HL Deb 25 February 1976 vol 368 cc704-88

3.4 p.m.

Lord REAY rose to call attention to the White Paper on Overseas Development, entitled The Changing Emphasis in British Aid Policies (Cmnd. 6270); and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I should not like to introduce this Motion without thanking in advance those who have chosen to take part and without making an apology to them for basing this Motion on and, therefore, implicitly obliging them to read, or at least make themselves familiar with, a document which, for all its merits as a policy document, is also a long and rather gruelling essay in the general theory of aid and development techniques. Those of your Lordships who braved this task may have found it rather indigestible material.

On quite a different note I should also like to say that, in regarding the list of speakers, one cannot help being reminded again of the loss this House has suffered in the extremely tragic death of the late Lord Cowley. It is hardly conceivable that he would not have taken part in a debate on this subject. He showed an awareness of its importance and a concern for its problems, characteristic of his generation, regardless of Party. This debate, and others in the future on this subject, will be diminished by what we shall miss both of his knowledge and of the example of his concern.

My Lords, I think there is a value in a debate at this tune on development aid, partly because, apart from the debate which the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, introduced calling attention to changes in the EEC's policy towards developing countries in 1974, the last debate on this subject was as long ago as April 1971 to a Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Aldington, and partly because between that time and this the framework within which we must review the nature of our relationships with developing countries has palpably changed.

The oil crisis demonstrated the degree to which the industrialised, and particularly the European, countries had become dependent on the policies and actions of countries in the developing world. It exposed the vulnerability of a Europe without its empires and so no longer able to guarantee its markets and its sources of raw material supply. It showed how young countries, by developing their administrative structures, their economic resources and foreign policies appropriate to their national interest, could effect a profound shift in the international distribution of wealth and power. Europe is able, in theory at least, to survive one such blow with its economic and social structures intact. It is less certain that it could survive another similar blow. In such circumstances, Europe has to pursue policies of co-operation with developing countries. Europe, in this external aspect of its policy, needs an attitude that is composed of two elements: a sharp awareness of the struggle that it is likely to be for her to maintain her present economic level in the competitive international world of today, and a sensitivity to the political and economic claims of the developing world.

In such a world I firmly believe there is a value in maintaining aid policies; but their limitations have to be understood. In the first place, the capacity of the European countries to increase their aid, even to maintain it at current real levels, has been undermined, perhaps even destroyed, by Europe's economic condition. There are limits to which it can be considered responsible, or to which it is politically possible, for countries which have increasing external borrowing requirements, and agonising and barely manageable problems of public expenditure retrenchment at home, to increase at the same time the amounts they grant or lend to other third countries. Secondly, even in more favourable circumstances, aid can go only a very small way towards alleviating problems on the scale at which they exist in the desperately poor, massively populated, economically resourceless, or almost resourceless, countries. Aid can make a contribution and it is important that the resources which are made available are well directed and subject to some sense of principle. The White Paper deals very ably with the criteria which should influence its distribution but I doubt whether in aggregate the future economic wellbeing of the world's impoverished countries will be helped as much by aid as by trade policies, private investment policies and the actions of the developing countries themselves, some of which may be very painful for us.

The White Paper deals only with aid. It devotes a large part of its 70 pages to a discussion of the criteria which should govern the choice of projects or programmes to support, and this is sometimes carried to quite detailed lengths. When the White Paper stresses the principal broad criteria which Her Majesty's Government consider should govern the distribution and direction of aid, I do not think that most Members on this side of your Lordships' House would have much with which to quarrel. The principal propositions set out in the White Paper are that aid should go to the poorest countries, that an attempt should be made to see that it goes where it is really needed within those countries and that this should be done mainly by concentrating aid on rural programmes.

The White Paper considers that food aid should be considered only as a temporary solution to the problems of starvation and undernourishment, and that accordingly aid should be directed to building up the food producing capacities of developing countries. Also, that the EEC should have a policy that extends beyond the countries covered by the Lomé Convention. I think these are the main points in the White Paper.

As I have said, I agree in general with the aims, although I doubt whether concentrating aid on rural programmes is a means in itself of ensuring that it reaches those most in need. I have a suspicion that this is to skirt at least part of the problem. However, the problem is an extremely difficult one, it is delicate politically and there is no easy answer to it, I support also the decision of the Government to soften even further the terms on which aid is to go to poorer countries. Bilateral aid to countries with a per capita income of less than 200 dollars is now made on grant terms. I see no point in adding to the theoretical debt burden of such countries. I welcome also the recent decision, to which reference is made in the White Paper, to set up a scheme whereby the ODM will pay half the cost of, certain agreed individual projects, and, particularly, innovatory projects undertaken by voluntary agencies ". In the European Parliament we fought to get, and this year we succeeded in getting, written into the Community budget a provision for aid to non-Governmental organisations in the field of development. In this area there is a great deal of willingness, and of initiative which is often starved of funds, and a little money spent in this direction can go a long way. While on the subject of voluntary organisations, I should like to say how pleased I am that the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, is taking part in this debate. For many years he was chairman of Voluntary Service Overseas, and as I think the White Paper makes only a passing reference to this organisation I hope he will say something more to us about it.

The White Paper deals at some length with international organisations in the field of aid, and with what can be done at an international level. Chapter 8 is useful just as a guide to the various international organisations, funds, trust funds, facilities, special accounts, World Bank "windows ", and so on, which have proliferated in recent years beyond the memory or the grasp of anyone who does not devote himself full-time to the study of this subject. The proportion of Britain's aid which now goes in multinational contributions is, I believe, some 26 per cent. It is generally accepted that this is an efficient way to give aid, and I think Her Majesty's Government are right to take the positive line they do throughout the White Paper to forms of international co-operation at all levels in this field. Because our resources are so limited, obviously it makes sense to combine our efforts where we can with other donors. In this connection, the White Paper proposes that opportunities should be taken of stimulating matching contributions from other Governments; also that, in the countries which are to be the beneficiaries of aid, account should be taken of aid they receive or are likely to receive from other donors.

There is a separate chapter on EEC aid, entitled The EEC—a new dimension, which occurs perhaps rather further toward the back of the White Paper than it might have done. It is, I think, rather a good summary, and I see nothing to object to in its tone. However, in this connection I should like to ask the noble Baroness, Lady Llewellyn-Davies of Hastoe, to answer one question when she speaks later in the debate. In the Tindemans Report on European union, one of the few, clear, unequivocal proposals made—and perhaps the principal one made in the field of common Community policies and the need to develop them further—is a proposal that a decision should be taken—here I quote from the Tindemans Report: to strengthen the instrument of our joint action "— that is the Community joint action— by gradually transferring to the Community a substantial part of national appropriations intended for development co-operation … and in co-ordinating the remainder of our activities in this field. I wonder what the reaction of Her Majesty's Government is to that proposal? Do they agree that to a substantial degree aid transfers could be made from a Community level in place of national level, and that the remainder (in other words, what is left at national level) could be co-ordinated? Or do they see considerable objections to doing this? If they do, what are those objections? I know that the Government have argued strongly, and for some time, at the Council of Ministers in favour of a fund directed towards non-associated developing countries, that is to say, countries not covered by the Lomé Convention, and that they supported the Commission's proposal of April last year for a fund of 100 million units of account which was incorporated in the Commission's draft budget for 1976 but was removed by the Council before it came to the European Parliament.

In the European Parliament we succeeded, in the course of our negotiations with the Council, in getting written back into the budget a sum of 20 million units of account which is all that has therefore so far been pledged. But even an amount of 100 million units of account would be very little compared with the sum total of Member-States' bilateral and multilateral aid programmes, and therefore would go only a short way to satisfy the objective of M. Tindemans which, I may add, is also considered desirable by the European Parliament. The reason we have thought it desirable is because one of the admirable and much welcomed features of the Lomé Convention was the fact that, while it maintained the link between Member-States and developing countries with which they had historical ties, it did so in a new and more modern political framework—one which could not in any way be accused of being just the continuation of an empire in disguise.

There is therefore a strong case for extending this approach beyond the limits of the Lomé Convention. To do so would surely also be of help in strengthening the Community's capacity to conduct a co-ordinated foreign policy—a field in which the Community evidently experiences difficulties from time to time. So it would be interesting to hear what observations the Government might have to make on the prospects and difficulties in this field, and what they themselves would like.

While on the subject of the Community I should also like to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they would consider, as a matter of statistical presentation, ceasing the practice of listing aid which this Government give through community channels as being just a sub-division of multilateral aid as a whole. This does not show up in the White Paper, which perhaps does not carry tables of organised figures but that is the way it is presented in the Government aid statistics. I think that aid through Community channels is a special category, and I would argue that it should be treated as such.

I hope I have made it plain that the White Paper contains much with which I agree and I imagine much with which most members of this House will agree. However, I have some criticisms to make of it. In the first place, I think it might have contained more facts. It has a tendency to be abstract rather than concrete. Here and there figures are given by way of illustration, but they are not organised. Some useful figures are given in the section on multilateral organisations to indicate the scale of their organisations, but for the rest one is referred to the Government publication to which I have already alluded, British Aid Statistics. There is no table, for example, of comparative figures from different donor countries; no table giving the international distribution of British bilateral aid, or any other country's bilateral aid.

There are no concrete illustrations either of how this new strategy—and it is, after all, the whole argument of the White Paper that a new strategy has been adopted—will affect the distribution of aid as between countries and/or sectors within different countries. Without this one is left in the dark about the practical consequences of adopting this new strategy. There is no indication, either, of what effect the adoption of this strategy would have on the practice of the tying of bilateral aid. For example, will a concentration on rural development projects—which is one of the themes of the White Paper—mean that less aid is tied to the purchase of British goods which might on the face of it be likely since aid is tied to capital goods purchases, and these are more likely to be required for capital intensive projects which, of course, rural development schemes are designed not to be? No reference is made, either, to the problem of developing countries' indebtedness, nor is there quoted anywhere in the White Paper the figure for interest payments on past loans received back by Her Majesty's Government from developing countries. I consider that to be quite a serious omission and I wonder whether the noble Baroness during the course of the afternoon might be able to redress it.

I can see that there is a political explanation for some of these omissions. The Government, as always, are subject to contrary pressures. Internationally, in the United Nations and elsewhere, there is constant pressure to make commitments and as a result there is a temptation both to yield to those pressures provided the commitment can be stated generally enough, and to describe in the most favourable possible light what it is that the Government already do. On the other hand, the Government are severely constrained by pressures at home for the other uses of their scarce resources.

However, there is what I feel to be one political error which the White Paper could have avoided, and that is really an error in presentation. In reading the White Paper one cannot avoid a feeling of there being continual discrepancy between the majestic scale of the objectives aimed for and the meagre nature of the resources which we in fact dispose. Recurrently, resounding statements of intent are to be found: Her Majesty's Government has accepted that the present relationship and balance between the rich and poor countries of the world must be remedied … And to quote again: the improvement in the living standards of the world's poor is one of the major challenges of our time … Again: growth of agricultural output will need to be a first priority for development policy … Then: We continue to support education at all levels in these countries (poorest countries) … And again: We wish to give high priority to aid for population matters", and so on. When you consider that the resources to be allocated amount to approximately £350 million per annum and the population of the countries concerned is some 3 billion one cannot help wondering whether when we discuss the tasks for which these resources are to be used, we tend to do so still in rather too imperial a manner.

To be sure there are in the White Paper more modest remarks than those I have quoted. To give one example, on page 6 it is acknowledged that: concessionary funds will remain a scarce resource to be husbanded with particular care in the new world situation … But the overall impression given is that the harsher realities, while acknowledged or mostly acknowledged, are allotted a subsidiary place to the ringing declarations of intent. For example, no attempt is made to give a weight to the decline in the value of aid to recipient countries as a result of the decline in the value of the pound. Indeed, no reference is made to this phenomenon. Yet if we look more closely at something like technical assistance, which has risen in quantity both absolutely, expressed in sterling terms, and as a proportion of total bilateral aid, we see that this rise is mostly accounted for by the increased cost of paying or supplementing the salaries of the same number of people. In other words, the White Paper still has ignored facts which though true would have detracted from the picture of Britain's contribution in this field.

It might be asked, what does it matter? Is this, in fact, important? I think the answer is that it is important. It is important because it is politically risky to make or to imply promises that cannot be fulfilled. In a literal sense, I do not think that the White Paper makes any promises that cannot be fulfilled, but it illustrates a weakness which is characteristic of the European countries of not being willing to state more obviously and starkly the limitations to what our countries can do. There is hardly a proposition made by the developing countries, hardly a fund proposed by, for example, the United Nations, to which the Community countries, separately or collectively, do not rush to say that they agree to or will contribute to. But it is dangerous to accept on the international level a target—for example, the target of 0.7 per cent. of GNP in net official aid—if it is a target which one is moving not towards but away from, and when there is no certain chance in the foreseeable future of our doing anything else. That, I think, is the situation. I hope in the case of this particular pledge the Government, having made it—and I realise the nature of the pressures to which they were subject—will continue to refuse to fix a date by which they expect to reach this target. I think the danger of making these pledges, whether explicitly or implicit in a general attitude, is that one day you can be summoned to explain the gap between what you have said and what you did, and then you have no answer.

My Lords, to remove all doubt after the criticisms I have made, I should like to end by making it plain that in our approach to the developing countries I think we should be guided principally by a recognition of our need to co-operate with them. This does not mean that we should agree to every proposition they make; on the contrary, they have the right to our honest opinion of what our economies can stand without risk of collapse. For they also have an interest in our survival. Country after country in the developing world has intimate cultural links with countries in Western Europe, links which often underlie the very basis of their existence as modern States. It is from the West that they have received financial and technical aid, technology and investment. It is on the continuing activity of the Western economies that to a large extent they must depend for their markets, whether it be for their manufactured or agricultural products or for their raw materials. Our interest cannot be served by ignoring the demands of developing countries. On the other hand, our duty does not consist in isolating the needs of the developing countries and showing such an attitude of eagerness to satisfy them that we may give to those who hear us an exaggerated and misleading hope of what may be expected. Our interest and our duty consist in devising the means of mutual understanding and co-operation whereby the economic and political world to which we both belong survives. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.28 p.m.


My Lords, it is not often that I am grateful to noble Lords opposite, but on this occasion I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Reay, for putting down this Motion which we are debating today and for the way in which he spoke. It was a deeply thought-out speech and one which I should like to study long after this debate is over. I hope to answer most of the points, and he has been kind enough to tell me some of them in advance. If I may, I should first like to thank him for the way in which he spoke about the late Lord Cowley. The whole House misses him, especially today.

In some ways aid is thought of as the Cinderella of our overseas policies, whereas I believe that it is of the utmost importance for our future, both materially and morally. The Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Secretariat, Mr. Ramphal, in a remarkable speech the other day, said: For most of the first three-quarters of the twentieth century, international poverty has been as national poverty was throughout most of the eighteenth century, a matter on the periphery of the concern of the rich, a subject for Sunday reflection. But the simple fact is that in 1976 the issue of international policy has become a matter of domestic importance to the rich no less than to the poor. It is not now a matter for Sundays only. I think that the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Reay, shows that he, too, appreciates that point. It is deeply true.

My Lords, at the meeting of the Heads of Commonwealth Governments at Kingston last year, the Governments pledged themselves to immediate action towards the creation of a national and equitable new international order. As the noble Lord said, the White Paper we are discussing today is quite difficult to comprehend and quite long. If it contained many of the facts he has now asked for it would have been about twice as long. In some ways it poses more questions than it answers. It is not perfect, but it points to a new emphasis on a difficult problem—one which has become more difficult in the last two or three years—and it is a contribution to the new international order.

It still astonishes me that people write to my right honourable friend the Minister for Overseas Development wondering why we have an overseas programme when we ourselves borrow from abroad. But our difficulties are those of an affluent nation, not a poor one. It is important for people outside your Lordships' House and, indeed, outside another place, to realise the essential difference between the quality of life in countries like ours and in the poorer countries. The average income in Britain is over £1,000 per head per annum. In the developing countries, and in the poorest ones where over a billion people live, the average income per head per year is less than £100, and often much less. It is something less than 15p a day. Mr. Robert MacNamara, President of the World Bank, said last year: These are the absolute poor, living in situations so deprived as to be below any rational definition of poverty. Absolute poverty is a condition of life so limited by illiteracy, malnutrition, disease, high infant mortality, low life expectancy, as to deny its victims the very potential of the genes with which they were born. It is life at the margin of existence. My Lords, in 1974 our aid programme worked out at something like 11p per week per head of the British population. In the same year we spent 74p per week per head on tobacco, £1.30 per week on alcohol, and even 3p per week on slimming preparations. I obviously do not need to continue the comparison. It is not so much whether we can sustain an aid programme; it is more a question of whether the kind of civilisation, as we conceive it, can survive the scale and the depth of the poverty, hunger and deprivation existing today.

