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Viscount Goschen: My Lords, from a glance at my diary I understand that I am to visit that exhibition this evening. The air services agreement involves complex negotiations and a number of factors are involved. Certainly, Manchester has been involved in determining our negotiating position with regard to Singapore. But one must also take into account the interests of British airlines and British consumers.
Lord Boyd-Carpenter: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that a number of years ago there was a direct daily Concorde flight between Singapore and Heathrow and that that service was interrupted only by the refusal of the Iranians to allow the aircraft to overfly Iran? Will my noble friend consider securing consent from Iran so that the daily Concorde flight can be reinstated?
Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for bringing that historical fact to the attention of the House. I will endeavour to find out whether or not there is any restriction on Concorde operating that route. But, restrictions aside, it would be for British Airways to determine whether or not it wished to operate that service.
Lord Molloy: My Lords, is the Minister aware that this issue is important to the Singaporeans? Following his welcome reply this afternoon, will there be further discussions so that we keep in touch with the Singaporeans and pursue this endeavour in which they have so much faith?
Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords,I recognise the need to ensure that progress continues in the development of an open skies policy and fairer competition throughout and recognise the desirability of maximising the role of airports outside the London region, but does the Minister accept from me that we do not feel we should probe his negotiating position? That cannot be helpful. We wish him well in securing a good deal for Britain, our airlines and consumers and, it is to be hoped, for the Singaporeans.
Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for making that point. We are in the middle of detailed negotiations and do not wish to expose our position. The noble Lord is quite right when he says that we must put the interests of UK consumers, airlines and airports at the front of our minds and pursue a liberalising policy on that basis.
Lord Dean of Beswick: My Lords, will the Minister explain the latter half of his reply to the Question put by the noble Lord, Lord McNally? It has been said that at present Manchester Airport is at a disadvantage compared with the other two major airports in this country. If that is so, will the Minister ensure that that position is rectified as soon as possible?
Viscount Goschen: My Lords, we understand the needs of regional airports and the importance of services operating to those airports. That is a matter which we take fully into account in determining our negotiating position. No doubt that is one of the issues that is being discussed as we speak.
Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that there are other sections of the British population who are concerned about this; namely, those who live under the flight path at Heathrow? Those people wish Manchester well.
Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I recognise that. Some may say that the feeling is mutual as far as concerns Mancunians. We understand the environmental difficulties in the field of air transport and seek to put in place a regime that minimises them.
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, a number of factors are taken into account in allocating our aid resources to particular countries. These include traditional ties to Britain, the recipient country's political and economic policies, respect for human rights
Lord Judd: My Lords, does the Minister agree that while aid to the former communist countries of Europe increased by some 773 per cent., from £15 million to £131 million, in the three years to 1994-95, aid to sub-Saharan Africa--the world's poorest region--declined by 5.5 per cent., from £418 million to £395 million? While it is important to assist transition in the former communist countries, how can this ever be, even in part, at the expense of aid to the poorest people in the world? Does the Minister have any plans under her own fundamental expenditure review to enable communist countries to graduate from aid so that assistance can be concentrated on those in the world in the greatest need?
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, in answer to the last part of the noble Lord's question, yes, we do. In particular, the countries of central Europe are moving faster than many others towards free markets and greater growth.
To return to the original premise of the question, 8 per cent. of our bilateral budget was spent on Europe, eastern Europe and central Asia--the former Soviet Union--compared with about 75 per cent. on sub-Saharan Africa and Asian countries where the greatest poverty exists. We have sought to concentrate our assistance in sub-Saharan and Asian countries where it can do most good. I understand the anxiety that has been expressed, but it must be right to help countries that are moving quickly away from an old demand system and, at the same time, to concentrate assistance on those most in need.
Lord Eden of Winton: My Lords, in the initial response to the Question put by the noble Lord, Lord Judd, my noble friend referred to the need to ensure that aid was effectively spent. Can my noble friend assure the House that one of the criteria that she wants to establish is that countries which are recipients of aid take effective action against corruption, particularly that which is sponsored or promoted by governments themselves?
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I assure my noble friend that one of the main criteria for the effective use of aid is that development assistance goes to projects for which it is intended. For that reason, I shall continue to be critical where any aid money, whether bilateral contributions or through any channel, may be siphoned off by those who seek to make irresponsible use of it. I can give my noble friend the assurance that our evaluation and monitoring system of the British aid programme prevents that. The same is not yet the case for all multilateral programmes. We hope that it will become so.
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I hope that we may soon be able to increase the aid budget as a whole. That is something upon which I am working. However, I am conscious that the know-how funds are doing an enormous amount of valuable work, just as the resources we concentrate on the poorest countries in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa are similarly doing valuable work. One of the most effective areas in which the know-how funds are operating in the former Soviet Union is the work they are doing on nuclear safety, some of which I was privileged to hear about at AEA Technology this morning. That work is for the good of all mankind, not just the countries concerned.
Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, is the Minister aware that no one in the House, I am sure, objects to help for eastern Europe? Most people would support what the Government are doing, but not at the expense of the other people. The figures the Minister quoted are not relevant. What is relevant is the trend, and the increase to eastern Europe at the expense of other poorer countries. Cannot that be taken into account?
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, indeed, it is taken into account. The fastest increase in assistance to central and eastern European countries, central Asia and the former Soviet Union comes from EU moneys, about one-sixth of which we contribute. It is not all falling upon us. The important point I was making to the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, is that it is vitally important to cure some of the problems of pollution that are just sitting waiting to emerge upon the world and not those countries alone. Preventing such pollution problems in the future is vital. The know-how funds are valuable, not just for the countries where they are deployed but for a much wider area. I understand the point that the noble Lord makes. He knows that we shall do all that we can for the poorest countries in the world. I am committed to doing so, so is the department, and so are the Government.
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