HC Deb 14 October 1991 vol 196 cc18-20
41. Mr. Watson

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he made to other members of the G7 concerning development in, and aid to, the third world, at the last G7 meeting.

Mrs. Chalker

At the July economic summit, the G7 discussed important development co-operation issues, such as debt relief, the environment, good government, trade access and the reduction of military expenditure. At the Finance Ministers' meeting in Bangkok on 12 October, the called on the Paris club to implement measures that go well beyond Toronto relief terms.

Mr. Watson

The Minister's reply did not refer specifically to what the Government are doing in terms of aid. Indeed, her answer a few moments ago to my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) was quite unsatisfactory. The fact is that the aid that is provided by this Government is on a downward spiral. The figures that were produced a fortnight ago by the development assistance committee of the OECD show an 11 per cent. drop in the period 1989–90 to a miserly 0.27 per cent. of GNP. Will the Minister reverse that shameful trend and begin to allow this country to pull its full weight in assisting the developing world?

Mrs. Chalker

The hon. Gentleman is wrong. Britain's aid figures are not on a downward spiral. Britain's average aid:GNP ratio over the past five years has remained around 0.3 per cent. As I explained to the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours), much of our expenditure in the last quarter of 1990 was delayed until the first quarter of 1991. That is reflected in the fact that we have a GNP planning figure of 0.31 per cent. for this financial year. I repeat that the critical points are the quality of the aid, its targeting and the fact that it is tightly evaluated. That counts for far more than merely throwing money at problems where it cannot be assimilated.

Mr. Lester

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that some of her discussions will concentrate on the fact that aid should go to countries that practice good governance? Will she therefore confirm that there is no question of restoring aid to Burma and will she welcome the fact that Aung San Suu Kyi has been awarded the Nobel peace prize for standing up for democratic values?

Mrs. Chalker

I welcome my hon. Friend's question and confirm that there is no question of restoring aid to Burma at present. Like my hon. Friend, I very much welcome that award of the Nobel peace prize.

Mrs. Clwyd

What measures are the G7 countries taking to deal with the abuse of aid and trade provisions that was revealed in ODA evaluation report EV470, relating to six major power projects? Will the Government tell us the truth today? Which of the two versions of the report by the highly respected academic, Andrew Barnett, is the accurate report—the original one, which criticised the lack of appraisal and monitoring of projects, the export of deficient and inappropriate technology and the breakdown of equipment without any spares back-up, or the doctored report, from which all the most critical references were removed? Is it not true that Mr. Barnett has been compromised and is the victim of a Government face-saving exercise?

Mrs. Chalker

I am answering a question on this tomorrow, but I think that the House would wish to know that I wrote to the hon. Lady on Friday, rebutting the wholly unfounded allegations that she has made against my officials and asking her to withdraw them. Today the hon. Lady has repeated those slurs in the House. Therefore, I am glad that tomorrow I shall be able to report—and that it will be reported inHansard—the whole of my reply which rebuts the slurs that the hon. Lady unfairly made on 19 and 20 September.