HC Deb 07 November 1975 vol 899 cc777-871

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Stoddart.]

11.4 a.m.

The Minister for Overseas Development (Mr. Reg Prentice)

This House does not debate the subject of overseas aid and development nearly often enough, and I am very glad that we are having this debate today. I should like to begin by saying that I hope we shall do better in future years than we have done in the past. This debate is taking place in time contributed by the Government, and I shall use whatever meagre influence I may have in the Government to try to get more time for such debates. I hope that Supply time and private Members' time will also be used to discuss not merely the aid programme, on which I shall be concentrating my remarks today, but the whole range of matters which concern the relationship betwen our country and the developing world.

If I may start with one or two personal reflections, when I was transferred to the Ministry of Overseas Development in June I had very mixed feelings on the subject. On the one hand I was deeply sorry to leave the Department of Education and Science, to which I had a very deep attachment. On the other hand I was glad to return to a Department which has, I think, an importance which has never been properly appreciated by the majority of Members of this House or by the media or by the public at large.

The work of the Ministry of Overseas Development is at the very heart of our relationship with two-thirds of the human race. Certainly it is a subject which, if I may continue for a moment on a personal note, has engaged my own attention and devotion since I have been in this House and on which I have spoken frequently. I had two years as a Minister in the Department before I resigned from the Government in October 1969 because I thought that we were not measuring up to the challenge of that period. I spent a good deal of time subsequently speaking, writing and broadcasting on the subject.

I also felt that it was a matter of some significance that the Department should again be represented in the Cabinet. It had not been represented in the Cabinet for some years. I have always believed that it should be represented in the Cabinet for this specific reason: not simply in order that the aid programme itself should be presented to the Cabinet—that has always been something which could be arranged; in my previous period in office I was able to go there when necessary, and so were my other predecessors—but I believe it to be vital—and it becomes more vital as time goes on, as the world economic pattern becomes more complex, with a whole range of issues affecting trade, investment and other mainly domestic problems, perhaps overseas student fees or something of that kind—that there should be in the Cabinet someone whose primary duty is to speak as a kind of shop steward for the developing world.

Therefore, I express what can only be a personal view that in future, no matter who holds this office, no matter which party is in power, there should be a Minister in the Cabinet charged with that particular responsibility. Every other departmental Minister of necessity speaks from the point of view of the national interest and is briefed by his officials to speak from that point of view. It is vital that this other point of view should be put. I go further and say that in every developed country there should be a Cabinet Minister charged with this responsibility.

I go on from that to say that throughout the House, and irrespective of party differences, I think there is a wide feeling that a tribute should be paid to my right hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) who preceded me in this office. She and I have played a game of musical chairs at the Ministry of Overseas Development in the sense that we have both been there twice. I do not know on how many future occasions this may occur. No one has any doubt about her dedication and the leadership she gave on a whole range of vital issues. The White Paper, which will be at the core of this debate, owes more to her than to anyone else. The Lomé Convention which we shall be debating later is a historic achievement and owes a great deal to her leadership and negotiating skill. This, I am sure, is widely recognised.

The very word "aid" is unsatisfactory. We use it as a piece of convenient verbal shorthand, and some of us have at times tried to think of better words to use. I shall not take the time of the House on a semantic exercise, but I feel that we must all not merely recognise but affirm again and again that a flow of resources on conceassional terms from the richer countries to the poorer is part of the civilised relationship between those countries. Regrettably, that is something that must be reaffirmed.

One of the sad aspects of this subject is that we continually have to repeat to large numbers of our fellow citizens the same basic arguments that we were using 20 years ago, and I suspect that 20 years hereafter our successors will be doing the same. I still receive letters—I am sure that other hon. Members do—saying "How can we afford an aid programme in our present difficulties?". Many national newspapers, which ought to know better, trot out in their editorials the shopworn clichés about charity beginning at home.

I shall not detain the House by going over the basic reasons for an aid programme, but I remind hon. Members that part of the background against which we are holding this debate is that the average income per head in this country is over £1,000 a year, and those of whom we are speaking in our White Paper are people whose average income per head is £90 a year or less, and in some cases very much less.

Part of the background is that the disparity has grown and is likely to continue to grow. I have seen a recent estimate that 100 years ago the average living standard in the newly industrialised countries was about twice as high as it was in countries which had not then had the impact of industrialisation. That ratio of two to one has now probably grown to about 15 to one and is growing all the time. Moreover, no matter how much we do about it, it will, I believe, be a much larger ratio by the end of the century.

Another part of the background is that the British people spend an average of 11p per head per week on overseas aid, and this at a time when they are spending on average 74p per head per week on tobacco—nearly seven times as much—and £1.30 per head on average on alcoholic drink, or about 12 times as much as they are spending on aid.

I am sure that most of our people, if they had a greater understanding of the subject, would not be so mean as to deny the need for a continuing and growing aid programme, and it is the job of every Member of Parliament and every leader of opinion in the country to try to promote understanding of this subject.

The White Paper is the first general statement of policy on aid and development for about eight years. I commend it to the House partly for the information which it contains about many of the ongoing aspects of the work of the Department, which receive little attention from the House or, indeed, anywhere else but which deserve to be better known and understood. The annexes in particular are a mine of information about subjects which I shall not have time to touch on today, although other hon. Members may wish to do so, and which deserve a debate in themselves.

The continuing very successful work of the Commonwealth Development Corporation, the work of the scientific and technical units which are part of the Ministry of Overseas Development, the contribution we are making in relation to the difficult and complex world population crisis and the work of our development divisions in different parts of the world are all matters which the House ought to acknowledge and discuss.

The theme of the White Paper is in the subtitle "More Help for the Poorest". It arises from a recognition that the problems of the developing world certainly have never been homogeneous. We are talking here about 100 different countries, and their problems are no more homogeneous now than they were when we considered them years ago. Increasing gaps have arisen in living standards and in opportunities between developing countries and within developing countries.

During the past few years some developing countries—we should all welcome this—have made progress greater than was thought possible a few years ago, partly through the possession of oil and other commodities in great demand, partly through their own development efforts and partly through aid programmes from the more affluent parts of the world. But although these combinations of circumstances and events have led some countries to make rapid progress, and within others have led some sectors to make rapid progress, perhaps thereby creating greater divisions within those countries, the basic challenge to us at this moment is that great numbers of people have been untouched by that progress, and in some cases their actual position, not merely their relative position, has worsened as a result of the developments I have described. I take as one obvious example the rises in the price of oil and other commodities, which while benefiting some countries have made life much more difficult in other parts of the developing world.

In the White Paper we take as a working definition of the poorest countries those with an average income per head of $200 a year or less—that is, about £90 a year or less. We are talking here of approximately 1 billion people, or one-third of the human race. On average—I know that averages may always be misleading, but this is the fact—the countries in this category have in the past four years had a rise in gross national product of 1 per cent. a year, but that is a GNP rise for the country as a whole, and translated into GNP per head it is in fact an average fall in the standard of life of people already desperately poor.

Therefore, we believed it right to define in the White Paper three main strategic decisions. In a sense they are three different aspects of the same decision, but for the sake of convenience I shall separate the three strands a little, as we do in the White Paper. Incidentally, I do not claim that the White Paper is a statement of totally new policy. It is the description of a trend which has been going on for some time but which the Government intend to expedite as far as we can.

The first strand of policy is simply that more of our bilateral aid should go to the countries in the poorest category as I have defined it. At present, of our specific bilateral aid programmes—some of our bilateral aid, for example, from the Tropical Products Institute, is difficult to allocate in terms of how much goes to one country or another—about 64 per cent. goes to the poorest countries, and about 70 per cent. of new bilateral aid commitments made during 1974 were to the poorest countries.

Another important development which took place during my predecessor's term of office was the decision that in future all new capital aid agreements with countries in this category would be on grant terms rather than on loan terms. That was a most important step forward and one which we hope will be followed to an increasing extent by other aid donors.

The second strand in the policy is that we intend to see, as far as we can, that we engage in development activities which will help the poorest groups within countries. I say "as far as we can" because we are here dealing with countries the vast majority of which are independent, countries which have to decide their own priorities and make their own development plans. Our aid and the aid of other donors goes to supplement those plans. We put a little of our resources alongside theirs, but the basic decisions are theirs. There is an element of choice on our part, particularly in project aid; we can decide whether to accept or reject certain projects. Our view of priorities here is shared by an increasing number of Governments in the developing world and by powerful world agencies such as the World Bank. Along with others we can help to create, and are already creating, this change of emphasis. To a large extent it is a change of emphasis from the urban to the rural sector. The problem of giving priority to the poorest people overlaps with the problem of doing more to help the rural sector in food production and every other aspect of rural development.

This is a general issue which many of us have been discussing for several years. We want to see a shift from the urban to the rural sector, from large to smaller projects, from high to intermediate technology and from capital-intensive to labour-intensive projects. In education we want to see a shift from helping universities to helping with vocational training and other aspects of education which are closer to the grass roots. In health we need a shift from building big hospitals to creating facilities in small towns and villages with clinics and paramedical services that are closer to the people. In every aspect we aim to bring the development process closer to the grass roots.

The third strand of the policy is to work internationally for similar priorities so that what we are doing is, as far as we can influence it, being done by other donors in their bilateral programmes and in the various multilateral exercises in which we are engaged. At the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD in July, I suggested that the committee should adopt a target for the aid programmes of member countries by which the proportion of our aid going to the poorest countries should be at least as much as the proportion of the population they represent in the developing world. This would mean that 63 per cent. of Western aid would go to the poorest countries instead of the present 56 per cent.

Mr. John Cordle (Bournemouth, East)

Will the right hon. Gentleman comment on West Germany's rather cautionary approach to these problems that we heard about a month ago?

Mr. Prentice

If the hon. Member means the view taken by the Germans on the question of Community aid to non-associated countries, I intend to deal with that matter shortly.

The OECD committee represents not only Community countries but other European countries and donors outside Europe, including the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. I was at least able to secure a declaration that member countries would endeavour—though that is not as strong a word as I would like—to move in the direction I suggested.

We are using every possible opportunity within the EEC to work for the philosophy and approach of this White Paper. Later today the House will be discussing the Lomé Convention, a historic step which complements the White Paper's philosophy. Outside the 46 developing countries covered by this convention are some of the most heavily populated, poorest nations in the world. I am thinking particularly of the countries of Southern Asia.

A major objective of United Kingdom policy has been to secure a change in Community aid so that it takes place on a world-wide basis and is not confined to those countries which have historic associations with the Community within the ACP definition. That principle was agreed by the Community in July last year, but 15 months have gone by and there has still been no move in this direction. At the Council of Ministers meeting which I attended on 13th October there was a paper from the Commission containing practical and reasonable steps to begin the process of an aid programme to non-associated countries. The paper reflected proposals put forward by the British Government to the Community some months earlier. Unfortunately, the Council was not able to agree the proposals. I supported them and so did representatives of some other Governments, but the Germans and others were not prepared to go along with them at this stage. I shall continue to press, at every possible opportunity, for the transmission into practice of the principle already agreed by the Community.

Many of us who campaigned for continued British membership of the EEC did so on the basis that the Lomé Convention and the declaration in principle of aid to non-associated countries were evidence of the Community's becoming more outward-looking and more concerned with the affairs of the developing world. It remains a test case for the Community to live up to these expectations. We shall work without let-up.

The House has before it four Community documents to which I need refer only briefly. Documents S/1239/74 and S/1310/74 represent what is called a fresco of future policy. I understand that the best way to translate that is as a "think-piece". Please do not ask me to translate "think-piece". These contain the views of the Commission on priorities for the allocation of aid. They regard the need of the developing countries as the most important consideration. In that sense, the thinking represented in these documents is very much in line with our own White Paper.

Document S/406/75 contains the specific proposals for aid to non-associated countries which were not accepted by the Council of Ministers. The only small proposal that was accepted was that 3.5 million units of account should be made available to help trade promotion in respect of non-associated countries.

Document S/407/75 is a consultative paper on the harmonisation and coordination of bilateral programmes. We are ready to participate constructively in the follow-up to this, though I think it is a matter for a very pragmatic approach where specific ideas for harmonising bilateral programmes will have to be looked at one by one. We do not wish to see harmonisation downwards in the terms and conditions of aid. We want harmonisation upwards. Any progress will be piecemeal, and we should not except a dramatic moment when the bilateral programmes of member States finally become harmonised.

In many other international gatherings we are trying to promote the philosophy of the White Paper. The International Development Association is acknowledged throughout the House as one of the most successful agencies in the world for development. The fourth replenishment of the IDA will be fully committed by June 1977. Discussion of the fifth replenishment will start very shortly. The British Government's view is that this replenishment should be on a substantial scale. It is too early to talk in terms of figures, but Britain will play its full part in urging other countries to take a similar view.

A new development is the so-called Third Window of World Bank lending. This provides for lending facilities at an intermediate level between the conventional bank lending and the very soft terms of IDA lending. It will assist development which will help the poorest countries. We have committed £4.75 million to it. However, the total commitment to it amounts to only about half of the target figure which the World Bank considered would be necessary for a successful launching of the scheme.

Another example is the new International Fund for Agricultural Development launched by the World Food Conference. I recently announced that we had pledged £15 million towards that. This pledge is conditional upon sufficient other pledges being made from developed countries, and pledges should also be made in this respect by the oil-producing countries. I think that we shall see a positive response there. There was another follow-up to the World Food Conference. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, who attended the World Food Council meeting in June, pledged extra fertiliser aid to the extent of 100,000 tons, mainly on grant terms—that was not meant to be a pun. Here again our initiative was welcomed as one which was leading the field in this respect. In all these and many other matters we are trying to put into practice the philosophy of our White Paper.

The clearest possible test of the will to help the developing world is the volume of the aid programme. I have never believed that volume was the only thing which mattered. Clearly the terms of aid, the priorities chosen and the kind of philosophy we adopt are of great, and in some cases of greater, importance. However, the fact we have to face is that the volume performance of the developed countries, including the United Kingdom, is falling far short of the generalised good intentions we express so often.

We are here committed to two targets. First, at least 1 per cent. of aur annual GNP should flow to the developing countries in the form of resources. This can include private investment as well as aid. The second target is that at least 0.7 per cent. of our annual GNP should flow in the form of aid. These are net, not gross, figures. In both cases they are a floor, not a ceiling. The commitment is to do at least that.

In 1974 the United Kingdom figure on the first target was 1.2 per cent. of the GNP. This was a good year for private investment which boosted the figure upward. I certainly favour a substantial flow of private investment. It is, however, not aid and should not be confused with aid. The motives are clearly different, but it is a flow of resources and could be a most valuable part of the effort if it is applied to sectors identified by the developing countries as requiring investment of that kind.

Our performance on the aid target, however, was 0.38 per cent. That is just over half the United Nation target. The average for the countries in the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD was 0.33 per cent. There was a recent World Bank forecast—I hope it is too pessimistic—that by 1980 the DAC effort will be down an average of 0.24 per cent. It is a challenge to the politicians, to all the people represented in the DAC and to the entire rich one-third of the world, including the oil-rich countries, to measure up to a much greater effort than any of us are making at the moment. I repeat the Government's pledge to work towards the target of 0.7 per cent. I am bound to repeat that the rate of progress towards it depends on our own economic performance. Clearly, however, the test of the integrity of this nation and the others in the richer part of the world is that we should make the fastest possible progress towards the target from which we have been falling away. It appears likely that as a group of nations we shall continue to fall way from it in the years ahead.

It is inevitable that this programme, like every other aspect of public expenditure, should be under closer review. It must be related to the economic struggle which this country faces. Taking a slightly longer-term view, however, the excuse that individual affluent countries have economic problems of their own is an alibi which begins to wear thin. For a nation, as for an individual, there is a difference between being broke and being poor. The rich one-third of the world consumes about 80 per cent. of the world's resources. The countries within that rich one-third cannot go on indefinitely using their debts to each other as an excuse for falling short of the clear moral duty they owe towards the rest of mankind.

11.36 a.m.

Mr. Christopher Tugendhat (City of London and Westminster, South)

There are many areas of agreement between the Government and the Opposition on this important subject. On one we certainly very much agree—that is the disgraceful record of Governments of both parties in failing to bring this subject before the House more frequently. The last aid White Paper and probably the last debate of this sort occurred before the Parliamentary Secretary and I even became Members of Parliament. It probably took place before quite a number of hon. Members here today were elected. I share the Minister's hope that we shall be able to deal with this matter on a more regular and more frequent basis in future.

This is the first occasion on which I have spoken from the Dispatch Box since I became a shadow spokesman on Foreign Affairs, and I do so with some trepidation. On both sides of the House there are a number of hon. Members who have devoted a considerable proportion of their political lives to the problems of the developing countries, to aid, and to development in general. I think particularly of my hon. Friends the Members for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine) and Norfolk, North-West (Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler). My right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling) was putting forward proposals to ease the lot of the developing countries many years before many of us arrived here. He has done so on many occasions since.

As to the Government benches, I recognise that the Minister has devoted much of his public life to this subject. I think he frequently has had to suffer as a result. Although there must be few subjects on which I agree with the right hon. Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart), I pay tribute to her for the work and effort she put into the White Paper, and for many of the other things she did in office. We do not agree on much, but there is a large measure of agreement between us on this subject, and I am happy to recognise that.

I agree with the Minister that there is a tendency on the part of this country, its citizens and even its Members of Parliament, to become so obsessed with our own problems that we forget that by comparison with most other parts of the world, we are extremely fortunate. There is a great tendency to use our current misfortunes and difficulties as an excuse for sweeping this subject and the much worse problems of the larger part of mankind under the carpet. One of the reasons why we need debates on aid is precisely so that we may draw attention to the fact that on any conceivable basis of comparison we are very fortunate, and that there is much that we could do, even in our present impoverished and parlous economic condition, to improve the lot of mankind.

