HC Deb 04 February 1985 vol 72 cc610-1
55. Mr. Canavan

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has recently received about further aid for sub-Saharan Africa.

Mr. Raison

I continue to receive many such representations.

Mr. Canavan

In view of the weekend report that as many as 34 million people in 20 African countries are at risk of dying from starvation in what has been described as potentially the greatest catastrophe ever to have visited this planet, and bearing in mind that in response to the Ethiopian appeal the great generosity of the British people was not, unfortunately, matched by the British Government, will the Minister ensure a far more generous response to the World Bank's special fund for Africa, along the lines of early-day motion 323, which has the support of over 100 Labour Members?

Mr. Raison

Nobody would deny the gravity of the situation in central, eastern and southern Africa, although happily in southern Africa there has been an improvement in the rainfall. I wholly reject the suggestion that the British Government have not made an adequate response to the problem. We have given large quantities of aid, both before October last year, when the television films brought to everybody's attention what was happening in Ethiopia, and since. We shall continue to play a full part in this.

Mr. Baldry

Why is it that the Government are prepared to give funds to run alongside the World Bank programme but not to give funds to the World Bank programme? That distinction has escaped a large proportion of hon. Members.

Mr. Raison

Both my right hon. and learned Friend and I have often said that we are anxious to maintain within our overall aid programme a fair share of the bilateral element, and that is essentially what this is about. We are prepared to work for the same objectives, but on the other hand we wish to keep this within the bilateral framework and to make certain decisions ourselves rather than hand them over to the World Bank. We should be able to come up with a successful scheme.

Mr. Anderson

What will history make of a Chancellor who considered the billions spent on the mining dispute as a good investment, but at the same time refused $50 million a year to avert the human catastrophe in Africa? Will the Minister confirm that there is not one penny of new money in the £15 million that he has mentioned, and that we, alone in Western Europe, have not contributed to the special fund?

Mr. Raison

The hon. Gentleman is wrong. The arrangements which Japan and Germany are negotiating are similar to the arrangements which we are discussing. As to the new money, in planning ahead in our aid programme we made special allowance for exceptional contingencies and disasters, and we would be foolish not to do so. Whether this is new money or not is an abstraction. The important thing is to provide effective aid.

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