HC Deb 26 June 1978 vol 952 cc1036-8
42. Mr. Blaker

asked the Minister of Overseas Development whether it is the policy of Her Majesty's Government to attach political conditions to the granting of aid; and, if so, in what circumstances.

Mrs. Hart

While aid allocation decisions necessarily take into account the state of our political relations with the country concerned, no political conditions are attached to aid granted.

Mr. Blaker

Are not the Government in a complete muddle about this? How is it that aid has been cut off from Uganda and Chile, whereas it has not been cut off from Ethiopia and Cambodia, according to what the right hon. Lady told the House on 8th May? Does it simply depend on how far Left the regime is?

Mrs. Hart

The hon. Gentleman has clearly failed to take note of the correction in Hansard, which was of some importance. It was that we do not have an aid programme to Cambodia and have not had an aid programme for some three years. It was a rather important correction in Hansard, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree. We have a minimal programme for Ethiopia which is directed entirely towards completing a water supply project there. It has been very difficult to decide about that. In terms of human rights in all these various countries, one has to take some account of not punishing people twice. A rural water supply to some of the people in the countryside of Ethiopia did not seem to us to be a matter on which we should cut off aid and fail to complete a project to which we are committed. However, it is a very minimal one and we have no new proposals for aid in Ethiopia.

Mr. Hooley

Will my right hon. Friend therefore resist the importation of political conditions into any renegotiated Lome Convention?

Mrs. Hart

"Political conditions" is one way of expressing it, although I would not agree with that. What we are concerned about, and clearly what the whole House would be concerned about, is that we would not wish our taxpayers' money to be spent in Uganda, for example. Therefore, we have some claim to have a voice on this within the renegotiations of Lomé.

Sir Bernard Braine

Is not there a very strong case for attaching just one political condition to the granting of aid, and that is that it is not made available in cases where there are known and gross violations of human rights?

Mrs. Hart

This, of course, is the phrase which has become accepted and which certainly we accepted—that the gross violation of human rights should be a condition. How one expresses that in terms of aid policy and international discussion becomes a matter of case-by-case decision. Of course, it must be a case-by-case decision, and that is the policy which we tend to pursue.

Mr. Spriggs

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, when she goes to the Cabinet meetings to discuss increased aid for the poorer nations of the world, all her hon. Friends will give her their fullest support?

Mrs. Hart

I am sure that they will. To be fair, a considerable number of Conservative Members might do so, although there might be some dissension within their party about the matter. What I am clear about is that our policy is "poorest countries and poorest people". The poorest people in some countries may merit our support even partly in order to induce the progress in economic and social development which will itself lead to an advancement in the securement of human rights.

Mr. Luce

The Minister still has not answered specifically the supplementary question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Maker). If it is right not to give aid to Chile or Uganda, how can it possibly be right to give official, bilateral taxpayers' money to the Ethiopian regime?

Mrs. Hart

I think I have explained that, but I shall seek to explain it again. We have a minimal programme. It is for a rural water supply project. It was undertaken some time ago. It is in its last stages. We are entering into no new commitments, but on balance—and these must be questions which one decides on balance—we did not think it right to cut off the completion of that project.