HC Deb 25 June 1992 vol 210 cc401-80

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Kirkhope.]

[Relevant documents: The Second Report from the Environment Committee, Session 1990–91, Visit by the Committee to Brazil, HC 60, the Third Report from the Environment Committee, Session 1990–91, Climatological and Environmental Effects of Rainforest Destruction, HC 24, and the Government's Reply thereto, Cm. 1579.]

Madam Speaker

May I inform the House that many hon. Members want to speak in the debate. Therefore, I have had to impose a 10-minute time limit between 7 pm and 9 pm. May I ask those who speak outside that time to show some voluntary restraint in order to be helpful in allowing all those who wish to speak to be called?

4.20 pm
The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Michael Howard)

Just over three weeks ago I stood at this Dispatch Box on the day the Earth summit in Rio began. At that time I set out to the House in detail our goals for that conference and the work that the United Kingdom Government had been doing to achieve those goals.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister told the House on his return from Rio of the real success that had been achieved. The summit was far more successful than many had thought possible. That was due in no small part to the leading role played by the Government in the preparatory meetings leading up to the conference and in the negotiatons that took place during it.

I should like today to set out in some detail not only the achievements of the summit but the way in which we see things moving forward. Rio began an evolutionary process. We are committed to sustaining the momentum of that process.

Let us start with the summit itself. Some dismissed it as a failure before it began, but it was the largest-ever gathering of world leaders. The level of commitment was clearly demonstrated by the unprecedented number of signatures on the two major conventions, less than 10 days after they were opened for signing: 153 states and the Economic Community in each case. The personal commitment of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the success of the summit was clear from the outset when he became one of the first world leaders to announce his firm intention to attend. He carried that forward by persuading his G7 colleagues of its importance. His speech at the summit gave a clear international lead on many of the most vital issues before the conference.

One of the most important achievements of the conference was the framework convention on climate change. It took 16 months to negotiate and provides a significant first step in the global response to climate change. It commits countries to devise measures to combat climate change and to report on those measures. It also commits all developed countries to take measures aimed at returning emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by the year 2000. The convention is a sensible precautionary response to a problem the full extent of which is as yet unknown.

Albert Schweitzer said: Man has lost the capacity to foresee and forestall. He will end by destroying the earth. Our scientists have foreseen what could happen if we take no action. We are taking action to prevent damage on the scale which some predict.

As our knowledge improves—

Mrs. Ann Taylor (Dewsbury)

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Mr. Howard

Perhaps I can develop my argument, then I shall give way.

As our knowledge improves we may need to make further commitments. The convention provides for a strong review process to assess the effectiveness of the action being taken and the need for further action. Some people have criticised the convention for being weak, or of having been watered down to suit the United States, but the commitment to take measures is not weak. Nor is the commitment to report on the effect that the measures are having and to monitor progress towards the targets. The convention is strong, and I believe that it will be effective. All the major economic powers are on board. If one is engaged in an evolutionary process, as we are, it is essential to involve as many people as possible in that process. Involving the US Government in the process was crucial. The US contributes nearly a quarter of total world CO2emissions and it is some vindication of involving the US that President Bush, with other world leaders, has called for rapid implementation of the convention. We have joined in that call. We are pressing for early ratification of the convention and we are already taking action to implement it. We have placed in the House Library a document setting out our initial strategy on limiting CO2 emissions, and are urging all developed countries to join us in our commitment to publish full national programmes by the end of next year.

Mrs. Ann Taylor

The Minister will be aware that concern still exists about the clarity of the Government's commitment to stabilisation of CO2 emissions by 2000. The convention says, and the Prime Minister said in his statement, that the United Kingdom will make that commitment, provided that others do so as well. We know that the Americans will not treat that as a binding target. What exactly is the Government's position?

Mr. Howard

The Government's position has been made absolutely clear on many occasions. The hon. Lady seems not to understand that, with what is undoubtedly a global problem of this kind, one needs a global response if it is to be effective. If the United Kingdom Government engaged in unilateral action it would achieve nothing—no more than would have been achieved if the United Kingdom had engaged in the unilateral action on nuclear disarmament so vigorously urged upon us by Opposition Members. The proper way forward is multilateral action—a global response to a global problem.

Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston)

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Mr. Howard

I am answering the hon. Lady's question. In this case the distinction is academic, because we know that other countries will take similar action.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

What about the United States?

Mr. Howard

The hon. Lady asked a question. The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours), who is to wind up the debate, seems unable to restrain himself from making comments from a sedentary position, and asks about the United States.

The United States has committed itself to a comprehensive series of measures which will—of themselves and without taking into account further action that the United States Government and the state governments intend to take—bring them within a whisker of achieving what the convention commits the United States Government to.

Mrs. Ann Taylor


Mr. Howard

The hon. lady is going to reply to my speech. I would give way, but I do not think that it would be fair to the House to turn the debate into a dialogue.

At Rio, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced an initiative to ensure that developing countries can share the benefits of environmentally sound technology, through partnership with British companies. Called the technology partnership initiative, it will promote United Kingdom capacity in environmentally friendly technologies, and promote those technologies in overseas markets. It will play an important part in providing developing countries with the technology that they need to play their part in implementing the convention.

The main focus of the initiative will be a global technology partnership conference and exhibition of United Kingdom technology early next year. It is not merely very high-tech technologies that will be shared. I have recently had meetings with the Environment Ministers of both India and Pakistan. A major concern for both of them is the provision of clean drinking water. In the United Kingdom we have tremendous expertise in that area, and tremendous experience in making it relevant and appropriate for local circumstances in countries overseas. Our initiative is designed to bring the expertise and the need together.

The United Kingdom Government also signed the convention on biological diversity. Before Rio few people know what biological diversity was. The extensive press coverage of the Earth summit has changed all that. The conservation of biodiversity is now widely recognised to be important in both economic and ethical terms.

That convention is important not only because of its subject matter, but because of what it attempts to do by way of forging partnership between north and south. It will help the benefits of biological resources to be shared equitably between the countries in which they grow and the countries that develop them. Countries will be required to identify and monitor important species and to set up networks of protected areas to safeguard them. That requirement applies to developed countries as well as to those still developing. It applies to us. It will be harder, of course, for many other countries, particularly those near the equator where the greatest diversity of species occur, and where administrative structures are not as sophisticated as ours. So the convention offers help to such countries to devise national plans which meet their own particular national needs as well as safeguarding the biodiversity of the planet.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

By what mechanism will we monitor our situation? Why was no one from the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Dr. O'Connor or anyone else on the delegation to Rio?

Mr. Howard

We sent a large delegation to Rio, which comprised many representatives of non-governmental organisations. It also included the hon. Gentleman's colleague, the shadow spokesman on overseas development, the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd). I hope that the hon. Gentleman will recognise that it was not possible to accommodate everyone. We take seriously the involvement of non-governmental organisations, not only in our delegation at Rio, but in our continuing work to take forward the process that was decided upon at Rio.

The House will recall that when we last debated the Earth summit the Government were still considering the text of the convention. In common with other OECD donor countries, we had reservations about the financial provisions. We were concerned that the developed countries might be put in the position of providing financial support with a blank cheque. We studied the text carefully and we are now confident that the difficulties can be overcome. We will continue to play a leading role in promoting the convention, and we have offered to host the first meeting of the conference of the parties to the biodiversity convention.

We are also taking follow-up action through the Darwin initiative for the survival of species, which the Prime Minister announced in his speech at Rio. That will build on the United Kingdom's recognised scientific and commercial strengths in biodiversity. Our centres of excellence are renowned throughout the world. They include the Royal Botanic gardens at Kew and Edinburgh, and the natural history museum, where, yesterday in the presence of the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), I launched three publications on biodiversity. One of those publications was compiled by the World Conservation Monitoring Centre, another of our centres of excellence.

Mr. Dalyell

What is the educational element of the Darwin initiative? Will the fact that the Royal Botanic gardens in Edinburgh is to start an MSc course on biodiversity and tropical rain forests this October to be taken into account? Surely the directors of the institutions named should have been told about the initiative before it was launched rather than learning about it from the press.

Mr. Howard

My understanding is that they were informed. There may be some misunderstanding about what happened in relation to the Royal Botanic gardens at Edinburgh. My office attempted to communicate with the other institutions that I mentioned and, as far as I am aware, those attempts were successful. There may have been some misunderstanding in the case of Edinburgh.

I assure the hon. Gentleman that the initiative will contain a large educational component, because we believe that that is an important way in which to take that initiative forward. The hon. Gentleman was present yesterday when I invited all those who think that they can play a significant and instructive part in taking it forward to get in touch with my Department so that we can assess the contribution that they can make. That applies as much to institutions in Edinburgh as to institutions anywhere in the country. I look forward to hearing from the institutions to which the hon. Gentleman referred so that we can make a proper assessment of the contribution that they can make.

The initiative will involve international studies of available natural resources, the development of inventories of the most important species and the promotion of exchange of information and techniques for conservation. The next step, which we are already taking, is to develop the initiative in consultation with interested public and private sector organisations, and it was in that context that I issued the invitation to which I referred.

In addition to the conventions, agreement was reached on the Rio declaration and on Agenda 21. The Rio declaration is a statement of principles, balancing environmental concerns with the need for development. Many of those principles will be familiar to hon. Members—the polluter pays and the precautionary principles, for instance. Equally importantly, the declaration endorses the need for citizen participation, for providing access to environmental information, and for the use of environmental impact assessment. We believe that all those principles are essential. The declaration also meets concerns of developing countries by underlining the link between poverty and environmental degradation, and acknowledging the sovereignty of states in environmental and development policies. It was accepted unanimously by all countries represented at Rio, and will provide a useful basis for common action in the years to come.

Agenda 21, which was also agreed at the conference, provides a framework of action for everyone. It provides a flexible approach over 40 different subject areas for countries developing their own sustainable development programmes. A plan of action that is right for a small African state is unlikely to be appropriate for somewhere like Canada. That is why the flexible approach is so important. But sustainable development is not just something for Governments. It is for industry, for voluntary organisations, for local government, for scientists, for academics and for the individual. Agenda 21 aims to integrate environmental concerns into a wide range of policies.

Among all those undoubted successes of Rio, I do have to report one disappointment. We had hoped to achieve a commitment to work towards a binding agreement on forests, but in the end we had to settle for a declaration on[j1] forest principles.

The inability to reach agreement does not reflect any lack of effort. The talks in which I was engaged went on well into the small hours, but in the end we had to recognise the need to draw up proposals with some degree of flexibility to meet the concerns of all states. Only last week, for example, the Indian Minister for the Environment emphasied to me the importance of forests as a source of firewood for cooking, apart from timber. Such concerns cannot be ignored.

However, the declaration lays down substantial undertakings, and it is the first international consensus on the value and conservation of the world's forests. That is not the end of the story, for the door remains open to a forest convention at a later date. The United Kingdom sponsors more than 200 forestry projects overseas at a cost of more than£160 million. We are pledged to continue that programme.

Mr. Dalyell

On 12 July, Mr. Ron Kemp and a delegation go to Malaysia. What is their brief? What do they hope to achieve? I accept that they could achieve a great deal.

Mr. Howard

It is hoped to take forward the principles agreed in Rio. It is well known that Malaysia and India were the two countries which took the lead in opposing, for the type of reasons that I gave, a binding declaration. They took strong positions on those issues. In the end we were successful in obtaining their assent to the declaration of principles that was achieved at Rio, and it is important that we discuss with them the most constructive way in which that statement can be taken forward.

As anyone could have predicted, there was a great deal of debate in Rio on financial issues. Developing countries will need help, in different ways, if they are to achieve these new patterns of sustainable development. The single most important help that we can give is an improvement in the world trading system. We must have a successful conclusion of the Uruguay round of GATT if the economies of developing countries are to have the opportunities for growth that they need. And environment and trade are policies which must increasingly go hand in hand. That theme ran through the corridors of Rio.

The United Kingdom Government have led the way on debt relief. We have relieved developing countries of £1 billion of old aid loans since 1979 and we are urging the international community to build on a new set of Trinidad terms.

The United Kingdom will also mobilise its aid programme in support of the goals of Agenda 21. We are planning to make available substantial financial resources over the next few years to assist forestry conservation, biodiversity, energy efficiency, population planning and sustainable agriculture.

We fully support the global environment facility as the channel for assistance to meet the incremental costs arising from countries' commitments under the two new conventions. We have proposed a £2 billion to $3 billion replenishment of that facility and are committed to contributing our fair share. That share will depend on the final size of the replenishment and arrangements for sharing the burden among donors. We estimate that it will be about £100 million. That fulfils the pledge of new and additional resources for the GEF made by my predecessor in New York in March.

We are already playing our part in the provision of 3 billion ecu by the EC and its member states to strengthen assistance to developing countries in the field of sustainable development, particularly for funding Agenda 21

It was very encouraging that we were able to reach so many agreements in Rio. But agreements alone are not enough. They must be translated into action, and that action must be monitored and reviewed. That was why the Earth summit agreed the establishment of the Sustainable Development Commission. That will pursue the follow-up to UNCED commitments and act as a forum for continuing discussion of sustainable development issues. It is crucial that Governments and United Nations organisations report periodically and publicly on implementation. Public confidence must be maintained and, to achieve that, we need the involvement of all types of non-governmental organisations—NGOs—business and the scientific community, as well as of local government.

The Government attach great importance to that monitoring process, which is why we have decided to convene a major global forum of the NGO community to examine and clarify their role in the practical implications of Agenda 21. We were in constant touch with NGOs during the preparations for Rio and were fortunate to have the expert knowledge of about a dozen NGO representatives as part of the United Kingdom delegation. We do not want to lose their input in this vital post-UNCED phase.

On his return from Rio, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister wrote to his European Community and G7 colleagues proposing the adoption of our action plan to carry forward immediately the agreements reached at Rio. We expect discussion of that initiative at the forthcoming Lisbon Council and Munich summit.

We propose that, at those meetings, leaders should make a political commitment to an eight-point plan for follow-up action by their countries by the end of 1993. That would include the publication of national plans for implementing the Rio declaration, Agenda 21, the forestry principles and the climate change convention, and action on biodiversity. It also includes taking the lead at the UN General Assembly in the establishment of the Sustainable Development Commission, putting our weight behind a review process for the forestry principles and giving financial support for the implementation of Agenda 21 through the Overseas Development Administration and for the replenishment of the global environment facility.

Mrs. Ann Taylor

What is the Secretary of State's view on the reporting mechanism to the United Nations Assembly with regard to the Sustainable Development Commission and progress? When the Minister for the Environment and Countryside was in Rio, he said that it would be totally unacceptable and that he would consider it a failure if the reporting mechanism were through the UN Economic and Social Council, which is exactly what was decided at the end. Since that is what has happened, what is the Secretary of State's position now?

Mr. Howard

It is fairly obvious that sustainable development will take place through the Sustainable Development Commission. Governments will report to that commission. We do not yet know exactly what form those reports will take, but it is interesting that, when I met the Indian Environment Minister last week, he suggested, quite unprompted, that the annual reporting system that we have introduced in this country in the past two years—it was originally introduced by Chris Patten—should form a model for international reporting on those agreements, which other nations might want to use. So he sees the merit of what we have been doing in this country and regards it as a potential model for the way forward in international reporting.

The Earth summit caught the attention of people throughout the world. It has caused an irreversible change in the perception of environmental issues and has placed the environment firmly on the political agenda.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

The Minister referred to relieving developing countries of £1 billion worth of official debt. Does that include debt incurred for the purchase of military equipment? The statistic may not be so relevant if that is the case.

Mr. Howard

The initiative was directed towards relieving the poorest countries in the world of their debt. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would want those countries to be relieved of that debt so that they could get away from the situation that is often rightly complained about—that those countries must devote a large proportion of their scarce resources to interest payments on that debt. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would warmly welcome that.

I have little doubt that our children, looking back on the events at Rio, will recognise the significance of the momentous decisions taken there. Oliver Goldsmith's lugubrious philosopher told us How terrible it will be when the motions of all the planets have at last become so irregular as to need repairing, when the … earth, deviating from its ancient track … shall become so eccentric, that … it shall fly off into boundless space. The problems of the earth have not reached those extremes, but we should not be complacent about our successes so far.

We must ensure that UNCED is not just an event in the history books, but a milestone on the road to the future health and well-being of our planet. I believe that, in the fullness of time, that is precisely how it will be seen. I commend its outcome to the House.

4.43 pm
Mrs. Ann Taylor (Dewsbury)

It is right and appropriate that we should have a debate about UNCED, about our hopes about what decisions made at the Earth summit may lead to, and also about our fears of whether agreements made match up to the scale of the global, environmental and development problems that we face. It is also fortuitous that we should have the debate as soon as possible after the Rio conference. I hope that that would have happened had we not had the vacuum in House of Commons business following the Danish referendum. Be that as it may, it would be churlish of me not to welcome the fact that we are having the debate today.

The Secretary of State told us about the build up to Rio. We should all pay tribute to Maurice Strong, the general secretary of UNCED, whose tireless energy and, above all, determination that the conference would not be allowed to fail was essential to the progress that was made—limited though it was in all too many respects.

In their statements, the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister could have been a little more gracious to those who addressed the issues long before the Rio summit was organised. The Prime Minister has frequently said that the Earth summit in Rio was to be seen as the process of starting to save the world. Due credit should be given to those who came to the issues 20 years or more ago, and people such as those responsible for the Brundtland commission should get the credit for the work that they did in placing such matters on the political agenda. The position of those issues was perhaps not as high on the list as many of us would have liked, but the achievements of such people should be recognised by all hon. Members.

I shall mention some issues on which we agree before questioning the Minister further about whether or not the opportunities for progress were maximised at Rio, and about what he and the Government intend to do to put their own house in order. I agree that bringing together world leaders to discuss the issues was, in itself, a step forward. It was progress not least because it resulted in the leaders, as well as the public, realising the scale of the problems facing us. The Ministers were right to go to Rio, right to sign the conventions that were agreed—although, as I shall show shortly, I remain convinced that more could have been achieved and British Ministers could have played a more positive role, particularly in respect of global warming and the aid target.

Since his return from Rio, the Secretary of State has said that the experience had a tremendous impact on him; I hope that that impact is deep and remains with him. It is about time that someone in Government began to take the issues seriously. The Secretary of State has acknowledged that there must be intervention to ensure global environmental protection, which is certainly true. The market will not solve the problems of global warming, the loss of biodiversity or deforestation. Sustainable development requires planning and intervention.

Despite the recession that the Minister of State sees as such a barrier and as an excuse for not doing more, we in Britain are in a position to do more and to give a lead. I want the Government to make progress, not only to fulfil their international obligations following the Rio summit. That would not be enough, as in Rio too much was too vague. I hope to convince the Secretary of State that, if we take a lead, it will be in this country's interests as well as in our environmental interests.

There are probably three ways of considering this country's role in global environmental protection. We could set ourselves the target of being an example of best practice, proving to others what can be done to protect our environment and taking initiatives to help ensure that the poorer countries are allowed and encouraged to develop in a way that does not repeat the mistakes which industrialised countries, including us, made in the past and which resulted in environmental damage.

We bear a significant responsibility for the global environmental problems that we face today. We must play our full part in alleviating those problems and helping others to pay greater heed to the environmental threat. That should be our ideal. We should push our domestic actions to the limit, have the strictest standards and controls, and the belief that, regardless of what others do or do not do, we will have the best record based on the precautionary principle. We should understand that it is often in the country's economic interests as well as its environmental interests to prevent pollution and preserve resources. I think that the Minister still fails to appreciate that.

It is cheaper to prevent pollution than to clean up after the event. We have seen that time and time again, including the recent event in which the Department of the Environment and the Department of Trade and Industry were involved—the Wheal Jane incident in the south-west. Even if pollution problems can be dealt with, much destruction will have taken place in the meantime, and the financial costs—let alone the personal and environmental damage—will be great.

An alternative and less idealistic way of considering our approach to environmental problems is to set our targets according to what other countries are doing and stating that we shall match the best. We could adopt the belief that, whatever targets our neighbours—comparable countries—come up with, we shall run with the leaders. That may not be so idealistic, but it should be a practical way of assessing our performance and providing ourselves with basic objectives.

A third option would be to say that we can and will take action, but only if and when others do likewise. We could say that we shall not fall behind the worst. I think that such an attitude is totally unacceptable.

The Government's position on all the crucial environmental protection issues does not fall into the category of the third option. However, I believe that in some critical issues the Government are hiding behind the fact that some countries are even worse than us. Even when we agree, in principle, to action, we still face the problem of funding the programmes required. I do not think that the Minister has dealt with that matter adequately, and I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) will wish to return to it later.

Exchanging statistics may not take us much further forward, but the United Nations' target for aid on which we are all supposed to agree is 0.7 per cent. of gross national product. In 1979, when the Labour Government left office, the figure was 0.51 per cent. and rising. That was the nearest that this country has ever come to achieving the target figure. However, more recently, under the Conservatives, the figure has fallen to 0.27 per cent. and is only now to rise to 0.31 per cent.—an increase which no one could do other than welcome, but which still leaves us much further behind than we were in 1979.

One of the problems fundamental to the Government's outlook is that they consider only the cost of their programme, never the cost of inaction. That is a significant failing, which means that the necessary long-term decisions are not being taken and, as a result, we are storing up future problems.

The Secretary of State raised some specific issues. The convention on climate change was one of the most important subjects to be addressed at the Rio conference. I understand that the wording of the convention was finalised in early May, when a decision was made to remove any concrete targets or timetable for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. That led to the Secretary General of the United Nations, speaking at the opening of the convention for signing the declaration, to say that the convention fell short of the hopes of many people.

Mr. Howard

I cannot believe that the hon. Lady has not read the text of the convention, which clearly contains both targets and timetables. The target is to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by the year 2000. The word used is "aim", which is exactly what one does at a target. A timetable is set in that the aim is to be achieved by the year 2000—that is what the convention says.

Mrs. Taylor

The right hon. and learned Gentleman still does not understand the problem facing the many people who want the Government to be clearer in their language. There should be clear targets and binding commitments—[HON. MEMBERS: "There are."] But the whole reason for altering the wording was to get President Bush to the conference table—

Mr. Howard

The hon. Lady is sliding away from the point. Whatever criticisms she may make of the convention, will she accept that it does contain a target and a timetable?

Mrs. Taylor

If the target and timetable depend on everyone else doing likewise, they do not represent binding or clear commitments, because if everyone else does not do likewise, Governments who want to be let off the hook will be let off it—perhaps including the British Government.

Mr. Cynog Dafis (Ceredigion and Pembroke, North)

A great deal has been made of the issue whether the year 2000 is a satisfactory date by which to aim for the stabilisation of emissions, but the important thing is the stabilisation of concentrations in the atmosphere. It has been claimed that we need a large reduction in emissions to bring about that stabilisation, so the aim itself is unsatisfactory.

Mrs. Taylor

I am sure that many people share the hon. Gentleman's anxiety. If the Minister is so happy with what happened at Rio and believes that it created the best possible framework, why did the Prime Minister say on his return: The United Kingdom has been able to go further than the convention requires by making a firm commitment, provided others do so as well, to reduce emissions of CO2, and other greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by the year 2000"?—[official Report, 15 June 1992; Vol. 209, c. 649.] That is not a binding commitment; it is not considered a clear target by the United States, so it does not carry a great deal of weight.

