.

It is also counter-productive to silence our voice through the BBC external service. It is equally counter-productive to silence the promotion of our cultural heritage and the English language through the British Council. That will have a damaging effect on the provision of overseas student places in this country, which the British Council principally administers.

Interdependence means that overseas countries must have the means by which they can afford to buy goods and services from this country. To do that we must provide the infrastructure of a proper diplomatic service with commercial offices in every area. We must also provide the pump-priming finance to ensure the development that will produce an expansion of world trade as well as the abolition of poverty of the kind in Ethiopia which so disgraces our world.

8.51 pm
Mr. Alan Howarth (Stratford-on-Avon)

I should like to make a limited but practical suggestion which I believe will find favour on both sides of the House. We all want to see the maximum possible proportion of money available from the Foreign Office budget channelled towards providing help for people who are starving and in desperate need. At the same time, we do not want cuts which are detrimental to other valuable activities funded from the Foreign Office budget.

A possibility is available of making a worthwhile switch of funding of up to £20 million—a significant sum — within the overall Foreign Office budget in a manner which should be acceptable to us all. I heard what my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary said about the BBC's external services capital programme, I believe that he has missed a windfall opportunity that was under his nose.

My suggestion is that my right hon. and learned Friend should abandon the current proposals by the BBC and Foreign Office to build a BBC external services transmitter at Bearley on the edge of Stratford-on-Avon. They would thereby release £19,850,000, a considerable proportion of which could over the next 18 months be added to the sums otherwise available for famine relief and aid. I hope that the House will accept that I am not in an opportunistic way seeking to make a point on behalf of my constituents. The issues raised by Bearley are not just of local significance; they present an important and practical opportunity in the context of the aid budget.

If the Government follow my suggestion, there will be no detriment to the existing external service broadcasting schedule. I am a strong supporter of the concept of external service broadcasting and very much admire the integrity and quality of the broadcasts made. I also want the audibility improvement programme to go ahead, but only on a properly considered and sensible basis. I shall not take up the time of the House by elaborating the reasons why the proposal to use the Bearley site so ill-judged, because I explained them in an adjournment debate on 18 July.

I shall only say that there has been a catalogue of confusion, incompetence and misrepresentation by some BBC staff who have been responsible for finding a site and advising the director general on Bearley. The formidable weight of technical evidence is that radio frequency interference from this transmitter would have a devastating effect on homes and business. The Royal Shakespeare theatre has stated in plain terms that if the transmitter is built at Bearley it will have to close. A total of 163 Members from all parties have supported an early-day motion urging the Secretary of State not to permit the transmitter to be built.

I ask the House to agree that, rather than spend £20 million in the next year or 18 months on wreaking havoc in Warwickshire, it would be better to spend it in a special reallocation to help starving people in Ethiopia and sub-Saharan Africa in their current crisis. I hope that the BBC and the Foreign Office will now reconsider their position. They should abandon the Bearley application and either look for another site or develop plans to use satellite technology.

Meanwhile, in the fiscal year 1985–86, a substantial part of that £20 million earmarked for Bearley should instead go to aid. That would be a decent and prudent course. I very much hope that it will commend itself to all parties and to my right hon. and learned Friend.

8.56 pm
Mr. Richard Page (Hertford, South-West)

In the short time at my disposal I wish to say that we should look at development aid not through the rose-tinted spectacles of those who can only recognise volumes of money but in the context of value for money. But—and this is a but in another direction—we would do well to regard parts of our overseas aid budget as the valuable seedcorn that benefits the donor and recipient countries.

Before developing that point, I wish to address myself to the question of our embassies and consulates throughout the world, because I believe in helping individuals who export from the United Kingdom. We must reappraise the role of our embassies and consulates and encourage trade organisations, chambers of commerce and trade and exporting countries to develop closer links. In this regard, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Foreign Office can play an important role.

I am pleased to hear that only yesterday a further step was taken in that direction, when a trade association and some business men held a meeting at the Department of Trade and Industry to explore the opportunities for exporting to east Africa.

The help to our exporters from our embassies has improved dramatically during the past 10 years. However, we should find out how the volume of that support to the commercial sector compares with that from other countries, and how it stands as a ratio of the total budget. Do any embassy evaluations take place year by year of their commercial impact on the area or country in which they operate? Are they given targets to achieve? Perhaps we should examine how Germany operates its commercial sections, how it appoints its commercial attachés and how they operate.

We need to assess the value of overseas aid, not only for ourselves but for the countries receiving it. We must examine the entire policy, not with a soft, but with a hard-nosed approached. We should ask why other countries—there are a few exceptions—are either increasing or holding level their overseas aid, which is usually tied more closely to a much higher ratio of bilateral to multilateral aid compared with ours. The ratio in France is 6:1 whereas ours is 1:1. Yet as we reduce our aid and other countries increase it, we are getting back 75 per cent. of our bilateral aid out of the £604 million that we gave in 1983. On the aid and trade provisions of £32.7 million, we achieved a further £98 million worth of extra business expended on British goods and services. We also did well from multilateral aid. It is estimated that last year British goods and services equivalent to 120 per cent. of the £477 million which were expended came back in purchases by the agencies concerned.

These figures raise further questions. Do companies in other countries produce even better returns? Although I appreciate that that could be regarded as commercially confidential, we need the information about additionality to assess the effectiveness of our overseas aid. I hope that the survey commissioned by the Overseas Development Agency with St. Andrew's university will soon be available so that we can assess the effectiveness of our aid.

Our aid is strongly associated with the poorest countries. On that we should be congratulated. I am not saying that we should cut it, but I ask whether there is a value in providing aid to the more rapidly expanding sections, such as the far east, where other industrialised countries seem to concentrate. My right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) made that point most effectively.

That in turn prompts the question: why do other countries concentrate in that area? Are they more philanthropic? Do they care more? Or do they get a better return for their country by reducing unemployment through carrying out a complex calculation in computing the overall benefit to their country, known now as calculating the social cost?

