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§ Mr. Ben Ford (Bradford, North)
I am remarkably fortunate to have caught your eye, Mr. Speaker, so early in the afternoon and I am most grateful to you. I am delighted to see the Minister in his place, as I spent my first overseas visit in his company many years ago, soon after becoming a Member of Parliament. Therefore, we have had a common interest for many years.
The lines of the debate are fairly narrowly drawn, but I shall attempt to remain in order and to be relatively brief. We are talking about the technical assistance contained in overseas aid and about the provision of a small increase in the Supply Estimates for 1981–82, Class II, Vote 10. I wish that the increase had been greater. Perhaps it is time that we told the Government that such work is much more important for the peace and future harmony of the world than grandiose defence schemes.
By the same token, we should tell those whom we represent that it may well be necessary to make some further sacrifices in the name of humanity to succour some of the starving millions in the world. Poverty is comparative and from my experience I know that, despite all Britain's difficulties and misfortunes, the worst off person here lives in luxury compared with many millions of our fellow human beings. Increases in technical assistance will enable us to give more employment to our technicians, graduates and skilled men.
I visited Indonesia and travelled across the island of Java to the east, to the town of Surubaya. Java is vastly over-populated and that is an enormous problem. In Surubaya, I met a young British traffic engineer, who had devised a system to enable the maintenance of traffic flows in that over-crowded city. Hon Members may say that there is nothing remarkable about that, but in devising his scheme he took account of the bicycle rickshaws which, it had been discovered, were a major contributor to the town's economy. He had devised a remarkable scheme to enable buses, cars, mopeds and rickshaws to circulate in Surubaya without any traffic jams. I heard that engineer being congratulated by technicians of all nationalities.
During the same visit I saw teams of British technicians drilling wells to provide water supplies for the teeming millions on Java and other populated islands. I also remember when, following a visit to the West Indies, the Minister was responsible for technical aid being given towards the provision of an airfield and towards breeding stock to improve the cattle herds. I have perused House of Commons paper No. 183, the fourth report of the Public Accounts Committee. It is concerned with the Overseas Development Administration. It contains some excellent examples of bilateral technical co-operation, such as the Falkland islands airfield, hospital equipment for 206 Colombia, the Indian farmers' fertiliser project and the Wadi Dhuleil settlement project in Jordon. I should like many more projects to be set in train.
In addition to providing employment for more of our skilled and technically trained personnel, some of the increases in the provision for technical assistance should be used to purchase British equipment. For example, in my constituency there is an International Harvesters tractor factory. For several years it has suffered redundancies and short-time working. Is that not scandalous when much of the world cries out for increased food production? Would it not be only common sense to put men to work in Britain, manufacturing British equipment for the use of those overseas, so that they can be provided with food and decent standards of living? If we did that, we would derive economic benefits and at the same time a fund of good will towards us would be built up throughout the world.
In a memorandum to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in 1981, the Overseas Development Administration states that technical assistance and co-operation represent about one third of our bilateral programmme. I should like to see that percentage increased to 50 or 60 per cent. There is some evidence 'that direct cash aid does not always benefit those for whom it is intended. Apart from the fact that it might go astray, it is sometimes used to purchase guns instead of butter. Aid in kind sometimes runs into difficulties of all kinds, particularly when it comes to distribution to the right points.
I am pleased to note that in the ODA memorandum, the Government state that they intend to restore the number of new awards to the 1978 and 1979 levels. That is still not good enough. Much more should be done for overseas students. When educated here, they become accustomed to using British equipment and they almost invariably—on return to their own countries—order British equipment. Overseas students are a great investment.
Therefore, subject to my earlier remarks, I welcome the increase in the provision of technical assistance and. I hope that I shall be in a position to laud the Government more lavishly on this matter in a year's time. Whatever our problems may be, we as an industrialised country still have a duty to help suffering humanity.
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§ Mr. Reg Prentice (Daventry)
I shall speak briefly in support of the hon. Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Ford). I do not know whether I shall do him a service by saying so, but I hope that if the hon. Gentleman's part of Bradford is to be represented by a Labour Member, it will be represented by him and not by the alternative about whom we have read.
I am glad that we have another debate on the aid programme. It was discussed several weeks ago on a Supply day and at that time I ventured to criticise the Government because their cuts were disproportionate. I cannot advance my argument without straying out of order, but I remind the House that although most Conservative Members were prepared to see reductions in some aspects of public expenditure, the reductions in the aid programme were disproportionate; they should be restored.
Within that programme we are discussing the technical assistance element. When the hon. Member says that this is probably the most valuable part of the programme he is correct. That is not in any way under-estimating the value 207 of the whole programme. He suggested that sometimes money provided in the form of capital aid programmes may go astray. This was not my experience when I was at the Ministry of Overseas Development, and I do not think that it is the current experience either. It may have been so some years ago, but the aid administrators of this and other donor countries have learnt the lessons of the past; they have learnt to avoid those sectors which are inefficient or corrupt, and they generally ensure that public money used in all aid programmes is used wisely.
I agree that the technical assistance programme is of particular value because we are generally dealing with a person-to-person relationship in one form or another. On the one hand we are talking about people who are brought to this country for training, which can vary from a higher degree course to a police officer being on a six-week attachment to a police force. There are courses of all shapes and sizes which dovetail with the development needs of the recipient countries.
On the other hand, technical assistance can mean British people going into developing countries both to do a job of work and to train someone local to carry on afterwards. In other words, it is part of the job to work oneself out of it and to pass on the skills. Therefore the nature of the programme has changed over the years. In many countries in Africa this is true. I have not seen any recent figures but I would have thought that we were providing fewer teachers for schools than we were, say, 15 years ago. In the intervening period many of these countries have trained large numbers of teachers, but they may still need from Britain teachers in certain subjects, and they may still need us to provide various kinds of teacher training for them.
I agree also with what the hon. Member said about a trade spin-off, particularly from technical assistance. That is something that one can never measure. The case cannot be proved by figures. Again, there are two aspects. If someone comes from Africa or from Southern Asia into Britain to do a course relating to a trade or profession and goes back home in a management position, he is more likely to buy British if he is responsible for ordering goods because of what he learnt when in this country.
Equally, if someone from Britain has gone to a developing country and passed on skills, there will be a spin-off in terms of future trade and orders. It illustrates the general point that the aid programme as a whole and technical assistance in particular is right both on moral grounds and in terms of long-term self interest. That is why many hon. Members on both sides of the House will watch the future size of the aid programme closely. We hope it will not be further cut and that it can be increased.
Members of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs recently visited the Caribbean. When they returned one of the things they said was that there was a need for a greater aid effort both from Britain and from other Western countries in the Caribbean region, again both to try to help the poor and hungry, and also for political and foreign policy reasons.