At the conference in Rio, a group of countries, led by some EC members but also by others, including Austria and Switzerland, tried to obtain support for a parallel convention signed by countries willing to commit themselves to a clear target of stabilisation at 1990 levels by the year 2000—regardless of what other countries do. The Minister did not feel able to go along with that. If he is so sure that his commitment cannot be faulted, why was not he willing to go along with the parallel convention, which leaves no doubt about what those countries are aiming for? Perhaps he will tell us now why that was not possible—

Mr. Howard

The European Community as a whole was not prepared to go along with the initiative—it was quite shortlived and then fizzled out—because it took the view that the most effective way of dealing with these matters was by a convention that brought everyone on board. We are already seeing the fruits of that approach—countries are committing themselves to taking early action and are producing early reports. That was considered better than creating differences between one group of countries and another—that would have been a divisive approach. It is why we and the European Community thought it much more effective to take action through the convention which 153 countries have signed.

Mrs. Taylor

The Secretary of State talks as if the parallel convention would have threatened the main convention that everyone was there to sign. On the contrary, it would have represented a clear sign of commitment by countries wanting to ensure that the whole world realised that their aim of stabilisation by the year 2000 was unequivocal. I hope that the Minister, perhaps on some other occasion, will go further and say that, regardless of what other countries do, this country believes that it should stabilise emissions by the year 2000.

The Labour party and other Opposition parties have been advocating this target for some time. Had Ministers accepted it when we first promoted it, we would have been in a much stronger position to meet it today. As it is, we must face the staggering fact that, while there has been a reduction in our GNP in the past two years, there has been an increase in the amount of carbon dioxide emissions from energy use—an increase in greenhouse gases even during a long and deep recession.

We need to examine carefully what needs to be done to make some progress and to put in place real targets, understandable to all. We need a clear lead from the Government so that industry, local authorities and people will realise that much can be achieved and that the target that has been set is both achievable and in this country's interests. Unless Ministers give a clear lead on this, people will not understand that the aim is a positive one, not just a restriction of their activities.

I hope that the Minister will produce plans to convince people of the need and financial wisdom of making the changes required to stabilise emissions of greenhouse gases. Until now, the lead given by Ministers has not been significant. There have been some token gestures, but nothing constituting a significant programme.

Some measures could make a difference in a very short time. Top of the list must be a new emphasis on energy conservation and efficiency. Big private and public companies which have conducted energy audits, and local authorities which have had sufficient resources to look into the problem, have been amazed by the savings that they have been able to make. In many parts of the country, local authorities have taken their own initiatives and found necessary and significant savings by altering their pattern of energy consumption, often without Government help.

The Government could introduce a list of measures costing little or nothing but, once taken together, making a significant contribution to tackling the United Kingdom's contribution to global warming. I shall suggest some of them to the Minister in the hope that he will take them seriously. There is no reason why they should be the cause of political division.

First, all authorisations under the integrated pollution control section of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 should be granted only if they meet energy-use targets, making sure that industry is always using the best technology possible, and using the granting of authorisations to turn the screw on industry and force it to help itself. Often industry will not carry out the required energy audits by itself. Each sector of industry should be given a target for energy efficiency. Government Departments have done some work on this; some plans have been drawn up; but no action has been taken.

Recently, the Department issued changed building regulations, but there was no revision to take account of what could be achieved by better energy efficiency conditions. If the Minister wants to help the environment and the construction industry, why not allow local authorities to use part of the capital receipts which he will apparently not release for new building to invest in home insulation and energy efficiency measures? None of these measures need be a cause for political division. They are common-sense ways of making progress, and I hope that the Minister will take note of them.

It is not just the Labour party which is concerned. The Advisory Council for Business and the Environment and the CBI have both been asking the Government for clearer targets. The Government should not just sit on the fence and regard such moves as intervention and therefore something which, for ideological reasons, they are not willing to do. We must have actions that match the scale of the problems we face.

The other convention that received much attention in the immediate pre-signing days at the Rio conference was that on biological diversity. Whether the "will we, won't we sign the convention" attitude taken by the Government was intended to create media hype or whether Ministers had genuine doubts, we shall never know. Those at the conference seemed to think that it was the intention to sign all along, and so it should have been. The United States refused to sign, apparently bowing to pressure from the pharmaceutical industry, and we welcome the fact that the British Government have signed the convention.

The Prime Minister in his statement on his return from Rio and the Secretary of State today have told us of some of the measures that they intend to take as a result of UNCED—the Darwin initiative, the development of partnership in global technology, which is essential if we are not to deny poor countries the benefits of the latest technology, and the idea of the global forum to build on the role of the non-governmental organisations. I agree with the Secretary of State that the role of NGOs in helping to concentrate the minds of Ministers and civil servants and to keep up the pressure in Rio was important. The initiatives announced so far do not add up to a programme that matches the scale of the problems we face. More importantly, they do not address the balance of damage that has been done and is being done—damage that could be prevented by Government action.

The Secretary of State has described the biodiversity convention as providing a platform for individual countries to develop and implement broadly based conservation strategies and programmes, and to build up a network of protected areas. I agree with that interpretation, and it is a fine objective. What worries me is the unnecessary and avoidable destruction of habitats that should be protected in this country. These include places such as Thorne and Hatfield moors and Wedhome flow, identified by English Nature as three of the most important peatland sites of scientific interest, which are threatened by commercial exploitation. These sites should be designated as Ramsar sites, and there should be a moratorium on peat digging, but Ministers have sanctioned the wholesale destruction of these fragile ecosystems, which have significant value in terms of the convention that the Secretary of State has signed.

In answer to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster, North (Mr. Hughes), the Prime Minister recently admitted that he was not aware of the destruction of these sites. Therefore, what will the Secretary of State do now, following the signing of the biodiversity convention? What will he do to protect Britain's rare species of plants and animals, including those on these SSSIs?

What action will the Minister take with regard to the Government's policy on SSSIs in general? Only today, we learned that the Department of Transport plans to widen the M25 from eight to 14 lanes, mainly on green belt land and through three areas of outstanding natural beauty. That one proposal threatens 26 SSSIs. If the Government are serious about their responsibilities on biodiversity, will the Secretary of State tell the House what he said to the Secretary of State for Transport about these plans, assuming that he was consulted?

Mr. John Owen Jones (Cardiff, Central)

In addition to the preservation of those SSSIs and areas of outstanding natural beauty that we still have, does my hon. Friend agree that the Government should be considering, possibly as part of our problem with the over-production of food, using marginal agricultural land to reafforest parts of Great Britain? We have lost over half of our forests in the past 45 years. Instead of simply criticising underdeveloped countries for destroying their forests, perhaps we should set a positive example by recreating some of the forests that once graced this land. Within that forest, we could reintroduce some species that have become extinct on this island. That would be a positive step.

Mrs. Taylor

My hon. Friend is right. We can take a great many positive steps. One of the failures of the Government is that they have turned their back on those matters and left too much to the market. As to losing forest and woodlands, my hon. Friend touches on a sensitive point, because in the last week we have learnt that a wood in my constituency is threatened. The procedure of consultation with the Forestry Commission over the granting of the licence is inadequate. The Minister should be giving more protection there as well. Furthermore, nearly 1,000 SSSIs have been damaged in the past five years according to English Nature. I hope that that is not a record that the Secretary of State considers to be satisfactory.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

I am pleased that my hon. Friend mentioned the proposals to widen the M25. Does she agree that, in order to meet the carbon dioxide emissions policy that the Government have announced, they will have to have a radical look at transport policy? That would mean stopping the road building programme in favour of putting more money into public transport and more fuel-efficient forms of transport than the private car, which is the least efficient form of transport in the world.

Mrs. Taylor

The cuts that the Government have made in public transport programmes have not only affected people's life styles but have damaged the environment. Many of the early statements of the new Secretary of State for Transport have been extremely worrying, because they show that, for yet more years to come, the Government will be dominated by the roads lobby. That is not a healthy trend—I mean that quite literally.

My hon. Friend's point relates to another problem about which I wanted to ask the Secretary of State. What does he intend to do about incorporating into domestic legislation the EC directive on environmental impact assessments? When he came to his new office, did he look afresh at the other areas threatened by road development, such as Oxleas wood and Twyford down? Those are two places of great significance where problems have been created, leading to Great Britain appearing in the European Court.

The environmental impact assessment directive is extremely important, and if the Minister is serious about helping other countries to preserve the biodiversity of their areas, he needs to do more to put his house in order.

Agenda 21 is central to the concept of countries developing their own sustainable development programme. Again, there is potentially great progress to be made here, but the extent of progress will depend on political will.

The idea of a Sustainable Development Commission in the United Kingdom was put forward by some of the participants at Rio, and that is to be welcomed. The proposal for an environment protection commission, which the Opposition has advocated for many years, would have fulfilled many of those functions.

One of the main differences between the Opposition and the Government, even after the Government's conversion to an environment agency of some sort—we still do not know what—is that the Government tend to see their role in environmental protection in a limited and policing way, whereas we want a technical administration with an environment protection executive but with a wider ranging proactive commission bringing together scientists, industry, local authorities and NGOs.

It is no use looking back at what progress might have been made had the Government listened to us, but I had hoped that the Minister would have used this opportunity today to tell us when we will see some legislation for the creation of an environment agency. The Government are not short of parliamentary time, and we could have been making progress on that.

If we are, as Agenda 21 suggests, to have a national sustainability plan, there will have to be a significant change in the Government's attitude. There will have to be proper integration of economic, social and environment issues. What my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) said about roads makes that point well. We need to integrate environmental considerations into every area of policy making.

I had intended to say something about forests, but the Secretary of State has acknowledged that there was a great deal of disappointment at the lack of progress there. Governments in Rio were not able to commit themselves to anything meaningful on forests; that is one area which is still in need of urgent attention and international action.

It is currently estimated that deforestation threatens the livelihood of 140 million people who live in or on the margins of forests. Action to combat deforestation must be based on a recognition of the rights of those who live in those areas. That was one of the stumbling blocks and will be one of the difficulties for future progress.

Time is short and many hon. Members wish to speak. There is a general welcome for the goodwill that existed in Rio and the educational role of UNCED—educational perhaps even for Ministers. It may be that the most significant fact is that the conference took place at all and that public attention, from "Newsround" to "Newsnight", was turned to the dramatic problems even for just a short time.

We all have a responsibility to ensure that the hopes that people had 20 years ago—when they thought that they were making progress in putting the concept of sustainable development on to the political agenda—and our hopes following Rio are not dashed and made meaningless.

We must ensure that the next 20 years are spent riot quoting the ideals behind Rio or considering what might have been, but ensuring that we make significant strides. Above all else, we must not be complacent about the outcome of the Earth summit. Given the scale of the problems we face, we cannot be complacent.

At the end of the summit, Maurice Strong said that it could have been either a high point in our expressions of good intent and enthusiasm and excitement", or it could be the start of a process of fundamental change". The Government's decisions during the next few months will confirm their commitment or lack of it to the process of fundamental change.

5.23 pm
Sir Michael Marshall (Arundel)

I am glad to have the opportunity to follow my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State and the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor). In the interests of making progress, because I agree with the hon. Lady that many hon. Members wish to speak, perhaps I can agree with my right hon. and learned Friend that much good came out of Rio and agree with the hon. Lady that much more needs to be done, and thus begin with a broad consensus between both sides of the House.

I want to add an element to the debate which I believe is important and which inevitably gets lost in our discussions, and that is the role of parliamentarians and this Parliament itself in the process. Inevitably much of the discussion which we have heard and which we shall have later relates to the role of Governments, but, as my right hon. and learned Friend said, when he spoke of non-governmental organisations, other organisations and, in particular, local government, Governments alone cannot provide all the actions required here, and we, too, as parliamentarians, have a role to play, because we can relate to so many aspects of those other organisations.

In that context, I am sure that the House will understand why I draw heavily on the proceedings of the Inter-Parliamentary Council, of which I have honour to be president, and, in particular, on the work of the statutory conference in Cameroon last April during the general election, while looking ahead to the specialist conference on the environment which will take place in Brasilia in November this year. I very much hope that hon. Members will play their full part—I am sure that they will—in that forthcoming event. But in speaking of the run-up to that, it is only right that I should pay a small tribute to the work of the other place, because it was a delegation from their Lordships' House which acted on behalf of our Parliament in the British contribution that led up to Rio.

I make those comments in an attempt to stress the global nature of the interests of parliamentarians. It is within international gatherings such as the Inter-Parliamentary Union that the north-south dialogue can be sustained on a regular basis, where permanent committees looking at the environment pursue such matters. In that sense, it is important that we should carry through the achievements of Rio on an almost day-to-day basis.

Many concerns were spelt out in the run-up to Rio. The British delegation, which was led by the noble Lord Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, played a full part in that process. It is fair to say that three main concerns came out of that preliminary to Rio and I want to measure what happened in the event.

Much of the background anxiety related to the attitude and involvement of the United States and I agree with what my right hon. and learned Friend had to say on American participation. It was significant. Given the difficulties that we all recognise at this point in the American electoral process, what was achieved in that direction was thoroughly worth while.

The three concerns that I would single out from this vast canvas are, first, the general feeling that the earth charter had been replaced by a non-binding declaration written in the style of the 1970s Stockholm conference which, it was felt, would have little impact; secondly, the suggestion that Agenda 21 was watered down not so much in concept but in respect of funding, raising doubts about its implementation; and, thirdly, the convention on climate change was seen as lacking in targets and timetabling for the future. That was the background.

Taking each of those concerns, hon. Members will have their own views on the degree to which the terms of the Earth summit have been spelt out. Speaking for myself, I believe that my right hon. and learned Friend has made a fair case in suggesting that the Rio declaration of sustainable development principles is a worthy successor to the 1972 Stockholm declaration.

More specifically, on Agenda 21 I believe that it was right in Rio to recognise that sustainable development is not just the concern of Government, but, as I said earlier, should involve international organisations in both the public and private sectors together with individuals and local authorities.

The noble Lord the Earl of Lindsay, a member of the British delegation to the Cameroon IPU conference in April, made the point well when, to paraphrase, he said that for sustainable development to succeed it was necessary to reach beyond Governments, beyond even international conferences and beyond scientists to those at the ground level. He went on to argue that many environmental problems were better solved by local initiative, local knowledge and local involvement.

Let me add my own view: when we speak of the problems of pollution, we should not forget the role of the engineer in society and in the world at large. As Sir William Barlow has recently pointed out, the engineer is frequently blamed for such environmental problems, but he may provide the most obvious solution to them.

I also want to single out the role of local government, and I hope that the House will allow me a small constituency plug. I applaud the work of my local council, Arun district council, which arranged its own environmental conference to coincide with the earth summit. You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will be one of the first to appreciate the fact that the conference was held in the environmentally protected surroundings of Arundel castle, which is set in the environmentally sensitive area at the foot of the south downs. I am sure that many hon. Members will wish to visit the area on some future occasion, and investigate those claims for themselves. The principle was important, and I hope that the same was happening all over the country.

Many will consider the convention on climate change to be the most significant outcome at Rio. It is clearly of the utmost importance now that all signatory countries, especially those responsible for major emissions, ratify the convention in the near future and publish their plans for implementation. It seems clear from what my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State said earlier that the United Kingdom is urging other OECD countries to make such a commitment by the end of 1993, and I welcome that.

Let me conclude with some thoughts about the prospects of widespread international co-operation to carry forward the Rio process, and to use the positive involvement of Parliaments in that process. Inevitably, many matters will not be covered in today's debate—matters that may have been on the fringe of the Rio conference. Especially important in my view was the attempt to bring together a world community of satellites through the countries that provide the necessary expertise. The conference of environmental officials that took place in this country before the Rio conference, involving countries from all over the world—including Russia—was significant in that regard. Our Prime Minister took the initiative in suggesting the convening of such a world family of satellites by international agreement; he argued that it should be given the opportunity to tackle drought, famine and the whole range of natural disasters, while also playing an essential peacekeeping role.

It is clear from that example, and from others that I have given, that the summit must be seen as the start of a process in which much work remains to be done. Agreements must be translated into practical action, and I believe that the case has been made for the publication of national plans for the implementation of agreements by all Governments. Those plans can then best be viewed in an overall way by the proposed Sustainable Development Commission.

Britain will have a special opportunity at the forthcoming Lisbon Council, and as it moves into the presidency of the European Council, to continue the process not only with the other 11 Community members but, by extension, through its influence in the OECD. I therefore welcome the eight-point action plan outlined by my right hon. and learned Friend, and, in particular, the commitment to make substantial progress by the end of next year. I look forward to strong support from Her Majesty's Government for the United Nations General Assembly's initiative in regard to the Sustainable Development Commission.

I recognise that many problems remain, and that—certainly in regard to resources—arguments will continue about what can be afforded and how many of the difficulties in the north-south relationship can be resolved. That will be a key element in future discussions between parliamentarians. I look forward to the opportunity to carry forward the process in which we are engaged today through parliamentary and intergovernmental consultations, and in particular to the conference in Brasilia, which will take place in November at the invitation of the Brazilian national congress.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)

Is not the most appalling, horrifying waste of human resources one of the problems of Brazil? Before the international conferences return to Brasilia, should not they make clear time and again to the Brazilian Government the utter abhorrence felt by the rest of the world at the murder of street children?

Sir Michael Marshall

I fully sympathise with the hon. Lady's view. One of the great advantages of international parliamentary conferences is the fact that they can speak with the frankness—in terms of parliamentary diplomacy—that I have observed the hon. Lady to use; they can often speak much more forcefully than is possible during the diplomatic and intergovernmental process. I give the hon. Lady an undertaking that I shall do all that I can in this respect.

We are seeing the start of an immense challenge, which, however, could prove highly satisfying for the House, the Government and other parliamentarians. We may have an opportunity to work together, and today's debate may contribute to that.

5.35 pm
Sir David Steel (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale)

I deplore the habit of certain hon. Members of making speeches early in a debate and then disappearing. Let me therefore begin by making a genuine apology to the House: I shall be missing for the middle of the debate because of a long-standing engagement. I shall, however, he back in time to hear the winding-up speeches.

I welcome the opportunity to speak today, and also to follow the hon. Member for Arundel (Sir M. Marshall), as president of the Inter-Parliamentary Council. I hope that he will agree with me that the spread of parliamentary democracy that we now see in eastern Europe, Africa and other parts of the world is a contributory factor in the creation of a more environmentally conscious world. I am sure that the two are related; I am also sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that pressure from Parliaments for the restoration of authority to international bodies such as UNESCO—which should, perhaps be mentioned tangentially in the debate—is extremely important.

Whether we see the Rio summit as a success or a failure depends on where our expectations begin. Some months before the conference started, the director of the United Nations Environment Programme, Mostafa Tolba, claimed: people everywhere look to 1992 as our last chance to save the Earth. According to that benchmark, the summit can be regarded as something of a failure: the agreements signed at Rio will achieve little in the creation of an environmentally sustainable world. If, however, we apply more modest standards, Rio offers some hope for the future.

The agreements themselves—the treaties on biodiversity and climate change; the set of principles for sustainable forestry; agreement on the need for a future convention on desertification, which has not been mentioned so far, but which I consider extremely important; Agenda 21, the blueprint for action to lead development into environmentally sustainable areas—are all of modest value. All except the treaties are either not legally binding, or lacking in timetables and, more important, cash commitments. The United States Government must bear a large part of the blame for that, as they did their best to weaken the treaties, ultimately refusing to sign the biodiversity treaty and blocking a convention on land-based sources of marine pollution and a ban on the dumping of nuclear waste at sea. I consider all those attitudes regrettable.

Probably the most crucial indictment of the summit, however, lies in its failure properly to link the issues of poverty and population with that of environmental degradation. There was no joint commitment to reduce levels of developing-country debt, and all attempts to ensure that trade and the operation of GATT were discussed received a rebuff. The entire topic of population growth was kept off the agenda, mainly thanks to pressure from the Vatican and some Catholic nations.

My conclusion is that the planet will not be saved—to use the term employed in my opening quotation—any more than it was after the last United Nations conference on the environment, which took place in Stockholm in 1972. But, just as that conference left a legacy of Environment Ministries and legislation that helped the developed nations to improve their environments, so Rio's success will depend largely on the strength of the institutional machinery that it leaves behind.

In that respect, I believe that the picture is far from gloomy. As the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) said, it is up to hon. Members, over the months and years ahead, to monitor carefully the reaction of our own Government in the preparation of the reports called for by the institutions that have been left behind following the summit.

I agree with the hon. Member for Dewsbury that perhaps the most constructive way to proceed in the debate is for the different parties to make suggestions, which the Government may adopt. I wish to deal with three matters, the first of which is the Government's commitment to assisting development in the third world. I recognise that favourable terms of trade and the writing off of debt—I hope for a return to the original Trinidad terms—are far more important than the figures of official Government aid. Nevertheless, I want to dwell on the aid target, which has become a ritual incantation in my speeches and in those of many hon. Members: we deplore the fact that the figure has been dropping. The hon. Member for Dewsbury mentioned the figure going down from 0.51 per cent. when the Government took office to a deplorable 0.27 per cent.

We should constantly highlight the Government's failure to reach the aid target as a sign of their lack of commitment to world development. The World Development Movement surveyed candidates in the 1983 election. One of the questions was: Do you believe that the next British Government should reach the UN target of providing 0.7 per cent. of our GNP as official aid to developing countries by the end of five years in office? The Conservative candidate for Huntingdon—a certain Mr. Major£ticked the "yes" box and added underneath in his own handwriting, "I hope so!" Since then, the Conservative candidate for Huntingdon has been Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Foreign Secretary, Chancellor of the Exchequer and now Prime Minister. Over the same period, official assistance as a percentage of gross national product has fallen to 0.32 per cent. this year.

At the Rio summit, the Minister for Overseas Development, the noble Baroness Chalker, publicly expressed regret about that, and blamed the Treasury. No doubt she is perfectly correct. The Government must accept some responsibility for reconsidering their commitment to the target, because it was set way back in 1974, when 30 million people faced starvation in Africa. Today, in sub-Saharan Africa, 40 million people are characterised as vulnerable because of drought and refugee movement.

The Government's excuse for not meeting the target in boom times, such as in 1987, was that the gross national product was growing too quickly and that it was impossible to raise the percentage targeted. The excuse in times of recession is that there are not enough resources. When will the Gvoernment think it right to meet the target? They should make an absolute commitment to reaching the United Nation target by the end of the present Parliament.

Moreover, according to recent studies, the volume of United Kingdom aid has fallen absolutely in real, inflation-adjusted terms by 21 per cent. Britain is the only OECD country other than New Zealand to have registered a decline in aid. Our gross national product is 23 per cent. higher than when the Government took office, but aid as a percentage of that now higher gross national product has fallen. We are about to be overtaken in absolute volume of aid by the Netherlands and Canada, both of which have smaller economies than us.

The Secretary of State and the Prime Minister, in his post-Rio statement, referred to the calling of a future conference of global non-governmental organisations. I hope that they will use that opportunity to say that the aid programme will be advanced and that it will be less concerned with prestigious projects linked to the success of British companies. I am not against the success of British companies of course but I am concerned about using the expertise of non-governmental organisations in agriculture, irrigation and all the measures that will help to raise living standards fundamentally throughout the third world.

