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.
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.
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?
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?