§ Mr. George Foulkes (South Ayrshire)
The right hon. Member may be aware that I was one of the people on that visit. May I assure him that he is right? What we saw was that much of the vacuum that has been left by the United Kingdom's withdrawal, particularly in training overseas 208 students, is being taken up by Cuba, which is providing free scholarships to Commonwealth students from all over the Caribbean. It seems strange that Conservative Government policy is resulting in this.
Incidentally, may I mention to the Minister that I am the Member for South Ayrshire? When he goes to Jersey again he may recall that I have made this intervention.
§ Mr. Prentice
I am grateful for that intervention. I was about to come to the end of my remarks. It often happens in this House that hon. Members on both sides become familar with the situation in a certain place, in this case the Caribbean. Another instance that comes to my mind is that when Zimbabwe became independent there were many demands from both sides of the House for a considerable aid programme for that country. I merely remind hon. Members that it is no good asking for aid in particular and then cutting the aid budget in general. The budget must be able to cope with specific situations which may well grow around the world. There may be strong foreign policy reasons why the West should want to help its friends in many parts of the world. That reinforces the other more general arguments that are always advanced on this matter.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, West)
I wish to draw the Minister's attention to a special and small item in this totality of aid. It is item B11 at the bottom of page 15 of the Supply Estimates, and is headed "Action Aid Somalia", where we make provision for £125, 000. I hope that the first instalment will be paid immediately, or in the very near future, because, if there is any place that needs aid, it is Somalia. I am delighted that we are for the first time providing this aid.
Many hon. Members, including the Minister and myself, have visited the refugee camps, and we think that we know the situation. Statistics are often misleading, but when one divides £125, 000 by 1 million, which is the number of refugees in the camps, that means little more than 10p for each poor devil, male, female or child. I make this appeal personally, because the Somalis are a noble and dignified people.
We administered the northern sector, the old protectorate, until quite recently. I can think of no other part of the former so-called Empire that has had a worse deal. We have left these people almost alone. They are being ravaged by the Ethiopians, who have pushed them out of places like Jijiga and the Ogaden. The Ethiopians have used Soviet and Cuban aid, helicopter gunships and any other weapons to pin down these men, women and youngsters and evict them from their homeland, the Ogaden, where so many ancestors of today's leaders lived.
There may be 1 million or 1½ million people in these camps. In some of the camps that I have visited, the provision is 2 litres of water per person per day, when the ration is 6 litres. In my constituency, West Hull, or the Minister's constituency, Banbury, the people have at least 16 litres per head per day. This is a measure of the distress of the refugees.
I do not wish to make a long speech, because, after being in the House for some years, I believe that shorter appeals, if they are sincere and factual, are much more valuable to a Minister than long-winded speeches with enormous quotations from texts of North American or other origin.
209 I am grateful for the small mercies that the Somali people have received. Although I have said that statistics are unreliable, there is no doubt that the numbers of displaced people on the brink of starvation are, if not more than the figure I have given, rising significantly. It is possible that in Somalia one person in four is a refugee. That statistic sums up the distress and horror of the position.
No one appreciates more than I the work being done in the United Kingdom by, among others, the Red Cross, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Oxfam and the Save the Children Fund. One could go on with a long catalogue of fine men and women who are devoting not only their spare time but sometimes their full time to getting help, succour and sustenance to the poor refugees not only in Somalia but next door in Ethiopia.
Politically, it would be helpful if the Government took a little more interest. I am speaking not about the Minister for Overseas Development, but about those Ministers who go to EEC meetings. Less than a fortnight ago I told the Lord Privy Seal that with EEC money given for aid in Ethiopia the Ethiopian Government—Mengistu and his allies—were moving Ethiopian peasants into lands which the poor refugees had left. They are settling them there with the aid of money which is partly our contribution to EEC funds. Once Ethiopian peasants have been settled on the land for five, eight, 10 years or more they will be dug in, and it will be heaven's own task to shift them.
In view of the latitude given to the Ethiopians, I cannot see that the Somali people will have a fair deal and return to their ancient homelands, where the poets and historians were. People living in Hargeisa and Mogadishu, men in the Cabinet and the Army, have gone all the way down there.
The refugees, whose ancestors lived in those parts, are not receiving sufficient help. It is the fault not of the Minister—I know how hard he works—but of his Cabinet colleagues who are making decisions. More money should be voted for aid to the people in question. We owe it to them. We administered the territory, and there is a legacy of our administration. We were there in the days of Churchill and Bevin after the war. The people in question expected a better deal. God knows how we are to get them back into the Ogaden. At least one in four is a refugee in his own territory in a political sense.
Our Government have given £125, 000. I wish that they would give £1 million. Nowhere in Africa have I seen more destitution, misery, distress and starvation than in the camps in Somalia.
§ Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)
I am very grateful to the hon. Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Ford) for initiating this debate. I wish to take the opportunity to point to a difficulty facing universities in their attempts to provide overseas aid and especially technical co-operation through our overseas aid programme. I do so using the illustration of a college of the university of London which I attended immediately after the war before I joined the Colonial Service, the School of Oriental and African Studies, where I was taught the lingua franca of West Africa—Hausa. They taught me so well that 22 years after 1 last saw Nigeria I still speak that language fairly fluently.
§ Mr. Stanbrook
I speak English most of the time. Such expertise as I have described is of great value.
The criteria of "development" for the purposes of our overseas aid policy have caused many difficulties for such institutions as the School of Oriental and African Studies in striving to provide the sort of technical assistance for which the extra money that we are speaking of is required. The main discouragement to the work done by the school, in maintaining British contacts with the Third world, arises from successive impediments to the free flow of postgraduate research students in the arts, law and the social sciences.
First, the Overseas Development Administration cuts off help to British teachers of those subjects in overseas universities. Then it excludes those subjects from the scope of most of the scholarship awards which it administers directly or through the British Council. Simultaneously, the Department of Education and Science, through the University Grants Committee, forces universities to raise all fees to a level about five times the average of those paid in other European countries, and those for overseas students to a level 10 to 15 times higher than those paid in the rest of Europe. The £5 million a year offered for competitive research scholarships for overseas students, given to offset this, is of little use to Third world students, since the amount covers only the difference between full-cost and home fees, and they cannot begin to afford the home fees.
We can see the result in the experience of the School of Oriental and African Studies, where the department of history, which 10 years ago had 160 research students, two thirds of them from overseas, today has only 47, less than half of them from overseas. That department's international contribution has been reduced by about two thirds.
As previous speakers have emphasised, the result of all this is that British influence has been dwindling in Africa for want of a proper appreciation of the role that could be played by the universities, and especially those bodies, such as the school, which are in direct contact with overseas students and overseas institutions.
France, among other countries, makes no such error. It is fully aware of the value of training overseas students in the metropolitan country and sending them back to their own homes, where they pay great dividends on the investment that the French Government have made in them.