My second point is that the Government could do more in our domestic policies to raise public awareness of environmental issues and to adjust departmental policies to meet the theories that were expressed at Rio. Most people accept that the ozone layer is at risk—I hesitate to say that in the presence of the hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman)—and that the incidence of skin cancer and cataracts is increasing. Evidence from Australia shows that rates of melanoma have risen fivefold in the past 50 years.

We know that air pollution is becoming more intolerable. I believe that London is going the way of Los Angeles, Mexico and Athens in experiencing regular fogs and chronic air congestion in the summer. It is forecast that, in the next 18 years, the number of motor cars in this country will double, yet the Minister spoke of widening the M25. The hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn), who has now left, made a telling intervention: we must take the Department of Transport by the scruff of the neck and say, "You cannot go on producing transport policies that you think you can get on the cheap in this country while making these commitments at international summits such as Rio." There is a direct link between Britain's failure to invest in freight and passenger transport on the railways and the increasing air pollution from which we suffer.

My hon. Friend the Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) regularly speaks for us on environmental matters. As he represents Bermondsey, he is keen on pricing the private car lower down the scale of human desire. I am an unashamed keen motorist but, more important, I represent a constituency where, in parts, public transport is almost non-existent. Perhaps I have a slightly different perspective from my hon. Friend, but we agree that there is a case for establishing a global system of tradeable emission licences for the control of pollution, especially carbon dioxide. A total global carbon target could be allocated to different nations, but the allocations could be tradeable between them, with the United Nations acting as a regulator to ensure competition in such a market.

An allocation mechanism could reflect the imbalance in per capita carbon dioxide emission rates. A richer nation, such as ourselves, which emits 3 per cent. of the world's carbon dioxide from 1 per cent. of its population, would have to buy carbon licences from poorer countries. That would not only offer an incentive to reduce emissions but transfer resources from rich to poor. It could be a powerful and flexible mechanism, offering richer countries a range of options in reducing emissions. If they felt that domestic constraints limited their reductions, they could buy licences from poorer countries, increasing the flow of resources to developing nations and still cutting global pollution.

Dr. Kim Howells (Pontypridd)

What will happen in the countries from which licences are purchased? What if, for example, a country was planning to increase its coal or oil production massively and to utilise that itself? Surely the impact of an inefficient technology on the global total would be at least similar, if not worse.

Sir David Steel

As I understand it, each country would have a set emission quota so that, if a country sold its quota to us because we wished to exceed ours, that country would not be able to use the proceeds to increase pollution because it would still be regulated by the United Nations regulatory authority and would have to keep within a total limit. That is how I understand the proposal.

I shall deal with the third issue of population growth briefly because other hon. Members wish to speak. The United Nations 1990 population fund report stated: At some time in the not too distant future the changes in world population may cross the threshold into catastrophe. That is a pretty dramatic statement, but I think that it is true.

His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales has done a service not only to this country but to many others. In a recent speech, he said that all the scientific evidence shows that population numbers will continue to rise from 5.4 billion on the planet now to 8.4 billion by the year 2025.

It is projected that some parts of the globe—south-east Asia, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan in particular—will double their populations within the next 20 years. Bangladesh clearly lacks the ability to support such an increase, thus presenting many of its population with the stark choice of emigration or starvation.

As the 1990s will experience the fastest ever population growth—the equivalent of two United Kingdom populations coming on to the planet every 14 months—we must treat the matter seriously. I do not believe that the solution lies in coercive population control. India's shambles of compulsory sterilisation in the 1970s made family planning a dirty word for a decade in many parts of the world, although countries such as Thailand have worked miracles without a hint of coercion but using instead high levels of health care and education, especially for women.

Mr. Jon Owen Jones


Sir David Steel

I shall give way in a moment. In the mid-1960s, the average Thai family had six or seven children, whereas today it has only two or three. That is a great success, and I shall give another example in a moment.

Mr. Jones

I take the right hon. Member's point about Thailand, but what does he think about the policies enacted by China, which has always a quarter of the world population if not more, and their relative success or otherwise?

Sir David Steel

I have seen it for myself but of course, as a Liberal, I could not subscribe to Government-dictated policies decreeing that people shall have only one child. However, there is no doubt that, in such a hugely over-populated country, such a policy has had a great effect. There might be a happy medium whereby Government incentives could be used to keep down population growth, but I do not favour the coercion that the Chinese used to implement their policy.

The other example that I give is perhaps more interesting and detailed. It is drawn from a district in Kenya, another country with a high population growth rate. The Embu-Meru district of Kenya has an acceptable population growth rate. The reason is the pioneering work of a Scottish missionary called Dr. Clive Irvine, who established in the Chogoria mission, not a family planning network but a network of rural clinics for women's health, within which family planning was a natural part of the programme. His work continues today, and I have seen it for myself in that district. It is a good example of how rural development policies should operate.

However, there is some good news on this front. The World Health Organisation's report which was published yesterday states that women in the developing world are today having an average of 3.9 children, compared with 6.1 20 years ago. It states clearly that the increase in programmes of family planning and contraception is the cause, and that the use of contraception has increased tenfold in 25 years.

Lastly, in the argument about population, it is pointless to become involved in an arid discussion of whether it is the third world, with its large families and poverty, which is responsible for the problems, or whether, as the third world states, it is the OECD countries, which have less than 15 per cent. of the worlds population but produce 70 per cent. of the world global economic activity, consume a disproportionate share of the world's resources and create a disproportionate share of the global pollution. It is a sterile argument, because both are correct.

We need twin policies which will control population in the underdeveloped world and make us much more conscious of the devastation that we wreak on the rest of the planet's resources. I hope that that is the long overdue lesson which will result from the failure of the Rio summit to tackle the population problem.

5.54 pm
Mr. Harold Elletson (Blackpool, North)

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for calling me to speak in this debate and even more grateful to the electors of Blackpool, North for giving you the opportunity to do so. I am also especially grateful for the opportunity to follow such speakers as my hon. Friend the Member for Arundel (Sir M. Marshall) and the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel), both of whom have distinguished, not to say slightly intimidating, reputations on this subject.

I am fortunate to follow Mr. Norman Miscampbell as the hon. Member for Blackpool, North. He is well known to many hon. Members of all parties as a man of independent spirit and great character. He is also a distinguished lawyer and has now left politics to return to his career at the Bar. I am sure that the House's loss is the legal profession's gain, and I know that all hon. Members will join me in wishing him well.

I am also fortunate in being elected to represent the town where I was born, and I am proud of the fact that my constituency—perhaps uniquely—needs no introduction. Blackpool is a national institution; it is the jewel of the English coast and it is by far the greatest of our seaside resorts. As Stanley Holloway once said: It is a famous seaside place what's noted for fresh air and fun. Blackpool is the home of the tower, the pleasure beach, the golden mile and the illuminations as well as Ripley's Odditorium and Gipsy Petulengro, the famous clairvoyant who tells the fortunes of the rich and famous—somewhat more reliably than a BBC exit poll, I understand. Almost 17 million people visit Blackpool every year, Scots, Welsh, Irish and, of course, Yorkshiremen who cross over into Lancashire like east Germans visiting the west for the first time. It is said that the warmth of a real Lancashire welcome in Blackpool cannot fail to melt the heart of even the most typically miserable and grumbling Yorkshireman, some of whom I am pleased to see have now joined us in the Chamber.

Maiden speeches often contain statistical information about an hon. Member's constituency. Such statistical information is often dry and of little interest to other hon. Members, but I thought that I should like to provide hon. Members with basic facts about Britain's number one tourist resort. Blackpool has a total of 120,000 holiday beds, which is more than the whole of Portugal. More than 100 million ice cream cones are eaten on Blackpool pleasure beach every year and, if the hot dogs consumed there were set out end to end, they would stretch beyond Liverpool and deep into Cheshire for a total distance of 47.5 miles.

Blackpool is the nation's favourite holiday centre, and hon. Members who have not yet made their plans for the summer recess may care to know that there are still places available in some of Blackpool's 3,500 hotels and guest houses. However, although Blackpool is a tourist centre and a place of fun, like other coastal resorts it also has severe social problems—most notably, unemployment. It is sad that Blackpool's unemployment rate is the highest in Lancashire, and I hope that the Government will take note of Blackpool borough council's request for assisted area and urban programme status.

I take this opportunity to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on his skilful handling of the recent summit in Rio de Janeiro. The binding conventions which he signed on climate change and biodiversity represent a real step forward in improving the global environment. At such a conference it would have been impossible to achieve perfect solutions to satisfy everyone. Environmental protection arouses popular passions in the developed world, but it also often engenders resentment in less developed countries, because our good intentions can often be seen as unwarranted interference in their internal affairs.

The Prime Minister had to operate in difficult conditions. He faced the danger that everyone's expectations were bound to be beyond what was likely to be achieved. Nevertheless, he won some real prizes and can be justifiably proud of Britain's contribution to the Rio conference. I know that he would like to go further, and to ensure that further measures are taken to build on his success in Rio—especially a binding multilateral commitment on forests, and progress in tackling the overpopulation problem. I share his hopes in that respect, and I believe that Britain can and must take a lead in solving those problems.

Rio was a vital first step which has focused the world's attention on environmental problems—but it was only a first step. Now we must ensure that the high profile of the conference and its focus on global environmental issues does not obscure other deep-seated but more local environmental challenges. The big challenges are not all exclusively centred on issues of a global nature or on the third world, or even concerned simply with environmental protection. Some are closer to home, and involve the urgent need to repair damage already done.

I have travelled extensively in the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe, and I have seen something of the environmental catastrophe which has engulfed that region. The Governments of central Europe and the former Soviet Union now have to reverse the effects of the reckless damage wreaked on local environments by their communist predecessors. It is especially difficult for them to do so while trying to introduce market economies, when their resources are somewhat stretched. The state of the worst environmental hot spots in those areas shows the magnitude of the problem. One of the worst is in northern Bohemia, right at the centre of Europe, further west than Vienna, in an area now referred to as the "black triangle". Industrial pollution has poisoned almost everything there—the air, the rivers and the earth.

I am proud that the British Government are helping to clean up those areas. Our help complements the European Community initiative under the PHARE programme, one fifth of whose funds are earmarked for environmental aid. The Department of the Environment now has a specialist unit dealing with environmental projects in eastern Europe. The unit has been doing a good job since its creation in April, overseeing the environmental know-how funds. It is beginning to identify environmental hot spots, and to participate in projects such as the creation of an environmental education centre in Warsaw, which channels British environmental expertise to policy makers, managers and scientists in eastern Europe. The unit is also advising east European Governments on the formulation of environmental laws.

The House will recognise the importance of such activities, given the Government's ambition to create a wider European Community and to open its doors to new members from eastern Europe. I hope that aid for environmental projects in eastern Europe will be increased and will also be used to encourage British business to participate in cleaning up pollution there. As is so often the case, environmental problems can also be significant commercial opportunities.

Furthermore, I hope that the environmental know-how funds will soon include projects in the Commonwealth of Independent States, which includes a multitude of environmental hot spots, both actual and potential. As a Russian speaker with a strong personal interest in that country's future, I am delighted that the Department of the Environment is beginning to advise water authorities in the Russian Federation on healthy and effective environmental management. I hope that that will be the first of many such projects in the CIS and the Russian Federation.

Caring for the environment begins at home. The north-west, and Blackpool in particular, has suffered for many years from polluted bathing water, partly due to lack of investment in new equipment. The privatisation of the water companies now offers the potential for unleashing massive amounts of new capital with beneficial effects on the environment. I am pleased to say that a sewage treatment plant for the Fylde coast is due to be completed at the end of 1996, which will enable Blackpool's water to meet EC standards.

However, big environmental projects, whether at home or abroad, should not conceal the fact that little things can immeasurably improve or destroy the quality of people's lives. Green spaces must be protected to ensure that families in urban areas have parks and public gardens to enjoy. In my constituency, the county council is now attempting to ride roughshod over 13,000 local people who object to its plan to turn a playing field—Bispham Gala field—into a housing estate. I understand that that plan has now been referred to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment for a decision, and I hope that he will conclusively reject it.

It may sound trivial to talk about a local playing field in the context of the ozone layer, biodiversity and some of the other global issues that have been mentioned today, but what good are conventions on biodiversity if local government tyrants can impose their will on families and deny them access to nature? Such things are fundamental to the quality of human life. What politician can presume to judge the place in people's hearts of bluebell fields in spring time, of a stretch of deserted coastline, or of the golden light of an autumn evening flickering through the leaves of an English oak? To destroy such things is to tear out part of the soul of England and to destroy the poetry in the lives of ordinary people.

When my right hon. and learned Friend decides on the fate of a local playing field, an ancient woodland or a village green, let him remember the words of Oliver Goldsmith—I was pleased to hear him quote Goldsmith, who is one of my favourite poets, earlier in the debate. Goldsmith described the desolation caused by the destruction of such things: Sweet smiling village, loveliest of the lawn, Thy sports are fled, and all thy charms withdrawn; Amidst thy bowers the tyrant's hand is seen, And desolation saddens all thy green … Sunk are thy bowers, in shapeless ruin all, And the long grass o'ertops the mouldering wall; And, trembling, shrinking from the spoiler's hand, Far, far away, thy children leave the land. The Secretary of State's hand is not the hand of a spoiler, but he must ensure that it is the hand of a determined defender of nature, and that he uses it to resist those who seek to change, to pollute and to destroy. He played a vital part in securing the successful outcome of the Rio summit. Now he must continue to safeguard our local environment, and I wish him well in his endeavours.

6.8 pm

Mr. Kim Howells (Pontypridd)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Elletson) on his maiden speech. It was a thoughtful speech, and I was glad to hear somebody mention the problems of eastern Europe, which are enormously serious. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will grace the Chamber with his concerns for that part of our continent.

I apologise to the Minister who is to sum up because I shall have to leave the debate as I have an appointment with a physiotherapist. I have a back problem, which I suspect owes a great deal to some full-backs a couple of decades ago who were less than environmentally friendly.

I am probably the only hon. Member present in the Chamber who was lucky enough to go to Amazonia with the Select Committee on the Environment. I remember well what an awe-inspiring view there was for the Secretary of State for the Environment when he climbed a rickety tower and looked out across the jungle. I suspect that his white knuckles owed as much to his worries about whether the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food was nicking a bit of responsibility from the National Rivers Authority while he was away as they did to his fear of heights. It was good to see him there and I am sure that, like the rest of us who were on that visit, he must have been in awe of the huge and wonderful treasure house of biodiversity which is Amazonia.

Amazonia is a huge area. From west to east, it is the distance from Lisbon to Warsaw and from north to south, it is the distance from Helsinki to Naples. That is Amazonia Real. It is an enormous treasure house of biodiversity which is threatened now, as it has long been threatened. We learned many salutary lessons as we travelled around that vast area. We saw some tremendous projects for sustainable agriculture, some of which have been funded by the Government. We saw some of the efforts being made to wean people from the most destructive industries in Amazonia, such as the gold mining which is washing away the river banks.

The most salutary lesson we received came from the answers that the Brazilian Environment Minister gave us when, in our self-righteous way, we asked him why the Brazilians were not taking greater care of the marvellous resource of the Amazonian jungle. He said, "You are a fine one to talk. Britain destroyed its forests in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Almost none of your primeval forests is left, yet you presume to tell us what we should do about our forests." He is dead right.

The onus may now have shifted from how we care for our forests —I am afraid that we still do not worry too much about many of our deciduous forests—to a problem that is far more serious, but may just still be manageable. The problem is what we do about the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that we put into the atmosphere.

How shall we overcome the sense of resentment that many in the developing world feel when we try to convince them that we know better than they do how to look after their natural resources? It is not an easy thing to do. That resentment is based on fact. The amount of pollution put out by the countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development—the developed countries—is enormous and constitutes by far the majority of atmospheric and aqueous pollution.

The International Energy Agency publication, "Climate Change Policy Initiatives", which was published in March this year, points out that by the year 2000 some 7.5 billion tonnes of carbon will have been released into the atmosphere throughout the world. If the OECD policies are successful—if we stick to them and enforce them—we may save 314 million tonnes from going into the atmosphere by the year 2000. That is one twenty-fourth—a tiny proportion—of the amount that will be released. Yet to some of the Governments who took part in the Rio conference, even that is too ambitious a target. What are we to do?

If developing countries are to reach better standards—even standards which we would still consider to be primitive and entirely unacceptable in terms of quality of life—the world will have to generate far more electricity and it will have to use far more energy. How shall we counteract the inevitable release of more gases into the atmosphere? There will be more carbon dioxide as more coal and oil are burnt.

Let us think about what that statement means. Are we to deny the developing world the right to raise its standard of living even marginally, and through sustainable means, possibly through some of the marvellous projects for sustainable agriculture which this country finances in places such as Brazil? Even sustainable agriculture requires steel plants, tractors, vehicles to move goods around and railways to shift products from the interior to the ports. In other words, such agriculture will require more energy. Who are we to deny that to developing countries?

The biggest problem of all may be encountered as China continues to improve its standard of living. Last year, China produced 1.1 billion tonnes of coal and it has been told by the International Monetary Fund that it must increase its coal production if it is to fuel the improvements that it desires. Last year, the United States produced about 860 million tonnes of coal. Our coal production was about 96 million tonnes last year and may fall as low as 90 million tonnes this year. The Chinese are producing 11 times as much coal as we are and the Americans are producing nine times as much. The Russians even now are producing six times as much. All that coal is being burnt.

There is probably no more dramatic example of what we are doing to the atmosphere than to see a 2,000 MW power station with steam coming from the cooling towers, and other gases coming from the grids and from the chimneys which stand over the power station. Such power stations are dramatic emblems of atmospheric pollution. They are repeated elevenfold in China, sixfold in the United States and fivefold in Russia, to mention but three countries. It is happening everywhere.

There is huge investment at present in oil exploration as we search for more hydrocarbon reserves. In this country, there is a dash for gas as we attempt to meet EC regulations on atmospheric pollution. But gas is also a hydrocarbon, and although it is cleaner than coal and oil, it still produces carbon dioxide and other gases that we do not want.

There is no doubt that coal and oil production will continue to rise throughout the world. Who knows whether it will rise quickly, slowly or moderately? The science of energy demand projection is uncertain and we have inevitably been wrong at times. What is certain is that we shall require more electricity to feed industry, commerce and homes which increasingly use electronics. When an office block is equipped these days, one almost needs to build a power station to fuel it because it is so electronically intensive.

There are many ways in which we may be able to counteract the trends, but when it comes to counteracting the overall growth in energy demand, the onus must be on the developed countries. Realistically, we shall not be able to prevent the developing countries from mining more coal, tapping more oil and gas, and using those products to produce electricity.

Who knows what a line of efficient, clean-burn power stations could do for the southern Sahara in terms of tapping the vast water reserves which lie underground? Whatever happened in that area, it requires water and there will be people who will try to ensure that energy is brought there and created there so that the water can be brought to the surface. That would alleviate the terrible plight of people living in the sub-Saharan region.

But what does that mean for us? The developed world is the only manageable area in the world where we have any chance of reducing carbon emissions and emissions of other greenhouse gases into the air. As reliance on electricity and electronics proceeds—I see no sign whatever of its declining in any of the countries that I have read about—we must ask ourselves whether we can continue to use black fuels such as coal, oil and gas in the way that we have done until now.

There are many alternatives to the way in which we currently burn coal, oil and gas. Of course, there is no question but that we could burn them much more efficiently and cleanly. There are many arguments about what percentage of overall use such measures might save. We may make the way in which we burn fuel less polluting. We may burn less fuel. But I fear that, realistically, in percentage terms the reduction will be small as demand increases.

We may also do other things to encourage greater fuel efficienHincy. We could begin to use technologies which are still on the fringe of adaptation to many industries and to commerce. We could start using inexhaustible fuels such as wind, solar and wave power. There are many such sources and there has been a great deal of debate about them.

However, I have examined wind power in California, where perhaps the greatest application of wind power has occurred so far. All the windmills in California cannot provide even 0.5 per cent. of the demand for energy of San Francisco. We have to be realistic. There is no question but that renewable energy will help. I should like every house constructed from now on to have a solar panel on the roof so that we can remove the basic need to use fuel to heat water. Even if we merely warm the water up, solar panels could have a huge effect on our overall electricity demand and the demand for other fuels such as gas.

We could improve our transportation systems. Transport is an enormous pollutant. We could especially improve public transportation systems. But I cannot see how developed countries can generate sufficient electricity to meet the great baseload demand without continuing to burn vast amounts of oil, coal and gas—unless we use another fuel. It is not easy for someone like me to say this. I gave evidence against the Hinkley C pressurised water reactor. Like many of my colleagues in both the Opposition and the Conservative party, I feel a great sense of trepidation about nuclear energy. It worries me that we have not even begun to take on the problems associated with the long-term storage of highly radiated waste. I worry that we have made an awful botch of the dreams that we once had of completing the nuclear cycle by constructing fast reactors.

I worry that Britain's nuclear policy has been a litany of disaster. It has been enormously expensive as a result of dreadful mismanagement—the construction of Magnox reactors, advanced gas-cooled reactors, and our great periods of hesitancy when we did not know which way to turn. I do not for one moment hold up any other country as an example of unbridled success, but if we are to generate great baseloads of electricity, we must ask ourselves where we are to do it. Sooner or later we must face up to whether we want to predicate our future energy policy on preserving industries which at this moment are polluting our atmosphere such as the coal industry, the oil industry and the gas industry.

I came from the coal industry and I fought perhaps as hard as any Member of Parliament to keep it functioning. I should like to see it continue to function, but I do not see the case for expanding the coal industry. We must use what resources we have now in the most environmentally sensitive way. We must use coal efficiently, for example, by means of clean-burn systems. But we must also confront the issue of how we are to generate electricity in the future.

I have not been a friend of the nuclear industry by any means. I continue to harbour great doubts about it. I should like to hear what the Minister has to say about how the Government see the future of that industry in the context of their overall approach to energy. I do not say "energy policy" because I do not believe that the Government have one: shamefully, they have handed energy policy over to the market, but even the market is wary about how to proceed from this point forward.

If we are to make real the promises that we have made at least to the public, if not to the developing countries, about our desire to reduce atmospheric pollution, we must confront the controversial issue of nuclear energy. Where is our great power-generating capacity to come from in future? How are we to construct power stations, and what fuels will we use in them? Those questions can no longer be dodged. I hope that when the Government consider the nuclear industry, as I believe that they are doing now in the nuclear review, they will take that question into account and not go for the easy answers which, I am afraid, Governments of all complexions have so often adopted in the past as a retreat from one of the great problems which face the world.

6.26 pm
Mr. Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South)

I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells). I appreciate that, for someone from his background, it was not an easy speech to make. But he must be prepared to embrace the nuclear industry, for reasons which he gave in the earlier part of his speech. We cannot continue pumping carbon into the atmosphere in the amounts emitted from China, Russia and the other countries that he cited.

I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Elletson) on his most amusing, entertaining and sincere maiden speech. His lists of statistics left me with visions of hot dogs stretching from his constituency down into Cheshire.

I shall not take long, because I was lucky enough to have a bite at the cherry in the debate on the summit three weeks ago. I give a broad welcome to the success that was achieved in Rio. It was not an earth-shattering result. I was amused to read that, when the general secretary was asked whether the conference had been a success, he said that it could not be described in those terms.

The summit was a gathering of many leading environmentalists from all parts of the globe. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister of State, who has returned to the Front Bench, on his achievements. He was there for a considerable time, and it was an achievement to obtain the result that he did.

