HC Deb 03 December 1984 vol 69 cc17-8
52. Mr. Parry

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has received concerning the Government's present level of overseas aid; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Raison

Representations have been received from hon. Members and from members of the public. On 22 November during the debate on overseas aid I confirmed to the House that the net aid programme for 1985–86 would remain at the previously planned and published level of £1,130 million.

Mr. Parry

Is it not shameful that the Government's contributions to the Third world are less than half the United Nations recommended level? When do the Government intend to implement policies for the poorest of the poor, and why do we lag so far behind our European partners, particularly West Germany, France and the Netherlands, in providing aid to the African continent?

Mr. Raison

Our recent performance has been close to the overall OECD donor average. We have been behind France and Germany, but we are ahead of the United States, Japan and Italy. Our record is by no means bad.

Mr. Latham

Is my right hon. Friend aware that those of us on the Conservative Benches will welcome the statement that he made earlier and the positive extra arrangements that he announced? Although this is a subject on which we can never do enough, he at any rate is showing a great commitment.

Mr. Raison

I am grateful for what my hon. Friend has said.

Mr. Canavan

Will the Minister send an urgent message today to the Prime Minister at the Common Market summit in Dublin telling her that millions of people in this country, from schoolchildren to old-age pensioners, are outraged by the fact that the Common Market is holding on to about 7 million tonnes of surplus grain while millions of people face starvation in Ethiopia and other African countries? The Minister's announcement today of 15,000 tonnes of food aid amounts to about only one week's requirement for the people of Ethiopia. Would it not therefore be appropriate for Britain to be seen for once to be taking the lead by urging the immediate release of all that surplus grain to help the people of Ethiopia?

Mr. Raison

This topic will crop up at the summit conference in Dublin. As I have already told the House, we have been pressing that the European Community should give the highest priority to the use of its food aid for dealing with disasters and famine such as this. I do not believe that, when the history of this affair comes to be written, the European Community's part will prove to have been negligible. I think that it will be to the contrary.

Mr. Bowen Wells

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the generosity and timely nature of the aid to Ethiopia. In view of the figures that he has given the House, will he bring forward in his next Spring Supplementary Estimates additional sums to recompense the aid budget for risen overseas costs and for the additional programme carried out in Ethiopia?

Mr. Raison

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's kind remarks. I explained in the debate the other day that what I had to say about risen costs applied to the other parts of the Foreign Office budget and not to the overseas aid programme. Risen costs are not the problem for the aid programme that they are for other parts of the Foreign and Commonwealth budget, and in particular only a small part of our expenditure has to take place in dollars.