Finally, I turn to the question of the aid and trade provision. As I mentioned, about £32 million worth of aid generated a further £98 million worth of orders for companies in this country. I believe that that ratio is worth encouraging. However, the aid and trade provision is non-elastic in both time and country. Aid allocated in one year cannot be carried over to the next and aid allocated to a country for a year or for a project that is unspent cannot be re-allocated. With that type of ratio of return I wonder whether some flexibility could not be wisely built into that area.

The debate shows that we care. I believe that my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary made a strong case for our work in the disadvantaged parts of the world. We can be proud of what we do and we should not knock ourselves. However, we can combine practicality and concern for the disadvantaged. It could be that from all of this we might provide employment in this country at a far lower cost by a resultant additionality, which will bring benefits to this country, by establishing new markets as well as helping other nations in the emerging world.

9.4 pm

Mr. Richard Ottaway (Nottingham, North)

The hon. Members for Walthamstow (Mr. Deakins) and for West Bromwich, West (Miss Boothroyd) mentioned population, and I associate myself with their remarks on that subject. The latter part of the 20th century stands out in history as a period of remarkable population growth. In the early part of the century, growth was at the then rapid rate of 1 per cent.; since then it has accelerated to twice that rate, and between 1950 and today the world's population nearly doubled from 2.5 billion to almost 4.8 billion.

That explosion is illustrated by two facts. The world's population is growing at the rate of 200,000 babies a day, which is equivalent to the population of a town the size of Southampton each day, or of a city the size of Birmingham each week. The highest growth is in Africa, where a country such as Ethiopia doubles its population every 27 years, and Kenya doubles its population every 17 years. A third of the world's population is aged under 15, and the percentage is increasing. Tomorrow's parents have already been born.

The increase in the world's population has dropped in recent years from 2.4 per cent. to 2 per cent., but so big is the explosion that numbers are still increasing in absolute terms. The percentage reduction is almost entirely attributable to the draconian policy of China, where marriage is delayed and families are restricted to one child for each couple. However, the population of the world continues to grow, and even if from tomorrow no couple had more than two children, the population would continue to grow for 60 or 70 years.

Until the 20th century, prosperity and population increase went hand in hand, but during this century., especially since 1950, population growth has been faster in developing countries where incomes are low. Of the 1984 world population increase of at least 80 million, more than 70 million will be added in the developing countries, which now contain about three quarters of the global population. A combination of continued high fertility and much reduced mortality has led to population growth of between 2 per cent. and 4 per cent. a year in most developing countries, compared with 1 per cent. a year in most developed countries. The hard facts are that growth at 1 per cent. a year means that, in 70 years, population merely doubles; at 3 per cent. a year, population grows eightfold.

It is most important that extrapolations of population should be treated not as predictions but as reasonable assumptions. If the projections of the World Bank are correct, population will grow from 4.8 billion today to 10 billion by 2050. The frightening fact is that 96 per cent. of the increase will be in the developing countries. At the present rate of growth, Ethiopia will have a population of 230 million, whereas its present population is 31 million.

Rapid population growth slows economic progress. As population grows more rapidly, larger investments are needed just to maintain current capital per person — physical capital in an infrastructure sense and human capital in the needs of education. With so many of the world's population under the age of 15, countries such as Malawi can expect the numbers of their schoolchildren to double or treble by the end of the century. A rapid fertility decline could result in savings of more than 50 per cent. in the school system 30 years from now—savings that could be used to improve the quality of schooling.

High population growth means, first, rapid expansion of the labour market. In Nigeria, the high fertility of the 1970s guarantees that its working-age population will double by the end of the century. Even in Britain the post-war baby boom is having a significant impact upon the labour market, and is a root cause of increased unemployment.

Secondly, rapid population growth upsets the precarious balance between man and the environment. In many parts of Africa strains on natural resources are already acute. In Ethiopia the price of wood increased tenfold during the 1970s, and it now claims up to 20 per cent. of household incomes. Competition for land is increasing; in the lowland area surrounding the Ganges in south Asia, population growth and competition for land has forced many people to live too close to the river, in the path of annual floods.

Thirdly, rapid population growth causes immense urban economic and social problems, with urban systems becoming more and more unmanageable. Sao Paulo in Brazil, which by the year 2000 could be the world's second largest city after Mexico City, was smaller in 1950 than Manchester. Who would have thought that London, which in 1950 was the second largest city in the world, would not even be ranked in the 25 largest cities by the end of the century?

It clearly follows from what I have said that I strongly believe that more of our overseas aid programme should be spent on population policies in an effort to slow population growth. Many of today's problems are attributable to population growth. We now know that Government programmes can and do make a difference. Many developing countries have shown that fertility can be substantially reduced, and over a short period. It was once assumed that reducing fertility in developing countries was linked to economic prosperity and incomes rising to levels enjoyed by today's developed countries. This view seems to be confirmed by the declining population growth in Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong.

However, development in a vast number of countries is so slow that we cannot afford to wait, and the Government should not hesitate to assist where they can to minimise the catastrophic effects of population growth in the world. In recent years, population decline has been linked to a different kind of development, that of education, health and alleviation of poverty. The decline in the birth rate since 1965 was much more closely associated with adult literacy and life expectancy that was GNP per capita.

An analysis of the drop in the population growth shows two fundamental policies working in harmony with each other to contribute significantly to a decline in population growth. One is more widespread education, especially for women, and the other is easier access to contraception. Family planning programmes are shown to be ineffective when it is difficult to operate programmes without some educated women to staff them. Equally, education has had a minimal effect where family planning services have been unavailable. The effects of the two together, however, have been powerful. Evidence from household surveys in India, Egypt and Nigeria shows that parents have fewer children when the education and family planning are readily available.

Some 87 countries in the developing world, representing about 95 per cent. of its population, now provide publicly-subsidised family planning programmes. Tremendous progress has been made in improving the access of couples to information and services, but much more needs to be done. Nearly all programmes fail to reach most rural people, even in the towns and cities the quality of service is often poor, and discontinuation rates of users are high. Of the 26 countries that have yet to introduce family planning programmes, nearly half are in Africa.

