HL Deb 26 May 1965 vol 266 cc831-3

2.29 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government the total amount of commitments by way of subventions, loans, advances or any other disbursements for the current financial year to:—

  1. (a) So-called emergent countries.
  2. (b) Any other countries till recently under the administration of the Colonial Office.]


My Lords, I assume that by "emergent countries" the noble Lord means those countries, both Commonwealth and foreign, which are underdeveloped. The total amount of aid, both multilateral and bilateral, spent in the calendar year 1964 was £190 million. Of this, £172.5 million was bilateral aid, of which £25.6 million was spent in the Dependencies, £126.7 million in the independent Commonwealth and £20.2 million in foreign countries. We expect that the total expenditure for the current financial year 1964–65 will be on at least this level. I cannot give noble Lords detailed estimates, because commitments of bilateral development aid are entered into in the course of negotiations with the recipient countries throughout the year, in accordance with their development plans and our own aid policies. It is not, therefore, possible to say in advance of any financial year exactly what new commitments will be entered into. The resulting disbursements frequently extend over several years.


My Lords, it would appear from that reply that the total amount is something quite substantial, and it seems to coincide with an answer which was given in this House in the latter part of last year. Does the noble Lord not feel that, in view of the Government's aim to reduce the difficulties regarding balance of change from foreign investments, the priorities could be improved upon, and that, to alleviate pressure in other directions, some relief could be given on these amounts which have been announced this afternoon and other Government overseas expenditure as announced in a recent reply in this House?


My Lords, the noble Lord is well aware that this is a very complicated and difficult question and perhaps is better answered in the course of a more lengthy debate than in reply to a Parliamentary Question. I would, however, remind the noble Lord that only 20 per cent. of British private investment abroad goes to the developing countries. I would also remind him, as was mentioned by my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in another place, that the whole problem of aid and foreign expenditure is under constant review. We are endeavouring to keep the appropriate balance between our moral obligations, our political interests, and our own economic needs at home.


My Lords, can the noble Lord hold out any hope that Government expenditure of £270 million a year on "invisibles", referred to in an answer given to the House quite recently, may be reduced, and that these priorities may be changed?


That, I think the noble Lord will agree, is a different question, which I shall be glad to answer if he puts it down.