Overseas Aid

Oral Answers to Questions — Overseas Development – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th November 1966.

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Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames 12:00 am, 24th November 1966

asked the Minister of Overseas Development (1) how many countries in receipt of aid from this country are still in default in their obligations to British citizens; and which are these countries;

(2) what steps he is taking to ensure that aid is not given to countries which are in default in their obligations to British citizens; and what steps he has taken to draw to the attention of such countries that it is in their own inerests to honour their obligations.

Photo of Mr Albert Oram Mr Albert Oram , East Ham South

As regards the countries involved, I have nothing to add to the answer given by my right hon. Friend's predecessor to a Question by the right hon. Gentleman on 9th August.—[Vol. 733: cols. 1361–62.]

In general, I do not think it profitable to use aid in the way suggested. Of course, in negotiating aid agreements we take into account all relevant factors of which that mentioned in these Questions is one. My right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary and the Commonwealth Secretary are generally concerned to ensure that obligations to this country are honoured.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

Does the first part of that Answer mean that the hon. Gentleman accepts that it is satisfactory that British taxpayers' money should go to people who have repudiated their obligations to British citizens? Does the hon. Gentleman not accept that it is in the interests of the developing countries that they should build up their credit standing and that we would encourage them more effectively by giving aid to countries such as Malawi, which have scrupulously carried out their obligations, and not to countries which have cynically repudiated them?

Photo of Mr Albert Oram Mr Albert Oram , East Ham South

The first part of my reply concerned the list of countries involved, and that is all. To answer the second part of the right hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, as I have said, this is one factor that we take into account, but we would not regard it as an absolute rule to withhold aid from such countries.

Photo of Mr Frederic Bennett Mr Frederic Bennett , Torquay

While not laying down absolutely specific rules in this matter of aid, must not the moral obligations of donor countries, if they are to be widely respected, be matched by moral obligations of recipient countries; and is it not only unfair to British taxpayers when this does not happen, but also to those recipient countries who do meet their obligations if they are treated in precisely the same way as those who fail to do so.

Photo of Mr Albert Oram Mr Albert Oram , East Ham South

I accept a great deal of what the hon. Gentleman says, and my right hon. Friends, in their respective spheres of responsibility, make representations on these matters.

Mr. Bitten:

asked the Minister of Overseas Development what revisions of forward expenditure proposals on overseas Government to Government aid are now being undertaken consequential on the abandonment of the National Plan.

Photo of Mr Philip Goodhart Mr Philip Goodhart , Beckenham

asked the Minister of Overseas Development whether he will make a statement about revisions in the estimates for overseas aid which have now been made following the economic measures of 20th July, 1966.

Photo of Mr Albert Oram Mr Albert Oram , East Ham South

On changes in the aid programme I would refer to my reply of the 22nd November to the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow).—[Vol. 736, c. 270.] On the National Plan, I would refer to the Reply of the 10th November by my right hon. Friend the First Secretary to a Question by the hon. Member for Bebington (Mr. Brooks).—[Vol. 735, c. 341–2.]

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , Oswestry

These Answers do not contribute very much to our existing knowledge; is the Minister suggesting that aid programmes are related to our expected gross domestic product, and, if so, ought they not now to be revised in the knowledge that the National Plan has been discarded?

Photo of Mr Albert Oram Mr Albert Oram , East Ham South

The National Plan has not been discarded, and I would again refer the hon. Gentleman to the statement of the First Secretary.

Photo of Mr Philip Goodhart Mr Philip Goodhart , Beckenham

Does the Minister recall that, on 20th July, the Prime Minister said that the Government had decided on a firm programme of reducing Government foreign expenditure, military and civil, by £100 million? Does his reply not indicate that in regard to civil expenditure the statement of 20th July was typical and totally misleading?

Photo of Mr Albert Oram Mr Albert Oram , East Ham South

No, I do not agree at all. As far as aid programmes are concerned, a great number of detailed negotiations are going on with a number of countries, and it is not possible to disclose them at this stage. That is the reason for my answer.

Photo of Mr Alf Morris Mr Alf Morris , Manchester Wythenshawe

is there not another important aspect to this question? Would not my hon. Friend agree that the emphasis on the help we give in the future should be much less on bilateral aid and much more on multilateral aid, with special regard to the United Nations Development Fund?

Photo of Mr Albert Oram Mr Albert Oram , East Ham South

We are entirely with my hon. Friend in principle, but in practice bilateral aid is a more rapid form of aid in many circumstances. Although we want to move as fast as we can to a greater quota of international aid, I foresee that for a considerable time yet bilateral aid will be a major part of our aid programme.