HC Deb 16 January 1984 vol 52 cc18-9
29. Mr. Barnett

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what proportion of the aid programme is currently used to support the agencies of the United Nations.

Mr. Raison

In 1982–83, out of an aid programme of £1.033 million, over £47 million, or 4½ per cent., was used to support agencies of the United Nations, and a further 17 per cent. for the World Bank group.

Mr. Barnett

Has the right hon. Gentleman noticed that Mr. Clausen described the resources available in the future to the International Development Association as gravely inadequate, following the disgraceful behaviour of the American Government at the recent negotiations? What representations are the Government making to the Reagan Government about that disgraceful behaviour? After all the fine words that we have had from the Minister and other Government spokesmen about the splendid work of the International Development Association, how does he account for the fact that the British Government are lowering their share and their contribution compared with other countries such as France, Norway and Spain, which are increasing their share and their contributions, partly to compensate for what the Americans have failed to do?

Mr. Raison

We have urged the Americans on a number of occasions to go for a level of funding that would be above the level that has emerged at present. We regret that it is not higher. As far as our own contribution is concerned, we are prepared to contribute a share that is above our GNP proportion.

Sir Philip Goodhart

In view of the many criticisms of UNESCO that have been made in recent months, will my right hon. Friend consider transferring part of our annual subscription from that body to the British Council, which can use the money more effectively and more wisely?

Mr. Raison

We have thought very carefully about UNESCO over recent months. We have decided to remain a member for the time being, but to make it clear to UNESCO that we think radical reforms are necessary. We shall review how far these have been carried out towards the end of the coming year, and then consider the whole position.

Mr. Pavitt

Will the Minister hold a departmental inquiry into some of the specialised United Nations agencies, in particular, the World Health Organisation, the ILO and the Food and Agricultural Organisation, with a view to preventing the overlapping of activities and expenditure? Is he aware that funds are often duplicated?

Mr. Raison

I accept that there is an overlapping between United Nations agencies, and I can name other examples which the hon. Gentleman has not quoted. Whether these can be resolved by a departmental inquiry. I am not sure, but I believe it is right that we should continually press for greater efficiency in the United Nations organisations where that is needed.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that money spent by non-Government organisations, such as Oxfam, on small projects is infinitely more effective for the people on the ground and that less of it filters out in bribery of one sort or another?

Mr. Raison

I should say to my hon. Friend that I think the money spent by the voluntary agencies is often of the greatest value. I saw an Oxfam-supported project in Calcutta only a few days ago that bears that out fully. However, I think it would be wrong to imply that projects supported by Governments are without considerable value. I believe that overall the record of the British-supported programme is very good.

Mr. Stuart Holland

If the Minister is to undertake some kind of inquiry into claimed overlapping between the FAO, the ILO and other bodies, will he make a statement to the House about the nature of that inquiry? Secondly, may we have some assurance that he will not in this respect be coat-tailing the United States Administration, who seem determined, without proper investigation or study, to withhold their funds from those agencies?

Mr. Raison

The hon. Gentleman's hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South (Mr. Pavitt) was proposing such an inquiry, rather than me. As I say, I think that we need to look very carefully at what UNESCO is doing, and I strongly believe that it can be done very much better.

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