I agree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment that the best help that we could give the developing world is to press on with the GATT negotiations. I believe that the negotiations will be of great assistance to the developing world if they can be brought to a successful conclusion.

My right hon. and learned Friend said that his main disappointment was that he was not more successful on forestry. I share his view on that, but, perhaps predictably, my greatest anxiety is about the failure to achieve any positive result on world population growth. I agree with every word of the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel), who is no longer in the Chamber. It is interesting that population growth is emerging as a widely studied issue. There is a growing recognition that it is a fundamental cause of world poverty and environmental degradation.

The House does not have to take it from me. Many distinguished observers—the royal family, for example—are prepared to put their reputations on the line and to link population growth with environmental decline. The Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Charles may not appear to be natural champions of that cause, but they are advised by eminent scientists and their views should not be taken lightly.

When people such as David Bellamy, who is president of Population Concern—the only charity in this country concentrating on the population issue—links environmental decline with population growth, it has to be taken seriously. Sir Crispin Tickell, probably the most eminent expert in the field, has said that population growth is linked with environmental decline. We must appreciate that that is an issue whose time has come. I am confused why that was not recognised by delegates at the Rio summit. I am dismayed to hear that there is barely any reference to population growth in the declaration.

Sadly we are having to debate without having seen the declaration, which is not yet available. That is a rather unsatisfactory state of affairs. I understand that there is no mention of population growth in the declaration. It mentions at great length other issues that we have been discussing, such as deforestation, desertification, pollution and carbon fuel emissions.

We merely have to consider the amount of carbon being pumped into the atmosphere in China, and the fact that, as China's population increases, pollution and the amount of carbon pumped into the atmosphere will increase, to understand the link between population growth and environmental decline.

Population growth is the root cause of environmental decline, and I was disappointed that it was not mentioned in the declaration. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will cast some light on it when he winds up. I was pleased to note that he mentioned population planning in his speech. It has become fashionable to use the expression, "population control", which implies a rather coercive method of tackling the problem, which I could not support.

For political reasons, delegates shied away from the subject of population growth at Rio. People who are opposed to abortion confuse that issue with family planning. The prevalent lobby in the United States of America is behind that view and that explains why the US has withdrawn all funding to the United Nations Fund for Population Activities. We cannot ignore the attitude of the Roman Catholic Church. I make no criticism of that church—[HON. MEMBERS: "Go on."] It is inappropriate to criticise Roman Catholics. They believe in family planning. The only argument is over the method. They believe in natural methods, whereas others—such as myself—are prepared to believe in artificial methods.

Mr. Thomas McAvoy (Glasgow, Rutherglen)

The hon. Gentleman is not an expert.

Mr. Ottaway

I do not claim to be. I am simply observing that Roman Catholics believe in natural methods of family planning. It would only take two people —the Pope and the President of the USA—to turn the tide on attitudes to population growth and worldwide family planning.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

The hon. Gentleman mentioned that America has stopped its contribution to the UN population fund. Does he know why Britain reduced its contribution by two thirds during the first nine years of the Conservative Government, cutting it from nearly £9 million to just over £3 million per annum?

Mr. Ottaway

The hon. Gentleman would have to address that question to those on the Government Front Bench. I am prepared to defend the Government's record. No Government have a better record in increasing funding for population policies.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

What about funding to the UN?

Mr. Ottaway

It makes no difference whether the money goes to the UN or straight to family planning programmes.

When the United States withdrew funding from the UNFPA, leaving the international Planned Parenthood Federation high and dry, the British Government alone came to the rescue. I do not think that the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) can criticise the British Government's population policies. I shall come to the level of funding in a second.

Global population has doubled since the second world war and is predicted to stabilise in the year 2050. At what level will it stabilise? At 10 billion or 15 billion? Failure to tackle that at the Rio summit leaves the question unanswered. If Rio had been prepared to support and implement a global family planning programme, people could predict the level at which world population would stabilise and the associated environmental degradation.

I agree that family planning programmes must be voluntary. I agree with the tenor of the intervention by the hon. Member for Cardiff, Central (Mr. Jones) who criticised the compulsory, coercive attitude to family planning in China. I would never defend the Chinese Government's approach to the problem.

The success stories show that a well implemented family planning programme will achieve results, as was illustrated by mention of the programme in Kenya. There is an amazing unmet demand for family planning throughout the world. The Government estimate that unmet demand is 100 million and the UN estimates that 300 million couples want family planning. It is incumbent on developed nations to provide the necessary funding to meet that demand.

Everything comes back to the question of money. The gross cost of Agenda 21 was originally estimated to be $625 billion. I imagine it comes as no surprise to anyone that funding for the entirety of Agenda 21 was not accepted with great enthusiasm by the developed nations, which would have ended up paying for it. Obviously it was not on.

A global family planning programme would cost only $4 billion. Compared with anticipated expenditure on Agenda 21, that is peanuts. Such a programme could have a dramatic effect on the world's environment. It is tragic that such a low-cost programme, which could be so effective, is being ignored.

The developing nations must reassess their attitude to family planning and must demand more. The United Kingdom is prepared to give extra funding for family planning and, as I said in answer to the hon. Member for Workington, the United Kingdom Government have a first-class record in that area. The weakness—and what the hon. Member for Workington should have pointed out —is that the total spend on family planning from the Overseas Development Administration's budget is only between 1 and 2 per cent. So it is easy to bump it up by 50 per cent. The ODA should be prepared to increase its funding for family planning programmes to 4 per cent. That would have more impact on the environment than anything else that will be discussed today.

6.39 pm
Mr. Mike Watson (Glasgow, Central)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Elletson) on his maiden speech. It is just three years since I made mine and I know that it is a daunting task, but he carried it off effectively and competently. I wish him well in his parliamentary career.

The hon. Gentleman introduced some levity to this inevitably serious debate and I should like to do the same. A major Scottish newspaper, Scotland on Sunday, reported on the Rio summit under the headline Did the Earth Move for You? It concluded that it had moved for very few people. It asked a number of people whether the Rio summit had changed their lives and the responses were interesting, to say the least. Miss Dierdre Hutton, chairman of the Scottish Consumer Council, said: I have changed to low energy light bulbs and walk to the shops instead of going by car. I would like to cycle to work but as the office is in Glasgow and I live in Kelso I would arrive at 12 noon and have to leave at 10 past". Crawford Beveridge, chief executive of Scottish Enterprise, said: I have installed a high efficiency boiler in my home and fitted doubled glazing … I am about to start agitating for kerb-side recycling facilities". I am not sure whether that means he will do that in King's Cross.

My favourite quote came from Gerard Kelly, a Scottish actor of some repute, who said: I now try to recycle most things except toilet paper because I couldn't stand the thought of someone else using it first. There are limits on how far recycling can go.

People I have spoken to about the Rio conference were disappointed by it. It was a disappointment to those of us who had hoped that some of the existing global ecological and economic imbalances would be redressed. Immense challenges confront the developed world, and the summit offered us the opportunity to do something meaningful about them. Unfortunately, that opportunity was passed by. The challenges include the facts that the richest 20 per cent. of the world consume 80 per cent. of the world's resources, that an area of tropical forest the size of Britain is destroyed every year and that scientific research has shown that, in the next 40 years, greenhouse gases could raise the earth's temperature by up to 3 deg C. Those facts are frightening. I accept that the summit addressed them, but it failed to reach agreement on a pattern of economic development designed to save us from the environmental catastrophe that we face.

At least the summit recognised that the issues of the environment and development cannot be separated, which is welcome. However, surely the priority should be the problem of poverty, which cripples so many in the third world. It was extremely disappointing to note that all the reports that led up to and followed the summit rarely mentioned poverty. I understand why so much attention was focused on the environment, but poverty is the major problem now facing the world. The summit offered little hope to the world's poor. It failed to construct the framework for international, regional and local action to achieve sustainable development in the third world, which is crucial.

Agenda 21 holds out some hope in terms of achieving sustainable development. It produced policy statements on primary health care and sustainable agricultural development, which could serve as useful guidelines for further action. However, the likely benefits from such policies are threatened by the fact that the developed countries have not committed the necessary sums to fund them.

The donor countries pledged a few billion pounds, which falls far short of the estimated extra £40 billion that is required to implement Agenda 21 and the other conventions. The total bill has been estimated at $125 billion. If the developed countries achieved the United Nations contribution target of 0.7 per cent. of GNP for development and assistance, that bill would be met. It appears that that will not happen. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the Minister said nothing about when Britain hopes to achieve that funding target.

The UN target figure is not only the best way in which to judge our commitment to aid programmes; it is also an important indicator of Britain's commitment to Agenda 21, which we should back with new resources. The Prime Minister said in his famous quote from Rio that money is the root of all progress. In terms of development aid that is unquestionably true. The Prime Minister should be held to that commitment and it should be underwritten by deeds. The Government should drag Britain towards achieving the UN aid contribution target of 0.7 per cent. of GNP. I accept that that must be done in stages, but when successive Governments have been pressed on this matter they have cited the now sadly familiar refrain about aid increasing when economic circumstances permit.

The charity, Action Aid, carried out a survey on the comparative aid between 1975 and 1990. It compared the growth in GNP with the growth in overseas development aid. The survey is revealing, because it shows that even when our economy has been growing strongly and steadily —that may not happen often—the Government, for one reason or another, have not found the necessary resources to make significant progress towards achieving the UN aid target.

Since 1975, Britain's economy has grown four times faster than our contributions to official development assistance. The 1991 figure shows an upturn in contributions, which is welcome, but that belated increase means that Britain is still contributing only 0.32 per cent. of GNP. Let us compare that figure with that of the other major players within the European Community. Germany and France contribute 0.4 and 0.56 per cent. of GNP respectively. The only two EC countries that exceed the 0.7 per cent. target are the Netherlands with 0.88 per cent. and Denmark with 0.96 per cent.

There is much to be done and the Government should not be complacent about our current contribution of 0.32 per cent. It is important to remember that, in 1979, we contributed 0.5 per cent. of GNP—I hope that Conservative Members will accept that I am not seeking to score political points—but it was allowed to reach the nadir of 0.27 per cent. a year ago. We are lagging well behind our EC partners and we must make progress. Let us hope that our contribution will be increased next year. Let us be charitable to the Government and accept that the economy may be on an upward cycle. If we continue our current level of growth we will reach the 0.7 per cent. aid contribution target by 2000. Any steps towards that are welcome.

On the basis of what we have heard today and what we heard from the Prime Minister last week, I doubt whether that rate of increase will be sustained. The poor countries desperately hope that it will be, but, in common with the Opposition, they will not hold their breath in anticipation. They know the Government's record.

Agenda 21 envisages a massive transfer of resources from defence spending to spending on the economic and environmental needs of the third world. The UN has established the Sustainable Development Commission, which will oversee the implementation of Agenda 21. However, without a meaningful commitment, that eminently sensible new office will be starved of resources. It will be unable to carry out its important job of altering the massive resources imbalance in the world.

I agree with what the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel) and the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) said about population. The projected population figures make astonishing, frightening reading. The lastest UN projection is a likely population of 8.5 billion by 2025 and 10 billion by 2050–34 per cent. of that increase will occur in Africa. By mid-1992 the world population will be 5.5 billion and it will reach 6 billion by 1998. In the next decade the world population will increase by an average of 97 million a year. We must start to tackle that problem and acknowledge how it relates to the problem of world poverty, but we need aid to do that.

More resources must be devoted to family planning. At present, 1 per cent. of the British Government's overseas development assistance programme is spent on family planning. That figure must be substantially increased, as a matter of urgency, if we are to have any effect on the world's population explosion. The Government should start to work towards doubling the amount of aid we give by 1995, having a target of 4 to 5 per cent. rather than the present per cent. That should be our target by the year 2000. Only by that means shall we make a serious impact on the problem.

The Overseas Development Administration is firmly committed to a policy of reproductive choice, of voluntary—I accept that, wherever possible, it should be voluntary—quality family planning provision to enable women, in the classic phrase, to have children by choice rather than by chance. Finance is needed to breathe life into that concept. I will not say more about family planning, except to reiterate that it is a crucial issue and cannot be divorced from the whole question of overseas aid in the process of addressing world poverty issues.

Much more could have come out of the Rio summit. We must now do our best to build on the organisations that have been established to carry forward Agenda 21. I hope that the British Government will play a meaningful part. I am pleased that the Prime Minister has made a commitment to call a global summit of non-governmental organisations next year to evaluate the progress made in the first 12 months. Evaluating progress must be a continuing process. Only by that means shall we see the direction in which we are going and the progress being made in the aftermath of Rio. Let us hope that what emerges from it will begin to deal with the terrible problems, including the debt, facing the third world.

6.51 pm
Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham)

I wish at the outset to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Elletson) on the strength of his excellent speech. I shall certainly be re-examining my holiday arrangements for this year.

As this is the first time I have addressed the House, I hope that hon. Members will bear with me while I pay tribute to my eminent predecessor and to my constituency. Sir Ian Gilmour was once dubbed the philosopher king, and throughout his distinguished political career he considered deeply all his actions and words. For over 30 years, as the hon. Member for Norfolk, Central, and then the new seat of Chesham and Amersham, he looked to championing the weakest in the community. As a politician, he always stuck to his principles. No one is more delighted than I at his elevation to the other place. We wish him well and, personally, I hope for his advice from time to time, but also his understanding when perhaps I take a different view from his. As a former owner of The Spectator and a distinguished author, it is apt that he should have represented the very place in which Milton penned his immortal poem, "Paradise Lost". Milton's cottage nestles in the heart of the Chalfonts, but it is not the least of the many attractions of my picturesque and thriving constituency.

From the beauty of the gardens at Chenies Manor to the charms of the old towns of Chesham and Amersham, from top to bottom it is a gem. Set against the backdrop of the Chiltern hills, we boast many successful businesses, among which is the oldest independent building society. Chesham Building Society was founded with assets consisting of a piece of green baize, three wooden cash boxes and a deed box. Now, with assets of more than £60 million, it shows how from humble beginnings a successful business can grow. There is a lesson there for us all.

From Chesham one can travel through the cool woods of Chesham Bois to the epitome of an English country town, Amersham. With Saxon origins, Amersham was for generations the country seat of the Drakes of Shardeloes. William Drake, who represented the area in the Long Parliament, wrote in 1640 a personal diary chronicling the problems of Parliament and the monarchy on the eve of the English civil war, thus providing one of the best insights into that troubled period in our history.

Those who come to my constituency are struck not only by its beauty but by the friendliness and courtesy of my constituents. We believe that it starts at the beginning, and that is reflected in our excellent schools and educational establishments in Buckinghamshire. We pride ourselves in bringing out the best in all our children, equipping them to be valuable members of society, whatever their aptitudes. Indeed, today—at this moment—I should have been present at the leaving ceremony for some of our girls from Dr. Challoner's high school. I take this opportunity to wish them well in their future careers—except, perhaps, if they choose a career on the Opposition Benches.

Although Chesham and Amersham is idyllic, we have some problems, and of concern to us all is an environmental issue. Our two rivers, the Chess and the Misbourne, have all but disappeared, and I am shortly to meet the National Rivers Authority and the water companies to establish a plan of action. Hopefully, it can be achieved on a domestic basis, but many of the environmental problems that we face can be rectified only by global co-operation and action.

From the rivers of my constituency I think of another river, the Amazon, and what was achieved at Rio. Just as the environment was not polluted in a single step, so the clean-up process cannot be achieved by one conference in Rio, however successful it may have been. The first environmental conference took place in Helsinki in 1972 and, to put the debate in perspective, the world's population has grown by 1.5 billion since then.

In 1972 there were few environmental policies and little legislation, but the follow-up to that conference heightened public awareness and resulted in reams of legislation, some of which has been implemented in only a patchy fashion. Our environmental problems have increased since that conference, and everything now depends on the follow-up to Rio. That follow-up will depend not just on our Prime Minister or Secretary of State for the Environment but on all our Ministers. Involvement is needed at every level—in the home, in business, in local government, nationally and intergovernmentally. In some cases our Ministers will have to pursue measures which in the first instance work against the objectives that they may be set in their portfolios. That will be hard, but I believe that every Conservative Minister will rise to the challenge.

Internationally, there is an overriding need to take into account the sensitivity of the developing nations. Rio made it clear to everyone that developing countries see some measures as imposing on them handicaps which the developed nations did not have at the time when they, in their turn, were developing their industries. That, coupled with the myriad Governments and cultures that environmental issues must embrace, means that the continuing process is complicated and calls for a systematic approach and a realisation that our objectives cannot be met by strong-arm tactics.

We face a situation in which we in the United Kingdom excel. It represents a good opportunity for us to build on the world-leading initiatives of our Prime Minister and to play a key role in bringing the various parties and points of view together. The danger is that the impetus could be lost and the fight for the environment, in all its facets—tropical forests, emissions, agricultural pollution and over-population—will start to bore, or at least be treated as a peripheral issue, rather than as a complex and many-sided problem of the utmost importance.

We must also sow the seeds of an enhanced pan-European approach. I hope that the United Kingdom will follow the line that it has suggested and will take advantage of its presidency to expand the co-operation further to include EFTA and eastern and central European countries. It is vital that our co-operation is extended in that fashion, as we all know that pollution does not need a visa to cross borders.

Identifying problems at an early stage and monitoring and policing the global environment is yet another facet of the debate. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's initiative to highlight the role of satellites has been well received. It has spawned several sub-initiatives, and one —perhaps the most important—is the investigation of the complex problems connected with the digesting of data from satellites. As someone said recently, we receive about three times the contents of the British Library every week and, by the end of this century, we are likely to be receiving that quantity of data every day.

Our national remote sensing centre at Farnborough is a unique venture to introduce private sector management and marketing expertise to facilitate the constructive use of that data by all users, not least those involved in seeking to monitor climate change and the environment. It is an excellent example, in the good Conservative tradition, of a public and private sector partnership, and I encourage the Ministers responsible at the Department of the Environment and the Department for Trade and Industry to visit the centre as part of a follow-up to Rio, and seek to expand and enhance that area of technology in which I believe we can lead the world.

It is also important that we try to get the environmental users better organised. Rio has certainly done something to win over industry and, perhaps more cynically, to show it the inevitability of change. The Government must encourage United Kingdom industry to seize the chance of a more efficient use of energy, better emission controls, and a whole raft of subjects connected with using more environmentally friendly technologies. Not only is that an essential component of a modern environmental protection plan, but commercial gain could be made from it for small and large companies. We need to ensure that we produce environmentally efficient goods which tomorrow's consumers will want to buy.

In that area, we may find that our industries discover a good vehicle for joint industrial ventures with developing countries. It is particularly clear that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's Darwin initiative can support international co-operation.

However, an area of international co-operation that is not making progress is the European Environmental Agency. It was agreed at a summit when Margaret Thatcher was still our Prime Minister, but it is being stopped by just one member of the European Community: France is blocking any agreements on community agencies until it receives assurances that Strasbourg will be I he seat of the European Parliament. Can we continue to tolerate that situation when the needs of the environment are so pressing? During Wimbledon week, it would be apt to borrow the immortal words of John McEnroe and say to the French, "You can't be serious". I hope that my right hon. Friends will argue robustly against the French position at every opportunity, and especially when Britain assumes the Community presidency in a few days' time.

Finally, in the tradition of my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Elletson), I return to poetry and to Milton's "Paradise Lost". Sitting in my constituency, Milton described paradise. He wrote: Both where the morning sun first warmly smote the open field and where the unpierced shade imbrown'd the noon-tide bowers. Thus was this place a happy rural seat of various views". He was undoubtedly inspired by the environment of Chesham and Amersham—the "happy rural seat" that I am proud to represent in this House.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse)

I remind the House that Madam Speaker has imposed the 10 minute rule on speeches between 7 o'clock and 9 o'clock.

7.6 pm

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) on her maiden speech and on outlining some of the environmental problems that she sees in her constituency and the rest of the world. May I point out, however, that market forces encourage the high consumption of any commodity, be it water, gas, electricity, coal or whatever, which in turn leads to depletion of those resources. Market forces of themselves do not preserve the environment or the materials whose consumption we seek to reduce. They work in precisely the opposite direction and encourage greater use of them.

In some ways, the success of Rio was the fact that it was held at all. It is essential that all the Governments and agencies of the world recognise that we cannot continue to deplete natural resources and pollute our atmosphere without paying a high price for it. Rio was also the coming together of the north and south, the interface of the world's great problems at present.

For all the honeyed words said by President Bush and others after and during the Rio summit, the reality is that two thirds of the world's population do not enjoy the same standard of life, health care, life expectancy and hope for their children that the other third enjoys. Millions of people around the globe do not enjoy a life expectancy of 60 or 70, but are old at the age of 40. A terrible price is being paid by children throughout the world in infant mortality and death in childhood because of wholly preventable illnesses. That is the reality of the north versus south, which is what the Rio summit was all about.

We cannot continue with a third of the world's population consuming two thirds or more of the world's natural resources and energy production. The United States alone turns out more than a quarter of all the carbon dioxide produced in the world. We simply cannot continue to sustain the planet in that way. So when President Bush talks about protecting American jobs and the American environment—it is the first time that he has ever talked about protecting jobs—he is really saying that in no sense is he prepared to interfere in the economy of the United States to protect the rest of the world. He fails to realise that damage to the ozone layer and increasing world temperatures affect the United States as much as elsewhere.

We must also be wary about talking in grand terms about the transfer of resources from north to south, as though the aid budget were a grand train that transfers resources from the riches to the poorest and helps the poorest develop, because it simply does not. For every £1 in aid that this country gives from all sources to the poorest countries in the world, £4 comes back in either debt repayment or profits of multinational companies. Those same companies and banks are making vast amounts of money through the British tax system in setting aside bad debts of third world countries. So the British banks are making a great deal of money out of writing off debt repayment, or setting aside money for it without doing anything about it and getting a large amount of tax relief as a result. By that process last year, $50 billion more than was transferred from the north to the south was transferred from the south to the banking systems and multinational companies of northern countries. That is wholly unsustainable.

When we speak of the environmental damage that occurs in many countries, such as India, Malaysia and Brazil, we must recognise that often the poorest indigenous people in forest areas pay the price. Last week I had the privilege of meeting a group from the Third World Network based in Penang, Malaysia, who described to me the plight of people in the forest of Sarawak when the logging companies throw them off their land and illegally cut down the trees. The wood ends up in DIY stores of western Europe and north America and as conservatories or extensions. Those people are thrown off their land, which is left as a virtual desert as a result.

The people who have stood up against the rape of their environment have paid a high price. Chico Mendes was a brave man who was murdered. He and his organisation of rubber tapper workers stood up for people who lived and sustained themselves through the forest in Brazil. I do not know who pulled the trigger and killed Chico Mendes—in a sense, it does not matter. What matters is that people like him exert pressure and stand up for the people, and as a result those who take such a stance die.

We must think seriously about the trading relationship between the north and the south if we are to begin to eliminate the abject poverty of those who live in so many parts of the world. What will the future hold if we do not face that reality? It will hold a further transfer of resources from the poorest to the richest and a further deterioration in the living standards of the people of sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. We cannot countenance that and must look to a world that protects and shares its resources, and seeks a sustainable future. I know that many of those sentiments were expressed in Rio, but my worry is whether there will be practical results from it.