It would be the final degradation of Western civilisation if the people of the Western world could each night return home and sit in their comfortable sitting rooms, centrally-heated in winter and air-conditioned in summer, see on their colour television sets and in their colour supplements on Sundays terrible things brought before them from different parts of the world, and then lean back and wait for the detergent or holiday advertisements, or whatever, seeing the advertisements of plenty and the sufferings of other people as all being on the same sort of level. It would be degrading if they saw these things, in the same glorious colour and on the same smooth magazine paper, forgetting that some are luxuries to which we should all aspire and should all reasonably enjoy, and that the others are real sufferings in the alleviation of which we should play some part.

We are part of a world community. What happens to human beings in one part of the world should concern human beings in all parts, certainly in this country with its long tradition of involvement with the rest of the world. I cannot think of a better rallying cry, to which people of all parties and none can subscribe, than that put forward in one of the Community documents which we are discussing, the "fresco" to which the Minister referred, which says: To each according to his needs, By bringing all our means to bear". That is a rallying cry on which policy could be based, whichever party is in power.

As the Minister said, the problem of world poverty is in some ways worse than it was when we last debated the subject. We still have a tendency to talk about the Third World or the Group of 77, although the Group of 77 is now 100 or more, and the Third World as such has ceased to exist, in that some members of it have become very prosperous—the oil producers in particular. Others have become relatively prosperous compared with the rest, either because they have commodities and raw materials that the rest of the world needs, or because they have gone sufficiently far along the road towards industrialisation that, bad as their balance of payments might temporarily be, they can see light at the end of the tunnel. They are at that point of take-off to which Eugene Rostow once referred.

There are others whose position is far worse than it was before, because they have been badly hit by the oil price increases and the commodity price increases of recent years. Their balance of payments has plummeted into the red in a manner that makes ours look like a gentle decline, and their living standards have suffered drastically as a result.

Consequently, I welcome the distinction that the White Paper draws between different parts of the developing world and the emphasis it places on helping the poorer countries. Needless to say, whenever there is a distinction of the sort I have drawn between those who are relatively or even absolutely better off and those who are worse off, it is those who are worse off who are always by far the most numerous.

If we take the distinctions drawn between different parts of the developing world by the Community documents before us, we find that about 64 per cent. of the total number of people involved—after all, it is with people that we are primarily concerned—are in the poorest category. Therefore, I welcome the distinction drawn by the White Paper and its emphasis on directing United Kingdom bilateral aid as far as possible to the poorest countries and to those who have been most affected by the oil and other commodity price increases.

I welcome, too, as I am sure my right hon. and hon. Friends do, the emphasis on trying to co-operate with other Governments. Especially now that we are members of the European Community, this is quintessentially an area in which we can look forward to European initiatives, where the total of our efforts and those of the other members of the Community could well be greater than the sum of the parts. Although it is most important that each of us should have an effort of our own and a Minister of our own, it is also very important that we should try to co-operate as much as possible with our Community partners and to co-ordinate our activities with them. If we succeed in doing that, the benefits to the recipient countries will be greater than they would otherwise have been.

I also welcome the fact that the White Paper particularly mentions the oil-rich countries. We must not underestimate the difficulties of setting up schemes whereby money is obtained from the Arabs and technological expertise and so on are obtained from Britain, Germany, or wherever it may be to carry through a project in the Sudan, to take one recent example, or some other poor country. It is very difficult, but the prize is great. The scope for co-operation between the newly-rich oil countries and the technically advanced countries of Western Europe and North America to help developing countries in Africa, Asia and elsewhere is something that we should look into. I am glad that the White Paper specifically recognises that.

Finally, in dealing with the points in the White Paper that I welcome and those it emphasises, I think that we all agree that it is vital to help not just the poorest countries, but the poorest groups in them. With the benefit of hindsight, we can now all see that in the past 25 years too much emphasis has been placed on grandiose projects such as steel mills and motor car factories and things of that nature, which are often out of place in the economies concerned. Sometimes they have been a total failure, and on other occasions they have created an enclave of prosperity, and of highly developed economic standards, that has not had much effect on the vast bulk of the people living in the country or the area concerned.

There are often times when a relatively modest amount of money spent on an irrigation scheme can do far more good than a vast amount spent on a steel mill. There has been a tendency for economists trained in Western institutions—here I think quite as much of economists from the developing countries as from the West—to apply the criteria of Western economies to different circumstances, with calamitous and very expensive results. Therefore, the emphasis placed by the White Paper on rural development and helping the poorest is right, although, as an urban MP myself, like the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary, I welcome the recognition that Mr. McNamara has recently accorded to the problems of the urban poor.

Although accepting the Minister's statement that the bulk of the poorest people live in rural areas, I think that all of us who represent urban constituencies, with the example of New York in front of us, appreciate that the problems of urban dwellers are very great and that the deprivations suffered by people living in the vast shanty towns that have grown up around some of the richest and most attractive cities in the developing world are terrible. I hope that, notwithstanding our emphasis on rural development, we shall pay some attention to that. One advantage of emphasising rural development and rural schemes is that they may help to dissuade people from moving into the cities, and therefore to some extent tackle the problem at source.

It is clear that there is a considerable welcome for the White Paper on this side of the House. I shall not talk further about its merits, because the Minister has already presented it most eloquently. I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary will have more to say about it. Instead, I shall turn from the acts of commission, which, broadly speaking, I support, to one or two sins of omission. I do so not in a spirit of aggression or hostility, but in the hope that the suggestions I shall put forward will make it easier for the cause of aid and development to gain support in the country and to make the British effort rather more effective than in the past. Although I talk about sins of omission, my proposals are put forward with the intention of strengthening a policy that I believe to be one that commands support on both sides of the House. They are not designed to score debating points off the Minister, or to try to knock holes in the White Paper.

My first criticism is that the White Paper gives the impression of having been written by people who believe in aid and development for people who believe in aid and development. Clearly it has been written by people who hold that belief, but it is wrong that it should be designed for people who believe in it. The Minister said that he did not wish to argue the case for more aid in the House. I do not think that he needs to do so, as much of what he would say would be generally accepted. However, the case for aid and development needs to be argued much more strongly in the country as a whole.

The White Paper appears to be based on the assumption that basically we are all on the same side. That is not true throughout the country as a whole. Much of the idealism has gone not just in Britain but in the United States, the Western World and elsewhere. Many people have become blasé as a result of the constant repetition of the horrendous statistics that are commonplace in any discussion of this subject. People have been horrified by the reports of corruption in some of the developing countries—particularly some of those that have been the largest recipients of aid. People have been infuriated by the attacks made on Britain at the United Nations and elsewhere by some of the recipient countries and by other countries in Africa and Asia.

It is all very well for us to shrug our shoulders and smile at the latest outburst at the United Nations by Field Marshal Amin, but we must not forget the reaction of some of the developing countries when the field marshal makes such accusations and statements. This is not merely a matter of the United Nations theatre; it is not merely a matter of diplomacy or of Field Marshal Amin talking to his own constituents, as it were. Such outbursts have a bad and depressing effect on people's views about the developing countries. People become more unwilling to support proposals of the sort put forward in the White Paper as a result of such utterances.

It is important that the Government and everyone else supporting the cause of aid and development should be prepared to argue more strongly the case of self-interest as well as idealism. We must say frankly that British people who work in British industry need the markets. We must point out that it is a matter not only of handing over resources and not being able to spend on housing or other desirable projects, but of building up markets that our factories and industries will be able to serve. It is necessary to draw attention to that direct self-interest.

We need not be ashamed about that. We must point out our self-interest if we wish to counter the sort of newspaper articles to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. We must point out that there is something in it for us as well as something in it for others. Of course this must not be done on too narrow a front, and not just on the basis of presenting the message that "There is work in it for British workers". We must also let it be known that the Western industrial system requires development in the developing countries if it is to generate the type of investment that is required in future.

It may well be that post-war economic development has reached a watershed in recent years. It may not be possible for us to sustain the rate of growth, the rate of investment and the high levels of employment to which we have grown accustomed, unless the developing countries are able to absorb more of our goods. Unless the volume of trade between ourselves and the developing countries increases, and unless that trade develops from merely raw materials and commodities into more sophisticated goods and manfactured products, the Government must be prepared to argue the economic case far more strongly and explicitly. I do not in any sense differ from what the Minister has said, but I regret that that sort of thing has not been said in the White Paper.

Many of those concerned with aid and development in the House believe that if we cannot demonstrate a self-interest, it will be difficult to get the support that is needed to sustain the programme that we want to be implemented.

Mr. Frank Hooley (Sheffield, Heeley)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the converse of this argument is also true? It may be that we are put off by some of the statements of Field Marshal Amin, but the Third World is also put off by statements from the United States Secretary of State for Defence that if the supply of oil is cut off the United States will take it by force. Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that it is a matter of great importance to the Third World if the United States shrugs off the concept of the new international economic order? There are two sides to this question.

Mr. Tugendhat

I agree that there are two sides to an equation. I think that the hon. Gentleman should bear in mind that Dr. Kissinger made an extraordinarily constructive and helpful speech at the Special Session of the United Nations. I regret that Field Marshal Amin has not been able to balance some of his comments by equally constructive contributions.

My second criticism of the White Paper is that little mention is made of the rôle of foreign direct investment and the rôle of the multi-national companies. I accept that foreign direct investment is not the same as aid and that it is given for different purposes that should not be confused. In that there is no difference between us.

But if the less developed countries are to rely on aid alone, they will not get what they need. The volume of aid coming out of the developed world will not be sufficient for their needs. If the flow of resources from the industrial countries to the developing countries is to increase at anything like the rate we should like and if it is to reach the level we wish, the rôle of the multinational companies will have to expand.

We have only to look at our own country to see the important part that foreign-owned international companies have played in Scotland and in Ulster in building up what would otherwise have been declining economies. We have only to consider the extent to which in Scotland, from where the right hon. Member for Lanark comes, foreign-owned industry has provided the jobs so badly needed when the established nineteenth century industries went into decline.

What is true of the United Kingdom and other European countries could well be true of developing countries. It is tragic that political prejudice in many cases often leads the Governments of developing countries to adopt an unduly restrictive approach to foreign direct investment and to multinational companies, thus cutting off a flow of resources that could be helpful to them.

It would be a good thing if the British Government—the Government of a country that has derived considerable benefit from the activity of these companies, notwithstanding what is happening at Chrysler at the moment—did more to make this point. I recognise the nature of the fears of these Governments about large, foreign-owned companies. I hope that the book I wrote on the subject of multinational companies will show that I am under no illusion about some of the problems that arise. But they represent tremendous reservoirs of talent and resource. A way must be found to harness those talents and resources to the needs of developing countries as well as of industrial countries, where they already play a part.

I am much impressed by the ideas circulating at the moment in the European Commission for developing new corporate structures involving consortia of State-owned enterprises from the host countries, from the industrial countries and from multinational companies to undertake projects in the developing countries. This is an area in which this country, with its great expertise and considerable experience, could play a useful rôle.

That brings me to my third point of criticism, which concerns the importance of trade arrangements. We shall have the opportunity later today to talk about Lomé and we shall have the opportunity on Monday, in the foreign affairs debate, to discuss the Prime Minister's initiative at Kingston and the whole subject of commodities and international-economic relations. I do not intend to pre-empt discussions which may take place later. We are discussing the White Paper at the moment. We must look to the future of overseas development and ask what will help the poorest who are the concern of this White Paper.

We would all agree that the importance of earnings stabilisation schemes of the sort pioneered in the Lomé Convention and of the sort to which Dr. Kissinger referred in his United Nations speech is likely to be very great indeed. Earnings stabilisation schemes and the other trade arrangements which the Lomé Convention encompasses might do more practical good during the decades to come than the flow of aid and concessionary resources.

As the Minister has said, White Papers on this subject do not appear very often. It is a pity that this White Paper could not have dealt more comprehensively with the connection between trade arrangements and aid and the importance of looking at aid in a wider context—that, for instance, of the Lomé Convention.

I would also draw attention to the concern that Oxfam has expressed about the need for United Kingdom Governments to stress the close link between the need for adjustment assistance in the regions of Britain likely to be affected by imports from the developing world with the kind of development aid we are providing to the Third World. As I said earlier, I think with the agreement of the House, we are all anxious to sustain support for these programmes. We shall not do so if many of the imports from the developing world go to places that already suffer from high unemployment and where it seems clear that the Government have not made any provision for assistance before the crisis breaks.

I cannot think of a better recipe for disaster for these aid programmes than an association on the part of the electorate with aid on the one hand and loss of jobs as a result of imports on the other. The point made by Oxfam is important in itself. It also shows the need to look at the subject in a wider context.

Those are the criticisms I wished to make. There is a substantial measure of agreement between us. There is much in the White Paper that I welcome. The acts of commission have our approval. It is the sins of omission to which we draw attention, and we do so in a constructive spirit, hoping to improve the effectiveness of the British aid programme and to improve the contribution that Britain can make to this important activity in international fora. We believe that if the Government would adopt the sort of ideas that I have put forward, the 650 million people who are living on annual incomes of less than £24 would be better off than they are today.

12.8 p.m.

Sir Geoffrey de Freitas (Kettering)

I am pleased to be able to give my welcome to the hon. Member for City of London and Westminster, South (Mr. Tugendhat) in his rôle as Opposition Front Bench spokesman today, associating himself for the first time, as he put it, with hon. Members in all parts of the House who have taken an interest in aid for many years. The hon. Member referred to us in the Western countries watching suffering in the poorer countries on television. He reminded me of another horror—the possibility, first mentioned by Aneurin Bevan, of the distortion of development as a result of which people in developing countries might sit at television sets watching people in other developing countries starving to death. We have at all times to beware of this distortion.

The hon. Member for City of London and Westminster, South referred to aid and trade. Aid I always present as being good in itself and essential. Trade I relate to my constituency. The two principal industries in my constituency are steel and footwear. I have always told my constituents that we cannot sell steel products and shoes to people who live in mud huts and go around barefoot.

It is deplorable that we have had so few opportunities in recent years, under both Governments, of debating this subject. I was interested to note that when, a week ago at business questions time, I asked the Leader of the House whether we could look forward to more general debates in future, there were murmurs of support from all quarters of the House. That is something which the Minister ought to bear in mind and carry back to his Department.

I am Chairman of our Select Committee on Overseas Development. We have particularly regretted this lack of debate. At present we are nearing the end of what we think is an important inquiry into food prices and rural development. I stress rural development in view of what the hon. Member said about steel mills. We have tried to get down to real rural development. I cannot speak on this for the Committee but I am fairly certain that all members of it support the White Paper as far as it goes. Certainly we support the Minister, as we supported his predecessor. The White Paper does not go far enough in bringing out the appalling effect of the oil crisis on the developing world. It gives general support but it does not deal with the dramatic points we brought out in our report presented last year and published at the beginning of this year.

Paragraphs 16 and 19 of our Select Committee's report on the oil crisis cite as an example the dreadful results for India from the high costs of oil imports in 1974. I quote India because the scale of suffering there is so enormous, but its problems are shared by other developing countries. The cost of oil imports in 1974 was twice the cost in 1973, and the figure for 1975 will probably be greater. Even allowing for an increase in the prices obtained for the exports of commodities, the poorest countries are suffering greatly. I have seen an estimate that from 1973 to 1975 India has probably had a net balance of payments loss of over $3½ per head of population.

In paragraph 24 of our report we say with careful and deliberate understatement—we follow the pattern of most Select Committees and we do not indulge in over-emphasis—that the prospects for the next five years are alarming. However, we are encouraged that the Government realise this. We welcome the Government's reference on the cover of the White Paper to the fact that there has been a change in emphasis and that we now set out to give more help to the poorest countries.

I am disappointed that more is not said in the White Paper about the voluntary agencies. Members of our Select Committee felt that the voluntary agencies would have an even more important rôle in future. That view was reinforced by members of the Committee who had heard at first-hand of the experience of the North American agencies. We were all greatly impressed to hear about the close co-operation between the American voluntary agencies and the American Overseas Development Council—this is something which we should learn—which together have considerable influence on opinion in Congress and among the public. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to say more about the voluntary agencies. Our Select Committee talked with many people in the national and international aid agencies. We found that their problems were similar to ours, and we felt that if we worked together more we could achieve more.

My right hon. Friend the Minister and the hon. Member for City of London and Westminster, South referred, as does the White Paper in Chapter IX, to the European Economic Community. I welcome what is said in Chapter IX, particularly as I serve on the European Parliament's Committee on Development and Cooperation. However, I wish that I had more cheerful news from the European Community. The Minister referred, although not in great detail—I do not suggest that he should have done—to the discussions which he had had with his fellow Ministers in the Community. The hon. Member for City of London and Westminster, South referred to the fact that many of us believed that if this country were to remain in the Community the totality of aid would be greater than the sum of the individual contributions.

Earlier this year I campaigned hard to persuade people to vote for this country remaining a member of the European Economic Community, and I had to meet the argument that the Community was a rich white man's club interested only in the prosperity of Western Europe. I had spent some years working in black Africa—as British High Commissioner in West Africa, and in East Africa in Kenya at the time of independence. Because of the enormous size of the British community and of the Asian community, my main concern in Kenya on independence was that of law and order. Fortunately, as things worked out, the problem did not develop and we were able to concentrate on a programme of technical assistance and co-operation and on turning the colonial link into a Commonwealth link.

My experience in Africa was known to many people and so, during the referendum campaign, I was questioned at public meetings and in interviews. I was repeatedly asked about aid and whether our membership of the European Community would allow us to continue to help our fellow Commonwealth countries on the same scale as before. I replied that our continued membership would enable us to increase development aid to the poorer Commonwealth countries. I was encouraged in that belief because of what I understood to be the policy not only of the British Government but of all the Governments of the Community.

