Developing Countries (Aid)

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th December 1972.

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Photo of Mr Dick Douglas Mr Dick Douglas , Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire 12:00 am, 14th December 1972

asked the Prime Minister if he will seek to raise the topic of aid to developing countries when next he meets Commonwealth Prime Ministers.

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

The agenda for the meeting will be settled by collective agreement, but I shall be glad to discuss aid to the developing countries if it is the general wish to do so.

Photo of Mr Dick Douglas Mr Dick Douglas , Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire

Is the Prime Minister aware that there is bound to be considerable concern over the fact that official aid is now running at less than a half of 1 per cent. of the gross national product? How will he explain this lamentable record to the Commonwealth Prime Ministers when we have had a balance of payment surplus? What will it be like when we are running into a balance of payments deficit?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

I do not accept that it is a lamentable record. It is a better record than that of the hon. Gentleman's own Administration. Since we took office we have increased official development assistance both in absolute terms and as a percentage of GNP. This country contributes, as a proportion of GNP, more than any other major industrialised country except France—more than the United States, more than Japan, more than Germany, more than Italy, more than Canada—something of which the British people can be proud.

Photo of Mr Richard Body Mr Richard Body , Holland with Boston

What importance does my right hon. Friend attach to commodity agreements in providing overseas aid?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

We attach importance to commodity agreements and in international negotiations we have tried to secure them, but it is not possible for an individual country to deal with the whole problem of commodity agreements on its own.

Photo of Mr James Johnson Mr James Johnson , Kingston upon Hull West

Will the Prime Minister bear in mind the imperative need for urgent help for the Sudan? Is he aware that we have given about £200,000 to help in the exceedingly difficult situation following the civil war, but that Sweden alone, which has no past connection with that part of the globe, has so far given 1½ million dollars? Therefore, will he himself intervene in the matter?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

I am prepared to have the case looked at again, but in comparing us with Sweden the hon. Gentleman will acknowledge, I think, that a large proportion of our aid goes to the member countries of the Commonwealth.

Photo of Mr Paul Bryan Mr Paul Bryan , Howden

Is not the skill with which the money is spent quite as important as the amount allotted?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

Yes, Sir. I agree with my hon. Friend. I think that in this country, as a result of our experience of empire and then Commonwealth, we also know that we have built up properly the best body of specialised knowledge, both administrative and technical, of any country in the world.