Orders of the Day — African Development Fund

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:53 pm on 7th July 1982.

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Photo of Mr James Lamond Mr James Lamond , Oldham East 10:53 pm, 7th July 1982

So do I.

Last Thursday we were also discussing Government expenditure. Many hon. Members spoke then, and almost all of them called for more expenditure on defence. I pointed out the disparity between what we spent on arms and on overseas aid, which includes the money that is contributed to the African development fund.

The order will replenish the fund to the extent of just over £24 million, and the next order provides for a sum approaching £13 million. That makes a total of about £37 million. I am well aware that that is not the total amount of our overseas aid. Nevertheless, if we look at page 9 of the "Statement on the Defence Estimates 1982" we see that the figure that we are discussing tonight—with which we hope to bring to fruition many of the hopes of African people and subsequently those of people throughout the world—almost coincides with the cost of one Hunt class mine countermeasures vessel—£35 million.

That we are planning to spend £14,000 million and more on defence next year is made worse by the fact that the sudden crisis of the Falklands was solved by the expenditure—quite apart from the dreadful loss of life on both sides, which I deplored—of about £1,000 million from the Contingency Fund.

The Contingency Fund stands at well over £2,000 million, so we are assured that no harm will come to us if it is raided to the extent of £1,000 million. However, that contrasts with the Minister's response to my approach and that of others on matters relating to the African development fund. I do not blame him. I know that he does his best to provide as much money as he can, but he is in a straitjacket created by the Government's monetary policies. He told me that not another penny could be found anywhere. I think that I was trying to get some assistance for Vietnam on that occasion, although I know that that does not come under this order.

A country that is eligible for aid from this fund is Ethiopia. I have visited Ethiopia and had the opportunity to see a co-operative farm, several of which have been set up under the new Ethiopian regime. It was very interesting. They were trying to discover new cash crops, and so on. My hon. Friend the Member for Waltham Forest suggested that one of the best ways to assist these people would be to guarantee a reasonable price for their crops and not leave them to the wide market fluctuations. Most of the time prices seem to go down.

The farmers in Ethiopia are happy with the new regime and the opportunity that they have to try to develop agriculture for their own benefit. They took me to see what they regarded as their proudest possession—an electric water pump. I am sorry to say that it had been manufactured in Germany. I should have preferred to see one manufactured in the United Kingdom. After much debate and thought they had decided to buy the pump. They told me that it would remove 25 per cent. from their total income from the co-operative farm for the next five years. That is what they had to balance. That was the sacrifice that they had to make to get the pump to assist their agriculture and irrigation. However, they had done it and they were proud to have done so.

Those farmers felt proud, but I felt humble. The cost of the pump was about the same as the cost of a fuse for a bomb. The cost of a fuse was not mentioned in this year's defence Estimates, but it was mentioned last year. I noted the cost especially, because the fuse was manufactured in my constituency. Of course, I have told the workers that I do not support that sort of manufacture. I should like to see my constituents manufacturing pumps that could be provided for farms in Ethiopia under the scheme. I know that we do not deal with the fund direct, but it is the sort of equipment that we hope is bought to assist developing countries in Africa, such as Ethiopia.

Another example in Ethiopia was a large children's farm that had been set up to assist the orphans of a number of wars. There were many thousands of orphans with nowhere to go and no one to look after them. Sweden had provided $25 million to set up the school farm, where children are educated until the age of 16 years. At the same time, they are taught to look after animals on the farm. The scheme seemed to be working extremely well. There are criticisms of it, as there are of everything, but the general principle seemed to be excellent.

Last night Conservative Members were saying that they felt that the esteem in which the United Kingdom is held abroad has increased markedly since our great victory in the Falklands. I do not take that view. I think that our esteem rises in the world if we show compassion and the desire to assist those who are on the verge of starvation, who are illiterate and who need medical help. A far better way of spending the £14,000 million that we spend annually on arms—I accept that some must remain to be spent on defence—would be to spend part of it on projects such as the school farm that is financed by Sweden. This would assist those in African countries to remember what we have done to help them. They would remember it for the rest of their lives. That is the esteem in which I should like to see British people held throughout the world.