HC Deb 22 June 1994 vol 245 cc243-330

4.2 pm

Madam Speaker

I have selected the amendment standing in the name of the Prime Minister. I have also had to limit speeches between the hours of 6 pm and 8 pm to 10 minutes, because of the number of Members who wish to take part in the debate.

Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West)

I beg to move, That this House notes the projected decline in aid to developing countries, in real terms, over the next two years, the failure to target aid on those in greatest need, highlighted by the Pergau Dam affair, the failure to respond adequately to emergencies such as the current holocaust in Rwanda and the absence of any clear, co-ordinated strategy for promoting effective and sustainable development that benefits the poorest people in developing countries, and assists those countries in dealing with the problems caused by debt repayments and adverse terms of trade; and calls on the Government to bring forward a White Paper on Overseas Development at the earliest opportunity.

Had you, Madam Speaker, selected the amendment in the name of the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel), I would have had no difficulty in endorsing it as well.

I address the House on this issue having had the experience of two visits to the African continent in the past two months. On those visits I saw the two dimensions of African development and the two sides of the issues that we must deal with today. In South Africa, in common with many of my right hon. and hon. Friends, I witnessed at first hand the triumphs of non-racial democratic change in a rich, beautiful but much-divided country.

Mr. Graham Riddick (Colne Valley)

Looking though the list of Opposition Supply days over the past year, I notice that it is just under a year since the Opposition chose this subject for debate. I also notice that in that time there has been no debate on an Opposition Supply day on the subjects of unemployment or economic policy. Could the hon. Gentleman tell the House why?

Madam Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman's intervention does not relate to the motion for today's debate. We are dealing with overseas aid. His question might be asked at some other time, but it does not relate to the subject on the Order Paper.

Mr. Clarke

As always, Madam Speaker, your wisdom contrasts with the absurdity of the hon. Gentleman's intervention.

The peaceful transition in South Africa from apartheid to democracy was important not just for South Africa—it is an example, an inspiration and a source of hope for the continent as a whole. However, just a few weeks after my visit there I saw for myself the carnage resulting from the genocidal war in Rwanda. Seeing what is happening in those two countries concentrated my mind on how well and effectively the United Kingdom is responding both to changes for the better and for the worse in the developing world.

I can think of no subject more important to debate than our concern about poverty at home and abroad. Those who ignore that challenge do so at their peril. In South Africa, investment in the economic and social infrastructure will be critical for the survival and success of a new democratic society. Britain, the former colonial power which found little difficulty in continuing to trade with apartheid South Africa when she was ostracised by the rest of the world, is prepared to offer only £100 million for development assistance. That is a third of the amount that was squandered on the Pergau dam project. We can already see from the example of Gaza and Jericho in the middle east that even the best peace process in the world will falter if it is not backed by sufficient funds.

I am delighted that even if these issues take up a whole Opposition day they will enable us to debate the important question of Rwanda, which is at last being raised in the House. The international community's political will to act, the effective delivery of protection and relief for the millions who fled their homes, and urgent programmes of assistance for neighbouring countries are relevant and profound. Britain has delivered none of the things that are essential for a speedy solution to the problems there. Should he catch your eye, Madam Speaker, my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells) will speak about the role of the United Nations and its agencies.

There are two points to be made about Rwanda. First, the 1948 United Nations charter said that we would never stand aside from genocide. But that is exactly what is happening today before our very eyes. Secondly, it is disgraceful that Britain agreed to the withdrawal of most of the United Nations force, limited though it was, from Rwanda when the presence of that force would have been most valuable and especially during the days of dreadful slaughter that followed the death of the president on 6 April.

Mr. Jim Lester (Broxtowe)

Will the hon. Gentleman admit that, according to the Secretary-General, those troops were withdrawn because their mandate did not allow them to intervene to stop the carnage? They did not depart saying, "We are not interested", but because they had no mandate from the Security Council to take the action that many of us would like to see.

Mr. Clarke

I have a high regard for the hon. Gentleman on these issues, but I think he will agree that, sadly, the mandate has been changed time after time. It is also sad that it has not reflected the political will—nor the military will—to deal with carnage and genocide in that country. If we had only a fraction of the will which we saw in the Gulf war and the Falklands, the British people could hold their heads up high.

What we require now—I spell it out so that there may be no doubt—is not the dispatch of troops from western Europe; we need full logistical support for the African troops by the United Nations and a more substantial British contribution to humanitarian aid.

Unless there is any doubt, let me make it plain on behalf of the Opposition that we regard the French initiative as being fraught with difficulty, if only because clearly there are grave questions about their neutrality in Africa. We want the United Nations' impact to be effective, worth while and supported by Great Britain and the western nations in terms of the necessary equipment.

I turn to the impact of the carnage on neighbouring countries, some of which I have recently visited. Serious problems exist in Tanzania, Uganda, Zaire and Burundi and the potential for an explosion is sad in the extreme.

Let us reflect on the international community's inability to deal with the genocide in Rwanda. A few weeks ago, I visited Uganda and in particular south Uganda on the borders of Rwanda and Zaire. It was an extremely distressing experience. The local paper in Kampala, The Sunday Vision, greeted me with the headline: Rwanda: 1 million feared killed". I do not know whether the figures are accurate, but I know that genocide is taking place and that we should be doing something about it.

I saw too, sadly, the dramatic evidence of 40,000 bodies floating in Lake Victoria. I saw the efforts of the local people to provide mass graves, in one case for 2,700 people. I saw how inadequate were the resources in their excellent attempts to respond and I saw the refugee camp in Kisoro, where more than 5,000 people sought to exist. Many of the children were in tattered rags, their parents pleading, begging for water, for food and for blankets for the cold evenings and I regretted that I saw no British presence there.