About $2 billion is currently spent on public family planning programmes in developing countries each year. The World Bank, in its excellent publication entitled "World Development Report 1984", estimates that today, any move to meet the unmet needs of women who would like to space or limit births but who are not practising contraception, would require another $1 billion a year. It states that if developing countries are to achieve a rapid decline in fertility leading to a developing world population of 6.5 billion by the middle of the next century it is estimated that $7.6 billion by the end of the year would be required. To have a standard decline, leading to a developing world population of 8.4 billion in 2050 would require $5.6 billion. These figures may sound a lot, but an official of the World Bank estimated earlier this week that to double the current programme would require only a 0.5 per cent. cut in other aid programmes.

Like the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Deakins), I believe that there will be many more famines like the current one in Ethiopia, and that the current population explosion is a contributory factor to the difficulties that the world is facing. I accept the financial constraints that any Government will have upon an aid programme but believe that a modest increase in the proportion allocated to population policies will have a significant influence on world population, and will ease the problems that we leave to our grandchildren. An increase in population growth means an increase in the demand for aid. Time is not on our side, and these decisions need to be made now.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Mr. Robert Hughes.

Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. So far, nobody has spoken in favour of the Government. I wish to do so, but I have not yet been called.

Mr. Speaker

I am still calling Mr. Robert Hughes.

9.13 pm
Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

That is the best speech that I have ever heard the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) make.

We are having this debate because the nation was sickened, as I was, by the harrowing television pictures from Ethiopia. The saddest thing of all is that many of us on both sides of the House have sought to bring overseas aid to the front of our debates for many years, with little success. The Foreign Secretary's response was inadequate. It was bereft of compassion, care, understanding and hope for the future. But the Foreign Secretary was candid about one thing and that was simply that countless thousands will die and countless thousands will face a future of indescribable degradation lest our economic recovery is imperilled.

The truth of the matter is that our economic recovery is as real as the oasis that appears in the desert, which turns out to be simply a mirage. We have completely failed to see overseas aid other than in terms of emergency or some other sort of food aid. We have done nothing about rural development, developing infrastructure or curing the legacy of colonialism—the lack of transport.

The Foreign Secretary had no idea of what the future holds. All he did was to shuffle through the figures and leave his hon. Friends on the Back Benches confused, not about whether there was a cut in overseas aid but about precisely how much it would be. No Government in history have ordered their international affairs to solve the problems of poverty and famine. If our generation cannot do it we bequeath a dreadful legacy to those who follow and who must try to solve it.

9.15 pm
Mr. David Steel (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale)

I am proud that my party chose this subject on one of its rare opportunities to propose a motion to the House. The debate is significant because it is the first to be held under the new ten-minute rule. By its conclusion, 28 Members will have had a chance to speak, which proves the success of the experiment. In that 28 I am not including the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) whose valuable contribution drew attention to another feature of the debate—that nobody had spoken for the Government. The hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) put it well and moderately when he said that there was in the House tonight a shared sense of disappointment. Others have put it more strongly than that.

Let me dispose of one matter at the start. I do not propose to go into the question of our membership of UNESCO. To be candid, that announcement has nothing whatever to do with the debate because it does not affect the budget for the coming year in any way. But no doubt it is useful to fill up newspaper space when there is nothing else to say.

I hope that the Minister will reply to the point made by the right hon. Member for Clydesdale (Dame J. Hart). If she is right that the disputed area of UNESCO's policy covers only 13 per cent. of the budget, the Government's reaction seems excessive. I understood that the whole point of giving a year's notice to an international organisation was to enable that organisation to adjust its administration and budget to the fact that a member was to depart. If we are criticising the administration of UNESCO—I understand that that is one of the main criticisms—it is not calculated to help it to announce a conditional withdrawal and then say we might stay in after all in a year's time.

The main topic of the debate the aid budget. It cannot be said too loudly, too forcefully or too often that whatever gloss is put on the figures or however they are juggled the truth is that for 1985–86 Britain's official contribution to world aid is being cut in real terms because of the combination of real inflation and the drop in the value of the pound sterling since the figures were first calculated in the early part of this year. At the moment it is too early to put a figure on it, but various estimates that I have had put the figure between 2 and 3 per cent. in real terms. Let us not disguise the fact that the announcement made this afternoon means that we shall be contributing in terms of real resources to the poorer parts of the world in the next financial year less than we have been doing.

A further issue, separate but related in our motion, is the expenditure on the British Council and the BBC external services. Through nearly all my time in the House I have believed that there were three areas of public expenditure from which Britain derives a great deal more than it puts in. One was the British Council, one was the external services, and the third was the subsidy that we gave to the fees for students coming from overseas to our colleges and universities. All three areas have in common relatively trivial expenditure and quite excessive results for the expenditure that they receive. All three have been grievously harmed by the Government.

Since the announcement this afternoon, the British Council has reminded us that it has already suffered a cut of 20 per cent. in its budget since 1979. The hon. Member for Stroud (Sir A. Kershaw) who, I think, is a vice-chairman of the British Council, said that he estimated that the cut announced means a 3 per cent. reduction in the council's budget. The council's other vice-chairman, the hon. Member for City of Durham (Mr. Hughes), implied that he would have to reconsider his position. The House should not underestimate the damage that we are doing to that valuable service, which most hon. Members who have travelled abroad have seen for themselves.

We have already been through a period in which the external services of the BBC have been trimmed. I thought that the right hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Sir P. Blaker) made a telling point when he said that with the further 1 per cent. cut we would be broadcasting fewer hours to the world than Albania. That is a terrible thing for a country with our reputation and history to maintain.

In the light of the cuts all round, I am bound to agree with the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Pym) that the amendment is lacking in integrity. I do not see how anyone can say that the Government's aid programme is being maintained unless that is qualified by the phrase in the amendment "consistent with" the Government's overall economic and foreign policy objectives". Nor do I see how the House can be invited to endorse the Government's continued support for the British Council and the external services of that BBC when that support is delining before our very eyes. The drop in the aid budget: would be serious enough were it not for the record of the past four or five years which has been mentioned many times in the debate. When the Conservative party came to office we were spending about 0.52 per cent. of our gross national product on official aid. That figure has now fallen to 0.35 per cent. But an analysis of the figures reveals an even more serious situation. Since 1979 all the OECD countries except Britain have been increasing their real official aid contributions. The figure for Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands is up by 5 per cent. and for Austria, Finland, France, Italy and Norway it is up by over 10 per cent. Thus, in the OECD league table Britain is the only one to go in to the negative column as having decreased its aid over that period as a percentage of GNP.