The noble Lord, Lord Reay, complained—not passionately, but he did complain—about grandiose statements but very little money, and he warned us against making promises. I think that is exactly what we have done. We have avoided making promises, and on the subject of targets, we do not believe very much in targets. It is the quality of the aid, and the relevance of the aid, which matters more than any particular target. Of course, if the noble Lord wants to castigate this Government for giving too little aid, we shall look forward very much to his being a member of another Government, in perhaps another 30 years, which might give a slightly higher proportion. But we shall wait and see.

While on the subject—the noble Lord also referred to this—it is no longer appropriate (if, indeed, it ever was), to think of the developing countries as a homogenous group. One of the problems is that gaps are now opening up between them which, in many cases, are greater than those between the developed and the developing countries. Recent events have accelerated this, and have highlighted the plight of the poorest countries. The recent events to which I refer are the commodity price boom of 1973 and the spectacular price rise of oil. Your Lordships will know that in simple terms the way in which all this reacted on the poorest countries was that they made great efforts to sell more of the things that they produced. They may be cotton, tea, bauxite, sisal—any of these things. But the price of things they needed to buy to raise the standard of living—such as an irrigation pump, tractors, antibiotics and fertilisers—increased and they go on increasing. So despite everything they do they remain relatively poor, and they grow poorer.

My Lords, it is in this context that I am particularly glad that your Lordships' House has set up a Select Committee on Commodity Prices with a very distinguished membership. The object of the Select Committee is to look for ways of stabilising commodity prices. I think that the House owes a debt of gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Byers, for his initiative here. I particularly look forward to the Report of the Select Committee. Nothing could be more important at the present moment, and I am glad that your Lordships' House will contribute some knowledge to it.

As the noble Lord, Lord Reay, said, the poorest countries are heavily dependent on oil imports. Thus there has been an inevitable disproportionate reduction in non-oil imports and so income, consumption and investment are all down, with a catastrophic effect on growth. The House will understand that these countries have low foreign currency or exchange reserves, and limited access to capital markets. They need immediate aid on concessional terms to avoid balance of payments crises now, and crippling debt serving problems in future, to which the noble Lord referred. The White Paper has especially drawn attention to this. Of course, the better-off developing countries benefit more from the revival of OECD growth, and they have greater access to private investment capital because it is more attractive to invest there. But the poorer countries are largely dependent on public aid. Here the prospect is, indeed, bleak. This is a fact that we simply must face. It is a tragedy—and in some ways a disgrace that, if present policies continue, official aid flows will decline from 0.32 per cent. of the developed countries' gross national product in 1975 to 0.24 per cent. in 1980. That is a World Bank estimate. Therefore, it is especially important to concentrate our aid to those most in need. This implies a significant redistribution of aid towards the poorest countries, and it is against this background that the White Paper, so admirably summarised by the noble Lord, has been conceived.

My Lords, we are trying to put a new emphasis on our aid strategy so as to direct more of it to the poorest countries. Your Lordships will understand that this is a new emphasis rather than a new policy, because the bulk of our aid has for a long time gone to those with incomes of less than £100 per year per head. Seventy per cent. of our new bilaterial aid commitments in 1974 were to countries in this category, but they still receive much less than their proportionate share of Western aid, based on relative population. About 63 per cent. of the population of developing countries live in the poorest group. As the House knows, my right honourable friend has been pressing his colleagues in the Development Assistance Committee to adopt a target that they should receive at least this portion of DAC members' aid. But noble Lords will also know that our efforts have, so far, met with little success. A consensus was reached at the Council of Ministers meeting in July on the principle that Member-Governments would endeavour to allocate aid on this basis. Nevertheless, noble Lords will understand our disappointment. In 1974 these countries received only 56 per cent. of DAC members' aid. The achievement of the 63 per cent. target would have meant another 600 million dollars worth of aid for them. The House will see that this could have made a significant contribution to their problems. I had not really meant to bring in all those figures, but the noble Lord asked for them, and so there they are.

As well as directing our aid to the poorest countries, we are giving special emphasis to the poorest groups of people in those countries, and that, of course, means towards rural development. It is a fairly new policy that we have been developing for the last year or so. I think all noble Lords who have been interested in this problem for some time have realised that what we have called the "trickle down "effects have not really happened. It was thought that if you put a lot of money into a country somehow it would filter down to the poorest, but that is not really the way it happens. So it is essential that those nations giving aid become more directly involved in the effort to achieve social progress. Here again there are difficulties; this whole problem bristles with complications and difficulties of every kind, because responsibility for development must remain with the developing countries. Chapter 3 of the White Paper explains that, while donor nations must have a voice in the way the aid is used, we cannot dictate the aid programmes. I think the Third World now understands that we want the money to go to those people most in need, and, of course, that means mainly the rural population.

This is not just a matter of agriculture, though this, of course, must be at the heart of the programme. It is not a question simply of increasing the peasant farmer's income, though that is important. The aim must be to improve the quality of life in the rural areas, through improvements not only in agriculture but in health, housing, education, communications, roads and all the rest of it, so that life in the countryside is worth living, not just for the peasants, but for doctors, irrigation experts, engineers, anyone you like. All right, maybe it is a grandiose aim, as the noble Lord said, but that is what we are trying to do, and it is something towards it.

Of course, we must not forget the urban poor, and I shall come back to them later on. I think my right honourable friend has made clear our willingness to provide all assistance within our capabilities to maximise local food production, and to provide for its equitable distribution, which is almost equally important. I know that noble Lords in all parts of the House are very concerned about food aid, and in the short term this is absolutely essential, as, for instance, lately in the tragedy in the Sahelian zone. But it is often a disincentive to agricultural development, and that is why we prefer to programme our aid through the World Food Programme as a channel. Our aim is to provide food aid in support of economic and social development projects, although, of course, the House will know that we have played an honourable part when local disasters have overtaken different parts of the world.

It is not possible to speak of food problems in the developing world without referring to the population problem. Most developing countries are caught up in a vicious circle of poverty and high population growth. The counterpart to increasing food production is population control. This is fully dealt with in Chapter 5 of the White Paper, which some noble Lords may want me to come back to later. The key to it, particularly for the poorest countries, is for more concessional aid to enable them to accelerate development programmes which will uplift the quality of life, because we know that the higher the quality of living, particularly for the women, the more the birthrate drops, and of course so do the infant mortality figures. This is another of those complications, but a welcome one.

We must not forget the urban poor either. Not only in the rural areas are there poor but also in conurbations, which have grown up because life in the rural areas had so little to offer; peasants flocked to the cities, not only in search of employment and the bright lights and all the rest of it, but for better education, for better medical facilities and the housing which is often there.

May I turn to another aspect of the subject. We cannot consider aid without referring to trade. The noble Lord, Lord Reay, was kind enough to tell me that he was going to refer to the Tindemans proposals, but, if I may, I should like to deal with them later, because I think other noble Lords may want to talk about them, and EEC development. Of course, in these matters we work through the European Community. In all parts of the House I think your Lordships realise that membership of the Community has added a new dimension to our aid and to our trade relationships with the developing countries. A very important part of this, of course, was our participation in the Lomé Convention. Noble Lords have often discussed the Lomé Convention and I have often described it in your Lordships' House, and I will not weary you by doing it again. We all agree that it is a step towards a more outward-going development of the Community. Of course, many of the most populous and some of the poorest countries lie outside the Lomé arrangements, and what we have been trying to do is to put the Community development policy on a more worldwide basis. In some ways I think it is a test of the Community, whether it is to be Chauvinist and inward-looking or more internationally-minded and outward-looking, how it deals with this question of aid to countries outside the Lomé Convention. We have, therefore, pressed for a better balance in Community aid, for exactly the same reasons that underlie the strategy in our White Paper. Development co-operation is, of course, inevit- ably an international effort. This brings me to the third important piece of strategy of the White Paper to which the noble Lord referred; that is, to promote situations in which our concessional aid can stimulate matching concessional aid from other Governments, and to encourage both bilateral and multilateral aid towards the poorest countries.

I know also that the House is always anxious to know what part we are playing in the international organisations. I was very glad that our efforts in this connection were praised by the noble Lord, Lord Reay. Chapter 8 of the White Paper sets out how very numerous they are and, roughly, the policies we are pursuing as part of our overall aid strategy. We are trying to play a full part in various international responses to the serious situation which now faces the countries, and I could give a list of our priorities, but I think I have probably been going on long enough.

High on our list of priorities is successful replenishment of the funds of the International Development Association. Noble Lords will be interested to know that that will be meeting tomorrow in London and we expect a very good conference. I want to refer to one other; namely the, for once imaginatively named, Third Window—such a nice title, I think. It is a World Bank facility which is an intermediate lending facility, and that will concentrate, too, mainly on the poorest countries. Funds to finance the subsidy of lending rates are being provided by a number of countries. We have agreed to contribute. But, regrettably, again not enough has been promised to enable the Bank to reach the 1 billion dollars target for the Window. It will cover lending of only about 600 million dollars, but it is a beginning. There are various other important new funds, like the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and so on. We have tried to play a constructive part in all this, and we promised to contribute £15 million to agricultural development, provided other donor countries will also make appropriate contributions.

It is difficult to summarise a White Paper of this complexity and to deal with the whole aid programme in a short speech, but I hope that the House will see the publication of this White Paper mainly as a confirmation, and particularly an expansion, of existing policies already in operation. I hope that the debate today will show that the House is firmly behind what we are trying to do and is resolved, notwithstanding our own difficulties, to try to help the needs of those whose lives are infinitely worse than our own. The Prime Minister reminded us recently that we must not be frightened of the size of the problem, but must do all we can to alleviate it not only for reasons of common humanity but because it is in the interests of us all that the developing countries should become prosperous members of the world community.

If I may quote Mr. Ramphal again, he said: No global economic system can be judged satisfactory that fails to serve the basic needs of the people of this planet. Their needs for food, for shelter, for health, and for the development of the intellect that marks them out as humans.

3.51 p.m.

Baroness ELLES

My Lords, we owe a debt of gratitude to my noble friend Lord Reay, not only for initiating this debate on a subject which is of both national and international significance, but also for the substance and form of his important introduction to the debate. He has spoken with considerable experience and knowledge of aid from Members to non-Member States through the agencies of, and in connection with, the European Community, and our role as a Member of the Community. We on this side of the House are grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Llewellyn-Davies of Hastoe, for the way in which she responded to this introduction by my noble friend, and for the many facts and figures that she gave to the House this afternoon. At this stage perhaps I should also say how much we on these Benches join both with the noble Baroness and my noble friend in their expression of deep feeling with regard to our colleague Richard Cowley.

The objectives of British aid under successive Governments have been to contribute to raising the standard of living of those who live in countries which do not yet share the same standards we enjoy in this part of the world. The changing emphasis of the Government, as expressed in the White Paper, is to direct particular attention and effort to the poorest groups of society in the poorest countries of the world. This is an objective with which no one would disagree, but, as the White Paper very clearly and openly says, it is very much easier said than done. It is not entirely apparent that the answer is given as to how this objective is to be achieved.

The total effectiveness of British aid must be in direct relation to Britain's own political and economic strength, and the greatest contribution that Britain can make is through economic growth for its own people, strengthening its currency, and checking inflation. An increase in wages in the United Kingdom can mean an increase in hunger in India, or in some other part of the world. The sale overseas of urgently needed machinery, fertilisers, processed foods (as the noble Baroness so rightly says), at inflated and ever-increasing prices is a major drawback to continued economic development of the purchasers of those goods. The fall in the value of the pound which, in a recent table of OECD, was 27 per cent. in the last five years, makes a considerable dent in the value of our aid. Inflated salaries and wages in real terms means that for a much higher figure the same number of personnel is available for service overseas; and this point has already been made by my noble friend Lord Reay.

The very threat of import controls can mean unemployment in countries where massive unemployment is already the norm. Oxfam has rightly drawn attention to apparent unrelated policies of different Government Departments. Aid to a country can mean unemployment in this country, and what adjustments are made where assistance is given overseas? It seems that the necessity of flexible reactions of a market economy are not possible in a country overburdened by Government intervention in industrial affairs. The lower our productivity the less likely it is, and the harder it becomes, for us even to attempt to reach this target of 0.7 per cent. of GNP.

If I appear to insist on this aspect it is because, regardless of Government, the growing economies of all nations, whatever their size, are generating increasing interdependence, such as is clearly shown in the case of consumer products and raw materials. It also emphasises the growing interrelationship of both domestic and foreign policies. I think it can be said that the progressive economic development of States depends on the economic success of Western countries. The so-called North-South dialogue could really more accurately be called the West-South dialogue if we are to see the future of Southern countries improving as we would wish to see.

The inflationary situation has engendered enormous difficulties in balance of payments, such that only last week at Geneva it was realised that new methods and approaches must be considered to deal with increasing trade deficits. Indeed, I would endorse the suggestion contained in the White Paper that changes in domestic policy might be a satisfactory solution, and indeed also what is true of some countries might also apply to others. In fact, it is a criticism, if a criticism is to be made, of this White Paper—and it is not always easy, I appreciate, in a document of this kind, to achieve the right kind of balance—that the tone of the document tends to be, if I may say so from this side of the House, in the shades of a Colonialist approach; of a rich country handing out benefit to the poor. But the needs and the aspirations of other countries are no longer stated in these terms in the international for a of the world, and we must take account of the expression of these countries as equal partners in a new economic relationship.

The White Paper does not appear to take into account the views expressed of the receiver countries. This must surely be a point which must be taken into account if aid is to be successful. Perhaps we have had a lesson with the negotiations over the Lomé Convention. I think that this has been a major contribution to real co-operation between one part of the world and another on equal terms, and both with the same objectives.

The reasons for extreme poverty in each country are very many, and there is really not one global solution. As the noble Baroness so rightly said, the whole problem bristles with difficulties, for the reason that poverty can be caused by natural disasters, failure of crops, earthquakes or floods, and the dimensions of these disasters, and their consequences, can be incalculable, horrifying, and, of course, long term. We welcome the setting up of a disaster relief scheme, which is reported in this document and which, we consider, can be of extreme value in these situations. We shall certainly watch its progress and success with the greatest of interest. The role of voluntary organisations in this kind of scheme —and the necessity, as well, for trained and experienced personnel—will, of course, not be overlooked.

The emphasis on rural development is surely right, not only because it inures to the benefit of those who live on and off the land but also to implement policies of self-sufficiency in food production. The European Community is indeed a leading example of making a region mainly self-sufficient for its major food needs. There is nothing wrong in creating surpluses. Who would not rather live in an area of surplus than in an area where there is a lack of food?

The gradual development of economic regions throughout the world—in Central and East Africa, South-East Asia, certain South American groupings—is the basis of creating economic areas which could become self-sufficient for their food needs, with their own distribution and communications networks; these would contribute to overcoming the worst and most serious problem of humanity today, that of hunger. It is no longer tolerable to society —I am sure that this is a view shared by all sides of your Lordships'House—that, in an age of scientific and technological development in such a State as ours, there should still be millions of people having insufficient nourishment.

New methods of increasing agricultural production are being discovered, and one particular element which has been very much neglected and overlooked hitherto in more ambitious schemes has been an understanding of the psychology of the farming community. One experimental station in Italy was started under Shell in a modest little house in a very poor village in Tuscany, and the same kind of scheme is now being repeated in Thailand and Nigeria. This scheme has concentrated on training indigenous teachers to encourage their own farmers to try new methods, new techniques and the use of new strains of grain and so on, and this is having remarkable results in the output of food production. This is, of course, a slow, long-term solution but it appears to work and it appears to last. We very much commend this new scheme as it is being implemented and we hope that the Government, if they have not already looked at it, will consider it in their training schemes. This new approach also takes into account the social development of all the members of the local community, a point which the noble Baroness rightly stressed; the progressive development of the role of women, the primary education of children and the basic health needs of the local community.

UNICEF's latest report—UNICEF has done an enormous amount of work in regard to health programmes for children in poorer areas of the world—indicates that high food prices and unemployment are affecting the nutrition of children, particularly of course those in the low income groups; and the basic difficulties of health service and other needs—village water supplies, the working and home conditions of women—are outlined in this latest report. These are difficulties which UNICEF is facing the whole time in many parts of the world. If the progressive social development of these communities is to prosper, these difficulties will have to be overcome.