In recent months many people in this country—I am one of them—have come to dislike what they believe to be a change in the attitudes of the Governments of the Community. The Council of Ministers appears to be going back on the brave attitude which it adopted only a few months ago. I said in the European Parliament last month that I should find it difficult to make speeches on this similar to those which I made only four or five months ago, and I do not like being in such a position.

I do not argue that it is the duty of the British Government or of any other Government to worry about my political conscience, but the Governments of the Nine must not appear to be going back on their former brave attitudes. Fortunately, my right hon. Friend the Minister can have a clear conscience in his dealings with the other Governments, but right hon. and hon. Members must ensure that the Council does its duty to the Third World, because the Community is a rich white man's organisation and it has enormous opportunities to help the Third World. In furthering that aim, my right hon. Friend can be assured that he will have the support not only of many hon. Members of this House—that he knows—but of many members of the European Parliament.

12.18 p.m.

Sir Bernard Braine (Essex, South-East)

I am glad to follow in debate the right hon. Member for Kettering (Sir G. de Freitas), particularly because I preceded him as Chairman of the last two Select Committees. I share his view entirely that this subject should be debated much more frequently.

At a time of serious economic difficulty it may seem incongruous, even unrealistic, to many people outside this House to urge that we should give additional help to people in distant lands. It is neither incongruous nor unrealistic. As the Minister reminded us, at least two-thirds of the world's population are poor by our standards, and about one-third—say, a billion—are desperately poor. About half of them never get enough to eat. Disease is endemic among them, and their life-span is short. Illiteracy is widespread and it is growing. Urban squalor, to which my hon. Friend the Member for City of London and Westminster, South (Mr. Tugendhat) referred, and unemployment exist on a vast scale.

The statistics are chilling. In the past two years, at least 100,000 people have starved to death in North Africa, and probably, even more in South Asia. What is more, time will not wait on the matter because the world's population is now increasing at the rate of 80 million a year, with most of the increase taking place in the poorest countries, so that the gap between the rich and poor is actually widening. In short, the world is moving inexorably towards a confrontation between rich and poor which, if not checked within a reasonable period, can only lead to disaster for all.

I recall Trotsky's biting comment that "civilisation has made the peasantry its pack animal". That may be only a half truth. We have now reached the stage where we can be reasonably certain that, if hundreds of millions of underfed peasants in lands which supply the rest of us with basic foodstuffs and raw materials are not helped to attain a better life, there is little hope for civilisation itself.

The conclusion is inescapable. It is incredibly short-sighted and irresponsible for people in affluent lands such as ours, even in times of stress and difficulty such as we are now going through, to think that they can shut their eyes to all this while expecting poorer countries to go on exporting raw materials and even foodstuffs to sustain our vastly higher living standards.

For those reasons, it is a sad commentary on our sense of what is important that this is the first debate on the British aid programme—its size and quality, its aims and achievements—for over three years, and that we are discussing the first Government White Paper on aid policy to be published for eight years. It is no wonder that there is a lack of understanding about overseas aid in this country.

If there are achievements, they go largely unsung. If there is a strategy, it is not apparent. Nor is it surprising that in some quarters there is a feeling that charity should begin at home—that is natural and human—and that in any event much of the effort we are making overseas is dissipated by inept, if not corrupt, Governments in recipient countries.

Now we, Members of Parliament who study these matters, know that such thinking is wide of the mark. The British aid programme may not be the largest, but qualitatively speaking it has a good record. We know that giving aid makes economic good sense. While initially it involves a net transfer of resources from rich to poor, the benefit in the long run is mutual. Clearly any quickening of economic activity increases demand for goods and leads to an expansion in trade. In turn, an improvement in the standard of living of the poor is the key to population control, which is one of the major barriers to faster development in the poorer countries.

We know too that giving aid makes political good sense. Efforts to reduce deep and debilitating poverty, and the despair and misery which they breed, are not only good in themselves but, as they lay emphasis upon co-operation between nations, are a positive contribution to international understanding and peace.

As Mr. Robert McNamara, the distinguished President of the World Bank, pointed out recently, there is a direct correlation between poverty and conflict, between economic backwardness and violence. It is no accident that in a world where the gap between rich and poor nations is widening, the trend in alienation and in violence is up, not down.

Third, and most importantly, we know that the problems of eradicating the worst features of world poverty, though vast, are not insuperable. Almost all the developing countries are capable of raising the greater part of their investment requirements out of their export earnings and the resources of their own people. As to the balance, which much come from outside, let us be quite clear what the affluent nations are being asked to provide. I thought that Mr. McNamara stated the situation clearly in his address to the Governors of the World Bank in Washington last year. He said: The amount of additional financial assistance… needed by the poorest of the developing nations …that would mean the difference between decency and utter degradation for hundreds of millions of the absolute poor is, in relative terms, minute—perhaps 2 per cent. of the increase in real income that the developed world can look forward to in the remaining years of the decade. The need would be met by transferring no more than 2 per cent. of the increase in income that the richer nations, including ourselves, can look forward to in the next 10 years. That is all that is required to make the difference, in Mr. McNamara's view, between decency and utter degradation for hundreds of millions of people.

We also know, after much trial and error, that in poor countries, where the majority of people still live on the land, the way to success lies not only in raising agricultural production—we can do that, as the scientists have largely conquered that problem—but in creating more employment through the medium of integrated rural development, and through the involvement of whole communities. I shall not go into detail on that matter as the Chairman of the Select Committee has a duty of preparing a report which will come to the House in the not-too-distant future.

These, then, are some of the reasons why I warmly welcome the White Paper and its theme that British aid should go primarily to the poorest countries and to the poorest people in those countries.

What I am less certain about is whether the implications of this shift in aid policy have not yet been fully grasped. Having read the White Paper, it seems to me that we have a new aid strategy but as yet no very clear idea as to the tactical problems of implementing that strategy. Let me explain what I mean. I am not critical of the philosophy underlying the White Paper. I pay unreserved tribute to the Minister for Overseas Development and his predecessor the right hon. Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) for the way in which they have steered the aid programme in this direction. However, I have a number of criticisms to make in, I hope, a constructive way.

First, although paragraph 6 of the introduction to the White Paper states that the criterion used in Her Majesty's Government's aid policy is primarily that of need", it underlines the fact that there are other wider considerations including political and commercial factors…whose significance will, of course, vary with time and circumstance". Those factors are not discussed in the White Paper. As a result, we are given no concrete indication of the extent to which the British political and commercial policies are likely to conflict with the criterion of need, nor how much weight will be given to need where there is such a conflict.

There is only one other, somewhat unfortunate, reference in the White Paper to these so-called "wider interests". It occurs in paragraph 13 of Chapter IV, which deals with the problem of over-emphasising rural development. In the middle of the passage analysing some of the recipients' difficulties, it says: other relevant factors (for example, political or commercial arguments) have to be given their proper weight". What does that mean? Perhaps the Minister will tell us.

Second, it is unfortunate that the White Paper sets no targets for the allocation of British aid. It may well be that the formulation of target allocations for different sectors would be difficult. But a target for the proportion of British aid which should go to the poorest countries must, I suggest, be an essential part of giving effect to the "increasing emphasis" upon them which the White Paper prescribes.

In paragraph 25 it is stated that Britain is arguing for the adoption of such targets internationally. The Minister referred to the efforts he has been making in that direction. That is splendid. We have had from him and from the right hon. Member for Lanark vigorous advocacy of this policy, particularly in the Community. Nothing that I am saying on this score is critical of what they have done. Yet, surely the first step in presenting such arguments is to indicate to the House, and through the House to the nation, what proportion of British aid is currently going to the poorest countries, and to say by how much it is proposed to increase the proportion and by what date. The White Paper provides no information on this. Before we start lecturing others, we should set an example.

Mr. Prentice

I said that the current proportion was about 64 per cent. as specific bilateral aid. New commitments in the last year were 70 per cent. So we are on an increasing curve in this respect.

Sir B. Braine

I heard the right hon. Gentleman say that, but I am criticising the White Paper, which had to be agreed between Ministers. It does not mention the figure. I have no doubt where the right hon. Gentleman's heart lies in this matter. I should have preferred to see the proposition stated in the White Paper. I should like to see the Minister standing up there with a White Paper which represents clearly everything that he and the rest of the House stand for, because 90 per cent. of us are completely with him on this.

Thirdly, the White Paper seems to ignore the possibility of a conflict between the objective of more aid for the poorest countries and more aid for the poorest groups within them. I do not want to make heavy weather about this, but the difficulties of aiding the poorest groups, especially in the rural sector, are such that to emphasise this may well run the risk of slowing down the rate of spending in the poorest countries rather than stepping it up. It is important surely to provide resources for the poorest countries in a way which enables them to be used flexibly and quickly. Instead of saying that more British aid should be provided for rural development, would it not be more sensible to say that more British aid should be provided to increase the total resources for rural development? The latter might be most effectively achieved by Britain's financing, say, a power station or the expansion of a port, thus releasing some of the recipient's own resources for rural development. Or it might be achieved by general balance of payments support so that more resources could be made available internally for poverty-focused development.

Fourthly, linked with what I have been saying there appears to be a contradiction in what the White Paper says about the provision of aid for local costs and recurrent expenditure. In Chapter III of the White Paper, paragraph 8 states correctly: aid programmes designed specifically to help the poorest sections of the community are likely to involve a high proportion of projects where most of the money involved has to be spent on local wages and local materials and equipment. Paragraph 10 makes the valid point that It is also likely that many projects aimed at helping the poorest sections of the community will involve recurrent costs". Yet in considering local costs, the White Paper, in paragraph 9, promises only that We are ready to consider allowing in exceptional cases a limited part of our financial aid to meet local costs of individual projects. On recurrent costs there is no commitment at all—rather the reverse, because it is stated in paragraph 10 that Most donors…are normally unwilling to provide local costs to cover recurrent expenditure. It seems clear to me that on both local costs and recurrent expenditure the right hon. Gentleman has lost a battle with the Treasury. Unless he can regain that lost ground, his efforts to devote more aid to the rural sector and to the poorest groups generally are likely to be frustrated.

Fifthly, in some respects the White Paper seems to neglect the importance of trying to judge whether aid will be effectively used and will make a positive contribution to development goals such as raising productivity and income, particularly of the poorest, and creating more employment opportunities. The principle expressed in paragraph 2 of Chapter II that aid should concentrate on low income countries with worse growth prospects than the average could easily be twisted by irresponsible critics so that it looked like a recipe for money down the drain.

In this House we understand the language that we are using—we are all on the same wavelength—but we must be careful about the impact on public opinion outside. One important reason why Uganda's growth prospects are worse than average is Field Marshal Amin. The way for the Government to deal with this when considering poor countries with poor prospects is to be much more explicit about the weight which they intend to give to those where our aid seems most likely to change the prospects for the better, both for the country as a whole and for the poorest groups within it. In other words, we should help those who are most likely to help themselves.

Admittedly the problems which face a bilateral donor in trying to ensure that its aid is used by the recipient country to support or facilitate activities of which the donor approves are immense. It is much easier, of course, for a multilateral agency to do this. In this regard, however, the White Paper is somewhat negative and defeatist about the possibility of exercising influence—in a diplomatic fashion—in cases where we feel that the recipient has his development priorities wrong.

My final criticism is that the White Paper draws back from saying what we all know to be true, namely, that the total volume of aid reaching the developing countries is still pitifully inadequate and the British contribution to the combined effort is only marginally better than the average.

I concede at once that the Minister was perfectly frank at the Box. He spoke his mind and told us what was in his heart. We know where he and the right hon. Member for Lanark stand. But why was this not spelt out in the White Paper? Although in the present economic climate it is unrealistic to think that our contribution could be quickly increased, the Government have missed an opportunity to shatter the complacency which reigns in many quarters of the country on this issue by not being more frank in the White Paper.

Let none of us pretend, therefore, that we can be proud of our present response to the need. Fine words butter no parsnips, and in a world where starving millions do not even get parsnips we shall be judged in the end not by the number of White Papers we produce, not by the high-flown speeches we make on aid platforms or at church assemblies, but by the genuine sacrifices we as a people are prepared to make and the example we are prepared to set to ensure a better, fairer and safer world.

12.38 p.m.

Mrs. Judith Hart (Lanark)

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine), than whom there is no one in the House who has greater dedication to this subject and greater information about it. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Minister for his kind remarks about my work. As my right hon. Friend said, the new poverty-focused strategy has been in operation for some time, certainly for most of this year. I propose later to touch on one or two matters raised by the hon. Members for Essex, South-East and for City of London and Westminster, South (Mr. Tugendhat).

It is much easier to publish a White Paper outlining strategy than it is to undertake all the hard work involved in seeing the strategy through in practice. Tremendous determination and toughness will be needed by my right hon. Friend and the Parliamentary Secretary in ensuring that it is translated into the nitty-gritty of what happens when any development project is under consideration. It will not be an easy task, although there is now in the Ministry a Rural Development Division which can bring greater attention and concentration to bear all these matters.

The hon. Member for Essex, South-East rightly asked what are likely to be the political and commercial considerations which temper the strategy of the White Paper. There is a blunt answer. There will be sharp conflicts from time to time between the Ministry and the Foreign Office. We must hope that on those occasions the Ministry's strategy is allowed to have its way.

I can think of examples now and in the recent past in which there has been a conflict of interest between different objectives of the Government, of either party, between the poverty of a country and its relative wealth on the one hand, leading one way in terms of the amount of emphasis to be given to aid to it, and, on the other, the aim to expand trade and take trade opportunities and the need, perhaps, to relate to foreign policy considerations. Indonesia is a classic example. There will be such conflicts from time to time. What matters, however, is that the chance of getting the right decision from the development point of view is increased considerably by having an accepted White Paper which commands support in this House in a general and sincere way and which, therefore, is a strategy to which reference can continually be made. That is the importance of having a White Paper.

I should like to say a word about "targetry". What has been said is right. We have little to be proud of. All that we can say is that we are not as bad as some other countries in our aid performance. We are about halfway down the league table. The Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands do better. But it is worth pointing out, because it is of such great importance, that one of the worst performances, if not the worst, is that of the United States. For it is a matter not only of percentage statistics but of what they represent in terms of the sheer volume of resources transferred; and when the United States is down to 0.23 per cent. or thereabouts the world loses a great potential transfer of resources. If the United States percentage went up to 0.4 for example, that would entail a massive transfer of funds.

The position of the United States is crucial. One understands why it has fallen so far behind. Basically, there are two attitudes there. There are those who do not wish to see American revenues used in aid to developing countries. There is another group of people who are much more progressive and enlightened but who have tended to be affected by the fact that to them, as they put it in stark and simple terms, aid means foreign involvement, and foreign involvement led to Vietnam. They say "We do not want another Vietnam, so we withdraw from foreign aid and involvement." The United States is caught up in these two views and makes little progress.

I want to touch on one or two aspects of the Lomé Convention, although we shall be discussing it later today. I agree with a great deal of what my right hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Sir G. de Freitas) said in his forthright speech. Some of us have had the experience over the past 12 to 15 months of trying to translate the commitment in principle by the EEC of July last year into hard, firm financial commitments on aid to non-associates. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development has had the experience, as I had, of failing so far to convince the Community as a whole to agree. We have allies, of course, the Netherlands in particular. But there is at present what can only be described as very hard and unfortunate intransigence on the part of the Germans. We have to recognise that and hope that their attitude will be modified.

During our great debates on British membership of the EEC, it was perhaps not often fully understood why I, as Minister of Overseas Development, had grave doubts about the effect of our entry into the Community on developing countries. My attitude arose because I could see such a vast gap between the fine words and the action, particularly in hard financial terms. However, we are now firmly in the EEC, and I hope that we shall be able to persuade our partners to agree with us.

As I have made clear before, I have some doubts about targets, including the relevance of the 1 per cent. target, which includes both aid and foreign private investment. My doubts arise basically from the fact, generally agreed on both sides of the House, that foreign investment is not aid, and these were reinforced when I was Minister in 1969–70. Just after the 1970 General Election, out came the official aid statistics for the previous year, and it was discovered that Great Britain had shot above the 1 per cent. target to about 1.2 per cent. or 1.3 per cent. The explanation was not that there had been a dramatic influx of new private investment into developing countries but that there had been some disinvestment, some selling-off by oil companies, and this had affected the figures which thus showed us doing well. That increase, however, did not represent a tinker's cuss in terms of real resources going into the developing countries, but rather the reverse.

There is room for a genuine debate on the attitudes to private investment, perhaps between the two sides of the House or perhaps among us all. I have serious doubts about the value of foreign direct investment in developing countries. I think that it takes with it certain transfers of skill, know-how, technology, and so on, but it also takes with it alien social values and it can disturb what would otherwise be the normal process of social and political development within a country. The hon. Member for City of London and Westminster, South has written about these matters. So have I. There are disadvantages. The outflow from private investment can often far outweigh the potential advantages of inflow, and what is taken out can be very considerable.

Lastly, we cannot ignore the experiences and the history of the past few years and overlook the fact that, if a developing country which has very few resources allows the major part of its resources to be developed by multinational corporations, there is a great danger of political tensions which can lead to unendurable consequences. We must bear those points in mind.

My attitude is that private investment should not be regarded as part of aid and that we therefore should not give any weight whatever—rather, we should almost ignore it—to the 1 per cent. target which was arrived at back in 1964. Many people have learned since then that the question of whether a developing country wants to have private investment must be for it alone; it must be its own choice. It is an economic and political choice not to be influenced in any way by aid programmes or by the way in which aid programmes come about.

I turn to what the hon. Member for City of London and Westminster, South and other hon. Members have said about public attitudes. Most of us who have had an involvement in the subject have stressed continually that there is a very deep long-term self-interest in the whole subject. I do not think that that is offensive in any way to those whose primary motivation is one of sheer concern and identification with the poverty of the Third World and the search for social justice in the world. It does not offend them if it is said that there is also a long-term self-interest on the part of those who, like us, share their concern.

