HC Deb 20 July 1965 vol 716 cc1326-7
24. Mr. Tilney

asked the Minister of Overseas Development how many staff who are attached to the British High Commissions in India and Pakistan, respectively, are concerned full-time with the British aid programmes to those countries; and whether the responsibility for financial and technical aid within these High Commissions has been unified to match the rest of her own Department.

Mrs. Castle

In each country two of the staff at First and Second Secretary level are exclusively concerned with aid. In addition several of the other members of the High Commission spend a significant part of their time on aid matters, particularly at the higher levels. As the hon. Member will know, it is the responsibility of the High Commissioners to deploy their staff and co-ordinate their activities. The financial and technical aid programmes are at present co-ordinated by the head of the economic division in each High Commission.

Mr. Tilney

Can the right hon. Lady say whether this represents a change from the time before her Ministry was established, and whether the civil servants are directly under her control, or under the control of the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations?

Mrs. Castle

I cannot give the preceding figures, but, as far as control is concerned, they are in the first place responsible to the High Commission. We have accepted the recommendations of the Plowden Report on this. The aid attachés, or whatever we like to call them, must be integrated in the work of the Commission as a whole, which, in a good High Commission such as we have in India and Pakistan, is dedicated as a unit to the promotion of development, but they keep in contact with the Ministry as well.

Mr. Carr

Will the right hon. Lady tell us, not so much about the change in numbers, but whether there has been a change of function? In other words, is there now one aid attaché, to use the phrase which the right hon. Lady used, in charge of both capital and technical aid? Would not the right hon. Lady agree that it is almost as important to unify the management of aid in our overseas posts as in our machinery at home?

Mrs. Castle

I am sure the right hon. Gentleman appreciates that the extent and complexity of the work in these few important countries makes it impossible to unify all the capital and technical assistance work in one individual. Clearly it must be shared, and it must be co-ordinated. We are anxious to strengthen the development representation in the High Commissions in these two countries, and discussions to this end are now proceeding.