The hole in the ozone layer was discovered by Dr. Joe Farmer and others at the British Antarctic Survey, all of whom I had the pleasure of meeting. I think that they do a fine job of research. It was not the British Government who promoted the minerals moratorium in the Antarctic; they pushed through the House the legislation that allowed commercial exploration of the Antarctic. The Madrid protocol put an end to that legislation, and I look forward to an announcement from the Minister this evening on when legislation will be introduced to repeal the Antarctic Minerals Act 1989 and introduce the proposed moratorium.

For all that has been said about the depletion of the ozone layer and the need to phase out the production of CFCs and HCFCs, insufficient action has been taken. There is an urgent need to recognise the serious health problems caused in the southern parts of South America and northern Europe by the continuing destruction of the ozone layer.

I believe that Greenpeace is right to call for the reconvening of the Montreal convention to bring forward the date on which to end the entire production of CFCs and promote safer substitutes. We need fewer lectures from ICI and others that have made a fortune out of the production of CFCs, and even now seek to continue the production of dangerous gases that can only damage our natural environment.

We are experiencing a climatic change. It is not something that will happen in the future—it is happening now. Desertification is taking place: the Sahara was not always a desert. In Roman times it was the granary of the empire, and the greed of the Roman empire destroyed that region of grain production, turning it into a desert. The greed of militarisation in this country in the middle ages destroyed our forests. Is the greed of the rest of the world now to destroy the forests of Latin America and Asia?

I think that, in some ways, the outcome of the Rio summit is depressing. It has not given the authority to agencies such as the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development or maintained the operation of the United Nations office that monitors the work of multinational corporations that control 80 per cent. of world trade. Instead, it has agreed a series of proposals —some of which the United States have backed out of —that may help to protect some species and some natural regions, but it has not granted the necessary power to achieve those goals.

At the same time, the same Governments propose policies in which market forces are to be the solution of all economic problems. They also maintain nuclear weapons bases around the world, with a world order based on injustice and unfairness, and held together by military power and control.

I think that the issue that we are debating and the debate are important. But if we do not want to face the prospect in 10 years' time of millions of environmental refugees knocking on the door of western Europe and north America to try to get safe haven, we must react with more urgency and take more positive action than that which has resulted from the Rio summit. We must talk seriously about redistributing resources and wealth, and promoting a sustainable world economy. Those issues will not wait.

7.15 pm
Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Circencester and Tewkesbury)

I begin by paying tribute to the maiden speeches of two of my hon. Friends, the Members for Blackpool, North (Mr. Elletson) and for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan). They both made eloquent and fluent speeches, and doubtless we can look forward to many others.

The reason that many commentators have said that the Rio summit was not a success was that the expectations were too high. But the conventions on climate change and biodiversity, which are legally binding, together with the principles for sustainable development and the management of forests, which were not legally binding, are to be greatly welcomed. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on his achievements.

We have heard much this evening about Agenda 21. It is to be regretted that the framework for action carrying us into the next century did not include a clear and unequivocal intention to curb the alarming growth in world population. The reasons for that are well known and, unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway), I have no hesitation in condemning the attitude of the Catholic Church towards contraception.

No less a person than the Reverend Primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury, appealed on 18 May to the Roman Catholic Church to change its doctrinal opposition to birth control. On 22 April, Prince Charles, in his keynote address to the Brundtland commission, said of the population explosion: I don't in all logic see how any society can hope to improve its lot when population growth exceeds economic growth. UNICEF concluded: the responsible planning of births is one of the most effective and least expensive ways of improving the quality of life on earth—both now and in the future". We hear much about global warming, which is not something that will happen in future, but is happening now. As the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) said, desertification and the elimination of some species are occurring now. Some 21,000 sq km of soil in India have been eroded in the past year alone—the equivalent to taking all the top soil off one of this country's larger counties.

The root cause of environmental damage is twofold: poverty, and excessive growth in world populations. The world population growth is now about 90 million per annum. If we place that in a historical context, the world population was about half a billion at the time of Christ, 2 billion in 1920, and 4 billion in 1960, and it is about 5 billion today. But much more worrying is the fact that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development predicts that the figure will roughly double over the next 50 years. We must take those statistics extremely seriously. I am sorry that, in the run-up to the Rio summit, Agenda 21 did not make more declarations on that subject.

Population growth can be tackled only if the countries in which it is taking place have the will to do so. We can give them aid and advice, but in the end it is up to them. We must take the issue seriously; otherwise future populations in those countries will suffer even greater poverty than their parents suffer today. If the countries whose people live at subsistence level are to come close to meeting the food needs of those people, they will have to increase their agricultural production to levels approaching those of the Americans. That is unimaginable.

It is estimated that 60 per cent. of world deforestation is caused not by logging but by land hunger. It is to be deprecated that third-world countries, often merely to keep corrupt Governments in power, have to plunder their forests not for food but to shore up those Governments.

Some efforts have been made to tackle population growth. Britain's contribution to the overseas family planning programme amounts to 1 per cent. of our overseas development budget. It is to be noted, however, that that percentage has halved since the 1970s, so I urge the ODA to consider doubling it in the next five years. I hope that the Prime Minister's announcement that some new funding will be provided for the environment means that it will be channelled in that direction.

There is a great unmet need for contraception. Depending on one's sources, there are between 100 million and 300 million families in need of some form of family planning, as the leading article in The Times said today. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South, I emphasise the words "family planning", not "family control", because the latter has unfortunate connotations. If we could provide the resources to meet the need for contraception, we could reduce the alarming growth in world population by about 30 per cent.—a goal surely worth trying to achieve.

In some countries, contraception has had notable success in reducing the rate of population growth. In Bangladesh, where contraceptives have been made freely available, there has been a significant fall in the birth rate. Thailand is a particularly interesting example; in an effort to encourage birth control, the Government provided the resources for family planning and mounted a mass media campaign, resulting in 68 per cent. of the population using contraception. The average family size fell from just over six in 1969 to about two today.

The leading article in The Times uses wizardry of figures to try to prove that the tremendous fall in the average family size throughout the world from about nine to about six shows that great work has already been done, but we need to bring the number down from six to nearer two to tackle the problem. In the developed western world, where average family sizes have shrunk to just over two children, populations have stabilised and some have even gone into marginal decline.

Due to the complexity of population movements and of the subject of human fertility, there is an urgent need for comprehensive, integrated population policies based on careful assessment of population and development factors, of which education is a key one. It is a proven fact that educating women—thereby stopping them going straight out from their families and starting more families—in the third world and delaying the birth of their children means that those children are brought up, educated and fed better, and average family sizes are smaller. It is vital, therefore, to encourage people in the third world to be better educated about these subjects—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I call Mr. Welsh.

7.25 pm
Mr. Andrew Welsh (Angus, East)

After the Earth summit conference and the inevitable international horse trading, there is at least the certainty that something has been agreed. The task now is to turn the vagueness in the agreements into certainty and to turn clearly worded agreements into reality. Monitoring and ensuring that stated goals are reached within and across international boundaries will be essential if the United Nations Earth summit is to be more than just historical words.

I should like to hear from the Government more explanation of what mechanism they propose for reporting back to the House on progress on set environmental goals and targets. I should like to hear the Government's thinking on the role, status and powers of the United Nations Sustainable Development Commission. Without some sort of system and accountability, fine words will not be enough.

I hope that the Rio conference was a watershed, creating awareness at governmental level and building invaluable contacts and communications networks which will lead to a continuing process of international environmental action. It should not now be necessary to hold regular major conferences if Governments interact and follow through these initiatives at a lower level.

When they happen, future Earth summits should be launch pads for new agreements based on solid, real results. The test for our Government is what they do for the environment in this country and the co-operation that they promote internationally.

There must be disappointment that the United Kingdom cannot even reach its own standard of 0.3 per cent. of GNP spent on aid, let alone the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent. The Scottish National party looks on the United Nations aid target as a starting point. Given the urgency of third-world poverty we should aim at 1 per cent. of GNP as soon as possible.

It is to be regretted that short-term electoral considerations seem to have dominated the United States approach to assisting developing nations and to pollution. Although I welcome many of the European initiatives on environmental protection, the problem created by the United States attitude can be seen in the fact that the European Community carbon tax plans are conditional on the United States taking similar measures—yet the EC produces only 8 per cent. of the world's carbon dioxide emissions while the United States is responsible for one quarter of them. The United States has left a massive gap in the Rio agreement and I hope that a settled presidency will lead to the Americans' essential participation and leadership. I also hope that our Government will encourage them in that as much as possible.

Part of the frustration felt by Scots is that until Scotland is independent we can neither safeguard our environment nor put effective pressure on the international community for such action. Scotland possesses many of Europe's environmental treasures, yet there was no Scottish Office representation or participation at the Rio conference. Scotland's voice was not heard, yet we have a lot to offer the world. We know what it is like to be treated as the world's nuclear and toxic dustbin and we have campaigned to prevent developed or developing nations from exporting their environmental problems.

We have immense renewable green energy resources and we would be at the forefront of development of green energy technology, providing much-needed jobs and expertise to help other nations to develop. We know that a Scottish Parliament could provide the political will and finance, and that Scottish universities, colleges and industry can provide the technology to implement such positive programmes.

I look in vain for any similar United Kingdom Government plans for Scotland. There are none, so an opportunity is being wasted.

This whole subject is an international problem based on national action, and it is crucial that environmental problems be solved in situ rather than being exported elsewhere.

Local environmental success must not be at the expense of creating environmental damage elsewhere. For example, green campaigners blocked the operation of a nuclear reactor in the north Rhine-Westphalia area, only to see its spent nuclear fuel sent to Scotland to become a Scottish problem. Campaigns against ozone-damaging chemicals here must not be the harbinger of sales of stockpiles to third world countries. We wish to see an international ban on the transportation of both nuclear and toxic wastes, which will force developed countries to deal with their own problems rather than dumping them on to developing countries, using cash bribes.

The twin aims of policy must be to create codes of environmental practice in developed countries while increasing aid and the transfer of environmentally friendly technology to help under-developed nations regulate their growing industries.

I should like to draw attention briefly to the possibilities inherent in linking a build-up of the Scottish forestry industry and much-needed measures to combat the destruction of tropical rain forests. The problems of tropical rain forest destruction are well known, but there can be a home-grown Scottish contribution to help in this crisis. In addition to conforming to international standards on the environment and aid to developing countries, Scotland can become self-sufficient in timber through a sustainable forestry programme designed to stop imports of tropical woods from endangered areas.

We know that we can grow hardwoods of native species here and not import tropical wood grown as a cash crop in areas of the world that are being denuded by the developing world's poverty and the greed of exploitation. Selling unprocessed wood does not benefit developing nations, since they receive only 9 per cent. of the value of timber when they sell it as logs, but could receive 35 per cent. if they sold it as a finished product. Therefore, they should be encouraged to have smaller and more skilled industries and be given incentives not to destroy one of their best resources. Fruits and latex from an area of tropical forests provide three times the income of cattle ranching for McDonalds in the same area and six times the income of just chopping down the timber. Therefore, with proper development, communities in the developing world can make more money and have a stable and sustainable future by not cutting down their forests.

We can also contribute by a major programme to recycle paper, possibly at the proposed plant at Gartcosh. We have developed industries in Scotland and the north of England that need home-grown timber. That demand can be met until 2020, but after that our production will go into decline because private planting has dropped since tax breaks ended and the Forestry Commission has virtually stopped any acquisition of new land. Therefore, we desperately need a national perspective on future forestry needs.

If we became self-sufficient, we would double forest and woodland cover in Scotland in the next 10 years, from 12 to 24 per cent. of our land, with the possibility of creating tens of thousands of jobs, especially by adding value to the timber produced. Doubling forested areas need not mean mono-cultural landscapes with hills of endless pine trees. We can create broadleaved woodlands, Scots pine forests, and continuous canopy and encourage species diversity to replace some of the native woodland that we have lost —for example, in the north-east and the borders, we have lost up to 40 per cent. of our forests. Work and progress in our country can play a positive part in helping other countries in the less developed parts of the world.

We need a multi-skilled population to encourage afforestation, like Norwegian best practice, where sheep farmers also learn to be foresters. The necessary education can be provided through a university of the highlands, twinned with Tromso in Norway, based in Inverness but with collegiate sites all over the north. Scotland can make a positive contribution to curbing deforestation and cutting emissions of carbon dioxide. We can pledge environmental commitment and have shown the Government some positive practical initiatives. The question is whether the Government can make the same commitment. Clearly, they cannot and that is a wasted opportunity for Scotland and the wider world.

7.34 pm
Mr. Nirj Joseph Deva (Brentford and Isleworth)

In this, my maiden speech, I stand here honoured and privileged to be speaking in the mother of Parliaments. Coming here, as I do, from a political family in Sri Lanka, I was imbued as a child with the values and ethics of the British parliamentary tradition. As you may know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sri Lanka has a long and distinguished record of parliamentary democracy, which continues uninterrupted to this day under the able stewardship of President Premadasa.

I am proud to be British. I am proud of the British institutions and values that have now transcended national borders, leaving the legacy of the rule of law, parliamentary democracy, the British legal system, constitutional government and the English language as the common framework of governance for 1.5 billion people in 48 nation states. I pay tribute to the historic figures in these Houses of Parliament who toiled to inculcate those fundamental values and encouraged them to spread across the world.

My presence here today as the second Asian Conservative Member of Parliament is a direct consequence of the efforts and endeavours of parliamentary predecessors in the propagation of this valued system of parliamentary democracy across so many countries and cultures, which has resulted in encouraging many millions of former colonial citizens to leave their newly independent countries to seek their future in the mother country here in Britain. I consider this an act of confidence and faith in our British institutions. It is also, undoubtedly, an act of patriotism towards Britain and her future by those who have newly arrived here. They have clearly demonstrated their faith in our system by voting with their feet.

Coming here, as we have done, is not enough. We, too, have our duties and responsibilities to the country that we have adopted as our own, and many of us recognise this. We must work with the rest of the community, not against it. We must work to build a sustainable partnership that will last for generations to come, and we will build that one nation that our Prime Minister has called for, based on talent, merit and opportunity and in which class, colour and religion will have no part to play.

In making my maiden speech, I must thank all the people of Brentford and Isleworth who chose to elect me as their new Member of Parliament in this fourth historic victory for the Conservative party. I take this opportunity to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Elletson), who made an amusing speech, and my hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan), who made a thoughtful speech.

I succeed Sir Barney Hayhoe, now Lord Hayhoe. I hope that I can serve my constituents as well as my distinguished predecessor and friend did. I am sure that the House would wish to join me in congratulating him on his elevation and in wishing him the very best in his new role. Barney Hayhoe served the people of Brentford and Isleworth magnificently for 21 years and is regarded with the greatest affection and respect. His is an example to emulate and I shall be more than satisfied if I am able to retain even a modicum of the affection felt by my constituents and colleagues for Barney Hayhoe over two decades. Barney Hayhoe and I share many common attributes. We are both engineers—a rare breed in this august House. We are also both Catholics. There are also, however, notable differences: for instance, I have a beard.

I am sure that some of my colleagues may be wondering where exactly the constituency of Brentford and Isleworth is, but are too polite to ask. Some of its earliest constituents were the Romans, who found it most appealing. Today, I am sure that many, if not all, of my colleagues have unknowingly driven over or travelled under the constituency on their way to Heathrow airport or the west country. I am delighted to invite my colleagues, when they have time, to leave the M4 and break their journey in this beautiful and historic part of west London. I invite them to take a stroll along its scenic river front, or through some of its many attractive parks—Osterley, Gunnersbury, Syon, Chiswick and Grove, to name but a few—or perhaps to visit one of its many historic buildings and landmarks in Chiswick or Hounslow.

The safe future of the environment, its open spaces and other sites, are vital to my constituents, and I shall guard them most assiduously.

Mine is a multi-racial and cosmopolitan constituency, in which all communities live side by side in harmony. We are an example to the rest of the country.

We are a constituency blessed with modern offices, light industrial estates, some of the most prestigious high-tech companies, a qualified work force and neighbouring Heathrow airport through which 40 million people pass into London each year.

I shall make it my concern to protect our local environment from excessive noise, traffic and air pollution, so that a proper balance is struck between the quality of life in the locality and the economic well-being of my constituents and that of London.

I contribute to the debate as an engineer and an environmental scientist. As users of the planet's resources, we are all responsible for its continued evolution so as to protect the interest of those yet to be born. We are merely the stewards of our planet. That stewardship must be handled with responsibility and balance. We must not destroy economic growth in the developing countries now for an illusory gain in a nebulous future.

Is it not a fact that science has ways of overcoming many problems? As a scientist, I look particularly to the scientific community to give a lead in developing the measures and techniques which will reduce pollution while enabling sustainable growth.

I congratulate my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Minister for Overseas Development on their role in the success of the landmark Rio summit. The Prime Minister's signing of the international convention on climate change and the biodiversity treaty show that we mean business and that we intend to tackle the issues realistically and sensibly.

It is important to remind people that last year we were the fifth largest world aid donor in volume terms, and that this financial year we have increased aid to the developing countries by 8 per cent. in real terms to £1.8 billion.

We have every reason to be proud of our track record, as British aid is recognised internationally for its effectiveness. Our commitment has always been to ensure that aid goes to the countries most in need, and the development assistance committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has commended us on that.

It is in the same spirit that we should look at the Prime Minister's announcement that we plan to make substantial extra resources available to assist biodiversity, energy efficiency, planning and sustainable agriculture in developing countries. The Prime Minister's Darwin initiative and his commitment to the environment should please those moaning minnies who say that we have not done enough.

Pollution, in whatever form, must be tackled. I accept the principle that the polluter must pay, but it is also important to understand that the general environment fund which has been set up cannot simply be an open-ended commitment by the developed countries to the developing countries. An open-ended commitment without the requisite checks and balances would, as history has shown, lead inevitably to inefficiencies, waste, mismanagement and corruption.

Rather, I would encourage the fund to be used in a manner where a partnership is struck between the donor and the beneficiary. Such partnerships need to evolve so that feasibility studies, robust monitoring, cost controls and real benefits are identified during the progress of the fund's expenditure on environmental improvements.

Environmental protection is not a zero sum game. Whole new industries and technologies will evolve, employing millions of people world wide to implement the measures required to protect our planet. That, in turn, will lead to economic growth in new sectors, both in the developing countries and in the developed countries working in partnership through the transfer of technology and information.

It is an exciting future, a challenge to the whole of mankind as the global village approaches the millenium.

7.43 pm
Ms. Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Mr. Deva) on his maiden speech, which he delivered with great style. It is almost a century since we had a Tory Member of Parliament of Asian origin. I hope that we do not have to wait another century. As the hon. Gentleman reminded me in the Tea Room earlier, the Tory party produced Britain's first Jewish Prime Minister and Britain's first woman Prime Minister. Who knows, it may produce Britain's first Asian Prime Minister. We must wait and see.

Rio was the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development and it is on the link between environment and development that I wish to talk this evening. Despite what some Conservative Members have said, the ultimate threat to the environment is poverty. Anyone who is serious about preserving the environment and saving the planet must be serious about poverty.

It is tempting to be cynical about Rio. It was very much a billion dollar extravaganza involving 185 countries over 12 days, battalions of journalists, endless receptions and lunches and, above all, a self-congratulatory tone which, unfortunately, has seeped into some of the Prime Minister's pronouncements.

It has to be noted that Rio did not achieve some of its original objectives. It was supposed to have approved a great many international treaties to clean the atmosphere and protect the world's plant and animal species, but those treaties dwindled to two—the climate change treaty and the bio-diversity treaty. Significantly, the EC environment commissioner, Carlo Ripa Di Meana, who should know a thing or two about such matters, did not go, because he considered it a waste of time.

One cannot talk about Rio without noting just how embarrassing was America's role. For a country which, ever since the Gulf war, has claimed not just economic but moral leadership of the developed world, its role in Rio was frankly embarrassing.

Bush had plenty of rhetoric but he was terrified of regulations with teeth on environmental matters. He refused to consider more aid and was determined to protect the trade, profits and living standards, not to mention the patent rights, of the richest country on earth whatever the cost, even if the cost was suffering throughout the third world.

Not the least of the achievements of Rio—it has not been mentioned this evening—is that, despite all its frills, junketing and posing, it was a sign that the environment is now fairly and squarely on the agenda of professional politicians.

It is worth saying that the environmental issue is, above all, the people's issue. It was ordinary people who fought politicians, such as those of us in the Chamber, to make us take the environment seriously. A decade ago, Conservative Members were sneering at organisations such as Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace. Now they are obliged to master the issue and at least appear to take such matters seriously.

A number of Members have said today that Rio is the first step. It is not the first step at all. Those of us close to the campaigns and issues in our constituencies know that ordinary groups and pressure groups have been campaigning on such issues for many years. It is not the first step but part of a continuing odyssey.

If we are serious about saving the Earth we must also consider how we secure for all the peoples of the Earth —not just President Bush's voters in an election year—a decent living standard. We have to be frank. We can sit here in the Chamber hurling around environmental jargon, such as carbon dioxide emissions, ozone depletion, photochemical smog, acid rain, toxic waste, saving the world, until we are blue in the face, but, even as we speak, there are millions of people in the third world who are concerned about sheer survival.

The gap between the rich and the poor throughout the 1980s has not narrowed; it has increased. To select just one vital statistic—developing countries' share of world exports fell from 31 per cent. in 1950 to 17 per cent. at the beginning of the 1970s.

How can we tell the populations of south and central America, Africa and Asia who are fighting for day-to-day survival not to cut down their rain forests and to hold down their standard of living in order to preserve the environment?

Before I go on I must say something about the population question. I have noted the enthusiasm of Conservative Members, not otherwise noted for their concern about development issues, to jump up and talk about the population issue. I do not deny that population control and family planning are vital issues, particularly in the context of women's health. But let us be clear: over-population is not the root cause of third world poverty and it is not the root cause of environmental degradation. Population is an important issue, and it detracts from that issue to use it to blame the poor for their poverty—or, worse, to use it to take attention away from the root causes of poverty in the third world, which are economic and have to do with the terms of trade.

As I said earlier, if the biggest threat to the environment is poverty, the most important question that arises from the Rio summit is what we are going to do about poverty. The first issue that comes to mind is aid. Other hon. Members have spoken of this country's poor record, and of the fall in the level of aid as a proportion of gross domestic product. It should also be noted that the Government have no timetable for raising the aid budget, and that far too much British aid is given in the form of loans, with interest repayments tied to the purchase of British capital goods.

It is important to realise, however, that aid is by no means the most important issue in regard to sustainable development and economic growth in the third world. It is hypocritical of hon. Members to prate about development and poverty, when they use a later debate to espouse protectionism, for if one practice is damaging the economies of the third world, it is protectionism in the west and in America. There is the protectionism of the EEC: French, German and—oh, yes—British politicians find it expedient to protect the living standards of rich western farmers at the expense of the poor in the third world, who need to export. I cannot ignore this opportunity to remind the Minister of the importance of defending access to European markets for Caribbean bananas and sugar. Without that EEC market, many countries in the eastern Caribbean would face economic collapse.

There is also the GATT round. It is easy to shed tears for the poor of the third world and for the rain forests; it is more difficult to face up to the hard political issues, and to tell our constituents that we, as one of the richer countries, must move away from protectionism. If we are serious about development, however, we must be serious about tackling protectionism: we can retain protectionism only at the expense of the living standards of people in the third world who are desperately seeking a market for their products.

