HC Deb 31 October 1979 vol 972 cc1227-8
42. Mr. Maxton

asked the Lord Privy Seal what cuts he proposes in the aid programme to India.

Mr. Neil Marten

I refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. Member for Waltham Forest (Mr. Deakins).

Mr. Maxton

Is the Minister aware that there is considerable concern among hon. Members about his failure to deny in the debate last night the statement by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Dame Judith Hart) that there would be a 40 per cent. cut in aid to India this year? Is he now prepared to make that denial? If not, is he aware that a 40 per cent. cut would create considerable economic difficulties in India, make the suffering among millions in India worse than it is already and create economic problems within our own country? Only by developing industry in India and other developing countries can we solve our own economic problems.

Mr. Marten

I am afraid that I do not have the precise percentage, but I shall write to the hon. Gentleman. Discussions have taken place with the Indian Government, who understand the reasons for the cuts and have taken them with good grace.

Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler

In allocating the cuts in aid to India, will my hon. Friend bear in mind the recent report of the Select Committee on Overseas Development, which draws attention to the need to avoid concentrating our aid on capital goods? Will he bear in mind also the importance to local employment in India of aid being dispersed to smaller rural projects?

Mr. Marten

Yes, Sir.

Dame Judith Hart

It is with great regret that one hears final confirmation this afternoon of the cut in the aid programme to India. How on earth does the hon. Gentleman think this is compatible with the maintenance by the Government of an aid strategy to the poorest countries? Or is he proposing a new and very different strategy?

Mr. Marten

As the right hon. Lady knows, there is a review of aid going on. I should prefer to await the outcome of that review, which is an internal one within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, before making any comments about any shift in the pattern of aid.

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