There is now, of course, a total interdependence throughout the world. Poverty leads to tensions. Tensions lead to conflicts. Conflicts involve all of us nowadays. There is also a profound economic interdependence in our world. It is true that, looking to the long term as a primarily trading nation, our advantage lies in whatever can be done to expand the volume of world trade, which means lifting up and increasing the potential purchasing power of the two-thirds of the world's population who at present can buy nothing even in their own country, let alone from us or from any of the other industrialised countries.

There is a third factor on which we are right to place some emphasis. There is the population aspect of all this. It is in our interests that development helps to reduce the pressures of population in the world, but bearing on that there is the question of world resources. To what extent are they finite? To what extent will the pressures upon them lead to great hardships for us and for all the Western world?

The key point is: to what extent can those problems be resolved if the transfer of resources can assist the developing countries to cultivate what they have, to exploit the minerals they have and to increase the world supplies of those very products about which at present we are all concerned, because we can see the end of the road coming in terms of supply and demand? So there is of course the aspect of our own self-interest, and we should stress it.

There is another factor. Everybody taking part in this debate must join me in wishing that sometimes what we all say on these matters could get reported. It does not. This is a great difficulty for all of us. A controversial speech on any subject, particularly if it happens to attack somebody else, will lead to columns and columns in the Press; but nobody wants to know about a speech on this subject. I am certain that my right hon. Friend the Minister is sharing my experience on the hand-outs that never see the light of day.

I want to mention very briefly the relationship between what we do in terms of aid policies and what happens in terms of international trade policies. It is reasonable that the White Paper does not go into questions of trade. At a time when the new international economic order is dominating world discussions and when, following the Special Assembly of the United Nations in New York and the later initiative in the spring, there are now all the meetings that will lead up to UNCTAD 4 next spring in Nairobi, it is of great importance that within Whitehall, within the Government and in the House real regard should be paid to the need to bring all the aspects of assistance together; because, whether it is commodity agreements, buffer stocks, participation in international monetary discussions, stabilisation of export earnings or whatever else it might be, it involves far more than one Whitehall Department. There is a great need for integration, so that we in the House can put our questions and know what is happening and know that there is a leadership on this matter in Whitehall, particularly now with UNCTAD 4 coming up.

I turn to the strategy itself. The first aspect is rural development. This is a difficult matter. It is much easier to build a steel mill than it is to carry out integrated rural development. It is important to understand what the elements of rural development are likely to consist of. Oddly enough, some of them have a slightly unfamiliar ring when they are expressed in terms of rural development—when they are not actually concerned with growing things in the ground.

For example, the first requirement in many of the poorest parts of the world where people are below or barely at subsistence level is irrigation, for dry land to become irrigated. To carry out irrigation there must be power. Therefore, oddly enough, the power-irrigation complex is an essential first base to rural development.

The next requirement is roads, because a countryside which is beginning to produce and to sell and which is actively developing needs a feeder road. Therefore, a feeder road is part of rural development.

All of this, which is expensive, high capital cost stuff—particularly roads, which consume enormous sums—is necessary before one gets to the experts, to using the right strains of seeds, the storage, the clinics, the village school, the provision of literacy and technical education of one sort and another and all the other components of integrated rural development. It is, therefore, a difficult, involved, elaborate task.

One reason for our being rather pleased is that while there has been a great deal of discussion about the need to place greater emphasis on rural development all over the world in the past few years, we are one of the very first countries, to try to translate it into practice and face all the problems and the difficulties which will be involved in doing so. This is exciting for us.

I want to end by talking about the basis of the policy, because aid to the poorest countries, aid to the poorest people, poverty-focused programmes and emphasis on rural development emerge from a very different approach to the economic foundations of development as compared with the approach which has dominated aid programmes for 10, 15 or 20 years.

The hon. Member for City of London and Westminster, South was right in saying that there had been an emphasis on industrialisation as a quick, easy answer to development. Indeed, the theory was one based on our own history of development. It was as though everybody was saying "Let us try to help the Third World to get through a century of industrial development, its own industrial revolution, to go from 1820 to 1960 in our own terms in the space of a few years." But it did not work.

The reason why it could not work is that there cannot be a base for effective, sustained economic growth unless one is concerning oneself to some extent with income distribution. For unless the poor have a little surplus with which to buy there is neither the stimulus nor the foundation for economic growth. That was the great mistake that was made by, for example, Rostow at a time when this view of the development tended to dominate the scene.

I do not say that that view is shared by every economist. There is a difference of view even among the economists in the Ministry for Overseas Development, but that is very strongly my own view, and it is supported by the evidence which has come forward that once the 70 per cent. of the world's poor who try to scrape a living from the land can begin to have a little surplus income, they will be on their way and we shall have the foundation for the growth of minor industries, village workshops and intermediate technology which arise only when a little surplus income becomes available.

In taking this strategic approach we are not only deliberately, intentionally and consciously saying that it is the poorest who need most help. We are also saying that this is the only way in which aid, in so far as it can play a rôle—and it is only a rôle rôle along the margin—if it continues in this direction, can help to create a sound base for economic development. It means to some extent that we are opting for more equality within the developing country itself, that we are hoping for the disappearance of the élitism which has tended to dominate the scene in many developing countries, and hoping for the full community participation on the land which is an essential ingredient in successful development.

Therefore, it is important that, in appreciating the visible consequences of this shift in strategy, we understand that it is very sound economics and very much in our own interest as well but, above all, that it is the only path forward for the developing countries if they are not to be trapped in their poverty.

1.2 p.m.

Mr. Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler (Norfolk, North-West)

It is a very great pleasure for me to follow the right hon. Lady the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart), as my first task is to congratulate the right hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Prentice) and the right hon. Lady, his predecessor in office, on the tremendous work that they have put into this White Paper and on its general tone. The House recognises, I am sure, that they both have pursued their personal convictions with very great courage. Their part in the publication of this White Paper, at this time of domestic economic difficulty, is a further act of courage, which I have no doubt this House will recognise.

I also thank the right hon. Gentleman for persuading the authorities to find time for this debate on overseas development, the first on this subject that we have had for several years. I share with my hon. Friend the Member for City of London and Westminster, South (Mr. Tugendhat) the hope that we shall have debates on overseas development far more often in the future, because in my view this is a subject that will be with us for a long time and will become of even greater importance in our conduct of foreign affairs.

It is seldom popular to discuss aid and development issues in this country. That the right hon. Gentleman should choose to do so at a time when the economic situation here is grave and when domestic unemployment is rising shows how firmly the Government are committed to Britain's playing her part in helping to resolve the greatest single international problem now facing us, a problem, as I have said, that will be with us for some considerable time.

Although the United Kingdom is in some difficulty now, we must recognise that nearly one-third of the world's population, in the less developed countries, only just survive on annual incomes less than twice the average weekly industrial wage in this country. It is very important that simple facts like that are put over in an incessant stream to the British public, so that we can remind ourselves how very fortunate we are by comparison with people in the developing countries.

The size of this problem is all the more staggering and difficult to comprehend when one realises that the population in these developing countries is likely to double by the end of the century, even if there is a significant reduction in the birthrate. If there is not a reduction, presumably the increase will be that much more substantial and the poverty and pressures to which the right hon. Lady referred will increase even more rapidly.

Mr. John Lee (Birmingham, Handsworth)

May I give the hon. Gentleman an illustration of that point? The hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine) and I went to the South Pacific earlier this year. We visited, amongst other places, Western Samoa, and I discovered that the age of half the population of Western Samoa was 15 years or under. That example, I think, exemplifies the horrendous magnitude of the problem.

Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler

I am sure that the House is grateful for that intervention, because all of us who have travelled in the developing countries are impressed by the increasing numbers of young people, which is an indication of the future growth of the size of the problem.

I should like to refer to what the right hon. Lady and my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine) said about the need to get publicity for this problem. To say that the British public are not interested in the issues of aid and development is to do them a disservice. In fact, I think we all do the British public a disservice. What we ought to be complaining about is that the media, as the right hon. Member for Newham, North-East said, do not seem to think it worth while writing about these problems. It is the experience of myself and of my hon. Friend the Member for City of London and Westminster, South, in dealing with charities concerned with projects in the developing world, that one gets the most enormous response from the British public when they understand what the issue is. In its recent report, Oxfam shows that fact very clearly. The charity of which my hon. Friend is chairman, the SOS Childrens' Villages, has done exceptionally well and has succeeded in getting across to the British public the need for private contributions to help solve some of the problems.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

The hon. Gentleman might like to know that I heard an unofficial figure, which the Minister may confirm, namely, that the total received by voluntary bodies in this country exceeds £20 million a year. If that is so, does it not indicate that those who write in the media do not appreciate the depth of understanding and conviction in the British public?

Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making that point. I am sure that it is true.

Sir Bernard Braine

I should like to support what has just been said. When I and others were in the United States recently we discovered that in a year of recession, when the politicians were terrified of increasing demands for aid, contributions to voluntary agencies reached record levels. In short, if the appeal reaches ordinary people and it is framed in terms that they understand, they will respond.

Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, not least because in his own speech he put this fact across in a very humane way. If we could talk to the British public in the sort of terms that he used today, we should have far greater support in the country for increasing Britain's aid contributions.

I have been generous in my remarks to the right hon. Member for Newham, North-East and his predecessor the right hon. Member for Lanark, so that I can make quite clear that any criticism I may make of this White Paper is not in spirit but simply in detail and emphasis. I have often felt that British foreign policy since the war, during the 25 years that have come to be known as the neo-colonial period, has been less positive, and understandably so. At a time when we and other European countries were divesting ourselves of our colonies, we have been the subject of constant criticism, on the one hand from those who felt that we were giving independence too quickly, and, on the other hand, from those who thought that we were giving independence too slowly. In consequence, we have lost some of our confidence, I think, and become far too reticent to make the best use of our colonial experience.

Furthermore, successive Foreign Secretaries have, in my view, continued, in the main, a policy of reaction to world events that was far more appropriate when Britain was the largest single colonial Power and, with the notable exception of the European issue, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) was Prime Minister, have been pretty negative in putting forward a constructive and positive foreign policy for Britain. Nevertheless, it is true now that in the developing world generally, and our former colonies in particular, we are at last accepted and perhaps better regarded than ever before in our history.

The former colonies are beginning to recognise that the former colonial Powers are not only more able but are also more willing to give assistance, both technical and material, than are other major power groups. Even more significant, there is growing recognition that, having given up power, the United Kingdom, at least, is not likely to give assistance in the future with a view to securing unreasonable political influence or economic power over the internal affairs of the newly independent States that were formerly European colonies.

In truth, Britain has never been more popular with her former colonies than she is today. I believe strongly, therefore, that the time has come for the United Kingdom, both unilaterally and through our membership of the Community, to make a concerted effort to make technology more readily available in finding solutions to the problems that at present exist and that will in future arise from the enormous disparity of wealth between the major Powers and the least developed countries. Surely, through her experience, Britain is uniquely equipped to provide leadership in solving some of the problems of malnutrition, food shortages and population growth afflicting so much of the developing world today. A positive policy on these issues could do much to improve the prospects of political stability.

I am delighted that the White Paper recognises the importance of rural development. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that the reason for its becoming "recently so fashionable" is not that it has not always been the right policy, but that economic theorists have consistently ignored the realities of development, realities that have been recognised for so long by agriculturists and sociologists and, for that matter, people such as myself who formerly worked on development projects on the ground.

Indeed, the recognition of the importance of rural development marks a new understanding that the problems of the developing world cannot be solved by unlimited inputs of cash and technology in major industrial products, which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East said, all too often result in people being drawn off the land into urban unemployment. What is required is human involvement by both donor and recipient countries in sheer hard work at the grass roots themselves.

Many of us in the House who have had an opportunity to visit countries that have been in receipt of aid from China, for example, recognise how effective the Chinese have been in getting work done at the local level. We Europeans will double our effectiveness as aid donors if only we can devise schemes for getting existing technology at the intermediate level accepted and operating in the smallest villages throughout the developing world.

I recall a conversation that I had some time ago with the President of Tanzania when he was reviewing his country's record of achievements since independence. He said that he had put people together in Ujaama villages and now they would not work. Then he laughed and said—these are not precisely his words, but they are very close to them—"What we need are a few good Socialist entrepreneurs".

Truly, that is the problem at the grass roots. How do we, as the right hon. Lady said, begin to get the man living in a mud but to believe that he has access to wealth and a way of life better than the one he now enjoys? How can we encourage that tiny seed to grow so that, again as the right hon. Lady said, the village will develop industries and develop in other ways? Far too often, we have looked at this problem from the macro-economic point of view instead of from the micro-economic point of view. How do we get the individual to move? That is the problem facing us.

I am disappointed in the White Paper also in that it does not comment on the export opportunities for private consultants and agri-business in the developing world. I am sorry that the right hon. Lady has now left the Chamber, because I should have liked to debate this serious issue with her. I cannot help observing that it is now some five years since the Foreign Office, in conjunction with the Department of Trade and Industry, produced a policy statement on private investment in developing countries. That was in 1971, and from 1972 until 1974 there was an understanding in the right hon. Gentleman's Ministry that greater effort should be directed to supporting the work of private companies in the field.

The Government would be seriously mistaken if they did not recognise that companies such as Booker McConnel, Lonrho, Mitchell Cotts and others can contribute a great deal to the extension process by their active involvement in profitable projects in developing countries, either on their own account or, as is more often the case nowadays, in partnership with the Government or other private companies in the countries in which they are located. Many of us feel that the employment opportunity, the educational spin-off and the sheer discipline of a profitable commercial enterprise can create the most effective and lasting kind of development.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I see the omission of anything to do with private investment in companies, consultancies and so on, as a major omission from the White Paper, not least because the Secretary of State for Trade is at the moment travelling the world to explain how difficult it is for Britain to continue absorbing imports from countries whose industrial efficiency is better than ours. The Secretary of State moans a great deal about imports. In my view, it would be very helpful if a good deal more effort were put into obtaining exports, and I think here, in particular, of exports of technology and services to the developing world as well as of investment.

If I may be harsh for a moment, I believe that the White Paper is more concerned with the efficient spending of money than with the creation of wealth, and I wish that the Government and the Minister's Department were a little more efficient and concerned to encourage British industry to earn money overseas. I fear that it was an act of political dogma to end the policy of co-operation between the Commonwealth Development Corporation and British industry, which was a direct result of the White Paper to which I have already referred. It was working well, and many British companies, because of their regular contacts with the Ministry of Overseas Development, were gaining a good deal of useful advice that enabled them not only to operate more profitably overseas, but to play a not inconsiderable part in spreading intermediate technology in the developing countries.

I put it to the Minister that there is enormous scope for private investment in agricultural and rural development projects in many parts of the world. Certainly the development potential of countries such as the Sudan, Egypt, Somalia and many others in Africa and Asia is enormous. At a time when Britain is urgently seeking new markets, are the Government, through the right hon. Gentleman's Ministry, the Foreign Office and the Department of Trade, doing anything like enough to identify projects in which private investment could play a major part?

For example, is there not a case to be made for co-ordinating the marketing of British agricultural technology in a way similar to that successfully applied to the supervision of aid through the development area set-up? Could we not establish a parallel organisation to define markets not only for the export of British agricultural technology to the developing world, but for capital goods? Would it not be possible to have salesmen and research people attached to the area development office in order to improve the opportunities to identify chances for British agricultural and other technology to be sold in the developing world? I often feel that we are far too passive in this most important aspect of development, and I should be grateful if the Minister would say to what extent he is prepared to consider my suggestions in conjunction with the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Trade.

The 1972–74 policy of co-operation was working well and its destruction was a slap in the eye for British companies operating overseas. It has led to a certain loss of confidence. Because opportunities in the Middle East and Africa are perhaps better than ever for Britain, could not the Government work with the Opposition to evolve an all-party, long-term and stable policy of co-operation among the right hon. Gentleman's Ministry, the Foreign Office and the Department of Trade to maximise the undoubted export opportunities for British agricultural technology? The Minister might also consider giving Government support to bodies such as the British Agricultural Export Council, which are pathetically understaffed but which, with proper resources, could do a great deal to improve the exporting of British agricultural technology.

The Ministry utilises the services of about 100 British consultancy firms employing engineers, agriculturalists and economists on British aid projects. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that many of these companies have a major part to play in ensuring that improved technology is available in the developing world on a commercial basis? I know from my contacts with people working in this field that it is a frustrating, demanding and not infrequently financially hazardous business. Could the Minister call a conference of organisations that service his Department to ascertain from them what positive steps could be taken by the Government to improve their prospects of marketing their services, underwriting some of the financial risks and perhaps enabling an even larger number of young British technologists to gain experience by working in developing countries?

Britain could and should be the agricultural development centre of the world. Our technology is sufficient to make substantial improvements in the food production of many developing countries. Britain has a major part to play in devising policies to assist less developed nations. Now that we are in the Community, I hope that the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Overseas Development will make, as the right hon. Gentleman has promised, a concerted effort to take a lead in persuading our fellow members of the EEC to take these problems seriously.

I hope that he will continue to work with them in evolving generous aid policies, but will remember, above all, that in matters of overseas development, trade is at least as important as aid. The private sector in Great Britain with appropriate encouragement and understanding, could play a far larger part than has perhaps been previously recognised, to the mutual advantage of both the less developed countries and the United Kingdom's trade balance.

1.23 p.m.

Mr. Guy Barnett (Greenwich)

I am particularly pleased to have been called at this point because it gives me the opportunity to say how pleased we are to see the hon. Member for Norfolk, North-West (Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler) back after his illness. He is obviously restored to good health.

At different times, we have both worked on development projects in the same country in East Africa and I echo what he said about the special rôle this country has because of its colonial history. One of the reasons for this special rôle is our cultural and other links, which cannot be broken, with countries that were once our colonies. Having worked on the staff of Voluntary Service Overseas and visited a number of former British colonies, I know what an enormous fund of good will there is for this country in those nations.

