To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what changes in procedure he has adopted concerning the effect of bilateral aid provisions on the poorest income groups in recipient countries since his reply to the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs report on bilateral aid of October 1987 (Cm. 225)
I continue to keep under review those procedures designed to examine the impact of projects on the poorer groups. Our bilateral aid procedures already include an assessment of poverty orientation, and explicit consideration is given to the impact of adjustment programmes on vulnerable groups.
Does the Minister recall that the Select Committee made a specific recommendation in paragraph 54 that greater priority should be given to aid which would directly attack poverty and include sustainable measures for that to be continued into the future? By saying that he keeps matters under review, is he not saying that he does not agree with the recommendation? If he does not agree with it, will he tell us why? If he does, what has he done about it?
The hon. Gentleman is overlooking a number of projects that we already have that have a direct impact on poorer groups. I refer him to the Hyderabad slum improvement project, the Vishakhapatnam slum improvement project, the resettlement programme in Zimbabwe, and a score of others. However, I accept that we need to make sure that the impact on poverty is part of the routine evaluation, and we are ensuring that that the case. I would be happy to share more of the information about that with the Select Committee and with all those who are interested. This year we intend to commission specific evaluation studies on the subject of poverty impact.
Does the Minister accept that it is very difficult to target aid at poverty in Third-world countries when we still have not resolved the problem of international debt? Bearing in mind what he said about the World Bank, does he accept that many African countries see the World Bank and its demands as part of their problems rather than as a solution to them? Would it not be better for the bank to come up with a strategy of debt relief instead of dealing with default in the interests of its own credit rating?
Nothing would make us happier than to convince by tomorrow morning a number of other countries of the importance of implementing the sort of measures that we have been talking about since the spring of last year, such as writing off aid loans, rescheduling commercially guaranteed debts and lowering interest rates on those debts by countries which are pursuing sensible economic reform programmes. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the sooner there is progress on that, the better.