HC Deb 03 July 1989 vol 156 c18
61. Mr. John Marshall

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what studies his Department has sponsored of the role of the free market in fostering economic development in the Third world.

Mr. Chris Patten

My Department is sponsoring a range of studies. They include assessment of the more liberal economic policies that many developing countries are pursuing under structural adjustment programmes and the role of market forces in stimulating agriculture, forestry, industry and foreign trade.

Mr. Marshall

First, I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his appointment to the Privy Council. Does he agree that in the Third world, as elsewhere, there is a strong correlation between economic growth and the adoption of a social market economy? Will he therefore concentrate our economic assistance on those countries that have had the foresight to adopt the social market economy rather than indulging in a mindless morass of Marxism and Socialism?

Mr. Patten

I am much obliged to my hon. Friend for his kind personal reference and I am lost in envy at his final alliteration. I can confirm what my hon. Friend said about the importance of market forces and the price mechanism in supporting sustainable economic development. We have put an increasing amount of our aid into supporting economic reform programmes which are more likely to encourage the development of the private sector and inward private investment. I am delighted that so many countries are pursuing more sensible economic policies and I note that the leader of the Labour party, Peter Mandelson, is also more in favour of market economics these days.

Mr. Tom Clarke

Has the right hon. Gentleman had his attention drawn to the exposure by the Daily Record of conditions on the tea plantations in Bangladesh of James Finlay and Company? Will he join me in deploring the outrageous exploitation of labour, including child labour? Does he accept that that is the unacceptable face of the free market in the Third world and, if so, will he bring the matter to the attention of the Commonwealth Development Corporation?

Mr. Patten

I have not seen the report to which the hon. Gentleman draws attention, although I condemn such exploitation wherever it occurs. We are involved in a number of projects on the tea estates of Bangladesh to improve housing and other social conditions. That is a sensible and important use of our aid money. I hope that private sector companies as well as public sector companies will do all that they can to ensure social equity as well as market forces as the best engines of economic growth.