It is important to emphasise the stultifying effect of the doctrine of providing more help for the poorest. The result of this doctrine is that aid is given for subjects and projects defined as "developmental" such as agriculture, rather than for languages, law and the history of the Third world.
Professor Roland Oliver of the school wrote a letter to the Daily Telegraph on 19 May 1979 in which he made that point particularly clear. In the latter part he said:As the head of a university department concerned specifically with Asian and African history, I am approached almost weekly for help in finding British teachers urgently needed to fill key positions in Third World universities—often in cases where a national of the country has been seconded for important services in government—and I have had to reply that, although good candidates often exist in Britain their salaries will not be supplemented by the Ministry of Overseas Development, and therefore the replacement will probably have to be sought from another country with a different educational tradition.As I know from regular experience in another context, the same narrow and materialistic criterion is even applied to 211 political refugees from the Third World who are granted asylum in this country. Either they must study an approved 'developmental' subject or they must rot on Social Security.It is this kind of pedantry that we might now with advantage get rid of. The sums of public money involved are large—in scholarships alone, they are running up to towards £200 million a year.One wonders how many taxpayers wish their contributions to be limited to subjects deemed by a Whitehall adviser to be 'developmental', and how many of them regard the promotion of the English language and the traditional subjects of a liberal education as undesirable manifestations of 'cultural imperialism'.As many of us think, we have a not altogether discreditable educational record in the Third World. Why should we not help these countries to build on the educational foundations already laid there, as the French do with such obvious success?The 'developmental lobby' has made many useful contributions to our aid programme, but its increasingly monopolistic grip over Whitehall should now be loosened.I believe that hon. Members will agree that Professor Oliver makes a powerful point, especially when one considers the value of the school. It has a staff of about 200 specialists in Oriental and African languages, history, law, geography, anthropology, politics and economics. It does not deal with agriculture, the obvious "development" subject in terms of the current definition of development.
The school has about 450 postgraduate students, 300 of them from overseas mainly from Third world countries. Its staff play a unique part in training the future staff of the Civil Services, universities and development organisations in Africa, the Middle East, South and South-East Asia. Many of its former postgraduate students now hold Government and university posts in those countries, where university and other educational programmes are still expanding and where there is still a large contribution to be made. The flow of postgraduate students from Third world countries will be endangered by the higher fees sought from the individual students and the sponsoring authories in Third world countries.
It is important that we should view as overseas aid bursaries to offset higher postgraduate fees. They should be made available to postgraduate students from Third world countries in a wider range of subjects than those hitherto associated with technical assistance. I believe that a fundamental reappraisal of the existing criteria of development aid is needed, and that there should be a return to standards which are in Britain's long-term national interest and in consonance with what development countries expect from Britain.
§ Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart)
May I explain the rather cryptic exchange between the Minister and my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Foulkes), because the Official Reporters and yourself, Mr. Deputy Speaker, might have found it difficult to understand? Apparently, when the Minister was in Jersey recently, he was asked who my hon. Friend was and he said that he had never heard of him nor seen him around the House. That was a remarkable statement, as anyone who knows my hon. Friend realises that he is often here and often loud in what he says. He tabled a Ten-Minute Bill on the question of Jersey and gained some success in the Budget. If the Minister reads the Budget carefully, he will see that there are now some curbs on people moving their ill-gotten gains to Jersey, and that is a result of my hon. Friend's work.
212 There are three major ways in which technical aid to developing countries can be provided. The hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) emphasised the first, the training of people in technical skills—in other words, providing university or college education so that they can return with technical education for other people as well as continuing the technology. The second is to train and educate our own people in technology, as some of them will go abroad and work for British companies, foreign companies or even Third world companies in the technical field, and give advice or teach in universities and colleges in Third world countries. The third is to provide through aid or loans the technology that those countries require in order to build their economies.
The city of Glasgow has a proud record in all three respects. First, our two major universities, the technical colleges and many of our engineering companies in the past have provided large amounts of skilled and technical training for overseas students and those from the Third world. A result of the increase in the fees is that fewer overseas students are coming into our universities. The university of Strathclyde is basically a technical university and one which should provide those overseas students with that sort of training. The numbers are being drastically reduced as a result of the Government's policies and the city of Glasgow is therefore failing to produce the technical aid that it should be providing.
Secondly, fewer of our own students and youngsters in Glasgow receive the sort of training that we should provide. I want to link that with the third point, which is the provision of direct aid. I have in my constituency a company called the Weir Group. Two of its individual companies are Weir Pumps and Weir Westgarth. One of them manufactures pumps and 75 per cent. of its production goes overseas and a large part of it to the Third world. Weir Westgarth designs and contracts desalination units. Desalination is the production of fresh water from salt water. The units will be essential if Third world countries are to raise their standard of living. Many countries, particularly arid countries, lack a basic supply of water which will have to be provided through the units.
Twenty years ago, the company took on about 300 apprentices almost every year. Last year, it took on eight apprentices, three of them engineers and the remainder in general technical spheres, not directly in engineering. The drop in the level of apprenticeships and skills training means that the company is less able to provide the technical aid to Third world countries that it should be providing. In the past, when setting up a desalination unit, the company has taken people from the country itself and brought them to Glasgow for training in the running of the units. Its capacity to fulfil this role is being reduced. This is only one instance of people both from overseas and from Britain who are not receiving the training that should be available to them. Across the whole field, there are large numbers of people who should be taking their technical skills abroad. That is not happening, and the Third world suffers.
At lunchtime today my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Queen's Park (Mr. McElhone) and myself attended an exhibition in London where Glasgow is trying to sell itself and to attract investment back to Glasgow. I hear my hon. Friend say that he told me to say that. I always take my hon. Friend's advice. He is sometimes a very wise man. At the same time that Glasgow is trying to rebuild its great tradition of providing technology to the 213 Third world and overseas countries, one of the two companies I have mentioned, Weir Westgarth, where the multi-flash desalination process was developed by a Glasgow man, intends to move its whole operation down to London. This will mean a large number of redundancies in my constituency. From a Glasgow point of view, the move is very damaging. It is also damaging in the long run to the countries where Weir Westgarth desalination units operate. If the link is lost with traditional customers in Glasgow, who have provided supplies, the company's ability to continue in this field will be lessened. It is already in danger of losing business.
The Prime Minister, when she returned from a visit to the Middle East some time ago, made great play of the fact that a big order was coming to Glasgow from Dubai. That order has never come. Unless it comes soon, it will not come to Scotland at all, but will go to London. That will be regrettable, to say the least, for Scottish people. This company, together with Weir Pumps, should be providing massive technical aid to the Third world. This is the decade of fresh water. It is the hope of the United Nations that every person in the world in this decade will have access to fresh water. Such an achievement, would go a long way towards eliminating disease.
