HC Deb 16 February 1981 vol 999 cc17-8
51. Mr. Deakins

asked the Lord Privy Seal why there has been a one-third reduction in United Kingdom bilateral aid to India.

Mr. Neil Marten

Bilateral aid to India has not been reduced by one-third. Net disbursements in financial years 1978–79 and 1979–80 were £113 million and £98 million respectively, and we hope to provide at least the same amount in 1980–81 as in 1979–80.

Mr. Deakins

Nevertheless, does not the Minister agree that this was a substantial cut? Before agreeing to it, did he consider the effects of a cut of such a magnitude on the most populous Commenwealth country? If so, why did he allow such a serious cut—albeit, not one-third—to go ahead?

Mr. Marten

Cuts affected many countries throughout the world, and particular attention was paid to India to which we give a great amount of aid. Britain provides more aid to India than any other bilateral donor and on softer terms than most. According to World Bank figures, British aid amounted to 34 per cent. of net bilateral disbursements by a member of the Aid India Consortium in 1979–80, which is a pretty good record, and I know that India appreciates it.

Mr. Jessel

Is not India, like other Asiatic countries in the Commonwealth, treated less favourably for development aid purposes than Commonwealth countries and others in Africa because under the Common Market Lomé convention, under French influence, a disproportionate amount of aid tends to be steered to Africa to the detriment of Asiatic countries? What can be done to rectify that?

Mr. Marten

That is not so with regard to our bilateral aid. However, if my hon. Friend is referring to aid under the Community, it is perfectly true that the original Lomé agreement is directed more towards the African countries than towards the Asian countries. That is something that we are constantly trying to massage rather more evenly.

Mr. Guy Barnett

Do the Government still adhere to the principle laid down by the previous Government of aid to the poorest people in the poorest countries? If so, why did my hon. Friend the Member for Waltham Forest (Mr. Deakins) not receive a more favourable answer on the question on aid to India?

Mr. Marten

The policy is the same—aid to the poorest. If the hon. Gentleman examines the answer, he will find that it is not so bad as he thinks.

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