HL Deb 14 July 1966 vol 276 cc199-201

3.10 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 whether they will restrain the statements of the United Kingdom representative to the United Nations emphasising the comparatively high volume of overseas allocations for subventions, loans and advances by the United Kingdom which must under present adverse pressure on sterling intensify banking disquiet as to the United Kingdom balance of payments.]


No, my Lords. I do not accept the implication of the Question. The speech of the Minister of State and Permanent Representative of Her Majesty's Government at the United Nations to the 41st Session of the Economic and Social Council, to which I take it the noble Lord is referring, contained a factual account of the British effort in aiding the developing countries in the context of international aid as a whole. He referred not only to our record in sustaining and somewhat increasing our programme in a time of economic difficulty, but also to the restraints which those circumstances are necessarily imposing on the degree of expansion which is possible. Her Majesty's Government see no reason why this balanced account should cause any disquiet.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his reply, but it is disappointing, in that he gives the reasons which were put forward in the United Nations. The point of the Question, of course, is to draw attention to the heavy burden on our balance of payments; and the fact that we have now moved the bank rate up to the penalising rate of 7 per cent. seems to be greater justification than at the moment when I put the Question down. The noble Lord will have had his attention drawn to The Times report on July 7 giving this. I am not unmindful of the fact that the noble Lord—


Order, Order!


The question I ask the noble Lord is this. In spite of the fact that Her Majesty's Government have as recently as the debate on the Overseas Aid Bill stated that very large sums of our sorely taxed people's money are being so disposed of, can he now not give any encouragement to the hope that these widely dispersed and so munificently given grants, subventions, and aid in every direction throughout the world, can be reduced and so lessen the pressure on sterling?


No, my Lords, I cannot; and I am very glad that I cannot do so. I should like to be able to give some hope that we could increase these amounts, but unfortunately our present financial position makes that impossible. The actual discussions on the amount of aid were conducted in another place, and also, I think I am right in saying, in your Lordships' Chamber on another occasion; obviously this is not the right time to go into the pros and cons of that. I have done my best to answer the original Question and the noble Lord's supplementary, but of course if he wishes to raise the matter in a wider context there are opportunities for him to do so.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that it is a terrible indictment on the Conservative Party that, after a period of colonial exploitation, and when these countries have now received independence, they want to stop all support to help them towards independence within the Commonwealth, in order to get us into the Common Market?


My Lords, is the a Conservative Government there was a noble Lord not aware that, in fact, under very rapid increase in aid to foreign countries; at a much more rapid rate, indeed, than under this Labour Government?


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord a further question? Has he forgotten what was stated with regard to the escalating rate at which this money is being granted? He has just said that he hoped that would be increased. It was stated in 1957 that the figure was £81 million, and now it is £225 million. At that rate of escalation there will be some astronomic figure which will put the bank rate up much higher, and do irreparable damage to our balance of payments.