HC Deb 01 December 1986 vol 106 cc627-8
60. Mr. Spearing

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the total sum expended in the current financial year under the aid and trade provisions; and what are the maximum and minimum estimates of the outturn for the year 1986–87.

Mr. Chris Patten

For the current financial year aid and trade provision expenditure up to the end of October 1986 was £64.08 million. The amount available for expenditure in 1986–87 is £90 million, which is expected to be fully spent.

Mr. Spearing

Do not those figures, and the additional figure of about £100 million that the Minister has just mentioned, throw further light on the controversy relating to the aid and trade provision? The Minister used the words "developmentally sound". Would it not be better to use even £2 million or £3 million to restore the vicious and arbitrary cuts in the scientific services of the overseas development fund, which could be important in the relief of famine and the prevention of hunger?

Mr. Patten

I do not accept the thrust of the hon. Gentleman's question. I shall explain the figure for this year. This year the ATP budget was increased, exceptionally, to cope with the large Malaysian rural water supply project which slipped into this year and resulted in an underspend of ATP last year. The increase came from within the existing aid budget, but it did not affect other planned programmes, because we brought forward annual payments to some international bodies into last year.

Mr. Stanbrook

Instead of spreading the available money thinly over thousands of projects—however much moral satisfaction that gives us—will my hon. Friend consider concentrating the assistance on fewer projects, especially rural water supplies, which, fundamentally, will benefit the recipients much more than will the accumulation of minute quantities of aid?

Mr. Patten

I agree with my hon. Friend's remarks about the importance of a sensible balance in a programme. I totally agree also with what he said about the importance of rural water schemes. Last week in Pakistan I saw what we have successfully achieved in irrigation and drainage schemes.