§ Mr. Chris Patten
In 1987–88, 38 aid and trade provision agreements were signed, involving commitments of £149 million in support of United Kingdom export business worth £429 million.
§ Mr. Dykes
I thank my hon. Friend for those encouraging figures. Bearing in mind the future importance of China and its development in relation to our trade, do the ATP and soft loans agreements help the Chinese economy, and in what other ways are we helping the Chinese through my hon. Friend's Department?
§ Mr. Patten
I am delighted to say that we have almost committed all the £300 million soft loan agreement with China that was first signed in 1986. I have just signed a further £300 million soft loan agreement with China, which I think will be more flexible than its predecessor. It will enable us to choose between supporting developmentally sound projects through mixed credits or by through soft loans, and it will help us, I hope, further to strengthen our economic partnership with China.
§ Miss Lestor
Given the criticism from the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, which called for ATP to be withdrawn from the aid programme and transferred to the Department of Trade and Industry, will the Minister reconsider his Department's refusal to act on that advice? If not, will he at least ensure that the amount is strictly limited to the 5 per cent. as it was under the Labour Government?
§ Mr. Patten
I think that one needs to be rather flexible about the amount, particularly—and I hope that this will continue to be the case—as more countries become creditworthy while still remaining too poor. In response to the first point, when we responded to the FAC report we made it clear that we did not agree with it about the departmental responsibility for ATP. It is no criticism of my right hon. and Friends in the Department of Trade and Industry to say that if the House is concerned about the developmental soundness of projects supported under ATP, it is not a bad idea to leave responsibility for that programme with the ODA.