Projects have so often sounded good on paper but in practice have failed because they have not taken into account the multiplicity of factors involved, such as the various relationships, family needs, village life and so on. I am sure that noble Lords who read the many documents related to this problem will have read the case where a chicken farm was started with great gusto and was meant to produce great wealth to the village. In fact all it meant was an enormous extra amount of work for the women, who have to walk much further for much more water, and of course this upsets the whole village life. That is a simple illustration of what can happen if schemes are not properly worked out in the places where they are to take place.

In the meantime, it is essential to continue also with food aid wherever it may be needed, though from the observations made of the effects of food aid on food production and prices there is an inference that there is not so much a lack of food in the world as an economic problem in terms of profits and distribution. However, I maintain that the first aid that is needed in all emergencies is food, which should never be denied for any reason. Whether or not there is a danger of upsetting the market, I still think that food aid is essential to provide the nutrition that is needed, otherwise that nutrition will simply not reach the people who are in need of it.

Many of the currently accepted theories are based on the thought that over-population is one of the main causes of hunger, and here I shall probably be differing from some of the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Llewellyn-Davies, although I do not think I shall be differing so much in the conclusions. The attitude of the West to the curtailing of family size has indeed been very much resented and objected to in many parts of the world, and those of us who have served in the United Nations will also have heard the very severe objections of many people, particularly in African and some South American countries where in fact there is a great shortage of population. As the noble Baroness rightly said, there is a great diversity in these countries and one cannot accept one global solution for all countries which have a minimum form of income.

Economic development will be possible only Where there is sufficient manpower and labour of the right age groups. Economic growth in the West, for example, has come in parallel with an enormous growth in population. It is true—here I absolutely agree with the noble Baroness—that once a certain level of national wealth has been attained the high birth rate generally declines, but the resolution of the World Population Conference in Bucharest in 1974 should be recalled: that Governments should select the elements that they considered to be appropriate in their diverse national situations, and that different demographic situations should be taken into account. Indeed, the elimination of people has never meant, and never will mean, the elimination of poverty. On the contrary, by upsetting the natural balance of age groups in relation to total population, the increasing numbers of elderly cannot be sustained by the declining numbers of young. The advisability of the interference by British Governments through their agencies in the population control of other countries should, therefore, be questioned.

Gandhi always asserted that India's greatest wealth was its manpower size—I say that with respect to the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland—and that India's policies should be directed to labour-intensive industries to utilise that manpower, which he considered to be one of their great resources. Capital-intensive industries should not be regarded as the only desirable end for all countries of all sizes; we have to use what available resources there are and make the most of them. A decline in population is not necessarily the right answer, although I absolutely accept that, in countries where there is an escalating population, measures have to be taken—but by the Governments concerned and not by outside interference.

One aspect of the depletion of population relates of course to the emigration of trained personel. This is a very serious problem which perhaps has not received sufficient attention in the White Paper. Britain has always played a leading role in providing training in universities, law schools, medical schools and technological institutes for overseas students. This great contribution to the development of science and technology and its transfer to other parts of the world should not be stopped or restricted. The benefits are incalculable but they are real and if, for example, the Department of Education and Science cannot afford to bear the costs of overseas students, consideration might be given to transferring the additional costs to the Overseas Development Ministry as a contribution to overseas aid.

There is, however, one aspect of the transfer of technology with which many countries are concerned, and that of course is the brain drain. Once these people are trained in countries where there is a higher standard of living and higher salaries are obtainable, there is a natural marked reluctance for such personnel to return to their home countries, where they are urgently needed. One need only think of the movement of doctors to this country or, for example, the enormous number of teachers who have left Egypt to go to other Arabian States. This would seem to call for an international initiative. This problem cannot be solved at local level. It is the kind of problem on which perhaps the United Kingdom could play a useful role in taking an initiative to produce some form of agreement as to the movement of trained people to ensure that they should at least have some duty to the countries from which they come or some form of exchange to ensure that the services of those who come to wealthier countries to be trained are not lost to their home countries, where they are so badly needed.

We must also ask

how effective is the aid we have been giving? Does it help, either economically or politically? In my researches into this subject it has seemed to me that there are very few studies which can actually show how the aid which we have given has been used and what effect it has had on the populations of the recipient countries. An interesting new book called Aid and Development, produced by the Overseas Development Institute, by Catherine Morton, has some interesting things to say. However, it seems to me that they are very difficult to prove by way of cause and effect; one can see an effect, but one cannot always necessarily ascribe the cause to aid. People have had many conflicting theories about overseas aid and this book at least seeks to state objectively what the theories may be and how they may or may not work.

An interesting point made in this book is that concessionary aid can be much more effective than tied aid; the idea of having local and recurrent expenses paid through aid can often be more effective than giving one lump-sum grant. It is the recurrence of the possibility of being able to go on with a programme over, say, a limited period of years that may in the end have more effect than just one down payment. Certainly grants to most areas are much more effective and useful than loans, which can have a deleterious effect on the balance of payments. All sorts of other problems, such as the adverse effects of the development of synthetic fibres, arise. There is a whole range of problems which we do not always take into account when considering how our aid will affect recipient countries and what we are doing in this country which may negate the aid which we are giving in some form or another. It therefore seems that the problem is a very deep one and one which has very many facets. I believe that the White Paper does not go into them in sufficient depth.

The relationship of trade and aid is one which affects this country both as a trading nation and particularly as a result of our historical links with other Commonwealth countries. I shall not go into details about this particular aspect because my noble friend Lord Newall—who, perhaps I should say, will be speaking from the Front Bench for the first time and whom we welcome —will be dealing with this question of trade.

With an ever increasing need for foreign investment, there is a new and constructive outlook on the part of some countries as to the useful role which can be played by multinational companies and by private investment in general. The control of natural resources by the Governments concerned must be respected. Indeed, we expect it in our own country with North Sea oil. OECD has drawn up some very useful guidelines as a code of conduct for multinational companies. Egypt has introduced a new law—43/74 —for the guarantee of non-nationalisation of certain foreign investments and the operation of certain companies within free zones. This, coupled with policies for technical assistance and training of local personnel, is a practical contribution which will encourage foreign investment.

The role of Britain in the development of social and economic progress must depend on its ability, together with the other EEC Member-States, to provide easily accessible markets for the products of newly industrialised countries and to recognise the changing demand of these countries. Traditional and accepted differences no longer exist, but we must with limited resources, turn our attention to those where need is greatest. For instance, we only have to think of the present position in Africa of Zambia and Zaire which will need increasing aid in their present situation. I hope that the Government will be looking at that area to see where aid can be directed.

The United Nations Seventh Special Session recognised the ever-increasing participation by all States in international trade and we shall have to be prepared to meet the consequences of the development and to adjust our own economic and trading policies accordingly. The Lomé Convention has provided a major contributing factor to these new policies by stabilising the prices of certain commodities. The processing of raw materials in producer countries and the consequent effect upon labour and employment policies, the provision of markets and foreign exchange, limitation on price and exchange rate fluctuations and the removal of tariff barriers are all part of the contribution of Europe to better living conditions in other parts of the world. Ultimately, however, the success of our aid policies will depend on the strength of our own economy and our own policies in our country. As a country which still has influence in the world, we can continue to seek to make a positive contribution to the raising of standards of living in the world and to the maintenance of peace, which will be the only hope for future generations.

4.15 p.m.


My Lords, like the two noble Baronesses before me, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Reay, for bringing about this debate. The noble Lord has much experience in these matters and he used it to good effect in his interesting and thoughtful opening speech. I tell myself at the beginning of a debate of this kind—or rather I remind myself —that the hungry, for whom our aid is primarily designed, are unable to eat our words and they cannot make use of the mountains of cellulose which have been written about aid to undeveloped countries. I hope that I can welcome the White Paper without criticism of this kind. I do not believe that it is too long, though, in certain areas, it lacked a sense of reality or, to be more precise, it lacked detail.

I was very pleased to see that Her Majesty's Government do not look on our contribution to aid in isolation. I also seem to recognise—though it is perhaps not put so clearly as it was put by the noble Lord, Lord Reay—that the lack of resources in the United Kingdom economy at the moment restricts how much we can do on our own. I think it worth mentioning in passing that, in certain parts of Scotland, there are communities which are living below subsistence level both in the country and in urban areas. We do not get "aid "through the European Economic Community, though we are entitled to it. We call it instead "grants ". I feel that there is a distinction there, but I do not want to forget those people and those communities when speaking about rural poverty overseas.

What I am attempting this afternoon is to try to be as realistic and down to earth as possible in assessing the form in which aid given by the United Kingdom can be of assistance to the poorest or, indeed, to the rural development programmes which have already been spoken about this afternoon. It may be worth while to ask ourselves first why the Ministry chose rural development as the target for the White Paper. I believe that it will be helpful to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Llewellyn-Davies, in reading out an extract from the 1975 Report of the World Bank because I believe that that gives us the answer. It says: Almost 650 million people in the developing world are considered to live in absolute poverty.… Of this total, 600 million or 80 per cent. live in rural areas. Their number is growing by approximately 2 per cent. every year. The Bank believes that rural development, properly conceived and carried out, need not conflict with the objectives of higher food production. Indeed … in the longer run, increases in food production of the magnitude required to satisfy world-wide demand can only be achieved by helping small farmers increase their productivity and output. It is one thing to identify the problem but quite another to offer a solution, even when the lines of international credit have been opened on a scale such as has never before been seen. These have included the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the Third Window mentioned by the noble Baroness and the various other sources of credit which have been discussed this afternoon. I have scanned the White Paper and the valuable contributions made in the debate in another place last year for some guidance on this matter, but have so far found nothing positive. It is therefore with some hesitation that I propose to make what may sound an obvious suggestion, which is one which may have been overlooked by others who are far more qualified than myself.

My suggestion is that further study should be given by Her Majesty's Government towards using their influence to introduce a guaranteed incentive in order to increase production by small producers of food grains. This can only be achieved by increasing the price at the village gate to a level whereby the small cultivator will be encouraged to grow surpluses which can be exchanged locally for extra goods and services to increase the standard of living for himself and his family. This philosophy, though extremely simple in concept, is often difficult or impossible to achieve in reality. For instance, in a year when there is a shortage of food, a central Government may feel that it has a duty to acquire crops from the producer at the lowest possible price in order to maintain a minimum increase in price to the consumer. In times of national crisis, compulsory methods of acquisition from the producer are sometimes used to prevent social and political unrest. On the other hand, the producer suffers equally in a good year because there is difficulty in selling his crops at a fair price and because local storage facilities may be inadequate to accommodate surpluses until the following season.

What I am asking the Government to do, my Lords, is to use their influence, as they did in bringing about the Lomé Convention and the Stabex Scheme, which guarantees a base export price for commodities, to suggest a similar arrangement whereby a fair price is guaranteed to rural producers of cash crops at the village gate. One could, I suppose, call it a "Stabpro Scheme". Such a scheme would act as an immediate incentive to produce local surpluses, and could also be financed by the international loan agencies referred to earlier, which should be specifically allocated to recipient Governments for this purpose. At local levels a system of rural credit similar to the World Bank scheme could ensure a fair price to the producer, while the central Government would be enabled to stabilise food grain prices to the consumer through the new international lines of credit. I suspect that UNCTAD IV might provide a suitable airing ground for such a scheme if it should find acceptance on the Benches opposite.

My Lords, let us consider for a moment that, if such a scheme had been in operation before the OPEC oil price rise, the Green Revolution might still be alive and well. Unfortunately, the massive increase in fertiliser and fuel costs forced many cultivators who were practising modern production methods back to their traditional ways again. As there was no compensating increase in village gate prices, many progressive farmers were ruined or lost their lands through falling in debt to the moneylender, or through a breakdown in the local credit system. The Select Committee on Overseas Development has already recognised this sad state of affairs in its Report, and has made special reference to India. Whether or not such a scheme as I have put forward has merit is not for me to say, but the point I wish to establish before embarking on the technical aspects of rural aid is simply this. It is no good providing the cultivator with appropriate tools for progress if he does not receive in return a regular increase in goods and services from the surpluses he can produce with them.

I turn now to the technical hardware that, hopefully, will be sent from this country and other developed countries to assist in rural and countryside programmes. I believe there has been criticism of the White Paper in some quarters, in that a large percentage (60 per cent.) of the aid from Britain to less developed countries is to be tied. I am afraid I do not consider this has a great deal of validity at this time because I believe there are far more relevant considerations. For instance, the type of aid programme and the kind of items contained in it should be given, in the terms of the White Paper, a top priority. Regrettably, as many noble Lords are well aware, history has shown that too large a percentage of the funds originally sent with the best of intentions to help less developed countries have been utilised in promoting the wrong type of programmes, which have not added materially to rural productivity.

Similarly, my Lords, a large proportion of the hardware delivered to rural areas is now rusting away for want of a simple spare part such as an oil seal or a clutch plate. Too often there has been no infrastructure to support the use of internal combustion engines in these areas; and in places where such infrastructure has existed the high cost of fuel has now made it quite impossible to use mechanical equipment efficiently, because it is uneconomic in terms of cash receipts from the extra crops harvested.

Therefore, what is the kind of criteria that we should have in mind when we look at the items we are sending to developing countries? I have listed five, and for brevity I shall read them out. First and foremost, in my view, my Lords, they should be designed to fit in with the self-help policies pursued by the donee nation or the recipient nation. Secondly, they must assist in implementing the decentralisation programmes of the recipient nation. Thirdly, these items should be of low capital cost and, hopefully, labour-intensive, and they should not rely on any further servicing or know-how from outside the recipient nation. Furthermore, they should not upset the traditional systems of agriculture, but at the same time should improve productivity and the marketability of the local output. Finally—this is why I believe that the banking system that I have just briefly touched on is perhaps the best vehicle for assisting in rural and countryside programmes—these items should prove applicable for World Bank and CDFC loans under rural credit programmes. This can assist the local credit rating of the small cultivator, either under the traditional moneylender system or, indeed, under any system which may be more sophisticated. This will encourage him, not only to grow more but also, perhaps, to expand into other, secondary crops, where at the moment he cannot afford the risk and has not the money to do so.

The World Bank and major aid-giving agencies in both the public and private sectors of the industrialised nations now recognise that countryside programmes, if they are to be effective, must be specifically tailored to meet the special needs of the recipient nations in the Third World; this, in turn, calls for a recognition by British industry and Western technology as a whole that it must produce appropriate hardware to suit the requirements of the end user —that is, the small farmer or co-operative operating within a hostile environment. Selling goods that do not come under this heading of appropriate technology, and which are aimed solely at creating further reliance on an industrialised nation, must create future problems for less developed countries in the long run. Such goods and such services can rightly be described as "tied "in this context, and in my opinion should not be part of an aid programme, in that they undermine the basic principles of the White Paper and, indeed, all beneficial aid.

My Lords, it may also be worth mentioning, in view of the tragedy in Guatemala, that we are exporting on an emergency basis a number of items. So are many other countries, but if they look anything like the kind of things that I saw on television the other night, much of it is considerable rubbish and much of it is quite unpractical for the situation over there. I feel there is still a great lack of understanding of what a less developed country's problems are, what a disaster area is and what should be given. The Ministry has already given us some guidelines in the White Paper, but I think they could perhaps make voluntary organisations and industry as a whole more aware of the kind of arte-fact which is required to assist people in these areas which we are doing our best to help.

I wish now to turn briefly to disaster aid. I should like us to consider for a moment what causes the disasters which we read about and which get such publicity year after year. It is usually drought or flood, to name but two; I feel that some of the aid programmes put forward in the White Paper should perhaps go towards trying to prevent the causes of such disasters. One way is by the planting or replanting of trees in the deforested areas in the hill country, either in India or in parts of Africa; or to replant those trees whose disappearance has created the growing deserts in Africa and elsewhere.

What happens to aid of this kind is unfortunate; I have met some of the Ministers of Forests from less developed countries. Theirs is not a political post; it is not a post which has great funds at its disposal; it often gets very low priority in a developing country's programme. I think one way in which the United Kingdom Government can assist is to support the Minister of Forests, whose appointment is usually non-political he is usually a man of the trees who knows his subject and who knows the areas—and encourage the programmes put forward from the forestry section of the recipient nations. The private sector of forestry is already giving advice on quite a large scale to such areas and to such Ministers. The Forestry Commission is already engaged in many schemes of afforestation. I believe that both these areas can be more greatly supported and understood than they are at the moment.

