HC Deb 22 March 1976 vol 908 cc24-6
39. Mr. Canavan

asked the Minister for Overseas Development what changes, if any, he proposes to make in the policies of his Department, in the light of the cuts in public expenditure announced in the recent White Paper.

Mr. Prentice

The policies of my Department remain as explained in last year's White Paper, "The Changing Emphasis in British Aid Policies" (Cmnd 6270). The recent reductions in public expenditure as previously forecast do not affect the aid programme.

Mr. Canavan

In view of the miserable proposal in the White Paper that there should be an immediate decrease in our aid programme for next year, followed by an increase of only 16 per cent. by 1980, and as the White Paper was rejected by Parliament, will my right hon. Friend tell the Chancellor of the Exchequer that we have not a chance of meeting our commitment of 0.7 per cent. GNP aid to the Third World unless the Treasury makes a more generous allocation of funds?

Mr. Prentice

My hon. Friend's reference to a reduction in 1975–76 arises from the fact that there was an underspending in 1974–75 which distorted the figure carried forward to 1975–76. But there will be an increase of 16.9 per cent. in real terms from next year over the following three years. I wish that we were doing more, but this is a civilised decision in relation to the fact that virtually every other public expenditure programme has been reduced for the years in question.

Mr. Cormack

Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider whether we should give aid to Mozambique until that country's ambiguous position regarding Rhodesia has been clarified?

Mr. Prentice

No, Sir. The Government's policy of aid for Mozambique has been endorsed unanimously throughout the Commonwealth and was endorsed unanimously in the Security Council a few days ago, when a world-wide appeal for aid to Mozambique was made. The reasons for that are well known to the House. I wish that hon. Members opposite would give this policy the support it deserves on its merits.

Mr. Spearing

Bearing in mind my right hon. Friend's wish to spend more, does he agree that one of the most effective forms of aid is aid from this country which is backed by local contributions and local costs, particularly in the form of self-help schemes? Will he look at this matter in even greater detail than he promised in his last White Paper?

Mr. Prentice

The policy in the last White Paper involved a more flexible approach to the question of local costs. The new arrangements for matching some of the efforts of the voluntary organisations will give a new dimension. In other words, we are moving along the right road, although not perhaps as quickly as my hon. Friend would like. There is the problem of the balance of payments restrictions. I hope that we shall do better still in future years.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Does my right hon. Friend not think it immoral for us to encourage, as we are doing, the hungry nations to spend their limited resources on sophisticated submarines, aircraft and tanks when what they really need and what they could buy from us is well-drilling machinery and teaching and medical equipment?

Mr. Prentice

Those are the very projects that are being encouraged through the aid programme. As for disarmament, I do not think that it would be fair for me to comment on particular countries—it would in any case take too long—but the Government are in favour of multilateral disarmament, so that the entire world wastes fewer of its resources on weapons of destruction.

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