Humanitarian Aid

Oral Answers to Questions — Overseas Development – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd December 1984.

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Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South 12:00 am, 3rd December 1984

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what changes he has made, or expects to make, in respect of allocations of resources for humanitarian aid in the financial year 1984–85.

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

Following my visit to Ethiopia, I am arranging for two extra grain conveyors and 20 grain mills to be sent to Addis as quickly as possible. I am also arranging for 18,000 blankets to be airlifted. The total cost of those extra items will be £215,000.

I am arranging for 5,000 tonnes of grain to be supplied through Oxfam for delivery at the end of December.

I am also arranging for 10,000 tonnes of grain to be shipped to Ethiopia through the World Food Programme. That includes our contribution of 5,000 tonnes to the International Emergency Food Reserve, which I have directed be used for Ethiopian relief. The total cost of this further 15,000 tonnes of grain will be about £2·75 million.

I am also providing for further help to go to the Sudan. A sum of £348,000 is being made available to Oxfam for relief supplies, and other requests are being urgently considered.

After this I shall have allocated a total of about £41 million to emergency aid for disaster and refugee relief in the current financial year. The comparable original provision from the Main Estimates presented to Parliament in March was £15·6 million.

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South

I thank the Minister for that information. Does he agree that the allocation of £40 million, however welcome, is large compared with the cut of £4 million which he made last year to the Tropical Development and Research Institute? To prevent famine, would it not be a good idea for the Government to restore those cuts and give one-tenth of the sum that they are now spending to research, which this country's experience is well placed to execute?

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

The TDRI is a valuable institution. I believe that it will continue to do excellent work under the new system. I must point out to the House that we provide considerable quantities of aid of an important nature to agricultural development in Africa.

Photo of Mr Stuart Holland Mr Stuart Holland , Vauxhall

While I welcome what the Government have been able to do, will the Minister tell the House what parts of Tigre or Eritrea he visited when he was in Ethiopia? I understand that he visited Mekele. Was he able to visit the surrounding areas? Did he raise with the Ethiopian authorities the fact that 85 per cent. of those areas are not in their control, and would they agree to a ceasefire for a safe passage of food to the key affected areas?

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

I visited Mekele, but it was not possible to visit the surrounding areas. As I have said before, the right way to ensure that aid goes to the rebel-held areas is by working through voluntary agencies, especially the International Committee of the Red Cross, rather than by politicising the matter.

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on taking the initiative and going to Ethiopia to see what is needed there. I assure him that if he can make arrangements to get some of western Europe's big cereal surplus to Ethiopia as quickly as possible, regardless of cost, and by slashing red tape, he will earn the gratitude of everyone in the country.

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I have been working hard within the European Community to ensure that, within the allocation of food aid, the highest priority goes to areas such as Ethiopia, where the need is desperate.

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

Notwithstanding the Minister's helpful statement, does he agree that he should now reconsider his admission of 10 days ago that the total amount of aid for next year will be reduced by 2 to 3 per cent.? Does he accept that the average member of the British public would rather see at least existing levels of aid maintained than money being given away in tax cuts?

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

I believe that with the level of aid that is available to me next year I shall be able to maintain an effective aid programme and, in particular, deal with the kind of humanitarian circumstances that we are facing at present.