Moreover, an analysis of the shift in our bilateral aid to the 50 poorest countries shows that in 1979 about 40 per cent. of it went to them, whereas the figure has now fallen to nearer 30 per cent. Thus there has not only been a reduction in real terms but, sadly, the balance of our official aid has been shifting. According to the figures, it is the poorest countries that have been suffering most.

I should like to take up a point that was made strongly by the Foreign Secretary but with which I disagreed. He talked about the increase in private investment since the lifting of exchange controls. I agree that private investment and trade have a major part to play in assisting the developing world. However, we should be clear that private investment is not the same as aid, but is something upon which people expect to get a return. It cannot be put in the same altruistic humanitarian bracket. Moreover, the figures that the Foreign Secretary gave us show that the amount of the increase in private investment that goes to the poorer countries is infinitesimal. The figures that he gave us included, for example, the great expansion in private investment in countries such as Singapore and Hong Kong since the lifting of exchange controls. People are naturally getting a very good rate of return there, but by no stretch of the imagination can it be said that that is part of Britain's humanitarian effort in the world.

I hope that the Minister will restrict his consideration to the real topic, which is the official aid programme. At one point the Foreign Secretary almost gave us to understand that the country's entire programme of economic recovery might be blown off course unless the overseas aid programme took its fair share of the cuts all round. To repeat that awful word coined by the former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), this is automaticity of a most extraordinary kind. Even if one examines the Government's theology of monetarism, it is not true to say that they have accepted that every part of Government expenditure must take an automatic cut. Other hon. Members have given examples during the debate. The right hon. Member for Blackpool, South spoke of the £552 million expenditure this year on the Falklands. There is no question of that expenditure having to take an x per cent. cut because that has been decreed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The same is true of the Trident missile programme, which was first reported to the House in 1980 at £5 billion, although the latest estimate is about double that. Again, the clear evidence is that when the Government decide politically, rightly or wrongly, that they wish to spend in a certain direction they do it. I shall not deal with that argument, although I feel strongly about it. All that the House asks is that the Government operate the same standard on the overseas aid programme and that they use their political will to decide not to cut aid.

Many references have been made to public opinion. It is encouraging that the public has realised that the long-term solution does not lie in loading Hercules aircraft with grain from Europe and flying it out. The public realises that problems such as irrigation, construction, soil erosion, horticulture and population control have to be solved if we are to avoid repeated disasters.

We all have memories of particular overseas aid projects. One of the most powerful images that will remain with me all my life is that which I gained when I visited a village of about 5,000 people in Botswana. One member of the Peace Corps had worked there for a year and had transformed the living standards of those people by digging three wells and building a water storage tank. Even if that man does nothing else in his life, in politics, business or in any other sphere, he will have done more to help people than most people in their entire lives.

The Voluntary Service Overseas programme has a budget of less than £5 million. We could do a lot more to use the energies of our young and skilled people, many of whom are unemployed, and to direct them into overseas aid programmes.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a possible £1.5 billion tax cut for next year. We have not said that such an amount should be used for overseas aid. That sum is more than is spent on the whole overseas aid programme. We have not even said that we should give 10 per cent. of possible tax cuts to the programme. All that we have said is that the programme should be kept as it is. That is a modest request.

The right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) was right when he said that people had been writing to hon. Members pleading with them not only to help dying children but to prevent more catastrophes. Mention has been made of leading public opinion. In this case public opinion is leading us and the Government should respond.

9.27 pm
The Minister for Overseas Development (Mr. Timothy Raison)

We have had a serious debate, which is as it should be. A galaxy of Privy Councillors and many other informed and eloquent speakers have addressed the House. The House has been full. Again, that is as it should be and I welcome it. I welcome a major debate on aid and our other overseas activities.

Many specific points with which I agree have been made. The House understands that our aid programme has to deal with the desperate crisis in Ethiopia recently as well as long-term development. We must never forget that. The House has shown its respect for the work done on behalf of the Foreign Secretary and the many branches of Government for which he is responsible. We welcome that. We have no doubt about the quality of the work done on behalf of the Foreign Office and of the country as a whole.

The debate has revealed some misunderstandings and my task is to try to clear them up. I cannot answer every point so I shall write to hon. Members on both sides of the House about their specific remarks. I think, for example, of my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) and others.

Tonight, I shall try to concentrate on the major themes of this important debate. The House will understand if I tend to concentrate on my own area of responsibility as Minister for Overseas Development. I am proud to serve in that role and I believe that my Department is doing first-class work.

Important points have been raised in this debate which fall outside the scope of my section of the Foreign Office. I shall first address some of the points made about those other areas that are within the responsibility of my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary. An important point has been made about overseas risen costs. I am, for the moment, talking not about the aid side of the operation where the picture is different, but about the other activities that are the responsibility of my right hon. and learned Friend.

More than one hon. Member referred to the observations made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee report on the FCO estimates. The Committee had commented on the impact of risen costs on the FCO diplomatic wing and the British Council. I shall quote what my right hon. and learned Friend said in Cmnd. 9367 which was published last month in reply to the Select Committee. His words are important, and I know that hon. Members will listen carefully to them. My right hon. and learned Friend said: rises in expenditure resulting from exchange rate movements and differential inflation will be considered as requirements based on changed economic assumptions … Parliament will when necessary be invited by a Spring Supplementary Estimate to vote those resources which the Foreign and Commonwealth Office cannot find from offsetting savings". My right hon. and learned Friend defined those savings as those which are acceptable to Ministers in the light of the Government's foreign policy requirements and its responsibilities for British interests overseas, including cultural interests. The command paper explained that the arrangements will apply to the British Council's overseas risen costs as well as the FCO's. My right hon. and learned Friend went on: In fixing the longer term programmes of the Department in the Public Expenditure Survey, account will be taken of changes of economic assumptions up or down in setting the baseline for future years. That means that, as far as is acceptable, the British Council and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will be compensated for adverse movement in exchange rates and overseas inflation. First, all possible offsetting savings should be sought. I think that the House should see from that statement by my right hon. and learned Friend that we are not up against an immovable brick wall.

