HL Deb 03 August 1965 vol 269 cc149-51

4.5 p.m.


My Lords, think it may be be convenient if, with your Lordships' permission, I now repeat a Statement which has been made in another place by my right honourable friend the Minister of Overseas Development on the White Paper on Overseas Development entitled the The Work of the New Ministry. My right honourable friend said in another place on July 20 that she intended to lay before it a White Paper on the work of the Department. This has been placed in the Printed Paper Office to-day.

Her Statement says:

"This is not a moment at which it would be right to announce plans for a significant increase in the aid programme. At a time when we are taking steps to restrain public expenditure and when we must have particular regard to our balance of payments there are limits to the amount of aid we can provide. This makes it all the more important to ensure that our aid is well managed and provided in the most effective forms. The White Paper is designed to inform the House how I intend to achieve this. Our purpose is to help the poorer countries to tackle the problems of development and indebtedness. These problems have if anything, become more acute in recent years. The commitment to give aid for overseas development is therefore a long-term one.

"The White Paper starts with a discussion of the motive and objectives of our aid policy, followed by an analysis of the economic progress of the developing nations. This makes no attempt to minimise the grave tasks facing these countries, to which I have referred, nor does it underestimate what has been achieved in recent years through their own efforts in co-operation with the industrial countries and international agencies. I trust that this analysis will lead us to the conclusion that we must not shrink from accepting our share of responsibility.

" In Chapter VII of the White Paper I have indicated the main guide lines which we propose to adopt in our future aid policies. In Chapter VIII our new policy on interest-free loans is explained. In Chapter XI to XIII I have dealt in some detail with technical assistance, to which I attach special importance. Since the formation of the Ministry we have systematically reviewed our operations in technical assistance, and as a result I have some important new initiatives to announce. These relate in particular to the recruitment of British men and women for key positions overseas and to high-level training in this country of specialists in development and administration. I will not lengthen this Statement by going into detail.

"I conclude as I began, by pointing out that we are publishing this White Paper at a time when we ourselves are experiencing serious financial difficulties and are taking important measures to correct them. I am sure that the House will agree that, however much these difficulties must limit what we can do at the moment, our preoccupation with them should not allow us to forget our responsibilities in overseas aid, which forms an increasingly important element in international relations to-day."


My Lords, I suppose I am grateful to the noble Lord for that Statement. I realise that the noble Lord is not responsible, but I must tell him and noble Lords opposite that never in my experience have I heard a Statement that took so long to say so little. I should have thought that it would be perfectly possible merely to have got up and said, "There is a White Paper in the Printed Paper Office ". I have no idea whether what is in the White Paper is good or bad, but I suspect that it is nothing, otherwise we should have been told so this afternoon.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that there are three clichés and four bromides missing?


My Lords, could the noble Lord tell us whether any of these interest-free loans have been approved and whether he thinks any are likely to be approved in the next twelve months? Can he say what the estimated amount of our aid is to be next year?


My Lords, there are many things I should like to answer, particularly the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, whose experience must be very much less than mine—though I did not think so—if he has never before heard so little said in such a lengthy way. I could point out examples which I think he would agree disprove that statement. With regard to the noble Earl's question, I cannot tell him offhand whether any interest-free loans have as yet been approved. I rather think they have, but there certainly will be a good many in the relatively near future that will be approved. As for the estimated expenditure during the coming financial year, I am afraid I cannot give the noble Earl that answer. That has not yet been decided upon. It comes into the whole ambit of the national expenditure plan.


My Lords, will it be much less than the previous figure of £160 million?


My Lords, speaking from memory, the figure is not £160 million but £189 million—


Yes, my Lords, but we did not spend it all.


—which has been approved for 1964–65. I should hope, and I say this quite advisedly, that it would not be less than that, because, important though national expansion is—we all agree with that—we must not forget that aid to overseas countries is of international importance. It is not purely an eleemosynary activity which is designed solely to help other countries; it is of assistance to ourselves and to the world in general. I hope that our financial situation is not so stringent, and I believe it is not so stringent, that we shall have actually to reduce the amount given.