Aid Donors

Oral Answers to Questions — Overseas Development – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th July 1988.

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Photo of Kevin Barron Kevin Barron Shadow Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change) 12:00 am, 11th July 1988

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what information he has as to the average percentage of gross national product given in aid in 1987 by donor nations, excluding the United Kingdom, that are members of (a) the Group of Seven leading industrialised nations, (b) the European Community, and (c) the development assistance committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke Shadow Minister (Disability)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what information he has as to the average percentage of gross national product given in aid in 1987 by donor nations, excluding the United Kingdom that are members of (a) the Group of Seven leading industrialised nations, (b) the European Community, and (c) the development assistance committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Photo of Mr Chris Patten Mr Chris Patten , Bath

In 1987 net aid as a percentage of GNP, excluding the United Kingdom, averaged 0·32 per cent. for the Group of Seven; 0·5 per cent. for those members of the European Community for which the development assistance committee has published figures; and 0·34 per cent. for all development assistance committee members.

Photo of Kevin Barron Kevin Barron Shadow Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

Does the Minister accept that, of the 18 OECD major industrialised countries, we now come 14th compared with 12th in 1979? Does he further accept that we are below the average on every percentage that he read out? In 1979, when the Labour Government were in office, 0·52 per cent. of our GNP went towards the 0·7 per cent. target that was set by the United Nations 20 years ago. Now only 0·28 per cent. of our GNP is spent on that. Does the Minister understand that it is no good saying that the figures are better than last year's? We are trying to cure the evil of the wrong distribution of wealth throughout the world and we can do that only by aiming for the target percentage of our GNP, not by saying that we are giving more than we gave last year.

Photo of Mr Chris Patten Mr Chris Patten , Bath

It is probably the case that most of the international financial institutions to which the hon. Gentleman may have inadvertently referred would be more encouraged if more developing countries and more countries in general followed the economic policies of this Government rather than if they continued as they are. Thanks to our economic growth our aid programme is now growing in real terms. We shall spend over £90 million more this year than last year.

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke Shadow Minister (Disability)

In view of the appalling nature of these comparisons, will the Minister tell the House when he last had a person-to-person meeting with the Prime Minister on these matters?

Photo of Mr Chris Patten Mr Chris Patten , Bath

I last had a person-to-person meeting with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on these matters about a month ago, since when I have been in several countries and she may have been, too. I suspect that, unusually, the hon. Gentleman may have drafted his supplementary question before he listened to my reply.

Photo of Mr Andrew Rowe Mr Andrew Rowe , Kent Mid

Is it not absolutely true that my hon. Friend the Minister is to be congratulated on the considerable progress that he has made towards achieving many of the objectives of the aid programme that were manifestly not met when the Labour party was in power? Is it not also true that there is still a large gap between rich and poor countries and that it is to all our benefit if we in richer countries share a larger proportion of our income with poorer countries?

Photo of Mr Chris Patten Mr Chris Patten , Bath

I agree with my hon. Friend. That is why we have to continue giving a lead on issues such as the further liberalisation of trade and debt. I am delighted that the Toronto economic summit reached the conclusion that it did, which is a great tribute to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I hope that this week the Paris Club will make a good deal of progress in implementing the terms of the Toronto economic summit communiqué.

Photo of Mr Jacques Arnold Mr Jacques Arnold , Gravesham

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is much better to give an increasing amount of aid? Rather than merely considering a higher percentage of a low gross domestic product, is it not better to have perhaps a slightly smaller percentage of a GDP which is now very much greater?

Photo of Mr Chris Patten Mr Chris Patten , Bath

I agree with my hon. Friend. As I said before, the effects of the Labour party's policies on our economic growth rate would ensure, without anything being done to the amount being spent on aid, that our aid as a proportion of GNP went up rapidly, and soon.

Photo of Miss Joan Lestor Miss Joan Lestor , Eccles

Does the hon. Gentleman not recognise that there is a distinction between an intellectually attractive presentation of a policy and the reality of a performance? If he continues to argue that what is important is not the proportion of GNP but the amount that he has contributed, unless that amount goes up as a proportion of GNP it follows that the gap between the countries that we are supposed to be assisting and the richer countries will widen. That is why the United Nations had a target of 0·7 per cent. of GNP. so that when GNP went up the proportion to the developing countries would also go up. That is where the Minister is failing the Third world.

Photo of Mr Chris Patten Mr Chris Patten , Bath

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for what I think began as a compliment. [Interruption.] Perhaps I misjudged her. I apologise for that. It is important that our aid programme should go up in real terms, which it is doing. It is also important that our economic growth rate is now sufficiently rapid and based on sufficiently secure foundations to make sure that we can play the leading role in the international financial institutions and in issues of trade and debt that a country of our history should be able to play. Alas, under our predecessors, we were on the way to becoming a developing country.