Sir Paul Bryan (Boothferry)

Does that proviso cover the BBC overseas service?

Mr. Raison

I gather that the answer is yes.

Mr. Geoffrey Rippon (Hexham)

It is obvious that this statement will repay careful study and that it is necessary to do so. Does it mean more or less money this year, for anything?

Mr. Raison

With respect, that is hardly fair. We cannot at this stage say what it will mean. It is clear from the statement available to the House that we must consider whether it is possible to deal with the impact of these risen costs by offsetting savings. The statement holds out the prospect that, if it is not possible to do that, it will be possible to find the additional money. That is an important statement, and I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) will take note of it.

Mr. Spearing

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way, especially in view of the time. It is a pity that the Foreign Secretary did not draw that matter to our attention in his speech although I did. When the Minister says that Ministers will decide, does he mean Ministers in the Foreign Office or Ministers including the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister?

Mr. Raison

The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well the system of collective government. His question is frivolous. I quoted clearly what my right hon. and learned Friend said. Hon. Members may wish to study the text which is available. I believe that what I said is of significance to the debate.

Mr. Stuart Holland

Will the Minister clarify what he has said? He appears to be saying that if there are foreign risen costs and if our exchange rate changes, there will be cuts, and that those decisions will not be taken by his Department but by the Government.

Mr. Raison

I said that Parliament will when necessary be invited by a spring Supplementary Estimate to vote those resources that the FCO cannot find from offsetting savings. That must be a decision by Ministers. There is no alternative to that. I am repeating to the House a statement which I think is of significance. I hope that the House will think carefully about what I said.

In the case of the British Council, my right hon. and learned Friend has judged that, as against £7million of overseas risen costs, the council should find offsetting savings of £1.2 million and should be compensated by the balance of £5.8 million added to the planned provision for the council for 1985–86 agreed last year. That is a cash increase not a cut.

In his interesting speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Sir A. Kershaw) said that the offsetting savings of £1.2 million which the council must find represented 3 per cent. of the council's budget. The total resources available to the council are the £67 million core budget, now to be increased by £5.8 million, plus £11 million further contributions from ODA, for example, for the administration of technical co-operation, and £23 million of reciepts from English language teaching arid educational services, making a total for 1985–86 of over £100 million. The £1.2 million savings are thus about only 1 per cent. of that figure. I hope my hon. Friend derives some reassurance from that.

We must not exaggerate the offsetting savings that the FCO is having to make. Our final decisions or. FCO expenditure next year will take account of future overseas price movements. I am confident that the adjustments that my right hon. and learned Friend has already made will be sufficient for the present to deal with that problem.

My right hon. and learned Friend has announced an increase of over £2 million for the BBC audibility programme. Reference has been made to the great importance, which my right hon. and learned Friend entirely accepts, of ensuring that those important services can be heard and he has, therefore, agreed to that increase. It will enable important relay stations to be built in Hong Kong and the Seychelles earlier that envisaged, with completion by 1987 rather than 1988.

My right hon. and learned Friend has also announced an increase of £750,000 towards the BBC's risen costs. They are not overseas risen costs such as those of the British Council, but improved pay and allowances for BBC staff. Those increases are in addition to the planned figures estblished by the February 1984 public expenditure White Paper. He is asking the BBC to absorb a further £1.2 million beyond those figures of risen costs to pay for increased staff allowances. That compares with the planned and agreed provision for the external services of £86 million to which should be added the £15 million spent by the FCO broadcast group on relay stations in Cyprus and elsewhere, operated on behalf of the BBC. So to that £101 million he is adding a further £2.9 million.

The BBC external services are still broadcasting 720 hours a week, which is higher than the figure in 1979 when we came into office. Since 1979, the provision available' to the BBC external services has grown by 14 per cent. in real terms. That is a good and not a bad record.

Mr. Johnston

The simple fact is that the BBC external services budget has been cut by £1.2 million. Is not that the case? What effect does the Minister think that will have on the service it provides?

Mr. Raison

The hon. Gentleman must understand that my right hon. and learned Friend is asking the BBC to absorb an element of £1.2 million, but at the same time he is making other resources available to it. I do not think that anybody can look objectively at that picture and deny that what my right hon. and learned Friend is doing is on balance thoroughly helpful to the BBC.

Mr. Bowen Wells

Will my right hon. Friend explain the matter in layman's language? Are we partially compensating the foreign and diplomatic budget, which includes the external services, for overseas risen costs? We are not meeting the whole of the risen costs; we are meeting part of them. If that is so, it is the first time that that budget has been so underwritten.

Mr. Raison

May I refer my hon. Friend to the quotation in the earlier part of my speech? The situation is set out clearly in the paper. The House knows perfectly well that I am not saying that there is an automatic compensation factor. The passage that I quoted shows that there is the possibility, if the need is there, for a compensation factor to apply. The House will recognise that that is of real value.

I turn to the aid programme, which is the area of my own responsibility. The facts are clear. The 1983 expenditure White Paper said that the 1985–86 net aid programme would total £1,130 million. The 1984 White Paper said that the 1985–86 net aid programme will still be £1,130 million. That sum represents an increase of £31 million over the current year's figure.

The speculation, the rumours, the alarms and excursions have been proved wrong. The aid budget is not being cut by £40 million, £60 million or even, as suggested in the newspapers, £160 million. We are exactly on course, we are exactly on the previous projections, and the aid programme stands as it was.

We have been discussing overseas costs. There the situation concerning the aid budget is different. They are much less likely to be unfavourable because there is much less of a dollar component in them than in the other parts of the Foreign Office.

Mr. Stuart Holland

The Minister has not answered the point that was raised by several hon. Members. The 1985–86 figures are given in cash terms and not in constant prices. Do they or do they not take account of inflation? If inflation is 5 per cent., it will be a cut of 2 per cent.