My Lords, I put in a plea for the mini-disaster area which can be created, perhaps unwittingly, but which does not reach the headlines. I feel that all it requires is a small amount of money from the West which could be specifically earmarked for this objective; that is, something must be done about the goats. It is no use trying to plant new forests, no use going into clonal methods of planting, and no use increasing productivity enormously, if the domestic goat cannot be contained, eradicated or replaced in these areas. One broken strand of wire can put back years of work in development upon which people have so many hopes towards creating a new form of economy for the particular area. This is a small point, but if we in the West were prepared, officially, to understand that this is a major problem in the village areas, we may find better receptivity to some of our other broader suggestions.

Finally, I want to mention another area where Western technology can be of assistance. I declare an interest in the sense that I have encouraged a company, of which I am a director, to design two such systems, which I am about to describe. In disaster areas there appear to be no multiple storage systems of essential food grains, of cooking oil, or even, in some cases, of water. It would seem advantageous, especially in areas subject to earthquakes or major natural disruptions of flood and drought, that there are located strategically central but local supply points that are storage systems both pilfer-proof and termite-proof that can be used and controlled by a Government Agency in the area and which will be available at least to provide the essential services of food and sustenance as soon as a disaster has struck. As we know, in Guatemala the difficulty is in getting the goods, once they have been given, to the area where they are most needed. I suggest that we in the West could offer aid specifically designed to prevent aid being given and re-given to the same areas for the same kind of things because such a system has not been in operation.

My Lords, I want to be brief. I would conclude with something which is only my own view but I feel that I may not be alone in this. If we take an attitude of aid to less developed countries or to the rural poor, as we are discussing this afternoon, an attitude that it is really a few coppers in the poor box on Sundays, as the noble Baroness, Lady Llewellyn-Davies, has mentioned, it is not only doomed to failure but the repercussions of failure of rural aid programmes by the Western nations may create, I believe, by the turn of the century a situation which could lead to a new Dark Age at best. At worst, it could lead to a Dark Age that has no end. Therefore, this is not a subject which should be discussed only once a year or on Sundays, but is one that we should somehow be consciously aware of far more than we are. The quality of the speeches so far today has been encouraging. I look forward to hearing the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Bradwell, and I have no doubt that quality will be maintained throughout the debate as well as the sincerity of the speakers in it.

4.35 p.m.


My Lords, since this is the first occasion on which I have had the honour of addressing your Lordships I must plead the customary indulgence and promise to be as brief and as non-contentious as I can be, though I will not promise never to repeat anything that has been said already since one of the hazards of approaching this kind of ordeal is to over prepare. I may mention, incidentally, that this is my second maiden speech in this Chamber, for when I first entered the Commons House of Parliament in 1942 that House, as some of your Lordships may remember, had been bombed out of its own premises and had occupied this much grander Chamber, your Lordships being removed to much more modest quarters.

There is at least one gleam of light, or there are a few gleams perhaps, among the prevailing dark clouds in that the Chancellor, in that terrible catalogue of cuts, did at least spare the poorest people in the world from any attack on the standard of living. For that we must be grateful. I think the White Paper is rightly named because there has been an extraordinary change in the whole strategy of aid in this country and in the Government. Until a few years ago most of us thought of the right way of tackling this problem as being, as it were, to encapsulate some centuries of our own industrial progress in a few industrial centres in developing countries which therefore had to be already partly developed. Now we understand better that the nub of the problem is rural.

Various figures have been quoted today. It is very difficult to calculate exactly how many of the populations of the developing countries are living in what is called absolute poverty. My noble friend Lady Llewellyn-Davies in a most interesting speech said, I think, 63 per cent. Unless I misunderstood him, the noble Lord who preceded me quoted from a World Bank report the figure of 80 per cent. I have also heard from fairly good sources the figure of 70 per cent. I think it is somewhere between 60 per cent. and 70 per cent. in so far as one can calculate it at all; but it shows that much greater emphasis must in future be laid where the White Paper lays it: on the absolute poverty of the people in the rural areas of the developing countries.

Both my noble friend and the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, in what, if I may say with respect, I found a most interesting speech, quoted vivid examples of the reality of absolute poverty. My own personal experience and observation of it was some years ago. I do not mention the actual country for I believe a good deal of progress has been made; but it was in a remote part of Africa, a very primitive tribe, a cattle-owning tribe, whose sustenance was almost entirely blood and milk, who, every year without fail at a certain season, had to drive all their cattle, accompanied by all the tribe, men, women, children and babies, more than 100 miles to where there was at that season a possible grazing ground for the cattle. In the course of that terrible annual trek or pilgrimage among the hundreds of people involved would be many women, old men, babies and pregnant women who fell by the wayside and died, and there was no help for them at all. It was most extraordinary that this should go on year after year. I hope that this no longer happens, though I cannot say for sure.

In the simplest terms, what do people need in these rural areas? First of all, they need water and electric power to help distribute the water; they need roads, of course, and some agricultural techniques which are rather more advanced than those they commonly have. The grand objectives of all these provisions must be not only to help them to help themselves—which is really a clichéof aid—but to create an effective mass purchasing power. This is the only way in which economic growth can be promoted in any country.

Another respect in which our ideas on this subject have changed is this. We used to think—at least, many of us, including myself, did that multilateral aid was always preferable to bilateral aid because bilateral aid could carry the stigma of paternalism and patronage, especially as between a former imperial Power and one of its colonial subject nations. This was an attitude which I think the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, professed to find implied in the White Paper we are now discussing. Unfortunately, we have learned by experience that for various reasons the organising of multilateral aid is apt to be a very slow process and, after all, the need is always urgent, desperately urgent. Thousands are dying daily from starvation in many parts of the world, and so there has to be bilateral aid, Government to Government. There need be no objection to that, I think, if the receiving Government have the will and intention so to order their affairs as to help their poorest citizens to increase their purchasing power. If that is there, then we need have no objection. But of course we have the right to be satisfied that the nations to whom we provide aid —and that aid comes, after all, from our taxpayers'money—should have that intention. These are the only "strings "which should be attached to aid.

There are two other aspects which are not absolutely central to the White Paper or to this debate but which are nevertheless relevant to our consideration of the whole subject. One is the terrible havoc and suffering caused by what must be called ironically "acts of God ", and the suffering caused by the wicked folly of man. In such disasters as the Guatemalan earthquake, which has been mentioned already, the help provided by Governments can be most usefully supplemented by voluntary agencies such as Christian Aid, Oxfam, War on Want and all the rest of them. The same is true of the consequences of such man-made disasters as the war in Vietnam, for which Western countries—first, France and then, on an appalling and vast scale, the United States—bear a heavy responsibility. Here, too, one British agency in particular, Medical Aid for Vietnam, has been doing excellent work. It sends them not only drugs and medical supplies, but also large quantities of medical and scientific journals for doctors, scientists and university professors. These journals are accepted and eagerly devoured, because most of them are in English or in French and both languages are well understood there.

In Vietnam, also, the strategy of the White Paper is being applied. Since last April some half a million people have been helped to return to villages which they had to leave during the fighting. There are enormous difficulties still confronting them. The ground is littered, for example, with unexploded bombs. The noble Lord who preceded me mentioned trees and afforestation. In so far as they are lasting, the consequences of what I regard as one of the most barbarous of all the devices used in Vietnam have to be dealt with: I refer to the use of defoliants and herbicides. I gather that Her Majesty's Government are now making a proper contribution to UNICEF for the special needs of children in Vietnam. I hope that is true, and I shall be very glad if my noble friend, when she sneaks again, is able to confirm this. I believe many Governments, particularly in Scandinavia, are contributing most generously to the rehabilitation of that country, which has been torn by war for more years than most of us realise—since before the end of the Second World War.

The debate and the White Paper itself have been chiefly concerned with economic and technical matters. The economic case for maximising aid to the greatest possible degree is very strong; the moral case is truly overwhelming. I need not go into details of this in a House in which so many of your Lordships will be familiar with the moral imperatives—including of course the right reverend Prelates who sit very near to this Bench. Perhaps I might wind up with one phrase alone: the maximising of aid to the poorest in the poorest countries is surely the answer to the age-old question, "Who is my neighbour? "

4.48 p.m.


My Lords, it is with very great pleasure that I rise to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bradwell, known to so many of us as Mr. Tom Driberg, on his maiden speech. It is not the first time that your Lordships have heard former Members of another place tell us how they made their maiden speeches as such, in the middle of the War, in your Lordships' Chamber. The noble Lord has had a long experience in another place—I am sure your Lordships will join me in hoping that he will have an equally long experience here—and he arrives with a great reputation. We have listened with enormous interest to what he had to say. I found the noble Lord's maiden speech most moving, since he spoke from experience and from the heart, and, I know that, because of his experience, he can and will speak on many subjects. I assure him that we shall look forward to hearing him on many occasions in the future.

I should also like to congratulate the Government on this White Paper. Obviously, we cannot give as much as we should like, owing to our financial position, but it seems to me that the money that we do give will be well spent. I am no expert on this subject, but I have been associated with agriculture all my life. I have visited one African country, Nigeria, and I can appreciate the problems in the under-developed countries. Also, as for three years I was a delegate to the United Nations and worked on a committee which very often discussed these problems, I can understand the enormous difficulties and know what great importance we should attach to this subject.

It is stressed in the White Paper that the policy of teaching people to grow their own food is of great importance, and is right. In terms of agriculture it may not be the most economic, but for countries where there is no labour shortage, and whose interests lie in employing as many people as possible on the land, the slogan, "Grow more food, yourself "is the right one. In my travels around the world, I have found that the country which has done most to cultivate what appears to be extremely difficult and hopeless land is the State of Israel. Sand, desert and poor land seem to be no barrier to the skill with which the Israelis are improving the soil. Much can also be done in the under-developed countries where those skills are known to the people. So I suggest that when help is being sought from the FAO, or any other United Nations organisation, people should be made to realise that the experts in Israel are there to give advice based on long experience in very difficult conditions.

I should like to praise the voluntary organisations which have pioneered so much in many parts of the world. I think, in particular, of Oxfam, War on Want and VSOs. I have some experience of the Voluntary Service Overseas people who were helping in Zambia when my brother, who was a member of a team from the FAO, was working in that country for three years. I remember him saying that the VSOs made it possible to do so much more than could have been done through the United Nations Organisation, of which he was at that time a member. We cannot under-estimate the contribution made by voluntary organisations. I was very interested in what the noble Baroness, Lady Llewellyn-Davies, said about family planning and the help we can give in that field.

It has been suggested to me, by one of the voluntary organisations which I consulted, that the Government might consider closer co-ordination between the various organisations and agencies. For example, the Ministry of Overseas Development does not appear to have a very close association with the Department of Health and Social Security on health matters and when medical supplies are going out to developing countries. Furthermore, the Strategic Exports Committee, which also covers a wide range of exports to many countries, occasionally works without consultation with other Departments. So this might be looked at to see whether there can be more efficient administration between the various Departments. It is also possible that, if and when a developing country has learned to supply a certain kind of food, changes will be needed in the Government Departments which are providing services, and improved co-ordination here is of the greatest importance. It is necessary to have some plan to safeguard the interests of workers in Britain, should changes in demand take place. Opportunities should also be provided for further training and education in Third World countries to which aid is being given.

The World Food Conference in Rome, although no doubt meaning well, was to me a disappointment. It does not seem to have done much more than set up yet another world committee, the Development Assistance Committee, on which the FAO will no doubt play the greatest part. As we all know, committees do not necessarily produce anything more than reports, papers, memoranda and so on, and unless this new organisation is accompanied by practical work, training and education in order to generate self-help in the Third World, then I am afraid that it may be yet another ineffective organisation costing money.

The United Nations agencies, particularly the FAO, UNICEF and the WHO, have done wonderful work and are not bedevilled by accusations of colonialism, colour prejudice or political bias. I have always thought that these are very much the best activities arising from the United Nations and its co-operation with other countries. But some of these organisations are becoming tied up in red tape, and anything we can do to break through it, so that the practical application of their work is increased, will be of the greatest value. The United Kingdom is doing well, and we all welcome the new White Paper and the spirit which inspires so many people, both in this country and overseas, to give of their time and money to raising the standard of living in the Third World. I agree so much with the last words of the noble Lord, Lord Bradwell, that this, after all, is true neighbourliness.

4.58 p.m.


My Lords, I want to thank the noble Lord, Lord Reay, for giving us the opportunity to have this debate. I feel, with him, that we have been waiting too long, as our last debate of this scope was two or three years ago. Also, I want most warmly to congratulate my noble and old friend Lord Bradwell. Like, I believe, all other noble Lords, I regarded his speech as very moving and we all want to hear more from him. I should also like to congratulate my noble friend Lady Llewellyn-Davies, who will be very comforted to know that I am behind her not only physically but also in the spirit and, indeed, in the full appreciation of her report. This is a remarkable White Paper and, like my noble friend Lord Bradwell, I am satisfied that in the tremendous stringencies of the present time we have recognised, in the non-cuts of overseas aid, the fact that we as a nation and we as a Party—speaking for my friends on this side—are continually concerned about the poorest of the poor.

When I prepared a report for the Secretary-General of the United Nations on the benefit to the less developed countries of science and technology, covering nearly 30 years of experience, I was asked what we should call it. In the state of mind I was in at that moment I said, "Let's call it The Years that the Locusts have Eaten" because these were the years of missed opportunities. Then I repented and said, "Call it New Dimensions and New Opportunities", hoping that perhaps we could show that we had learned from our mistakes. The reason I welcome The Changing Emphasis in British Aid Policies is that I honestly and genuinely believe that we have learned from our mistakes. In my report to the Secretary-General I said, "What ", during those 30 years, "we did for people "—and I underlined the "for "— "was unsatisfactory. What we did with people "—and I underlined the "with "—usually succeeded." That is to say, the first was a transplant of alien tissues while the other was immunologically responsive because the people were actively involved. The first failed because we, whoever "we'' are, knew what they needed but we never asked them what they wanted. "They "were the ordinary people who had to make things work—not, incidentally, Governments ordering from a mail order catalogue.

During those 30 years there was a great deal of high pressure salesmanship of things that the ordinary people neither knew of nor wanted. Thirty years ago I was as much to blame as anybody. With the best intentions in the world, we—that is, the patronising "we "—thought that we had a blueprint solution to the problems of the underdeveloped countries. We knew what had worked in the developed countries and that all we had to do, or so we thought, was to make available our technology and our largely obsolescent industrial processes. The amount of stuff which we succeeded in getting rid of under the pretence of setting them up in business is nobody's affair. We could build massive, multipurpose dams for them. We could equip factories. We could supply mobile power houses called tractors. I remember the very thorough job which the WHO and FAO did in clearing up 2,000 square miles of the Kipling jungle in Uttar Pradesh in India; the WHO getting rid of the malaria mosquito which had ruled the jungle for 800 years and the FAO clearing (but with ecological safeguards, having learned from the groundnut scheme what not to do) their jungle and recovering very rich arable land for growing food. Then the India refugees from the Pakistan Punjab were brought in to cultivate the land. I am underlining what the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, had to say.

The Indian Central Government, with funds from the World Bank, provided farm tools and tractors. A year later the tractors were out of commission or cannibalised because there were no spare parts; they had to take them to pieces and repair one from the other. Ironically, the FAO—and it is a very good commentary upon what we are talking about today—had to send in another team of experts to devise harnesses for elephants to drag the farm implements. Elephants do not need running repairs! What had happened was that instead of training the Punjabis in the use and care of tractors, instead of setting up repair shops in advance, they had left the peasants to their own devices. We wished on to developing countries—here I would underline what my noble friend Lord Bradwell said—our practices and our concepts; we wished on to them Walt Rostow's pernicious principles of economic growth, which he sold very effectively, with countries "taking off into self-sustaining prosperity from a base of heavy industries ". That was how it had happened historically in the West and, indeed, in the Soviet Union, which, incidentally, was peddling the same principle at that time. Therefore, the scarce resources of a country, or any country, were diverted into heavy industries—prematurely, I suggest—and away from agricultural improvements which could have helped to feed the people while they were growing into an industrial society. We bulldozed social habits; we bulldozed cultural traditions; and we bulldozed religious customs and left people helpless in an alien industrial environment. I used to brief technical assistance experts who were going into the field with the injunctions of bitter experience: "Know what you are changing before you start to change it "; and, "Learn from them before you start to teach them ". I think that message comes through quite clearly in this White Paper.

