HC Deb 03 July 1989 vol 156 cc19-20
63. Mr. Greg Knight

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to celebrate the Overseas Development Administration's silver jubilee.

Mr. Chris Patten

On 28 June my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, in the presence of Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal, hosted a reception at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to mark the publication of an anniversary edition of the ODA's annual review. Copies are being distributed widely. Earlier that day, I launched at the Royal Society of Arts two new specially commissioned videos on the key issues of the environment and the role of science in development.

Mr. Knight

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the best way to celebrate 25 years of aid is to give further encouragement to those charities and other non-governmental organisations which have played such a significant part in development? Should we not be encouraging more volunteers to go to developing countries?

Mr. Patten

I very much agree with my hon. Friend. We helped 60 charitable agencies last year in long-term development work covering 800 projects. We should be able to do more this year, having increased the funds available for the joint funding scheme by just over 40 per cent. We are also increasing the amount of financial assistance to volunteering agencies. This year their grant will have risen by just over 20 per cent. I hope that the number of volunteers will increase from about 1,300 now to about 1,500 by 1990.

Miss Lestor

Enjoyable though the celebrations were last week—the right hon. Gentleman was kind enough to invite me—I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman has seen in the jubilee edition of "Overseas Development", the ODA newspaper, the anger expressed by former Minister Dame Judith Hart at the Government's record in the past 10 years. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that there is more to celebrate in 25 years of ODA than glossy brochures and pleasant receptions, much though we all enjoyed them? Will the right hon. Gentleman mark the occasion by announcing his timetable for British aid to reach 0.7 per cent of GNP, bearing in mind that if press speculation is correct and he leaves ODA this summer he will leave behind a drop in aid in real terms of 18 per cent. since 1979?

Mr. Patten

In response to the hon. Lady's latter point, I think it was someone like Cardinal Manning—or perhaps it was Lord St. John of Fawsley—who said: I do not ask to see The distant scene; one step enough for me. In response to the hon. Lady's first point, the fact that we quote Baroness Hart in our publication does not show that we agree with her, but merely that we believe in a plural society. I am delighted that this year the aid programme is growing by 12 per cent. in cash terms and 7 per cent. in real terms.