HC Deb 10 December 1997 vol 302 cc997-8
5. Mr. Boswell

What assistance she is offering for the adoption of intermediate technology by developing countries. [18425]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. George Foulkes)

Our Department offers a broad range of support to encourage the adoption of appropriate intermediate technology solutions in developing countries through our country programmes, our research and knowledge work and through the joint funding scheme for non-governmental organisations.

Mr. Boswell

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that intermediate technology is not second best if it is the appropriate technology to meet the need? British companies and non-governmental organisations are particularly strong in that area. As the White Paper was rather feeble on this subject, will he make amends by giving it an enhanced emphasis?

Mr. Foulkes

The White Paper was feeble on no subject. It was greatly welcomed by all the non-governmental organisations and even by the Opposition spokesman. Last year, our Department supported the intermediate technology development group to the tune of more than £3 million. I fully understand the hon. Gentleman's constituency interest in this matter, but if he considers objectively what we have spent and our commitment, he will agree that this is a priority of the new Labour Government.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

On the question of former Overseas Development Administration support for such projects and for projects more generally, would it not be interesting to take a snapshot year, perhaps in the mid-1980s, and revisit all the projects that were supported in that year with British taxpayers' money to see to what extent they are still being properly managed and utilised to the benefit of the recipient countries? I asked that question following my visit in 1991 to the Orissa health project in southern India, which I found to be a disaster area.

Mr. Foulkes

My right hon. Friend and I are spending some time examining all our projects to see how effective they are. The Select Committee on International Development could carry out the role that my hon. Friend suggests. I assure him that, under the White Paper to which the hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell) referred, projects such as the Pergau dam would receive no support from the new Labour Government.

Mr. Dafis

Does the Minister agree that, although intermediate technology is appropriate in many circumstances, high technology is sometimes also appropriate for third-world development? I am thinking particularly of sustainable energy policies. Is not the development of renewable energy often the means by which underdeveloped countries can make the leap from underdevelopment to sustainable development? What do the Government intend to do about encouraging the transfer of such technology to the underdeveloped world?

Mr. Foulkes

The transfer of our technology to transition countries in eastern and central Europe has been achieved through the know-how fund. Some of the techniques used by the know-how fund can now be extended to developing countries, especially in the area to which the hon. Gentleman referred. We have supported successful work in South Africa to train young unemployed people in information technology. Those people have obtained work very quickly, which shows the effectiveness of our support for such work in those countries.

Mr. Grant

I believe that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is to visit South Africa. I wonder whether my hon. Friend the Minister will urge her to visit the computer information technology centre in Welkom in the Free State. She will see there an excellent project run by black British expatriates who are teaching people in places such as Bronville and Tahbong how to use information technology. Will he also examine how those people are working with the local population and use their example as a model for future development to meet the White Paper's objectives?

Mr. Foulkes

The project to which my hon. Friend refers is precisely that to which I was referring earlier. I am very pleased that—I hope next week—I shall be able to meet him and the organiser of that project.

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