Mr. Raison

The hon. Gentleman is an economist and knows perfectly well that the old practice of the automatic updating of figures for inflation has been ended and we have moved on to cash terms. [Interruption.] The increase that is represented is about 3 per cent. That is the increase in cash terms. [Interruption.]

It may be a cut— [Interruption.] It depends on the rate of inflation. We are talking about next year's rate provision. I accept that the increase for next year may not match the level of inflation. On the other hand, over the three-year period of last year, this year and next year, we confidently expect to keep the aid programmes in pace with inflation. We are faced with difficult economic pressures, including public expenditure pressure, and I regard it as a considerable achievement that we are able to maintain the aid programme at this level. I am glad that we have been able to do so. The rumours and suggestions of a cut which have been spread over the past few weeks have been proved to be unfounded.

Mr. Holland


Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Holland) has intervened on a number of occasions and the Minister is not giving way now.

Mr. Holland


Mr. Speaker


Mr. Raison

Hon. Members on both sides of the House who take a genuine interest in the aid programme—I am happy to say that it seems that their numbers are increasing — know that Britain's aid programme is respected across the world for its quality and its achievement. The basic purpose of the programme is to help long-term development. We must help countries to help themselves. We must help them dispense with the need for short-term emergency aid.

Dame Judith Hart


Mr. Raison

No, I shall not give way.

It is the poorest countries which need most assistance. However, the larger poor countries such as India and Pakistan need help as well as the least developed countries. Our aid programme is focused on the poorest countries, especially in the Commonwealth. In 1983, 79 per cent. of our bilateral aid went to the poor countries eligible for IDA funds with an income per head of less than $800. This compares favourably with the record of other donors and with that of the previous Labour Administration.

Our programme is based on grants rather than loans, which is a factor of great value in these days of mammoth debts. It embodies an important emphasis on technical cooperation and manpower aid. It is geared to achieve the maximum results, often in collaboration with other donors. The days of dispensing aid without caring too much about the results are over. We all know that aid has often achieved too little in relation to expenditure especially, perhaps, in Africa. We must insist that what we provide is put to use. That is why we have put the emphasis on increased donor co-ordination, improved appraisal of projects and improved evaluation of them after they have taken place.

Mr. Steel

Will the Minister take up the question which has been raised by several hon. Members and explain his calculations on the lost purchasing power of the overseas aid programme because of the reduced value of the pound since the calculations of a year ago and in the light of his optimistic forecast of inflation? If he believes that there is no cut, why does he not accept the motion?

Mr. Raison

I have told the House what the figure is and given it the percentage rate of increase next year in cash terms over this year. There is no secret about the estimate, and the House can make its calculations. This is part of a picture against which we have managed, with considerable difficulties, over a three-year span to maintain the real value of the aid programme. In the circumstances, I regard that as no mean achievement. I believe that the quality of what we are providing is regarded by the world as quite exceptional.

It is crucial to achieve effectiveness, and that is why we have placed stress on the European Community's food strategies in African countries and the so-called policy dialogue within the Lomé convention. The House will know that that is the Community's aid and trade agreement with the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.

I wish to say a few words about Lomé III. In Brussels on Tuesday we reached the final Community position on the next convention. We agreed on a total for the next European development fund of 7.5 billion ecu or £4.4 billion. Of this, 100 million ecu will go to the overseas territories and the rest to the ACP countries. That represents a substantial increase in real terms over the last convention and is a good figure by any standards. It will contribute especially to developments in Africa where it is most needed. Many Commonwealth countries, of course, will benefit from the convention, as they do now.

At the same time, however, I am only too well aware of the pressure of multilateral spending, including Community spending, on our total aid budget. Therefore, I have had to stress in the negotiations that there is a strict limit to what we can spend on Lomé out of our aid budget. The result, in my view, looks very satisfactory. The Community has accepted that there should be an upper limit to our contribution to Lomé III of 1,243 million ecu or £740 million. This represents no more than our present share of the 7 billion ecu figure. In other words, there is a useful reduction—from 17.6 per cent. to about 16.8 per cent.—of our share of the convention. That money will not, therefore, be lost to our bilateral programme. It has been a very hard negotiation but the result is a good one and I hope that even today the ACP has accepted it in Brussels so that the convention can be signed in Lomé on 8 December.

Dame Judith Hart

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The House is aware that there is to be a Division at the end of the debate, so it is extremely important that we should be clear about the position. I have been trying to intervene, as have my hon. Friends. In order to vote—

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is unfair for the right hon. Lady to seek to raise a point with the Minister through me. That is not right.

Mr. Spearing

The Minister has not replied.

Dame Judith Hart

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Is it a point of order for me, or a point that the right hon. Lady would like the Minister to answer?

Dame Judith Hart

As the affairs of the House are involved and a Division is to take place based largely on the Minister's answer, it is important to have clarity. To that extent, I suggest that it is a point for you, Mr. Speaker. The point of clarity is that there is to be at least a 3 per cent. Cut—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Minister has eight minutes left. No one knows what he is going to say.

Mr. Raison

As you say, Mr. Speaker, I have eight minutes left. During that time I intend to continue making the points that I wish to make about our aid programme and to answer the debate.

Mr. Faulds


Mr. Raison

The kind of interventions that we have had do not help.

Another important point about the aid programme stems from the fact that about 40 per cent. of our aid programme now goes through the multilateral agencies—the Community, the World Bank and the United Nations agencies. When we consider what Britain is doing about development and relief we must recognise that our contribution is not just the bilateral contribution — British aid in the most obvious sense—but our share of multilateral actions, especially in the Community. Specifically, when tackling both the development problems and the urgent relief needs in Africa we have to do so both nationally and as the provider of one fifth of the Community's resources. In considering our future plans in sub-Saharan Africa, we shall and must have that in mind. There has been criticism of what the Community has been doing in Africa. The facts should be noted. First, it happens that Ethiopia represents the largest single programme under the Lomé convention. On the question of food aid, I believe that much has been contributed already, and I have made it my business in Brussels to stress the need for the Community to plan its programme for 1985 and to make sure that food aid is directed to the areas where it is most needed.

