Orders of the Day — Ministry of Overseas Development (Dissolution)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30th October 1979.

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7.42 p.m.

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

I beg to move, That an Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Ministry of Overseas Development (Dissolution) Order 1979 be made in the form of the draft laid before this House on 25 October. It is proposed that this order should be made under section 1 of the Ministers of the Crown Act 1975. Section 1 of the Act gives Her Majesty power exercisable by Order in Council to provide for the dissolution of a Government Department in the charge of any Minister of the Crown and for the transfer of the functions previously exercisable by that Minister to any other Minister. By virtue of section 5(1) of the Act no Order in Council which provides for the dissolution of a Government Department shall be made under the Act unless copies of it are first laid in draft before both Houses of Parliament and each House presents an Address to Her Majesty praying that the order be made". Upon his appointment the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs assumed full responsibility for overseas aid and development, and the Ministry of Overseas Development became an overseas development administration within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. My noble Friend's full title is Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Minister of Overseas Development. These arrangements have already been put into effect administratively. However, this order is necessary in order formally to provide for the dissolution of the Ministry of Overseas Development and for the transfer to the Secretary of State for the functions of the Minister of Overseas Development.

As part of the new arrangements, my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) was appointed in May to be responsible to my right hon. and noble Friend for aid and development matters within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and to be in charge of the overseas development administration. He was given the title of Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Minister for Overseas Development. These arrangements stand. They have had, and will continue to have, a number of consequences.

When development matters are considered among Ministers, they are handled by my right hon. and noble Friend in consultation with my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury. Parliamentary questions on development matters are normally taken in this House by my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury, although there may be occasions when my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal, as spokesman on Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in the House of Commons, will wish to answer questions himself.

Detailed arrangements have already been made to ensure closer liaison between officials of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and of the overseas development administration, and a number of studies are in progress to examine how these arrangements can be still further streamlined. Some of these studies are being done in the context of the general review of Government efficiency being undertaken by Sir Derek Rayner.

These arrangements will not result in any loss of effectiveness in the administration of our aid programmes. In previous debates, when the Conservative Government placed the overseas aid department under the overall direction of the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary and when the Labour Government re-established the department as in independent Ministry, Members on both sides of the House paid tribute to the efficiency and dedication of the civil servants in the overseas development department. On the basis of nearly six months' experience in Government, I am happy to repeat that tribute. The skills of the civil servants in the Overseas Development Administration will now be directly available to my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.

As hon. Members will know, the Government have had to make a reduction in the aid budget this year. This is part of our general review of Government spending. But after the reduction the planned programme of expenditure for this year will, in real terms, be no less than the planned programme for last year.

Photo of Anthony Steen Anthony Steen , Liverpool Wavertree

Will my hon. Friend explain that in greater detail so that the House may understand what he means by it?

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

I thought that it was clear. However, my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury has taken note of the point and will elaborate on it, if possible, when he winds up the debate.

With regard to the machinery for forming policy and the administration of the aid programme, I can tell the House that, as far as I am aware, during the six months of the new arrangements we have received no indications from Governments of countries which receive British aid that things are running less smoothly than before. Nor, as far as I know, did recipients of aid between 1970 and 1974, when arrangements were similar to the arrangements which apply now, make complaints about those arrangements. Therefore, I see no reason why the present arrangements should not function well.

Indeed, the structure which we have now introduced resembles the arrangements favoured by a number of other important aid-giving countries. In Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Canada responsibility for formulating aid policy rests with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, though separate agencies are responsible for implementation. So far as policy is concerned, that is the arrangement we now have. So far as administration is concerned, the overseas development wing of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office remains housed in separate offices in Eland House.

As we said in our manifesto, Britain has a vital interest in bringing prosperity to poorer nations. Many of them supply us with raw materials on which we depend. If their economics improve, ours will benefit. We have a particular obligation to many of the poorer nations which are members of the Commonwealth. Hon. Members should be in no doubt about the sincerity and determination of the Government to foster the development of a prosperous Commonwealth. It is one of our most important foreign policy objectives. An equally important foreign policy objective is the development of the EEC not only as a trading community but as a group of like-minded nations increasingly able to co-operate in foreign affairs. As part of this development the Government are anxious to encourage the EEC to be generous and outward-looking not only in its trade but in its aid policies.

I come now to the reasons why the Government decided to make this change. The first is that we believe that close co-ordination is essential between foreign and commonwealth policy and aid policy. It may be that the previous Government went some way towards recognising that point when the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary assumed overall responsibility in 1975 for aid matters as Minister of Overseas Development. We are going somewhat further than that, in that there is now no separate aid Ministry.

I believe that there have been a number of cases in recent years in which it is doubtful whether the co-ordination of foreign and Commonwealth policy with aid policy has been as close as it should have been. I have only to mention the provision of ships to Vietnam to make my point. Hon. Members will be able to think of other examples.

I am not saying that foreign policy factors should necessarily have priority over developmental factors. Obviously developmental factors are relevant. But a balance has to be struck, and the Government believe that that balance can best be struck by a Minister who has responsibility for both foreign and Commonwealth policy and aid policy together.

There is another field in which I believe the arrangements of the previous Government were open to criticism. The separation of the Ministries enabled the Minister of Overseas Development to take a narrower view than might have been taken of where Britain's interests lay. In many of the small poor developing countries development cannot be divorced from security. I am sure that it is right, for example, that we should help some of the newly independent Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean with the development of efficient police forces. Stability and security are essential preconditions for economic development. I believe that this factor was given too little weight by the previous Government, and this was due to some extent to the separation of the two Ministries.

Our second reason for the change is that it will mean that a senior member of the Cabinet, my right hon. and noble Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, will be speaking in the Cabinet both on foreign and Commonwealth affairs and on aid. This is not a downgrading of aid. It is, if anything, the opposite. In previous Labour Governments Ministers of or for Overseas Development, including the right hon. Member for Lanark (Dame Judith Hart), were not in the Cabinet. In spite of all her formidable talents of advocacy, this must have made the aid voice in the Cabinet less strong than if there had been a senior Cabinet Minister responsible for aid in his own Ministry. It may be that the right hon. Lady was called in to Cabinet meetings when aid was under discussion. But this is a very different matter from being a member of the Cabinet all the time, and a senior one at that.

Let me make an analogy. One of my interests in this House has been the subject of tourism. Over the years hon. Members on both sides who are interested in the subject have had pressure from the tourist industry for a separate Minister of Tourism. I have always resisted that proposal in the interest of the tourist industry itself.

I have always thought it right that the Minister responsible for tourism should be a member of the Cabinet—that is the Secretary of State for Trade. If we had had a separate Ministry of Tourism the Minister could not have been in the Cabinet and therefore could not have carried so much weight. Similar arguments apply to the case of aid.

I believe that the new arrangements are working well. The speed and effectiveness of the Government's response to the crisis over Vietnamese refugees earlier in the year and the quick reaction by the Government to the urgent need now for famine relief for Cambodia confirm that claim. The Cabinet may soon have to take decisions about the eventual scope of our aid programme to an independent Zimbabwe. It is to my right hon. and noble Friend the Foreign Secretary that the Cabinet will look for advice. That, I believe, confirms the wisdom of this order.

7.55 p.m.

Photo of Mrs Judith Hart Mrs Judith Hart , Lanark

The Minister has presented a nice, facile argument, and I look forward to doing the best that I can completely to demolish it. Under this order we shall no longer have a Ministry of Overseas Development. There have been a number of changes over the past few years in terms of Ministers of and Ministers for Over-veas Development. However, what matters is that, apart from the unfortunate period betwen 1970 and 1974, when its transfer into the overseas development administration was scarcely real, and was only formal and nominal, the Ministry of Overseas Development has always been a Ministry with its own independent civil servants. They are highly committed civil servants, and I am glad that the Minister paid regard to them tonight, because some of us know how they feel about this order.

Now, however, there is to be no separation of powers between the diplomatic civil servants of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the members of the Home Civil Service of what was the Ministry of Overseas Development. It is as well to recognise, in talking about integration in Whitehall terms, that they are members of separate Whitehall services, and that full integration of the service is not therefore within the competence of the Foreign Secretary without wide changes in all the machinery affecting the civil servants of Whitehall. All is now subsumed in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

One of the things that the Government have overlooked is the reputation of the Ministry of Overseas Development, not only in the developing countries but among our colleagues in the EEC, the United States, Canada and all countries which share with us the responsibilities of providing development assistance to the Third world.

I have no doubt—and I speak not on the basis of my long experience as the Minister, but of the experience of the Ministry and its highly skilled and expert officials—that the Ministry of Overseas Development commanded tremendous admiration and was seen almost as a model in many parts of the industrial world of how best to do things. I do not think that that will now be so with the merger into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

This is the most major structural change in Whitehall since the Government came to power. In the context of international relationships in the world of the 1980s and of British interests I believe it to be disastrously wrong. One could make a strong case for enlarging the role of the Ministry in terms of overseas staffing in a number of key foreign posts, in terms of overseas trade with developing countries and in terms of certain limited functions carried out by the Treasury—for example, in relation to those aspects of the International Monetary Fund concerned with developing countries and in relation to those meetings of Finance Ministers in which the agenda is largely concerned with North-South relationships. One could therefore make a strong case for enlarging the scope of the Ministry rather than abandoning and subsuming it completely into the realm of foreign policy.

There is a convention—I am not sure that it should not be modified in the interests of freedom of information—that an incoming Government must not see the papers of a previous Government. If the Minister of State had seen the papers of the Labour Government he would not have made the remarks he made tonight implying that there was a great difference of view between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and myself on ships to Vietnam or on the development of security forces in the Third world. All those matters are determined in Cabinet committees. They were not major points of tension between myself and my right hon. colleagues in the Foreign Office. The hon. Gentleman is wrong, and I correct him on that point.

I now refer to the Minister's second point about the development of police and security forces. The Labour Government always distinguished—certainly I did—between police forces and armed forces. If he saw the examples he would probably agree with the decisions that were made. There were scarcely any examples where legitimate training and assistance with police forces were refused However, the hon. Gentleman would find some examples where the training of armed forces was refused. That was right. I still believe it to be right. Heaven forbid that the aid budget should go into the business of providing armies for any country. That is not what aid is about. Nor is that provision contained in the Overseas Aid Act 1966. If the hon. Gentleman is proposing to do that he must amend the Act.

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

I referred specifically only to police forces.

Photo of Mrs Judith Hart Mrs Judith Hart , Lanark

And security forces. I took down the hon. Gentleman's words. He referred to the development of security and police forces.

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

My intention was not to refer to military forces but to police forces.

Photo of Mrs Judith Hart Mrs Judith Hart , Lanark

I am happy to welcome the Minister's clarification of that point.

The Minister said that the Foreign Secretary would speak in the Cabinet on aid questions. I hope that the Minister for Overseas Development will forgive me for being a shade derogatory. It depends whether a Foreign Secretary's voice in the Cabinet is a voice in favour of the Third world or against it; in favour of aid or against it.

In the time of the previous Labour Government we had a powerful Cabinet. People were called in as necessary to the Cabinet. The major decisions were made in Cabinet committee. It will probably be the case—the Minister can tell me if I am wrong—that the voice of the Third world will be reduced as a result of the changes proposed in this order.

Changes in functions and the statutory position of overseas development within Whitehall reflect a change in approach and attitude. If we are to assess the consequences of this fundamental change, I measure the results, as the Minister did, in terms of what we have seen to occur so far.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the reduction of the Budget. The result that we have seen so far from Foreign and Commonwealth Office control of the aid programme is what the Opposition regard as a savage, foolish and short-sighted programme of cuts. The reason is clear. One understands the philosophy. One recalls the Chancellor of the Exchequer's speaking at the meeting of Commonwealth Finance Ministers recently. He said that Britain would have to put its own house in order before being able to provide more official aid to less developed countries. He urged Commonwealth countries to make more effective use of the market place.

We are entirely familiar with the thesis. However, when the Minister of State, in his facile way, says that in real terms this year's programme, following the cuts, will be equal to that of last year, perhaps I could put the existing figures in a slightly different way. That might answer the point raised with him by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Steen), which he said that his colleague would answer at the end of the debate.

We now confront a £50 million cut in this year's aid programme as against the steady increase of 6 per cent. in real terms for the next four years, which was in the Labour Government programme—the fastest increasing public expenditure programme.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine):

The hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Steen) raised the question of the level of expenditure when the Minister addressed the House. However, the Minister immediately left the point. Had he proceeded on that line I should have asked him to explain how it was related to the order.

Photo of Mrs Judith Hart Mrs Judith Hart , Lanark

I venture to give the answer which the Minister promised to give at the end of the debate. In doing that I must be in order, otherwise the Minister would have been out of order in giving that promise of further facts at the end of the debate. I shall be brief. The contrast is that the cut in the aid programme this year means that there is a 5 per cent. cut in the aid budget in real terms, compared with what would have been a 6 per cent. increase in real terms. We do not know, but we fear a greatly increased cut next year. I shall be happy if the Minister can advise his colleague that the figures are different. That is my understanding of them.

As I know that you will be anxious about this point, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I refer specifically to a matter in the order. We have examples of the effects of the cuts. The order refers to the British Council. The responsibility for the British Council in certain respects is now transferred from the Ministry of Overseas Development to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

We were told about the effects of this in a paper by the staff side of the British Council that was published earlier this month. It is aptly entitled "How to lose friends and stop influencing people". We are told that the management of the British Council, under the merger, which is mentioned in the order have told the Staff Side Unions to expect cuts of over £5 million (10–12 per cent.) next year. The Director-General, Sir John Llewellyn, has said in the Staff Journal, 'it is more than likely that there will be further cuts in years to come.' … There will be massive reductions (probably 50 per cent.) in training awards for students from developing countries handled for the Overseas Development Administration, at a time when fees are likely to be more than doubled. About 50 per cent. of British Council money came from the Ministry of Overseas Development. As a result of the merger of functions there is a merging of money. Now we are talking about one budget—a Foreign and Commonwealth Office budget. The immediate result is a reduction in British Council expenditure on overseas students at a time when we are all desperately worried.

On Friday the Minister faces an Adjournment debate initiated by his hon. Friends on this issue, the BBC external services and overseas students. I understand that next year there is likely to be a 14 per cent. reduction in British Council staff serving overseas. That could involve—I shall be very happy if this can be denied at the end of the debate—the closure of 17 British Council offices in developing countries. That is a massively mistaken concept in the interests of projecting whatever we think we are about in Britain, whether it is a Tory or a Labour Britain, yet here it is in the order. That is one consequence of the merger that we are discussing tonight.

Photo of Mr Matthew Parris Mr Matthew Parris , West Derbyshire

Will the right hon. Lady clear up the confusion in my mind? Is she arguing that the cuts—which she obviously deplores—result from increased Foreign Office control over the overseas aid programme or simply that they result from mistaken Government policy? It seems to me that what we are discussing this evening is Foreign Office control over the overseas aid programme.

Photo of Mrs Judith Hart Mrs Judith Hart , Lanark

We are, indeed. What I am presenting to the House for consideration is that were there still an independent Ministry of Overseas Development I doubt whether the view that governs the aid programme at present would have succeeded, as it has, in imposing cuts in a number of vital areas. There would have been an independent voice and a constructive tension between Departments that might have preserved some of the things that in my view are very important. That is the essence of my case.

I have two questions. First, does the Scretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs propose to close the development division concerned with southern Africa? Is the Rayner exercise on staff cuts, to which the Minister has referred, likely to fall most heavily on overseas development administration and will the effect of staff cuts bear most heavily on technical co-operation, the most labour-intensive activity in overseas development functions and work and one of the most valuable activities to the developing countries? Perhaps the Minister can say "Yea" or "Nay" to those questions. I would be very happy if the answer was "Nay".

I have another question, indirectly related to the British Council, regarding overseas students, which I have already touched upon. There has been an avalanche of protest on this matter from the universities and even The Economist. which I assume even the Chancellor of the Exchequer occasionally reads. About 8,000 overseas students from developing countries receive grants through the aid programme. Those students study development subjects. If they are to share in the cuts it will be inconceivably shortsighted and irresponsible. I put the question: will 8,000 or more overseas students share in the cuts?

