HC Deb 07 May 1964 vol 694 cc1435-6
17. Mr. F. Noel-Baker

asked the Secretary for Technical Co-operation what steps he is taking in connection with the setting up of a new council to stimulate and co-ordinate British aid and assistance to developing countries; and what is the time-table for the establishment of this council.

Mr. R. Carr

None, Sir, so far as Government aid is concerned. If the hon. Member is referring to discussions which I understand are going on between voluntary societies, I have received no proposals, and therefore the second part of the Question does not arise.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Is not it a fact that there are proposals for the creation of a new council to stimulate and coordinate the activities of both voluntary and official bodies in respect of aid to developing countries? Is not it important that the Government's view should be known and expressed at an early date?

Mr. Carr

The Government facilitates the work of voluntary agencies in many ways and I need hardly emphasise that we attach tremendous value to what they are doing. I think that it is for the voluntary societies to complete the discussions between themselves, and it would not be proper for me to comment on that.

Mrs. Castle

Would not the best way of co-ordinating and stimulating British aid and assistance to developing countries be by merging the right hon. Gentleman's own Department into a really effective Ministry of Overseas Aid?

Mr. Carr

Perhaps I am unduly vain, but I like to think that my Department is already an efficient instrument of aid. I believe that it has achieved a great deal during the 2½ years since it was set up. We should delude ourselves if we imagine that the setting up of a new Ministry, or changing an organisation, of itself achieved very much. When the need was there, my Department was set up in its present form. I am satisfied that when there is a need for a change in the organisation, it will be made.

Mr. Bottomley

I am sure that the Minister would agree that it is wasteful to have several voluntary organisations all doing the same thing? Would not it be wise for the Minister to consider suggesting that they come together so that there should be full co-ordination?

Mr. Carr

What sometimes appears wasteful on paper is often helpful in practice. I think that the House would be well advised not to approach getting relationships too tidy on paper. It is diversity of enthusiasm on the part of a number of people which so often leads to successful results.