HC Deb 23 June 1986 vol 100 cc16-7
38. Mrs. Shields

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what was the proportion of gross national product spent on overseas aid in 1985 compared with 1984.

Mr. Raison

As I informed the House on 20 June, OECD statistics show that in 1985 Britain provided net official development assistance equivalent to 0.34 per cent. of GNP. In 1984 the figure was 0.33 per cent.

Mrs. Shields

Bearing in mind that in 1979 the percentage was 0.52, why are the Government so hesitant to increase aid, especially when Sport Aid and other ventures clearly show public support for such ventures?

Mr. Raison

If the public want to support additional aid, as they certainly do, they have every chance to do so through very valuable mechanisms such as Sport Aid. In the current year there has been a substantial increase in our aid programme compared with last year, ahead of the rate of inflation, and I believe that that is widely welcomed.

Mr. Dorrell

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the decline in the offical aid programme since 1979 is regrettable? Will he confirm, however, that the total transfer, public and private, from this country to the developing world has exceeded 1 per cent. of our GDP every year since 1979? Would he care to speculate on how the proposals of the official Opposition for exchange and import controls might effect the economies of the developing world?

Mr. Raison

My hon. Friend has raised a good point, which the Opposition must answer. From the overall picture it is clear that the United Kingdom has played and is playing a significant role in helping the Third world.

Mr. Tom Clarke

In constant prices, is it not the case that since 1979 the real value of our overseas aid has fallen by 20 per cent.? How does the Minister explain that abrupt decline, and how can he say for one second that the Government intend to achieve the United Nations' figure of 0.7 per cent.? Will he come clean with the House today and talk about the Government's record and policies, and contrast the generosity of the British people with the mean-mindedness of the Government whom he seeks to serve?

Mr. Raison

Despite what the hon. Gentleman says, I welcome him to the Front Bench for the first time in Overseas Development Question Time. Obviously, we have had to operate against the policy of the overall control of public expenditure, and it has not been possible to exempt the aid programme from that. On the other hand, we are increasing our aid programme and concentrating in particular on securing greater effectiveness. I believe that our efforts are widely appreciated.

Mr. Stanbrook

Does my right hon. Friend agree that. it is unfair that his Department should have to bear the burden, from its overseas aid funds, of the payment of pensions for retired colonial officers, almost all of whom are resident in this country?

Mr. Raison

I understand my lion. Friend's point. Both he and other hon. Friends put it to my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary last week. It is a difficult matter, and the money must come from some departmental budget. However, I note what my lion. Friend has said.

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