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. Is the right hon. Lady arguing that the cuts flow from the change in administration? That would be the point, not the level of the cuts.

Photo of Mrs Judith Hart Mrs Judith Hart , Lanark

With respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the overseas students who are supported from the aid programme mostly have their grants adminstered by the British Council, which is specifically referred to in the order. I think that puts me in order on that point.

Photo of Mr Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler Mr Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler , North West Norfolk

On the subject of the British Council, does the right hon. Lady agree that there was a substantial measure of opinion throughout the House, at the time of the Berrill report and the Central Policy Review Staff review, that the British Council was not operating in the most efficient way? I seem to recall that there were occasions when it was felt that some cutting back of British Council activity could be usefully carried out to save cost to the taxpayer and improve the service that it gave in the developing world. It would be charitable of the right hon. Lady to acknowledge that, and say that at least there is a possibility, now that the British Council is to be faced with one budget rather than two, that the budget will be administered more effectively and efficiently, as a result of which the British taxpayer will gain some benefit and the developing countries may get better service.

Photo of Mrs Judith Hart Mrs Judith Hart , Lanark

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that I have put questions to the Minister tonight. Those of us who served on the Select Committee on Overseas Development all remember our questioning on these matters. The question essentially is, will this order mean that there is to be any sacrifice in the quality and quantity of service that the British Council gives to Third world countries and to students from those countries? That is the question that I put, and I think that the hon. Member for Norfolk, North-West (Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler) would not disagree with my posing that question.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Essex South East

The right hon. Lady will recall serving with me on the Select Committee. Would she also address her mind to the way in which this order, by bringing the Ministry of Overseas Development under the aegis of the Foreign Office, might improve the efficacy of aid and advice that we give to foreign Governments on development? That is the question about which many of us are concerned. We are concerned with the effective deployment of what aid we can manage to scrape up. I should like to hear the former Minister for Overseas Development address herself to that aspect.

Photo of Mrs Judith Hart Mrs Judith Hart , Lanark

If I am allowed to do so, I hope to touch on that matter in a moment. Before I do that, perhaps I could touch on other areas related to the British Council, such as education, overseas students and many of the functions that the council will now undertake through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office rather than the Ministry of Overseas Development.

One crucial related field is development education. The Labour Government began what we regarded as a crucial but modest programme costing £600,000 this year and rising in roughly three year's time to about £3 million a year. That would be 0·3 per cent. of the aid budget, used by many bodies such as churches, voluntary organisations, schools and colleges, and much of it related to advice given by those working for the British Council.

I remember the commitment that was made at Lusaka by the Prime Minister when she said that she supported—indeed, she signed—a communiqué that declared that circumstances (affecting the economic, social and political structures of countries) call for bolder endeavours and a new approach for … improving the public understanding of the need for change in the countries participating in the interdependent international system. That was the commitment at Lusaka.

A matter of three or four weeks later we hear that the whole of the development education budget of what was the Ministry of Overseas Development—now part of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office—has gone, and that the advisory committee on development education no longer exists.

Photo of Mr Matthew Parris Mr Matthew Parris , West Derbyshire

On a point of order. If it is in order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for the right hon. Lady to argue the demerits of the substantive Government policy on aid, is it in order for other hon. Members to argue the merits of it later this evening?

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

I have been doing my best to limit the debate to the matters of reorganisation. As I see it, under this order levels of aid and policy decisions are not before the House tonight.

Photo of Mrs Judith Hart Mrs Judith Hart , Lanark

With great respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I listened extremely carefully to the opening speech by the Minister and waited for you to challenge him on certain aspects. When you did not do so I assumed that I, too, would be allowed to discuss some of the issues that the Minister had discussed. I think that I have not referred to anything that came outside the remit of the Minister's remarks this evening—so far. I might do so, but then no doubt, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you would, no course, pull me up very sharply.

However, in terms of the development education programme of the Ministry—if we are allowed to indulge for a second I shall turn away from the matter in a moment—those who have objected to this absurd and mean cut include the Baptist Union, the Church of England, the Methodist Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Catholic Institute for International Relations, the Trade Union Research and Education Group, Christian Aid and Oxfam. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is happy in his defence of the merger of ODM into FCO to be greeted by such an avalanche of protest from organisations which I think a Conservative Government would wish to hold in some high regard.

But the Minister spoke of the basic purposes, as he saw them, of the Government's aid policies. He spoke specifically of aid to the poorest. He will recall, of course, that one of the marks of the previous Ministry of Overseas Development was the publication of the White Paper "Aid to the Poorest".

What is happening now? I ask the Minister in terms of his remarks in opening the debate. As I go around the world, I happen to pick up information about British Ministers. Indeed, I think it was the Minister of State, the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten), unfortunately, who told the governing council of the United Nations development programme that there was no more money in the kitty for that this year. I hear that there is no more for rural development arising from the Rome conference in July.

Then we come to the poorest countries, with which we are most concerned, as the Minister said. We come to India and to Bangladesh. India has a gross national product of $150 per head as compared with almost $5,000 here. It is over 30 times more here than in India. One comes to Bangladesh, where the figure is even less.

Turkey has a gross national product of $1,000 per head a year. This relates essentially and entirely to the Minister's remarks about the Government's concern to continue to give priority to the poorest countries under this merger of the Ministry of Overseas Development with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. From a cut-down aid budget that the Minister has mentioned, we have found —15 million for Turkey. However, I understand—I shall be very happy to have this denied—that there is to be a 40 per cent. cut in the forward planned framework of expenditure for India, with debt relief included in that figure, rather than being additional, over the next three or four years.

Where is aid to the poorest if that, indeed, is within the minds of Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers, without an independent Ministry of Overseas Development?

The hon. Gentleman talked about our relationships with the European Community. Where does he think we shall stand in terms of the campaign that has been conducted by successive Governments of both of our major parties for greater help from European EEC aid to the non-associated countries of Asia, when that is the consequence of the Government's own actions? Where is the strength of argument to say that the EEC ought to be providing more assistance in Government aid and trade to India, Bangladesh and other countries of Asia? The case is lost.

Mr. Frank Hooky:

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, on the figures that she has just given, the proposal will cancel out the effect of the rescheduling of debt which the previous Government arranged and which right hon. Members from the Conservative Front Bench assured me categorically they would maintain?

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. I cannot see that that is in any way related to the order.

Photo of Mrs Judith Hart Mrs Judith Hart , Lanark

I am sorry to say that I referred to it myself, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Perhaps I could elucidate what I said, because it might assist my hon. Friend. My understanding is that over the next three or four years the 40 per cent. cut in planned expenditure in the framework of aid to India will include the debt relief. In other words, the debt relief will not be additional but will come out of the sum. That is my understanding, but I should be very happy to hear a denial of that tonight.

There could be no clearer example of the policy consequences of this merger of ODM and FCO than that which came not from the Foreign Secretary but from the Home Secretary. We had the Home Secretary's announcement that there is to be an end of the Latin American refugee programme, to which there has been a contribution from the Ministry of Overseas Development of between £2½ million and £3 million for each of the last three or four years. That would not have happened if a Minister of Overseas Development had been around the scene and if the Labour Government's Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Home Office Ministers were still in power.

The hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine) appreciates deeply the problems of refugees from Argentina. He and I met some of the mothers from Argentina only two or three months ago. I am sure that he will be one of those who join with all those on the Labour Benches in deeply regretting what the Home Secretary had to say last night.

I must be very careful of my words, because it would not do for me to abuse the privileges of the House. The statement made by the Home Secretary spoke of the Latin American refugee programme, which began in 1973 after the coup in Chile. I hope that my words fall within the conventions of the House when I say that that was an error of fact and a grave distortion of truth.

Photo of Mr Matthew Parris Mr Matthew Parris , West Derbyshire

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If it is the right hon. Lady's contention—I think that it is—that these demerits in Government policy arise from the organisational changes which are proposed, that argument can be rebutted by the argument that there are other good reasons for these changes. Does that then make it open to the House to discuss what good reasons there may be for Government aid policy?

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. The hon. Gentleman may use any arguments in rebuttal that are in order at a later stage, but not on a point of order.

Photo of Mrs Judith Hart Mrs Judith Hart , Lanark

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will seek his opportunities and take his chance.

However, I have made a rather serious accusation against the Home Secretary. I have gone as far as I can. I have said that his statement yesterday on the Latin American refugee programme was a grave distortion of the truth.

That programme began in 1974. Having made such a grave accusation, I should like to back up my own knowledge of this matter. The first refugee from Chile who came into this country came during Christmas week in 1973, as a case of political asylum. He was a young man, with his wife and their year-old baby, who happened, as it turned out, to stay with me subsequently for four or five months. They came by train, after crossing the Channel to Dover. It was the first test case of whether a refugee from Chile could be admitted into Britain. The refugee programme began in 1974. Will the Minister seek from his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary some correction of yesterday's misleading statement? I believe that it will disturb deeply the conscience of this country.

One of the merits of the proposed merger—perhaps some Conservative Members will attempt to argue this case—could be that we might achieve a more consistent programme in relation to human rights. Had I been a Conservative Member, I would have argued that case. I would have said "Look, if we have FCO dominance it is likely that we could have a more consistent programme of human rights".

Photo of Mrs Judith Hart Mrs Judith Hart , Lanark

The hon. Gentleman thinks not, but it could be argued that there is a certain logic in that argument. Of course, I would have disputed that. However, it is certain that there is no logic in a foreign policy which proceeds to dominate and disturb policies relating to the overseas aid budget which have been consistently exercised in the cause of human rights in the last four years. That was the iniquitous act which the Home Secretary took last night in relation to refugees from Latin America. I doubt very much whether the Home Secretary understands that if one takes a prisoner, or someone in detention, in Argentina under our refugee programme, one is taking him out of detention and torture, because those are the arrangements that the Argentinian Government have for voluntary exile. I do not think that is understood. I hope that some of us—perhaps the hon. Member for Essex, South-East will assist us because he knows so much about the matter—will persuade the Home Secretary to change his mind.

With a separate Ministry of Overseas Development, in co-operation with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and with the full support of everyone in the Labour Cabinet, we had a clear and consistent policy on human rights. We shall now be out of step with Germany. I am happy to learn that the Prime Minister is meeting Chancellor Schmidt tomorrow. Perhaps they will compare notes on this subject, because West Germany offers 400 visas a year to Latin American refugees.

Photo of Mr Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler Mr Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler , North West Norfolk

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Surely at this particular point in her speech the right hon. Lady is out of order. She is talking about what other countries may or may not do in matters that do not relate at all to the provisions of the order.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw , Liverpool Toxteth

I have not been in the Chair all that long, but I understand that the debate has been ranging rather wide. There are limits to how far one can go. I hope that the right hon. Lady will refer to the order that we are debating. The issues that she is raising are obviously emotional and affect us all, but they are not part of the debate.

Photo of Mrs Judith Hart Mrs Judith Hart , Lanark

I apologise on this occasion, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because I believe that the hon. Member for Norfolk, North-West is correct. I have strayed a little beyond the order. But the hon. Gentleman understands, and I hope that you will understand, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I did so in order to allow the House to appreciate the devastating effects that the proposed merger is having upon the Government's reputation in regard to human rights. In that sense I was perhaps on the edge of order.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Essex South East

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. With respect, I find it difficult to follow your ruling. This proposal, which frankly horrifies me, is to dissolve the Ministry of Overseas Development and to absorb it into the Foreign Office. That must mean at least a qualitative change in an aid policy that has been accepted by successive Governments for a long time. Whether the effect is devastating or not, there will be a change. Surely it is in order, not only for the right hon. Lady, but also for any other hon. Member, to discuss the effects of that change upon the country's standing in the developing world as well as upon the effective deployment of aid resources.

I therefore hope that the right hon. Lady will be allowed to develop that argument, because some of us certainly wish to do so. While keeping within the bounds of order, I hope that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will permit some discussion of the effects of this extraordinary proposal, the case for which I have not yet heard.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw , Liverpool Toxteth

Obviously some of the matters that the hon. Gentleman raised are completely in order, but I do not think that anyone in the debate is in order in going into the specific amounts of aid that we are giving, and I have heard several comments about that since I came into the Chamber.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Essex South East

With the greatest respect, this goes right to the heart of the whole issue. I recall that previous proposals were made in 1969–70 for a similar merger. If we place the concentration of expertise that the ODM possesses under the control of another Department, there is no guarantee that it will not be dispersed, and that its aims and objectives, its policies and practices, will not be distorted. I have in mind the way in which the Foreign and Commonwealth Office— I am not referring now to specific Ministers—has looked after the national interest of this country. I am thinking of the way in which Parliament was deceived over Rhodesian sanctions, and over the repatriation of Russians after the war—

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw , Liverpool Toxteth

Order. The hon. Gentleman is making a speech. Interesting as it is, he is getting out of order now. Obviously the House is in order in debating financial matters in so far as they are affected by the administrative change, but I do not think that it is in order for hon. Members to mention specific amounts which have been given to any particular areas. That is not part of the order.

Photo of Mr Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler Mr Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler , North West Norfolk

The point on which the right hon. Lady admitted that she might have strayed beyond the bounds of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, related to the area of human rights. Although I have some sympathy with some of the things said by my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine), I hope, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you will confirm that it would be wrong for anyone in the debate to speculate on any area of policy that the Foreign Office, having assumed these new responsibilities, might or might not pursue. Surely the matter of human rights is one that we should recognise as being outside the parameters of the debate.

Mr. Hooky Further to the point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Minister, in his opening statement, referred—I believe quite properly—to the quantity, the quality and the nature of our aid programme. He referred precisely to certain matters that he thought were correct and in regard to which he thought the previous Government were incorrect. The Chair did not indicate at that time that the Minister was in any way out of order. Indeed, in a debate of this kind, it would be virtually impossible to be out of order in discussing the nature of a Ministry the whole aim and purpose of which is the aid programme. With respect, therefore, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I hope that we shall be able to debate matters which are directly related to the order, the implications of which the Minister spelt out in his opening speech.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw , Liverpool Toxteth

I was not in the Chamber when the Minister spoke, but I understand that he referred to certain aid. Whether I would have felt it necessary to bring him to order in that respect, I do not know. I might have done. I do not think that the order deals with specific amounts of aid; it deals with administrative changes. As long as hon. Members keep within that ambit, and deal with what might be the effect of the change, they will be completely in order. But during the last hour or so, from what I have gathered, there seems to have been a tendency to wander outside the ambit of the debate.

Photo of Mr John Grant Mr John Grant , Islington Central

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. When I was at the Ministry of Overseas Development we had a clear-cut policy on human rights. It seems to me that it is perfectly proper to argue, within the confines of this debate, that that policy may be directly affected by the change.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw , Liverpool Toxteth

As hon. Members debate this order, they are apparently making the assumption that there is to be a change. There is a change in the responsibility of Departments, but that does not necessarily mean that policy will change. If hon. Members insist on making hypothetical assertions, they are outside the ambit of the order. That was the only point that I was trying to make to the right hon. Lady.

Photo of Mrs Judith Hart Mrs Judith Hart , Lanark

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is indeed the case that what one is arguing here is that as a consequence of the change of functions in the order there has been a change of policy, particularly in respect of human rights. I hope that it is in order to argue that.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Essex South East

We are concerned here about the transfer of a Department which disburses aid to the Foreign Office. Aid is about development, development is about people and people are concerned with human rights. It can be argued that under Governments of both parties foreign policy has made it possible to sell arms to those who oppress people. E1 Salvador is an example of this which has been mentioned. That being so, surely it is within the bounds of this debate for hon. Members on both sides to refer to the possible qualitative changes that will take place as a result of the removal of this Department's autonomy. Once, the criterion was purely development and not foreign policy. Surely it is within the bounds of order for that to be argued. If not, this debate is a farce.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw , Liverpool Toxteth

It would be completely in order to do as the hon. Member suggests. However, hon. Members must not deal with completely hypothetical matters. They must relate them to the order itself. There is nothing in the order to indicate that policy is necessarily changing. If the hon. Member or anyone else can see where policy is being changed because of the order, then he is in order to mention it. I suggest that we proceed, and, having regard to what I have already said, perhaps hon. Members will try to narrow their remarks from some of the wider issues that have been mentioned.