I strongly approve of the strategy outlined in the new White Paper. From all my practical experience of development projects, I think that the shift of emphasis proposed in the White Paper is right. The present Minister would be the first to recognise the enormously important initiative taken by his predecessor shifting the whole emphasis of our aid policy. In the past 18 months, the Ministry for Overseas Development has been given a directional lead of a kind that it has never known before. I am sure that the present Minister will continue this good work, because I know his priorities lie in the same direction.

However, it is right that somebody should say a little about the difficulties of implementing this new strategy. How are we to get over the sort of difficulties mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart)? It is all very well to say we are going to help the poorest people in the poorest countries, but, as many of us know, this sort of policy can be frustrated by the fact that, for instance, there are political pressures on politicians in these developing countries. We know what these pressures look like, because we each have a constituency to represent. The administrative systems of some developing countries are not all one would hope for, and inevitably there may be inefficiency or even incapacity in enabling particular schemes to be carried out.

Even more serious is the lack of locally trained, competent personnel in rural areas capable of undertaking the form of development we want. There is also the problem of corruption, which affects some developing countries. Whatever one may think of recent developments in India and Bangladesh, there are welcome signs of deliberate attempts to stamp out corruption there. It can be so destructive to aid or expenditure designed to meet the needs of the poorest people.

These are not new problems and arguments. They are trotted out by the cynics and leader writers in newspapers such as the Daily Telegraph. It is important for those of us in the aid lobby to deal with them head-on and to say how we must tackle the job of ensuring that the money goes where it is needed.

It would be wrong to tackle this problem by trying to interfere with the independence of those countries. We have heard of the destructive effects that can result from the interference of multinational companies. To a lesser degree, a sort of neo-colonialist interference in the running of an independent country can be most destructive.

This Ministry is aptly named. It is called a development ministry, not an aid ministry. My view, based on a good deal of observation and experience, is that development can take place only on the basis of self-development and of the people themselves wanting a particular sort of development. That applies as much to the Government of the country as to the people in the rural area where the development is to take place.

I have seen a certain amount of community development work. I was fortunate earlier in my life to have a good deal of contact with a man who spent a lifetime on community work in Nigeria. One of the lessons I learnt about community development, why it sometimes succeeds and sometimes fails, is that it can succeed only if it has the positive support of the people in the area where the development is taking place.

The right way for a community development worker to begin a project is to ask the people in the area in question what they consider would be the most important development for the improvement of their way of life. We may talk about the need for irrigation, fertilisers and so on, but it is they who much make the choice. Frequently, community development workers discover that the reply from those who live in these appalling circumstances is quite different from what might have been expected.

It is therefore vitally important that we see this issue in terms of self-development. We must not attempt to solve the problem of getting money to where it is needed by seeking to interfere with the range of choices open to the Government of the developing country, or the people in the area. This is an argument about human dignity. The hon. Member for Norfolk, North-West spoke about the colonial experience, and we should not forget it. We should not forget that millions of people in the developing world have grown up in a subservient type of culture. That is particularly true of the rural areas. There is subservience to the white man and all too great a readiness to listen to him and to assume that he is right. We should not automatically assume that the neo-colonialist is white, he could be black.

I am surprised that the White Paper did not deal with this question to the extent it should have done. Only when we can see how to make the right choices and to ensure that the right development takes place shall we begin to proceed along the right lines. One of the answers to these problems is multilateral aid through multilateral agencies. It is possible for them to operate in a less colonialist situation. We welcome that. Perhaps, however, we can undestand why most donor countries are unwilling to allow all their aid to go through multilateral agencies, wanting instead to maintain a bilateral link.

The White Paper is a good deal more revolutionary than perhaps the Minister appeared to recognise. Giving aid to the poorest in the poor countries will alter the balance between the wealth and, presumably, the power in the hands of the poorest and of the élite, who live in the cities. The aid will have political consequences in those countries.

Secondly, it will alter the balance of wealth and power between the wealthy countries and the poor countries. That is already happening to some extent. The example of OPEC, where the oil-producing countries have come together and secured a good bargaining position, has shown how such a move can increase the influence of such countries in the world. Many other commodity-producing countries are beginning to flex their political and economic muscles. They realise that as a group they can exercise a good deal more influence than as individuals.

A good example of that, and the reason why the Lomé Agreement was such a good one, was that the ACP countries got together and insisted on certain provisions in that agreement. That is an important and most welcome development. Where did the Lomé countries learn that practice? I believe that it originated in the Commonwealth.

I am astonished that the White Paper makes no mention of the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation. A relatively small sum of money is involved at present. It is a small part—much too small a part—of our aid programme. But the fascinating aspect of this principle is that the Commonwealth countries are making a practical use of the relationship that we have enjoyed over the years.

This began many years ago when the idea of third party aid—an idea that we are discussing a great deal now in connection with the oil countries—was first put forward. The principle behind it was that the richer countries of the Commonwealth would provide the money and that the money and technically qualified people from the poorer countries might be sent to other poor countries that could take advantage of that technical expertise. That principle was established in the Commonwealth, and from it grew the Fund for Technical Co-operation.

It is not just Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Britain that contribute to the fund. The third largest contributor is Nigeria, and that is an enormously important factor for various reasons. Principally because it possesses oil, Nigeria is becoming one of the wealthier African countries. It is, however, by no means the only Commonwealth country at the poorer end of the scale that is contributing. All Commonwealth countries realise that this is something from which they, too, can possibly expect to gain. My plea to the Parliamentary Secretary is that it is a disgrace that the fund is not mentioned, and that therefore the Government should consider giving a larger share of our aid to that fund.

I do so because I believe that it provides at least part of the answer to the problem that I posed earlier, the problem of how we can ensure that the objectives of the White Paper are carried into effect. The answer is that we can do it only by establishing councils of the kind that can exist within the Commonwealth, where people from Botswana, Nigeria, Britain, Kenya, Fiji and so on can sit down round the table as equals to argue the priorities. One of the best things to come out of Lomé is that the message has got through that the EEC and ACP countries can discuss among themselves as equals what the priorities will be, so that the priorities are determined not by the giving country, but by all countries working in co-operation.

I cannot end without saying a word or two about public opinion. There is one important difference between this White Paper and that produced a few months ago by the Canadian Government, called "The Strategy for International Development Co-operation 1975-1980". First, the Canadians have made a much larger contribution than we have to the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation. The other thing that they have done which I believe to be directly relevant to the issue with which so many of us have been concerned in the debate, is to include as part of their strategy plans to involve the public to the largest possible degree in the whole business of aid. They have done it on a principle that we have debated in the House and particularly in my party for many years—namely, that when a voluntary agency gives a pound, the Government match it with another pound.

We do this in certain fields and in certain ways, but what the Canadians have done is something that we should extend and develop as part of our educational programme. We have an enormous fund of voluntary interest in the subject. One has only to rattle off the names of the many voluntary-supported organisations concerned with aid to demonstrate that. If we could base our policy on that idea and gain a sense of public involvement in the whole business of aid, I believe that the problem of involving public opinion, and pressurising the Government to spend on aid the sort of money that we need to spend, could be much less hard than some of us sometimes think it is.

1.43 p.m.

Mr. William van Straubenzee (Wokingham)

The whole House has greatly benefited from the well-informed speech to which we have just been privileged to listen. I cannot follow it with the technical competence that the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Barnett) has, but all of us for whom the Commonwealth is vital will have listened with particular interest to what he said about developing the Commonwealth connection in the context of the White Paper.

The hon. Gentleman's concluding remarks about the harnessing of public opinion and his illustration from Canada were very helpful. I felt that in introducing the White Paper the Minister possibly skated a little too easily over the problems of public opinion. As an ordinary constituency Member, I do not find it easy at times to argue what I feel very deeply, or else I should not be taking part in this debate—that it is part of the moral duty of what is still a rich nation to devote a proportion of its resources to the kind of matter that we are discussing. It needs constant and careful argument.

Furthermore, there is a moral dilemma, in that sometimes earnest constituents ask one to support greatly increased programmes that must be financed out of deficit. It is a little like increasing one's overdraft at the bank to make an increased contribution to a charitable cause. It is at least questionable whether one is entirely morally sound in doing so.

However, that apart, I absolutely accept our commitment. It has come through most of the speeches that no member of the Cabinet has a stronger personal and professional vested interest in the economic stability and strength of this nation than the Minister for Overseas Development. He is directly interested and concerned if he is effectively to do his work.

The right hon. Gentleman must also in his professional capacity be deeply concerned with a wide range of Government policies. We have discussed throughout today the whole question of moving from an urban to a rural programme, the question of putting greater emphasis on the rural. There are few more interesting developments in that connection than the growth of the use of insecticides and pesticides, which have revolutionised agriculture, particularly some forms of primitive agriculture, and the development of, for example, drilling methods as opposed to ploughing methods, which man has known for centuries. One cannot go to Jeallots Hill to see research on that kind of matter without realising what an enormous contribution British technical expertise is making.

That must mean that the Minister is profoundly and directly concerned with the investment and tax policies of the Government of which he is a distinguished member. It must also mean that great companies such as ICI, which I mention having taken Jeallots Hill as an example, must be enabled to have sufficient resources for the very expensive and constantly recurring expenditure necessary for every kind of research if we are to keep up our emphasis on agriculture.

The White Paper is very valuable, because it has brought us all up pretty sharp, in stark words, against the effect of the savage increases in oil prices on not only the developed but the developing nations. That comes out from however superficial a reading. The White Paper is also very helpful in giving a new poverty orientation to the contribution of aid and development policy. The Minister said that his concept was more bilateral aid going to the poorest countries and more help for the poorer groups within them.

There is a happy convergence of three things that makes it possible for me to put in a word that I hope will eventually bear some fruit. I absolutely understand that the Parliamentary Secretary will not be able to deal with it when he replies, for reasons which I shall explain. The happy convergence is, first, that we are technically on the Adjournment and therefore I do not have to be too narrowly confined in terms of order. The second is that, by great fortune, the Minister is an immediate past Secretary of State for Education and Science, and therefore well familiar with what I shall urge upon him and have been urging upon others. The third is that what I want to say fits absolutely and exactly with the strategy that the right hon. Gentleman set out in his speech and that is set out in the White Paper.

I hope that, just as hon. Members on both sides of the House have accepted, as I accept, the commitment of a rich nation to direct a significant proportion of its economic strength to countries that are less fortunate, so I shall carry the House in putting forward the proposition that at the same time we should share a significant part of our educational heritage, particularly with the developing countries. The British people are at present making that contribution to no mean extent, yet they get no credit for doing so in any of the internationally published statistics.

No mention of this matter is made in the White Paper. I do not blame the right hon. Gentleman for that. There is a section in the White Paper that deals with education, but it does not deal with the great aid offered by the British people in the sharing of their educational heritage. It does not refer to that matter, because the right hon. Gentleman's Department is not ministerially responsible for the great effort that is being made.

There is nothing new about the argument that I am going to put across. The argument can first be found in the famous Robbins Report of 1963. I quote briefly from paragraph 173. I think that the case is admirably argued and I do not wish to improve upon it. The paragraph reads: The presence here in institutions of higher education of students from abroad is widely regarded as valuable, and rightly so in our judgment. It fosters a sense of international community on both sides. It encourages a valuable give-and-take. The connections to which it gives rise are not without their diplomatic and economic advantages; and where students from developing countries are concerned it provides a helpful contribution to their country's advancement. The paragraph concludes: We should greatly regret a dwindling in the number of overseas students in Britain's universities and colleges. That stresses two points that are not stressed sufficiently by commentators on these matters. It must be emphasised that there is a two-way movement, because in most of these educational institutions where overseas students are to be found—and they are to be found in many—they contribute as well as take. Further, they are present throughout the spread of our educational institutions and their presence is not limited to universities. That is why it is unfortunate that the British people get no credit for what they are doing.

I shall not weary the House by citing lengthy figures, but I draw to the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary the admirable publication of the British Council entitled "Statistics of Overseas Students in Great Britain". Broadly speaking, it shows that the number of overseas students has grown from 68,000 in 1964 to 95,000 in 1974.

It is understandable that when a system of any kind, including an economy, is under strain, we should hear the suggestion that numbers be reduced, or that it should be made economically more difficult for overseas students to come to this country. Just as we have sought to educate public opinion through this debate on the general principles of overseas aid, it is my plea that we should use the debate to seek to educate public opinion on the lines that this effort is an important part of the British people's contribution to other parts of the world.

If the Minister visits the Inner London Education Authority, he will find a discussion document that has been issued by its Standing Advisory Commission for Further Education. The document clearly looks ahead to a reduction in provision because of present economic stringencies.

At this stage I must declare a personal interest. I succeeded the Minister as what is rather grandly called a visiting lecturer at the South-West London College. I am afraid that the standards of visiting lecturers has fallen, but that is the way of the pendulum. The college has a high proportion of overseas students. That is one of the reasons for my being flattered to receive the invitation and delighted to accept it. I hope that we shall see some bold action on the part of the Minister and that as a result of this and other discussions he will make a take over bid. I am inviting him to extend his empire. I am inviting him to seek within Government to take over the financing of the great programme that the British people have willingly accepted on behalf of overseas students.

Robbins foresaw the need for selective financing. At present we give the same subventions to students from whatever country they come, regardless of personal income. The system is unselective in terms of student and student and country and country. Much has been said in recent weeks and months about overseas students who come to this country to share our educational system. It is generally thought that this is an aid programme exclusively centred upon rich oil sheiks and wealthy Americans. The fact is that 62.6 per cent. of our overseas students are post-graduates who come from under-developed countries. Further, 62.5 per cent. of the undergraduates are from under-developed countries.

The National Union of Students calculates—I accept its figures, as I have always found its statistical service to be reliable, however doubtful I may sometimes be of its political judgment—that in 1972–73 37,000 of the 40,000 Commonwealth students who came to this country were from under-developed countries. In other words, the vast majority come from the under-developed countries. Further, it should be more widely known that many of these young people are not dependent upon the British taxpayer.

The introduction to the document that has been issued by the British Council states that although it is not possible to be absolutely precise on the matter, it is probable that not more than a quarter of the students are supported by a form of scholarship award. At the South-West London College many of the students pay the economic cost or more. They bring funds into the country, funds which they spend while they are here. It is not fair on them or anyone else to suggest that every one of them is a drag and a burden on the British taxpayer.

As I have said, the British people get no credit for the effort that they are making in this direction. Let it be resolved that we shall transfer to the Ministry for Overseas Development this important facet of a greater whole. I hope that something I may have said in this debate will have contributed to that long-term aim.

2.0 p.m.

Mr. Bryan Davies (Enfield, North)

After the many excellent speeches today, particularly that by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart)—who has made an enormous contribution to this subject through her ministerial work—we are left with the problem of identifying the areas covered by the White Paper on which it may be useful to focus attention so that we may take appropriate action in future.

I am especially glad to be following the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) since he has introduced a fresh element into our discussions, namely, the rôle of our educational institutions and the opportunities we offer through them for the development of our aid programme. I wish to emphasise this rôle by dealing with particular aspects of it. The White Paper identifies a broad strategy with which we all generally agree. But we all recognise that strategy is not enough. As my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Barnett) has said, we need to identify the necessary resources and the problems which must be confronted.

In the section dealing with education in the White Paper there is a useful little metaphor which suggests that although our contribution towards educating people in the underdeveloped world may be marginal we nevertheless serve as a small helm on which the large ship is turned. I thought that perhaps the writer of this section had been reading too much of the recent correspondence concerning the Greek finds. As a metaphor it will suffice to concentrate our minds on how we want the educational development of the Third World to proceed so as to maximise resources. We need a major revaluation of the contribution we make in this area.

The hon. Member for Wokingham is correct to say that the contribution made by the British people towards the improvement of conditions in the underdeveloped world is often unsung. In many respects this contribution could be strengthened and make a much greater impact. We not only need to address our minds to the general perspective of our educational expertise but should think about how this may be usefully employed in helping Third World countries and how that help may best be made available.

The needs of the Third World countries with respect to our educational resources can be divided into two categories. There is, first, the obvious need for technical expertise and the understanding which we have developed of the problems of rural development. The White Paper has been heralded as containing within it some revolutionary aspects, such as the defining of a new strategy. This has won common acceptance among those who have spoken today. It will, however, make demands to which we have not responded in the past. These will affect our educational contribution.

Too often in the past our response to the educational needs of the Third World has been unduly limited. We have made contributions to agricultural research, we have addressed our minds to the problems of marketing techniques. We have also contributed to the development of transport in the Third World. What is needed now, under the terms of the White Paper, is the development of an educational contribution which examines the whole problem of income distribution and the impact on society of fresh flows of resources.

There must be an inter-disciplinary approach to the problems which such societies are facing. This requires a shift from a research contribution operating in rather narrow channels to a wholly new perspective directed at the problems of rural development. Despite the contribution made in the past by certain educational institutions, the inter-disciplinary approach has not always received the emphasis that it needs. Nor do we have the necessary faciliites in our higher education institutions for this new strategy. I recognise the contribution being made in this respect by the universities of Reading and Sussex.

I make a plea for a wider recognition of this rôle so that further courses of the type produced by such universities are developed. They will be immensely valuable, not only to the Third World students coming here but also in maintaining a degree of skill and understanding of the problems of the Third World among our own students.

The second major area of demand which comes, under the terms of this White Paper, upon our educational resources revolves around a particular range of skills. I do not believe that the Technical Education Council is making the impact that it should upon areas of education below that of higher education. Considerable resources could be utilised and mobilised. The ODM needs to identify these technical needs and to ask questions of other areas of government to discover where we can increase and improve our present utilisation of educational resources. We should look at the rather limited rôle of the colleges of education so as to develop the basic education necessary in the context of developing societies with the emphasis upon rural development. We must recognise that the social and economic aspects of such education can be developed using our colleges of education. This would assist not only in giving some teachers a greater appreciation of the circumstances in which they may be operating overseas but also in helping this country's school teachers to appreciate the problems of a multi-racial society which have arisen with the growth of our own immigrant community.

