The process by which priorities and allocations are determined is a continuous one and there is no specific stage at which it is complete. Future disbursement plans for the whole programme are reviewed in an annual cycle. The 1977 cycle is just beginning, and will be particularly important because it must take account of the severe cuts in the aid programme. However, as I am sure my hon. Friend will appreciate, it is not the practice to publish such plans of annual levels of disbursement for particular countries or programmes.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply, except that I did not ask him for the last bit. Can he tell us what are the exact priorities that will be envisaged in implementing these drastic cuts? Is it the Government's intention to make sure that the philosophy contained in the White Paper is the one that is followed?
I can certainly assure my hon. Friend that we intend to stand by the strategy spelt out in the White Paper. Our first priority is to try to avoid cutting any existing commitments. Having done that, we shall put the emphasis, and we shall continue to do, on aid to the poorest countries and increasing the productivity of the poorest communities within the poor countries. As I said in the House on a previous occasion, we shall look closely at how far we can extend our co-operation in this respect not only bilaterally but also within multilateral institutions as well.
If the hon. Gentleman discussed this matter with some of his hon. Friends who have taken a consistent interest in this topic, he would learn that this is in no sense charity. It is an investment in our future, because increased purchasing power on the part of the world community means increased business for Britain.
Some of the countries affected by drought are among the poorest countries of the world. We are actively reviewing their needs and shall try to maintain priority for them within the reduced aid programme.
No one can possibly overestimate the continuing significant contribution made by volunteers. It is because of this that I spent an entire day last week in discussions with returned volunteers about their experiences, the needs of the programme as they saw it and, indeed, their general observations about our overall strategy to aid and development matters.