Southern Africa

Oral Answers to Questions — Overseas Development – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th October 1992.

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Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley , City of York 12:00 am, 26th October 1992

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will increase the level of aid allocated to southern Africa in the current year.

Photo of Richard Burden Richard Burden , Birmingham, Northfield

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he intends to review the level of aid allocated to southern Africa in the current year.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

Southern Africa must be a high priority for us, particularly because so many countries there need our support for their economic reform programmes and because we must help them cope with the effects of the grievous drought. So we keep our help to that region continuously under review.

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley , City of York

The Conservative party manifesto in April said that next year's aid budget, excluding aid for eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, would reach £1,800 million. Will the 1993–94 aid budget in real terms meet that manifesto promise and will the proportion going to southern Africa be the same as in the current financial year?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

As I have said before, I cannot anticipate the results of the public spending review, which is going on now and on which no decisions have so far been taken. We shall continue to have an energetic role in relation to the tragedies in Africa, whether they concern Somalia, dealing with the drought in Zimbabwe, or projects that, for a comparatively modest expenditure, produce enormous benefits to townships in South Africa.

Photo of Richard Burden Richard Burden , Birmingham, Northfield

Surely the House cannot have too much confidence in such assurances given the Government's track record on overseas aid. It was cut by 27 per cent. in just 11 years so what confidence can we have that the Government will ever reach the agreed target of 0.7 per cent. of gross domestic product devoted to overseas aid? Is it not obscene that the Government should even consider cutting back on overseas aid when a child dies of starvation every 2.4 seconds?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

Obviously, the amount that we spend on aid is part of the Government's general public spending programme. That has been so under all Governments. What has happened in the history of this Government is that reductions in the beginning were followed by a substantial expansion, so that in 1991–92 we spent 3 per cent. more in real terms than in the year before. Since 1987–88 the aid programme has risen in real terms—not fallen as the hon. Gentleman suggested—by 8 per cent., which is a substantial increase.