I turn for a moment to the question of UNESCO. My right hon. and learned Friend announced in his speech the Government's decision to give notice that we will leave UNESCO at the end of next year. He made it clear that we shall be prepared to reconsider our position towards the end of next year in the light of the results of next October's general conference in Sofia, if substantial progress has been made in the areas which we have specified as in need of reform.

I welcome the support of my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Sir P. Blaker) and others of my hon. Friends for the step which my right hon. and learned Friend has announced. Let me stress that we hope that sufficient reform will be achieved, and that we shall play our full part in working for it—just as we have done over the past year, thanks largely to very hard work by our officials. We have been in the van of the reform movement, and we shall remain there. But the option of giving notice has always been clearly there, ever since my noble Friend the Baroness Young spelled it out in another place on 25 January this year.

Many arguments have been put for and against particular courses of action. Our judgment is that the way we have chosen represents the best way of keeping up the pressure, while establishing the ability to make a clean break in a year's time if that finally seems right. It is our own decision, and certainly not one taken on the coat-tails of the United States. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] They have not pressurised us in any way; nor indeed have they played a full part in the reform movement, as we intend to do.

One thing strikes me strongly about the public debate on UNESCO: the defenders of the way in which UNESCO has been working have been few indeed. Even the right hon. Member for Clydesdale (Dame J. Hart) has not defended it. Everywhere the need for reform is accepted, whether it be reform in its programmes, its operation, its politicisation, its management, its financing or its attitude towards free speech.

Have we made enough progress in dealing with those deficiencies? That is the question. There has been some progress, but there is still a long way to go. In many respects the crunch will come when promises are or are not turned into decisions by the time of next year's general conference. That is why we shall make our final review of the position after that conference has taken place.

It is time for me to sum up. As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor said on 12 November, the provision for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as a whole in 1984–85 was £1,800 million and in 1985–86 it is £1,870 million. That is in line with the White Paper. That increase of £70 million represents an increase of 4.5 per cent. Of that increase, £31 million goes to the net aid programme, so that our projected figure of £1,130 million is maintained.

Mr. Holland


Mr. Raison

Overall, there is an increase in the budget of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office which is in line with inflation. However, there are special cost factors overseas—often, though not always, adverse—and my right hon. and learned Friend is having to do some pruning. I remind the House that the Government are firmly committed to the control of public expenditure. That is what the electors voted for last year. My right hon. and learned Friend has made it clear that he regrets that he has to make changes, but I hope that I have shown that by no stretch of the imagination could those changes be regarded as drastic, draconian or severely damaging. Such a suggestion is wholly ridiculous.

As in so many other respects, we shall be able to afford the services that we should like only when we have secured the country's economic base. I am glad that I have been able to maintain my projected figure for—

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 184, Noes 311.

