HC Deb 19 February 1990 vol 167 cc654-5
43. Mr. Murphy

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has had expressing concern in the Third world that aid to eastern Europe will adversely affect the amount of aid available to it; and if he will make a statement.

49. Mr. Alan Williams

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make it his policy that total Overseas Development Administration expenditure for 1990–91 will be increased so that aid funds for eastern Europe do not reduce the amount available for developing countries.

The Minister for Overseas Development (Mrs. Lynda Chalker)

The Government are aware of concerns, here and overseas, that economic assistance to eastern Europe might adversely affect the amount of aid going to developing countries. I assure the House that the provision of United Kingdom assistance to eastern Europe is separate from and additional to our regular aid programme. which is growing in real terms. OECD member Governments affirmed in December that their support for economic reform in central and eastern Europe will not diminish their determination to give high priority to their development co-operation with the Third world.

Mr. Murphy

Does the Minister accept that there is widespread concern among aid agencies in Britain that relief to eastern Europe is at the expense of relief to the Third world? Will she give a further assurance that over the next few years at least the poorest of the Third world will not be asked to subsidise the poor of eastern Europe?

Mrs. Chalker

I have repeated many times that aid to eastern Europe is additional to and separate from aid to the developing world. That is exactly what we have decided and that is exactly what we have done.

Mr. Williams

I very much welcome that assurance. In view of the highly volatile and rapidly changing position in eastern Europe, may we have an assurance that the Minister and the Government will be flexible in interpreting the need for assistance to eastern Europe and will be willing, if necessary, to draw upon the contingency fund?

Mrs. Chalker

If that occurs, of course the Government will consider what is needed. However, we have been flexible and provided $100 million to the Polish stabilisation fund which was not envisaged when we began talking about the know-how fund. When we saw the need for humanitarian assistance in Romania before Christmas, we immediately dispatched 1.8 tonnes of medical supplies. Last week my hon. Friend the Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office announced that we would be providing disposable syringes for Romania. We have also arranged for five injured young people from Romania to be treated here and we are considering at the moment another way of helping Romania. None of those things was even considered when we started down the path of the know-how funds of £50 million for Poland and £25 million for Hungary. We are being flexible and we shall continue to do so.

Mr. Nelson

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the momentous changes in eastern Europe provide some spectacular opportunities for private investment rather than more taxpayers' aid? Should not we differentiate between the much-needed infrastructural and basic support aid that we provide to the poorest countries and the probably greater case for more technology transfers and trade credits to eastern Europe?

Mrs. Chalker

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. In the 29 projects that were announced for Poland in December and the six further projects that we announced last month, it is interesting to see how much private organisations are adding to the incentive that the Government provided for the know-how funds. There will be joint ventures and many contributions from the private sector because the eastern European countries have a greater ability to attract private capital than some of the really underdeveloped countries.

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

Does my right hon. Friend accept that many of us have a genuine and deep-seated feeling for the Third world? However, only a limited amount of money is available, and with Germany wanting to go headlong towards creating another surrogate state of East Germany, the amount of money required may stretch into billions of pounds. Whatever the world may want, Germany is likely to benefit. Who is going to pay for it? If anyone is to pay, why should it not be Germany? Why should not we help the Third world instead of helping the fourth reich?

Mrs. Chalker

My hon. Friend takes his claim a little too far. We have spent more than £3,500 million in Africa over the past eight years and we shall continue to help the developing world. However, the Federal Republic of Germany has also been helping the developing world and it is helping eastern Europe greatly. We will do our bit, and I have no doubt that all Members of the European Community will continue to help adequately in the Third world and look to the need for democracies to be encouraged in eastern Europe.

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