The two companies, Weir Pumps and Weir Westgarth, in my constituency should be in the forefront of providing the technology. Weir Pumps provides equipment for pumping fresh water in reservoirs and other forms of water production. Weir Westgarth, in terms of the multi-flash process and reverse osmosis, is a world leader in desalination. It is, however, not receiving the orders that it should be getting. The Government are not providing the back-up and the aid to the companies to ensure that they receive the orders and that they can fulfil them. They need to be assured of the bonding and the back-up that is required.
It would be helpful if the Government would take an initiative in helping the Third world and our own industries by providing some form of corporation or unified body, established among different companies in the sphere of desalination, to enable them to contract with Government support and so assist the Third world in terms of water supply. This is a mutual process. Too often the Government—I do not blame the present Minister—give the impression that aid is a charity. It is not. It is mutual. We help the Third world. By giving aid, we help ourselves. That is particularly true in respect of the companies in my constituency to which I have referred.
§ Mr. Michael Marshall (Arundel)
I was interested in the remarks of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) on the relationship of aid and technical assistance in terms of hardware and the wider question of tied aids and technical assistance.
I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Ford) for raising this matter. The hon. Gentleman's work in the Inter-Parliamentary Union and elsewhere is well regarded. The debate provides a valuable opportunity to examine the provision of technical assistance.
I should like to strike a personal note. The hon. Member for Bradford, North rightly stressed the importance of providing experience of British industry and technical matters for people from the Third world. They become the customers of the future. There are also opportunities to gain experience for those who provide the technical 214 assistance. I had the experience at the age of 22 of going to India for eight years, largely because of the building of the Durgapur steelworks. Many hon. Members will recall this classic example of substantial British aid directed to hardware and pulling through substantial technical assistance. The experience gained by all those involved was considerable. It gave young people the opportunity to gain much wider experience than would have been available to them working in their own country. This feature might be extended right across the argument for giving technical assistance.
I should like to probe the Government's thinking. I detect a change of emphasis in the attitude towards tied aid. The Indian coastal steel plant has seen an important contribution by a number of Government Departments, in partnership with industry, to achieve a major contract against tough competition, especially from the Germans. This raises the wider question of the degree of technical assistance that will be required. The provision of ground stations in Nepal was another tied aid programme linked with high technology.
Those two examples show how hardware, technical assistance and the aid programme come together in what I suspect is a changed emphasis to the traditional argument that untied aid was not only virtuous but that it produced more for Britain than for other countries. I am not sure how the figures will stand up currently, but I suspect that as the Third world begins to develop its technology there will be a change in that balance. The change in emphasis is appropriate to the way in which the world's industrial bases are continually altering.
An area of immense importance to the Third world, in which Britain is beginning to make substantial strides, is the provision of space technology. With the recent announcements by the Government of the defence satellite and the opening of direct broadcasting by satellite, Britain has, for the first time, a national space programme. We also have, through our partnership in the European Space Agency and the way in which that interrelates to the Third world, a much wider range of interests in developing the new range of the so-called "L-sats"—the large satellites—and European communication satellites. Britain is pre-eminent in communication by satellite, and when that process extends to cover remote sensing, the ability to chart the movement of floodwater, rivers, forestry and agriculture, the importance to the Third world is self-evident.
I draw the attention of the House to that aspect particularly because there is now an opportunity, through our provision of technical assistance, to put together the sort of package that many countries in the Third world now seek. I cite, for example, the Indonesian satellite and the way in which the Arab countries, through "Arabsat", have come to regard this form of communication as a way, in one bound, of becoming totally free in communications. As we all know, the problems of using terrestrial networks in these large land masses are enormous and capital expenditure is very high. Therefore, satellite communication has an obvious attraction to the Third world.
My right hon. Friend the Minister will recall that the Prime Minister signed an agreement in India last year on space co-operation and assistance. I hope that that can be built on, because ever since the agreement little has been said on that subject. However, it raises the question of opportunities in countries such as India where, as is well known, it is now possible by satellite broadcasting to bring 215 educational and informative programmes into the most remote villages of that vast sub-continent. In such areas, British technology, technicians and hardware can be brought together, through the linking of the aid programme and the provision of technicians, in a much more effective way than in the past. I have been encouraged by the recent shift in emphasis, as I read it.
We must consider what can be done to expand that principle, not just for satellites, of course, but into the important area of ground station provision. I say "ground station provision", because I mean going beyond the provision of just the "dishes", as with Nepal. Britain's highly sophisticated system of processing information and computer expertise—Britain is a world leader in software equipment—can be of the greatest possible assistence.
I relate it also to our military expertise. If one considers the value of defence satellites, not just in communications, but in surveillance, one realises that in many critical parts of the world—in the Third world where there is danger of conflagration—the ability to have such surveillance activity would help to decrease the chances of local wars that might escalate in a way that we would all wish to avoid.
Britain has a great deal to offer in that range of new and exciting technology. Therefore, I urge my right hon. Friend the Minister to consider ways in which his Department can play a part. I ask for Information Technology Year to spread its influence to my right hon. Friend's Department in a way that I suspect has not been traditional. Many of us consider that this new technology and its impact on the Third world means that we are breaking new ground. I have tried to suggest some practical and direct ways in which such projects would assist the Third world and help British technology skills to gain wider experience as individuals. That would benefit both Britain and those countries for which so many hon. Members have shown considerable care and concern this afternoon.
§ Mr. Thomas Cox (Tooting)
I shall speak on items B6 and B11 of the Supply Estimates 1981–82 which relate to the financial help to be given by the Government to countries such as Cambodia, Nicaragua, Thailand and Somalia for help in refugee camps. Many of us welcome the help that is to be given. However, the sum involved—about £325, 000—while obviously very welcome, is a pitifully small amount for the crucial work that must be done as a result of what has happened in those countries.
I shall concentrate on item B11—the help given to Somalia. That is part of the allocated sum of £250, 000 which it is to be given. The House should consider the enormous problems that countries such as Somalia must face because of refugees. Whenever a country has refugees, it is presented with problems. Those refugees are often from within the country, but people cross the border into Somalia for safety. Therefore, they place enormous problems on that country. What can be said about Somalia can also be said about the Sudan. Great credit must be given to such countries for the unstinting help that they give to refugees who cross their borders.
I know that the Minister has visited many refugee camps during his period in office. He will have witnessed 216 the enormous hardships suffered in those camps. He will also have seen the work that the people who administer those camps must tackle—often with antiquated equipment and very limited facilities. They are trying to bring some comfort and help to thousands of people.
Despite our economic problems—one must accept that we have such problems—I am sure that many Third world countries would prefer our problems to their own. Their problems are far greater than any of ours.
I welcome the money that the Government have provided, but it is pitifully small. What will the Government's position be when the second instalment of the £250, 000 that has been allocated has finally been paid to Somalia? Will further moneys be made available?