Debt is also important. Far more than aid shortages, debt is a tremendous millstone around the necks of third-world countries. How can such countries help themselves and stand on their own two feet when such a huge proportion of their gross domestic product goes towards paying the interest on debts? If the House and the Government are serious about the environment and about poverty, they must consider debt reduction—not only write-offs by the commercial banks, but write-offs by the International Monetary Fund and the World bank. They must also consider the overall role of the IMF and its structural adjustment policies.

It has proved expedient to write off the debts of Poland and Hungary because those poor eastern European countries apparently cannot struggle off their knees while still saddled with the burden of debt. Surely we have a moral imperative to give serious consideration to writing off the debts of some of the poorest countries on earth —countries in South America, Central America, Africa and Asia.

In many ways, politicians see the environment as a soft issue—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)

Order. I am sorry, but the hon. Lady's time is up.

7.53 pm
Mr. Peter Luff (Worcester)

I find it slightly surprising that, in my first speech in the House, I should feel moved to congratulate the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms. Abbott) on drawing attention to the Conservative party's excellent record on equal opportunities down the centuries.

The natural deference that I feel has been greatly increased by the excellent contributions of my hon. Friends the Members for Blackpool, North (Mr. Ellet son), for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) and for Brentford and Isleworth (Mr. Deva), but I am still grateful to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for calling me this evening. It is particularly appropriate that I should speak for the first time in today's debate, because—as many hon. Members will recall—my distinguished predecessor Peter Walker, Member of Parliament for Worcester for 31 years, was the first Secretary of State for the Environment, bringing energy and zeal to the task of championing the cause of a better environment for all.

Not surprisingly, in his maiden speech Peter Walker spoke at length about economic issues, but with particular reference to the development of the Commonwealth countries—on the grounds not only of our own commercial self-interest, but of the moral necessity of such development.

If I had a pound for every time someone in my constituency had told me in the past couple of years that I had a difficult act to follow, I should be a rich man today. I cannot say that I was always grateful to such people for drawing my attention to the difficulty of following Peter Walker's act, but let me say it myself this evening: he is indeed a hard act to follow. He was one of the most outstanding constituency Members the House has seen, and also an outstanding parliamentarian, serving more time in Cabinets and shadow Cabinets than almost any of his colleagues. It is right for me also to mention the gratitude of the people of Worcester to his wife Tessa for the excellent support that she gave him throughout much of his time as Member of Parliament for Worcester.

I am sure that every hon. Member will share my pleasure that Peter Walker is to be elevated to another place shortly, and also that his public service is to continue when he becomes chairman of the currently putative urban regeneration agency. Legislation to create the agency will come before the House later in the year. Those in the inner cities will have particular cause to be grateful to him when he fulfils that role. I am sure that the energy that he will bring to improving the environment and lifestyle of those people will be a lasting testimonial to him, as will his work in all the great Departments of state that he has served.

I had the great privilege of working with Mr. Walker for a number of years, and I knew something of his style of debate. It comes as no surprise to me to discover that, in his maiden speech, he made what he characteristically described as constructive criticisms of the Government's economic policy". He said: I hope … that this will not be considered indicative of a person representing a constituency noted throughout the world for its production of sauce. Indeed, in Worcestershire, we do not live by sauce alone. In fact, we have in the constituency of Worcester probably a greater diversity of industry and mixture of farming than any other constituency in the country."—[Official Report, 20 April 1961; Vol. 638, c. 1432–33.] Peter Walker's words are as true today as they were 31 years ago. It is true that the economy of Worcester has suffered from the current recession, but I think it right to focus on the encouraging signs that we see there today. Many well-known family names operate in Worcester, as other hon. Members were keen to remind me when I was preparing my speech. I have already alluded to Lea and Perrins. We also have Royal Worcester Porcelain and Kays Mail Order Services. We also have home-grown names, of which hon. Members will probably hear much more in the future: Worcester Heat Systems, for instance, is an outstanding engineering operation, and we are the proud recipients of a major piece of Japanese inward investment in the shape of Yamazaki Machine Tools, which has one of the most advanced factories that I have had the privilege of touring.

We also have some small and growing businesses, one of which—the Jolly Roger Brewery—is the subject of an early-day motion in my name. Perhaps I may take this opportunity of asking hon. Members to add their names to that motion, which calls for the brewery's beers to be served in the bars of the House of Commons. This being the 350th anniversary of the outbreak of the civil war, which began and ended in Worcester, the most appropriate would be the brewery's civil war commemorative ale, which I commend to all hon. Members. Recommending that beer is an act of curious political generosity on my part, as one of the brewery's proprietors had the temerity to stand against me in the general election under the hat of the Jolly Small Brewers party.

The constituency also contains some historic firms. I am thinking particularly of Berrow's Worcester Journal, the oldest newspaper in the world in continuous publication—and, of course, the traditional agricultural industries, about which I shall say more later.

Worcester is also famous for its contribution to cultural life. Here I think especially of Sir Edward Elgar. I count myself something of a pro-European by the standards of today's debate, but I must say that I have a rather deeper understanding of some of my so-called Euro-sceptic colleagues when I hear the more patriotic strains of Elgar's music.

Given the sporting predilections of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, I should highlight the sporting achievements of Worcestershire county cricket club. I hope that I shall have the privilege of luring him to New Road before too long to see Worcester maintain its new-found unbroken run of victories in the county championship.

What encouraged me as the prospective candidate, and now as the new Member of Parliament, for Worcester—the faithful city—is the strength of social concern and religious life in the city. We have an unparalleled wide range of voluntary groups seeking to protect the interests of people not only at home and in Worcester but internationally. I welcome the active contributions to debates on development and environmental issues of members of all faiths in Worcester and particularly of the Council of Churches which ensured, before and during my campaign and subsequently, that I paid great attention to the issues that we are debating, and my postbag has been most full with calls for a perpetuation of the ban on commercial whaling—a ban which I strongly endorse.

Those people were knocking on an open door because of my experiences with two other distinguished national politicians, the first of whom is my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) who, sadly, cannot be here this evening due to a temporary indisposition. I am sure that the whole House wishes him a speedy recovery. I worked with him at the time of the publication of the Brandt report, one of the first major documents which restarted the momentum on development in our political debate.

I also had the privilege of working with Lord Young of Graffham when he was Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in the early days of the GATT round, which, I am glad to say, has now restarted after a rather sticky period and since the successful resolution of agricultural protection issues.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and his predecessor on the priority that they attached to the issues that we are debating and on our approach to the Rio summit. We were right to stick to the 0.7 target of GDP for aid to the developing world and to emphasise that quality, debt, private investment and free trade are important dimensions of the major contribution that Britain has made to development issues. I welcome the commitment and continuing presence of my right hon. Friend Lady Chalker at the Overseas Development Administration, and I am sure that no one in Government is better qualified to capitalise on the new momentum generated by the Rio summit.

I should like to follow the example of my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North, not by quoting poetry but by drawing attention to rather more domestic environmental issues. The agricultural community in my constituency often feels that it is misunderstood. There is a rather worrying misunderstanding between town and country. I maintain that members of the agricultural community are the true custodians of the landscape of this country. Maintaining their agricultural incomes is the key to maintaining the quality of the landscape that we are so privileged to enjoy in Worcestershire, and I hope that the common agricultural policy reform package will achieve precisely that. It is right to remember that the countryside belongs to people who live and work in it and not just to those from towns who seek to enjoy it.

There is no more pressing environmental issue for many than the quality of housing. Owner-occupation has grown rapidly in this country, which I welcome, but homelessness is a serious problem in Worcestershire and I hope that measures will be introduced to boost housing associations and the private rented sector.

A local environmental issue that perhaps is of more relevance to the Rio summit is the need for good and effective public transport. I welcome the recent investment in the Cotswold line and the commitment that the Government and Network SouthEast have shown to improving services between Worcester and London. I shall return to that subject in future debates.

My theme is that smaller environmental issues affecting ordinary people are just as important as the big ones—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman's maiden speech, but it is a case of "No. 1, your time is up."

8.3 pm

Mr. Jon Owen Jones (Cardiff, Central)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Luff) on his maiden speech. He reminded us of his predecessor, Peter Walker. I remind him that Peter Walker was not unconnected with my constituency as he worked at the Welsh Office. I hope that the hon. Gentleman does not follow him there.

The United Nations and most, but not all, of its constituent members should be congratulated on their success in holding a summit conference on the environment and on achieving some agreement at it. However, if Rio's success is to be measured by the degree to which they moved towards the objective of sustainable development on this planet, it was limited indeed.

I first became involved in the environmental movement when I joined Friends of the Earth as a student in 1973, after reading a book entitled "Did We Save the Earth at Stockholm?" on the first environmental conference. The book's overwhelming conclusion was no. Twenty years later, if Friends of the Earth published a book, "Did We Save the Earth at Rio?", the answer would have to remain as firmly negative.

In respect of the Earth's immense history, the past 20 years are a mere twinkling and would not be thought to matter much, but in terms of the amount of change in the Earth's biosphere, the past 20 years have been significant indeed and have seen a greater rate of flux than perhaps at any time in our planet's life. I say "planet's life', because many ecologists now find it reasonable to refer to the planet as though it were a living organism with a life of its own.

The Gaia hypothesis, so called, is a useful intellectual tool to examine the Earth's problems. In the past 20 years, the thin habitable skin that covers the globe has seen a probable half degree rise in mean temperature. It has lost a significant part of its remaining forest and has seen a reduction of 15 per cent. or more in its polar ice cover in the northern hemisphere. It has seen the development of northern and southern holes in its protective ozone layer. It has lost significant proportions of its fertile soil to erosion and has seen the quickening growth of deserts. It has seen industrial pollution more than double and the population of the organism responsible for that—the dominant animal on the land surface—increase from 3.5 billion to 5.5 billion today.

Twenty years is not a long time for all that to happen, but at this rate of change the Earth, or its biosphere, will not have long left. The biosphere will remain, but not in the form that it is now or in a form that can sustain as many human beings who now live on it, let alone those who will live on it.

The rate of change is indeed quick, but it is not a constant rate of change. As the world's population continues to expand, demands on the planet's resources grow with it and the overall consumption of resources by each member of the population grows. Therefore, planetary change is accelerating at an exponential rate. No system can endure such demands for long, certainly no natural system.

Rio failed to meet its responsibilities. By not even discussing population, it failed to address the most central of all the problems set before it. The Minister referred to Rio embarking on the start of an evolutionary process to prevent damage to the Earth. The phrase that he used may indeed be accurate. It reveals the problem. The world's biosphere is not embarked on an evolutionary process; it is embarked on a revolutionary one.

The most significant agreement reached at Rio was on the control of total carbon emissions, but according to the most optimistic forecast, even if countries meet their obligations, total emissions are set to increase by a fifth before the end of the millennium. At the rate of evolutionary slowing down, total emissions will double in the next 30 years at a revolutionary pace. The conditional targets set by Britain are inadequate. Why does not the Minister adopt the unilateral action taken by countries such as Denmark and Holland or even reduce total targets for carbon emissions, as New Zealand has done?

As the very first country to embark on an industrial revolution, should not we be the first to begin the environmental revolution and not use evolution as a way of opting out of our true responsibilities?

8.10 pm
Mr. Gary Streeter (Plymouth, Sutton)

I am grateful to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity to contribute to the debate. I should like to be the first Conservative Member to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Luff) on an excellent maiden speech of some quality but laced with humour, which is always an excellent way to begin in the Chamber.

The hon. Member for Cardiff, Central (Mr. Jones) asked, did we save the world at Rio? Although I listened carefully, I am not sure what his answer was, but I think that he answered his own question by saying no. Clearly, we did not save the world at Rio, but we made a most promising start.

One of the most encouraging aspects of the past five or 10 years is the attitude of our young people towards the environment. Many youngsters were interested in the Rio conference. My children, aged 11 and 10, are very environmentally aware in a way that I was not at that age, and I find it very encouraging. When I changed my car a year or 18 months ago, my children insisted that I bought one that ran on unleaded petrol. They blackmailed me by saying that they would refuse to ride in the car if it did not use unleaded petrol. It may be only a small gesture, but such attitudes are beginning to prevail, which is encouraging. Much credit for that must go to programmes such as John Craven's "Newsround" and other excellent educational programmes which project the environmental message.

I wish to mention two specific aspects of the Rio conference. The first is overseas aid. I am not sure that it was thrashed out at Rio as much as it might have been, as it is clearly significant for this country. I have strong views on the subject and firmly believe that it is wrong to spend taxpayers' money on propping up or assisting corrupt or inefficient third-world countries and Governments. We must be clear about our thinking on this issue.

Earlier this week, I was happy to lunch with an old colleague from university who now lives in Zimbabwe. He told me that Zimbabwe or Zambia recently borrowed a great deal of money from the European bank for reconstruction and development at an interest rate of 3 or 4 per cent. Lending money to a third-world country at that rate of interest sounds wonderful, but my colleague said that that country's Government are lending the money on again to various commercial projects at commercial rates of interest. The Government are keeping the difference, which is a substantial sum. With that low interest loan, which I believe is called a soft loan, we are in effect giving money to a Government who may be highly inefficient and we have no control over what they spend their money on.

We must consider overseas aid very carefully. Wherever possible, we should ensure that our money reaches the project for which it was intended. Perhaps that can be done directly, although one can understand the difficulties of interfering directly in the affairs of another country when lending or giving money to a new village project or new factory projects. Perhaps we could become involved through the agencies which already exist and which know the countries well.

It is very difficult to give wisely from a distance, but it is important to ensure that we are not propping up inefficient or corrupt Governments. I was encouraged to learn that our excellent Minister for Overseas Development, Lady Chalker, re-emphasised that point when she said recently: The promotion of good government is as much about carrots as sticks. Where the principles of good government are deliberately and persistently flouted, all aid except for humanitarian purposes can and will be cut off. That may seem tough, but it is important to be clear in our thinking.

A second aspect is our relations generally with third-world countries. We sometimes suffer from an immense sense of guilt about what we as a nation have done in the past few hundred years. One might say, "Rightly so", and I should be the first to agree that this country has done some shameful things to other countries. I was amazed to learn that slave trading was abolished only about 200 years ago. It is absolutely incredible to think that only 200 years ago we were party to the buying and selling of other human beings, irrespective of colour or origin.

We as a nation have been involved in some pretty awful practices, but that sometimes colours our approach to our relationships with third-world and developing nations now. However, the past is the past and we must put it behind us. We must learn how to build a proper relationship with third-world and developing countries now.

One of the most important lessons to be learnt is that different is not wrong. We must learn to respect other cultures. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the great missionary movement of the early Church used to export not only Christianity but our culture, and it did not work. Different is not wrong, and we must respect the diversity of the cultures of other nations.

I shall use the remaining minutes allowed to me to deal with our approach to building proper relationships with the developing world. First, as I said, it is important that we do not prop up inefficient Governments. Secondly, we must do something about the debt burden. It is nonsense to continue to require nations to pay us interest and to repay capital when they do not have the money to do so.

Thirdly, we must encourage the developing nations to help themselves. That principle runs all the way through our Conservative philosophy. We encourage the poeople of this nation to help themselves, and the same principle is applicable to third world nations. It is no good lending money and allowing nations to spend it on whatever they want. It is important to encourage third world agriculture and enterprise, new factories and new business. That should be our approach to third world aid.

I hope that I know a little about farming because I was brought up on a farm. I know that one gets from the soil what one puts in, and we must help the developing countries to use the right ingredients in their farming to get out of the soil that which will sustain a viable crop and their animal stocks. Such issues need to be considered in a radical way, although I was encouraged by the progress made at Rio.

My final subject is global warming and some of the potential disasters facing the planet. One of the things about which I feel most strongly is that the greatest threat of all to the planet is over-population. Too many people are chasing the world's finite resources. We hear of incredible problems coming out of India and Africa. How many of those problems are exacerbated by overpopulation? We need to address our minds urgently to encouraging a new approach, a new culture, and a fresh look at some of the ideological reasons why family planning and contraception are not as widespread as one would like.

It is important that we as a nation seek to persuade other countries to get to grips with family planning issues. This country may have adequate family planning; we may not experience over-population here—but we all inhabit the same planet as the other nations which have those massive problems.

Mr. Jon Owen Jones

I thank the hon. Member for giving way—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I am sorry, but I was about to call the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Streeter) to order under the 10-minute rule, so I am afraid that what the hon. Member for Cardiff, Central (Mr. Jones) wants to say cannot be dealt with now.

8.20 pm
Mr. Alan W. Williams (Carmarthen)

I thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for giving me the chance to make a few comments in the second debate on the Earth summit. We have heard some good speeches from both sides of the House, and I congratulate the hon. Members who have made maiden speeches—the hon. Members for Blackpool, North (Mr. Elletson), for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan), for Brentford and Isleworth (Mr. Deva), and for Worcester (Mr. Luff).

I was pleased that there was discussion during the Rio summit on the global warming convention, and broad agreement. It has taken 10 to 20 years for the scientists who found the evidence to persuade politicians and the people who matter that the planet faces a major problem. If nothing else, at least the preparatory conferences for Rio and the agreement reached recognised that a tremendous challenge faces us over the next few decades.

It would be one step in the right direction if we could achieve stabilisation by the year 2000. Unfortunately, the commitment to stabilisation is not legally binding. The legally binding commitment was dropped on the insistence of the United States. Earlier in the debate, in exchanges between the Secretary of State for the Environment and my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor), I noticed some weasel words on the part of the Department of the Environment and of this country—and, I dare say, on the part of the United States and some of the other countries which signed the treaty.

I wish that a Minister from the Department of the Environment were here to wind up the debate, but perhaps the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, who is here, will relay my question to the Department of the Environment. How binding is the commitment to stabilisation by the year 2000? I know that it is not legally binding, but do the Government feel tied by the agreement? If they do, the Department should publish plans showing how it intends to achieve the target.

Some of the measures on energy efficiency which the Government should adopt were summarised by my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury. The Opposition have many ideas, and so have the representatives of non-governmental organisations, such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and the Association for the Conservation of Energy. The Department is honour bound to publish plans on how it intends to achieve stabilisation by the year 2000.

I noted that my neighbour, the hon. Member for Cerdigion and Pembroke (Mr. Dafis), said in an intervention that stabilisation was not enough. Stabilisation is a good euphemistic word, because it implies some kind of steady state, but that is not the case —stabilisation is just the difficult first step. The next step is even more difficult. All that stabilisation means is that in the year 2000 the output of carbon dioxide will be no higher than in 1990. However, the total amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will go on increasing. Cuts of about 60 per cent. in carbon dioxide emissions will be needed in the early party of the next century if we are to avoid the worst dangers of global warming.

We were all disappointed by the role of the United States at Rio. It was the United States which vetoed the binding commitment on carbon dioxide emissions, and which refused to sign the biodiversity treaty. It is sad to see the United States taking such a position, because over the decades that country has taught us a great deal about environmental protection. It set up an environmental protection agency decades ago. On motor exhaust fumes, unleaded petrol, catalytic converters, energy efficiency, and so on, the United States policy of least-cost planning should be adopted here. On its internal environment the United States has a lot to be proud of, and the world can learn a lot from it. We were therefore especially disappointed to see the United States taking such a recalcitrant role in the preparations for the summit—especially, as a Conservative Member said, in view of the Gulf war and the United States' role as leader of the new world order rather than simply as an economic superpower. At the Rio summit the United States failed badly in terms of that leadership. Let us hope that that was only a temporary blip caused by the presidential election. If there is a change of leadership soon, perhaps the United States will resume its normal course on environmental issues.

Unfortunately, in the preparatory stages, Britain hid behind the skirts of the United States and used that country's veto as an excuse to slow down what the other European countries wanted to do.

One good piece of news that came out of the summit was the attitude of Japan, with its enormous balance of payments surpluses and billions of dollars to spend in the world economy. Japan was the most willing to put that money to good account in relation to the environment and development. It is a pity that other countries were not willing to invest the same megabucks as Japan.

Germany is showing us in Europe a great deal on environmental issues, despite the economic problems of reunification. It is sad that Britain cannot be there with Germany in the forefront of progress in the EC.

I shall say something about the aid budget and Agenda 21. In the preparatory stages, the bill for the biodiversity treaty and for the kind of support that developing countries wanted was estimated at about $125 billion. It is disappointing to see at the end of the summit pledged aid of only about $6 billion—barely 4 or 5 per cent. of what is needed to tackle the problems. Britain's extra contribution to the global environment facility of £100 million sounds good, and I am pleased that it is new money—we are assured that that £100 million is extra to the overseas development budget—but £100 million is only 0.02 per cent. of our gross domestic product and it does not go one tenth of the way to make up for the savage cuts made in that budget in the early 1980s.

I think that I can speak for everyone in the House when I say that during our formative years the great fear was the east-west cold war confrontation—Russia and communism versus capitalism. As an insurance policy, we used to devote 4 or 5 per cent. or more of our wealth towards defending ourselves against that calamity. It is marvellous to see the changes that have taken place in eastern Europe in the last few years. That has released a new peace dividend. I know that there are many calls on the money. The purpose of the expenditure on defence was to protect us. Over the next 10 or 20 years, in an atmosphere of far more co-operation in which we can live at peace with one another internationally, I hope that defence expenditure can come down to 4 per cent., then to 3 per cent. and, in 10 or 20 years, to 2 per cent. of our wealth.

The major calls on the peace dividend must be the north-south divide and the global environment. I urge that point and I am sure that the consensus view in Britain is that problems of the global environment and problems of developing countries are of such a size that we should devote not just 0.32 per cent. of our wealth to them, but 1 per cent. or even 2 per cent. within the next decade.

8.30 pm
Mr. Hartley Booth (Finchley)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who is not here, on helping to lead the world to the meeting in Rio. I pay great tribute to him and to the other world leaders who started the initiative. The fact that 114 leaders came together on such an important topic was in itself a great achievement.

I will adress the financial consequences of the four or five issues that follow from Rio. It behoves those of us who are concerned about the environment to apply our minds to how we should pay for improvements in the world environment. First, there is the global environment facility and, secondly, the question of dealing with world poverty. Unless we deal with that problem, we shall not be able to deal with the environment.

The third issue was not addressed in Rio. I hope that the message going out from this Parliament will be that it is necessary to look for ways of identifying self-interest so that the countries that are concerned about the environment can persuade poorer countries that they have means at their own disposal to improve the environment. Fourthly, there is the question of compensation, which was touched on by some of my colleagues and, fifthly, there is recycling, which was debated at length and with great wisdom last Friday in the House.

The global environment facility will remain as the sole multinational body to finance signed conventions. We have all been told that $2 billion to $3 billion of extra money will be committed to that. The United Kingdom's role in providing £100 million towards that is significant, but should also be seen in the context of what we have provided for some years.

In the 1980s, for example we provided £800 million to improve the way in which our power stations operated. They had been heavily criticised for pumping out sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That £800 million, little noised abroad and little known about, was part of the major achievement of the 1980s of improving our environment and the world environment. The emissions used to be swept up into the upper atmosphere and then across to Europe or North America. In Rio, we are building on what has been done before, not least by this country. We, especially the Conservative party, have a proud record in the area, which goes back over 100 years of environmental legislation.

