§ 4. Tony Baldry (Banbury)
When she next expects to meet Commissioner Patten to discuss the proportion of the external affairs budget which is allocated to poor countries. 
§ The Secretary of State for International Development
I meet Commissioner Patten and his colleagues regularly. He and Commissioner Nielson are committed to reforming the EC development systems to increase their effectiveness, but they are not convinced that budget funds should be allocated to reduce poverty. EC spending in Asia, where two thirds of the poor live, is therefore very small.
§ Tony Baldry
Does the Secretary of State agree that if EU aid were properly focused it could be an enormous power for good, but that a system in which more money is given to Poland than to the whole of Asia is simply unsustainable? We have a collective responsibility to persuade political colleagues in Europe, whether they are Christian Democrats, Liberals or Socialists, that EU development aid must now be poverty-focused. We all know the problem; it is time that we all collectively shared responsibility for work to find a solution.
§ Clare Short
I agree completely. The EC spends 3.38 euros per head in the Mediterranean, but only 0.15 in Asia. That is a disgraceful misallocation of resources, but we need co-operation across the EU and across all parties to put it right. I agree also that if Europe, which is the world's largest single market and the biggest destination for developing countries' exports, and which accounts for 60 per cent. of the world's development 765 assistance, could focus its aid well, it could be an enormous force for good in the world. We must try to achieve that.
§ Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion)
The Secretary of State knows that 15 per cent. of the EU's money goes to the middle east even though only 1 per cent. of the world's poorest people live there. None the less, when working on reform of the system, will she bear in mind the fact that some of that money is vital to rebuild the Palestinian Authority and repair the damage done to Palestinian refugee camps? Will she state the Government's ongoing commitment to ensuring that EU aid continues to be received by the Palestinian Authority and that the money is used to rebuild and to further peace in the area?
§ Clare Short
Yes, I can give the hon. Gentleman that absolute undertaking in respect of both my Department's budget and that of the EU. We must help the Palestinian people to survive and provide the humanitarian relief that is needed, but how much better it would be to direct those resources to building the new Palestinian state—a competent state that cares for its people, manages its resources well and is a good neighbour to Israel. That is the work that we all want to undertake.
§ Mr. Tom Clarke (Coatridge and Chryston)
When my right hon. Friend meets Commissioner Patten, might she not find that he is a little envious, given that, although he was a Minister responsible for international development, he was never appointed to the Cabinet because the then Prime Minister did not regard the matter as seriously as today's Prime Minister rightly does? However, as Commissioner Patten is a fair man, will my right hon. Friend encourage him to encourage European nations and those who seek membership of the EU to set a date for the achievement of the 0.7 per cent. of GDP UN aid target?
§ Clare Short
Mr. Patten was later appointed to the Cabinet, but not in his role as Minister for Overseas Development, which he said was the best the job that he had ever had in politics. I should not be telling the House that, but it is a fine job. We can do a lot and it matters enormously. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has heard what my right hon. Friend just said about UK resources for development.
§ Mrs. Caroline Spelman (Meriden)
The Select Committee report is intensely critical of the European overseas aid programme, and the Secretary of State shares in the criticism about the priorities upon which the money is spent, yet her Department is set to increase the amount that we spend through Europe to more than £l billion by 2003–04. Does the right hon. Lady agree that although the Council disposes decisions in Europe, the decisions are made by the member states? If the Secretary of State maintains that she has a strong voice in Europe, it appears that Europe is simply not listening.
§ Clare Short
No, I would not agree. There has been agreement in the EU that present practices are inefficient and that there has to be major reform, and a major reform agenda has been set in place. At the last review of the amount of EU development assistance, we kept the rise to 766 1 per cent. Under the Conservative Government the increase was 180 per cent., and unfortunately there was no reform effort. I am trying to clean up the mess.