I am sure that the Minister will agree that countries such as Somalia—an extremely poor country—have the added problems of looking after the refugees. It is a matter of providing food and facilities for these people. The camps are often sited in remote areas where there are no existing services that can be built up. It all costs money. I am sure that the Minister must have been told on many occasions that such countries are concerned—one can understand this—by the attitudes of their people who, when they see refugees entering their country, are obviously worried about the sort of help that will be given to them and how much they will suffer as a result of them being in their country. That is why it is important to find out from the Government, after the £250, 000 has been paid, whether they will consider sympathetically any possible approaches by Somalia on this crucial issue for further aid.
What encouragement is the Minister giving to young people in Britain, who are often dedicated and talented but, sadly, out of work? Given the right encouragement and incentives, I am sure that those young men and women would willingly go to help in refugee camps. What sort of help are the Government giving? Surely, it would be of far greater help to pay those young people a salary in return for going and helping people in the Third world than to pay them unemployment benefit and have them remain in idleness in Britain. I should like to hear from the Minister about what will happen.
Another point that has already been discussed this afternoon—I make no apology for referring to it again—is student fees. The loss of talent that many countries must be starting to experience because of increased student fees is often mentioned to hon. Members on both sides of the House when people holding ministerial positions in other countries come here. They say that their talented young people can no longer come here because of increased fees. I am sure that the Minister is not unsympathetic to this key issue. I believe that the Government have been the best recruiting agent for the Communist world because of the increase in student fees. There is no doubt that some countries in Eastern Europe will willingly accept talented people from many parts of the world—people who would have come to Britain had there not been an increase in student fees.
We have debated the issue many times—some Conservative Members are equally as concerned about this issue as Labour Members—but I hope that it will not be long before we hear from someone in the Government that there has been a change of policy. We know that poor countries with limited resources must decide how they will spend their money. Often the demands in those countries for improvements are greater than the need, in their eyes, to send their talented youngsters to countries, such as 217 Britain, to be trained for the future development of their countries. We cannot feel happy about the matter, and I hope that we shall examine it as soon as possible.
We discuss many controversial issues in the House, on many of which we are deeply divided, but I hope that especially on this aspect of the Estimates—help to the Third world and to refugee camps—there will be general agreement that we should try to increase aid. A few people will criticise whatever help is given, but, to judge from the correspondence that I have received, there is an enormous fund of good will for help from the Government to be given to the Third world. Those who write to me ask that the moneys allocated should be properly and wisely spent. I can well understand that point of view. If we were to read tomorrow in the national press that a British youngster had been found dead from hunger, there would be a national outcry. The social services in whatever part of Britain it had occurred would prepare reports and there would be statements in the House. Sadly, we know that in many underdeveloped countries young children are dying every day, not through lack of concern but through the lack of resources. Britain should face up to such a challenge.
The attitude of developing countries towards Britain will not be measured by whether we possess the Trident missile. That is not of great concern to them. What will condition their attitude to us, not only now but in the future, is the sort of response that we, as a major industrial power, make to their problems. I welcome the help that has been given, but it is still not enough. I welcome the concern of the Minister for Overseas Development, but I hope that he and hon. Members on both sides of the House will do everything possible to see that some of our money—do not let anyone say that we do not have the money—is allocated in greater amounts to help people living in the sort of conditions that we in Britain have never experienced.
§ 5.6 pm
§ Mr. James Hill (Southampton, Test)
I shall limit my remarks to one part of the Commonwealth—Sri Lanka. It is an island of 15 million inhabitants, 250 miles long by 100 miles wide. The geography of the island is such that the centre rises to peaks of between 6, 000 and 8, 000 ft. The island is world famous for tea and in the Nureilia area there are some of the finest tea plantations in the world. Now it is also attempting to build up a tourist industry. Sri Lankans are extremely good supporters of the United Kingdom. Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Philip made an official visit there at the end of last year. They were received with tumultuous admiration. The occasion made one realise that the former British Empire has left a legacy of good will and lasting overwhelming loyalty to the British Crown.
The island's second visit by Royalty was only a few weeks ago when Prince Philip, wearing his hat as president of the World Wildlife Fund, made an official visit. He was presented with a baby elephant, which is coming to one of the London zoos. He was fortunate enough, as I was told by letter this morning, to see a drive of about 200 elephants from bare pastures to fresh pastures—the drive once again contributing to the preservation of a dwindling stock of wild elephants in Sri Lanka.
We as a Government—I speak perhaps for the previous two Governments—have supported Sri Lanka by allowing funds to go forward to build the Victoria dam, which is now nearly complete. I understand that its costs have 218 overrun, as with many other projects, by about £20 million, but I am sure that my hon. Friend will tell us, when he replies, whether he has been able to help with that project.
The most serious aspect of my speech today is that there is a vicious drought in Sri Lanka which is putting at risk the whole rice harvest this year. From the information that I have received, Sri Lanka will need more and more aid. It will need finances certainly to make more reservoirs of fresh water and especially in an area in the north—Jaffna—to complete the fresh water barriers there. Two have been built and another two are needed to complete the scheme. Then there will be 50 square miles of reservoir of fresh water for that particularly badly hit area.
The idea behind the fresh water reservoirs is that the people can then go in for fish farming. There is rich soil and if it gets a plentiful fresh water supply the Tamils, who are an extremely hard working, agrarian society, will be able to feed almost the whole of the island. It is envisaged that with sufficient fresh water not only could they feed the island but they could export to the Indian mainland. The opportunities are available.
Poverty in the sun is not quite as bad as poverty in Manchester or Birmingham, but in Sri Lanka the national wage is approximately £10 sterling a month. One realises the degree of poverty, especially in the circumstances of drought, when the rice harvest is disappearing. That national wage is a pitiful amount on which to keep a fancily of three or four, and there is a great need for us to support them.
The Sri Lankans are doing their best to help themselves. They are expanding the tourist industry. I was there in January and new hotels are being built. The tourist trade is attracting foreign currency, but even if it is built up, as they hope next year, to about half a million tourists, it will have only a small effect on the economy of the island. The economy is agrarian—mainly the production of rubber, copra, hessian and tea—and the emphasis all the time is on fresh water, not high technology.
In the streets of Colombo there are still Morris Minors being driven. They have probably done several thousands of miles, and are over 30 years old. The Sri Lankans greatly need to replenish not only the whole of their taxi fleet but their buses. I found when I talked to the Sri Lankan politicians that they are grateful for overseas aid money. There is a reciprocity clause. We provide British money and wherever possible they must buy British goods. I was told a sad story about how, when British Leyland was approached for Land Rovers for the Victoria Dam project, it said that there were no Land Rovers available. It is becoming only too obvious to those who visit the island regularly that Japan is beginning to move in, not on high technology but with small factories, vans, cars, lorries, diggers and road making equipment. The Japanese are there already and yet there is a terrific loyalty in the island to the British. We have not taken advantage of the good will that is there.
