HC Deb 12 January 1987 vol 108 cc16-7
62. Mr. Chapman

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what proportion of the current overseas aid programme and budget is channelled through multilateral agencies and bilateral Government agreements, respectively.

The Minister for Overseas Development (Mr. Chris Patten)

In 1985–86, the latest year for which figures are available, Britain's contributions to multilateral aid agencies accounted for 42 per cent. of gross aid programme expenditure, and total bilateral aid for 58 per cent. Bilateral country programmes amounted to 40 per cent. of total expenditure.

Mr. Chapman

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that information. Can he say whether there has been any change in those proportions in recent years, and will he confirm that, generally speaking, long-term sustained aid projects can be more effectively attained through bilateral Government agreements and that a major role for multilateral agencies should be to assist in providing short-term emergency aid when necessary?

Mr. Patten

By and large I agree with my hon. Friend. There has not been much change in the balance in the past few years, except that our membership of the Community has had some effect because of the size of the European Community programme. Multilateral agencies have an important role to play. For example, UNICEF, which I am hoping to visit next week, has an important role. That point was put to me by the late hon. Member for Greenwich, Guy Barnett, shortly before his death. He felt strongly about these issues and the House will miss his contributions in debates about aid and development, about which he felt so passionately and about which he knew so much.

Mr. Kirkwood

Will the Minister confirm that the relative increase in the proportion paid by way of multilateral aid has nothing to do with Government policy, but has more to do with the drop in total aid given by the Government? Does he not think that recipient countries can get far more value from multilateral aid than from bilateral aid, which has conditions attached?

Mr. Patten

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's second proposition. In relation to his first proposition I am pleased to say that in the last three or four years our aid programme has been increasing and, based on the public expenditure figures, over the next three years it should be secured in real terms.

Mr. Bowen Wells

While congratulating my hon. Friend on maintaining the increase in the overseas development budget, may I ask him whether he agrees that he can accommodate the increased aid and trade provision and the increased demands of multilateral agencies only by increasing the total aid budget so that there is more in the bilateral budget, thus supporting the efforts of the Department of Trade and Industry in promoting British exports and interests overseas?

Mr. Patten

I hope that I can satisfy my hon. Friend yet again in the next few weeks by announcing some small increases in our contributions to the multilateral agencies and increases in some of our most important bilateral programmes.

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