International Aid Co-operation

Oral Answers to Questions — Overseas Development – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9th December 1996.

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Photo of Dr Charles Goodson-Wickes Dr Charles Goodson-Wickes , Wimbledon 12:00 am, 9th December 1996

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent consultations he has had over the setting up of an international association for non-governmental organisations in relation to the delivery of overseas aid. [6518]

Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

There have been no recent consultations over the establishment of an international association for non-governmental organisations. A number of NGO groupings already exist within the European Union and the United Nations system, as well as for British NGOs.

Photo of Dr Charles Goodson-Wickes Dr Charles Goodson-Wickes , Wimbledon

My hon. Friend will delight in the admirable work done by so many agencies around the world in places where strife causes terrible humanitarian and medical suffering. So much has been achieved that it may seem churlish to suggest that international aid agencies could deliver their aid more efficiently and with greater accountability. Will my hon. Friend again examine the merits of setting up an international aid co-operation body to ensure that aid is delivered as efficiently as possible, to reduce suffering around the world, bearing in mind that that is the view of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent?

Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

We are constantly in dialogue with the NGOs. As I have said, there are a number of organisations in Europe and beyond. As independent organisations, it is for NGOs to monitor and evaluate their own performance to ensure that they remain cost-effective. It is not necessarily a matter for Governments.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

Have the non-governmental organisations expressed a view on the Government's announcement, made at 2 pm today, of withdrawal from the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation? In international politics, is it not better to seek to reform institutions rather than to withdraw from them? I thought that that was the message in the Prime Minister's interview yesterday.

Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

Naturally, in the hour and seven minutes since the announcement, I have had no representations from the NGOs, which, unlike the hon. Gentleman, have probably not had time to digest the information. The Government must ensure that they get value for money from any organisation they are in. If UNIDO reforms itself and is seen to offer better value for money in achieving its aims, the Government may reconsider their position. However, that is some way down the road, because we do not currently believe that it is fulfilling the criteria set out in advance.

Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman , Chipping Barnet

Does my hon. Friend think that most of Britain's overseas aid can be delivered more effectively through bilateral arrangements, or does he believe that multinational organisations, such as the European Union or the United Nations, should be the main engine for getting the most help to the people who need it most? Given our record, surely bilateral aid has an important role in ensuring that the poorest people get the aid.

Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My hon. Friend will not be surprised that the Government believe that our bilateral aid programme is better than that of many others. That is why, in this year's public expenditure survey round, our bilateral aid budget has been protected. I can confirm to the House that we expect the planning figures for the bilateral aid programme for the next three years to be no lower than the comparable figures published last year. Indeed, we expect them to be moderately higher.