The way in which we must tackle world poverty has been addressed by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. In Canada, he helped to lead the challenge of the world debt rescheduling. His seeking to have the £17 billion rescheduled was a major step. I hope that it will be built on in future and that other countries will push the matter forward.

We have accepted that 0.7 per cent. of gross national product will go to help the third world, which is also important. What is rarely said is that people in this country who give voluntarily to the third world should have their gifts aggregated with the 0.3 per cent. of GNP which we already give. If one aggregates the two parts or our donations, we already meet the United Nations target—[Interruption.] Hon. Members may cough. Those who give voluntarily should not be denigrated. Conservative Members believe that to give to charity is a proud thing and we are not ashamed of that.

Self-interest is the third aspect of the matter. If we consider the Ngorongoro crater or the parts of Africa where ivory is still sought by the hunters, what stares us in the face is the pressing need for the countries involved to see tourism as their goal. They would not then destroy their elephants, but would instead see hotels and the money that flows from tourism as a far better source of revenue than secretly selling ivory on the Hong Kong market or elsewhere. We need to find ways in which to explain to poorer countries that it is in their interests to improve their environment.

The other matter of relevance to finance is compensation. Conservative Members have been proud to push through an economic policy based on the free market. One apparent exception from the free market is compensation, although it does not deviate from the free-market concept. It adds to it and is highly relevant for all areas of the environment. It is important in removing the pollution in inner cities, with which I have dealt, in removing the pollution left by wasteful businesses in the past and in removing pollution from what is being pushed into the upper atmosphere by negligent businesses around the world.

It behoves Heads of Government and those of us who are concerned about the environment to get together to ensure that there is international agreement on how we shall extract compensation from those who are responsible for soiling our world environment.

8.37 pm
Mr. Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie)

In preparing for the debate, I was extremely disappointed by the Rio summit because it ignored the population issue. When I heard speeches from the Front Benches, I feared that that trend would continue. In fact, contributions from the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway), from the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel), from the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Clifton-Brown), from my hon. Friends the Members for Cardiff, Central (Mr. Jones) and for Glasgow, Central (Mr. Watson) and from the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Streeter) have meant that it has been the most frequently mentioned theme in the debate, which is gratifying.

I cannot believe that any of the other problems can be solved unless spiralling population growth is brought under control. I cannot see how it is possible to deal with world pollution, with the depletion of the ozone layer or with global warming; I cannot see how it is possible to get health improvements and water improvements; I cannot see how it is possible to deal with the problems of desertification or land degradation; I cannot see how it is possible to deal with the problem of migration and refugees; and I cannot see how it is possible to deal with fossil fuel depletion or, above all, with poverty unless we deal with the issue of population growth. Unless we can stabilise the population, the whole global life support system is threatened.

It is certain that the population will double by the middle of the next century. The fathers and mothers who will bring that about have already been born. If the population of the world doubles in the next 60 years, we know that it will go up by three or four times in the poorest sections of the world. More than 90 per cent. of the growth will be in the poorest sections of the world. The population of Ethiopia has increased from 20 million to 50 million since 1950.

People say in a callous way that famine will deal with the problem of population. But the 0.5 million people who died in Ethiopia in the famine of 1983–84 were replaced within six months. In Bangladesh, there were 312 people per square kilometre in 1950. By 2025, there will be 1,755 per square kilometre.

The future growth of the population is not conjecture. There will be a juggernaut of population growth for the next 50 to 100 years—it depends on how quickly we can turn it round. Why are we not reacting to population growth? It seems that we do not want to upset people, yet sometimes it becomes offensive not to speak simply because it would upset someone. If one is beside someone who is driving over a cliff, one ought at least to speak.

It seems that the people whom we are not to upset are the Americans, the Catholic Church and some sections of the Muslim world. In America, it is election year and President Bush is frightened of the pro-life movement. Shamefully, he contributes nothing to UNFPA—the United Nations population fund—or the International Planned Parenthood Federation. The pro-life issue must be dealt with. It seems to me a strange interpretation of "pro-life" that condemns millions upon millions of people to a nasty, short and brutish life and a grossly premature death. If one must choose a pro-life way of controlling the population, I choose family planning over starvation every time.

Other hon. Members have condemned the Catholic Church. I do not. I understand that its motives are of the highest morality and that it seeks to respect human life as much as human life deserves to be respected. But I ask the Catholic Church to think again. I do not believe that it is an act of love to destroy the world by giving it too many mouths to feed.

There is an extra dimension to the position of the Catholic Church on family planning. Catholics in Britain, in Europe and in the United States control their family sizes in much the same way as everyone else. The falling rolls in Catholic schools are exactly the same as in non-denominational schools. There is something morally objectionable about first-world Churchmen telling third-world paupers, "Do as I say, not as I do."

The position is not yet hopeless. A growing list of countries are turning their populations around. Thailand has been mentioned several times. But we must always stress the voluntary dimension: people must be given the choice. Listening to the debate, especially the speeches from Conservative Members, one receives the impression that the whole problem would be solved if condom depots were strategically placed everywhere. It is not so simple as that. Every family planning association in the world will say that that suggestion is nonsense. It takes a great deal of hard and patient work.

The centre point of activity must be the health and education of women. Women and their status must be at the centre of what we do. Women must be given the choice. Almost inevitably, in country after country in the world, if given the choice, women will choose to become a work unit rather than be simply a provider of work units. They will choose not to be defined by their sex. They will choose to have the same range of choices as men. We have only to compare the state of Kerala in southern India, where women's literacy, a falling birth rate and economic growth go together, with the mess in the northern Indian states.

I congratulate the Government—this hurts—on one matter. Baroness Chalker seems to understand the importance of family planning activities. Unfortunately, with the pittance that she is given by the Government, she must divert money to family planning activities from too small a budget. I hope that she will be successful in her attempt to obtain more money from the Government. There is no getting away from the need for family planning.

The hon. Member for Finchley (Mr. Booth) said that we should count the voluntary contributions made by the British people in Britain's total contribution. However, that is not what the United Nations says. It says that 0.7 per cent. of gross national product should be given by the Government. In all countries, people give donations privately. We cannot get away from the fact that, in 1979, we gave 0.51 per cent. of GNP in overseas aid. That fell to 0.27 per cent. last year. It has now risen to 0.3 per cent.

We must increase the amount of money spent on overseas aid and ensure that we are not frightened to speak out about population. We should regard population as a key issue in the environment and development debate.

8.45 pm
Mr. Iain Sproat (Harwich)

I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to speak in this important debate. It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington). Conservative Members were extremely grateful for the generous compliments that he paid to my noble Friend Baroness Chalker.

The hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not follow him in discussing what the Catholic church ought or ought not to recommend. I understand that we have only 10 minutes at this stage of the debate, so I shall cut my remarks short and concentrate on two aspects of the subject. The first is the amount of overseas aid that Britain gives and the way in which it has given it, before, during and following the Rio conference. Then I wish to say something about monitoring of aid. I hope that when my hon. Friend the Minister replies he will tell us a little more about exactly how that monitoring will be done in practice.

I wish to speak about overseas aid, because frequently —certainly at some of the meetings that I held during the recent general election campaign—there has been tremendous and entirely unjustified criticism of the Conservative party's record on overseas aid. It is right to put it on record that Britain gives the sixth largest amount of overseas aid of any country in the world. That is a record of which we can be proud. However, it is not simply the amount of money that we give that counts; it is to whom we give it and the projects at which we direct it.

We give a vast amount of money. Hon. Members on both sides of the House would like more money to be given, but, none the less, we give the sixth largest amount in the world. It is also fair to say that, more than most countries, Britain directs its aid to the poorest countries. Some people say that overseas aid should always or frequently be directed at countries that can provide some commercial benefit in return. Overseas aid is seen as a way to buy back benefits for this country. That is certainly a serious argument. Whether it is right or wrong, the fact is that no one can take the high moral line with this country and say, "You are only giving overseas aid because you get something back." We clearly do not. Our aid is directed at the poorest countries, from which we cannot hope to get a return on such an investment for many years to come —if one cares to view it that way. Whatever else may be criticised about our overseas aid programme, no one can criticise us for not behaving with a high morality.

I do not know when the policy started, but all the projects that benefit from British overseas aid are checked and monitored for their ecological effect. Once again, all those people who may be disposed to criticise the Conservative party for not being sufficiently ecology minded or for not giving enough money ought to realise that we give a large amount of money to the poorest countries in the world and, as far as we are able, we ensure that ecological damage does not flow from the money that we give. I want to put that on the record.

My right hon. and noble Friend Baroness Chalker recently put aside about £50 million within our overseas aid budget to encourage good government, as we see it, and good democratic practices in other countries. I welcome that very much. It might be said that that is linking overseas aid to something, but it is linking it to democratic practices, rather than directly to commerce. I should have thought that that would commend itself to both sides of the House.

I have been checking on a number of recent projects that will benefit from that £50 million budget which my right hon. and noble Friend is setting aside. In Zambia, about £5 million is to be spent on developing local government structures. In Zimbabwe £1.4 million is being provided for police training. In Uganda about £780,000 is being made available to improve the judicial system and, in Nepal and Bangladesh, about £50,000 has been set aside to help to ensure free and democratic elections. That is a sensible way to direct overseas aid. My right hon. and noble Friend, the Government and previous Conservative Governments ought to take full credit for that.

People, both in the House and outside it, who are disposed to criticise the Government should remember what we have done. Even though they may say that we should do more, let them remember that it is no mean position to be the sixth largest donor in the world.

I listened to the extremely interesting speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mr. Booth) with great attention. He said that although our country—and almost every other country; no doubt my hon. Friend the Minister will be able to give us the figures—has not reached the United Nations target, we have gone a long way towards it, and private charities should rightly to be taken into account.

Dr. Roger Berry (Kingswood)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Sproat

I only have a few minutes left.

Madam Deputy Speaker

One minute.

Mr. Sproat

Do I have one minute left, Madam Deputy Speaker? Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will forgive me on this occasion. He can make a speech another time.

My hon. Friend the Member for Finchley mentioned the word charity. As the hon. Member f+or Clydebank and Milngavie said, the UN did not include in its percentage a contribution from the private sector. In this country we have a tradition of private giving to charity which is not common throughout the world. Obviously, people in other countries do it, but we have a strong tradition of private giving to charity. It is quite wrong to write that down or to push it to one side. In many ways, giving out of one's private pocket takes a higher degree of virtue than coughing up from corporate funds, or passing a motion in the House to give money from Government funds. My hon. Friend rightly said that private charities should be taken into account and we British can be proud of what we give, both as a Government and privately.

Since my time is drawing to a close I must mention monitoring. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister took a lead by going to Rio. People criticise the Conservative party, but my right hon. Friend was one of the first to make it clear that he would go, when European Commissioners were saying that they would not. It is typical of him that he said that it was all very well to stand up at a publicised conference in the presence of television cameras and the journalists of the world and say, "We will do this", and to make ever more grandiose promises. My hon. Friends have listed the promises that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that we would fulfil, but he said more than that. He said that we would monitor what we do and what others do. I hope that in one and two years' time the House will have the opportunity to find out what the British Government have done and which of the Governments who made grandiose promises have come up to them. Of one thing I am sure—the British Government will be one of those who come up to their promises.

8.56 pm
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Paolo e Tarso Flecha de Lima, the Brazilian ambassador who did so much for the conference—a passionate conservationist who has been my friend since I went to his office when he was head of the Brazilian Foreign Office in Brasilia in 1989—told me last night: Well, we came through Rio without a scratch. First, I should like it to be recorded that some of us are grateful to the state of Brazil and to the city of Rio de Janeiro for having staged an event which is, or could be, a watershed in human affairs. Our thanks go to the state of Brazil. I should have liked to hear this afternoon my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd), who went there to represent the Labour party.

Secondly, I must clarify the Government's position, following the good speech by the Secretary of State for the Environment, which I listened to extremely attentively, at the natural history museum yesterday.

Is not the main thrust of our policy that we should help developing countries to build up their own expertise? We can do that by repatriating information. As Robin Pellew put it, it is a question of getting information into the hands of the southern hemisphere so that the people there can appreciate and use it. It is a question of enabling all nations to take care of their own biological treasures, which means giving them information technology. I should like a letter from the Secretary of State to confirm that that is his priority. I want to know that I have got that single point right, and that that is the main thrust of what the Government are trying to do in the Darwin initiative.

I have several questions. First, what is the expected time scale in relation to the Darwin initiative? Secondly, what is the exact mechanism of support? Thirdly, are we talking about £5 million or £2 million for the Darwin initiative?

Yesterday, Michael McCarthy of The Times asked the Secretary of State about money. The Secretary of State said that it was a bit early to be specific and that the sums available would be the result of negotiations. The same question was put by Paul Brown of The Guardian, who picked up the Secretary of State on the fact that, as some of us had in our notes, the right hon. and learned Gentleman had said that "up to" £100 million was available. He thought that that was new money. Can we be clear about those two little words "up to"? Are we talking about £100 million of new money or not?

There was a lot of talk at Rio about £25 million extra for institutional capabilities. If such money is available, what is the time scale for the expenditure? Will it be spent in Burkina Faso, or wherever, or in the United Kingdom?

We must mobilise our genetic biotechnologies to help the developing countries to do the work for themselves. The key question is whether it is of more benefit in terms of value for money to give such funds as are available to the Darwin initiative or to the global environment facility. Christoph Imboden has said that we must be seen to make the GEF credible. I agree, but I have a hunch that the Darwin initiative could, potentially, be the best value for money of all. It is a matters of giving help and funding on a sectoral basis. How will we ensure that the Darwin initiative is properly monitored?

My fourth question relates to the experience of Christoph Imboden, who argues from his experience that we should tackle matters through local problems related to integrated land use and that, above all else, one should undertake programmes that involve the local people. I am not suggesting that that has not been done before, because in certain areas the Overseas Development Administration has an extremely good record: For example, it has done good work in the Kilum mountain forests in Cameroon and in the lowland rain forest in Thailand at Khao-Nor Chuchi.

What exactly is meant by the "network of protected areas"? The Secretary of State referred to that when he spoke at the natural history museum yesterday and he used that phrase again today. If we are to have such protected areas, they should be endorsed through the IUCN—the International Union for the Conservation of Natural Resources—and Martin Holdgate, for the very reasons given by Martin Holdgate in Kensington yesterday.

What is the timetable for the work, because we do not want any unnecessary bureaucratic waiting around? How are the Government going to list their own resources? Whoever else went to Rio, I should have thought that the Joint Nature Conservation Committee should have been represented by Dr. O'Connor. Some explanation must be given, either now or later, as to the precise mechanism for listing those resources.

Statutory provision for the protection of vulnerable habitats and protected species should be strengthened so that we set an example in the United Kingdom. Such a policy is endorsed strongly by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which wants a strategy to be developed to ensure the environmentally sensitive use of our countryside.

Fifthly, what about the educational component of the Darwin initiative? Kew already runs an MSc course and Edinburgh university and the Royal Botanic gardens are to start an MSc course on biodiversity and tropical rainforests from October. Can those institutions expect some help from the Darwin initiative? The House should remember that Kew has the best laboratory in the world for molecular systematics, the largest seed bank in the world and, as the Minster knows, many other impressive facilities.

My sixth question relates to the speech given by the Secretary of State at the natural history museum. Yesterday, he said—I do not think that I have got him wrong: The Convention will require us to keep our system under review, and we shall do so. By what method will that review be carried out?

Seventhly, the Secretary of State said: As well as the sponsors of this event, there are university departments, research councils and learned societies. Britain's commerce is strong in animal and plant conservation and in breeding and in the development of new pharmaceuticals. That raises the question of intellectual property rights, which are the moral property of indigenous peoples. How can we give the indigenous peoples what is theirs?

I had the honour of taking Chief Paulinho Paikan, who is now in some difficulties, to see Mr. Speaker Weatherill and played my part in hosting his visit to Britain. From that and other experiences, it is clear that there is a strong feeling that people with thousands of years of Amazonian or other forest experience in medicines should be rewarded for their expertise.

The Lord Chancellor is personally deeply interested in the question of intellectual property rights; not only does he have a distinguished scientific background and is able to understand the issues, but he is also a distinguished lawyer. This is an opportunity to ask him to apply his mind, which I am sure he would do, to the question of intellectual property rights.

My eighth question is about the interdepartmental action group. I strongly agreed with the Secretary of State when he said that Rio was part of an ongoing process and was not an event. The interdepartmental action group should ask whether the Government intend to create a United Kingdom national consultation committee on sustainability, as suggested at Rio, what plans the Government will report to the commission on the status of rare and vulnerable species and habitats and, in particular, what action will be taken to report to the commission on the status of Britain's lowland peat bogs, which are being rapidly destroyed by the horticulture industry, and heathlands, which are disappearing through development and neglect.

My ninth point follows an earlier interruption of mine. I want to know what instructions have been given to the distinguished forester Ron Kemp, who will be going to Malaysia on 12 July. I urge that he should take into account the representations made at the Oxford forestry conference and elsewhere by David Norman of D. and M. Norman, the timber merchants of Linwood, who have been the driving force for the Scottish hardware wood charter, of which David Bellamy and I are trustees.

It is unreal to expect countries not to export valuable resources from their forests and we have no right to ask it of them because they need foreign exchange. The problem is how to tackle the issue, so I want to know whether Ron Kemp will take with him the various ideas that have been developed by David Norman.

My tenth question concerns what will go on in Glasgow next week at the international whaling conference. Again, there could be a British lead, telling the Norwegians, the Icelanders and the Japanese that to talk about the need to catch whales for purposes of scientific research is hypocritical garbage, and in no circumstances should they be allowed to get away with that.

I reviewed for The Sunday times a book by Sonny Ramphal in which he wrote: We cannot save the freshness of the air or the purity of the water or the goodness of the earth, we cannot save the forests or the elephants or the whales, unless we save the people. We cannot ask endangered people to rescue the planet from the many threats it faces unless we link Earth's salvation to their own. Poverty threatens the survival of the poorest. To appeal to them to join in saving the planet is pointless unless we link it to their own survival. Simply to tell those at the margin of existence not to cut down the forest and not to have many children when they see both as necessary to their survival is to be not only insensitive to their predicament but also downright provocative. The poor need to share in the human commitment to change so that life on the planet can be sustainable for all. But to make an appeal for that commitment credible, the rest of the world must address not merely its own salvation but the relief of poverty as well. We must save the many who are poor because they are poor; it may well be the surest way of saving the few who are rich. Rio must be ongoing, but on the understanding that we are helping the countries of the south to help themselves and seeking to repatriate the expertise, some of which originally came from them, which resides in Kew and the Royal Botanic gardens. The least that we can do is to pay it back.

9.10 pm
Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

The interesting debate this evening has been much enriched by the contributions of many of my hon. Friends and Conservative Members. We have heard four maiden speeches, from the hon. Members for Blackpool, North (Mr. Elletson), for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan), for Brentford and lsleworth (Mr. Deva) and for Worcester (Mr. Lull). They were all memorable speeches, and we look forward to hearing from those hon. Members again in the future. I hope that, when they speak on these matters, it will not be because the Whips have dragged them in after 8 o'clock, as has happened during our debate this evening.

The Rio conference, which attracted representatives from 140 countries, tens of thousands of visitors, world leaders, and a major presence by the international non-governmental organisation movement at the Global Forum, has succeeded in raising consciousness on issues of the world environment and development. The Earth summit has succesfully knitted together a development and environmental agenda which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. Watson) said, is so important, that it should be replicated in the structure of Government Departments dealing with those matters in the United Kingdom.

It has exposed the hollow nature of concern expressed by the developed world for third world development. Countries have desperately cast around in search of spurious justifications for failing to fund the mammoth task of easing the path toward sustainable development. Two thirds of the planet has been let down.

The Rio agenda is the unavoidable agenda of the 1990s and over the millenium. We must deal with poverty, as suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms. Abbott). If we avoid redressing the imbalance between north and south, we shall spark off huge movements of population from underdeveloped to developed countries, from north to south, and we shall provoke a political backlash of immense proportions, fuelled by bigotry and racial tensions. We need look no further than developments in parts of central Europe to see the writing on the wall. The collapse of the command economies, with the consequent poverty, is exerting immeasurable strain on the internal political dynamics of a number of west European states.

A failure to deliver on Rio will inevitably lead to the development of a number of fortress power blocs, ring fencing much of central and western Europe, the United States and developing parts of south-east Asia. The most recent United Nations report states: Ahead lie four decades of the fastest growth in human numbers in all history. It predicts an increase in world population from 5.5 billion to 10 billion in the next 60 years. How can the world absorb 4,500 million people in conditions of sustainable development and yet, at the same time, preserve the environment for all mankind? That is what the Rio argument is all about.

The cry of the third world to developed countries is, "Cut your over-consumption of the world's scarce resources." The response of the industrialised nations is, "Cut your population increase." Rio failed to find a meeting of minds. The unpalatable truth is that a question mark hangs over the developed world's preoccupation with growth at any price. A massive flow of funds must be organised in favour of the third world, which will cost us.

The Prime Minister has said: Money is the root of all progress". Tonight I wish to concentrate my remarks on money and the shift of resources from north to south. The United Nations' target of 0.7 per cent. of gross national product has been with us for 18 years. Whereas a Labour Government, in the most hostile economic conditions, dramatically increased aid from 0.38 per cent. to 0.51 per cent. of GNP—a 30 per cent. increase in real terms in five years—the present Government cut the budget almost in half during the following 11 years. Some £11.7 billion in real terms was removed from the overseas development aid budget.

To hide their attack on the aid budget, the Government have persisted in deliberately misleading Parliament by twisting statistics, wriggling on commitments, manipulating development agendas, hiding behind spurious arguments on quality and targeting, skewing aid budgets in favour of the needs of British industry, not the needs of the world's poor, and blaming European institutions—the United Nations and anyone else they can find—when their programmes fail through cock-ups orchestrated in Whitehall.

The Government have tampered with critical evaluation reports in bungled attempts to hide from Parliament the truth of their failures. They have marginalised overseas development by turning the ODA into a Whitehall sideshow under a Minister in the House of Lords. It is a litany of obfuscation that breaches the amicable consensus based on trust that has been built up over decades between the two Front Bench teams on an extremely sensitive issue.

The Labour party is tired of the deceit. Probably the worst example of statistical twisting came on 3 June, when the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs said: In 1978–79, the net aid programme was £727 million". —[Official Report, 3 June 1992; Vol. 208, c. 917.] He said that it rose to nearly £1,800 million by 1991–92. Does the Minister remember saying that? That was a cruel abuse of statistics, which was repeated in Prime Minister's questions on 9 June. What the Minister failed to say was that he was quoting and comparing cash figures. His proposition was ludicrous; it was as daft as comparing the salary of a Member of Parliament in 1978 of less than £7,000 with a Member's salary of more than £30,000 in 1992, while ignoring inflation.

Is the Minister actually saying that hon. Members' salaries have increased four-fold during the past 13 years? If the Government want to use some bogus statistics, will the Minister confirm that, on the same measure, income tax has risen from a take of £23 billion in 1978–79 to £77 billion in 1991–92? Is he saying that income tax has more than tripled under the Tories? Curiously enough, even under that stupid measure, aid has been cut, as the cash total for 1978–79 has not increased by a factor of three.