No doubt we created wealth and talked about the increased GNP in those countries. Until 1972 we could even claim that the global rate of food per capita was keeping pace with the global population increase. However, anyone out in the field knew that per capita did not mean per stomach and that, whatever the globalised food available might be, it was not getting into the bellies of the hundreds of millions who were going hungry to bed every night without enough food inside them to keep them ticking over, much less than the thousands of millions who were not getting the nutrition necessary for wellbeing. Wealth was certainly generated, but it was not getting into the hands of the poor. That is why I am delighted with both the title of the MOD paper More Help for the Poorest and their new approach to the problem.

Recently I have been involved in conferences about "The Poorest of the Poor "in several parts of the world. There we are dealing with the 24 countries—that is to say, the countries which are defined by UNCTAD as "the poorest of the poor ". On examination, as we went on with these inquiries, we found that there were about 36, and that the poorest of the poor that we were talking about were those countries (and the people in those countries, of course) which are geographically disadvantaged and without the natural resources with which you could possibly foresee in any immediate future a self-sustaining economy. These countries are real problems for the world community, because there is no question whatever that we have to do something about them. They are the starvelings even of the new economic order which the less developed countries themselves are promoting. They are really the orphans of the whole situation.

In all of the discussions I was worried lest in our preoccupation with these national entities—these countries and their problems—we should lose sight of the gross poverty in the other developing countries: the poorest of the poor in the kennels of Calcutta or in the Hungry Hills of Indonesia—or, for that matter, as has been pointed out, the underprivileged of the so-called developed countries. This is a very serious problem. It is very easy to be diverted into a new sense of commitment or concern which takes your mind off the fact that in the other countries where you are operating you are again beginning to ignore the real purpose of what you are doing, which is to help the people who are the least well off.

I am reassured to find that British aid now recognises this and is directing its resources to the support of those poor —the rural poor and the urban poor, and not just in the countries which we have labelled the poorest countries. I am glad, too, that this attitude, as has been pointed out on several occasions today, has got into the World Bank and that Robert MacNamara, the President, has recognised, as my noble friend Lady Llewellyn-Davies pointed out, that wealth generated at the top does not, as was assumed in the Bretton Woods banking concept, trickle down to the bottom, and he has insisted that the Bank should concern itself with the bottom 30 per cent. Instead of putting it at the top of the system we should be injecting at the bottom of the system and so raising the whole. As he said—and this is where the noble Baroness left off in the quotation: It is life at the margin of existence … The truth is that throughout the developing world —in the countryside and cities alike—there is a huge and largely untapped potential to reduce absolute and relative poverty by directly assisting the poor to become productive. This is one of the things we must continue to stress; this is the positive aspect. We cannot begin to lift the people until we in fact lift that first level.

In 1972, the Bank addressed itself to rural poverty, to raise the productivity of millions—and here I shall give the noble Lord, Lord Bradwell, some more figures which perhaps he can reconcile with the others —of small subsistence farms. The scale of the problem is immense. More than 100 million families—some 700 mil- lion individuals—are involved. We are speaking now of small subsistence farming because that is where they are going to try to begin the attack. The size of the average holding is not only small, but fragmented. More than 50 million of those families are farming less than one hectare—less than two and a half acres. The Bank has already committed 7 billion dollars to be loaned for this purpose over the next five years. The projects, according to the proposals in the White Paper, which are backing up—and I hope these are entirely reciprocal—include roads, electricity, water, education, family planning and nutrition, as well as means to increase crop production and dairy development.

At the end of last year Robert McNamara addressed himself to the problems of urban poverty, stressing the inhuman burdens of living conditions. He said: It is not the squatters that are obscene; it is the economic circumstances which make squatter settlements necessary that are obscene. I like the new approach to the nature of aid, especially the realistic approach to education, or what I prefer to call the "transfer of knowledge and skills ". At pages 22 and 23 there is spelt out something which I completely endorse. That takes me a long way back to the halcyon days of 1946 when we were starry-eyed and when at the first general conference of UNESCO Dr. Margaret Read of the Institute of Education, London, proposed what was certainly a very inspiring idea, except that it had a very pedestrian term, "fundamental education ", which I had to describe as creating the climate of literacy.

What was meant was that we were going —and we did very successfully and effectively for some years—into the areas through UNESCO and by helping them to improve their own conditions of life, by teaching them domestic economy, by helping them in their illiteracy to realise the value of literacy, we felt then that we were creating a desire to know which would encourage them to see to the schooling of their children. This was something which one had to look to and measure the consequences. The only effect of this was that we were not creating a climate of literacy; we were creating a demand for it and we had what I call "hotch-potch education ", where the same classrooms were being used for four different classes. We had the children and then there were the secondary people, then the technical people and, in the evenings going on until midnight, there were the parents of the children who also demanded literacy.

I am also glad that the Government have reasserted their support for the UN Agencies—WHO, FAO, UNESCO, UNDP and UNICEF—because, as is manifestly clear and as is emphasised in the White Paper, aid in itself can be treated of itself. Poverty is a "misery-go-round "a carousel of calamity. People who are undernourished are vulnerable to disease. People who are sick and hungry cannot learn how better to improve their lot. When people are condemned to live like animals they breed like animals. The misery, hunger, disease, illiteracy, overpopulation, hunger, and so on, goes on.

We have in the White Paper what I consider to be excellent guidelines for the way in which we should go. We have the example of Lomé; we have the endorsement. I am looking forward this year (I do not doubt it) to very strong support by the British Government for the efforts which they allege that other countries have made by their initiative in the shape of the new economic order and trying to help us to break through. Although I hate the necessity for it, I like the disaster unit; but it seems to me that in thinking about that we are demonstrating the kind of thing that has been so neglected in the past when we have always had to produce ad hoc answers to every situation.

I want to stress training, which will raise a rather awkward question about overseas students fees, but possibly the Minister of Overseas Development will pick that up. The point I want to remind the Front Bench about (this is not criticism) is that I should like to see much more work done in this country on tropical products, and also the development of Triticale—and I should like to remind your Lordships, as has been mentioned in previous speeches—for bringing in the marine biologists and botanists to develop Bostera Marina, which will give us the first bread from the sea. I want, as the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw did, to stress that we should go out to see how we can help and not just offering what they already have. I think we should recognise in the White Paper—another approach which is so healthy—that it has been clear to us for a long time that loans are no good; that is merely feeding the tapeworm. If you feed the tapeworm in the body politic of the country, you borrow money to feed the tapeworm and that is being eaten up in debt charges. If you do not borrow money the tapeworm devours you. There is no choice. The only answer is to be honest and frank and say that whatever we are doing is investment in our own self-enlightened interest. This is a contribution to a world in which, until we get some stability and some sense of what is involved, we shall never get out of our own jam.


My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Lord for a little explanation. There seems to be some contradiction in what he had to say. He seemed to be violently opposed to the concept of loans, and then went on to emphasise the importance of investment. There seems to be a lack of understanding between the two points of view. Would he explain that a little more carefully? Personally, I am in favour of loans, but loans at extremely low rates of interest. To me a loan implies a greater degree of responsibility and is far better than an outright gift.


My Lords, I am so immature and so uncapitalistic, and so unaware of the terms of investment and loans, that all I can say is that there are two things at the core of disillusionment about aid. First, there is the completely mistaken attitude to charity; aid is something you are giving to people—a penny in a blind man's purse. Secondly, there is the fact that countries have been trapped into taking on far more in the way of loans than they could possibly afford. What I am saying now is very true today as has been demonstrated every time. The World Bank has discovered that which was manifest right from the time of Bretton Woods; that is, that one could not solve this in purely financial banking terms. Then we had to advance AID; now we have to advance the Third Window. At every stage you are trying to get out of of this quandry in which you are asking people to benefit themselves by taking money they cannot afford. This seems to me to be the inconsistency of an entire 30 years of my life.

5.22 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to start by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Bradwell, on his maiden speech. It always appears to me curious that we call a speech by such a distinguished politician a maiden speech. Indeed, it was what we would have expected of him. It was full of humanity, which we know he possesses, and tempered by his experience in its application. I enjoyed it and I thank him for it. I am not going to detain your Lordships long, but I should like to say something about agricultural development and the growing of food, as I think I know something about it. I was very glad to see the trend in the White Paper. There is no doubt that it is a trend which is practical and one which, through time, may do a great deal of good to the very poor people of the world. Regarding this, there was an article in the Guardian on a report produced by a part of the University of Nairobi on this very thing, and I quote one or two points: To further its policy, it is switching to a far-reaching new approach to development planning based on decentralisation. In future, district plans will be based on local diagnosis and related to local capacity, on the lines already followed in Tanzania. Many noble Lords have already made this point. The article goes on to give some more information regarding the report: On the face of it, it makes depressing reading, revealing that the wrong crops have been planned in the wrong places, the wrong aims pursued, schemes have failed for the lack of money, management, or co-ordination.… Urging more simplicity, the report also found that old-fashioned methods can make better economic sense—using ox-drawn equipment instead of tractors or more compost and animal manure instead of fertilisers. These are all interesting points which have been made by noble Lords in this debate. There is no doubt that the money which we are setting aside in this country —it may be charity, it may be from goodness of heart—if it is used properly, is also a first-class long-term investment for this country, for the peace of the world and for the future.

Having got it right, I should like to offer some advice on the raising of agri- cultural production, the growing of more food, the better feeding of more people. I think we have to start with three main points. First of all, the people, the peasants themselves, need to know how to farm in their own circumstances. That means education, so education has to be put first. Then we need to have a system of land tenure which gives them the security to cultivate and pursue the new methods. Thirdly, we need to have a pricing system which does not mean that suddenly they can be ruined by a 5 per cent. surplus bringing a 50 per cent. cut in price, with the resultant lack of confidence. These are all simple points which have been made time and time again, but I do not think can be made too often.

Regarding education, the first thing we have to do is to demonstrate the advantage that following our methods will bring to the individual peasant for his children and everyone else. You have to show him that they will produce more food and give him money to buy a bicycle or whatever he wants. I always remember when I was home on leave going out with my father to the crofts at the back of the hills of Aberdeenshire, where he was a member of the agricultural executive committee, persuading people to grow more food for the country. He did not go about it by any appeal to patriotism. He took with him an old envelope and when he went to a crofter he addressed him by name and said, "I have come to show you how you can make some money out of ploughing up this grass "and with absolutely incontrovertible evidence he showed how the chap would make some money and benefit himself. He got no refusals in a whole day. We peasants understand what appeals to other peasants. May I say to the noble Baroness: "If you can demonstrate that you will give them more money in a rural district, the other values of life, doctors and schools, will follow ". So I think education is very important.

The point has been made time and time again about understanding the people you are going to teach and learning from them. My family had a great deal to do with the North of Scotland College of Agriculture. They have done a lot to improve agriculture in the North. An agricultural adviser from Aberdeen-shire was sent up to a Highland crofting area. He found that the crofters were sowing grain by taking a pail under one arm and throwing the grain out with one hand. He wanted them to use a sowing sheet, which he demonstrated, showing them that they could sow with two hands. He said, "You will save a lot of time," to which the crofter replied, "What for? I am in no hurry ". You have to get the attitude right and understand the people with whom you are dealing. Different countries obviously need different choices and we have to suit the system to the country and to the people.

Again, I think the Government must encourage both private and public agencies to help with experience. I had a friend who was a distinguished member of a consulting firm consulted by Governments all over the world, and he always proceeded on the assumption that he was not very clever himself. A lot of people could assemble the data and so on and he went about the country until he found the right man who could put his system into operation and achieve the right result. Encouraging the people who have the experience is of enormous importance.

When we come to land tenure, my noble friend Lord Tanlaw hit on a point which is very important. It is no good giving aid to the Government of a country if it does not get into the right hands. The system of land tenure is important. In many countries any increase in production goes straight to grasping and greedy landlords, and the peasants produce purely for subsistence. So the essential feature of aid must be a scheme for getting it to the peasants who do the work. The aid would have to be selective, which would allow cultivators to get the benefit from extra production. In Russia they do not have the land system, or the motivation of their peasants, right, because in reality they should be exporting a great deal of grain from exactly the same conditions as in America; instead, they are having to import grain. It is due purely to incompetence, as any agriculturalist who has visited there will tell you.

So the system of land tenure must work, and it does not matter whether it is a co-operative, or whatever. Groundnuts were mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder. That scheme was one of the first great lessons we had, but there were other lessons before that. The cocoa companies went to West Africa and encouraged the growing of cocoa amongst individual cultivators, with great success. This did a great deal for the economy of those countries which grew the cocoa. Thus land tenure and the political system are important. Quite honestly, I do not think we should waste our money in countries where the aid does not reach the poor, and is frittered away either through incompetence or corruption. It can be monitored, and we should be selective.

My Lords, I do not want to take up much more time, but I come now to the most important matter. It is no good teaching people how to grow grain, or anything else, no good laying down irrigation schemes, no good building fertiliser factories, unless the fellow growing the grain knows that he will get a reasonable price for it. A great step forward has been taken in the Lomé agreement, as has already been mentioned by my noble friend. It is the STABEX, whatever that means. It does mean that one gets a stable price for commodities guaranteed under the Lomé agreement. This is a tremendous step forward, and one which is wholly necessary. I hope that the Government will pursue this a great deal further, because we cannot get production unless we have surplus. We cannot feed the world unless we have a surplus. It is no good talking about mountains of grain; without them., one cannot get production. We must be sensible about it and reduce prices when the "mountains "get too big. But they are an essential part of production. However, I doubt whether we will get "mountains "because the amount of extra grain needed per year is 35 million tons—a phenomenal figure. At American rates it is more than 35 million acres a year; so we have a lot to do.

If we have the proper organisation, then we need not fear that we will have a surplus which is an embarrassment. In fact I am sure we have not got such a thing. I should like to ask the noble Baroness, Lady Llewellyn-Davies, whether she would consider going further. In the White Paper the list of organisations devoted to the abolition of poverty, and to the helping of the poor, is enormous. But may I suggest that the noble Baroness go back to the work of a very distin- guished former Member of this House, Lord Boyd-Orr, and then we might get somewhere? We have had a World Food Conference, where they talked a lot, and there has been a little improvement. There is now the World Food Council, where they may do a little more. Why can we not go back to the original concept and have a World Food Board, buy the food, and store it in the right place? It would be cheaper at the end of the day.

5.35 p.m.

Viscount AMORY

My Lords, I am sure we should all like to thank my noble friend Lord Reay, who has done so much effective work in this field himself and who knows the subject so well, for initiating this debate. I should like to apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Bradwell. I was attending a meeting in connection with some of the business of your Lordships' House and so missed his maiden speech, but as an old colleague in former days in another place I should so much like to have heard him speak, and I shall make a point of reading his speech in Hansard.

My Lords, I wish briefly to speak about two examples in the human and personal field of overseas aid which may not be as well known as they deserve to be. The first is Voluntary Service Overseas, comprising the greater part of the British volunteer programme. VSO started about 15 years ago in a small way and was built up steadily, even rapidly, by the increasing number of 18-year-olds and 19year-olds at that time, each of whom gave one year's service. What they achieved has been remarkable indeed, and the reputation which successive generations of these volunteers have left behind them has laid the foundation of a fine tradition. I am glad to see the noble Lord, Lord Oram, sitting in his place, because he will know what I am talking about. From the beginning he has shown an interest in the work of these volunteers and he has himself done a great deal to help them, and to support the organisations concerned. The history of this movement is living proof, I think, that when the young find something in which they themselves believe, and which they find worth doing, they will put all they have into it; and they have a very great deal indeed to give.

As the years have passed, the nature of the tasks and the projects has changed. Gradually, most of the host countries themselves have produced increasing numbers of school-leavers, and the demand has grown for young men and women with technical or vocational qualifications. Today the demand is for school teachers, technicians, engineers, craftsmen, agriculturalists, as well as nursing and other skills on the borders of medicine. The volunteers come from universities, teacher-training colleges, agricultural and technical colleges and institutes, hospitals and industry itself. The ages of these people now tend to be rather higher, for the reasons I have given, Almost all volunteers today give two years' service which, of course, is much more useful to the receiving countries.

