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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. George Foulkes): Our Department offers a broad range of support to encourage the adoption of appropriate intermediate technology solutions in developing countries through our country programmes, our research and knowledge work and through the joint funding scheme for non-governmental organisations.
Mr. Boswell: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that intermediate technology is not second best if it is the appropriate technology to meet the need? British companies and non-governmental organisations are particularly strong in that area. As the White Paper was rather feeble on this subject, will he make amends by giving it an enhanced emphasis?
Mr. Campbell-Savours: On the question of former Overseas Development Administration support for such projects and for projects more generally, would it not be interesting to take a snapshot year, perhaps in the mid-1980s, and revisit all the projects that were supported in that year with British taxpayers' money to see to what extent they are still being properly managed and utilised to the benefit of the recipient countries? I asked that question following my visit in 1991 to the Orissa health project in southern India, which I found to be a disaster area.
Mr. Foulkes: My right hon. Friend and I are spending some time examining all our projects to see how effective they are. The Select Committee on International Development could carry out the role that my hon. Friend suggests. I assure him that, under the White Paper to which the hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell) referred, projects such as the Pergau dam would receive no support from the new Labour Government.
Mr. Dafis: Does the Minister agree that, although intermediate technology is appropriate in many circumstances, high technology is sometimes also appropriate for third-world development? I am thinking particularly of sustainable energy policies. Is not the development of renewable energy often the means by which underdeveloped countries can make the leap from underdevelopment to sustainable development? What do the Government intend to do about encouraging the transfer of such technology to the underdeveloped world?
Mr. Foulkes: The transfer of our technology to transition countries in eastern and central Europe has been achieved through the know-how fund. Some of the techniques used by the know-how fund can now be extended to developing countries, especially in the area to which the hon. Gentleman referred. We have supported successful work in South Africa to train young unemployed people in information technology. Those people have obtained work very quickly, which shows the effectiveness of our support for such work in those countries.
Mr. Grant: I believe that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is to visit South Africa. I wonder whether my hon. Friend the Minister will urge her to visit the computer information technology centre in Welkom in the Free State. She will see there an excellent project run by black British expatriates who are teaching people in places such as Bronville and Tahbong how to use information technology. Will he also examine how those people are working with the local population and use their example as a model for future development to meet the White Paper's objectives?
Mr. Foulkes: The project to which my hon. Friend refers is precisely that to which I was referring earlier. I am very pleased that--I hope next week--I shall be able to meet him and the organiser of that project.
Mr. Foulkes: Last week, I met the delegation of councillors from St. Helena and had useful and constructive discussions with them. As my hon. Friend knows, however, lead responsibility for the dependent territories lies with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I am discussing with my colleagues ways in which contacts between Her Majesty's Government and the Government and people of St. Helena can be developed constructively.
Dr. Marek: I warmly welcome that remark. The situation on St. Helena is now being addressed. If my hon. Friend can get there, I am sure that St. Helenians would be delighted with a ministerial visit. Will he pay particular attention to St. Helena's need for an airport or airstrip? If a feasibility study is possible, will he ensure that it is undertaken with a view to determining what is possible and practicable, not how expensive an airport or airstrip is and why it should not be built?
Mr. Foulkes: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his support for the Government in this matter. We have offered to finance a comprehensive study of all possible air links and options to improve access to St. Helena by air. The only ministerial visit to St. Helena was made in 1699, which indicates how difficult it is to get there.
Mr. John M. Taylor: I should like the Minister to know that I visited St. Helena on behalf of Her Majesty's Government rather more recently than 1699. When he considers an airstrip, will he bear in mind the opinion of the islanders--the Saints? The last time I was there they did not want an airstrip.
Mr. Foulkes: I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman's visit did not stick in the minds of the St. Helenian councillors I met last week--although I am sure that it stuck in his mind. I assure him that the views of the people and representatives of St. Helena will be taken fully into account in an access study.
Mr. David Heath: Does the Minister appreciate that, last week, the St. Helena delegation said that they could not remember ever having received a visit from a Minister? He would therefore be warmly received if he were to go, particularly if he were to find an aid package and take a promise from the Government that full UK citizenship for St. Helenians--which was removed in 1981--will be restored.
Mr. Foulkes: I understand the hon. Gentleman's views on citizenship. That matter is being considered sympathetically by other Departments. I assure him, however, that we have agreed with the St. Helena Government a country policy plan that, over the next three years, will involve expenditure by the United Kingdom Government of £26 million, which is £1,500 per capita--the highest per capita expenditure of any of our programmes.
Mr. Foulkes: We greatly welcome the Machel report and have already pledged £200,000 to enable the newly appointed UN Secretary-General's special representative on children and armed conflict to begin his work to co-ordinate international action in response to the report. In addition, we have offered to host a meeting in London during our presidency of the European Union to encourage our European partners to give sympathetic consideration to the special representative's work and priorities.
Mr. Timms: I very much welcome my hon. Friend's reply. He will know that the report for the United Nations Children Fund, for which Mrs. Machel was responsible, highlighted the issue of households headed by children. He will also know that it is estimated that there could be 80,000 such households in Rwanda following the conflict there, that there are many more in Uganda as a result of the conflict in the north of that country and as a result of AIDS, and that there are more such households elsewhere. Does he agree that the issue needs to be recognised in a policy? Will he tell the House what steps the Department is taking to address the issue of households headed by children?
Mr. Foulkes: My hon. Friend is right to highlight the issue. It is a terrible tragedy that when parents have died in conflicts or from diseases such as AIDS, a young child heads the household. The new special representative, Mr. Otunnu, is well qualified to undertake his task and we shall give him all the support we can.
Mr. Foulkes: Expenditure plans for the next financial year are under negotiation now between officials of my Department and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The Chevening scholarship programme is funded by the Foreign Office. My Department contributes only in countries where we have an aid programme and excludes military training. We are currently reviewing how our contribution can be made consistent with the aims set out in the White Paper, particularly that of poverty eradication.
Mr. Rowe: I suggest to the Minister that this valuable programme could achieve the purposes of the White Paper if the allocation of scholarships was skewed much more towards primary health care programmes, the development of programmes for disability, primary education and similar things rather than, as at present, its valuable contribution being skewed towards business and technology. Will the Minister consider that suggestion rather than there being any risk of scrapping the programme?