Photo of Mrs Judith Hart Mrs Judith Hart , Lanark

Perhaps I could assist the House. Before you took the Chair, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I referred specifically to paragraph 3(2) in the order, which relates to the British Council. I submit that the implementation of the aid budget in relation to refugees from Latin America has great relevance to the relationships between the Ministry of Overseas Development and the British Council, and therefore has a direct bearing upon the change of function that we are discussing in the order.

We are not discussing hypothetical changes in policy; we are discussing real changes. This distresses many of us who feel passionately and deeply about this issue. We place responsibility for it to some degree at the door of this Government, who brought about the merger. One cannot separate the mechanics of change from the content of change.

Photo of Mrs Elaine Kellett Mrs Elaine Kellett , Lancaster

Can the right hon. Lady explain why she believes that para 3(2) indicates any change in policy? As far as I can see, it merely changes the person who has the right to make the appointment. It does not in any way imply a change of policy.

Photo of Mrs Judith Hart Mrs Judith Hart , Lanark

Of course it does not in itself. But one of the ways in which a separate Ministry exercises its voice in policy is by having the power to make appointments. I am surprised that the hon. Lady does not appreciate that simple point. Having said that, and knowing the passions that were aroused by the decision of the Home Secretary last night, I will now relate my argument directly to what the Minister said in opening the debate.

The Minister talked about aid to the poorest countries and I believe that he mentioned the word "interdependence". He will be aware that the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs stated the Conservative Party's aid policy a few months ago. I shall quote some of his remarks. They echo some of the comments that have been made tonight by the Minister. I have obtained the Under-Secretary's permission to quote from the article he wrote. He said: We recognise the interdependence between the Third World and ourselves. Apart from the arguments of mutual self-interest in helping to create a higher standard of living for the poor in the world so that they will be in a better position to buy our goods and services, we believe that the conditions of fellow human beings must be a matter of profound concern to us all. We will point this out at every opportunity and show that, abroad as at home, we will put people first. Those are admirable and excellent sentiments.

Where from that flows the Government's mandate to abolish the Ministry of Overseas Development? Where from that flows the mandate to make a 5 per cent. cut in real terms in the aid budget? Where from that flows the mandate to make those changes in policy which I have attempted to touch upon tonight? Where from that flows the mandate to inflict such an effect on those dedicated people who work in what is now the overseas development administration?

My information is that over the last few years, when Civil Service recruitment was taking place every year, about 60 per cent. of university graduates chose as their first choice for employment the Ministry of Overseas Development. Of course, the Ministry could absorb only a fraction of that number, but it indicates the degree of commitment and dedication that is felt among many in Whitehall to the principles for which the Ministry of Overseas Development stood. I believe those principles are endangered by the order which we are debating.

Photo of Mr John Grant Mr John Grant , Islington Central

Does my right hon. Friend recall that during one of the brief interludes when she was not the Minister —I hope that this is yet another brief interlude—there was an indication from the then Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson), that he wanted to go up the same road? A number of my hon. Friends and I resisted that proposal strongly and we dissuaded him from doing so, on two grounds: first, on the basis of the effect on the developing world in its belief that we would be weakening our commitment to aid, and, secondly, on the matter which my right hon. Friend has just raised, the morale of the staff. I confirm that many of those staff are the most dedicated of people. That is a road which we should not be treading tonight.

Photo of Mrs Judith Hart Mrs Judith Hart , Lanark

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I am aware of the amount of work that he put into that matter at the time. I am sure that there must have been voices from the other side of the House who argued the same case. The difference is that we succeeded and they lost.

Photo of Mr John Grant Mr John Grant , Islington Central

The then Minister is on those Benches now but he did not work for them.

Photo of Mrs Judith Hart Mrs Judith Hart , Lanark

My hon. Friend is right. If we are talking about interdependence, mutuality of interest and Britain's image and role in the world, it is highly narrow and unintelligent of any Government, Cabinet, Foreign Secretary or Prime Minister to fail to realise that one of the most important key dimensions of Britain's relationship with the world of the 1980s is our relationship with the developing countries. I am referring to trade, assistance to those countries and helping them to develop the resources which the world will need in 20 years. The concept of mutuality of interest is not served by reducing the influence and capacity of a highly efficient and dedicated Ministry of Overseas Development by taking the action that is proposed. It is against British interests and the interests of the Third world. The Opposition will firmly oppose the order.

8.50 p.m.

Photo of Mr Peter Mills Mr Peter Mills , Devon West

I make no apology for speaking in the debate. I am not known to take part in debates on foreign affairs, Commonwealth matters or overseas aid. However, I have a deep interest in this topics. I have always longed to take part in such a debate in a capacity other than that of a Back Bencher. I should like to have served my party and the House in that field, but that has never come my way and never will.

When I heard of the merger, I had doubts about it. I am still not totally convinced, although the Minister made out a good case. I accept his greater knowledge and the wisdom of those who put the proposition together. We must wait and see, and it is worth giving the merger a try.

I was not convinced by the right hon. Member for Lanark (Dame Judith Hart), who did not put up many arguments against the merger. She talked of the need for a separate Ministry of Overseas Development, but I do not think that she proved her case. However, the action taken by this country since the merger is important. The Minister gave the example of Cambodia and its refugees, where action was taken at the top level by the Foreign Secretary and the Cabinet. Other examples could be given that prove it to be a good merger.

It is important that the voice for aid is heard loud and clear in the Cabinet. I do not wish to belittle the efforts of those previously in charge of that separate Ministry. However, if it is under the control of the Secretary of State and the Minister for Overseas Development, and if decision are taken at Cabinet level, it will be for the better.

When I was a junior Minister, a Cabinet committee, although fairly important, was not as important as a meeting of the whole Cabinet. There are important and weighty decisions that must be made on overseas aid during a difficult period, and the Cabinet should make them. The voice of aid must be heard at the top—in Cabinet.

It is also important that aid and foreign policy should work and plan together, and that is more important now than before. We live in changing times, and foreign policy and overseas aid become more difficult matters.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Essex South East

My hon. Friend almost invites me to intervene. Is he aware that in the United States overseas aid was always specifically linked with foreign policy and proved quite disastrous to American and Western interests? Anyone in the developmental field knows that to be so. Is he also aware that when I was Chairman of the Select Committee we took evidence that clearly showed a lack of co-ordination between developmental aid and external trade policy? If there are to be mergers, the case is stronger for bringing external developmental policies in line with external trade policies, but for goodness sake do not put developmental aid together with the basic needs of poor people in the world. Further, the Foreign Office should not be put in control. That Department makes mistake after mistake and has the worst record of all for errors of judgment. There have been betrayals of secrets and truth does not seem to matter much. Prime Ministers do not know the—

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw , Liverpool Toxteth

Order. The hon. Member is speaking on an intervention. I did not call him to make a speech.

Photo of Mr Peter Mills Mr Peter Mills , Devon West

It is rather sad that my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine) began his intervention in a pleasant manner, but then worked himself up into anger against me. I find that strange. He has expert knowledge and far more experience than I have, so I listened with great attention until he began to get excited and overstated his case. His lack of faith in the American Administration may be well founded, but I have faith in my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Foreign Office, and perhaps they will learn from the mistakes of the Americans.

It is a changing world, and foreign policy and aid must go together. There has to be co-operation, and under a single Ministry that is possible.

We are in the Community and must work together on foreign affairs and aid. I hope that we can encourage the Community to be more outward-looking, and move forward in conjunction with our friends and partners in Europe. Our policy must be closely worked out together.

Mr. Brocldebank-Fowler:

I agree with some of the sentiments expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, West (Mr. Mills), but does he agree that these separate arms of foreign policy are at present handled through different directorates-general in the Community—DG 1 and DG 8? Is he proposing that the policy of co-ordination that we have adopted should be sold to our partners in the Community?

Photo of Mr Peter Mills Mr Peter Mills , Devon West

To be frank, I cannot answer that question and it was totally unfair of my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North-West (Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler) to ask it. Had I known that he was intending to ask such a question, I should not have allowed him to intervene. I could not have been more frank when I said that I spoke as a pure amateur. I am simply saying that now we are in the Community we must work together and that the Community should be more outward looking. The practical application of that proposal is for the experts.

Photo of Mr Peter Mills Mr Peter Mills , Devon West

I wish my hon. Friend would stop muttering. I have allowed him one intervention and, after what happened last time, I am not sure that I shall allow him another.

The West Indies has been mentioned and particularly the new Governments in St. Vincent and St. Lucia and some of the small islands that I have had the privilege of visiting. There could be serious dangers if we do not have co-operation between our foreign policy, our efforts to guide and help those islands and the aid that is given to them—certainly in defence matters.

Finally—and that word will, I am sure, bring a great sigh of relief from most hon. Members—the right hon. Member for Lanark did not prove her case. She talked about cuts and the failure of the Government to support education, but she did not deploy her arguments against the merger. Even an agriculturist can understand that it is the merger which we are debating. The right hon. Lady sought to sidetrack the House from discussing the merger.

The Opposition have not proved their case. I am almost 100 per cent. certain that the Government are on the right track with the new course. We shall wait with interest to see how it works out in practice. I am prepared to support the Government.

9.1 p.m.

Photo of Mr Frank Hooley Mr Frank Hooley , Sheffield, Heeley

The debate concerns the dissolution of the Ministry of Overseas Development, which, by any standards, is a major act of policy. It will not do for the Government to say that it is merely a reorganisation or that it will make no difference. If they argue that it will make no difference, they can hardly justify taking several hours of our time to debate the order.

To be fair to the Minister, he made clear that there were implications for the size, quality and nature of our aid programme. He was drawn into a fairly sharp exchange with my right hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Dame Judith Hart) on an important aspect of the nature of the aid programme that might follow from the dissolution of the Ministry and the transfer of its functions to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

We cannot sensibly discuss the order except in the context of the general background of our relations with developing countries and how far the dissolution of the ODM will affect those relations and the standing of our country in the Third world. The Ministry must be regarded as a sensitive contact with the Third world and not just as a governmental charity dispensing money. That is contrary to the whole concept of aid. The Ministry can feed back to the machinery of Government the feelings, policies and ideas of the hundred or so Third world countries with which our aid programme is concerned. The dissolution of the ODM must mean that there has been a change in the Government's attitude and policy on overseas aid and our relations with the Third world. The decision cannot be construed in any other way and it must be considered in the context of other Government action in this area, to which I shall refer later.

We are debating one aspect, perhaps a narrow one, of what has come to be called the North-South dialogue, the relationship of this country with the Third world countries and how we can help those countries and our general relationships with them. In my view, and in the view of many others, this is a fundamental aspect of foreign policy. In many people's view it transcends the importance of East-West relations, which have dominated the foreign policy argument for two decades since war.

I do not think that we can regard the dissolution of this Ministry as simply a reorganisational shuffle and jiggery-pokery within Whitehall, with civil servants becoming responsible to some other or different Minister, though that, in itself, could be important. We have to ask the Government what are the intended consequences of this change in certain precise fields of our relations with the Third world and in overseas aid and development policy.

This year, as the House knows, an important conference in Manila discussed many aspects of overseas aid. The conference touched on certain matters that I wish to raise. I want to know how the dissolution of the Ministry of Overseas Development and the transfer of its functions to the Foreign Office will affect Government policy on these important issues. If it will make Government policy more forthcoming, more outward looking, more generous and more constructive, there will clearly be a case for the order. If, on the other hand, it is likely to constrain, restrict and downgrade our behaviour towards the Third world, the order clearly becomes more questionable and the House, and certainly the Opposition may well decide to vote against it.

We are entitled, under this order, to ask the Government for an explanation of the consequences, if the House adopts the order, for certain precise fields of policy covering aid and development. Let us consider, for example, the common fund, which was finally negotiated at Manila. Will this change of policy, the dissolution of the ODM and the transfer of responsibilities to the Foreign Office, mean that we shall be more generous, or less generous, in our voluntary contributions to the second window of the common fund? Will the Foreign Secretary, if he assumes these responsibilities, argue in Cabinet for greater, more rapid and more powerful development of this new instrument? Or will he argue for it to be downgraded still further or for it to be restricted and curbed in various ways so that it will not be a great international instrument of development as originally conceived?

Does the dissolution of the ODM mean that the common fund and all the associated arguments, in terms of commodities, and so on, will be pushed way down the agenda? Does it mean that the Foreign Secretary, with all his multifarious responsibilities, will take little interest in this particular instrument of development and that it will play little or no part in the development policy of Her Majesty's Government during the next two or three years? That is a question that the House is entitled to ask. This is an important feature of development strategy. There is also the question of how far we, as an important market for the goods of other countries, will make conditions easier for them to sell their goods in our markets. Or do we intend to introduce protectionist and restrictive polices?

I am fairly satisfied that the Ministry of Overseas Development, if it continued to exist—after all, we might defeat the order—would argue for a generous attitude towards the products of developing countries and say that trade, as well as aid, is an important component of the development process. I am sure that the Ministry has examined the issues with great care, because a special study on the subject has been produced by someone in Whitehall.

We should take a generous attitude towards the Third world about preferences and trade policies. Does the dissolution of the Ministry of Overseas Development mean that such an attitude will not prevail and that proposals for restricting the flow of trade between the Third world and the United Kingdom will be welcome? Does it mean that when the matter is discussed in Cabinet the Foreign Secretary will say that it is all very well to trade with such people but that he does not regard it as a major matter of foreign policy and will not add his voice to those who advocate a liberal attitude? The House needs to know that. If this order is passed there could be a change of attitude towards the flow of goods between this country and the Third world. If the ODM is dissolved, matters could proceed in a way which I and many of my hon. Friends—and indeed many hon. Members on the Government benches—would not welcome.

Then there is the straightforward question of the volume of the flow of aid. If the ODM is dissolved, will we find that progress towards the United Nations target of 0·7 of GDP gets slower and slower? Progress towards that target has not been very pronounced in the past few years. Or will we find that the Foreign Secretary—

Photo of Mrs Elaine Kellett Mrs Elaine Kellett , Lancaster

Will the hon. Gentleman acknowledge that many recent surveys have shown that much private investment is more beneficial to the countries receiving it than some of the official aid?

Photo of Mr Frank Hooley Mr Frank Hooley , Sheffield, Heeley

I shall not venture into that argument, because I should be out of order if I were to do so. The ODM does not control private investment.

Photo of Mrs Judith Hart Mrs Judith Hart , Lanark

My hon. Friend may be aware that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when advising developing countries to go to the market place, specifically referred to private investment. My hon. Friend might want to mention the inadequacy of private investment in financing any infrastructure which it does not find profitable.

Photo of Mr Frank Hooley Mr Frank Hooley , Sheffield, Heeley

If I allow myself to be sidetracked into discussing all the right hon. and learned Gentleman's misdemeanours my speech will abuse the tolerance of the House and the Chair. I shall not, therefore, get tangled up in that issue. I come back to the point about the flow of official aid. I am sorry if I did not make it clear to the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman) that when I speak of aid I mean what is called official development assistance. That does not include private investment or arms. If there is a specific, internationally recognised definition of aid, I am sorry that I did not make myself clear.

Such aid over the past couple of decades has barely reached half way to the target to which we, as a member of the United Nations, have been committed for many years. Will the dissolution of the Ministry mean that we shall progress more rapidly, or more slowly, towards the target? Alternatively, will the Minister argue that with the Foreign Secretary in charge he will press for a rapid and substantial increase in the aid programme so that we can honour the international commitment that has been on the books for many years? The dissolution of the Ministry and the transfer of responsibility could have important implications for aid and development policies. We are entitled to know exactly what those implications are. Without an explanation we cannot vote sensibly on the order.

Monetary reform is a complicated matter. I do not wish to examine it in detail, but an important aspect is the IMF's compensating financing facility, which is of help to poor countries which run into balance of payments problems. I imagine that the Ministry, as it is at present instituted, will be interested in seeing a strengthening and enhancement of the IMF's role in assisting poorer countries which run into difficulties because of the fluctuation in commodity prices or because of natural disasters.

This is an important area of policy on which the existing Ministry must have some views. Some of us argue that there may be a conflict in developing the IMF facility as against developing the Stabex system under Lomé. By dissolving the Ministry, are we to move forward with international monetary arrangements as they affect the Third world, or will we lose interest and shuffle off these issues?

