HC Deb 01 March 1982 vol 19 cc16-7
40. Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler

asked the Lord Privy Seal what contribution Her Majesty's Government have pledged to the United Nations development programme for 1982; and if he will express this in terms of $ American per head of the population of the United Kingdom.

44. Mr. Ioan Evans

asked the Lord Privy Seal what contribution the United Kingdom has pledged to the United Nations development programme for 1982; and if he will express this as a percentage of gross national product.

The Minister for Overseas Development (Mr. Neil Marten)

We intend to contribute £18.5 million to the United Nations development programme in 1982, subject to parliamentary approval. Our contribution to UNDP is expressed in £ sterling, and on the basis of recent exchange rates our contribution is equivalent to $0.60 per head of United Kingdom population.

The latest published money GNP figure is for 1980. Our contribution for that year represented 0.007 per cent of our GNP.

Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler

As Norway's contribution to the fund, expressed in dollars per head, is 20 times that of the United Kingdom, and in view of the right hon. Gentleman's repeated commitment to giving priority to the poorest countries in the overseas aid programme, why is he giving so little support to the one international institution that shares that priority?

Mr. Marten

I do not regard £18.5 million as "little support". Britain's contribution is the seventh largest of those so far announced in 1982. Britain has always been among the 10 largest contributors to the programme. We regard the UNDP as an efficient and effective organisation.

Mr. Evans

Does the Government's contribution live up to the pledges given at Cancun by the Prime Minister to deal with the problems of world poverty? Is it because the Americans have reduced their contribution that we are reducing ours? Would we not help the poor of the world far better by increasing our contribution to the UNDP than by spending £10 billion on Trident?

Mr. Marten

I do not regard the last part of that question as relevant. Our contribution to the UNDP is voluntary. It is not, therefore, affected by that of the United States.

Mr. Archie Hamilton

Is my right hon. Friend content that aid from the British taxpayer to Third world countries is by-passing the Governments of those countries, bearing in mind that the abject poverty in which many people live in those countries is caused by the corruption and Socialist policies of those Governments?

Mr. Marten

I take note of the point made by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Pavitt

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that these figures are less than the 1969 Lester Pearson target, which was generally accepted at that time? How is he getting on in the struggle in the Cabinet for funds for all spending Departments? Shall we be able to reach at least some part of the North-South settlement figures for next year?

Mr. Marten

The figures mentioned in the answer are not the 0.7 of the Pearson report, but, like the Labour Government, we hope to achieve that figure when our economy is right. If the hon. Gentleman and the Labour Party can help in getting the economy right, we should be grateful.

Sir Frederick Burden

It is important to recognise the amounts of money sent to backward countries, but can my right hon. Friend assure us that when machinery is sent—that is surely essential for developing countries—there are people there who can put it to proper use instead of allowing it to rust on the quays and in other places?

Mr. Marten

I do not know what happened previously, but we now try to see that if a developing country is receiving machinery, particularly complicated machinery, there are people trained to handle it once it is in place.

Mr. Jessel

Was not the reference by the hon. Member for Norfolk, North-West (Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler) to Norway irrelevant and foolish, in that our Norwegian friends are able to produce 10 times as much oil a year as is required for their needs and are therefore much richer per head of population and able to give much more in development aid?

Mr. Marten

Many of these comparisons are irrelevant, as my hon. Friend has suggested.

Mr. James Lamond

Why did the Minister say that it was not relevant to contrast our defence expenditure with overseas aid when all the Governments who attended the United Nations special session in 1978 felt that they could tie the two together and promised to cut the arms bill and use the money to help the Third world?

Mr. Marten

If we do not have a proper defence policy, the consequence might be that we do not have a proper aid policy.