HC Deb 06 February 1984 vol 53 cc599-600
64. Mr. Janner

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what funds were made available for the Republic of India in the last three years for which figures are available; and how much he intends to make available for the corning fiscal year.

Mr. Raison

For the financial year 1980–81, gross aid to India totalled £141 million; for 1981–82, £102 million; and for 1982–83, £110.5 million. Figures for the current financial year are not yet available. We shall shortly be discussing with the Indian authorities how we might spend a similar amount in 1984–85.

Mr. Janner

Does not the Minister not deplore the decrease in aid to India since his Government came to office? Does he accept that what we give to that great democracy not only does a little to alleviate the mighty poverty and suffering there, but enables India to buy goods from us and therefore contributes to the vast imbalance of trade, under which India buys far more from us than we do from India?

Mr. Raison

I do not accept the hon. and learned Gentleman's strictures about our aid to India. However, I fully agree that the aid programme to India is of great value both to India and to ourselves.

Mr. Key

Does my hon. Friend agree that the importance of the family planning element in our aid programme to India should not be underestimated? Does he also agree that, as part of the aid programme, consideration of the stress on technologically complicated and expensive helicopters is perhaps less appropriate than would be the consideration of stress on a more technologically appropriate aircraft, such as the Optica made by Edgley in Salisbury?

Mr. Raison

My hon. Friend raised two points which do not seem to be closely related. I have seen effective work in family planning in the state of Orissa, which we are supporting. As my hon. Friend knows, a project concerning helicopters is under active consideration at present. I have not yet come to a decision on the matter, but hope to announce one soon.

Mr. Barnett

Does the Minister agree that a chief sufferer from the American failure to replenish the IDA properly will be India? Does he also agree that, whatever the outcome of the current Lomé 3 negotiations, India will continue to be discriminated against, unlike the ACP countries, which stand to benefit to a greater degree? In the light of that, will the Minister examine carefully his aid programme to India and make up for the discrimination by Lomé and the loss that India will undoubtedly sustain as a consequence of the failure of the Americans to replenish the IDA?

Mr. Raison

I accept that a reduction in the size of the next IDA replenishment will have an impact on India. Although India is not part of the ACP system, the Community has a substantial aid programme in India, and that is all to the good.

65. Mr. Budgen

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what new proposals there are for assistance to India.

Mr. Raison

A number of new proposals for aid projects have been either agreed or are under discussion. They include assistance to forestry, housing, and the power and oil sectors.

Mr. Budgen

Has there been an increase since Christmas in the number of letters coming from people in this country asking for aid to India?

Mr. Raison

I am afraid that I cannot answer that question off the cuff, but I shall certainly write to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Pavitt

Will the right hon. Gentleman give special consideration, in terms of new projects, to the 80 per cent. of agrarian development that relies on agricultural co-operative societies? Does he agree that the development of co-operatives should be an important part of the programme? How many members of staff at the high commission in Delhi are considering putting our money to the best advantage?

Mr. Raison

Agricultural development is of great importance in our worldwide aid programme. However, the effectiveness of co-operatives in agriculture is a matter that is very much argued. We do not have a large aid staff in Delhi, but it is being increased and it is backed by strong help from my Department.