Originally, this Ministry was known as a technical co-operation department. The concept of overseas aid 15 years ago involved giving a little help and a little scientific know-how to Third world countries so that in 10 or 20 years they would achieve what took us 150 years. That was a simplistic attitude, which was reflected in the title of the department.

We have come a long way since then. The transfer of technology, how it operates, under what circumstances, at what cost and how the Third world countries can use this seemingly magic weapon to develop their economies and raise the standards of living of their people has become an important element in the aid debate. Will the dissolution of the Ministry contribute positively to the transfer of technology, or, when the matter is put on the Foreign Secretary's desk, will he confess to be ignorant of technology and take little interest in it? The Foreign Secretary has many wide-ranging responsibilities. Technology could come a long way down his list of priorities.

An important development occurred at Manila this year, on which the Foreign Secretary might have more interesting views than those of the ODM, which we are proposing to dissolve. The question of economic co-operation between the developing countries, which arose at Manila, led to a decision that the UNCTAD secretariat should give special help with administrative arrangements to Third world countries co-operating with and helping one another, rather than waiting for the rich world to come to their rescue. I am prepared to listen to what the Minister has to say on that matter.

It is possible that the Foreign Secretary will have views about the possible dangers or advantages of that sort of development. I do not know whether the Ministry of Overseas Development gave much thought to that argument in its preparations, discussions and papers that it presented to the UNCTAD V conference. My own view is that the emergence of this idea in a more precise and better defined form was an important straw in the wind in Manila. It might mean that the Third world is becoming fed up with waiting for the rich world to honour fully its promises on aid, technical assistance, monetary reform, trading rules, and so on.

With the new idea of economic co-operation between developing countries, the Third world may be coming to the conclusion that it is the poor who help the poor and that unless they combine their forces—as OPEC has done in another context—they are not likely to make any great headway.

That could have profound and interesting consequences for our foreign policy. The Government are proposing to dissolve the ODM and put more direct responsibility on the shoulders of the Foreign Secretary. He may have to give more time to the political behaviour and the consequences of a development in which the Third world, so far from taking part in the dialogue, might give up the idea that the dialogue was useful and turn in on itself and say "We shall fight our own way through these problems and give up the notion of interdependence".

With the dissolving of the ODM and the putting of a more direct responsibility on the shoulders of the Foreign Secretary, that development—or at least the political aspects of it—might receive more attention from the Government than it does under the existing arrangements. I should be interested to know whether the concept of economic co-operation between developing countries—the Third world helping itself—has played any part in the Government's decision to dissolve the ODM and give more responsibility to the Foreign Secretary.

We must look at the impact of the order on Lomé II. The ODM, presumably, has been responsible for a considerable amount of the input into the negotiations that have led up to Lomé II, which will be the successor instrument to the first Lomé convention, which runs out in about a year or 18 months. Lomé II has been a difficult agreement to negotiate. I suspect that even now many of the cracks have been papered over with useful phrases, high-sounding declarations, letters of understanding and all the other mish-mash of international negotiation. But it was negotiated while the ODM was in existence, and presumably it put in its views on matters such as Stabex, the European development fund and access to the Community's markets.

I am sorry to offend the Minister's delicate ears with these rather unpleasant matters which over the years have caused him so much anguish and anxiety. However, they are part of the aid argument and, in his new position, he must take some account of them, or I presume he has already done so.

As I said, there is the question of Stabex, the European development fund, access to markets, and investment rules as between the 59 and the Nine at present, or the 10. These negotiations have gone on with the Ministry of Overseas Development as a fairly independent entity. Now the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary will not only have to take more direct responsibility for the problems of lamb, fish, herring, net sizes and all the other minor complications of this delightful Community but will have to superintend the working out of the Lomé arrangements between the Common Market and the 59 ACP countries. That could be of considerable importance.

Stabex is an interesting development. I have not seen the text of the final agreement—I am not sure whether any text has been published—but I believe that the Nine resisted the proposition that Stabex should be extended to cover minerals, apart from iron ore, which is already there.

Are we to understand that, as a result of the dissolution of the ODM, the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary may, in so far as matters concerning Stabex come to his notice, take a more generous and wide-ranging attitude towards that instrument, or will it be construed in as narrow a manner as possible?

Will the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary be concerned with the disbursements from the European development fund, which in past years have been deplorably slow, clumsy and bureaucratic? In future will they be speeded up and made prompt and effective? Under the new arrangement, if the House agrees to it, the Foreign Secretary will have the opportunity to look at that matter.

What will be his attitude to investment? Will he ensure that investment is concentrated simply on tearing out the mineral resources of the Third world to feed the insatiable demands of Western Europe's industry, or will he ensure that some of the investment, at any rate, is concentrated on the infrastructure which my right hon. Friend mentioned as being of fundamental importance to the development of Third world countries? The House is entitled to know whether this change of policy will have the one effect or the other in the context of Lomé as much as in the context of UNCTAD V and the other great international treaties on overseas aid and development.

There is the question of Commonwealth links and connections. Obviously the ODM has been very much concerned with the development of Commonwealth countries, since these include India and Bangladesh, which, as my right hon. Friend rightly pointed out, are some of the poorest countries in the world and have enormous developmental problems.

We know that at Lusaka a short time ago the Commonwealth gave this country great assistance in helping to resolve a difficult problem in Central Africa. At that conference the Prime Minister committed the British Government to work for increasing information, understanding and appreciation of the Commonwealth among the general public"— that is on adequate aid—and also for improving the public understanding of the need for change in the countries participating in the interdependent international system. Will the switch of responsibility contemplated in the order mean a change of attitude to Commonwealth countries? Will it mean that the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary will, for example, impress upon the Common Market that it should be more generous and more alive to the needs of the non-associate States and should not concentrate all its mind and effort on the 59, important though they may be?

The House may think that in all these matters of relations within UNCTAD, within the Lomé convention and within the Commonwealth, the United Kingdom has a very insignificant voice. We are, we persuade ourselves, not a terribly rich country operating among many other powerful industrial countries. We might think that what we say in the context of the existence of the Ministry of Overseas Development, or what is said by the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary in his more direct role of administering the aid and development programme, does not matter.

It is worth quoting here, however, an interesting comment that was published in The Guardian yesterday by our former ambassador to the United Nations, Mr. Ivor Richard, who was writing about Britain's role in the world. He wrote: We are, after all, heavily dependent on what goes on in areas of the world no longer under our control. Britain still imports a very large percentage of its food, and we depend upon foreign trade to maintain the living standards of our people. Thus the Third world demands for fundamental alteration in the operation of the world economy are demands that we ignore at our peril. We have a direct interest in world economic stability, and it is very much to Britain's advantage that changes should come gradually and in a way that gives us maximum time for adjustment. They must come by negotiation, and not confrontation. He went on to say: To find ourselves in international economic discussion slightly to the right of West Germany and almost indistinguishable from Japan is nothing short of disgraceful for a country which is as rich as we are. I quote further, and I promise the House that this is the last quotation from this article—

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw , Liverpool Toxteth

Order. The hon. Gentleman has so far related his comments to the subject with which we are dealing. I feel, however, that he is now straying outside that specific subject. This is not a general debate on overseas aid. Will the hon. Gentleman relate his remarks to how overseas aid will be affected by switching over to the Foreign Office?

I take this opportunity to remind hon. Members that we have heard three speeches in one hour and 40 minutes and that a large number of hon. Members wish to speak in the debate. It is unfair that right hon. and hon. Members should go on for so long.

Photo of Mr Frank Hooley Mr Frank Hooley , Sheffield, Heeley

I am much obliged to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was trying to work out, in quoting the opinion of a distinguished diplomat, whether the dissolution of this Ministry would mean a change in our foreign policy attitude and our aid and development attitude towards Third world countries. Surely that is what the debate is all about. I was also under the impression that we were entitled to debate this matter until 11.30, and if I am wrong about that I am sorry—

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw , Liverpool Toxteth

Order. The hon. Gentleman is right, but we shall hear exactly four other hon. Members if they all speak for as long as he has.

Photo of Mr Frank Hooley Mr Frank Hooley , Sheffield, Heeley

I take that point, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall now try to draw together the threads of the argument that I have been putting to the House.

The order must be considered in the context of the Government's aid policy. There is no point in the House supposing that this is merely a reorganisational convenience. If it does not matter, we should not spend the time of the House on it. I believe that it does matter. The Government are right to claim that it matters. The Minister is right to claim that the order is of importance. Therefore, we must consider it in the context of what else the Government are doing in the area of aid. The Minister said that the volume of aid had been cut by £50 million. My right hon. Friend the Member for Lanark said that, in real terms, there had been a fall of about 10½ per cent. in the purchasing power of the total aid budget this year.

There was a regrettable proposition to increase the level of overseas students' fees to about two and a half times the rate prevailing in other countries. That is way, way ahead.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw , Liverpool Toxteth

Order. The hon. Gentleman is well outside the matter that we are debating. This is not a general debate on overseas aid. The hon. Gentleman should return to the subject of the debate.

Photo of Mr Frank Hooley Mr Frank Hooley , Sheffield, Heeley

With great respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, my right hon. Friend pointed out that the order concerned the activities of the British Council. The Council is responsible for paying the fees of 8,000 overseas students in this country. If the resources of the British Council are to be pre-empted by a 100 per cent. or 150 per cent. increase in overseas students' fees, the order will affect them. That has a direct bearing on the matter.

As the development education fund has also been scrapped, I should like to know whether the dissolution of the Ministry of Overseas Development has any bearing on that. Would an independent Ministry of Overseas Development have concurred with that action? Is there any point in making representations to the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, under the new dispensation for the restoration of that fund?

The order is significant. It provides not merely for a Whitehall reshuffle. It is an act of policy. Looking at it in the context of other acts of policy in the short period of this Government's tenure of office—the cut in overseas aid, the raising of students' fees, the scrapping of the development education fund—we see that the omens for the future are bad. I have profound misgivings about shifting the responsibility from an independent Ministry on to the shoulders of a Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary who, in the modern world, has enormous responsibilities in the context of our EEC membership and a formidable complexity of matters with which to deal. I cannot support that move.

9.39 p.m.

Photo of Mr Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler Mr Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler , North West Norfolk

I shall try not to speak for 38 minutes. Valuable though the speech of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) was, there are many hon. Members on both sides of the House who would like to make a contribution to this important debate.

The Ministry of Overseas Development, or the Overseas Development Administration—it has been both in the course of its history—has had a career that has involved it, since 1961, in no fewer than six statutory instruments. That must be a record for the reorganisation of any Department in the last 18 or 19 years—and that is not counting the occasion in 1975 when there was a change that I have not been able to trace and the Government announced that the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs would exercise overall responsibility as Minister for overseas development. At that time we had a Minister of Overseas Development who, I believe, was a Minister of State and the Foreign Secretary at that time was the Minister responsible in the Cabinet. The truth is that we have had Ministers of State or Ministers of Overseas Development in both Conservative and Labour Governments, and under Governments of both parties there have been times when overall responsibility has been with the senior Foreign Office Minister in the Government.

Having said that, together with the fact that I am already on record this Session as having recognised the quality of our present Foreign Office team, I must accuse my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Blaker) of being a bit of a shrinking violet. When I reflect on his words I realise that they were very carefully drafted to tell us as little as possible about what may prove to be a major change.

I believe that the House as a whole, whatever view it takes of the Government and their Ministers, is entitled to know precisely what changes will flow from this substantial change whereby the Ministry of Overseas Development will cease to be a separate entity and, once again, will be absorbed into the Foreign Office.

On the last ocasion when a similar change was made—in November 1970—the Ministry was dissolved and its functions were transferred to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. Development work was carried out by the overseas development administration as a separate functional wing of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office under responsibility delegated to the Minister for Overseas Development by the Secretary of State.

My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South must forgive me if I did not detect from his remarks precisely what the chain of command was, other than that there would be certain times when up to three Ministers might be involved in overseas development affairs and other times when, apparently, my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) might be in charge of overseas development affairs. I hope that my hon. Friends will forgive me for being a trifle worried about this change, because it follows closely the loss of a significant period of time for Foreign Office questions.

Although it is true that we have a separate period within the overall Foreign Office time for questions on overseas development, those of us who might wish to ask questions about foreign affairs and overseas development—I am one—have lost that opportunity to put Ministers under pressure. The opportunity was never very great, because the Foreign Office is rather good at answering questions without telling us anything.

I believe that hon. Members are now at a substantial disadvantage when wishing to find out about overseas development matters during Question Time and in debate. This change has significantly reduced the opportunity for Back Benchers to contribute and to seek information.

I hope that when winding up this evening my hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development will assure us that development work will be carried out by the ODA as a functional wing of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and that my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury will be fighting, within the Foreign Office team, to ensure that development matters receive the consideration which they have historically received when decisions are made as to how to deploy our expenditure on overseas aid.

I noted from the Minister's remarks when he opened the debate that many of the details of reorganisation within the new combined Ministry were to be part of Sir Derek Rayner's more general review of the operation of government. But the House is entitled to know today some of the practical changes which will flow from this decision. For example, will there be any saving of staff? If so, what will happen to the staff who are to be displaced? What will be the saving, if any, in the annual cost of administration? What assurances can we be given that the administration of our aid programme will be no less good—indeed, that it will be substantially better—than it has been in the past?

I think that these are reasonable questions for anyone to ask, particularly as my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine) and I had the honour of serving together on the Select Committee on Overseas Development for many years. At various stages during that work, as my hon. Friend has already mentioned, we had grounds for considerable misgivings about the quality of interdepartmental liaison, specifically in the areas of foreign policy—that is, political, strategic and defence questions—and as between trade policy, development policy and aid policy. We detected over a long period of working together on that Select Committee that all these things were inextricably interdependent and needed to have some framework not only within Whitehall but probably in Cabinet subcommittees as well which enables these matters to be discussed as part of a coherent whole, which again, through Cabinet sub-committees, ought to be related to Britain's domestic policy as well.

Frankly, one of the problems over several years which worries some of us on the Conservative Benches is the extent to which the Foreign Office runs a team of its own that does not seem to be keyed into the overall requirements of British policy, both domestic and overseas. I should like to be assured that the interdepartmental liaison on important matters such as this will not lie on the table of the joint aid policy committee—JAPC—which is a peripatetic feast of civil servants which sits first in one Ministry and then in another, but that there will be, as a result of this new central direction of policy which the Minister is proposing, some coherent coordination of all the various strands of foreign policy into a composite whole which is more cost-effective than our policy has been in the past.

Photo of Mrs Judith Hart Mrs Judith Hart , Lanark

The hon. Gentleman will recall the occasion in the Select Committee on Overseas Development when these were matters of questioning. He will recall also that I went as near as I could to telling him that that system existed under the Labour Government.

Photo of Mr Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler Mr Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler , North West Norfolk

I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for reminding me of some interesting exchanges on that Select Committee. It is true that she was unusually frank as a Minister before that Committee, and we welcomed that at the time. We enjoyed the exchanges very much. I do not exclude from my mind the hope that should we have a subcommittee of the foreign affairs Select Committee in due course my hon. Friends on the Government Front Bench will come before it and be equally frank and helpful in their exchanges. I feel sure that that is the least that we can expect from them.

However, what I should like to know tonight is the extent of these changes in the organisation of the Ministry. I refer to the point that I have just made about the need for interdepartmental liaison. The Select Committee referred to it in House of Commons Paper No. 125 of Session 1977–78. In the then Minister's reply—Cmnd. 7213 of Session 1977–78—various comments were made on the important recommendations that the Select Committee made. For example, recommendations 1 and 2 were that There should be a Cabinet Committee on Bilateral Relations to co-ordinate interdepartmental consideration of the interaction of domestic and overseas policy". It would be helpful if the Minister could say whether that at least is still under consideration.

In recommendation 5 the Committee recommended that: The Government should take early action to establish an inter-departmental system for the evolution of co-ordinated country policy programmes". Perhaps we shall hear later that part of the reorganisation will mean that some of the staff of the old ODM will become part of the desk staff in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. If that is so, it is arguable that that would be a step in the right direction to get fully co-ordinated country programmes. If that is the case, I hope that my hon. Friend will tell us about it later.