Today, Voluntary Service Overseas has nearly 1,100 volunteers in the field, serving in about 40 developing countries. I am told—and this is most encouraging—that the numbers this year are 10 per cent. higher than last. So it seems that the movement is in the right direction. To give your Lordships an idea of the countries concerned, I should say that in the past year VSO had over 20 volunteers in each of the following countries: Bangladesh, Fiji, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Malawi, Malaysia, Nepal, Indonesia, Papua and New Guinea. Sri Lanka, The Sudan, Tanzania, the West Indies and Zambia. I would have liked to give your Lordships a good many examples of the kind of work they do, but time precludes that, and so I will give only three fairly typical examples.

The first is an agricultural volunteer in Tanzania; that is to say, a volunteer with agricultural experience. He is supervising a scheme to set up small poultry units in primary schools. He has a Tanzanian volunteer working side by side with him, which we like to see happening spontaneously in the country concerned. The second example is of two volunteers in Bangladesh, a technician and an engineer, supervising the building of a workshop and the teaching of basic building and electrical engineering skills to the people who are to occupy it. The third example is that of a nutritionist in Ghana, and he or she—I have forgotten which it is works in a nutrition centre teaching agricultural and health education and developing a rural extension programme. I thought that that would be of interest to the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, in view of the very interesting remarks he made just now about the connection between education and agricultural production.

What the noble Lord said carried me back to the years, some time ago now, when I used to take an active part in young farmers' clubs. We used to concentrate on really getting the youngsters keen on production increases and how to attain them. I remember a story going round in those days of a Scottish young farmer who got bitten with this bug of increased production, and he put the following advertisement in the local paper: Young farmer would like to meet young lady who owns a tractor. Please send photo of the tractor ". He had got the message all right, I think.

I turn back to VSO for a moment and the question of how all this is financed. VSO is an independent voluntary organisation with its own council, director and staff, many of whom are returned volunteers themselves, and a large number of voluntary committees spread all over the United Kingdom. The president of VSO at present is Mr. Malcolm Macdonald who is known so well to all your Lordships. Though it is a voluntary organisation and independent of the Government, it has been most generously assisted; at present to the extent of about 75 per cent., or a little more, of its relevant expenditure, from public funds. The remainder, amounting, I think, to £150,000 or £200,000 a year, has to be raised, and is being raised, from voluntary subscriptions and donations. The expenditure covers recruitment, selection, training courses, transport and insurance of the volunteers, and some rehabilitation grants on their return at the end of their period. The volunteers'maintenance—the cost of maintaining them during their service—is in most cases paid for by the host countries, and is, generally speaking, inevitably, not at a very high rate, but sometimes it is paid by VSO when circumstances make it impossible to expect the host country to undertake responsibility.

The projects are chosen in co-operation nowadays between the appropriate Government Department in the host country and VSO, with the general plan, as it were, approved by the Ministry. I should like to say that VSO has always been extremely fortunate to enjoy close and most co-operative relations with the Ministry of Overseas Development and with the British Council, and could not possibly have achieved the results it has without this invaluable help. Despite the generous support from public funds, to which I have paid tribute, inflation is now of course imposing very heavy burdens indeed on the voluntary funds of VSO. VSO is not asking the Government for any more, but it is, of course, having to work very hard to get increased 'voluntary' contributions. Any further increase in the number of volunteers is dependent on our success in attracting those voluntary funds. I repeat that this is not a request to the noble Baroness for more "lolly ", for an increase in our generous grant, because we think that the Department is being extremely understanding now.

I think that the noble Lord, Lord Oram, will agree that the success of VSO and the other schemes of volunteers has been due to the fact that they provide a challenge which has found a response—a very wonderful response—from the young people concerned, who can see the point of it all and who want to become involved in some practical way. Secondly, it is an ideal which is completely in line with the requirements of the age we live in. Today, my Lords, there are some people who feel that too much is being given to the young. I do not share that view myself. I should like to make it clear to your Lordships that VSO and these other movements give to the young only one thing. It is the opportunity themselves to give something very precious; namely, two years of their lives, in unselfish service. I believe that this spirit of volunteer service by the young deserves our enthusiastic support and approval.

The other voluntary organisation I wish' to mention very briefly is the Ranfurly Library Service. This imaginative project was inspired and created, and is largely run by, Lord and Lady Ranfurly, assisted by numerous bands of devoted voluntary workers. The aim has been, and is, to provide supplies of English books, largely secondhand, to developing countries where English is taught in the schools, but where too often books are economically beyond the reach of many thousands of the former pupils, who have learned English in the schools and are eager to continue with English reading. Since this Library Service has been started—I cannot remember how long, but at a guess I should say 10, 12 or even 15 years ago—no fewer than 6½ million books have been sent out, and books are still being despatched at the rate of over 10,000 per week to 70 different countries. All are sent out free, and the total cost to the Ranfurly Library Service is only about £20,000 a year. I think your Lordships will feel that that £20,000 is spent to good advantage.

This, my Lords, makes up an astonishing story of the development of an idea into a practical scheme. The service has recently received a most welcome grant, I understand, towards expenses from the Ministry of Overseas Development, which has recognised the importance of the contribution that it makes. But the scheme operates on a shoestring, and I am sure that if its work were more widely known it would be the recipient of many grants and donations from trusts and well-wishers who would be quick to appreciate the value of the work it does. These devoted bands of voluntary workers in the United Kingdom are supplemented by counterpart voluntary help in the receiving countries. It would be a tragedy if this imaginative and most practical service were in danger of being severely handicapped in the work it is doing by lack of a few thousand pounds. Again I am not addressing myself to the noble Baroness; I am preaching to a wider audience, who I hope, are now getting their wallets out.


My Lords, might I just say that I am rather glad that, despite the absolute excellence of the noble Viscount's two projects, he is not asking for more "lolly ", because I do not think I could send it, even if he sent me a photo of his tractor.

Viscount AMORY

My Lords, these two projects I have mentioned are, I believe, typical of a deeply felt desire to help countries less favourably placed than ourselves, whose income per head is often only a minute fraction of ours. Both schemes have proved that they are practical, and work. Let us back them, and similar schemes, in every way, and show that we honour those who devote their time and energy in such unselfish work. My Lords, my commercial is at an end.

5.51 p.m.


My Lords, I feel honoured in following the noble Viscount, Lord Amory. He has been a pioneer and an inspirer of voluntary effort in the developing countries. I have met some of the volunteers from his organisations in Africa, and what has impressed me about them is that they have not gone as superior persons, they have not gone to represent the political attitude of this country, but they have gone to identify themselves with the people in their own technical advance. The danger of voluntary aid (and it sometimes has happened) is that those who carry it out are regarded by the people in Africa as representing a political attitude, or as representing patronage. But, from my own experience of members of the organisations with which the noble Viscount is identified, I have not found that spirit in them. I really feel happy that I am following him in this debate.

I want to congratulate the Ministry of Overseas Development on this White Paper. I want to congratulate the Minister, Mr. Reginald Prentice, and also his splendid predecessor, Judith Hart, because she must have had considerable responsibility for this document in view of the fact that the change in Ministers occurred only shortly before its publication. I want to differ a little from the noble Lord. Lord Reay, in his criticism of the White Paper. I found it excellent. It made me want to pay tribute to those who are often criticised—our civil servants. I found the White Paper not only remarkably comprehensive but deeply understanding and really sensitive to the opinion of the peoples of the developing countries. It is also realistic. I hope that the civil servants responsible will feel that there is appreciation of their efforts. I agree with one criticism made by the noble Lord, Lord Reay. I too should have liked tables of statistics at the end: the actual countries to which aid was being sent, the amount sent, and the character of that aid. I should also have liked a table which compared the aid which this country has given with the aid of other countries.

This White Paper is named Overseas Development, The Changing Emphasis in British Aid Policies. I think that that is its essential importance. Not so much recently but in the past aid from the West, including this country, has not placed its emphasis on the need of the poorest peoples. Too often aid given to the developing countries has been concerned with influencing them towards acceptance of policies for which we stand. Too often aid given to developing countries has been on condition, "When we give you aid, you in return buy goods from our country ". Too often aid from the West to the developing countries has not been because of the human needs of the people, it has been because we negotiate in return military bases which are of service for our purposes. Therefore, this document is of enormous importance. It is now saying that in the future those selfish policies shall be put aside, and our aim shall be, the change in emphasis in British aid policies shall be, more help for the poorest.

It is a little ironical—it is so characteristic of our capitalist world society!—that those who are nearest to hunger and starvation are those in the world who are growing the food which we eat. This White Paper emphasises the need not merely of the poorest nations but of the poorest sections of nations, and those are largely the rural peasants in the developing countries. We have to face the fact that in the developing countries, as in our countries of the West, there is a rich elite which has largely been responsible for Governments, almost entirely responsible for the economy, and that that rich elite has done well, but underneath there are the millions of the poor. Perhaps in the developing nations that contrast is most clear, because you have a governing class there British educated, European educated, American educated, sons of the rich living in European and American style. They go back and govern in the developing countries, and the gulf between them and the masses of the people living in poverty is one of the most dramatic features of our present world society. Too often in the past aid has been given to Governments and very little of it has reached the people it was intended to serve. There is corruption in between. I welcome this White Paper because it is insisting that aid goes not only to the poorest countries, it goes directly to the poorest in those countries. It seeks by that aid to lift the standards of life of the most wretched.

British aid is terribly low. We accepted in 1974 the target of 1 per cent. of our gross national product, but that was too much. It was subsequently made the specific object of only 0.7 per cent., and we have not even reached that. We are sadly behind the contributions which many other countries are making. Ironically, our 0.7 per cent. includes even private investment. Will anyone suggest that the private investment which is made in Africa, Asia and Latin America has the motive of aid? Of course it does not. Its motive is profit and it should not be included in the scope of aid. Are noble Lords aware that every year private investors receive more from accumulated profit, interest and dividend on their investments than the investments which they make? It is ridiculous that we should include investment for profit in the amount which we estimate as our aid to these territories.

The Government have rightly insisted in this document on aid for the poorest. There is now a conference proceeding in Paris which is considering the proposals which the developing countries have made for a new international economic order The poorest countries as well as the better-off developing countries are represented there, but the poorest countries at that conference are almost entirely ignored. Among the 10 co-chairmen of the commissions at that conference there is not one representative of the poorest nations. I ask Her Majesty's Government, who are represented at these Paris discussions, to insist that the poorest nations and their interests are considered and supported.

As the White Paper recognises, aid in many of the developing countries is regarded just as charity. It is justified, in my view, in humanitarian terms and I would say that it is justified as some recompense for our exploitation in the past of the developing peoples and the exploitation which continues today by the great multinational companies. But among the developing nations now there is a new temper, a sense of their own strength and a self-reliance. They are now making demands not for aid but for a new international economic order in which they will have equality. The Paris conference to which I have referred is now considering these demands and I will not at the moment examine those proposals. I hope, however, that when the Paris conference concludes we in this House will have an opportunity to debate these issues.

In the meantime, I would put two considerations to your Lordships. First, not only have the developing nations recognised that they have a new authority—that as they won political independence they are now determined to win economic emancipation—but, secondly, we have to realise that our economic difficulties in this country can be resolved only in a world economic structure. Lift the standards of life of two-thirds of the population of the earth, as these new economic proposals suggest, and the demand for our goods, employment here, will benefit greatly. The cause of the mass of peoples in the developing countries is the cause of our people here, and one of the greatest essentials is that we should begin to make our people understand this.

In the first weekend in March there will be a great conference, which has been supported by 40 noble Lords, at which representatives of the Third World will speak to our trade union movement and endeavour to secure common action between the people of this territory and the people of the Third World. My appeal to Her Majesty's Government is that they follow up this splendid White Paper by co-operating with the nations of the Third World, not merely about the conditions of aid but about the building of an international economic structure which will lift the standards of life of their peoples and give stability and employment to our own people.

6.8 p.m.


My Lords, it is always rather difficult to speak following the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, because sometimes he blows hot and sometimes he blows cold. I can, however, agree with him in his first and last sentences. In company with my noble friend Baroness Elles and almost every other speaker in this debate, I welcome the White Paper, the way in which it is expressed, its draftsmanship, its lucidity and the information it provides. It is a landmark among many White Papers on this subject, but my principal interest in it lies in its latter half, regarding the scientific and technical units of the Ministry of Overseas Development, a matter to which I shall come in some detail shortly.

I wish, first, to comment on the last sentence of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, in which he referred to a new world economic order. This is a subject in which we as Parliamentarians must have great interest and, as Parliamentarians, many of us are members of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and will be aware that at Bucharest last May for a few days an important conference was held at which Mr. Ian Lloyd, a Member of the other place, had the great privilege of presenting the British keynote speech on this subject. We can take pride in the fact that at a conference at which there was the Director-General of UNCTAD and many other important officials of the world of international development, a British Member of Parliament stood up on our behalf and presented the case as seen from Westminster.

I should like further to reinforce what my noble friend Lady Elles said in regard to our position as of now in 1976, and to support the very great emphasis which she laid upon aid given from this country from a strong economy. We are well aware of our own present situation. My noble friend dealt with it at both the beginning and the end of her speech and it will not be necessary for me to add anything, except to say that, though we may be somewhat meagre in our financial resources and economic power, we are rich in human resources, in skills, in scientific knowledge and in many other fields.

I count it a privilege to take part in the debate in which the noble Lord, Lord Bradwell, made his maiden speech, which the House much appreciated. We felt that much of his speech was concerned with his personal experience in a developing country where he had observed the situation. I have an interest to declare in that I have been involved with a voluntary agency in one capacity or another over the past 18 years. That voluntary agency is Oxfam, and I have taken a special interest in the arid zone, upon which we have heard a number of particularly interesting comments this afternoon. I should like warmly to associate myself with what has been said about the urgent need to consider the Sahel. The noble Baroness, Lady Llewellyn-Davies, referred to the tragedy of the Sahel and the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, brought out clearly, in six logically argued stages, how he saw a method whereby a containment of a development situation could take place. He cited trees as the key to this situation.

I have observed from my own experience in North Africa the vital necessity for a reafforestation programme. I was in Libya in 1953 at a time when this country supported the Libyan Government budget to the extent of £7million out of a total national budget for Libya of £12 million. Today, Libya, as one of the great OPEC countries, has an economy flourishing beyond the wildest dreams of the Libyan Government in 1953. I had the great pleasure of meeting Libyan forestry students when studying at the Imperial Forestry Institute at Oxford and of realising that the Libyan students of 1958 have seen their dreams become reality in their Government's programme in the coastal zone of North Africa.

In our last debate on this subject, a very interesting speech was made by the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, on the afforestation being practised in the neighbouring territory of Algeria. He referred to a New Zealander, Miss Campbell-Purdie, who had sponsored a very strong and successful project at a place called Bou Saada. Here is an initiative which has been taken up by two North African territories as a result of which there has been reafforestation of an area which has suffered from both the rural depopulation referred to by my noble friend Lady Elles and tree destruction by the goat referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw. These Governments are practising afforestation which, in time, will undoubtedly affect the micro-climate of the immediate area and may, we hope, eventually significantly affect the climate of the whole region.

The tragedy in the Sahel was perhaps not an unavoidable disaster and it is conceivably a curable situation. It could be cured by very substantial international investment and by a co-operative venture. The noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, has written of the years the locusts have eaten. My concern is the trees the locusts have eaten, because, in my view, a large part of the work in this field must be directed towards the predators who prey on the crops concerned. In the past British work in international locust control has been of great importance. I am particularly glad that technical services had their rightful place in the latter part of the White Paper. There is little doubt that, in pre-harvest pest control, locust control should occupy an important place. Unfortunately, locust control has broken down for a number of reasons, one of which is political. Wars have taken place in countries which are subject to serious infestations and, in the early stages when the hopper bands of locusts are present in concentrated areas, it has been impossible for the locust control teams to visit the areas and eliminate the locusts. In 1976, with our enormous knowledge of the whole cycle of the locust and with our communications system, it should be possible to do very much more to eliminate the scourge which has been a cause of reduced harvests since the time of the Pharaohs.

I should like also to refer to the post-harvest pest situation which is of great importance. The depredations into the world harvest by the rat and by innumerable numbers of weevils and other such pests are of very great importance. I was particularly glad that this was the view of two contributors to an article in the Sunday Times of 22nd February. There, the suggestion was made that no less than 25 per cent. of India's grain crop was lost to rats. Here, surely, is away in which a comparatively small amount of international resources could be devoted towards the elimination of something which is of enormous importance—the post-harvest spoiling of so many crops either in transit or in the warehouse. I have referred to this point many times in past debates and I hope that the noble Baroness, when she comes to reply, will bear it in mind and will bring it to the attention of her right honourable friend who is to take a very prominent part in UNCTAD IV in Nairobi this year.