We are seeing bottom-of-the-barrel politics. Another statistical manipulation came in an answer given by the Prime Minister to my right hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock), the Leader of the Opposition, on 2 June, when he said: We have dramatically increased in real terms the amount of aid"—[Official Report, 2 June 1992; Vol. 208, c. 703.] Let us compare that with the Prime Minister's revised answer, given on 15 June, when, realising his earlier error, he changed his mind: The aid programme has increased by 8 per cent. since 1987–88. Even that was a distortion of the record. What the Prime Minister refused to admit was that, in the period 1979–90, real-terms allocations had been cut by 33 per cent. —and whose figures were those?

The right hon. Gentleman's wholly misleading responses were further aggravated when the Government started suggesting that Britain was the world's sixth largest donor. That is just another game with statistics. We are the sixth largest donor—we may even be the fifth largest, as the Development Assistance Committee report appears to suggest; but the reason for our rating is that, after the United States, Japan, France and Italy, we are the largest OECD economy. So nothing less is to be expected. What really matters is how our aid volumes compare with countries above and below us in terms of GNP.

France, with only a slightly larger GNP—even discounting debt forgiveness—spends two and a half times what we spend on official aid. Germany spends more than twice as much. Canada, with a GNP and population half the size of ours, spends nearly as much as we do. The Netherlands, with a population a quarter the size of ours, spends nearly as much as we do. Sweden, with a population one sixth the size of ours, spends three quarters as much as we do. Tiny Denmark, with a GNP one seventh the size of the United Kingdom's, spends nearly half what we do. These volume comparisons expose the hollowness of the Government's aid volume arguments. They are a sham.

Comparative proportions of GNP that we spend on aid are far more relevant. They are the real index of generosity. They show that, despite growing public concern and the fact that we are the world's sixth largest GNP economy, we are the world's 15th most miserly donor. The figures are devastating.

As for the flow of funds between the third world and the United Kingdom, historically we have given more in official assistance than we have received in bank repayments—a matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn). In 1990, however, the position was dramatically reversed. For the first time, the flow of money to developing countries was negative: the United Kingdom received more money in bank repayments than it gave in aid, investment or new loans. When this fact first emerged, the Government wriggled. They tried to argue that the figures did not include debt write-off. When pressed for the write-off figures, the Government claimed they were market-sensitive.

This has been a saga of Government deceit over aid, and it has continued for the past 13 years. The last refuge of the political scoundrel is to hide himself away under a smokescreen of distorted statistics and manipulated facts.

I move on to the wider Rio agenda. The Prime Minister announced there that Britain planned to spend substantial extra resources on forestry conservation, biodiversity, energy efficiency, population planning, agriculture and the 10th replenishment of the IDA fund. The Government, we are told, have earmarked £100 million for the global environment facility, not over one year but over three—about £35 million a year. Will that £100 million and the other Rio commitments be truly additional money? Will there be a revision of the three-year projections in the public expenditure White Paper? If the answer is that the forecasts are not to be revised and that additionality is to be funded out of the planned increases, then no additional money will be provided at all, and Rio promises will have been transformed into Rio rhetoric. Will the White Paper be revised to cover all the Rio promises—yes or no?

My hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) dealt with the environmental aspects of the Rio agenda. Throughout the debate, we have heard repeated references to the environmental crisis facing the planet. However, there have been few signs of how the Government intend to meet their targets. We know that back-room deals were done to stitch agreements on biodiversity, global climate changes and forestry—all riddled with get-out clauses.

Agenda 21 provided us with a number of initiatives, including the Sustainable Development Commission. I pay tribute to the Government for the part that they played in promoting these initiatives, some of which were positive. However, they failed to address the question how the $40 billion bill for funding Agenda 21 was to be paid. Furthermore, the extremely important issue of world trade was sidestepped and was left to be resolved in the GATT discussions, now on the verge of collapse. If Rio cannot deliver, and GATT breaks down, what happens to the £40 billion increased world trade that the under-developed countries were expecting?

The topics covered by Agenda 21 that are of particular interest to me are the chapters on deforestation and toxic waste. Rio appears to have left consideration of these matters to the Commission and nations to deal with in further multinational and bilateral discussions. The problem with adopting such an approach is that further delay means the further rape of the forest, the further plunder of environmental resources and the green light for the developed countries to exercise their economic muscle and further exploit the weaknesses of third-world countries.

Let me give the House an example. Some weeks ago, hon. Gentlemen may recall a little-reported item by Mr. Damien Lewis in the national media concerning the importation of a shipment of 1,500 cu ft of alerce, a timber from Chile's temperate rain forest. Timbmet, an Oxford company, imported the wood in contravention of appendix 1 of the convention on international trade in endangered species and in breach of the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act 1976. The timber was seized by Customs and Excise.

Timbmet is a multi-million pound company, well known in the trade. It should be prosecuted. The question is: is it reasonable for the major shareholders and directors of this company to be able to hide behind anonymity in their local communities, enjoying all the respectability of a comfortable respected and well-heeled life style, when behind this thin veneer of social acceptability is to be found dependency on a company that profits through exploiting endangered and protected species in the developing world?

All the treaties and conventions in the world are meaningless if first-world enterprise runs roughshod over the interests that we are trying to protect. The individual directors—Messrs. Boustead, Greenbury, Kemp and Kemp of Oxford—should be publicly held accountable for the irresponsible acts of Timbmet.

If Rio cannot deliver and the conventions are to be breached, the environmental movement should consider a policy of publicly identifying those who are culpable. I would call it an exercise in environmental "outing". If that was adopted by the environmental movement, it would send a shiver down the spines of all those who are so readily prepared to turn a quick buck, regardless of the cost to the environment. [Laughter]. Hon. Members may laugh, but Rio failed in these cases.

I have another case. ITN journalist Sue Lloyd Roberts recently reported on the actions of a company called Thor Chemicals in the South African so-called black homeland of Kwazulu. This company is a subsidiary of Thor Chemical Holdings, a company with a £27 million turnover, registered in the United Kingdom at Margate in Kent. Last year, it reported profits of £1.5 million. Its Kwazulu operation has been involved with mercury waste recycling and production. It trades with the United Kingdom and the United States, but at what cost? Its mercury processes have become so dangerous that in part they are being closed down. More than 60 of its workers have been subjected to mercury-related poisoning and related illnesses. A loss of limb control and co-ordination, slurred speech and mental illness characterise those conditions. Its huge belching incinerator has contributed to the despoiling of a whole environment, including waterways and the surrounding countryside.

The company relies on cheap labour. The casual labour that it hires has been employed on the most vulnerable of processes. Local unions say that the threat of unemployment if one complains is constantly over the head of the local work force. The plant's operations are a public scandal and would never have been condoned in the United Kingdom. That is probably why they were set up in Kwazulu.

Meanwhile, the company's British principals, a Mr. Shutler of Altrincham, Mr. Sherwin and a Mr. Tracy of Broadstairs and a Mr. Wood of Gillingham, no doubt enjoy a perfectly comfortable, respectable and civilised life style, well away from the devastation that their commercial activities have inflicted on the people of Kwazulu. Surely they should be publicly identified. Why should they be allowed to hide away behind the safe sanctuary of anonymity afforded by leafy suburbia here in the United Kingdom'? Such people who are prepared to exploit the grinding poverty and crumbling environment of the third world should be exposed here at home. The Secretary of State laughs. He thinks that it is funny.

Mr. Howard


Mr. Campbell-Savours

I shall give way in a minute.

Environmental outing means the exposure of those who are prepared to endanger the environment so often at a risk to health. Anonymity must be broken. People should be held accountable for their actions. Now I shall let the Minister intervene.

Mr. Howard

The hon. Gentleman is making a serious point, and it is a pity he should spoil it by indulging in such venomous contempt for what he describes as leafy surburbia. Is the hallmark of the new modern Labour party to be Contempt for leafy surburbia?

Mr. Campbell-Savours

And I am expected to reply to that intervention.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must address me in the Chair, not his hon. Friend.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

I address you, Madam Deputy Speaker, by saying—and I am expected to respond to that information. What can one say? Je ne sais quoi.

I hope that the environmental groups in the United Kingdom take on board what I am saying here tonight. The ball is now in their court. Greenpeace is leading the way. Where Rio has miserably failed, due to commercial and economic pressures, they can succeed by forging a new agenda of public accountability.

Mr. Ottaway

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Campbell-Savours

I am sorry, but I have to make way for the Minister in two minutes.

My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) raised the interesting issue of the funding of the Darwin initiative. He brought before the House a number of sums that have been alluded to by Ministers, I understand, in statements outside the House. I should like to know what budget will fund the initiatives if those moneys are to be spent in London? Will they be funded by the Overseas Development Administration or by the Department of the Environment?

Some concern is being expressed by some people in the development NGO movement that, if the product of Rio is over and above the allocations that have been alluded to by Ministers—the £100 million and the additional moneys —if it is that we shall see a slow seepage of moneys out of poverty alleviation projects into areas of environmental concern, to some extent what has come out of Rio will be disastrous for the third world.

We need assurances. If the funding of projects and the incremental costs arising from environmental amelioration is to come from the budget for a health clinic in southern India or an irrigation project in Africa, there may well be grounds for a legitimate grouse in the future. I hope that the Minister will be able to answer that important queston.

9.35 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd)

We have had a full and interesting debate on the issues raised by the Earth summit, and I am delighted to be able to reply.

On his return from Rio, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister set out the real achievements that we made there. I do not for a moment accept the arguments of those who say that the summit failed to go far enough in tackling the important issues that we face, and I am grateful to the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours), who said that he thought that it had made progress. Many inflated expectations were expressed in the months before Rio, and it is, of course, impossible to satisfy everyone; but Rio put down a firm platform of agreements, on which we must build an effective long-term implementation process.

I believe that 22 speeches were made tonight, and I shall do my best to respond to them all, but I shall not be able to do so properly in 25 minutes. I am conscious that I am replying not only on behalf of the Foreign Office and the Department of the Environment, but on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and the Departments of Trade and Industry and of Transport; but I shall do my best.

The cornerstone of the summit was the opening for signature of legally binding conventions on climate change and biological diversity. More than 150 countries signed both conventions. The climate change convention was negotiated over 16 months; the biological diversity convention took slightly longer—but, given the normal pace at which such negotiations proceed, that in itself was a remarkable achievement. The imminence of the Earth summit clearly helped everyone involved to focus their minds on the issues that were at stake.

I must take issue with the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms. Abbott), who is not in the Chamber now. She said that UNCED was supposed to agree a number of treaties, but managed to agree only two of them. That is not correct. Only two legally binding treaties were ever planned for Rio—the conventions on climate change and on biodiversity. It should be noted that both those complex negotiations were completed in a strikingly short time, and that each received over 150 signatures at the conference.

Before I say anything else, I must comment on the four delightful maiden speeches that we heard today. I felt a little jealous when my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Elletson) described his constituency as the number one holiday venue in the United Kingdom. My constituency, Morecambe and Lunesdale, has some visitors from Yorkshire—although, as far as I am aware, they do not include the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor), whom we tease on occasion—and it shares some of the social problems that my hon. Friend attributed to Blackpool.

My hon. Friend described his experience of journeys to the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe, and the environmental catastrophe that he saw there. The environmental tranche of the United Kingdom's know-how fund is £5 million for the next three years, and we shall be helping with training, scholarships and expertise transfer. My hon. Friend observed the failure of an economic system—a system which had failed to adopt market-based systems, to allow the efficient allocation of resources and to observe good government and free trade, and that had not had the benfit of, for instance, the Uruguay round and the GATT. All those matters are deeply important for the environment and the developing world, as I think the hon. Member for Workington would agree.

My hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) made an elegant speech. She said that everyone—from Government down to individuals in their own homes—must be involved in tackling environmental problems, with which I heartily agree. The Rio declaration makes it clear that the citizen's participation is fundamental to the process. It emphasises the need for environmental information to be available and for environmental impact assessments to meet the concerns of ordinary individuals. My hon. Friend touched on matters that are central to the Rio declaration.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Mr. Deva) spoke as an environmental scientist. He brought his expertise to the House and spoke of the beauties of the urban environment that he represents. He is most welcome to the House, and most welcome indeed to the Conservative party for an obvious reason: it is far too long since the Conservative party returned a Member of Parliament from the Indian sub-continent. He is the first Member to have originated from Sri Lanka—he is not the first Conservative Member from the Indian sub-continent, but there has not been one for perhaps 100 years—and we are most pleased to see him here today.

My hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Lull) spoke of one of the most beautiful environments in Britain. Sadly, he was interrupted by the 10-minute rule, but in his short survey he told us of the quality of his local brewery and of the beauty of the county that he represents.

All four of my hon. Friends spoke warmly of their predecessors and their constituencies. Their panegyrics were well phrased. I give them this word of advice: agenda 21 of the Rio declaration is only 800 pages long, and if they have little else to do in the long recess they could take it home and read it. The trouble is that it is written in rather turbid prose—it is good stuff, but it is heavy going—and if they could write a potted version for other hon. Members in the elegant way in which they spoke this afternoon, they would be doing the House a service. We look forward to hearing further speeches from them.

The climate change convention marked an important and historic first step towards solution of the global warming problem. It commits all countries to devise measures to combat climate change and to report on those measures to the conference of the parties. It commits the industrialised countries to go beyond that and to take a lead by instituting measures aimed at returning emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by the end of the century. That is a sensible precautionary step and, as the convention evolves, the conference of the parties will review the action being taken in the light of improved scientific knowledge and will assess the need for further action.

I shall answer some of the questions posed by the hon. Member for Dewsbury, who opened the debate for the Opposition. She asked a question that was touched on by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State —why is the United Kingdom's CO, stabilisation target conditional on actions? That is at the heart of it. Far from that being a matter about which we are defensive, we can assert very positively why it is so. Global problems need a global response. The hon. Lady knows that a quarter of the world's gas emissions are from the United States. Unilateral action by Britain and the European Community would be insufficient without action by other major emitters. Unilateral action would seriously damage the United Kingdom's economy and our industry's competitiveness, which we are not prepared to contemplate.

Mrs. Ann Taylor

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way and for confirming what the Secretary of State refused to confirm earlier—that the Government's target is conditional and not the clear-cut target that the Minister was trying to suggest. Does not the Minister realise that if the whole of the European Community were to meet that target, it would be a significant contribution? The countries that are getting ahead of the game are those which are looking after their own industrial interests best. We do British industry no favours by making it inefficient, especially in energy conservation.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The hon. Lady must accept that it is a global problem on which we must all act in concert. The same principle applies to the reason why we did not subscribe to the side declaration to which she referred. The hon. Lady cited the European Community, so I shall also do so. The EC decided that it was better to work through the climate change convention, which was signed by more than 150 countries, than to take the divisive step of a separate declaration which not all those countries—and not even all the OECD countries —would be able to support. The climate convention contains a clear target which we should work to achieve.

The hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Williams) asked a question to which I shall respond immediately. Yes, of course we shall observe our obligations under the climate convention to return carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels. We have published our strategy on limiting CO2 emissions and we are urging all developed countries to join us in publishing full national programmes by the end of 1993.

A major feature of contributions to the debate has been the question of population and population growth. In order to save time, I shall not name the many hon. Members who raised the subject, but I shall cite my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway). He is not raising the issue because it is the flavour of the month; he has been interested in it for many years and he knows that I take his contribution seriously. Other hon. Members were also serious about the issue. The issue of population has moved into sharper focus in recent months, and it is right that it should do so.

I always remember the statistics that for anyone who is 40 years old, like yourself, Madam Deputy Speaker and some other hon. Members, the population of the world will have doubled in your lifetime. That is a significant factor. It has a little more than doubled in my lifetime, but merely doubled in the lifetime of many hon. Members.

The links between environmental degradation, poverty and population are wide-ranging and complex. We cannot ignore the fact that population growth is causing considerable environmental problems. We all have different figures, but, by the end of the next century, the population could be between double and three times what it is now. The Government raised the issue of population at Rio and took a lead, as my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South was kind enough to recognise.

The right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel) also mentioned population. The issue was dealt with in Rio, and I draw his attention to principle 8 of the Rio declaration which states: The nations undertook in principle to achieve sustainable development and a higher quality of life for all people. States should reduce and eliminate unsustainable patterns of production and consumption and promote appropriate demographic policies. In an intervention, the hon. Member for Workington once again used spurious statistics—I shall come to other spurious statistics of his in due course—and alleged that we have slashed our population budget. I have here a document entitled "Action for the Environment", an ODA publication. It states: Britain's support of population activities has increased substantially in recent years—from £6.5 million in 1981, to £24 million in 1990. Britain is also a major donor to multilateral population agencies, particularly the United Nations Population Fund"— it mentions three funds— and these agencies will receive £9 million, £8 million and £2.75 million in 1992. I commend the document to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

If we take the aggregate of bilateral and multilateral allocations between 1979—[Interruption.] That is what we spend on population, as hon. Members do not appear to understand these matters. If we take the figures together, did the budget go up or down in real terms between 1979 and 1992? Let us have the truth.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I will not be cross-examined at the Dispatch Box on some numerical calculation which the hon. Gentleman has taken all afternoon—perhaps all week—to make up.

Mr. Campbell-Savours


Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I am sorry, but I have rather more important things to do—to do justice to the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends' speeches, for example. He should recognise that.

The hon. Member for —

Mr. Worthington


Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I cannot give way any more. I have 10 minutes, and 22 contributions to deal with. I must do justice to the debate. All hon. Members can make their points.

The hon. Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells) made an important point. He is not here now—he told me that he would not be—but I want to answer his question, which was how developing countries are to address development and environmental concerns, especially those involving energy and the impact of increased energy production on the global environment. I draw the attention of the House to the fact that the global environment facility, to which Britain is a major donor, is designed to help developing countries deal with just such issues.

I shall cite one example of a project which has recently been approved and which addresses that problem. Indeed, the Szechuan gas transmission distribution rehabilitation scheme is taking place in one of the countries which the hon. Member for Pontypridd mentioned—China. Fifty per cent. of China's natural gas is produced in the province of Szechuan, and the cost to the GEF of rehabilitating the existing equipment there is £10 million. The project will have a significant demonstration value for other developing countries, and will show how investment can be made to bring antiquated gas distribution systems up to the standards of industrialised countries in terms of leakage and safety. That is a fine example of the GEF at work.

I am afraid that I shall not comment on the many points made by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell). They will be answered in the usual way.

Mr. Dalyell


Mr. Lennox-Boyd

May I comment on the hon. Gentleman's last point? If there were fewer interruptions I should make more progress. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the £100 million. The size of our contribution to the GEF is new and additional money—it is not just new; it is new and additional.

Mr. Dalyell

Is it additional to the White Paper?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I cannot comment on the hon. Gentleman's allegations about revisions of the White Paper. If he is not prepared to accept the words, "it is new and additional money", and make what use of them he wishes; if, when the money comes, there is some way of demonstrating that it is not new and additional money, the hon. Member for Linlithgow will not have been as capable an advocate as he likes to make out.

Mr. Dalyell

Is it £5 million or £2 million.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I am sorry—I shall have to comment on that in correspondence.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Answer the question.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I cannot answer that question; I do not believe that a decision has been made.

Several hon. Members


Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. Repeated interventions make it impossible for me to follow the argument. Perhaps hon. Members could be a little quieter so that we may hear what the Minister has to say.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I must make progress, especially as I am about to deal with an area of interest to Opposition Members.

As Opposition Members know, we accept the target of 0.7 per cent., and are committed to reaching it as soon as possible. In recent years the United Kingdom aid programme has increased in line with our economic growth—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—and, at £1,831 million, it has grown by 8 per cent. in real terms since 1987. The quality of our aid programme is of the highest standard and order, and is recognised internationally for effectiveness. As hon. Members know, the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD recently commended Britain on that, and recognised that British aid goes to those most in need.

I shall ask the hon. Member for Workington—and the hon. Members for Dewsbury and for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd)—one or two questions.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Ask me.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

All right. I shall put the questions before the House.

Two years ago, the hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) was questioned about the Labour party's commitment—

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Not true.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

If it is not true, the hon. Gentleman will have the opportunity to point that out on an intervention—when I shall willingly give way. But first let me repeat the words in question, as not all hon. Members may be as conscious of them as the hon. Gentleman and I are.

The hon. Member for Derby, South was asked in May 1990 in the BBC "On the Record" programme whether the 0.7 per cent. of GNP was a specific commitment by the Labour party. She said: No, that is a goal. She did not say that it was a target. Hon. Members will remember that there was some ridicule about the target to which the United States and all the rest of us have signed up in the climate change convention.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I will give way on condition that the hon. Gentleman explains to the House the difference between a goal and a target for the Labour party.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

The answer is easy to give. We live by our record. We nearly achieved the figure between 1974 and 1979. We were determined to achieve it under the next Labour Government, but we were robbed of the opportunity.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I have not quite finished. There are a few more things that I had better read out. The hon. Member for Derby, South said: That is what we are aiming for. Nobody"—

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Get on with it.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I will. The hon. Lady said: Nobody is absolutely able to put their hands on their heart and say 'We know we can get there'. Not even if there is a Labour Government. We know how to read these things and we all know what they mean. Perhaps Opposition Members, when accusing us of hypocrisy and letting the side down, should dwell on those words which explained the true position.

I will reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Arundel (Sir M. Marshall), who is president of the Inter-Parliamentary Council. He referred to the Sustainable Development Commission. I wholeheartedly agree with him that an effective follow-up to UNCED is essential. Like my hon. Friend, I support the formation of the Sustainable Development Commission. The commission's success will depend on the political commitment of the states involved. We hope that all will participate at a high level, as we certainly will.

I will speak briefly about the importance of trade as well as aid. Many of my hon. Friends have referred to trade as well as aid being essential for developing countries to progress in an environmentally responsible way. I strongly agree with that comment. Aid makes up only a small amount of the income of developing countries. In 1989, aid was 8 per cent. of Africa's income and the figure was 1.7 per cent. for south Asia. The trading position in developing countries is improving. The 1989 GATT figures show that there are now six developing countries among the top 20 trade exporters in the world. That is a remarkable achievement and shows that in environmental matters we must not rely on the Labour party's rhetoric about the need for aid. We must examine the enormous importance of developing trade for the developing world to enable it to increase its prosperity.

I emphasise several points. The criticism of the results of Rio has been severely overdone. The fact is that Rio was the largest-ever meeting of Heads of Government. It achieved a number of agreements which mark important steps forward for the protection of the global environment. Two of the agreements, the convention on climate change and the convention on biodiversity, already have the signatures of more than 80 per cent. of the countries of the world. That is deeply significant.

The conference has also agreed a comprehensive action plan and a credible follow-up mechanism to turn words into actions. It concluded ground-breaking principles on sustainable development in the form of the Rio declaration and there was also a declaration on forests. They provide guidelines against which to evaluate future plans.

By any standards, the conference was a highly significant event which has given new political momentum and public prominence to sustainable development for the future. Those are facts which the critics cannot gainsay and which heavily outweigh the few matters on which the conference did not produce as much as some had hoped.

My second point is to re-emphasise that in the context of Rio too much attention has been devoted to the argument about aid. Certainly, contributions to economic growth by means of aid have an enormous role to play in the third world. However, the real foundations for environmentally sensitive development lie elsewhere. They lie, first, in an open world trading system which encourages developing countries to produce goods that they can export and, secondly, in the adoption of market-based economic systems, which will encourage inward investment, economic dynamism and efficient allocation of resources.

It being Ten o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.