Aid Budget

Oral Answers to Questions — Overseas Development – in the House of Commons at 2:35 pm on 29th November 1993.

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Photo of Mr Graham Riddick Mr Graham Riddick , Colne Valley 2:35 pm, 29th November 1993

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is his budget for overseas aid in 1993–94.

Photo of Mr Mark Lennox-Boyd Mr Mark Lennox-Boyd , Morecambe and Lunesdale

The planning figure for external assistance for 1993–94 is £2,267 million.

Photo of Mr Graham Riddick Mr Graham Riddick , Colne Valley

Is that not an enormous sum of money? Will my hon. Friend confirm that Britain is one of the most generous donors of overseas aid in the world and has a record of which he and the Government can be proud? When calculating future levels of overseas aid, would it be sensible to take into consideration Britain's net annual contribution to the European Community of £2.5 billion, most of which goes to the poorer countries in southern Europe such as Portugal, Greece and Spain? Many of us feel that that money would be more appropriately spent in continents such as Asia and Africa.

Photo of Mr Mark Lennox-Boyd Mr Mark Lennox-Boyd , Morecambe and Lunesdale

I agree that the British aid programme is both large and effective. However, assistance within the Community for structural funds is not part of our aid programme. It is true that our aid programme goes very wide and includes substantial humanitarian aid and an enormous amount of help for debt relief. It should also not be forgotten that there is significant and substantial private sector investment in developing countries.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Will the Minister be careful not to misrepresent the Government's position on overseas aid? The reality is that every year we are falling further behind the 0.7 per cent. GNP target. The substantial increase in our budget relates to the European Community total—which is fixed and in which we have no say—whereas our percentage bilateral contribution has gone down.

I know that the hon. Gentleman cannot anticipate tomorrow's Budget statement, but when will the Government honour their obligation to meet the target of giving 0.7 per cent. of our gross national product to the rest of the world, whose problems are growing and not diminishing?

Photo of Mr Mark Lennox-Boyd Mr Mark Lennox-Boyd , Morecambe and Lunesdale

Obviously, I cannot anticipate tomorrow's Budget statement—or, indeed, any future Budget statement.

Photo of Mr Bowen Wells Mr Bowen Wells , Hertford and Stortford

Is not the budget for 1993–94 an increase on our previous expenditure, and are not the Government to be congratulated on constantly increasing the aid budget, despite financial difficulties elsewhere in the economy?

Photo of Mr Mark Lennox-Boyd Mr Mark Lennox-Boyd , Morecambe and Lunesdale

It is true that the planning total for 1993–94 is an increase in real terms on the previous year.