I must deprecate what has happened with British Leyland which seems to be able to let practically any other car manufacturer in the world run rings around it. All of what I call "the Whitehall administration cars" in Sri Lanka are Peugeots. That is because the French Government gave an undertaking that the currency and the credits would be available if the Sri Lankan Government 219 bought from the French company. I should have thought that we could do something similar to replace not only the buses but perhaps the whole of the taxi fleet in Sri Lanka.
The chairman of the Mahewali project, Mr. Panditdirantna, is fully conscious of the reciprocity arrangement and would like to continue to buy British wherever possible. However, things are such that these good friends of ours are sometimes being neglected.
There is a feeling that, at the end of the Victoria dam project, when a great deal of extra agricultural land will become available because of fresh water supplies one side of the island will become very prosperous and the north, the Jaffna area, will become the poor relation. I am saying this, because only six or eight months ago one of the prospective parliamentary candidates for the United National Party was assassinated in Jaffna. Terrorism could easily break out there by a feeling of Sri Lanka being two nations.
It is possible for us not only to help the living standards of everyone in Sri Lanka but to stop any division that may be created in the islands between, say, the Muslims and the Buddhists, although it is not quite that simple. The barrier is not as religious as it is in Northern Ireland, but there is a feeling that those in the north, the Tamils in particular, are being neglected, and that when the Victoria dam is completed they will be even more neglected.
We can help. I hope that it will be possible for my hon. Friend, when he is on one of his tours of the world, to go not only to Colombo but to Jaffna—perhaps he has already been there—to examine some of the imaginative schemes. Some of them may be far-fetched, but some of them are workable. For example, I went to a factory where all sorts of sea food, such as prawns and lobsters, were being deep-frozen and exported to France.
The Sri Lankans have the imagination. What they need is an initial push to provide them with fresh water to survive. The drought is serious and the standard of living is extremely bad. Thank goodness, they are a happy people; otherwise perhaps no one would have survived. We have many friends in the island. I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to say something about Sri Lanka and some of the problems facing it.
§ Mr. Frank McElhone (Glasgow, Queen's Park)
We are extremely grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Ford) for initiating the debate. His continuous and sustained efforts in the interests of the Third world are well known, and I know from my own experience how keen his interest is.
My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) and I were today at an exhibition in London promoting the industrial and commercial potential of the city of Glasgow. If any city has possessed the technical skills and the ability to transport those skills to Third world countries, I think, without being too parochial, it is Glasgow. I hope that the Minister, if he does not get the opportunity of visiting the exhibition himself, will at least encourage his officials to contact Lord Provost Kelly or Mr. Verico, who is acting as the organiser and coordinator of the exhibition.
Several times today the question of fees for overseas students has been raised. I make no apology for raising it again and the Minister will be aware that I have raised it 220 several times over the past few months in speeches and questions. The mood on both sides of the House is one of deep and serious concern about overseas students. As they are paying full cost fees, there will be a 34 per cent. drop next year in their numbers. That has a substantial effect both on university life and on the quality of universities.
My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Foulkes) has just returned from Cuba and he has informed us that President Castro is aware of the potential of these students and is encouraging Commonwealth students from the Caribbean to be trained in Cuba. The Minister and I know that France and Russia are snapping up students from the Commonwealth. When these young people go back to their countries, they will hold substantial positions in commerce, the Government and the armed forces. As several told me when I met them recently here in London, they will not buy British goods. They will purchase goods from the countries where they have trained. We are destroying the seed corn of the next generation of British orders.
If the Government needed any lesson in this regard, the recent visit of Lord Carrington to Malaysia showed him that, although Malaysia gives us substantial orders for industrial equipment, amounting to over £100 million, it wants British education for its students. That was made abundantly clear to the Foreign Secretary. We have a potential and a richness to impart to such countries. For the miserly cost of £100 million over three years, we are losing thousands of millions of pounds of orders in the coming years. I hope that the Government will take account of what I say. I know that the Minister will tell me that he had made some effort in this regard through his own Department—in this case, of course, most of the students of whom I am talking come through the DES. So perhaps he will acquit himself of any responsibility in this connection.
I want to raise the question of our contribution to the European development fund. I reiterate my concern and criticism of that fund. According to 19 of the Supply estimates, we are expectedto contribute 18.7 per cent. of the Fourth European Development Fund and 18 per cent. of the Fifth European Development fund.The Minister knows, as I know, that we get a poor exchange for that mandatory contribution. Despite paying more than 18 per cent. to the European development fund, we are lucky to get 10 per cent. in industrial orders. This country possesses many skills—educational, industrial, and scientific— yet the French, in particular, have used the European development fund to their own advantage.
On 11 April, and in previous debates, I asked that the Foreign Secretary or anyone else visiting Brussels should raise the matter of France holding the Development Commissioner's role for nearly 20 years, which is a scandal. It is unfair both to us and to our European partners. France has used that role to her advantage, and we have been the loser. An early opportunity must be taken to discuss the matter. Although India and Bangladesh may not come within the Lomé convention, because of our responsibility for the poverty that now exists in Bangladesh, we should draw attention to the fact that the European development fund is grossly underspent and that money is available.
The hon. Member for Arundel (Mr. Marshall) raised the interesting subject of satellites. He has a friend in me. It is passing strange that we use satellites to beam the Miss 221 World competition or a football competition, but not to educate people about how money is used in the Third world or how it should be used. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Prentice) will agree that it is extremely difficult to get aid to the poorest people in the poorest countries. No one has solved the problem. There are many reasons for it—corruption, maladministration, perhaps lack of proper surveillance, and lack of proper monitoring. The Prime Minister has said several times that we are now spending £1, 000 million, but we know that only a minute fraction of that money reaches the poorest people in the poor countries. We do not want satellites as a "Big Brother", but they could encourage countries to spend our money, and to spend it where the need is greatest. Satellites are a good way of educating people, but they are a good way of transferring technology and skills, and save a great deal of time and expense.
§ Mr. Michael Marshall
I am pleased to hear what the hon. Member says. Will he allow me to say that I should have declared a commercial interest in helping British Aerospace? However, there is a united British industry interest here. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, while television may be thought of as a luxury, in relation to the community use that television can have for educational purposes in villages, for example in India, it is cost-effective aid?
§ Mr. McElhone
I entirely agree. Poverty in the poorest countries tends to be in rural areas, and there is not a teacher for each village. Without jumping too fast into technology, I think there is a limited role for television in small townships and rural areas. The question of priority arises, and when it is a question of 1, 000 water pumps, or providing irrigation or health, as against satellites or television, the choices are agonising. Of course, the problem is not uniform in every country. Developing countries might need the assistance of which the hon. Gentleman speaks. There is a role for satellites. They should he developed to a much greater extent. It is technological assistance, just as much as providing water pumps, and I hope that the Minister will take account of what I and the hon. Member for Arundel have said.
