Economic Aid

Oral Answers to Questions — Commonwealth Relations – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30th January 1964.

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Photo of Mr Reginald Prentice Mr Reginald Prentice , East Ham North 12:00 am, 30th January 1964

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations why economic aid from this country to independent Commonwealth countries fell to a total of £23·1 million in the first half of the current financial year, compared with £29 million in the preceding six months, and £33·2 million in the six months before that.

Photo of Mr John Tilney Mr John Tilney , Liverpool Wavertree

The figures quoted by the hon. Member represent the sums of money actually disbursed. The rate of disbursments necessarily fluctuates as it is governed by the need of the recipient countries to draw on the aid available to them, under contracts into which they have entered.

Photo of Mr Reginald Prentice Mr Reginald Prentice , East Ham North

Are we not in a rather paradoxical situation in that the Treasury White Paper last September forecast an increase in aid both to Commonwealth and other recipient countries, but figures so far in this financial year seem to have indicated a large drop? Are the Government satisfied that the types and terms of aid are sufficiently in line with the needs of the recipient countries? Are they looking at this matter in the light of the apparent fall in the disbursement of aid?

Photo of Mr John Tilney Mr John Tilney , Liverpool Wavertree

We hope that our aid takes into account all circumstances of the recipient countries. I think it as well to remember that our aid has doubled in the last five years.

Photo of Mr Cyril Osborne Mr Cyril Osborne , Louth Borough

Have the Government any plans to increase and stabilise the prices of raw materials which these countries send to us? This could be the best economic aid we could give them. What are we doing about that?

Photo of Mr John Tilney Mr John Tilney , Liverpool Wavertree

Should there be a debate on Commonwealth trade in the near future, this, no doubt, is a matter which could more easily be dealt with then than by Question and Answer, but I have much sympathy with the point of view of my hon. Friend. Of course, because there has been in recent years such a decline in the prices of raw materials, the terms of trade have turned against them.

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

Are not these figures provided to the House by the Government very unsatisfactory? Does the hon. Gentleman remember that at the end of last year we discovered that the Government had underspent by about £12 million what they had announced to the House as their aid programme? This year they look like being very much more underspent. Do the Government intend to revise the figures in order to get a more accurate idea of what are our commitments?

Photo of Mr John Tilney Mr John Tilney , Liverpool Wavertree

One must remember that commitments are very different from disbursements.