The second main area concerns access to our courses by overseas students. We have concentrated such access among students pursuing higher level courses. I am not against the open-door policy with regard to higher education opportunity for overseas students. It is one of the features of the British educational system of which we may rightly be proud.

We are emphasising in the White Paper the necessity to understand a totally different range of problems from those which can be met in higher education. I do not want the door to close against students already enjoying the benefits of education in this country. I seek opportunities whereby we can oil the hinge and enable students at rather lower levels to gain access to educational opportunity. We need a conscious policy. The White Paper inherits a largely laissez-faire situation with regard to our educational rôle Now that we seek to concentrate the full resources of our aid programme on the problems of rural development, questions must necessarily be asked about the educational opportunities opened up for Third World students.

I have a brief comment on this question of public awareness which others have mentioned as a major feature of the aid programme. Earlier speakers have been over—pessimistic about the public's response to overseas aid. We are all aware of the extent to which the present economic crisis dominates our public prints and discussions, yet I detect a greater awareness of the problems of the Third World than hon. Members have perhaps suggested. Our mailbags have been filled in recent months with letters about television programmes which focus on certain problem areas—for instance, the question of the tea estates in Sri Lanka and the difficulties in Bangladesh.

However, underpinning the discussion is not simply the global village concept of the extent to which television and newspapers increasingly define international problems as being of relevance to us. There is also the fact that the more highly educated people in this country are revealing a growing awareness of the interdependence of the world which reveals itself not only in terms of communications but in the debate which has been raging in the past three or four years on the problem of the finite resources of the earth and the question of mankind's future in the next half century or so.

There is a widespread recognition that a new economic imperialism should not take the place of the old political imperialism. If the resources of the world are to be successfully exploited, it will have to be done by the indigenous populations in the areas in which the resources are to be found. The rôle of the better-developed countries is to provide the resources necessary to ensure that that development takes place. It is in our interest that scarce resources should be developed and that the appalling world problems of desperate starvation and great deprivation are resolved. We live in an interdependent world, and the people of this country are becoming increasingly aware of its interdependence.

There is an excellent outline of strategy in the White Paper, but not even Napoleon won battles by the excellence of his strategy; he also required resources. The question here is whether the resources will be made available. My right hon. Friend the Minister is to be commended on getting his strategy right, but will he get the resources? Some of us are increasingly worried about the turn which has taken place in Europe.

Many of my hon. Friends and I had reservations about the continuation of this country's membership of the European Economic Community, although it is recognised that the British people have spoken definitively on it. A crucial element of the debate on that subject was the emphasis on the problems which might be caused by an inward-looking Community in relation to the Third World. The Lomé Convention was quoted as evidence of the direction in which Europe was going. There is evidence of the potential outwardness of the EEC. It is important that my right hon. Friend the Minister should emphasise in Brussels that we expect pledges to be fulfilled and the EEC's outwardness to be reflected in terms of the allocation of resources.

Mr. Tugendhat

I understand the hon. Gentleman's concern, which is shared by hon. Members on both sides of the House, and the reasons for it, but does he accept that we must consider the Community and British membership of it in the round and that if the British Government decide to adopt a Chauvinistic and Gaullist attitude on some matters—for instance, the forthcoming consumer-producer dialogue—it will not be surprising if other countries adopt a less co-operative attitude than we should like them to adopt over matters which mean a great deal to us? It is a question of give and take in a community. If we are not co-operative, we cannot expect as much co-operation as we should like from others.

Mr. Davies

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. He will agree, I am sure, that the debates about our membership of the Community revolved to a large extent over the issue of the Lomé Convention and the outwardness of the Community. There was evidence that the Community woud not be inward-looking and that the development of a British aid strategy would be located within a widen European framework for the general benefit of the developing world. Many of us are disturbed about the situation, and, although it is proper to talk about our membership in terms of overall benefit to this country, we are now debating the relationship of the Community with the wider world. It is, therefore, appropriate that I should indicate the reservations of some of us about present trends.

I am not happy with our past record in overseas development aid. The aid targets were not achieved during the term of the last Labour administration, and we fell well short of the United Nations identified target. We recognise that the succeeding Conservative administration did marginally better, although it was too marginal for Conservative Members to be complacent about it. Nevertheless, it was an accurate commentary on the failures of the previous Labour administration in terms of the resources devoted to overseas aid. I take no comfort from the fact that there was a cut in the overseas aid budget, proportionate to the cut in public expenditure in other respects in the Budget earlier this year.

If we are identifying a strategy which we rightly commend as offering greater opportunities for our contribution to Third World development, it ill behoves us to starve the Ministry for Overseas Development of the resources which can translate the strategy into reality. My right hon. Friend the Minister is a doughty fighter for resources and he has had successes of which he can be justly proud. Even in our present economic difficulties, we expect resources to be made available to back up the excellent strategy which underpins the White Paper.

2.18 p.m.

Mr. Clement Freud (Isle of Ely)

I shall not only seek to be brief but I promise to be brief. I have not spoken in a foreign affairs debate because that is the job of my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston), who is on a parliamentary delegation to the Far East. I am speaking because it appears that I am today's duty Liberal.

I have read the White Paper with considerable care, and I share the opinion of the Financial Times that it is sensible and modest. Perhaps it calls for imagination rather than administration. For example, in no instance have returning volunteers been used by the Ministry for Overseas Development, which tends steadily to use its own officials, many of them from former colonial administrations, who vet projects which are submitted. Alternatively, the Ministry hires expensive consultants on a short-term basis. If former volunteers were used—many of them are in their early thirties and have a great deal of specialist know-ledge—it would perhaps be very much to the good and might help to kill the regrettable patronising attitude which is not nearly as bad as it was but which still pertains in some places. I thought that the commendable chapter on rural development in the White Paper was the key to this.

It is important not to be sentimental about poverty. It is useless to apply a stimulus unless conditions for growth already exist. The relief of distress, unfortunately, has nothing to do with development. Concentration on the poorer sections of the poorest countries would simply be an effective way of wasting resources. What must be done—it is difficult for officials and Governments to do this—is to identify small, local activities which indicate that someone in a community is not completely apathetic. Immediately there are stirrings towards self-help, assistance should be applied. That is the kind of assistance which is worth while.

There is far too little reference in the White Paper to the need for local and regional schemes for training and the provision of experts. Far more could be done to encourage the regional pooling of research and development and training facilities. My experience of the Third World is not great, but I spent a considerable amount of time in Mauritius, where I had a consultancy and where I saw what is perhaps the ugliest part of tied aid.

Mauritius is an extraordinarily poor and overpopulated island. For many years the only aid which came to the islanders was in two forms. It came from the Roman Catholic Church and the Family Planning Association. Amongst the mud huts, straw houses and poorly-built dwellings all over the island there were only two buildings of substance in each village. One was the Roman Catholic church, which snarled across the road at the office of the other, the Family Planning Association. If the people wanted money, which both of those institutions possess, they had the astonishing choice of joining a religion which perhaps they did not desperately want to join or of having themselves sterilised or fitted for contraceptives, which equally might not have been their No. 1 choice.

There are disadvantages to tied aid. When aid is tied or linked, the recipient is unable to buy at the lowest price. We should tie aid to more effective use. The hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Barnett) made a point about corruption. That is a valid point. If we provide the aid which eliminates corruption, there is every chance that the aid will eventually go to the people who need and deserve it. In the same way, aid which goes towards technical education would also be immensely worth while.

Many hon. Members, including myself, have been approached by constituents. Some of those constituents have said that help must be given, but the majority of them have asked "Can we afford to help?" My answer has always been that we cannot afford not to help if we want to retain any credibility. It is up to Members of Parliament to educate their constituents to the fact that, although we may not have it very good, we are having it a lot better than the people for whom this small percentage of our gross national product is intended.

I realise that our ideal contribution target—0.7 per cent. of our GNP—is only 55 per cent. fulfilled. I hope we can demonstrate to our constituents that the amount needed is one-seventh of what is spent on cigarettes. If every packet contained 17 cigarettes instead of 20, and if a similar saving was applied to the whole range of tobacco, we should be able to contribute more money for aid purposes than we now aim to do.

The hon. Member for Greenwich mentioned Nigeria. Until Nigeria found oil, it was a beneficiary from the fund. Nigeria is now a contributor to the fund. I wonder whether it might be worth examining the possibility of clawing back some of the bounty when a formerly recipient country is able to stand on its feet and contribute to the fund.

2.25 p.m.

Mr. Frank Hooley (Sheffield, Heeley)

This debate may become a little unreal if we do not pay attention to what the Third World thinks about aid policies and what it expects from us.

The debate on overseas development is taking on a new dimension. There are three reasons for that. The first is the economic success of the raw material cartel, OPEC, in using its economic power to confound the industrial might of the West. The second is the wild fluctuations in commodity prices which have occurred in the past two years and which have seriously dismayed the developing world and the Western world. The third reason is the remarkable cohesiveness of the Group of 77—although it now comprises more than 100 member countries—in impressing its views and requirements upon the world.

Over the past two years there has been a great debate within the international community. The first important manifestation was the Special Session of the United Nations in April 1974, at which the Group of 77 pressed forward the idea of a new international economic order. It wanted effective control over its members' natural resources, producer associations to control raw material prices, industralisation, the transfer of money and technical knowledge from rich countries to poor countries, and a bigger share in the control of the international monetary system.

At the Special Session there was a strong mood of confrontation between the rich and the poor countries. The argument was followed up in the regular United Nations General Assembly in the autumn of 1974, which produced the Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States. Here the Group of 77 pressed on with the concept that its members wanted to be masters of their own destinies. They did not want to be subject to the dominance of the rich and powerful industrial nations. Nor did they want to be the cat's-paws of multinational companies. I am sorry that the United Kingdom delegation voted against that charter on rather odd semantic grounds, as in essence many of the principles contained in it would have commended themselves to the Parliamentary Labour Party.

The third important step, the initiative on commodities taken by the Prime Minister at the Commonwealth Conference in Kingston, led to the McIntyre Report, which was produced in July 1975 and which spelt out a series of measures in the context of overseas aid and development, including commodities.

The seventh Special Session of the United Nations met in September 1975, when there was a change of attitude. The Group of 77 maintained unity. It pressed its arguments. On balance, however, its members sought a new relationship with the rich world rather than to push home stark demands. For its part, the Western industrial world also saw the danger of confrontation on this issue. After all, the industrial world requires raw materials, most of which are to be found only in the developing countries.

There is also the question of self-interest. We need markets for our own goods. The prosperity of the West will depend to some extent on raising the standard of living of the people of two-thirds of the world, who are now in abject poverty, to a reasonable level, and on solving some of the problems of disease, ignorance, squalor and poverty.

From the seventh Special Session in September a consensus emerged, and the Final Act of that assembly meeting was passed unanimously. It still has to be spelt out in practical terms, and the next milestones on the road will be the Conference on International and Economic Co-operation in Paris in December—the consumer-producer dialogue which started rather unhappily for the United Kingdom with the argument about oil representation—followed by the UNCTAD 4 meeting in Nairobi in May next year.

The final resolution of the seventh Special Session, which was entitled "Development and International Cooperation"—an encouraging indication of the mood of the decisions—contained under seven main headings a programme for future relationships between rich and poor countries. It might be useful to examine the White Paper in the light of three of the subject headings of that resolution.

On trade, the Special Session asked, first, for fair access for the manufactures and semi-manufactures of poor countries to the markets of the rich industrial countries. That is of enormous importance, because it is widely accepted—and the White Paper accepts—that trade is an essential part of the development process. Secondly, the Special Session resolution asked for stable, remunerative and equitable prices for commodities, equilibrium between supply and demand and a compensatory financing system to iron out fluctuations in export earnings which can badly hit poorer countries which depend on one or perhaps two raw materials.

The White Paper accepts the importance of the Generalised Scheme of Preferences which we have worked out in concert with our European Community partners, though it has reservations about its scope and points to some of the weaknesses in the Community system. It supports the Commonwealth proposal in the McIntyre Report for commodity agreements supported by buffer stocks, production controls, quotas and so on. The White Paper also stresses the need for compensatory financing for the poorest countries.

The White Paper does not meet one important part of the McIntyre Report in that it makes no mention of indexation of the price of raw materials to preserve their purchasing power against the general trend of prices and international inflation.

Paragraph 54 of the McIntyre Report states: Indexation is not designed to raise prices in real terms, but to maintain their purchasing power so that the benefits of a raising volume of exports will not be eroded. The White Paper does not deal with that problem. Somewhere along the line we have to grapple with it and decide whether we accept the technique of indexation, however it may be worked out—presumably through the discussions in UNCTAD—as a means of providing sufficient finance to developing countries.

The White Paper quotes the Stabex scheme, which is part of the Lomé Convention, as a useful move in stabilising the price of commodities. I regard that scheme as much too small and constrictive to play a significant part. In a paper discussing the Lomé Convention, the Overseas Development Institute said:

The wide scope of the scheme applied to total imports by the EEC of £827 million is in sharp contrast to the small amount of finance for it. If the value of Stabex products in 1975 goes down to 7.5 per cent., something like the 1973 level, the whole of Stabex funds for the year will be utilised and the problem of rationing arises at some point. The Stabex scheme is narrowly conceived in terms of the raw materials it covers. It rules out all minerals except iron ore. It would be much more sensible to throw our weight and resources behind a more full-blooded expansion of the IMF compensatory financing scheme, so that the whole of the Western world—not only the members of the Community, but Japan, the United States of America, Canada, Australia and the Scandinavian countries—could join in a more comprehensive and genuinely international scheme for stabilising commodity prices, if that can be internationally agreed.

The second area with which the Special Session resolution deals is the transfer of real resources and reform of the international monetary system. It confirms the target of 0.7 per cent. of GNP as the reasonable amount which the rich countries individually should transfer to the poor countries. It is a pity that we use this "0.7 per cent. of the GNP" expression. It means three-farthings in the pound of our national wealth. Put like that, it can hardly be regarded as a fantastic figure.

The Special Session also asked for a link between the special drawing rights created under the International Monetary Fund and development assistance. It asked for the sale of gold held by the IMF to create a special IMF fund. It also asked for the expansion and liberalisation of the compensatory financing facility of the IMF, which already exists to help poor countries which run into balance of payments difficulties on account of raw material price fluctuations. It further asks for an increase in resources of the World Bank and the International Development Association and more vigorous efforts to relieve poorer countries of the burden of debt which is hamstringing them in terms of balance of payments.

The White Paper acknowledges the importance of the World Bank, the IDA and the mechanisms of the IMF, and indicates general willingness to support grants and lending at concessional rates to the poorest countries, especially those which are most seriously affected by the rise in oil prices. The White Paper also expresses interest in co-operating with the OPEC countries—which are now supplying considerable aid from their oil revenue—in technical assistance on aid projects. I hope that this idea will be spelt out in practice over the next four or five years as the OPEC countries have enormous financial resources but fewer technical resources than we possess in terms of science, technology, agricultural know-how and so on.

Unfortunately, the White Paper contains no commitment to the three-farthings in the pound target. I echo what has been said by other hon. Members. The record of the United Kingdom over the past few years is not satisfactory. In 1969 our figure was 0.39 per cent., in 1973 it was 0.37 per cent. and in 1974, 0.38 per cent. During the past 10 years we have fluctuated below 0.4 per cent. I should like the Minister to tell the Treasury that for 1976 we should commit ourselves to a figure which represents at least 0.45 per cent. as a step up the ladder so that when we reach 1980 we shall hope to reach the internationally agreed target.

On the question of food and agriculture, the Special Session accepted the importance of a rapid expansion of food production in developing countries, access to markets of richer countries for cash crops, adequate supplies of fertiliser and a substantial contribution to the newly-created international fund for agricultural development. It also drew attention to the importance of food aid and the building up of world grain reserves to a suggested total of not less than 30 million tons, including wheat and rice. The White Paper is completely in accord with this commitment in the emphasis it places on rural development and on special problems of food and fertiliser aid.

I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Sir G. de Freitas) that we have to face the fact that there will be a serious collision between these desires and the demands of the whole concept for the common agricultural policy. We have already seen the ferocious battle which went on over the relatively minor matter of sugar, which has not even yet been finally settled. We have seen the episode when the Community authorities cut off imports of beef from other countries. The ink was hardly dry on the Lomé Convention before Botswana was bitterly complaining of discrimination by Community authorities against beef imports which they had solemnly promised to accept.

I want to quote what my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development told me in a Written Answer in which he referred to his meeting in the Council of Ministers. He said: There was no agreement on the two main issues for discussion, which were proposals for a programme of financial aid for non-associates and increased Community food aid. One delegation took the view that no decisions could be taken on these particular proposals until further progress had been made on the question of harmonisation and coordination of all forms of aid by the Community and its member countries."—[Official Report, 15th October 1975; Vol. 897, c. 710.] The question of aid has become interwoven with the whole issue of the relations between the West and the Third World, which is in no mood to sit back and hope for crumbs from the rich man's table. One way or another, the Third World is determined to fight for what it regards as its rightful share of the wealth of this planet. Upon our response to this mood may well hang not only our own future prosperity but also the choice between growing co-operation or increasingly bitter strife in the world at large.

2.43 p.m.

Mr. John Cordle (Bournemouth, East)

Much of what I wish to say has already been said. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) was right to say that the debate on aid and development now has a new dimension. This has been brought about by the changes that have taken place in the countries of the Third World. Those of us who travel widely—I have been to the West Coast of Africa 41 times in the past eight years—have seen the enormous changes that have taken place there. We have seen some of the credits and benefits that have been derived from the United Kingdom in the aid which we have been able to contribute to these countries. We must take credit for that.

