HC Deb 03 March 1981 vol 1000 cc95-6W
Mr. Latham

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he will publish in the Official Report the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary's letter of 29 December 1980 to the general secretary of the British Council of Churches regarding the Brandt Commission report, in view of the statement of Government policy which that letter contained.

Mr. Hurd

Yes. The text is as follows:

Thank you for your letter of 1 December, in which you enclosed a resolution of the British Council of Churches on the subject of the Brandt Commission Report.

The Government have welcomed the Brandt Report, which contains much with which we agree. We recognise that the outlook for the developing countries is very serious; that great efforts are needed to set things right; and that we cannot expect to prosper in Britain irrespective of conditions in developing countries. I enclose some extracts from recent Ministerial statements which illustrate the Government's views. The Government is taking a positive part in international action in the fields covered by the Report. I enclose a list of areas in which changes are already taking place, with the Government's support, along the lines of the recommendations in the Brandt Report. Much practical progress continues to be made.

The resolution refers to 'reservations' by the Government about the Report. It is correct that we would not agree with every recommendation made in the Report. Nor does any other government. Nevertheless, we welcome it as a means of giving impetus to realistic action on the problems facing the world economy.

The resolution also refers to the Government's view of the present world economic system. We do, indeed, believe strongly in the merits of the present world economic system but we certainly do not regard it as static. We see it as a system which is continually evolving in order to meet new needs, including those of the developing world. We favour such evolution while opposing proposals for wholesale changes to the present system some of which are inspired more by ideological considerations than by practical ones.

No invitations have yet been issued for the North/South Summit proposed by Herr Brandt but we have already expressed our readiness to participate and we expect to do so. I am sure that we will make a positive and constructive contributions to the discussions.

As you may know, preparatory discussions for the Global Negotiations have now been suspended until January. They have made considerable progress over the last six weeks and we hope that they will soon lead to the launching of the Global Negotiations themselves on a generally acceptable basis.

I have noted your reference to the Multi-Fibre Agreement and to the UN Conference on New and Renewable Sources of Energy.

Finally, the resolution refers to the Government's aid programme and the UN target on official development assistance. We regret having to cut back on the level of overseas aid. However, we face the need for rigorous re-appraisal of all public expenditure programmes in our efforts to curb inflation. Aid could not be exempted from this critical scrutiny.

Nevertheless, our aid programme remains substantial. In 1979 our official development aid was at £974 million, the fifth largest in volume terms among Western donors. This represented 0.52 per cent. of GNP, well above the Western donors' average and significantly better than some of our major industrialised partners who are a good deal richer than we are. Our spending target in the current financial year is about £960 million gross. We accept in principle the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent. of GNP for official development assistance but we are not committed to a timetable in reaching this figure. Progress towards it must depend upon our economic circumstances and at present we could not reasonably hope to achieve it by 1985, the timetable proposed in New York. Others also have difficulties. The Germans, for example, could not accept the time scale and the Americans have never accepted the target at all.

Forward to