HC Deb 09 July 1970 vol 803 cc820-2
7. Mr. Maclennan

asked the Minister of Overseas Development what is his policy regarding the aid target of 1 per cent. of the gross national product.

5. Mr. Eadie

asked the Minister of Overseas Development what steps he will take to arrive at the Pearson target of gross national product for overseas aid.

9. Mr. Crouch

asked the Minister of Overseas Development if it is the Government's intention to reach the targets set for overseas aid by the Pearson Commission Report; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Wood

I am now examining the attitude we should take towards the various targets for resource flows. I welcome the interest of hon. Members in this matter, and I shall do my best to keep Parliament informed of future decisions.

Mr. Maclennan

In thanking the right hon. Gentleman for that reply, may I ask whether his Department's spending in this direction will be subjected to scrutiny under the public expenditure survey that his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has initiated and whether we may see a postponement of the targets set by the previous Government? Can the right hon. Gentleman say anything about the proportions as between private and public aid which he would wish to pursue?

Mr. Wood

This question, like all questions of public expenditure, will be scrutinised carefully by the Government. I hope that this will not lead to the postponement that the hon. Member suggests. As to the division between private investment and official flows, this also is a matter on which I cannot at present answer because it is bound to be under consideration.

Mr. Crouch

May I remind my right hon. Friend that I hope that he will bear in mind the serious concern which is felt in the country that he should not be parsimonious about aid, either official or the encouragement of private aid, and that the nation's moral standing in the world will be judged very much by this aspect?

Mr. Wood

I am grateful for the support of my hon. Friend, and, indeed, of the House, in a view which I entirely share.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Will the right hon. Gentleman emphasise to all his Ministerial colleagues the importance for many of the poorer Commonwealth countries of continuing, and, indeed, strengthening, the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement, with particular regard to the opening of negotiations with the Common Market?

Mr. Wood

That is another question and, possibly, not entirely directed to me, but I appreciate its importance.

10. Mr. George Cunningham

asked the Minister of Overseas Development if he will announce the Government's plans for expenditure on overseas aid in the years up to and including 1973–74.

Mr. Wood

As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer said on 7th July, all aspects of public expenditure are now being examined. I cannot, therefore, at present make a statement.

Mr. Cunningham

Will the Minister recognise that last October, in the previous Parliament, his right hon. Friend who is now Foreign Secretary gave the House to understand that a Conservative Administration would provide a larger amount of aid than the previous Administration? Does he not think it would be appropriate immediately to give effect to that implication of the Foreign Secretary's remarks?

Mr. Wood

I must ask the hon. Member to await the statement which, I hope, the Government will be able to make on this important matter as soon as possible.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that the major immediate effect of overseas financial aid is the provision of jobs in factories in this country for export orders which might not otherwise materialise and that while this may be an admirable purpose, it does not have very much to do with the moral postures in international affairs which hon. Members opposite try to read into it?

Mr. Wood

I do not know whether that is very closely connected with the Question, which concerns the Government's plans for expenditure in overseas aid but it is certainly a matter of great importance.

Mrs. Hart

While I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman is bound to take a little time to consider this matter, may I ask him to assure us that he is fully aware that in June the previous Government had totally accepted the Pearson commitment for a 1 per cent. target by 1975 and had also accepted the concept and target of a .7 per cent. official flow?

Mr. Wood

I am well aware of the first part but I was less clearly aware of the second part of the right hon. Lady's submission. In any event, however, my awareness of the first part has increased my resolve that we should do at least as well as the previous Government, and, I hope, improve on their performance.

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