Recommendation 7 of the Select Committee report stated: Consideration should be given by the Government to establishing a consultative committee reporting to ministers, to improve liaison with all those concerned with aid, trade and industry". Speaking for myself, and I think many Conservative Members, although we realise that the aid programme is of vital importance to infrastructure in developing countries, aid is not always the best means of encouraging countries to develop their resources. I personally feel that major flows of private investment in developing countries, under suitably controlled conditions and the laws of the country concerned, can be just as efficient as, if not more so than, some parts of the aid programme. I hope that in his reply my hon. Friend will tell us that this is a subject of continuing consideration, and that the Government will give encouragement to investors in this country to look to the developing world and to play their part in building up their capacity to produce their own food, to export their own surpluses and to earn foreign exchange in order to be expanding markets for what we have to export.

In recommendation 9 it was proposed: The Government should take steps to ensure that all Diplomatic Personnel, including those who may subsequently become Heads of Mission, have the opportunity to acquire expertise in the fields of industry, trade, international finance and aid as well as political relations.". It is a fact that much is demanded of our Foreign Office staff on posts in the developing world. Not all of the heads of mission that I have seen in the developing world have had a good enough background in development, economics, trade, aid or whatever. I very much hope that when the Minister considers how to deploy the forces within this new Foreign Office organisation he will realise that successive reports on our overseas representation have recognised the importance of having a variety of skills available for deployment in the developing world and on major posts overseas. That is something that we would hope to see continued.

On page 27 of that report there is a table showing in percentage terms the extent to which Britain's trade with the developing world has diminished over the years 1970 to 1975. For example, it has diminished by 25 per cent. to the American developing countries; by 20 per cent. to Asian developing countries; by 25 per cent. to African developing countries; and by 33 per cent. to Middle East developing countries. These are very—

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw , Liverpool Toxteth

The hon. Gentleman has been in order up to now, but these facts and figures are not related to the transfer of the organisation to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Photo of Mr Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler Mr Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler , North West Norfolk

With respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am trying to show that circumstances have existed, in our trading relations with the developing world, of which I am urging my hon. Friend to take account in deploying his resources in the revised Ministry which will be set up as a result of the order. It may seem to be a somewhat tortuous argument, but one can recognise in it a link with the order. I hope that I may be allowed to make the general comment that there has been a substantial loss in Britain's share of trade with the developing world, which was referred to in the Select Committee's report and in the ministerial reply at that time.

What is even more alarming is that the share that we lost has over the years been almost precisely taken up by the increase in the French share of trade with the developing world. I hope that in reorganising the Ministry as a result of the order Ministers will take account of the real need to give our people in the developing countries both the education and the back-up from central Government to ensure that they will no longer continue to lose ground to the French and to other countries which are now exporting to what have been our traditional markets.

During the course of its work over the years, the Select Committee on Overseas Development has had the opportunity of visiting certain of the development divisions, and has in most cases formed a very good view of their ability to spread expertise throughout an area where particular expertise was not available on post for that purpose. I hope that as a result of the reorganisation none of these development divisions will be in danger, and that my hon. Friend will be able to give me an assurance about that.

Many Conservative Members would be very concerned if the Barbadian development division and the Caribbean development division were to cease to exist, because at the moment the Caribbean, with its emerging independent territories, is a particularly vulnerable area. It is important that the Caribbean development division should continue to play a part in ensuring that British resources of aid and so on are available to add to the stability of that area.

The Middle East is another area in which we have had an extremely valuable development division over the years. I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to reassure me that there are no plans now—or likely to be in the future—for shutting down that important division.

The same is true of Southern Africa. Particularly at a time when we hope to welcome an independent Zimbabwe, it is surely of crucial importance that we have technical assistance and technical expertise on hand to ensure that such aid as we give to that new country will be used effectively and to good purpose.

I have heard rumours that the South-East Asia development division in Bangkok could be at risk. If that were to be the case, it would be a very bad thing for us, not least because, as the Minister will recognise, the last report of the Select Committee on Overseas Development saw a role for a development division in the Indian Sub-continent, and we argued forcefully that part of this job could be carried out by the development division based in South-East Asia.

The reason I argue for the maintenance of these development divisions is principally that, quite apart from making expertise available to many countries at a relatively low cost, the development divisions are, quite simply, the best means of project identification that exist. Project identification means not only that British industry has the chance to get in on lucrative contracts at a very early stage but that our manufacturers and traders can play the part that the Conservative Government want to see them play in the development of the Third world.

I hope that the Minister will take these remarks in the spirit in which they are meant. I am perfectly prepared to accept that there is a need for reorganisation and better co-ordination, but I think he owes it to the House to give a fuller account of the detailed plans he has in mind.

10.1 p.m.

Photo of Mr Tom McNally Mr Tom McNally , Stockport South

The hon. Member for Norfolk, North-West (Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler) accused the Minister in opening the debate of being something of "a shrinking violet". I thought that the Minister was positively brimming with self-confidence in trying to justify this order. I hope that the mauling that he has just had, not least from his own Benches, is a sufficient tribute to the Ministry which he and his colleagues are trying to destroy.

In the years of its existence the Ministry of Overseas Development has won friends on all sides of the House. It is no accident that interventions about overseas aid from the Conservative Benches, which have been most spirited and pertinent, have come from hon. Members with direct experience on the Select Committee on Overseas Aid. Ministers have shown a certain blind loyalty to this decision, but that does not give us much confidence.

On the Opposition Benches there must be either total silence because we believe that no changes have taken place, or protests because we believe that there are changes, and we have the right to ask the Minister what these changes are. The intervention of my right hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Dame Judith Hart) was particularly pertinent. I believe that fundamental changes are taking place in policy. This is not just an issue of the machinery of government or tinkering around by Whitehall bureaucrats. We are seeing a fundamental change in Government policy towards the developing world.

I was pleased that the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Parris) twice intervened to say that there was a change in philosophy. He threatened to defend that change. Presumably he would bring the same compassion to the people in the developing countries as he brought to the tenants of council houses during the general election campaign.

Photo of Mr Tristan Garel-Jones Mr Tristan Garel-Jones , Watford

Cheap. That is a disgraceful remark.

Photo of Mr Tom McNally Mr Tom McNally , Stockport South

It is not cheap, and the hon. Member knows it. My goodness, how the Conservatives wriggle when they are faced with the facts!

The Minister gave three specific reasons for bringing forward the order tonight. He said that he wanted closer coordination between aid and foreign policy. More ominously he said that he wanted a better balance between aid and foreign policy. Even more ominously he said he wanted to get rid of the narrow views of my right hon. Friend the Member for Lanark. I presume that by "narrow views" he means the policy of giving aid to the poorest countries.

The Ministry that is being destroyed had a high international reputation and a coherent strategy for aid. It also had high staff morale and trust among the voluntary agencies on which the Government say they will rely for their own strategy.

I do not share the view of the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine) about the Foreign Office. As a special adviser, I spent three happy years at the Foreign Office, where I learnt a great deal about foreign policy and the machinery of Government. But, equally, three years' experience convinced me that there was in the Foreign Office, is now and has been since the Ministry of Overseas Development was created, a sort of hard-nosed policy that believes that aid should be an arm of foreign policy.

What we have discovered tonight is that that hard-nosed policy in foreign affairs has won the day. There has been a change and it has been one for the worse. Aid should be about development. If that principle is not kept to the forefront, the sort of short-sighted mistakes in aid policy that were referred to by some of my right hon. and hon. Friends will be made. We face a change in policy. Earlier, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you asked for evidence of that change. We have heard from my right hon. Friend the Member for Lanark and from the Minister that a growth path of a 6 per cent. increase had been cut to a decrease of 5 per cent. We face the removal of a strong ministerial voice. That is what my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) referred to when he spoke of the fundamental debate about terms of trade.

We also lose a strong voice in the argument between aid and weaponry. Yesterday, I had the honour of listening to the Prime Minister of Jamaica, Michael Manley, talking about aid. He quoted the frightening figure of $300 billion which is spent each year on weapons of war in this world. I wonder whether the hard-nosed realists in the Foreign Office will argue the case that we, among other developed countries, have to fight hard to cut back on that transport and trade in weapons and will put forward the case for aid.

What we have heard and seen tonight and in the last few weeks and months is a sign that foreign policy is dominating aid policy. We have only to look at the fact that the Foreign Office has foolishly abandoned its own careful rules on recognition with reference to Cambodia to see the politics of aid and of foreign policy becoming disastrously mixed up. That change in philosophy matches the change that there has been in domestic affairs.

Photo of Mr Tom McNally Mr Tom McNally , Stockport South

I am finishing my remarks and I shall not give way.

Domestic affairs now concentrate more on the police and less on social policy. In foreign affairs the emphasis is more on arms and less on overseas aid. It is the same philosophy. It is a policy of folly and it is embodied in the decision before the House tonight.

10.8 p.m.

Photo of Mr Christopher Murphy Mr Christopher Murphy , Welwyn and Hatfield

I welcome the opportunity to express my support for the Government's intention of removing the Ministry of Overseas Development from the political stage and allowing the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to tread the boards unencumbered once again. The danger of such an independent Ministry is clear. It tends to roam the political stage as an extra, desperately trying to avoid the inevitable exit. It is ever a member of a crowd scene crying out for more bread, despite other Ministries having to go away with fewer crumbs.

At a time of economic difficulty, with a clear need to reduce public spending, there can be no further argument. The curtain must finally be run down. An additional question should also be posed. How much overseas development aid can the United Kingdom afford when we are so financially constrained? The Foreign Office, when it takes full control, will be better placed to answer that with its voice in the Cabinet. On this side of the House we recognise the folly of spending money that the nation does not have, but if resources are available, are we sure that the nation should not be benefiting from them?

As a candidate in two earlier general elections in Bethnal Green and Bow, I was struck by the appalling poverty to be found in the East End of London. I now have the honour to represent Welwyn and Hatfield and am conscious that many Hertfordshire people have to struggle valiantly to ensure the essentials of life. The views of the Cabinet can be directly discussed with the Foreign Secretary when he has full control over the levels of overseas aid.

I respectfully commend to my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench the old adage that charity begins at home, and that should be remembered in our efforts to fulfil the Disraelian principle of one nation. Being one's brother's keeper does not necessarily entail a view to distant horizons and sunnier climes.

The right hon. Member for Lanark (Dame Judith Hart) is unfortunately no longer present, but she was kind enough to intervene in my local newspaper, the Welwyn and Hatfield Times, before the last election with the object of teaching me the rudiments of overseas aid as seen by her Ministry, which was a separate entity. In support of her approach, she quoted for my benefit three Conservative principles of giving aid. The first was humanitarian grounds, the second that acute poverty causes political instability and provides a breeding ground for communism and the third that Britain as a trading nation needs expanding markets for its exports. While the right hon. Lady had the privilege to be a Minister of the Crown with a separate Ministry, she failed lamentably to fulfil those three principles to which she was happy to give voice. I am confident that the Foreign Office will not take such a cavalier attitude.

Let us consider the assistance given to Mozambique by the right hon. Lady's Ministry in the form of a £20 million interest-free loan. Surely that was not done on humanitarian grounds when that country assists guerillas who are attacking Africans and Europeans in Rhodesia? It is a breeding ground for Communism.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw , Liverpool Toxteth

Order. We are not having a general debate on overseas aid. Will the hon. Member for Welwyn and Hatfield (Mr. Murphy) relate his remarks to the order and the transfer of the Ministry?

Photo of Mr Christopher Murphy Mr Christopher Murphy , Welwyn and Hatfield

If you will forgive me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the point that I am about to make approaches the control by the Foreign Office. The right hon. Lady's action on Mozambique in no way fulfilled the principles—

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw , Liverpool Toxteth

Order. I have ruled on that point. The hon. Member should proceed to a different matter.

Photo of Mr Christopher Murphy Mr Christopher Murphy , Welwyn and Hatfield

The clear lesson from that appalling episode is that, if overseas aid is to be given, there is a fundamental need for it to be fully considered by the Foreign Office to ensure that there is no conflicting aim or approach. Such aid as we can afford must be totally in line with our foreign policy, and that points firmly to the ending of a separate and often maverick Ministry. It is not real aid if it follows a divergent policy rather than one complementary to that of the Foreign Office.

It would be wrong to brand the Ministry of Overseas Development as purely villain to the Foreign Office hero. Much good and successful work has been carried out without melodrama. However, to ensure firm direction and subsequent approving notices, the Government are absolutely right in moving the order tonight.

10.14 p.m.

Photo of Mr David Alton Mr David Alton , Liverpool Edge Hill

The chequered history of this Ministry has been mentioned tonight, and that is where we should start looking at the order. There have been changes from one Government to another in the way in which the Ministry has been operated. The right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) set up the ODM, which was absorbed under a Conservative Government in 1970. He established a separate ODM again in 1974 and the present Government want to reverse that decision as well. In the meantime, the fundamental issues are inevitably ignored. That is one of the problems bedevilling British politics. One side seems to want to undo what the other side has done, while ignoring the fundamental problems that both Ministries should be looking at.

That does not create the right sort of climate for encouraging consistent policies or Third world confidence. The preoccupation with where the responsibility should lie, instead of an acceptance of our responsibility to developing countries, has been one of the major reasons why we have failed in our attempts to prove our sincerity to the developing countries of the Third world.

There is no chance of Britain being able to talk about solidarity with the poor of the world when we have failed to achieve solidarity at home. The Government's policies, characterised by the order, have led to two Britains being created—a bad starting point from which to try to create one world.

The hon. Member for Welwyn and Hatfield (Mr. Murphy) spoke about charity beginning at home. That is not the sort of remark that one wishes to hear in the House. If charity begins at home, it certainly should not end there.

Photo of Mr Christopher Murphy Mr Christopher Murphy , Welwyn and Hatfield

Do I take it that the hon. Gentleman is declaring that there should be no charity in this country? On that basis, how does he regard his political future in the Liberal Party?

Photo of Mr David Alton Mr David Alton , Liverpool Edge Hill

The hon. Gentleman said that charity began at home and tried to set that up as the standard by which we should live our lives. We in the Liberal Party do not believe that that is the way that we should operate. We believe that we have obligations to countries other than our own. We should be talking about the poor of the world and not just looking after our own interests, a course that is characterised by what the hon. Gentleman said and by what the order seeks to achieve.

The dissolution of the ODM will suggest to developing countries that we are less committed to aid. Of course, that is the case under the present Government, because the aid budget has been cut by 5 per cent. in real terms—a greater cut than has been suffered by any other Government Department. The dissolution of the Ministry will result in further cuts because there will not be the political force or determination to ensure that aid is maintained.

The object of the order seems to be to link aid with foreign policy rather than only with development. If there is no strategic benefit in Britain aiding the poorest countries, but some benefit in our aiding the richer ones—for example, aiding Turkey for NATO reasons—it is likely to be too bad for the poorer countries. That is a course which we should not countenance.

As the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine) said, other countries are making their aid policies more independent of their foreign policies. The new United States international development corporation is separate from the State Department, yet we appear to be trying to reverse that trend.

The apparent downgrading of the ODM seems to be in line with the size and distribution of aid, and it is strange that we can find money to increase defence spending by 3 per cent. in real terms while we are cutting aid by 5 per cent. when it is already so pitifully low. The United Nations recommended that 0·7 per cent. of our gross national product should be devoted to aid. We currently give only half that amount, and that has fallen from 0·53 per cent. in 1964. With a Ministry that is absorbed into the Foreign Office, I do not believe that there will be—

Photo of Mr Christopher Murphy Mr Christopher Murphy , Welwyn and Hatfield

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I do not feel that the hon. Gentleman's dissertation is relevant to the dissolution of the Ministry.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw , Liverpool Toxteth

I was thinking the same, but the hon. Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. Alton) just managed to get in a mention of how aid would be affected by switching the ODM to the Foreign Office, and that brought his speech into order.

Photo of Mr David Alton Mr David Alton , Liverpool Edge Hill

I am grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

The right hon. Member for Lanark (Dame Judith Hart) talked about the order and its relation to the British Council. I should like to make a few remarks about the effect of the order on the abolition of the development education fund. This will save a miserable £600,000 a year, and will make it even more difficult for Governments to get the political support they need for aid programmes. Sweden spends 50 times the amount we spend on development education and as a result has a noticeably better record on aid than Britain. Money used to finance voluntary agencies, churches and local authorities will suffer as a result of the order.

