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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.]
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?
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.
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?
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.