HC Deb 10 May 1982 vol 23 cc463-4
39. Mr. Dubs

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth affairs what proportion of the United Kingdom's aid programme is devoted to supporting preventive health measures.

Mr. Marten

We attach considerable importance to preventive health measures. Apart from specific health aid, we engage in agricultural, educational and engineering projects which help to promote good health, and in particular we are increasing our expenditure on water supply projects. I estimate that 8 to 10 per cent. of the total aid programme is spent on health, but it is not possible to say what proportion of this is for preventive measures.

Mr. Dubs

Is there not an inconsistency between the fact that we are providing money to improve the health and well-being of people in the developing world and the fact that British tobacco companies are exporting their products to those countries under terms that are no longer acceptable in Britain? Are we not being hypocrites? Should not the Government seek to enforce the standard applying to British tobacco companies in Britain to their exports to those countries?

Mr. Marten

Developing countries must set their own standards. It is not for us to set standards for them.

Mr. Dorrell

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that one of the most effective and cheapest ways of ensuring an improvement in the standard of health of mothers and young children in developing countries is to ensure the proper availability of family planning services? Will my right hon. Friend also confirm that in future aid programmes that are approved by him he will try to ensure that proper precedence is given to population policy considerations?

Mr. Marten

I agree with my hon. Friend. About two years ago I gave an instruction that the question of population should be looked at in relation to every project that was being considered.

Mr. Deakins

Is there not a lack of liaison between the ODA and our multinational companies in the marketing of goods which might be prejudicial to the health of people in the developing world? Surely we do not want our aid efforts undermined by marketing practices which, with a little good will on both sides, could be prevented in the first place.

Mr. Marten

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. This is primarily done by the World Health Organisation, on which we are represented.

Mr. Hill

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there has been a serious outbreak of malaria in Sri Lanka in the past few months? Can he give the House any facts or figures on that and say what preventive steps he can take to help?

Mr. Marten

No, I cannot. If the Sri Lanka Government bring it to our attention and ask for help, we shall certainly consider what we can do.

Mr. McElhone

The Minister will be aware that grave concern was expressed last week at the World Health Organisation conference in Geneva regarding the high price and efficacy of drugs in Third world countries. Is it not high time that the Government set up an investigation into the dubious practices of some pharmaceutical companies?

Mr. Marten

I was not aware of what happened at the World Health Organisation conference, because I was in the Caribbean. However, I shall certainly consider the hon. Gentleman's suggestion.