I believe that this is one of the ways in which we can educate our people to accept these vital policies for aid and development overseas. Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he reap". If we do not sow well in the developing countries, we cannot expect to secure credibility and their own support for the development they themselves have in hand. This goes for a lot that has taken place in the past few years on the West Coast of Africa. Because we failed in the civil war to give the Federal Government of Nigeria more arms supplies and support for the policy for which they stood, we were not so successful after the war in securing contracts that were given so freely even to those who had opposed them during the war, such as the French. So, in West Africa we find ourselves with no car assembly plants, for example, whereas the Germans, French and the Japanese are having the benefit from trade which has resulted from aid originally given by us.

The new strategy propounded in the White Paper is right, and I welcome it. But how is the right hon. Gentleman to get rural areas to react? How is he to get the owner of a mud hut, the villager himself, to react? That is another story. My limited experience is that there is an enormous gap between town and country areas, areas in the bush, as it were. How are we to implement such a policy?

It is eight long years since we last had such a debate. I hope that we shall now have one regularly. The more we discuss these matters, with communications as they are, with Ministers and hon. Members being able to visit these countries of the Third World so easily, so much more can be done in fulfilling the full share that we desire to contribute.

I come back to the question of know-how, and I make a plea for the know-how part of our contribution in particular. We have talked about education, which must be the key to the future of our work in this direction. But what is needed more than ever, especially in the countries that are now viable and standing on their own feet, is the know-how.

For example, at Lagos more than 400 ships are waiting to be unloaded. The congestion in the docks is continuing because no one has come forward with a viable plan in the past to help the Nigerians to secure better dock facilities. They are still waiting for further help in that direction. Again, the road and sewerage systems in Nigeria need constant help in know-how, and the same applies to telecommunications and agriculture, especially irrigation. Despite the enormous revenue from oil, Nigeria still has only one refinery, and that is another serious matter for our consideration. The more that Ministers and hon. Members can visit these countries, the better it will be.

The hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) talked about clawing back some of the wealth from the countries that have major revenues today. I should like to see a greater sharing and willingness to share by those countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Libya and Nigeria. It is surely part of our work to educate them to share with those countries that are less favourably placed than themselves and that need no much help.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. George Thomas)

Order. There are 40 minutes left for Back-Benchers to participate before the Front Bench speakers wind up. I hope that that will be borne in mind by the four hon. Members who wish to participate.

2.50 p.m.

Mr. John Lee (Birmingham, Handsworth)

I cannot emulate the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Cordle) and claim to have made 41 visits to West Africa. However, I spent seven years of my early life as a district commissioner and in the secretariat in Ghana, and I can therefore claim a certain common interest with the hon. Gentleman in that part of the world. In this wide-ranging debate there is the rare but felicitous situation of a common purpose across the parties and within them about our objectives.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister, because the changeover which he has presided over and which is detailed in the White Paper cannot be overemphasised. He and I differ widely on a number of matters, and recent events have, perhaps, given greater point to these differences. However, I believe that all of us, whatever our views and however great our distress about my right hon. Friend's about-face on the Common Market, know full well that his devotion to overseas aid is as genuine and as informed as that of any other hon. Member.

We have the records of the Commonwealth Development Corporation, or the Colonial Development Corporation as it was called when Arthur Creech-Jones established that body just after the war. The index of projects shows how urban-oriented they still are. About one-third of the 150 projects covering 46 different territories relate not just to urban activities, including factories or processing of local primary products, but to housing, mortgage corporations, hotel development, and what might be called city activities.

I am sure that that has been a wrong emphasis. I do not say that in a churlish spirit. Over the years, the CDC has done yeoman service in various parts of the world by priming the pump and by introducing modern technology in factory processes in countries that until recently had hardly any industry. The time is overdue for us to change and to concentrate now on rural matters.

I suppose that since the war two factors have inhibited a move towards the rural development now foreshadowed in the White Paper. Those were the unfortunate groundnuts scheme and the Zambia egg scheme. They obsessed people in the years after the war. Because Ministers had apparently burnt their fingers so badly in what were in some respects unfortunate projects—though I believe that the disastrous aspects of the groundnuts scheme were always exaggerated—until recently there has been too great an emphasis upon urban development.

We should make clear what we are aiming at in turning to rural development. These developments can be achieved only by way of negotiation. Until recently, the old Colonial Office, or the Overseas Development Ministry, could impose policies through the aegis of colonial Governments. Those days have gone. Everything must be done now through the machinery of negotiation: it is a matter of negotiation.

I cannot help thinking that there is a danger that we shall spread our aid too thinly, with the best of motives—namely, that we want to help as many people as possible, with the result that the money we spend will have no tangible impact. My request to the Government is that the aid policy should be directed to two objectives. Naturally, it should be directed to the disaster situation. Any country with a moral conscience would seek to help in the event of a disaster arising in, say, the Sahel, Ethiopia or Bangladesh, where it was a question of aid for immediate consumption.

Another aspect, which from the point of view of long-term impact is more important, is an increasing emphasis upon insisting upon improving the agricultural efficiency of the countries concerned. This will not always be a matter of sophisticated technology. It is not just a question of a dramatic change, for example, in what has been called the green revolution, or in the use of pesticides, or of modern forms of land reclamation, or of ecology. It sometimes involves homely methods of improving existing labour-intensive forms of cultivation.

The Higgs-Kirkham Raeburn Report on rural development in Africa, which was published well over 20 years ago, paid attention to such minor matters as a change in the shape of the panga or cutlass, or of the hoe used in ordinary cultivation. Such small matters are in their own way just as important as more esoteric ways of seeking to assist.

We must do everything possible to assist countries to pay greater regard to conservation in ecology. I am pleased that ecology has become a vogue concept. There are many countries, more especially in the under-developed world, where the ecological balance is very fine. There is a dire need for re-afforestation. Afforestation is a long-term project. A tree can be chopped down in 30 minutes: it takes about 30 years to grow a tree. It is still true that all over the world the areas of desert are growing, not receding.

No hon. Member had any time for Mussolini's Italy, but it can at least be said that in Cyrenaica the Italians rendered great service in terms of desert reclamation, bunding and afforestation. Even my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley), whose antipathy to the Israelis is well known, will acknowledge that they have done a great deal of work on afforestation in the Negeb.

If we can do something to propagate the importance of such matters to the countries concerned and to direct our technical aid towards them, that will be of far more assistance than setting up a project here and another there and going in for sophisticated projects of the type that I have referred to, which are enumerated in the index of the CDC Report, and which appeared in almost the same proportions in the CDC report 10 years ago.

I would have spoken at greater length, but it is only right that one should leave time for other hon. Members who wish to contribute to the debate. I conclude by making two points. I have already referred to one of them, but it needs to be emphasised. Again, apropos of the Commonwealth Development Corporation, do not let us have any more of these sophisticated hotel exercises. The Commonwealth Development Corporation is not a tourist promotion agency. It should be the aegis for promoting balanced economies in countries that will eventually have to work out their own salvation. By concentrating on urban matters we help to build for the future a rod for the backs of the countries concerned by drawing more and more people into the towns. The more people there are in the towns, the more likely there is to be social tension.

The other point has in a sense been half anticipated by my hon. Friend the Member for Heeley. Whatever the European Economic Commission may say—I know what it will say; it will not like it—one thing that we certainly could do to help these countries would be to revive the idea of bulk purchase agreements by providing them with suitable markets and providing us with stable sources. The bulk purchase agreements in connection with oil, cocoa, rubber and so forth that were established during the war were extremely valuable to the countries concerned.

The sophisticated mechanism of income tax and other tax collection does not exist in undeveloped countries. Therefore, the dutiable system of bulk purchase and bulk trading provides not only stable markets, but a stable source of revenue. In some respects that situation—a by-product of the war situation—in the end may have done more to advance these countries towards adult nationhood than all the other things that we have done.

3.2 p.m.

Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)

At the beginning of this debate the Minister said that the principal author of the White Paper was the right hon. Lady the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart). Certainly she has in the past, and again today, often spoken of the necessity of concentrating on the subject of poverty. In her political life, however, the right hon. Lady has often been a direct and abrasive character, and I must say that on the whole I find the White Paper which we are discussing rather bland, vague and imprecise—not qualities which are normally associated with the right hon. Lady.

The right hon. Lady said that what really mattered was the nitty-gritty. If the White Paper means anything at all and is to produce anything as revolutionary as some hon. Members have suggested, it surely means that while some people will get more others will get a great deal less.

Two hon. Members who have preceded me in this debate have both had long connections with West Africa. My hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Cordle) said that he had been there 41 times in the last eight years. My understanding of the White Paper is that West Africa will get a great deal less of the aid in future while India and Bangladesh get a great deal more. It seems to me that the White Paper and the Minister have failed to face up to the fact that some people will be worse off than they were before.

Mr. Hooley

Surely the hon. Gentleman is assuming that the total of aid will remain static. That is not the intention of hon. Members on this side of the House.

Mr. Goodhart

I understand the implication of the White Paper to be that, if there is to be substantial diversion, some areas will get less than they did before. Paragraph 9 of the White Paper points our quite clearly that in the past inertia has largely governed the distribution of our aid from one year to another. I suspect that that inertia will be the principal guiding; feature of our aid programme in the future.

I am more sympathetic to the proposition that our aid ought, where possible, to be concentrated on the poorest sections of the communities to whom we give that aid. There can be no doubt that in the past there has been some truth in the rather bitter jest made by a former Foreign Minister of Holland that overseas aid was a method by which poor people in the rich countries were taxed to support rich people in poor countries. I welcome anything that will bring that state of affairs to an end.

I must say that I was alarmed when the Minister, in illustrating how this policy would be applied, spoke of education and said that there would be a shift in emphasis from the support of universities in the aid-receiving countries to vocational courses. At a time when we are in great economic difficulties and when many people are criticising the policy of accepting loans from Saudi Arabia at high rates of interest and handing over the money in grants to, say, Tanzania, many people question that policy. They believe that, instead of concentrating on financial support, one should divert rather more attention to the educational side. To cut back in any way on the programme of supporting universities overseas would be harmful.

A number of hon. Members have put forward schemes of their own. My hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) suggested that the Ministry should take over responsibility for overseas students in this country. I think there is a great deal to be said for his argument. The hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Barnett) put forward an imaginative scheme, which is in force in Canada, for matching Government aid to contributions by voluntary agencies. That is something we should study.

I have a scheme of my own. I am delighted to see that the White Paper says that there is still much to be done in the provision of literature for countries overseas, and I echo that statement. But, alas, the situation has been made rather worse in recent weeks. We have seen a substantial increase in postal charges for books going overseas. Although publishers can find a way of sending books in bulk to our main markets and in that way save on postal charges, these markets are almost entirely in the developed world. Thus, in recent weeks we have seen an inhibition on the sending of books to those parts of the world which are most in need of them.

The French run a successful rebate scheme to help book exporters. Those who send cultural, educational and scientific volumes may have a rebate on the postal costs. It would be worth while for Ministers to look into that scheme and consider whether we could introduce something like it here, because at this time it is knowledge and education which we ought to be exporting to the less developed parts of the world rather than financial grants and offers of budgetary support. Ministers must show ingenuity in face of the challenging demands.

3.11 p.m.

Mr. Bruce George (Walsall, South)

If it is to be the practice in this debate to declare one's credentials, I have to tell the House that I have not been further south than Paris since 1966. However, as I support the policies which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is proposing on oil, perhaps I, too, could be classed—to use the words of the hon. Member for City of London and Westminster, South (Mr. Tugendhat)—as a Gaullist and Chauvinist.

I need not restate what has been said by hon. Members on both sides about the tragedy of poverty in the underdeveloped world. That tragedy has been made immeasurably worse in the past 18 months. The under-developed nations are engulfed in a catastrophe not of their making. With the recession in the Western world, worldwide inflation, the rise in oil costs and the deterioration in the terms of trade, they are suffering a series of almost mortal blows from which it is unlikely that they will recover unless they have the will to do so and we in the developed nations are able to assist.

I hope that the nations of the developed world, both Communist and non-Communist, are prepared to respond to this crisis, not by looking inwardly but by giving all the assistance we can to the countless millions who are suffering a degree of deprivation which no statistics can properly convey.

The developed nations have not been insensitive to the needs of the underdeveloped world. Nor should we be, since to a large extent we played a contributory part in creating their present status. But between 1960 and 1970, the Development Decade, the West gave a great deal of aid to the developing nations, and we now have to ask whether that aid has been successful.

World wide, one can say that there have been successes—a number of countries have shown a significant growth in their output and prosperity—but the figures, impressive though they are, reveal on closer examination a number of significant failures. For this reason, both we and the developing nations must reappraise the whole system of aid giving and the problems which those nations face.

The White Paper is a significant part of that reassessment process. One should constantly reiterate the cautionary words of several hon. Members to the effect that, although there has been a transfer of resources from the wealthy to the poor nations of the world, it has nevertheless not always been to the advantage of the poorer nations. In fact, there is mounting evidence that in several cases there has been a net outflow of resources. The recipient nations, after having coughed up the interest payments and after the multinational companies have extracted their profits, find in some cases that more is going out than ever went in.

Moreover, although we are giving aid, and although private capital is going into these nominally independent countries, the truth is that in many ways one form of dependence is being substituted for another. In this respect—in view of the Chrysler situation in Britain, we should keep this closely in mind—even advanced nations can be subordinated to multinational companies, so how much more defenceless against that sort of onslaught are the poorer emerging nations?

After the first decade of independence, many of the goals set both by the countries themselves and by those assisting them have failed to be realised. What went wrong? In the first place the level of aid was inadequate, but in many respects the wrong type of aid was given. It is remarkable that we add in military aid as part of the total of general aid. It is an astonishing fact that some recipient countries are spending more in military expenditure than the total of assistance which they are receiving from other countries.

In addition, much of the aid was too fragmented, too evenly distributed, too thinly spread. Moreover the World Bank, for all its successes, worked in the wrong way. Up to about 1971, well over half the money it lent was lent to four nations only. I am glad to see that the Bank has reassessed its rôle and is now playing a far more dynamic part in giving money to the poorer developing nations.

Much of the aid given was uncoordinated, since the motives of each of the donors were a complex mixture of objectives and criteria, and to a large extent the mistakes were mistakes of those who advised on the giving of aid. In many ways the experts got it wrong. In the past, they said "Industrialise or bust". Now they say "No more industrialisation. We shall pump money into the rural areas". Thus, in quite a short time there has been something of an about-turn. I hope that this approach, which our Government are adopting, will not be revealed in future as something of a failure, too.

However, the failures cannot be put simply on the shoulders of the donors, to use that word. Many failings can be put on the shoulders of the recipient countries. Obviously, the magnitude of the task facing them was too great, and often political crises made it more difficult for them to plan or have proper continuity in their development plans.

On that aspect of the matter, I am sure that we can assist. There has been a failure of public administration. This happens not just in under-developed countries but in developed countries too, but in many respects the under-developed countries have been unable to produce sufficient expertise to be able to use or absorb the aid which has been given. I hope that many of our universities and colleges will devise more courses in public administration for people from the developing countries, perhaps including some of their civil servants and politicians as well.

Another factor which has made things more difficult for the donors has been the graft—or "dash" as it is known in West Africa—which has inhibited the best use of the aid. Although this is by no means a phenomenon confined to the developing nations, it has undoubtedly had its effect there.

We are today considering a change of strategy. Ultimately it will be the developing nations themselves which determine that strategy and not well-wishers from outside who, having seen their own mistakes, might seek to impose their new theories and policies upon the newly emerged nations. These nations must decide their own strategy.

I am pleased that we have reappraised our strategy, which will be directed now to more aid to the poorest. In many ways one can support that shift in strategy, but there are certain powerful arguments against it. I do not wish to appear too conservative in my attitude to aid, but we now see two almost contradictory views. On the one hand there is the hard-faced school who say that one should concentrate aid on those countries best able to receive and use it, and many people would see the more developed of the developing nations falling into that category. On the other hand there is the modified Oxfam view that one ought to concentrate resources on rural areas and on the poorer of the poor nations.

Foreign assistance can be a powerful mechanism for securing rapid development if it is supplied in adequate amounts and if the people receiving it are able to mobilise their resources to harness fully the aid and their own natural resources. The allocation of aid in the past has been rather haphazard. To be really effective it must be better planned. There are strong arguments that it could be better directed to areas which have shown in the past that they are able to utilise it to the full.

Mrs. Hart

This is the heart of the matter. The old attitude was that aid should go more plentifully to those countries whose economic performance, measured by the rate of growth, showed up best. That theory which dominated the 1950s and 1960s led to increasing poverty gaps and little enclaves which did not promote growth.

Mr. George

I am not advocating a return to the 1960s philosophy of "Industrialise or bust", but under this new policy we must not neglect the needs of industrialisation. I shall argue the need for interim technology and concentration on rural development, but we must not forget that many countries need advanced technology and surely we can have islands of development, properly prepared by the Government, surrounded by properly directed rural development. I do not see why one should exclude the other. There are countries where the right strategy can produce this effect.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman made a promise.

Mr. George

I did not remember making a promise, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I shall from this moment. We should concentrate resources on interim technology and rural development but do not forget that there are countries still able to accept aid and put it to good use by the methods used in the past. I am pleased that there is such support today for more aid to developing countries.

I hope that as a result of this debate the public will be more aware of the issues. Besides the moral arguments, there are self-interest arguments in favour of aid which might be more widely accepted. I am pleased that this debate has taken place and I hope that by regular debates on this issue we shall constantly focus attention on the needs of a vast section of the world's population which has been badly neglected by the Governments of developed nations in the past.

3.25 p.m.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) is in the Chamber. She talked of a possible conflict of policy between the Foreign Secretary and the Ministry for Overseas Development. She must have forgotten temporarily the extraordinary fact that we have two representatives of that Ministry in the Cabinet and that the Foreign Secretary is the senior.

Mrs. Hart

I did not forget.

Mr. Spearing

Then perhaps my right hon. Friend's delicacy made her refrain from mentioning the fact.