One of the major tasks of a properly financed development education fund would be to show the British people what is in it for them—a matter that the hon. Member for Welwyn and Hatfield seemed to think was of vital importance. The act of introducing this order will ensure that education is reduced. This will mean that people will be less aware of the benefits that can accrue to Britain by developing better relationships with other countries.

We would do well to heed the words of Dean Acheson, who observed that Britain had lost an empire and not yet found a role. We still have not found one. Our role might be to take a positive lead in creating a world free of poverty and a world where peace was more than just a figment of someone's imagination and could become a possibility. We have lost power in the traditional sense, but we still have influence. We should be using that influence by standing up for the world's poor and oppressed, by being on their side in the councils of the world, and by arguing for the removal of injustices about which they feel so strongly. The introduction of this order will be another blow in the fight to achieve those aims. For those reasons, I hope that the order will not be approved.

10.22 p.m.

Photo of Mr Tristan Garel-Jones Mr Tristan Garel-Jones , Watford

I promise that I shall try to make the shortest speech of the evening.

The order has been interpreted by hon. Members on the Opposition Benches as an order that will automatically lead to a change in attitude by the Conservative Government in their aid policy.

There was an interesting intervention when an hon. Member reminded the right hon. Member for Lanark (Dame Judith Hart) of the moment when the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson), as Prime Minister, had proposed exactly this action. We know that the right hon. Lady was a doughty fighter on behalf of her particular interest at the time. She managed to ensure that the decision was not proceeded with. I am sure that she would be the first to recognise that she did not win every battle that she ever fought. It is possible that she would have lost that battle.

I am sure that right hon. and hon. Members on the Opposition Benches would have resented very much implications from the Conservative side that what is an administrative change necessarily meant that their whole attitude and commitment to the Third world had changed. There is no cause necessarily to believe that this order must automatically mean that the Conservative Government have changed their attitude on these matters.

Photo of Mr Edward Leadbitter Mr Edward Leadbitter , Hartlepool

The hon. Gentleman is pursuing an interesting point. Does he recall that his hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn and Hatfield (Mr. Murphy) said that he believed that aid should be attached to the policy of the Foreign Office? Does the hon. Gentleman agree that this makes his case difficult to support and that if we do not recognise Cambodia, as we do not, the corollary is that we should not give aid to Cambodia?

Photo of Mr Tristan Garel-Jones Mr Tristan Garel-Jones , Watford

I have not yet started to develop my case. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. The point I am trying to make is that I do not accept, as I am sure my right hon. and hon Friends do not accept, that this administrative change, in itself, necessarily means a change of attitude by the Government. I had the feeling that many Labour Members were making this point, as wish being father to the thought. I find that deeply upsetting and dishonourable.

The Minister said that he considered that the link between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the overseas development agency would bring about greater efficiency, and that point was elaborated by my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, West (Mr. Mills). I accept that there are many Members on both sides of the House with more experience of dealing with these matters than I have. I hope, however, that they will allow that a new Member is entitled to give credit to his own Government on an issue such as this. Labour Members are perhaps being unfair in assuming that the passing of this order will automatically mean a change of attitude. There has been speculation as to what effect the merger might have on our policies. My hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) announced recently that the development education fund was to be cut. I regard this as a savage and retrograde step. In a democracy such as ours right hon. and hon. Members have a duty to carry their constituents with them when they are attempting to explain why it is vitally necessary for this country to continue our aid policies. The development education fund has made a considerable and significant contribution to that end.

Last Sunday I attended a meeting in my constituency which could not have taken place had it not been for the help given by the development education fund. That meeting, late in the evening, was attended by nearly 60 people. These issues were discussed there and those of us interested in them had the chance to put our views to the public. Those views will duly be reported in the press and that is part of the process of educating our fellow citizens as to the vital need for continuing our aid policies. My hon. Friend the Minister of State mentioned a number of countries in which development aid was linked to their Foreign Office. Germany, Canada and Sweden spend, respectively, six times, 20 times and 50 times more on the education of their citizens in these matters than we do. I ask my hon. Friend to give those of us who have serious concern for these issues some assurance that continued cash support will be allocated by the Government to promote this kind of knowledge and understanding among the British public.

10.29 p.m.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Aberdeen North

The hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones) has chastised some of us for being suspicious of the motives of his Government in merging the Ministry of Overseas Development with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It was said, within his hearing, by the hon. Member for Welwyn and Hatfield (Mr. Murphy) that objections were raised as to the policy decisions of the ODM during the period in office of my right hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Dame Judith Hart). The way in which the hon. Gentleman's remarks were greeted by the backwoodsmen behind him made it perfectly clear to me that these Ministries are being merged as an act of vindictiveness because the Tory Party disagrees with some of the ways in which overseas development money was spent during that period.

Occasionally the cat slips out of the bag and the mask falls off Conservative Members. Their fundamental objection to a separate Ministry is that some aid was given to Marxist countries. I shall not develop that argument, because it would be out of order, but will the needs of the developing countries be absorbed into the Government's general policy?

The Ministry has built up a first-class reputation in the Third world for expertise, independence and being impartial. The Ministry should have the independence to criticise the way in which aid is spent. We are in danger of regarding development funds as a means not of developing a country but of helping a Government with which we have sympathy.

The real argument is about how many strings are attached to aid and how often it is used to prop up Governments of which we approve. Those who benefit most from development aid moneys from this country or the United Nations are not the developing countries but the donor countries. That is true of Western nations, the Soviet Union and of China. The bulk of development aid does not remain in the country to which it is directed. Too much of it is returned to the donor country.

Photo of Mr Tristan Garel-Jones Mr Tristan Garel-Jones , Watford

One accepts that there are risks in foreign policy becoming involved in overseas aid. As there are so many poor people in the world, does the hon. Member think that it is dishonourable to give more money to a country which is likely to be friendly and less to those countries which support political theories to which we are opposed?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine):

I hope that the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) will not respond to that invitation.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Aberdeen North

I can respond to the question only by asking how far this merger is designed to do what the hon. Member for Watford suggests. There must be a reason for the change. Is it simply because of administration or is there a policy directive behind the change?

In a book entitled "Aid in Africa" Guy Arnold argues that that is the criterion used by the Soviet Union and China when they give aid. They give aid solely to ensure that the receiving country is tied to their foreign policies. If the merger means that we are deliberately setting out to do that and that we are trying to Balkanise the Third world we shall lose out. Development aid was never meant to be charity. It was intended to help the poorer countries to better their standards and to serve the needs of their citizens. If the purpose of aid is based purely on foreign policy, it will be dangerous for the Third world, for us and for the developing nations.

I do not expect any Minister to be totally altruistic, but we must have an assurance that the main criterion for aid is not foreign policy but the need of developing countries.

10.35 p.m.

Photo of Mr David Crouch Mr David Crouch , Canterbury

hope that the debate will not deteriorate into an argument about whether Labour or Conservative Governments are more generous or helpful in providing aid to under-developed countries. I suggest that we should debase the debate if we allowed that to happen. At some stages in the debate that has intruded on our thought about this change in the manner in which the Government administer aid.

As the House knows, I have been interested in the Third world. "Interested" is an insignificant word. I have been profoundly interested in the necessary aid that goes to the Third world from the industrial nations. I suggest to my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn and Hatfield (Mr. Murphy) that it is not a question of charity beginning at home. Of course, we grow up with and accept that phrase, but we need not use it in this debate.

We are talking about the best method of administering the greatest amount of help that we can give to the Third world. We have to consider the amount and the means, but the debate is about the method and the means rather than the amount. I hope that there will not be any argument about the amount or our willingness to make it available.

I do not think that we are concerned to ensure that our delivery of aid to specific countries is tied bilaterally to our foreign policy, determined by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, but it would be idle to suggest that there is no communication there. There must be. I am pleased to see the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) nodding in agreement.

Photo of Sir David Price Sir David Price , Eastleigh

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I see on the annunciators that I am alleged to be making a speech, not my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch). I have come in to assure you and the House that I am not making a speech. I now give way to my hon. Friend.

Photo of Mr David Crouch Mr David Crouch , Canterbury

For a moment I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Price) was making a speech and trespassing on my time. But he is helpful, as always. His hair is not as white as mine, but it may seem so from the distant recesses of the House.

In 1968, when the right hon. Member for Lanark (Dame Judith Hart) was responsible for overseas aid—

Photo of Mr David Crouch Mr David Crouch , Canterbury

I am surprised. I initiated a debate in November 1968—

Photo of Mr David Crouch Mr David Crouch , Canterbury

I am grateful to the right hon. Lady. It was 1969. I initiated a debate on the Pearson report on the importance of the delivery of aid from an industrialised country, as we were. I argued in favour of all the recommendations in that report. We had a day-long debate on a Friday. The right hon. Lady, who was attending a meeting in Paris, her Parliamentary Secretary, and the then Member for Hampstead, Mr. Whitaker, did the House, not me, an honour by being here for the debate.

It is not surprising, knowing the way in which we debate and consider overseas aid, that it had been many years before we had had a full day on overseas aid up to that time, and many years passed before we had another long debate on the matter. Such is my interest.

Last year I had occasion to speak twice on the continent—I use that word advisedly because we are in Europe; it was in another part of the Europe to which we belong, namely, in Lisbon and in Bonn—on the debts of many Third world countries to the industrialised nations. For my guidance in making those speeches I drew from a speech made by the right hon. Member for Lanark. I make no apology to my colleagues for drawing on the right hon. Lady's knowledge of overseas aid in helping me to formulate my ideas. The question of aid transcends the parties, as has been demonstrated by my hon. Friends, and by no less a person than my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) in his application of overseas aid.

In deciding whether it is better to have a separate Department for overseas aid, as happened under Labour Administrations, or to have a single Department, as is now proposed, we have to consider the person concerned. I say in generosity to the right hon. Member for Lanark that she was a good Minister in the delivery of aid. But I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) will be an equally good Minister, under a Foreign Secretary, to administer aid in the same way.

I am inclined to think that it is not so much a question of Civil Service administration of a Department delivering the service, but of the person who is in charge of it. I heard the hon. Member for Stockport, South (Mr. McNally) express concern about the question of to whom he should address his questions on aid. He asked whether it was better to address them to a Minister of State, or even the Cabinet Minister concerned with overseas aid, rather than to a subordinate Minister. The best person to whom one can at Question Time address a question on overseas aid is the Secretary of State. It is up to hon. Members how they use the procedures of the House to get their questions across.

Little time has been allotted through the years to questions on overseas aid, but a great deal of time has been allocated to questions on foreign affairs in general. Why should we not be able so to direct our questions within the orbit of foreign affairs as to include within them matters of overseas aid which can then be properly directed to the Secretary of State? I would not expect on those occasions to see anyone less than the Secretary of State answer those questions.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Essex South East

Is not my hon. Friend aware that for decades American aid policy has always been subordinated to the State Department, and that as a consequence other aid donors have seen grave disadvantages follow? The United States has now reversed that policy. Can my hon. Friend give me one good reason—I have not heard one this afternoon—why we should now subordinate a Department that has served this country well, and earned us a high reputation abroad, to the Foreign Office? That is the very reverse of what has been a successful policy under successive Governments for many years. Where is the justification?

Photo of Mr David Crouch Mr David Crouch , Canterbury

My hon. Friend never speaks without passion in these matters, and quite rightly so, because he knows the subject perhaps as well as anyone in this House. But we sometimes move forward. There is no need to move backwards and provide for a small Department on overseas aid. It would be better to have within the overall control of the Foreign Office a significant part of the office concerned with overseas aid, independent in its opinion, if not in its final determination, within that Department.

The matter depends on the person who is responsible for speaking up on the whole question of aid. I do not see this change being a failure just because it comes under what the late Anthony Crosland called a conglomerate Department. We have been moving towards such Departments and the United States has had them for a long time in its Administration. I would rather see 12 great Secretaries of State and Departments, perhaps embracing within their control two or three former Departments of State—as we are tending to have in, for example, the Department of the Environment today, and in the economy and so on; and in the foreign service, too, in the Foreign Office—than little Departments here and there. On the question of overseas aid there is a very real advantage.

I say with respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine) that I am not absolutely sure. Time will tell. I may be proven wrong. Perhaps the right hon. Member for Lanark is right. Perhaps my hon. Friend is right. I believe that there is an advantage here, but it depends on the man who will be delivering the goods. That man will be the person responsible. I believe that it is to be my hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development, who will have to deliver the goods. But he will have to deliver the goods under a responsible Foreign Secretary.

This has been an interesting debate. It has been a debate not so much about quantity of aid, or whether this side or that side will deliver more or better. It is a question of how we deliver. That is really what we are considering.

10.46 p.m.

Photo of Mr Stuart Holland Mr Stuart Holland , Lambeth Vauxhall

Quite clearly, what has emerged in at least the more coherent part of the debate is the fact that there is not an emerging consensus that the Ministry of Overseas Development or the overseas development administration should actually move into the Foreign Office. The key issue in this respect, even if the Ministry of Overseas Development were to be under the general aegis of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, is whether there should be a separate Minister there. In my view, and in my experience as an adviser in the Ministry of Overseas Development for some time, there is a very strong case indeed for there being an individual Minister, who is thereby able to advocate the case of less developed countries and development needs within the government structure.

What is not clear from the arguments which have been made by those in favour of the Ministry of Overseas Development being dissolved and its functions being taken over by the Foreign Office is the scale of conflict and problem areas. While there may or should in the last analysis be a single Government view on what the specific policy is, none the less there is a strong case for the advocacy of different views because of the conflict of interest.

This feeds back on the effectiveness of both development and foreign policy. One could give several examples of it. For example, on the energy question, is the Foreign Office to argue in Brussels the case in defence of a high oil price simply because we happen to have very considerable reserves of oil? Naturally, from the Treasury's viewpoint one would have thought that the answer would be "Yes". But what about the impact of a hike in oil prices on less developed countries? What about the technical means of possibly softening that impact on countries which are in a critical debt situation and had chronic payments problems even before the increase in the price of oil? What about the problem of aid versus trade in relation to something which is clearly of interest to many Conservative Members—the activities of multinational companies?

If we are in a situation in which there is no support for the interests of less developed countries versus our business abroad, and a situation which can be clearly interpreted as exploitation in some of those countries, we should not be surprised by the expropriation of companies, as has recently happened with British Petroleum in Nigeria, rather than their negotiating with us on the terms and conditions on which, for example, compensation might be made or new joint ventures might be started in such countries.

I give one example in this respect. Recently, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Dame Judith Hart) was Minister, a proposal was developed in the Ministry of Overseas Development for public enterprise joint ventures between less developed countries and Britain. Had that formula been pursued, it could have safeguarded the interests of companies such as BP in the longer term.

In practice, we have neither a Minister of nor a Minister for Overseas Development. In effect, we have this proposal for the merger of what in practical terms can be conflicting functions into one Department. That augurs very badly indeed, not only directly for development interests but also indirectly for the foreign policy of this country

Several Hon. Members:

Several Hon. Members rose

Hon. Members:

Oh.

10.50 p.m.

Photo of Mr Frank McElhone Mr Frank McElhone , Glasgow Queen's Park

We have had an interesting debate. From reading the reports of the debate of 3 November 1970, I would say that we have had an exact re-run of that debate, when the Tory Government of that period—

Photo of Mr Iain Mills Mr Iain Mills , Meriden

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I gathered that this debate was likely to carry on for some time. Since I have not spoken, I would appreciate your advice.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw , Liverpool Toxteth

That, I fear, is the position in which many hon. Members find themselves from time to time. I only wish that I could accommodate everyone.

Photo of Mr Frank McElhone Mr Frank McElhone , Glasgow Queen's Park

I understand the hon. Gentleman's difficulties. It is something from which we have all suffered.

