Departmental Programme

Oral Answers to Questions — Overseas Development – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st February 1977.

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Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara , Kingston upon Hull Central 12:00 am, 21st February 1977

asked the Minister of Overseas Development when he hopes to complete his review of the whole programme of his Department; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr Frank Judd Mr Frank Judd , Portsmouth North

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.

Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara , Kingston upon Hull Central

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?

Photo of Mr Frank Judd Mr Frank Judd , Portsmouth North

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.

Photo of Mr Ivor Stanbrook Mr Ivor Stanbrook , Bromley Orpington

Since almost all the Votes for overseas aid come out of the IMF loan, may I ask when the Government are going to stop this farce and cease pretending that we can afford to give money away?

Photo of Mr Frank Judd Mr Frank Judd , Portsmouth North

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.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , West Lothian

What priority is given to countries which have suffered from drought?

Photo of Mr Frank Judd Mr Frank Judd , Portsmouth North

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.

Photo of Mr Timothy Renton Mr Timothy Renton , Mid Sussex

Has the Minister noticed that the number of volunteers now serving abroad under the VSO organisation appears to be diminishing? Is it also one of the priorities of his Department to help young people to get jobs abroad in the less-developed countries?

Photo of Mr Frank Judd Mr Frank Judd , Portsmouth North

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.