When the Prime Minister decided to merge the Ministry and the Foreign Office, an order would have had to have been placed before the House to change the terms of reference, and we should have had an important debate. With characteristic sleight of hand, the Prime Minister told me in reply to a Question that he had designated the Foreign Secretary as Minister for Overseas Development. We now have two such Ministers. We were not able to discuss that very important matter. The senior Minister could easily override the junior Minister in the cases mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lanark.

Generally, I welcome the White Paper, but I have some reservations. I do not think that it is practical enough. It is highly philosophical in its language and I should have liked to have seen illustrated tables alongside the text. Statistical information is often necessary, and if it had been included in this White Paper, we should have had a good handbook. The annual abstract of aid statistics is a little technical, but it is a pity that those figures were not included in the White Paper, for they would have improved it.

I do not find the EEC harmonisation document a happy document. If we harmonised with majority thinking in the Community at the moment, we should be going away from what is contained in the White Paper. There could be a real conflict here. Perhaps we might deal with this subject in the debate on the Lomé Convention later today.

The essence of this subject is the need for rural development. Many of us have been saying this for 20 years and economists have suddenly realised that things grow in the ground and not in tables of statistics, important though they may be at times. Rural development means the development of a subsistence economy, and this involves not just growing, but how people live in their communities, and helping them to deal with surpluses, marketing, storage, credit and especially self-help and the use of intermediate and basic technology. There have not been enough resources given to the centres of excellence that can develop appropriate technology.

If the White Paper is to be put into practice, it must be with the people on the ground. In my visits to developing countries, particularly in rural areas, I have seen the contribution that expatriates can make. I find that it is often those with the irregular career, who have not followed the promotion and education process that we understand in the United Kingdom, who are making real progress at the end of a spade. This may have some relevance to our own internal difficulties—they are not altogether different from those of some developing countries.

Money is the least of the problems. The biggest problem is getting the right people on the spot. They must have experience and skill and the right personal relations with the areas in which they are operating, and with officials along the line. In the past, we have had a great reservoir of experience in the old Overseas Civil Service but, as people reach retirement age, it seems likely that this reservoir will decrease.

One of the most practical steps the Minister could take would be to look carefully at this matter of personnel, not only in training, but in selection. The Commonwealth Development Corporation has an important part to play and it is one not only concerned with higher technology. In one place the Corporation is working to replace tractors with oxen, and this is often the right sort of change.

The development divisions of the Ministry also have a part to play. I know that they are controversial, but they have their rôle. There may be extra complications with respect to relations with High Commissions. But if the officials are sufficiently practical, they can play a valuable rôle.

Of all the countries concerned with overseas development, we have potentially the most important contribution of all-dedicated men and women.

3.30 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Overseas Development (Mr. John Grant)

This has been an excellent debate so far. I hope that its quality will be a powerful influence in achieving much more frequent discussion on the Floor of the House of these crucial matters, and preferably not on a Friday. The contributions from both sides have been constructive and even instructive.

Last Friday I was on the Front Bench for quite a bit of time for the debate on Rhodesian sanctions. We saw then a very different kind of Conservative Party from what we have seen today. The backwoodsmen have today been conspicuous by their absence. I am grateful to Conservative Members, as I am to my right hon. and hon. Friends, for their understanding today. It would have been interesting if we could have had an outward-looking view from the Scottish National Party, if it has such a view, that is.

I hope that the Leader of the Opposition finds time to read the debate. I think that she will learn from it. It might persuade her to show some personal interest in the matters that we have been discussing including, as well as aid, the new economic order and the vital issue of relations between the developed and developing world. She has failed abysmally so far to produce even a flicker of recognition of this subject.

The hon. Member for the City of London and Westminster, South (Mr. Tugendhat) argued that the White Paper did not promote with sufficient vigour the need for more aid. I hope that he can carry his right hon. Friend with him on that score and that we shall hear her speaking up frequently for the developing world. Perhaps she will even call for increased public expenditure in this respect.

Mr. Tugendhat

I thank the Minister for giving way, especially since I have waived my party's right of reply. I can assure him that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has this subject quite as much at heart as anyone else on our side of the House and that her sympathies are very much with the poor and the needy. The emphasis of her own programme when she was Secretary of State for Education in many ways bears that out.

Mr. Grant

I am sure that the House is delighted to hear that, and I hope that we shall hear from the right hon. Lady on the subject.

My right hon. Friend the Minister made a powerful and wide-ranging opening speech. I do not want to cover the same ground unnecessarily. It is hard to look at the appalling problems in the developing world—and we have had quite a few illustrative statistics today—without being pessimistic. It is hard to look to the future and consider the inevitable continuing population explosion, the drift from the countryside to the towns, where the prospects of a job and a home seem to remain only a remote possibility for masses of people, without becoming something of a doomwatcher. It is hard to envisage the world food situation ahead of us without a very deep sense of foreboding.

Yet to succumb to these understandable feelings is to become defeatist, and that we must not do. There is an enormous challenge here to the developed nations to harness their wealth and talents, their expertise and experience, in the wider interest of an increasingly interdependent world. There is a challenge, too, to the developing nations themselves to make still greater efforts to be more self-reliant and to practise more self-help.

I said that the problems were enormous, and the statistics, I agree, are horrifying. I leave them to one side. On a personal note, in the 13 months that I have been doing this job I have had what I would term virtually a crash course in world poverty. I have seen the refugee camps in Bangladesh. I have visited the cholera wards in Dacca; I have been into the bustees—the slums—in Calcutta, and in the homes there for the dying and destitute run by that incredible woman Mother Teresa; I have glimpsed the frighteningly poor living standards in African villages and seen the malnutrition and disease that all too often prevail; I have seen, too, the squalor of South American shanty towns. I do not, therefore, need statistics. I have some indelible impressions, and frankly it sickens me to read some of the snide, even malicious, comments of those who oppose our aid efforts, sometimes even implying that we should cut off our aid altogether.

There have been a number of newspaper editorials about this recently. The Daily Telegraph led the pack—perhaps not surprisingly—in its leading article on the White Paper with its claim that our aid will be largely wasted by politicians and bureaucrats". It was not alone in this kind of ill-informed criticism. Of course, "largely wasted" is a nonsensical exaggeration. It would be stupid to pretend that mistakes never happen and it would be equally stupid to suggest that aid funds have never been misused. Even sophisticated advanced industrial countries such as ours have been known to have their public expenditure scandals.

From time to time there are reports in the Press about corruption in developing countries, sometimes involving misuse of aid funds provided by outside Governments, or of money and resources provided by charities. In the past 20 years, considerable amounts of money, of food and of other materials, have flowed from the rich countries to the poor, either to promote their development, or to relieve distress in natural or man-made disasters. Perhaps it was inevitable in the circumstances that there should have been some corruption in the use of private and official funds.

There are two observations to be taken up. My hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Barnett) suggested that we should tackle this problem head on. The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud), on duty for the Liberal Party—he must have been on a short shift, because he has now gone—also referred to corruption.

The Ministry of Overseas Development is always vigilant to ensure that British official funds are properly used. We have a whole range of procedures, from competitive bidding for contracts to on-the-spot supervision of expenditure, to ensure that we get value for the money that is spent on our aid. This means being always vigilant against any form of corrupt practice, whether here or overseas. Moreover, and especially in view of the publicity given to some recent cases of corruption reported in the British Press, my right hon. Friend is giving special instruction to the staff of the Department to be more watchful than ever against any form of malpractice in the use of our aid, so that if it is necessary action may be taken.

This brings me to my second point, which concerns public opinion. Nothing does more damage to efforts for international aid than reports that it is being misused. We on our side can re and are vigilant to prevent it, but the main remedy must lie in the developing countries themselves. I would appeal to their Governments to redouble their efforts to stamp out every form of malpractice in the use of money, food and other resources supplied from overseas, either to relieve their distress, or to promote their development. They owe it both to their own people and to the world outside to do so.

Sir Bernard Braine

On the subject of whether British aid has been properly used in the developing countries, will the Parliamentary Secretary confirm that successive reports from all-party Select Committees that have looked into precisely this topic have concluded and reported that on the whole British aid overseas is exceedingly well managed?

Mr. Grant

I am grateful to the hon. Member for saying that. What he says is true. When one comes to search for specific examples instead of mere rumours, it becomes difficult to find examples of mismanagement in the British aid programme. The other side of the coin is the immensely encouraging aspect of the tremendous use to which so much of our aid funds is put.

Again, I am not relying simply on pieces of paper passing through a ministerial in-tray, or even the valuable briefings and advice of our officials. I have talked with many of those using our aid in the field at all levels, from the administrators, technicians and various other experts, to the peasant farmers—for example, to the barefoot doctors and paramedics. I have seen an immensely praiseworthy combination of skill and dedication by those people, including the many volunteers serving abroad. I pay full tribute to it.

Those are the people who deserve the bulk of our attention, not the armchair critics who seek to undermine their efforts by magnifying out of all proportion the admitted shortcomings of some aid administration at some times. I endorse the views of hon. Members about the shortcomings of the media in not playing a more vigorous and effective rôle in getting the aid case across to the public.

There are problems, apart from malpractice, in aid administration. There is admittedly a danger sometimes that instead of aid reaching those who need it most, there will be an attempt to channel it into the pet prestige project of an ambitious local politician or bureacrat. A developmental case may well be cited in support. Almost anything one does for a poor country can be shown to have some developmental spin-off value. We must assess our priorities, particularly in terms of projects. I do not think that it is neo-colonialism to do it. We must sometimes say "This is not a project into which we believe our aid funds can legitimately go." There is nearly always a suitable alternative into which we can put those funds.

I think that our increased concentration on the poorest people will involve rather more of that attitude. Perhaps not all will approve, including commercial interests with contracts at stake on occasion. I do not apologise. I am only too ready to justify what we spend on aid overall, and, like every hon. Member who has spoken, I could easily justify spending a good deal more. It is true that there must be some flexibility about aid policy and its application, but if any of our scarce resources are to go on inessentials, I can find a better use for that money in helping the many underprivileged people in my inner-city constituency. That doubtless goes for other hon. Members as well.

My Department is vigilant in all these matters, as are its Ministers. We shall continue to be vigilant in the light of our overriding commitment to the poorest people, as outlined in the White Paper.

I come to some of the specific points raised in the debate. First, it is probably in order for me to congratulate the hon. Member for City of London and Westminster, South on his first speech from the Dispatch Box. It was extremely effective. I welcome his general support for what we are seeking to do.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the urban poor. Although our emphasis is on rural development, I can assure him that we regard dealing with the problem of the urban poor as an extremely important aspect of our development programme. The policy is in no sense inflexible: I do not believe that an aid policy can be.

The hon. Gentleman also talked about sins of omission in the White Paper and about stressing the need for more aid. I have already mentioned that, and I have also dealt with the subject of corruption.

I understand that the speech of the hon. Member for Norfolk, North-West (Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler) was the first that he has made to the House for a very long time, following a serious illness. We all welcome the fact that he chose this important subject on which to make his contribution. He and his hon. Friend the Member for City of London and Westminster, South spoke of overseas investment, of private flows. My right hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) expressed her characteristic reservations on the matter, and I agree with a good deal of what she has said.

We cannot regard private investment as being as important to the developing world as Government aid. More especially, we must not use it as an excuse for not giving Government aid. One point that has not emerged from the debate is that private investment, despite what was said, may not go to those countries that most need help, and in fact it tends not to do so because they are likely to be less commercially attractive. This underlines the desperate need for concessional finance. However, my right hon. Friend has already made it clear that we recognise that private flows can be of considerable value to the developing world generally. Certainly, where it is sought by developing countries that is often the case.

The hon. Gentleman also said that the White Paper should have said a great deal more about trade. That is being unrealistic. Once we had gone into that argument, we could have gone beyond trade into the political arguments, and then the purposes of the White Paper would have been destroyed.

I should like to say a few words about the EEC, although we are coming on to that subject in the context of Lomé. These matters were raised by a number of right hon. and hon. Members, especially my right hon. Friends the Members for Lanark and Kettering (Sir G. de Freitas), who both have a special standing in this respect. My right hon. Friend the Minister dealt with much of this, but I want to underline his remarks in the light of the debate.

I assure the House that in matters of aid to the non-associates, food aid in particular, we shall not take "Nein" or "Non" for an answer. I know that my right hon. Friend will continue vigorously to urge the Community to honour its 1974 agreement in principle to aid the non-associates, which include some of the world's most needy and populous nations.

Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Kettering, I was among those who argued at the time of the referendum that it was better for the developing world, especially the non-associates, to have us at the EEC negotiating table, on the inside. I still consider that to be true. Certainly I cannot see that they would find any advantage in our absence. But I trust that our European partners will not leave us much longer in a negative situation in which our presence means neither profit nor loss for the non-associates. That constitutes a serious let-down, and it is no recipe for the fruitful partnership that we seek to enhance.

I come to the rôle of the voluntary agencies, mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kettering and my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich. There is no question but that we see a far more important rôle for the voluntary agencies in the future. I am a little disappointed that the joint funding scheme that we launched with them earlier this year is apparently not sufficiently known in the House. Perhaps that is not surprising. We have problems about securing coverage by the media of that kind of exercise. The fact is that we have a joint scheme to which we have allocated £500,000 for this financial year. So far £55,000 has been committed, and we have under consideration contributions of another £85,000 to further projects.

The setting up of a disaster unit by the Ministry is another instance of the increased co-operation between us and the voluntary agencies. The agencies and our officials are at present discussing even closer working between us and the agencies and among the agencies, and means of securing more public involvement—an important point that was made in the debate.

The hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine) referred to the population explosion. I led the British delegation for part of the time at last year's World Population Conference in Bucharest, where there was recognition by most delegations of the need urgently to curb the population growth rate in much of the developing world. We know that in any case, due to age structures, nothing short of disaster can prevent those populations from doubling soon after the turn of the century.

The Ministry is extremely active in both cash and kind in this area of activity. But I entirely share the hon. Gentleman's view that the real key is not birth control but the economic advance of the developing nations. I think that this has been recognised generally as the only long-term solution to the threat that overpopulation inevitably poses. We must raise the living standards of the world if we are to combat the problem and avoid an awful crisis.

The hon. Gentleman talked of adding to the total resources of the poorer countries as a better way of proceeding than merely concentrating on getting aid through to the poorest people. That is commonly called the "trickle down theory". I must take issue with him. We do not think that that approach has worked adequately. Perhaps that is also an answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George). I repeat that we are not inflexible in our policy application.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Lanark made a compelling and deeply knowledgeable speech. I do not want to dwell on the tributes that have already been paid to her. It would be a bit like a parliamentary love-in if I did so. However, I must add my own comment. I worked with the right hon. Lady for many months and I add my tribute to her for the tremendous work that she did in that period. My right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) mentioned UNCTAD 4. They indicated the need for an integrated Government approach. There is a need to bring the matter together in the months ahead so that hon. Members can express an advance view. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will take that suggestion on board and will play his part in achieving that objective.

My hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich mentioned specifically the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation. He pointed out that it was not mentioned in the White Paper. My hon. Friend wants a larger share of aid to go to the fund. It was not the intention of the White Paper to try to describe all the elements in the Ministry's activities. We recognise that the technical fund is a valuable element, but it is a comparatively small one. I appreciate what my hon. Friend says about the future. There has been a rapid expansion of the fund in recent years and we look forward to receiving the final report of its triennial review group. That must have an important bearing on the allocation of future resources.

The hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) invited my right hon. Friend to make a take-over bid for the financing of overseas students. My right hon. Friend has some experience of takeover bids and I know that he will take careful note of what has been said, although I can foresee some formidable difficulties. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Mr. Lee) talked about the Commonwealth Development Corporation and had some criticisms to make. The Corporation has taken the new policy on board and will assist us by playing a part in furthering that policy in future.

There are many other points which arise from the debate but all I can say in the time available is that they will be considered by my right hon. Friend and myself.

I believe that the biggest threat to peace is world economic anarchy and a situation in which the majority of the world's population exists in appalling degrees of poverty and wretchedness while the rest of us enjoy relative happiness and prosperity. My right hon. Friend has said that the White Paper emphasises that aid is only one of a number of essential instruments in the effort to secure a more just distribution of the world's wealth between rich and poor nations.

My hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich has described the White Paper as a revolutionary document. I would not deny that and I am sure that my right hon. Friend is delighted to be leading this revolution. We have to accept that we must live and work with nations whose ways of life are often different from ours. Some of them believe in free enterprise; some of them believe in a system that is largely State-controlled; and some believe in a mixed economy. World peace must be founded on prosperity and good neighbourliness among all of us. That message cannot be repeated too often. Our prosperity as a trading nation depends to a great extent on that understanding. Many hon. Members have talked about self-interest, and it is a valid factor. Our prosperity depends in the end not only on our own vital efforts, but on world prosperity. There fore, we have a proper and practical interest in the matter in addition to an approach of idealism.

The policy described in the White Paper emphasises the position of the poorest nations and refers to the need for markedly new efforts to direct our aid wherever possible to the poorest people in those countries, especially through rural development. In my view, that combines effectively with our practical interest. I believe that our ideals are rightly achieving more prominence than hitherto, not that idealism is anything new. I remind the House that after the war the late Clem Attlee was prompted to ration bread in this country because of a famine situation in India. That was an act of political courage and of idealism. That action is not required of us today, but I hope that we are not any smaller in stature.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made it plain in our manifesto that when the going was toughest, we must do most to protest those who were weakest. In my view, that is not a policy to be applied only on the domestic front. It is a policy that is entirely relevant to what we have discussed today. It is entirely relevant to the White Paper and to the Government's aid policy.

With our limited resources and our considerable economic constraints, we can never do enough for the developing world, but we are moving in the right direction. I believe that our aid policy is progressive and redistributive in favour of the poor. I commend the White Paper to the House.

Mr. Thomas Cox (Tooting)

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn

Back to