6.19 p.m.


My Lords, I am very happy to follow the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, because I always find his speeches most sympathetic. Before I express my gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Reay, for calling our attention to this important White Paper, I should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Bradwell on his maiden speech, which came up to my expectations. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Reay, that the White Paper is too long because it has attempted to go beyond its title. I shall stick to its title and shall concentrate on the changing emphasis in British aid policies. The five words, More Help for the Poorest outline the Government's objectives. They are words which are the quintessence of development. Understandably, this has not been a partisan debate. Such criticism as there has been has dealt with detailed problems which are outside the scope of the White Paper itself. The noble Baroness, Lady Elles, in her very interesting speech, ranged wide over the whole field of aid, but I shall confine my remarks to the title and hope that there will be another debate, another instalment, on this problem of aid.

From the beginning of the century the humanitarian drive by the rich industrial countries to help the poor underdeveloped countries has not always been humanitarian or made good economic sense. This has been because development is two-sided, involving aid and trade, and the trade agreements between rich countries themselves showed little concern for the effects of these trade agreements on weaker, poorer countries. In fact, often the benefits of aid were cancelled out by the mechanics of trade. But the phenomenal changes which have taken place in the world in the last five years demand a revolutionary rethink about aid, and this is summed up by the Prime Minister's call for an international "New Deal "in aid development. We have a long way to go before the commercial policies among the rich industrial countries are reshuffled so that they do not undermine the aid benefits to the poor countries; for example, so that they do not discriminate against the exports of the developing countries, particularly by the protection of their own domestic agriculture.

After the United Nations special session on the world's economic problems the richer countries must have at last accepted that the world's economic problems are indivisible. The spectacular and sudden increase in the price of oil and its effects on both rich and poor countries (effects, though, which are not alike in any sense, and are so grievous for the poorer world) have resulted in a period of economic disorder. This White Paper outlines the kind of measures which the Government suggest are needed to meet the economic and political changes with which we are confronted in the world today.

Few of us seem able to gauge the political and economic effects of the accelerating progress in our scientific and technological world. The poor world—that is, two-thirds of the world's population—have caught a glimpse of the great expectations, even the glittering prizes, which might result from a more egalitarian and better ordered world. So the emphasis in the White Paper on more help for the poorest is just in time, for until the poorer countries reach a certain threshold for development, not only do they have no chance to compete with the richer countries but their very survival is at stake. As if being abysmally poor was not enough of a tragedy, some of them suffer from natural disasters as well as man-made disasters.

My Lords, concessional, international, financial assistance, as well as grants, is imperative in order to achieve some improvement in the low standard of living, not only for the existing population but for their next generation. Perhaps the most important emphasis in the White Paper is the one on rural development, as so many noble Lords have said—roads, water control, education and health. This is a far cry from the efforts of some years ago, which consisted of trying to get a carbon copy transplant of our own Industrial Revolution, leading to large numbers of the population drifting to the cities, vast unemployment and food shortages. We have learned from some of our mistakes. Many points have been dealt with by previous speakers, so I will not go into great detail. The recommendation that the EEC should have a worldwide aid policy stems naturally from their acceptance of the Lomé Convention.

In the last few years we have had several outstanding Ministers dealing with development aid. I will mention a few: Barbara Castle, Judith Hart and Reg Prentice, not to forget Mr. Richard Wood, either, in the Conservative Government at the time. They have played their part well in what I think is the greatest humanitarian challenge of our time: to make improvements in the living standards of the poor world. My Lords, this is not a simple task, and it does not depend on just exhortations—or, if I may say so after hearing my noble friend Lord Brockway, on condemnation, either—that the rich countries should be charitable to the poor. At a time of economic stringency in the democratic countries, when we have high unemployment, we have a greater responsibility to educate our citizens about international aid. I believe we have not done so in this White Paper, and I am disappointed about that. There is no mention of this need at all. An unemployed man or woman in Britain today might feel little sympathy for the poor world, and might give a dusty answer to a letter which I received from Oxfam deploring the fact that some of our aid is tied. I do not know about these things. I do not know why we should not have tied aid in relevant circumstances, especially if it is not political. It must not be political.

Here I disagree with the attack on our aid policies from my noble friend Lord Brockway, and I must speak about his contribution. Of course it is a very wicked world that we live in, and we are all sinners. But where does this get us when we come to deal with practical matters? What does he suggest? How are we going to deal with the practical issues in this wicked world? It happens that several members of my own family have been and are engaged in institutions working in development aid. My brother-in-law, Sir Arthur Gaitskell, who lived in the Sudan, initiated the Gezeira Scheme at the end of his term with a private company—a land irrigation scheme which transformed the living standards of the peasants in the Sudan—and when he returned 15 years later they came out on their chargers to greet him. My son by my first marriage works in the development institute of the World Bank. Are they wasting their time? Are they working for profit? No, my Lords. I absolutely repudiate the kind of attack that my noble friend has made, because I myself do not believe in plastic saints.

6.29 p.m.


My Lords, I must apologise most sincerely for intervening in this debate at this stage, but I promise I will be extremely brief and tell your Lordships why I have done so. We have heard a very long and excellent exposition of the aims and successes of Voluntary Service Overseas from the noble Viscount, Lord Amory. Unfortunately, I must tell your Lordships that there is a gap in his very considerable experience. He has, inevitably, never been a volunteer himself. I, for my sins, have. After my five years' training as a horticulturist. I applied and was accepted by VSO.

Viscount AMORY

My Lords, could I interrupt my noble friend? I have never yet been a volunteer.


My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount for that correction. On the application form I was asked to indicate my hobbies, which I gave as sailing. I was sent to the middle of land-locked Africa; namely, Zambia. This may sound like sour grapes, but I should have thought that this would be indicative of my future experiences. These were that I was sent to a job that did not exist, a co-operative in Mongu in the far west of Zambia and spent a week on my own in Lusaka while the Ministry of Agriculture in this country decided what to do with me. After a week of kicking my heels and becoming very bored, they found me a job administering and helping to improve the husbandry of a horticultural co-operative in Livingstone. Despite setting up trial plots, this was not a full-time job, so I voted myself into the staff of the local office of the Ministry of Agriculture and I ended up, in fact, as an advisory officer in fruit and vegetables over an area of about 100 square miles. It is quite impossible for anybody of any stature to do this particular job in such a wide area competently. Nevertheless, I did my best.

This leads me to one point which I particularly want to make. The noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, referred to tied aid. I am very much in favour of even more tied aid than the 60 per cent. which is given in the White Paper. The reason is that while I was attempting to do my job—my job as I saw it and not my job as I was given it—there was a tremendous patriotic feeling among the local people and when the decree from the Government went out to grow more vegetables, everybody grew more vegetables, of which 95 per cent. ended up on the compost heap. I was in the unfortunate position of being the man in the middle. I had a certain amount of correspondence and meetings with the members of the Government, and I met very much more than they did the growers who were particularly affected. This meant that I had to explain to the growers that there was no point in growing more vegetables when they could not sell them and all they were going to do was to rot. The result was that they made the equivalent of the comment that we would get in this county: "Oh, never thought of that!'' It is, I think, illustrative of the point that aid should be tied, and must be tied, and not only tied to a particular programme but very often, with the advice of men on the ground, tied to a particular programme in a particular place.

6.33 p.m.


My Lords, I must add my few words to those that have been said already how much they miss the late Lord Cowley whose knowledge and understanding of this subject were very considerable. He is a very difficult man to follow. I should like to add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Bradwell. He knew a great deal about his subject, far more than I. We look forward to hearing much more from him in future. I must, in passing, also mention the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, who obviously also had a personal relationship with many developing areas; but he conjured up an interesting picture of a Minister for Trees having a weekly goat hunt.

We have a great deal of expertise in this House and we heard many excellent speeches. I will keep my remarks very simple. I think that most of us on this side of the House would very much want to welcome the admirable sentiments in the White Paper. Even if seeking for Utopia has never been 100 per cent. successful, it is a lengthy document covering 70 closely-written pages, and some of it is extremely involved; but the right spirit is obviously there. My Lords, we must not forget that we are talking of £730 million of the taxpayers' money, or thereabouts. I suppose that it could be approximated to £15 per head. It is a great deal of money and I think it needs to be explained more forcefully to the general public why we have aid, why we do it. There are many misconceptions about why it is necessary in these particularly hard times today.

My Lords, I am glad that there is strong emphasis on rural aid. In this respect, there is certainly no difference of opinion between this side of the House and the Government--provided the aid goes to the places for which it was originally designed. Aid in the past has become so technical and complicated that the original concept has sometimes been lost and it has been difficult to see the wood for the trees. It is very understandable I think that there is an ultimate wish for multilateral aid but, naturally, also each country wants bilateral aid or aid specifically to individual countries so that in certain cases some sort of bargain can be struck and, if it is thought wise, strings can be attached in order to avoid the likelihood of misuse of the funds or even perhaps to prevent corruption which cannot always be ruled out, as the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, mentioned. France has shown great ability in this respect in the past. Also I should stress the necessity of not forgetting our many Commonwealth friends. Because of the strong demands on our aid, they can be pushed back into the background. Many of these old friends have given much in the past to this country and we cannot afford to forget them when they need help. I am glad to see that the White Paper gives them a fair share. While talking about the White Papers, perhaps I could mention briefly the White Paper on expenditure and admit that I am sorry to see a fairly drastic reduction in military aid and, particularly, in overseas information. Those of us who have spent time abroad will know that, correctly handled, our own information services can do a great deal to strengthen our position in the world, especially with regard to trade.

Our objective is to raise the standard of living of the poorer nations. We must often still begin with food, moving on to teach people how to grow it and then advance to show them the skills by which to earn a living. This much was emphasised by the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie. We must get our priorities right. We must improve the health of the underfed before giving them power stations. We cannot but welcome the basic concept of giving aid to the poorest. Sometimes in the past Governments have been rather greedy, wanting too much in return from countries to which they have given aid. A fine balance must be struck. Aid should never be given, though it often is, for political reasons; nor because it is a well-publicised gesture. All aid must be reviewed constantly. Poor countries have been known to increase their wealth substantially in the space of time it takes to dig a hole in the ground; but there should be not only reviews in this light but also with a view to taking advantage of the local conditions prevailing.

I agree strongly with the thoughts behind a common policy for the EEC to work together in formulating a joint aid programme. This will help avoid duplication and I hope it will be extended further. Nevertheless, we, in Europe, must realise our advantageous position in the world. We have a very high standard of living, we have the ability to eat well, to travel, and have many material attributes over some of the poorer nations. Whether these material advantages are so very necessary is a very debateable point. Anybody who saw the television programme on Sunday, "The World About Us ", will probably know what I mean.

I have seen a great deal of instances, here and in the USA, of executives leaving the "rat race "and living off the land in a simple manner and not being a burden to anybody. It is particularly true in America, where the pace of business life is so much faster than it is here. We certainly do not want to bring all the poor people in the world up to our Western standards and so give them a great many of our problems unnecessarily, but, having given them a high standard of training and also an equal opportunity to use the training, we can then leave them to lead a reasonable life of their choice. Different situations, as I said, will need different remedies.

I have already mentioned trade. Aid leads to trade, and trade leads to a better balance of payments. Trade abroad is obviously from private investment. Here I am afraid I must disagree to a great extent with the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, who does not like private investment. Private investment can obviously bring aid to developing countries and also the managerial and technical skills which may be lacking, as well as bringing the necessary opportunities for employment and training. I have personal experience of companies with a very genuine desire to help poorer people, and they have been very successful in doing this. After all, the countries can either accept or reject any investment they are asked to look at, depending on whether it is best for their people. We should encourage private investment, especially where we give Government aid, and ensure, moreover, that the aid and the investment are linked when necessary in order to maximise the benefits. Combined with assistance from Voluntary Service Overseas, about which my noble friend Lord Amory gave us a very logical explanation—and I should like to say at this point that I think we owe him a great debt of gratitude—this excellent work would be a framework for the united efforts of all voluntary organisations, coupled with Government and private investment, instead of a rather piecemeal effort.

Too often, perhaps, in the past, we have had a rather narrow outlook. For instance, it is all too easy to organise a scheme to vaccinate thousands of cattle and so produce a dramatic effect on their survival, only to find that there is not enough grass for them to feed on, so that an agronomist or cultivation expert should really have been called in at an early stage. Perhaps this is where private investment can sometimes help. After all, historically, private investment has always benefited the host nation, however humiliating it may have been to see whole sections of a country's industry dominated by foreign enterprise. For example, how long would it have taken the Americans to build their railways, when 60 per cent. of them were financed from London? How long would it have taken Chile to exploit her copper without foreign investment? Where would Canada be today without American and British enterprise? And how long would it have taken Europe to rebuild itself after the War without the tremendous influx of dollars from across the Atlantic?

Very briefly, because of the late hour, I have tried to show that aid is only a means to an end. It certainly cannot be looked at in isolation. It must be part of a much larger picture, which includes trade and monetary matters. It now only remains for me to thank my noble friend Lord Reay for having initiated this debate and for his speech today. I am also grateful for the many other very knowledgeable speeches which we have heard. Perhaps I may end with a small plea that the Government may he able to couple private investment with their aid programmes so as to provide quicker and more efficient results for the benefit of the poorer nations.

6.43 p.m.


My Lords, with the leave of the House, I should like to try to deal with some of the points which have been raised. May I also say that this has been a fascinating debate. I think one. reason why we especially enjoy debates on aid is that it is such a difficult subject that only the experts in your Lordships' House actually speak on it. That makes such a debate especially interesting; it also makes it very difficult to reply to. However, I shall do my best.

I should like to start by congratulating my noble friend Lord Bradwell on his tremendously successful maiden speech. It was full of the logical thought we have always expected from him. It was mellifluous and beautifully delivered—and it was full of the compassion for the poor of all races and creeds which we know he has had all his life. I think that his first maiden speech in this Chamber was obviously good practice, and we shall look forward to hearing him again, and soon.

I should like to deal with a point which he raised and which was also mentioned by the noble Lords, Lord Ritchie-Calder, and Lord Newall—who, incidentally, I must congratulate very warmly on his first speech at the Dispatch Box, because I know how terrifying that experience can be. The point they made concerned the continuation of aid in the face of the very severe cuts in public expenditure which we have just seen. I am very glad that this point was raised and that there has been no disagreement that it is absolutely the right thing for the Government to be doing at this moment. There will be a slight rise in real terms in aid over the next three years—something like 16.9 per cent., in terms of 1975 prices. It is a fairly modest increase, but in view of our difficulties I think we can be proud that it is there at all.

I suspect that for most of us in this House it is first of all a moral question: we think it right. It is right because it lies at the root of all our dealings and relationships with two-thirds of the rest of the world. I am glad that we deal with it in a generous way and that it is the background against which we consider all our overseas policies. In the second place, it is good because our livelihood depends on a continually expanding world trade. The world in general has very limited resources of food, energy, vital minerals and commodities, and we are increasingly interdependent on one another. Indeed, nearly 20 per cent. of our British trade involves the Third World, within which many of the vital commodities are produced. Without aid, their economies might easily collapse, especially with all the new difficulties of oil prices, commodity boom and the rest of it. If that were to happen, it would damage British markets. So, first, it is morally right and, second, it can be described as enlightened self-interest.

To continue with one or two points mentioned by my noble friend Lord Bradwell, I entirely confirm what he said about the nomadic tribes of Kenya. My elder daughter spent two years with the Masai tribe along the borders of Kenya and Tanzania, and her description of life there entirely endorses what my noble friend said.

Turning now to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Reay, it was an almost alarmingly well-informed and therefore rather a difficult speech to answer. But I must say I was sorry that he should think the White Paper was rather inward-thinking and "mingy "in its approach, because I really must disagree with him about that. It is true that it is presented in the normal rather sober Whitehall dress, in the way in which these things are done, and without the panache with which the Scandinavian countries, for example, always present their aid achievements. But I think it explains very clearly not only what we ourselves but also what other aid donors are doing to adapt our policies to the present very difficult time.

As I said in my opening speech, Chapter 1 makes it clear that part of our new aid strategy is to promote situations in which our concessional aid can stimulate matching concessional aid from other countries, and encourage both bilateral and multilateral channels of aid to go towards the poorest countries. I do not think you can be very much more outward-going than that.

I was astonished by the statement made by the noble Baroness that it is a colonialist kind of Paper. I think perhaps she might reconsider that remark one day, because throughout the White Paper we stress the role which the developing nations themselves have to play, and that we do not give aid in the usual patronising way to which my noble friend Lord Brockway referred.