Division No. 15] [10 pm
Abse, Leo Campbell-Savours, Dale
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Canavan, Dennis
Alton, David Carter-Jones, Lewis
Anderson, Donald Clark, Dr David (S Shields)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Clarke, Thomas
Ashdown, Paddy Clay, Robert
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Ashton, Joe Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Cohen, Harry
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Coleman, Donald
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Cook, Frank (Stockton North)
Barnett, Guy Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)
Barron, Kevin Corbett, Robin
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Corbyn, Jeremy
Bell, Stuart Cowans, Harry
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Craigen, J. M.
Bidwell, Sydney Crowther, Stan
Blair, Anthony Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Deakins, Eric
Boyes, Roland Dewar, Donald
Bray, Dr Jeremy Dixon, Donald
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) Dobson, Frank
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Dormand, Jack
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Douglas, Dick
Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N) Dover, Den
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith) Dubs, Alfred
Bruce, Malcolm Duffy, A. E. P.
Buchan, Norman Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.
Caborn, Richard Eadie, Alex
Campbell, Ian Evans, John (St. Helens N)
Ewing, Harry Mikardo, Ian
Faulds, Andrew Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Fisher, Mark Nellist, David
Forrester, John Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Foulkes, George O'Brien, William
Fraser, J. (Norwood) O'Neill, Martin
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Freud, Clement Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
Garrett, W. E. Park, George
George, Bruce Patchett, Terry
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Pavitt, Laurie
Golding, John Pike, Peter
Gould, Bryan Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Hamilton, James (M'well N) Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Prescott, John
Hancock, Mr. Michael Randall, Stuart
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)
Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith Rhodes James, Robert
Harvey, Robert Richardson, Ms Jo
Haynes, Frank Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Heffer, Eric S. Robertson, George
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall) Rogers, Allan
Home Robertson, John Rooker, J. W.
Howells, Geraint Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)
Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Rowlands, Ted
Hughes, Roy (Newport East) Ryman, John
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Sedgemore, Brian
Hume, John Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
John, Brynmor Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Johnston, Russell Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Kennedy, Charles Silkin, Rt Hon J.
Kilroy-Silk, Robert Skinner, Dennis
Kirkwood, Archy Smith, C.(lsl'ton S & F'bury)
Lambie, David Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)
Leadbitter, Ted Snape, Peter
Leighton, Ronald Soley, Clive
Lester, Jim Spearing, Nigel
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Steel, Rt Hon David
Litherland, Robert Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Strang, Gavin
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Straw, Jack
Loyden, Edward Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
McCartney, Hugh Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Wainwright, R.
McGuire, Michael Wallace, James
McKay, Allen (Penistone) Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
McKelvey, William Wareing, Robert
Maclennan, Robert Weetch, Ken
McNamara, Kevin Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
McTaggart, Robert Welsh, Michael
McWilliam, John White, James
Madden, Max Williams, Rt Hon A.
Marek, Dr John Wilson, Gordon
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Winnick, David
Mason, Rt Hon Roy Woodall, Alec
Maxton, John Wrigglesworth, Ian
Maynard, Miss Joan Young, David (Bolton SE)
Meacher, Michael
Meadowcroft, Michael Tellers for the Ayes:
Meyer, Sir Anthony Mr. A. J. Beith and
Michie, William Mr. John Cartwright.
Aitken, Jonathan Bellingham, Henry
Alexander, Richard Bendall, Vivian
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Benyon, William
Amess, David Best, Keith
Ancram, Michael Biffen, Rt Hon John
Arnold, Tom Blackburn, John
Ashby, David Body, Richard
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H. Bottomley, Peter
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Bottomley, Mrs Virginia
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E) Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y) Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Boyson, Dr Rhodes
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Braine, Sir Bernard
Batiste, Spencer Bright, Graham
Brinton, Tim Gummer, John Selwyn
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Brooke, Hon Peter Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Hampson, Dr Keith
Browne, John Hannam, John
Bruinvels, Peter Harris, David
Bryan, Sir Paul Haselhurst, Alan
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A. Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Buck, Sir Antony Hawkins, C. (High Peak)
Budgen, Nick Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk)
Butcher, John Hawksley, Warren
Butterfill, John Hayes, J.
Carlisle, John (N Luton) Hayhoe, Barney
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hayward, Robert
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S) Heathcoat-Amory, David
Carttiss, Michael Heddle, John
Cash, William Henderson, Barry
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Hickmet, Richard
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hind, Kenneth
Chapman, Sydney Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)
Chope, Christopher Holt, Richard
Churchill, W. S. Hooson, Tom
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n) Hordern, Peter
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Howard, Michael
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Clegg, Sir Walter Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Cockeram, Eric Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)
Colvin, Michael Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)
Conway, Derek Hubbard-Miles, Peter
Coombs, Simon Hunt, David (Wirral)
Cope, John Hunter, Andrew
Corrie, John Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Couchman, James Jackson, Robert
Cranborne, Viscount Jessel, Toby
Crouch, David Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Dickens, Geoffrey Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Dicks, Terry Jones, Robert (W Herts)
Dorrell, Stephen Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Dunn, Robert Kershaw, Sir Anthony
Durant, Tony King, Roger (B'ham N'field)
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke) King, Rt Hon Tom
Eggar, Tim Knight, Gregory (Derby N)
Emery, Sir Peter Knight, Mrs Jill (Edgbaston)
Evennett, David Knowles, Michael
Eyre, Sir Reginald Knox, David
Fairbairn, Nicholas Lawler, Geoffrey
Fallon, Michael Lawrence, Ivan
Favell, Anthony Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Fletcher, Alexander Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)
Fookes, Miss Janet Lilley, Peter
Forman, Nigel Lloyd, Ian (Havant)
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)
Forth, Eric Lord, Michael
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Lyell, Nicholas
Fox, Marcus McCrindle, Robert
Franks, Cecil Macfarlane, Neil
Fraser, Peter (Angus East) MacGregor, John
Freeman, Roger MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Fry, Peter Maclean, David John
Gale, Roger McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)
Galley, Roy McQuarrie, Albert
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Madel, David
Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde) Major, John
Garel-Jones, Tristan Malone, Gerald
Glyn, Dr Alan Maples, John
Goodhart, Sir Philip Marland, Paul
Goodlad, Alastair Marlow, Antony
Gow, Ian Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Gower, Sir Raymond Mather, Carol
Greenway, Harry Maude, Hon Francis
Gregory, Conal Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds) Mayhew, Sir Patrick
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N) Mellor, David
Grist, Ian Merchant, Piers
Ground, Patrick Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon) Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Mitchell, David (NW Hants) Soames, Hon Nicholas
Moate, Roger Speed, Keith
Molyneaux, Rt Hon James Speller, Tony
Monro, Sir Hector Spence, John
Montgomery, Fergus Spencer, Derek
Moore, John Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Morrison, Hon P. (Chester) Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Mudd, David Squire, Robin
Murphy, Christopher Steen, Anthony
Neale, Gerrard Stern, Michael
Needham, Richard Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Nelson, Anthony Stevens, Martin (Fulham)
Neubert, Michael Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Newton, Tony Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Nicholls, Patrick Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)
Normanton, Tom Stokes, John
Norris, Steven Stradling Thomas, J.
Onslow, Cranley Tapsell, Peter
Oppenheim, Phillip Taylor, John (Solihull)
Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S. Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Ottaway, Richard Terlezki, Stefan
Page, Sir John (Harrow W) Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.
Page, Richard (Herts SW) Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Parris, Matthew Thorne, Neil (llford S)
Patten, Christopher (Bath) Thornton, Malcolm
Patten, John (Oxford) Thurnham, Peter
Pattie, Geoffrey Townend, John (Bridlington)
Pawsey, James Tracey, Richard
Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian Trippier, David
Pollock, Alexander Trotter, Neville
Porter, Barry van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down) Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Powell, William (Corby) Viggers, Peter
Powley, John Waddington, David
Price, Sir David Waldegrave, Hon William
Prior, Rt Hon James Walden, George
Proctor, K. Harvey Walker, Bill (T'side N)
Raffan, Keith Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Wall, Sir Patrick
Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover) Waller, Gary
Renton, Tim Ward, John
Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Watson, John
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Watts, John
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)
Robinson, Mark (N'port W) Wheeler, John
Roe, Mrs Marion Whitfield, John
Rossi, Sir Hugh Whitney, Raymond
Rost, Peter Wiggin, Jerry
Rowe, Andrew Wilkinson, John
Rumbold, Mrs Angela Winterton, Mrs Ann
Ryder, Richard Winterton, Nicholas
Sackville, Hon Thomas Wolfson, Mark
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Wood, Timothy
St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N. Yeo, Tim
Sayeed, Jonathan Young, Sir George (Acton)
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Younger, Rt Hon George
Shelton, William (Streatham)
Shersby, Michael Tellers for the Noes:
Silvester, Fred Mr. Robert Boscawen and
Skeet, T. H. H. Mr. Ian Lang.

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 33 (Questions on amendments), and agreed to.

Mr. Speaker

forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved, That this House commends the Government's substantial support for development in the Third World including the encouragement of trade and investment; welcomes its prompt response to the famine in Ethiopia and elsewhere; approves the maintenance of the Government's planned aid programme consistent with its overall economic and foreign policy objectives; and endorses the Government's continued support for the British Council and the BBC external services.