Nicaragua has featured largely in the newspapers, television and radio over the past few months. As the Minister knows, I visited that country about 15 months ago. I refer the Minister to an answer that I was given on 1 February this year, when he said that the Government therefollow a doctrinaire Marxist-Leninist line.That is grossly unfair to the Government of Nicaragua. When I say that their Foreign Secretary is a Jesuit Catholic priest, and that four members of the Catholic Church are in the Government, they can hardly be accused of following a "Marxist-Leninist line". The Nicaraguan Foreign Secretary came here recently. The Minister said, in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara):We have had no specific requests … for mining machinery".—[Official Report, 1 February 1982; Vol. 17, c. 17–18.]I raised the matter with the Minister because, after 40 years of dictatorship under Somoza, all the mining equipment was smashed and most of the equipment in factories was destroyed. Indeed, Somoza took most of the treasury, such as it was, with him abroad into exile. Nicaragua was looking for grants and loans at reasonable rates of interest, 222 and they were hoping to buy British machinery. In this country we have experts in mining machinery, and although Nicaragua is a small country, the potential was enormous. I hope that the Minister will think again. It is disgraceful that Britain is the only member of the EEC not to have an aid programme for Nicaragua, apart from the £30, 000 which the Minister announced recently for Red Cross ambulances, and so on. That is an insignificant amount.
§ Mr. McElhone
It is derisory, as the hon. Gentleman says. I used that word when intervening in the Minister's speech on 11 February.
The Nicaraguan Foreign Secretary bluntly and plainly told me, when I met him in the House, that his country does not want to ask Russia for assistance. He said that Nicaragua is a small country which is bankrupt and fighting for economic and political survival. He told me that he came to Britain hoping for assistance, in the form not of grants, but of loans. He said that if he did not receive that assistance he would have to approach Russia as well as our European partners. If Germany, France, Belgium and Holland think that Nicaragua is worth helping, surely Britain, with its long record of compassion and idealism in assisting countries that are in trouble, should think again. I hope that the Minister reconsiders the position before it is too late.
It is traditional for speeches on the Consolidated Fund Bill to be short because many Back Bench Members wish to raise other matters, but I must make the point, as I have done on previous occasions, that the world is far too small for anything but interdependence. The Government are operating the economics of lunacy. There are 10 million unemployed people in the EEC. It is tragic that there is $87 billion lying unused in the Eurodollar market and the banks belonging to OPEC. Britain has a target of providing 0.34 per cent. of our GNP in aid. I hope that it is rising. However, there are 800 million poor people in areas of the world which are virgin markets. Those markets could be expanded for our industrial and commercial interests by giving technical assistance.
I do not expect the Government to accept the moral argument for feeding the hungry, or to understand the philosophy of helping the Third world. However. should have thought that a so-called entrepreneurial business Government would have seen the economic arguments for assisting the underdeveloped countries. Once a start is made in such areas the opportunity follows for expanding our industrial base, which is rapidly shrinking year by year because of the Government's policies and many other factors.
A Commonwealth Parliamentary Association delegation is here to look at our Parliament—the Mother of Parliaments. It is ironic that we shall receive a reply which, despite the Minister's sympathy, we know will be far from encouraging because we have such an attitude from the Prime Minister day after day. While millions are dying of hunger and suffering poverty and disease, the House not only fails the Third world, but fails democracy itself.
§ The Minister for Overseas Development (Mr. Neil Marten)
I am sure the whole House is grateful to the hon.
223 Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Ford) for giving yet another airing to this subject. There has been a high rate of debate on the general subject of aid, not only in the Chamber but in the other place. I am glad that he drew No. 1 in the Consolidated Fund debate, because if he had drawn No. 13 we might be debating the subject at 3.30 in the morning.
I well remember the visit which the hon. Gentleman and I made to the Caribbean, to which he referred. I think that it was in 1965. I thank him for his kind reference to my part in the first aid project for the British Virgin Islands. The hon. Gentleman and I were shown around the agricultural centre there. The people there said that what they wanted was a good bull so that they could breed cattle.
When I got home to my constituency it so happened that I was speaking at the annual Christmas fat stock show at Chipping Norton. I said to my farmers: "Here is a colony that has been loyal for hundreds of years. I would like you to subscribe to send out a good young red poll bull so that the fanners in the colony can sell their produce as a result of the breeding."
We identified one of the best pedigree red poll bulls in the country at the cost of £500 plus shipping. I received quite a lot of money, but we still had not reached the target. Therefore, I contacted the local press and asked it to help me to reach that final target. We discussed what was wanted and in the next week's edition of the Banbury Guardian, the headlines were: "Bull for the Virgins". That story attracted the people's interest and the money came in. We achieved our objective. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman remembered that.
The hon. Gentleman wants more aid. Most people would like to spend more on aid, but as I have said repeatedly in the House, we must get our economy right so that growth starts. The best form of aid that we can give the developing world is to increase trade by our country's growth demanding that we should import more from developing countries.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned tractors at a constituency level. In 1980 £2.1 million was spent on the provision of tractors to the developing world. However, that figure relates only to purchases under bilateral aid and it excludes purchases through multilateral programmes, voluntary aid and so on, where we have done well. However, I do not have the details of the numbers of tractors supplied.
I was in Sierra Leone looking at agricultural development there and more recently I was in Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland. There is a move to return to the ox-drawn plough. At the agricultural college at Sierra Leone an ox was going round and round testing out different ploughs. The people there are beginning to believe that the tractor is not necessarily the right form of power for ploughing in many areas of developing countries. There is a return, of which some people are glad, to ox-drawn ploughs.
Many hon. Members have mentioned overseas students. That is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science but the Overseas Students Trust is considering it. I understand that its report should be available reasonably shortly, when that matter will be considered by the Government. The report should include an attempt to assess the extent to which we 224 get a technical spin-off from education. It is easy to say that and one imagines that it happens, but what we want is an assessment of the validity of that argument. My hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) raised the same point.
I should like to say a word about the hon. Gentleman's constituency university. I do not know whether it is in his constituency or in another area of Bradford. The project planning centre at Bradford has an enviable reputation in project planning and development. The centre has become self-supporting, if not profit-making, which is a good example to other universities.
The centre's income is derived from student fees and from the provision of overseas consultancy services. My Department contributes to it through the fees of overseas students whom we sent to the centre under the aid programme. Within the limits of a constricted aid programme and the Government's priorities the Overseas Development Administration can continue wherever possible to support overseas students on courses such as those of the Bradford centre, and to consider on a competitive basis the use of people from Bradford and elsewhere as consultants. My advisers are well aware of the claims of the Bradford centre. I hope that the hon. Member for Bradford, North will draw that passage of my speech to its attention.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Prentice) tended to agree that not much aid goes astray now compared with what happened in the past. I dealt with that matter in a previous debate. I stress once again that we assess the projects before, during and after. We monitor them most carefully and we have a strict accounting system. The money that is spent is very much under control, and the old days of aid moneys being used to purchase Mercedes cars for Ministers are over. But I touch wood, because one can never know everything that happens. There are mistakes but we do everything possible to control the expenditure.