I was particularly interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Reay, said about the Tindeman proposals, which he had kindly forewarned me about earlier. I remember a remark by Mr. Jan Pronk, the Dutch Minister for Development Cooperation, who said something to the effect that the new order required by the poor countries will be reached when the United States and the Common Market both agreed to it. I think that is the basis of everything. The House will understand that the Tindemans proposals are very new—I believe they are only about six weeks old—and, naturally, Ministers are still studying them. But, at first sight, we welcome the proposals for aid. They are sensible objectives towards which some progress should be possible over the next five years, and we shall play a full part in the continuing detailed discussions which will be necessary. Of course, it is very important for us that the Community should develop a worldwide poverty-orientated aid programme, building on the provision of the 20 million units of account inserted into the Budget by the European Parliament.

I did not understand one point made by the noble Lord. There is nothing in the Tindemans proposals that would itself result in more aid to the poorest countries; that is, the non-associates. This underlies the need to be careful about harmonisation. Of course, it is useful if it benefits anyone, but we should not embark on harmonisation schemes simply to prove that Europe has become united. I am sure the noble Lord will agree with me that unity should be meaningful and not cosmetic. The House will be interested to know that aid for non-associates, and harmonisation will be discussed at the meeting of the Council of Development Ministers next month.

The noble Lord was sorry that there are no figures for repayments. But the White Paper is a policy document, and it would not be appropriate to overwhelm it with too many figures. But paragraph 13 of the White Paper (Cmnd. 6223) An Account of the British Aid Programme, gives the figures; estimated capital repayments in 1975, £42 million; estimated receipts of interest, £22 million. Of course, the White Paper comes out every year so these figures can be easily got at. The noble Baroness, Lady Elles, in her formidable speech—her speeches are always formidable, they are so crammed with facts—asked me various questions. I was fascinated to hear about the scheme which began in Tuscany. I did not know anything at all about it. I have asked my officials to try to find out more about it for me, and they are going to do that.

Baroness ELLES

My Lords, it was started by the Shell Centre at a place called Borgo a Mozzano, and they started teaching their own villagers how to grow better corn and order their timetables and so on. Then they started taking teachers and agriculturists from developing countries. Shell sold their interest to ENI, which is the Italian State electrical company, so that ENI now run the scheme in this village, and there are other schemes in Thailand and in one other place. If the noble Baroness wishes to see them, I have the documents.


My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness, and I am sure that the House will be most grateful, too. She asked me, as did the noble Lord, Lord Newall, how we know that aid reaches the poorest people in the poorest countries. The absolute truth is that we cannot always know, or ensure that it does. But we believe that the change in emphasis in our aid policies will greatly improve the position. I think that is really the best one can say about it. Of course, our overseas development divisions will be very much involved in this. I have visited some of them, and am very much impressed by them. The Department has stepped up its own development division, as the noble Baroness will know, and we are starting the appropriate research and training for that as well.

To turn to her remarks about population, my standpoint on this—I do not suppose we shall ever wholly agree on this subject—is that excessive population growth rates in developing countries put a stop to improvements in the basic standard of living and in the quality of life. Improvements become a remote and receding possibility, particularly for the women and children who comprise 75 per cent. of the populations of the poorest countries. The noble Baroness talked about the declining ages of the young, but if the population increases as it does now, doubling in some of these countries, 50 per cent. of the population of some developing countries will be under 15 years of age, with all that that means to the working age group and to what they have to do to look after them. However, I fully understand the noble Baroness's position on this point.

The noble Baroness said that when she was at the United Nations she found that some of the Africans, in particular, much resented the interference which this country had perpetrated with family planning schemes. I should like to tell her that when I was in Africa I had many African nationalist friends who used to say that it was all a plot by the wicked whites to keep down the black population. I used to visit the most remote mission stations and up-country hospitals and clinics, and a lot of the men would say that to me. But in the evening, when the women and I were sitting around the cooking pots, the first thing the women said to me was, "Now, tell us about birth control." So there are, perhaps, two views on that subject. But, of course, as the noble Baroness said, every country is different and no single approach can be made to this problem. Cultural and traditional aspects must always be borne in mind and, above all, change must not be imposed from without. It must be done with the will of the government of the country, although, of course, we co-operate with every international organisation of that kind.

The noble Baroness referred to Zambia which, of course, is very much in our thoughts at the moment, and, as she knows, we have given it aid. In the past it was always a rather rich developing country, but it will obviously need help and sympathy in the future. As regards trained personnel not going back to their countries, which was a very good point raised by the noble Baroness, this is always a difficult subject because there are often psychological reasons why students cannot go back; there are marital reasons why they cannot go back and, above all, there are political reasons why they cannot go back. But when I was dealing with students, my Trust always tried to choose the ones we thought would go back, and quite a large proportion of the ODM students do go back, if not to their own countries, to other developing countries. There is one very good way of getting students to go back, and that is to choose married women. If you bring a married woman over for training, she will always go back to the children. I found that out when I was training nurses.

The noble Baroness, Lady Elles, the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, and I believe the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, said that the Stabex scheme offers a guaranteed price for the commodities concerned. That is not the case. Stabex is designed to help stabilise export earnings, not prices, and it has the merit of not tampering with international commodity markets by the fixing of artificial prices. I wanted to get that on the record.

The noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, gave us a delightful speech and I detected what I thought was a proper sniff of intermediate technology, which I found very sympathetic. I thought his five points were extremely thoughtful and thought-provoking, and I should like to think about them. Any of us who has been to the developing countries knows about the sad, neglected tractor lying on its side with its wheels in the air, or cannibalised, as my noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder said. I absolutely agree with the noble Lord about the kind of help which these countries need. I was very glad to hear of his own practical interest and of the assistance that he has given. The ODM knows about that and we are very appreciative of it. I was interested, too, in what he said about surplus production and barter for other goods and services. I think that that works in some countries, but not in others. As for paying the farmers more, it is important to keep up enough incentive in order that they may keep up food production. We are all very sad about the partial failure of the Green Revolution, but it is not for Her Majesty's Government to intervene and tell another Government what to do about their domestic pricing policy. However, we are prepared to finance agricultural credit schemes which can help to stabilise the earnings of farmers.

I was delighted to hear the noble Lord's appeal for more afforestation. I am also —I should not say a man of the trees "but a tree person ". We are very much alive to this problem and have a very good scheme operating in the Sudan which the noble Lord may know about. Therefore we are very interested in all his ideas. I was going to go into the adjustment system point in some detail but at this late hour I had better not. Instead I should be delighted to discuss the matter with the noble Lord, if he would like to do so. One thought that I got from his speech may be a little fanciful. One of the spin-offs which may come from not having enough oil and from not being able to rely on the internal combustion engine is that disaster areas may produce new kinds of technology—not so much intermediate technology as windmills and solar energy set-ups. After all, deserts are both windy and very sunny. There may be some benefit to mankind, particularly in the disaster areas, from having to do without advanced technology.

As usual, the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, made a delightful speech, but I was sorry that she thought there was insufficient contact between the ODM and other Departments. Of course, nobody is perfect. We are very aware of this fact and have already established a different kind of practice for improving the machinery of co-ordination as part of our integrated approach to overseas development which this White Paper is describing. I hope, therefore, that the noble Baroness will find some improvement there. If not, I hope that she will let me know, because it is very important.

I see that my noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder has gone. He always says original and very well-informed things. I was very interested in his remarks about education and also in those of the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie. Unlike his crofter, I am in a hurry, so I shall be unable to go into the question in great detail. However, I am very pleased, as the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, said, that we have learned from our mistakes in education and other matters. I have never forgotten going to Uganda and visiting the enormous Mulago hospital there, which to run took a vast quantity of the country's public expenditure. In the basement they had a central sterilisation supply department which was never used for lack of personnel. That was the old policy in medical matters. Now, as the White Paper describes, we send people to upcountry clinics. We are going in very much more for the barefoot doctor technique. As the noble Lord has said, our approach to education now is quite different, which is all to the good.

To turn to the World Food Board, the World Food Council is a modern version of the Board and the strictures of the noble Lord were a little severe. It was established to serve as a food programme and policy co-ordinating body. The noble Lord will be glad to know that it is served by the FAO World Food Security Committee, so he may be a little more optimistic than he was.


My Lords, originally the idea of the World Food Board was not only that it should spread ideas but that it should have money with which to buy and hold stocks for distribution around the world, so that in years of surplus one could gather it up and in years of shortage one could distribute it.


My Lords, that is a splendid idea. but always we seem to be in times of shortage. Nevertheless, I am grateful to the noble Lord for raising the point.

I am glad that the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, mentioned VSO, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood. I know very well of the excellent work that is done by that organisation. I have several young friends who were volunteers and worked with VSO. I am sorry about the experiences of the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale. I have not heard of similar experiences, and obviously the noble Lord had a raw deal. Everything I have heard about VSO in the past 20 years coincides with what was said about it by the noble Viscount. The Rumferly Library is a marvellous institution, and we know all about it. As the noble Lord knows, we contribute a little towards its upkeep. It is exactly the kind of voluntary scheme that we need very badly, so I should like to thank the noble Lord for keeping on about it and, indeed, for doing his "commercial ". I see that my noble friend Lord Brockway is not here at the moment.


My Lords, before my noble friend sits down may I put the record straight about interference by birth control organisations. They never go in unasked and they do not interfere.


My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend. May I turn to her speech which was, as usual, extremely forthright. I noticed that she classed the right reverend Prelates who are sitting in front of her among the sinners, so we may all feel better on that score. Anyway, they jumped a mile when they were referred to. Unfortunately, I missed quite a lot of the speech that was made by the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, and I will read it in the morning. I am very glad that he dealt with the scientific and technical units because they are of great importance. I have congratulated the noble Lord, Lord Newall. He made a most interesting speech. I agree with him entirely about information. The public needs to be told what we are doing, why we are doing it, and why we are still affording it, despite everything. It is very difficult to know what to do about it. On the whole, the Press are not interested in it; but the people who receive the aid know all about it, so we shall have to go on talking and "propaganding "as best we can.


My Lords, what can be done is to persuade the BBC to make a documentary film about it. It would meet great resistance, but that is what could be done.


My Lords, if I could have the assistance of the noble Lord in persuading the BBC to make such a film, that would be splendid. He could persuade anybody, I know, to do anything.

One small point about the figures which were given by the noble Lord, Lord Newall, is that the total for 1974–75 was £312 million, not £730 million—it was 730 million dollars. I thought that the noble Lord would wish to have that point corrected. If I may turn to private investment flows, these are very important. I hope that the noble Lord does not think that they are not linked with our public aid, because they are. We do our best to ensure that. They are immensely important. The figure for 1973 was in the region of £600 million, which is an enormous amount. I should not like to be held to that figure, but it was roughly of that order. As I have said, it is very important and does a great deal of good. The difficulty about it, however, is that private investment very rarely goes to the poorest places because they are not attractive places in which to invest. That is why grants or concessional aid have to be given to the very poorest places. Although private investment is important and good, it is essential that we do not make it an excuse for not giving public aid. That is broadly the Government's approach to the matter.

My Lords, it has been a fascinating debate. For centuries, as the House will know, the more fortunate nations have been aware of the miserably limited lives of others. Even the ancient Romans realised with thankfulness that the quality of their lives was infinitely better than that of those whom they considered to be barbarians, which included this country and most of the Western World. At the turn of the century the philosopher Santayana said that life for the poor was not a spectacle or a feast but a predicament ". We in the 20th century, in the ever-growing interdependence of the nations of the world, are at last properly aware of the problems of the poorest nations. In this, despite our own economic difficulties, we have played a role of which I think we can be proud. I hope and believe that this White Paper. with its new emphases and adjustments, shows the way in which we can give the most constructive help to those who are in the greatest need.

7.10 p.m.


My Lords, we have had an exceedingly interesting debate, packed with fascinating suggestions and observations, whether proceeding from the folk wisdom, if your Lordships will permit me to call it that, of the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, and his agricultural experience; or the ingenious, inventive, practical mind of his colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw; or from the profound studies which my noble friend Lady Elles had plainly given to this question; or from the experience that the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, could bring from the United Nations, or the experience of the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, and the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, with respect to work in Voluntary Service Overseas. The ideas, the admonitions and the many proposals which have been made are far too numerous for me to make individual specific references to now. I think we must all study each other's speeches, but certainly I should like to thank most sincerely all those who have taken part in the debate.

I should like to join with others in referring, in just as complimentary a manner as they did, to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Bradwell. It was a most impressive and professional speech. Apart from the factors in his speech to which others have referred, namely his sense of moral involvement in this question, which is evident from the fact that he should have chosen this subject on which to make his maiden speech, I found most interesting the two observations with which he began. First, he pointed to what he considered to be a fundamental change which is taking place in the attitude to development—the change of emphasis towards rural development which had not existed previously. I think that is probably right and I do not think it is confined to this country. It is probably a general feeling that aid should be more concentrated than it used to be in rural areas. Secondly, he was prepared to point out some of the disadvantages of multilateral aid, which I agree with him is not something that we would have tended to hear in this House ten years ago, and least of all from the Benches opposite, although sometimes now we hear things from those Benches which we did not hear ten years ago.

I should like to take up one or two points from the first speech made by the noble Baroness, Lady Llewellyn-Davies of Hastoe, when she referred to things I had said. She said what she would have said if I had criticised the Government for giving too little aid. I am not quite sure why she did this because in fact it was not my criticism that the Government were not giving sufficient aid. So I should like to take this opportunity to remove that particular hostage to fortune which the noble Baroness has tried to import into the discussion.


My Lords, I accept what the noble Lord has said.


My Lords, the reason is that I hardly think it would be sane to attack the Government for spending too little in any major sector of Government spending at the present time, and certainly not unless they were willing to propose corresponding cuts in other sectors.

The noble Baroness was good enough to say that she needed time to study my speech and I would certainly need time to study hers. She gave a wealth of statistics. I was certainly impressed by the OECD figure which she gave and which I had not heard before. I think she said that by 1980 the donor countries would be doing even less in terms of the percentage of their GNP than they are doing now if the present trends were to be maintained.


My Lords, that was actually a World Bank estimate.


My Lords, I am glad to have the correction. Of course this is a difficult matter about which to make forward projections. It does not depend only on quantities of aid but also on the history of the growth or the lack of growth in your GNP. So the proportion can vary without the total quantity of the aid.

The noble Baroness said that the White Paper would have been even larger if it had included some of the things for which I asked. That depends upon whether some of the things that I might have taken out had been taken out. There are some things which are not uninteresting in themselves but which need not have been included in the White Paper. As an example I would cite paragraph 19 of Chapter 5 and sub-paragraphs (a) to (e) of paragraph 23 of Chapter 5. I do not find them uninteresting, but I do not think it is necessary to provide that sort of abstract detail (if I may call it that) in a White Paper.

I tend to think that in future there would not need to be a separate White Paper on aid, but in fact there could be a White Paper which gave a description of the policy of the Government of the day in its total, integrated approach towards developing countries, and in that there would be a part devoted to aid. I think possibly that might be a better practice in the future and I am sure it will receive consideration. In that case of course the White Paper could be even bigger than it is on this occasion. I do not want to repeat my criticisms of the White Paper and I do not think the noble Baroness really met them, although I would certainly expect her to defend the White Paper as she did, and the sheer delight which the White Paper gave to the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, inclines me to feel that I was probably right.

There is one point which I should like to make before closing. It was a point which I did not mention but which others did; namely, the North/South dialogue. The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, raised an objection with respect to the non-representation of certain countries in that dialogue. I think one needs to be very careful indeed about that. One of the advantages of the North/South dialogue which is currently taking place in Paris by means of the four committees which have been established, is that there is an extremely limited number of representatives from different parts of the world, and it is one of the triumphs that preceded the setting up of that organisation that there was agreement over who the representatives should be, and we know from our own experience how difficult that proved to be for the industrialised coun- tries let alone for the developing countries. If a dialogue like that does not work when the numbers are as limited as they have been, then it certainly will not work if you increase its size. For that reason, when such complaints as that made by the noble, Lord Brockway, are made, I would urge that great care is taken not to take any action which could upset this matter.

I very much welcome the North/South dialogue and I think it could be of really great importance. If this machinery which has now been established in Paris fails to establish the means whereby the claims of the developing countries can be reconciled to the needs of the industrialised countries, then I cannot see that anything ever will. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.