As I said, this debate is an exact re-run of the debate of 3 November 1970, when the then Government carried out the intention of the present Government and destroyed the independence of the Ministry of Overseas Development by putting it into the straitjacket of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Indeed, the then Member for East Ham, North was the present right hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Prentice), who put it very succinctly when he said: This is a foolish, unnecessary decision … quite unrelated to any argument of merit connected with the aid programme."—[Official Report, 3 November, 1970; Vol. 805, c. 909.] I support that view, as well as the views expressed in the Tory Government's White Paper of that period. I quote from paragraph 34, which said: The Government recognises that the management of overseas aid is a function distinct from the general conduct of foreign affairs. So far during this debate no Conservative Member has rejected that philosophy. It was certainly not rejected during the debate in 1970. The Government's action in regard to this matter leads many people, including myself, to believe that what we are seeing—whether or not the Minister rejects it—is a downgrading of the importance of overseas aid. We believe that this is what is in the Government's thoughts.

Although we were advised not to speak about the financial situation, the Minister referred to it when opening the debate. I think that the £50 million cut is the first of many cuts still to come. That is one of the main reasons why the Department is being subsumed into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

It is worth recording that over the last five years Britain has enjoyed a substantial international reputation for having not only an independent and extremely efficient overseas development ministry but also a Minister who was not only efficient herself but also had a caring and compassionate instinct during her time in that Department. The Minister should not misunderstand the people and organisations operating in aid, despite their rightful criticisms. I hope that they will continue to make their criticisms, because they are not unmindful of the domestic and economic pressures that face this country. This Ministry, which was created by the Labour Government in 1964, was an expression of our deep concern about world poverty. I am afraid that its loss has dismayed and appalled them.

The hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) said that we should not argue about how much money was given by the Labour Party or the Conservative Party when in Government. It is not really a question of money; it is a question of philosophy. We have always had a different philosophy, in our approach to social need either at home or abroad, from that of the Conservative Party. This is at the core of the argument, and it is the reason why we had so many points of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, at the beginning of the debate. There is acute embarrassment among those Conservative Members who have a social conscience and are unhappy about supporting the Government in the Lobby tonight.

I do not deny that the Labour Government had to make cuts in their aid programme. The essential difference is that we did it as a result of pressing economic reasons. On this occasion the cuts in aid are largely benefiting those rich taxpayers who by their support helped to bring the Conservatives to power. Since their first day in office it has been evident that the money changers are back in the temple. That is obvious from their actions against the poor, either at home or abroad. We are all expected now to worship at the altar of monetarism. Any Conservative Member who denies that is not being true to the philosophy of the Conservative Government.

I should like the Minister, in his reply, to deal with the effects of the proposed change. Will he not agree with me that, as there will no longer be a separate Ministry, he will have no standing at all in the conference chambers of the world? We all remember Nye Bevan's famous remark about going naked into the conference chamber.

Another concern that we have on the Labour Benches is that aid will be used by the Foreign Office as a diplomatic instrument against regimes which are regarded as being unsympathetic to its point of view.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley , Greenwich Woolwich West

What weapons does a Minister of Overseas Development need in the conference chambers of the world? What difference does it make whether or not he is of Cabinet rank?

Photo of Mr Frank McElhone Mr Frank McElhone , Glasgow Queen's Park

As a junior Minister in the Labour Government, I had some experience of sitting in conference chambers. Any Minister coming to a conference chamber to represent a Government who have debased the very principles of overseas aid will find that he will not carry much weight in the deliberations.

I hope that the Minister, in replying to the debate, will give us an assurance that the Foreign Office will not use aid as a diplomatic instrument in dealing with particular regimes. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) mentioned that aspect. We could have put aid into Kampuchea much more quickly if the philosophy of the Conservative Government had not prevailed in the Foreign Office. Indeed, the decision to close down the Latin American programme appears to be because the Conservative Government do not like some of the Governments emerging in that area of the world. I believe that that kind of view will prevail during the lifetime of the Conservative Government.

Having been a Minister in earlier Conservative Administrations, the Minister must know that much of the work done in Government is in Cabinet sub-committees. When he attends a Cabinet subcommittee his colleagues will know that, being virtually a Minister without portfolio, he carries little or no weight. There is competition within Cabinet sub-committees in seeking to uphold various ministerial points of view and to get financial support for whatever a Minister is seeking to do. The Minister will find that this is so when he is trying to get money for any purpose.

Photo of Mr Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler Mr Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler , North West Norfolk

Would the hon. Gentleman care to withdraw the unjustified criticism that he made in respect of aid to Kampuchea? It will be recalled that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was very quick to suggest the setting up of an international conference to deal with the boat people. My recollection is that my noble Friend the Foreign Secretary was very quick to contribute £4 million towards relief in that country. The hon. Gentleman's charge is therefore absolutely unjustified.

Photo of Mr Frank McElhone Mr Frank McElhone , Glasgow Queen's Park

I am sorry, but the hon. Member is wrong. I am surprised, because he has quite a reputation for being interested in that area. Although the Government were quick to respond to the boat people's plight—and I give them credit for that—they were terribly slow in responding to what I shall call the plight of the "foot people" in Kampuchea. This was because the Government still recognised the Pol Pot regime. The Foreign Office view prevailed at that time.

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

The hon. Member is badly informed. The Government were one of the first with promises of aid for Cambodian famine relief. We responded just a few days after the International Red Cross and UNICEF made their appeal, and we were one of the first countries to do so.

Photo of Mr Frank McElhone Mr Frank McElhone , Glasgow Queen's Park

I am sorry to disagree with the Minister, but he knows better than that. The Government decided to act after three weeks of intense public pressure. During those three weeks, many thousands of people died who need not have died had this Government taken positive action at an earlier date.

I hope that the Minister who replies to the debate will give us some answers and assurances. Even though he is a Minister without a Department, I hope that he can still press initiatives. I am still waiting to hear his reaction to the suggestion that teachers should be sent abroad to Third world countries. I put this to him in July, and told him that it had the backing of a large teachers' union in Scotland, but I have had no reaction. Does the Minister envisage our getting a development education programme back into Government policy? As his hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones) said, it was an atrocious decision to cut that integral part of our overseas aid programme.

It is obvious that to the ordinary man in the street the problems of the Third world are like an iceberg—mainly below the surface. We have a duty to raise the consciousness and concern of ordinary people. I have one suggestion to make, which I hope the Foreign Secretary will consider. The Government soon will approve the very lucrative franchises for commercial television and radio stations. Conditions are put into these franchises. I hope that it would not seem too obtuse to suggest that as a condition of the renewal or granting of these lucrative franchises there should be some development education—

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw , Liverpool Toxteth

Order. Can the hon. Member relate that point to the order?

Photo of Mr Frank McElhone Mr Frank McElhone , Glasgow Queen's Park

The Minister spoke about the financial implications and money for police in Third world countries, and I had hoped to have a little latitude to finish the point. This is an extremely important matter. I hope that the Minister will give an assurance that if nothing else we shall have 0·7 per cent. of viewing time devoted to this aspect in order to raise the concern and consciousness of the British people. That would be a measure of our activity in the political world, and I do not think that there would be any disagreement about that in this House.

I have examined the Tory Party manifesto to try to ensure that the Government are carrying out what they promised to the British electorate. It is depressing reading. On page 31—and this is relevant to the sort of subsumed department of foreign aid that we shall have within the Foreign Office—it says: The next Conservative Government will help them"— the Third world countries— through national and international programmes of aid and technical cooperation". The Minister visited Vienna in August of this year, when the United Nations committee for science and technology development decided to set up a fund to aid research and development in Third world countries. The Minister, whether or not he was acting under instructions from the Treasury, told the international gathering "Britain will give no money". Once again, we demeaned ourselves in the eyes of international conferences. I hope that the Minister will prevail upon the Treasury to do something about that decision. It was wrong and it caused despair to all of us who read about it at home.

During the Lusaka conference a cornmuniqué was issued on behalf of the British people. It is evident from reading that document that the Government's policy on aid is one of total deceit.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw , Liverpool Toxteth

Order. I see little chance of what the hon. Gentleman is saying relating to the order.

Photo of Mr Frank McElhone Mr Frank McElhone , Glasgow Queen's Park

The debate has been wide-ranging during the period of your absence, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I accept your decision. Nevertheless, I am responding to the alternative philosophy that has been put forward by Conservative Members.

I am sorry that the Leader of the House is not present tonight. I had indicated to him that I would refer to him. Clearly he felt it wise to stay away from the Chamber. It is worth remembering that in 1970 the Government subsumed the Ministry of Overseas Development and the right hon. Gentleman, as a Back-Bench Member, voiced concern about the matter. He said that if he thought it would be adverse to the objectives of aid he might not support the Government. That fact has been proven time and again, and I hope that he will be in the Lobby with us tonight.

My main complaint against the Leader of the House is that he was responsible for supplying the Prime Minister on the fateful day on the steps of Downing Street with the words of St. Francis of Assisi, who was well known to have had a deep interest in the poor. When the Prime Minister's actions against the poor at home and abroad, after six months of Tory government, are recorded they will stand out as the best example of a retreat from the road to Damascus that has ever been witnessed. This has been a bad day for the Third world, for the House and for democracy.

11.9 p.m.

Photo of Mr Neil Marten Mr Neil Marten , Banbury

It is customary when winding up a debate to say that it has been a wide-ranging debate. Never has that been more true after the rulings from the Chair, which tried to confine the debate to the order under discussion, and yet practically everything to do—and not to do—with the aid programme has been mentioned. There are therefore many matters for me to cover.

Many of the points raised were purely hypothetical. There were gloomy predictions of what might happen in certain circumstances, and Labour Members were seeing bogies all over the place. I hope that the Opposition will be a little more reasonable and will not continue to exaggerate the order in the way that they have in the debate.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Queen's Park (Mr. McElhone)—the wide-ranging Member—said that this was a re-run of the debate on 3 November 1970. It is not. I have read the report of that debate and it was confined purely to the order under discussion.

As Minister for Overseas Development, I do not know whether I have any standing in the world. Since the overseas development administration merged with the Foreign Office, I have been to meetings of the World Bank, the FAO and a United Nations science and technology meeting in Rome, which was also attended by the right hon. Member for Lanark (Dame Judith Hart). I have been to Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, and no one has mentioned the change. I have seen many Ministers from developing countries on their visits to London and not one has mentioned the merger. I do not believe it matters to them.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Aberdeen North

Why, then, is it being done?

Photo of Mr Neil Marten Mr Neil Marten , Banbury

My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Blaker) gave the reasons. If the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) was not in the Chamber, he can read those reasons in the Official Report, study them and take them to heart.

The hon. Member for Queen's Park mentioned the United Nations conference in Vienna on science and technology. At that conference I objected to another United Nations organisation being set up to transfer science and technology. We do not want another organisation with large offices and the salaries that go with them. The money should be spent in the developing countries.

In this country we have a lot of technology that we are willing to transfer. At the conference I produced a book prepared by my Ministry which set out that technology and said to the developing countries that if that was the technology they wanted, they should come to us and discuss it. That is by far the best, cheapest and most realistic way to transfer technology to developing countries.

The right hon. Member for Lanark, in her opening speech, paid tribute to the officials in the ODA, or ODM as it was when she was there. I support her in that tribute. In my six months in the Department, I have gained the same impression of a dedicated group of officials who know their jobs.

The right hon. Lady misunderstood a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South about aid to security forces and the police. I assure the right hon. Lady that it is my intention—and would, I hope, be the intention of any other hon. Member—that aid will never be used for military purposes. That is why I had to turn down the request from President Nyerere for aid to recompense him for his incursion—I do not want to use the word invasion—into Uganda. I feared that such aid would have been contrary to the Act to which the right hon. Lady referred.

We hope that the Council of Ministers will give up to 140 million units of account—the amount recommended by the Commission—to countries that are not associate members of the EEC and will keep up a steady progression of aid for those countries.

Photo of Mrs Judith Hart Mrs Judith Hart , Lanark

Can the Minister assure us that the sort of cuts envisaged in the British bilateral programme to India and Bangladesh will not take place?

Photo of Mr Neil Marten Mr Neil Marten , Banbury

I cannot give that assurance. The right hon. Lady admitted that she strayed out of order with her references to Latin American refugees and I should not like to follow her out of order. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is here and I am sure that he will read the right hon. Lady's remarks. I can assure the right hon. Lady that the closure of all or any of the development divisions is not contemplated at present. We are carrying out a review of aid in the department.

I note with gratitude the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North-West (Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler) and will certainly take them into account.

My hon. Friend the Member for Devon, West (Mr. Mills) approached the problem in the right way by saying that it was worth giving our proposal a try. I hope that the House will share that view. As my hon. Friend said, the aid Department has a senior voice in Cabinet in a person who is devoted to the cause of aid and appreciates its purpose.

In a thoughtful, if somewhat lengthy, speech, the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) said that the North-South dialogue was a fundamental part of foreign policy. It is also a fundamental part of aid, and in that important area the hon. Gentleman was making the case for the order.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the common fund. There is no change in our policy as a result of the order. We continue to be willing to play our part in arrangements for the second window, subect to the satisfactory result of discussions on points of detail. I cannot say anything now about the size of the fund.

As to the flow of aid, we remain committed in principle to the United Nations' 0·7 per cent. of GNP target, but, like the previous Government, we shall not set a date for achieving it. That depends on the progress of our economy.

Many points raised by the hon. Member for Heeley were hypothetical and were ruled out of order by your predecessor in the Chair, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman speculated on what will happen if the order is passed, and I cannot comment on his speculations.

My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North-West described my hon. Friend the Minister of State as a shrinking violet. I am not certain why he said that. Perhaps he can explain it to me later. He raised the point about parliamentary questions. I know that this issue exercises Opposition Members. I am most conscious of it. I cannot speak for the Leader of the House, but I understand that the question is under consideration. When there has been more practical experience, it will be discussed through the usual channels.

I was asked about the extent of the changes within ODA and the Foreign Office. A review of the Department is taking place, and also a review of aid policy. I hope that until that review is completed I will be forgiven for not answering that question.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Aberdeen North

Would it not have made more sense to finish the review before deciding on this step?

Photo of Mr Neil Marten Mr Neil Marten , Banbury

No, I do not think so. The decision to merge the two was taken on 4 May or 5 May after the election. It worked straight away. Now we are reviewing it. It is much better to hold a review after six months' experience of its running to see whether it is right and to see whether it can be improved.

Photo of Mrs Judith Hart Mrs Judith Hart , Lanark

If there is a review, it may be possible for the Minister to introduce at some stage an order reversing this order.

Photo of Mr Neil Marten Mr Neil Marten , Banbury

I very much doubt whether that will be so.

Photo of Mr Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler Mr Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler , North West Norfolk

How long does my hon. Friend think that this review will take? Can he confirm that the development divisions and their activities will be part of the review?

Photo of Mr Neil Marten Mr Neil Marten , Banbury

I am sure that the development divisions will be part of the review. We will then have to look at the matter and make up our minds whether they continue or whether they are closed, whether some continue or whether some other decision is made. The review will probably be completed early in the new year.

I was grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn and Hatfield (Mr. Murphy) for his wise remarks and to my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones), who used the expression "wish being father to the thought". That ran through the Opposition's whole case.

I was asked specifically about development education. It is important that people in Britain should understand the problems of development and the extent of our interdependence with the Third world. Voluntary agencies and many individuals have long led the way in explaining these issues. We see no reason why that should not continue. What is in question is how far this work should be boosted by Government funds. This must come from an aid programme which cannot be exempted from the general restraints that we must impose on public expenditure.

Photo of Mr Neil Marten Mr Neil Marten , Banbury

I prefer not to give way. The debate has to close at 11.30 p.m. I have more to say and I would like to get on with my remarks.

Photo of Mr Neil Marten Mr Neil Marten , Banbury

I will certainly not give way to my hon. Friend.

What is in question is how far this work should be boosted by Government funds. This must come from an aid programme that cannot be exempted—

Photo of Mr Neil Marten Mr Neil Marten , Banbury

—from the general restraints. Every £1 spent on development education in Britain means one £1 less available for direct spending on overseas aid. We believe that most people will agree that our ability to provide—

Photo of Mr Neil Marten Mr Neil Marten , Banbury

—direct help whether for long-term development or short-term emergency reliefs, must come first. The previous Administration had ambitious plans to spend about £9 million on development education—that is, to develop the education of people in this country on development aid—over the next few years. They could not have been sustained. Our own spending—

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Essex South East

On a genuine point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. A few moments ago the Minister made reference to development provisions. It was a most important statement and a revelation—

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw , Liverpool Toxteth

That cannot possibly be a point of order for me.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Essex South East

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker; I was just beginning to develop it—

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw , Liverpool Toxteth

Order. The hon. Gentleman has had a fair slice of the time available.