§ Mr. McElhone
I wish to refer to the misuse of aid funds. We are a mandatory contributor to the European development fund. We have had disturbing reports about the way that the money is used, and that the auditors are being brought in. Has the Minister made any representations on the European development fund, and if so what answers has he had?
§ Mr. Marten
This morning I spent about one and a half hours with Mr. Pisani, and time was spent on that subject. The hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Barnett) raised the subject in a previous debate and has tabled three questions on it. I shall be writing to the hon. Member for Greenwich about the result of our discussions and I shall send a copy to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Queen's Park (Mr. McElhone).
My right hon. Friend the Member for Daventry referred to teachers. In the developing world, stress must be placed on management and marketing. Often in a developing country such as Fiji there is a wonderful product such as crystallised ginger which cannot be bought easily in the shops in Britain. One suspects that if the Fijians had the necessary marketing skills they would do far better. The same is true of Tanzania which has some of the best instant coffee in the world. It cannot be bought in the shops in Britain. Therefore, marketing is an important aspect of what we teach people from the developing world.
225 The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Johnson) spoke eloquently about Somalia. He and I share the tragedy of those people. His interest in that country is well known in the House. There was a general feeling in the debate that we should spend more on helping the refugees in Somalia. I have the figures for what we shall spend on refugees generally in 1981–82. We shall spend £16 million on refugees. That figure has to be split up between the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees programme, relief workers in the near East, special appeals, Africa, Afghan refugees, El Salvadoran refugees, the Far East problems and the British voluntary agencies. It is an enormous sum. We should like to spend more on aid. It is a tragedy that we have to spend money on refugees but is seems that there have to be refugees. One is forced to the conclusion that certain countries and certain Governments with certain philosophies cause people to seek freedom. We are supporting people who have chosen freedom. That is certainly so in Pakistan with the refugees from Afghanistan.
§ Mr. James Johnson
The Minister may not be able to answer my question or he may not want to answer it, but will he give me an answer in the near future when he has worked on it? The EEC gives aid to the Horn of Africa—Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda and elsewhere. Will the right hon. Gentleman ascertain whether any of the money is seeping into Addis Ababa and being used for the settlement of Ethiopian peasants in the Ogaden? This is a tender point with African politicians. They feel that it is a form of genocide that people are being settled on land which has been gained only by fighting and evicting those who have lived in the area for centuries.
§ Mr. Marten
I take and recognise the point that the hon. Gentleman is making. I shall put through a specific inquiry on that specific issue. Ethiopia is a member of the ACP and has a perfect right to European Community assistance under the Lomé convention. However, the use to which it is put is the point that the hon. Gentleman is on.
The hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) also talked about Somalia. When I visit refugee camps, be they in Pakistan, the Sudan or wherever, I am struck by the refugees' utter sense of despair about their future. It is terrible to experience it. One of our aid programmes in the Sudan is devoted to resettling Ethiopian refugees so that they can have some hope for the future. The despair of the Afghanistan refugees in Pakistan must be terrible as they do not know whether they will ever get back to their homeland.
My hon. Friend the Member for Orpington talked about education. Under the aid programme, there were 14, 000 students from overseas in Britain in 1980 and the number will be of the same magnitude for 1981. Many of the issues that my hon. Friend raised are for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science.
I noted what the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) said about the technical training that can be provided. He mentioned especially Weir Pumps. When I was in Cairo I offered aid of about £50 million for the new Cairo waste water works. I gather that tenders have not yet been sent out but there is a great opportunity there for Weir Pumps. I hope that the company is successful in the bid when the tenders go out. I cannot comment on what the hon. Gentleman had to say about desalination but I shall write to him about that.
226 My hon. Friend the Member for Arundel (Mr. Marshall) has no need to worry about the subject that he raised because I was a junior aviation Minister from 1962 to 1964. I am hooked on that subject. We give industry considerable assistance with aid trade provision and our tied aid, which bring many jobs to the country. It may interest the House to know that we have helped with aid trade provision of some £174 million. That has helped win export orders of £760 million. Of course, four fifths of our bilateral aid is tied to United 'Kingdom-produced goods.
I recognise the point about television and so on in the developing world. I have seen it operating in the university of the South Pacific in Fiji where courses are run through the television network to people in the outer islands who cannot afford to go to the university in Suva. I must strike a note of caution, however, about not trying to get too much sophisticated equipment into the developing world where the equipment cannot be worked. It is an unfair use of aid money to sell such countries extremely complicated equipment which, as has happened in the past, may break down. They then cannot run it.
The hon. Member for Tooting mentioned the possibility of the young unemployed going out to help in the Third world. I should like to be able to do that, but whenever we have sent people to the Third world countries they have said that they want technically skilled people. We cannot just say to 50 unemployed people, "Off you go. we will pay". The countries to which they are going specifically ask for highly trained people.
My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Hill) mentioned Sri Lanka and asked if I had been there. I have indeed been there. On the Victoria dam, I understand that there is a cost overrun for which we are not responsible. No doubt that will be discussed, but so far, we have said that any cost overrun is the responsibility of the Sri Lankan Government. My hon. Friend also mentioned other water projects there. They must be carried out by other countries as well. I understand that Germany and the World Bank are interested in that type of project. The Victoria dam is an enormous project on which we shall spend £100 million over five years. It will bring great benefit to the people of Sri Lanka, in terms of electricity and the irrigation of the Mahaweli project, where tens of thousands of farmers will be settled and it is hoped that enough rice will be produced to satisfy home consumption and produce a surplus for export. We are doing our bit there. As my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test said, the Sri Lankans recognise what we are doing and are grateful for it.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Queens Park asked if I would visit the exhibition in Glasgow. Perhaps I can consider that. If I do, I shall of course let him know.
I discussed the European development fund this morning with Mr. Pisani. We contribute 18 per cent. to that fund and receive 12 per cent., but we have investigated this and have strengthened our mission out there to help businessmen. I hope that the business men get cracking and can pull in the contracts.
I am going to Bangladesh next week and shall examine the situation there. As for getting aid down to the poorest, the Victoria dam is a superb example in which, although aid goes to the Goernment and not direct to the poorest, the results go to the very poorest people such as the small farmers in Sri Lanka.
I thank the hon. Member for Bradford, North for having raised this question. The House always enjoys a debate on 227 aid, as I certainly always do. I am grateful that the hon. Member suggested it and that—thank goodness—he drew first place in the ballot.