HL Deb 31 July 1986 vol 479 cc986-9

11.24 a.m.

Lord Butterworth

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

The Question was as follows: To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the total amount of (a) emergency aid (b) long-term development aid devoted to Africa since May 1979.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Young)

My Lords, our system of maintaining statistics does not allow me to provide the information in the precise form requested. However, I can inform my noble friend that for the calendar year 1979 British bilateral aid to Africa was some £231 million, of which £4 million was for emergency aid and £227 million for long-term development. Figures for Britain's share of multilateral expenditure in Africa cannot easily be established for that year.

Between 1980 and 1985 Britain gave over £2.8 billion to Africa through bilateral and multilateral channels. Under the bilateral programme £110 million was for food aid and disaster relief and £1.7 billion for long-term development aid.

Lord Butterworth

My Lords, I should like to thank my noble friend for that full reply. May I ask her what response the Government are proposing to the recent resolution of the United Nations General Assembly on this point?

Baroness Young

My Lords, my right honourable friend the Minister for Overseas Development said in a Written Answer in another place on 23rd June, at col. 54: I welcome the final resolution on the United Nations special session where all concerned agreed to work together for sustained economic development based on realistic policies". The emphasis given to the agricultural sector is particularly encouraging, as indeed is the recognition of the role of the private sector.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, may I commiserate with the noble Baroness since after we kept her up so late last night she has to be here again this morning; and add my commiserations to the staff also. May I ask the noble Baroness about the second part of this Question? She has answered me before about the British contribution to the International Fund for Agricultural Development, generally accepted as the most constructive form of long-term aid for Africa, and has put that in the context of the contributions from OPEC and the West. Would the noble Baroness consider in her office Britain taking an independent initiative in funding this organisation irrespective of the haggles and discussions that have been going on with the other donors, and put this as a part of British government policy for long-term agricultural aid in the African Continent?

Baroness Young

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, will be well aware of the Government's view on this matter because we have debated it on several occasions in the past. He knows of course the reasons that we have given for the position as it is. I appreciate the noble Lord's particular interest in aid to agriculture in Africa. Between 1979 and 1984 the proportion of our aid to sub-Saharan Africa spent on agriculture and available for spending by that sector increased from 26 per cent. to 30 per cent., and we aim to increase this where we can.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, can my noble friend enlighten the House on what happened to the 2,000 million or 3,000 million dollars worth of aid given to Tanzania between 1978 and 1982? Has it not resulted in the forced moving of 8 million peasants into socialist villages, failed to raise the food production of Tanzania, and enabled them to go on garrisoning the Seychelles and keeping an unpopular government in power there? Is this what the British taxpayer spends his taxes on, or not?

Baroness Young

My Lords, I think that the purpose behind my noble friend's question is whether or not we make sure that the money given in aid is used for that purpose, and it is valuable to have that question. Over the years the ODA approval procedures have been refined to ensure that only aid-worthy projects get official support. Special arrangements for monitoring our aid are built into these projects, and the same is true where balance-of-payments aid is concerned. This is given in the form of British goods and services and not as a cash grant. Perhaps I could draw my noble friend's attention and the attention of others to the ODA review of 1985 which has just been published. This gives some useful illustrations of how aid money has been spent.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, can the noble Baroness say whether or not any of that aid found its way to South Africa, bearing in mind that every year 50,000 children under five die from malnutrition in South Africa?

Baroness Young

My Lords, so far as projects in South Africa are concerned, we have recently agreed, as the noble Lord will be aware, to give an extra £15 million, which is going to be spent specifically on the black population. Of that money a proportion will go in the form of grants for scholarships.

Lord Oram

My Lords, does the noble Baroness recognise that the overall aid statistics, such as those that the noble Lord has asked for, can be somewhat meaningless unless they are broken down to reveal the nature of the aid? Therefore we welcome the additional information she gave to a supplementary question about aid to agriculture in Africa. In the light of the recent history of famine and the need to prevent future famine emphasis on aid to agriculture is of greater importance. Can she assure the House that it is Her Majesty's Government's policy to increase the proportion of aid that goes to agriculture?

Baroness Young

Yes, my Lords. I appreciate the interest of the noble Lord, Lord Oram, in this matter. As I said in answer to an earlier question, we aim to increase aid to agriculture where we can, although helping agriculture directly relieving poverty depends upon economic growth in the countries concerned. That is why we also finance infrastructure.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, can the noble Baroness confirm that all the aid she has mentioned is in the form of grant and none is in the form of loans which seem to be wholly counter-productive?

Baroness Young

My Lords, I do not have the figures broken down in the form that the noble Lord asks for. I do not think it would be right to say that all this aid is in the form of grants. If I can get the information he wishes I will write to him on that.

The Earl of Onslow

Further to the question on agriculture, my Lords, will my noble friend comment on whether it is true that Rhodesian agriculture increased under the pressure of sanctions and the rest of African agriculture production went down under the influence of aid?

Baroness Young

My Lords, I am afraid that that is a question on which I do not have the figures at my disposal. I can tell my noble friend that British aid to Zimbabwe rose from £15 million in 1984 to nearly £24 million in 1985 and that we have made offers of new aid in 1986. We continue to expect to provide substantial help. It is also true that the level of aid in any particular country is kept under review.

Lord John-Mackie

My Lords, much emphasis has been put on developing agriculture. Does the noble Baroness not agree that this should not in any way influence direct aid of food to people who are actually starving?

Baroness Young

My Lords, as the noble Lord will be aware, a proportion of the bilateral aid that we have given has been direct food aid and disaster relief. He may like to know that in the particularly tragic situation in Southern Sudan we have responded swiftly to the urgent need for emergency assistance to help the victims of famine in the Sudan and other drought affected countries in Africa.

The Viscount of Falkland

My Lords, can the noble Baroness enlighten me to what extent our policy on aid to Africa is influenced by the growing cancer of corruption in certain African countries with which we deal? What influence can the Government bring to bear on fellow members of the Commonwealth to put their houses in order in this respect? Would this not be an opportune time to bring that point up and to deal with this matter?

Baroness Young

My Lords, the answer to the first question of the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, is one that I gave in reply to my noble friend Lord Onslow about the most effective use of aid. But we have said, particularly in relation to the United Nations Fund, that it is very important that the aid recipients in the countries involved should play their part in pursuing sensible economic policies at home.