Photo of Mr Neil Marten Mr Neil Marten , Banbury

As I was saying, the previous Administration—

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Essex South East

Mr. Deputy Speaker, is it in order for a Minister, on an important point, which has loomed large in the debate, to refuse to give way in order to carry—

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw , Liverpool Toxteth

Order. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that that is not a point of order.

Photo of Mr Neil Marten Mr Neil Marten , Banbury

The previous Administration had ambitious plans to spend £9 million on development education over the next few years. They could not have been sustained. Our spending will be over £600,000 this year. I cannot say what will happen thereafter, but we intend to provide enough, over the next two years, to allow existing schemes to come to fruition.

A couple of weeks ago there were 750 One World Week campaigns. Hon. Members may have taken part in them. Campaigns were launched throughout the country, yet only 10 of these asked for financial help from the Government. The other 740 appear to have been self-financed. That is a very good illustration of what voluntary organisations can do, and should do, on development education. They are doing it. The Churches, Members of Parliament, and teachers should do it.

Photo of Mr Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler Mr Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler , North West Norfolk

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether the sound from the microphones could be turned up, because it is extraordinarily difficult to hear important parts of the Minister's speech?

Photo of Mr Neil Marten Mr Neil Marten , Banbury

Perhaps we could turn down the noise and leave the microphones as they are.

The previous Administration's aid strategy for the poorest was set out in their White Paper "More Help for the Poorest". The emphasis that strategy placed on aid policies to meet the needs

of the poorest is the same as that which has generally been adopted by the international donor community as part of the consensus on the shape and direction of Western aid. In essence, it is a recognition that concessional aid will increasingly go to the poorer countries which cannot service external finance on commercial terms. In the context of the developmental criteria of aid policy, it is a principle which the present Government accept.

Our first priority must be to put our own economy in order and that is why, within the Government's review of public expenditure, this year's planned aid programme had to bear a share of the cuts and was reduced by £50 million. Even so, planned expenditure for 1979–80 is still higher than planned expenditure for 1978–79. We have reviewed programmes and, where necessary, have discussed revised figures for 1979–80 with the overseas Governments concerned. But I fully recognise the value of our aid commitments, and we intend to maintain an effective programme.

There is an aspect of aid which I should like the Labour Party to note. Cuts were announced in the aid programme in 1977–78 of £50 million, and in 1978–79 of £55 million, though the cuts for 1978–79 were partly restored. On 17 January 1977 the then Minister, Mr. Frank Judd, said: the reductions in our aid programme … will obviously have grave implications; the Government do not wish to minimise these."—[Official Report, 17 January 1977; Vol. 924, c. 23.]

I hope that after this rather truncated debate the House will pass the motion.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 294. Noes 242.

Division No. 86AYES11.30 p.m.
Adley, RobertBennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay)Brittan, Leon
Aitken, JonathanBenyon, Thomas (Abingdon)Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher
Alexander, RichardBenyon, W. (Buckingham)Brooke, Hon Peter
Alison, MichaelBest, KeithBrotherton, Michael
Amery, Rt Hon JulianBevan, David GilroyBrown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe)
Ancram, MichaelBiffen, Rt Hon JohnBrowne, John (Winchester)
Arnold, TomBlackburn, JohnBruce-Gardyne, John
Aspinwall, JackBlaker, PeterBuchanan-Smith, Hon Alick
Atkins, Robert (Preston North)Body, RichardBuck, Antony
Atkinson, David (B'mouth, East)Bonsor, Sir NicholasBudgen, Nick
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)Boscawen, Hon RobertBulmer, Esmond
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)Bottomley, Peter (Woolwich West)Burden, F. A.
Banks, RobertBowden, AndrewButcher, John
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyBoyson, Dr RhodesCadbury, Jocelyn
Bell, RonaldBright, GrahamCarlisle, John (Luton West)
Bendall, VivianBrinton, TimCarlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Carlisle, Rt Hon Mark (Runcorn)Hunt, David (Wirral)Porter, George
Chalker, Mrs LyndaIrving, Charles (Cheltenham)Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch (S Down)
Channon, PaulJenkin, Rt Hon PatrickPrentice, Rt Hon Reg
Chapman, SydneyJessel, TobyPrice, David (Eastleigh)
Churchill, W. S.Johnson Smith, GeoffreyPrior, Rt Hon James
Clark, Hon Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)Jopling, Rt Hon MichaelProctor, K. Harvey
Clark, Dr William (Croydon South)Joseph, Rt Hon Sir KeithPym, Rt Hon Francis
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Kaberry, Sir DonaldRaison, Timothy
Cockeram, EricKellelt-Bowman, Mrs ElaineRathbone, Tim
Colvin, MichaelKimball, MarcusRees, Peter (Dover and Deal)
Cope, JohnKing, Rt Hon TomRees-Davies, W. R.
Cormack, PatrickKitson, Sir TimothyRenton, Tim
Corrie, JohnKnox, DavidRhodes James, Robert
Costain, A. P.Lang, IanRidley, Hon Nicholas
Cranborne, ViscountLatham, MichaelRifkind, Malcolm
Critchley, JulianLawrence, IvanRippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Crouch, DavidLawson, NigelRoberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Dean, Paul (North Somerset)Lee, JohnRoberts, Wyn (Conway)
Dorrell, StephenLennox-Boyd, Hon MarkRoyle, Sir Anthony
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesLester, Jim (Beeston)Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Dover, DenshoreLewis, Kenneth (Rutland)St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon Norman
du Cann, Rt Hon EdwardLloyd, Ian (Havant & Waterloo)Scott, Nicholas
Dunn, Robert (Dartford)Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Durant, TonyLoveridge, JohnShelton, William (Streatham)
Eden, Rt Hon Sir JohnLuce, RichardShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (Pembroke)Lyell, NicholasShepherd, Richard (Aldridge-Br'hills)
Eggar, TimothyMcAdden, Sir StephenShersby, Michael
Elliott, Sir WilliamMcCrindle, RobertSilvester, Fred
Emery, PeterMacfarlane, NeilSims, Roger
Eyre, ReginaldMacGregor, JohnSkeet, T. H. H.
Fairbairn, NicholasMacKay, John (Argyll)Smith, Dudley (War. and Leam'ton)
Fairgrieve, RussellMacmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)Speed, Keith
Faith, Mrs SheilaMcNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury)Speller, Tony
Farr, JohnMcNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)Spence, John
Fell, AnthonyMcQuarrie, AlbertSpicer, Jim (West Dorset)
Fenner, Mrs PeggyMadel, DavidSpicer, Michael (S Worcestershire)
Finsberg, GeoffreyMajor, JohnSproat, Iain
Fisher, Sir NigelMarland, PaulSquire, Robin
Fletcher, Alexander (Edinburgh N)Marlow, TonyStainton, Keith
Fookes, Miss JanetMarten, Neil (Banbury)Stanbrook, Ivor
Forman, NigelMates, MichaelStanley, John
Fowler, Rt Hon NormanMather, CarolSleen, Anthony
Fox, MarcusMaude, Rt Hon AngusStevens, Martin
Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)Mawby, RayStewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Fraser, John (Lambeth, Norwood)Mawhinney, Dr BrianStewart, Allan (East Renfrewshire)
Fry, PeterMaxwell-Hyslop, RobinStokes, John
Gardiner, George (Reigate)Mayhew, PatrickStradling Thomas, J.
Gardner, Edward (South Fylde)Mellor, DavidTapsell, Peter
Garel-Jones, TristanMiller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch)Taylor, Robert (Croydon NW)
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir IanMills, Iain (Meriden)Tebbit, Norman
Goodlad, AlastairMills, Peter (West Devon)Temple-Morris, Peter
Gorst, JohnMiscampbell, NormanThomas, Rt Hon Peter (Hendon S)
Gow, IanMoate, RogerThompson, Donald
Gower, Sir RaymondMolyneaux, JamesThorne, Neil (Ilford South)
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)Monro, HectorThornton, Malcolm
Gray, HamishMontgomery, FergusTownend, John (Bridlington)
Greenway, HarryMoore, JohnTownsend, Cyril D. (Bexleyheath)
Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St Edmunds)Morgan, GeraintTrippler, David
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)Morris, Michael (Northampton, Sth)Trotter, Neville
Grist, IanMorrison, Hon Charles (Devizes)van Straubenzee, W. R.
Grylls, MichaelMorrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester)Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Gummer, John SelwynMudd, DavidViggers, Peter
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Eps'm&Ew'll)Murphy, ChristopherWaddington, David
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)Myles, DavidWakeham, John
Hampson, Dr KeithNeale, GerrardWaldegrave, Hon William
Hannam, JohnNeedham, RichardWalker, Bill (Perth & E Perthshire)
Haselhurst, AlanNelson, AnthonyWalker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek
Hastings, StephenNeubert, MichaelWaller, Gary
Havers, Rt Hon Sir MichaelNewton, TonyWalters, Dennis
Hawkins, PaulNott, Rt Hon JohnWard, John
Hawksley, WarrenOnslow, CranleyWarren, Kenneth
Hayhoe, BarneyOppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs SallyWatson, John
Heddle, JohnOsborn, JohnWells, John (Maldstone)
Henderson, BarryPage, John (Harrow West)Wheeler, John
Heseltine, Rt Hon MichaelPage, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Hicks, RobertParker, JohnWiggin, Jerry
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.Parris, MatthewWilkinson, John
Hill, JamesPattern, Christopher (Bath)Williams, Delwyn (Montgomery)
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham)Patten, John (Oxford)Winterton, Nicholas
Holland, Philip (Carlton)Pattie, GeoffreyWolfson, Mark
Hooson, TomPawsey, JamesYoung, Sir George (Acton)
Hordern, PeterPercival, Sir Ian
Howe. Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyPeyton, Rt Hon JohnTELLERS FOR THE AYE
Howell, Rt Hon David (Guildford)Pink, R. BonnerMr. Anthony Berry and
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)Pollock, AlexanderMr. Spencer Le Marchan
NOES
Abse, LeoGeorge, BruceOrme, Rt Hon Stanley
Adams, AllenGilbert, Rt Hon Dr JohnOwen, Rt Hon Dr David
Allaun, FrankGinsburg, DavidPalmer, Arthur
Alton, DavidGolding, JohnPark, George
Archer, Rt Hon PeterGourlay, HarryParkinson, Cecil
Armstrong, Rt Hon ErnestGrant, George (Morpeth)Parry, Robert
Ashley, Rt Hon JackGrant, John (Islington C)Pavitt, Laurie
Ashton, JoeHamilton, James (Bothwell)Penhaligon, David
Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham)Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Bagier, Gordon A. THardy, PeterPrescott, John
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)Harrison, Rt Hon WalterPrice, Christopher (Lewisham West)
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)Hart, Rt Hon Dame JudithRace, Reg
Belth, A. JHaynes, FrankRadice, Giles
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony WedgwoodHealey, Rt Hon DenisRees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds South)
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)Heifer, Eric S.Richardson, Miss Jo
Bidwell, SydneyHogg, Norman (E Dunbartonshire)Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Booth, Rt Hon AlbertHolland, Stuart (L'beth, Vauxhall)Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Boothroyd, Miss BettyHome Robertson, JohnRoberts, Ernest (Hackney North)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur (M'brough)Homewood, WilliamRoberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Bradley, TomHooley, FrankRobertson, George
Bray, Dr JeremyHoram, JohnRobinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)
Brown, Hugh D. (Proven)
Brown, Ronald W. (Hackney S)Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)Rodgers, Rt Hon William
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh, Leith)Howells, GeraintRooker, J. W.
Buchan, NormanHuckfield, LesRoss, Ernest (Dundee Wast)
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)Hughes, Mark (Durham)Ryman, John
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen North)Sandelson, Neville
Campbell, IanHughes, Roy (Newport)Sever, John
Campbell-Savours, DaleJanner, Hon GrevilleSheldon, Rt Hon Robert (A'ton-u-L)
Canavan, DennisJay, Rt Hon DouglasShore, Rt Hon Peter (Step and Pop)
Cant, R. B.John, BrynmorShort, Mrs Renee
Carmichael, NellJones, Rt Hon Alec (Rhondda)Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Cartwright, JohnJones, Barry (East Flint)Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Clark, Dr David (South Shields)Jones, Dan (Burnley)Silverman, Julius
Coleman, DonaldKaufman, Rt Hon GeraldSkinner, Dennis
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.Kerr, RussellSmith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Cook, Robin F.Kilroy-Silk, RobertSmith, Rt Hon J. (North Lanarkshire)
Cowans, HarryKinnock, NeilSnape, Peter
Crowther, J. S.Lambie, DavidSoley, Clive
Cryer, BobLamborn, HarrySpearing, Nigel
Cunliffe, LawrenceLamond, JamesSpriggs, Leslie
Cunningham, George (Islington S)Leadbitter, TedStallard, A. W.
Cunningham, Dr John (Whitehaven)Leighton, RonaldSteel, Rt Hon David
Dalyell, TamLewis, Ron (Carlisle)Stoddart, David
Davidson, ArthurLitherland, RobertStott, Roger
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)Lofthouse, GeoffreyStrang, Gavin
Davies, Ifor (Gower)Lyon, Alexander (York)Straw, Jack
Davis, Clinton (Hackney Central)Lyons, Edward (Bradford West)Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Davis, Terry (B'rm'ham, Stechford)Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J DicksonTaylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton West)
Deakins, EricMcCartney, HughThomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)McDonald, Dr OonaghThomas, Mike (Newcastle East)
Dempsey, JamesMcElhone, FrankThomas, Dr Roger (Carmarthen)
Dewar, DonaldMcGuire, Michael (Ince)Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Dixon, DonaldMcKay, Allen (Penistone)Tilley, John
Dobson, FrankMcKelvey, WilliamTinn, James
Dormand, JackMacKenzie, Rt Hon GregorTorney, Tom
Douglas, DickMaclennan, RobertUrwin, Rt Hon Tom
Douglas-Mann, BruceMcMillan, Tom (Glasgow, Central)Varley, Rt Hon Eric Q.
Dubs, AlfredMcNally, ThomasWainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Dunlop, JohnMcWilliam, JohnWainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
Dunn, James A. (Liverpool, Kirkdale)Magee, BryanWalker, Rt Hon Harold (Doncaster)
Dunnelt, JackMarshall, David (Gl'sgow, Shettles'n)Watkins, David
Dunwoody, Mrs GwynethMarshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)Weetch, Ken
Eadie, AlexMarshall, Jim (Leicester South)Wellbeloved, James
Eastham, KenMartin, Michael (Gl'gow, Springb'rn)Welsh, Michael
Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)Maxton, JohnWhite, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Ellis, Raymond (NE Derbyshire)Maynard, Miss JoanWhitehead, Phillip
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)Meacher, MichaelWhitlock, William
English, MichaelMellish, Rt Hon RobertWilley, Rt Hon Frederick
Ennals, Rt Hon DavidMikardo, IanWilliams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)Millan, Rt Hon BruceWilliams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)
Evans, John (Newton)Miller, Dr M. S. (East Kilbride)Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)
Ewing, HarryMitchell, Austin (Grimsby)Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Faulds, AndrewMitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)Winnick, David
Field, FrankMorris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wythenshawe)Woodall, Alec
Flannery, MartinMorris, Rt Hon Charles (Openshaw)Woolmer, Kenneth
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)Wrigglesworth, Ian
Ford, BenMoyle, Rt Hon RolandWright, Sheila
Forrester, JohnMulley, Rt Hon FrederickYoung, David (Bolton East)
Foster, DerekOakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Fraser, John (Lambeth, Norwood)Ogden, EricTELLERS FOR THE NOES
Freeson, Rt Hon ReginaldO'Halloran, MichaelMr. George Morton and
Garrett, John (Norwich S)O'Neill, MartinMr. Ted Graham.
Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved,That an Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Ministry of Overseas Development (Dissolution) Order 1979 be made in the form of the draft laid before this House on 25 October.

To be presented by Privy Councillors or Members of Her Majesty's Household.