If there were 40,000 bodies floating in the Thames or the Clyde, we would rightly proclaim it as a national disaster; we would have said that we did not have the infrastructure to deal with it—nor do the neighbouring states, particularly Uganda.

In an earlier visit to Uganda, accompanied by the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale, I saw the evidence of the impact of AIDS. There were thousands of orphans looking after orphans, and grandparents looking after 15 or 16 children, with the questions unanswered as to what happens next. I saw, too, in Uganda the evidence of 16 districts suffering heavily from famine, with people already dying. This must be known to the ODA. Britain had contributed to two of those 16 regions.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

When the hon. Gentleman was out there, did he have the opportunity of visiting Zaire? When I visited there, I found that the president had just spent £18 million on a new palace for himself.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

My hon. Friend was talking about Uganda.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

No, he was talkingabout other countries as well. Zaire spent only £1 million a year on the national health service. That is why Zaire is a centre for AIDS, which is spreading to the rest of Africa.

Mr. Clarke

I do not want to score political points—an easy thing to do—in such a serious debate. If what the hon. Lady says is true, I deplore it. I am willing to listen to her evidence, as I hope she is willing to listen to mine. I shall deal with the general point she raised later, when I hope that I shall command her support.

I referred to 16 districts where famine is firmly and clearly established, yet Britain contributed to only two—Soroti and Kumi. The newspaper that I mentioned published photographs of emaciated and starving children in Teso and Karamoja. I am trying to be fair, but when I visited that area I was given to understand that not one penny had been received from the ODA, which is wholly unacceptable.

It must be said that the Government's response to these matters has been lethargic in the extreme. Neighbouring countries have to deal with difficult domestic issues day after day and they are not helped by the problem of international debt. That issue is rightly dealt with in each of our overseas development debates and I would welcome debating it today. Uganda spends 30 per cent. of its income servicing the World bank, the International Monetary Fund and other commercial interests.

Of course, the problem is far wider than that. In 1992, developing countries repaid £100 billion interest on their debts, well over twice the amount they received in aid. I hope that we hear no more of the nonsense that charity begins at home, when clearly our international institutions are exploiting former colonial territories.

Mr. Phillip Oppenheim (Amber Valley):

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his courtesy in giving way. Was not a great deal of the debt to which he referred incurred in building grandiose industrial projects during the 1960s and 1970s? Has he seen the recent World bank report, which shows that the developing countries that followed market-oriented policies have done a great deal better than those that followed the policies of centrally planned economies, nationalisation and socialism? It is the countries that followed the latter policies which have incurred huge debts. That should raise some question in the minds of the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends about the effectiveness of socialist policies in general.

Mr. Clarke

I have certainly seen the recent World bank report. If the hon. Gentleman spares himself the time to go to the Library and read it, he will find little support for his proposition.

The Government's tepid amendment to our motion suggests that we should deal with the issue of debt—so flippantly dealt with by the hon. Member for Amber Valley (Mr. Oppenheim)—on the Trinidad terms. No doubt the Minister will refer to that—[Interruption.] I should be happy to give way to any Conservative Member who wishes to intervene. Their attempts to disrupt the order of the House, especially in such a debate, are quite unacceptable.

The Trinidad terms proposed by the Prime Minister, which are mentioned clearly in the Government's amendment, were to write off two thirds of bilateral aid, while the terms offered so far have been a 50 per cent. write-off at best. Even the full Trinidad terms would not begin to deal with the problem. Do the Government deny the findings of the World bank report in February, to which the hon. Member for Amber Valley referred? In case the hon. Gentleman has forgotten, I remind him and the House that it stated: Only six of the twenty-one severely indebted low-income, sub-Saharan African countries could achieve a sustainable position even with the full Trinidad terms, while nine would still have a debt service ratio in excess of 300 per cent. of exports. The Trinidad terms do nothing to help countries faced with enormous debts to multilateral bodies such as the World bank and the IMF. While Ministers dwell on the extremely limited success of the Trinidad terms, severely indebted countries continue to accumulate fresh arrears that are greater than the debts written off.

If the Government have no fresh initiatives, we can only conclude that they have no strategy for dealing with the debt crisis facing the world's poorest countries. Will the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office or the Minister who replies to the debate say whether the Government are prepared to take any new initiative to aid relief on a multilateral or bilateral debt?

Mr. Nirj Joseph Deva (Brentford and Isleworth)

Does the hon. Gentleman deny that, following the initiative taken by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on the Trinidad terms, the Government have so far cancelled £1 billion of debt from the poorest countries?

Mr. Clarke

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's intervention, but I reported the views of the World bank, and not many people would argue that it is the most progressive of bodies. It acknowledges the limitations of the Trinidad terms in a way that the House will recognise.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Does not that £1 billion contrast unfavourably with the fact that, over the past few years, the Tory Government have written off £5,000 million of debts for the top four clearing banks —National Westminster, Midland, Lloyds and Barclays? [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] If that kind of money were used to help developing countries, much of the misery that my hon. Friend saw on his travels would be removed.

Mr. Clarke

My hon. Friend is right. Since I entered the House in 1982, I have found that he has shown far greater interest in third-world matters than Conservative Members who have been interrupting.

As to the Government's record on overseas aid—

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Clarke

Yes, but as I have been particularly generous in giving way so far, I hope that the House will then allow me to continue my speech.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

I remind the hon. Gentleman that I was a member of the European Parliament's development committee, as was my husband. I have visited the countries in question and take a considerable interest in them. What concerns me about the Trinidad terms is that we have kept our part of the bargain but that other countries have not. We have not enjoyed the full benefit of the Trinidad terms.

Mr. Clarke

I wish that were the case. Any examination of the Trinidad terms shows that what Britain has offered so far falls far short of what was promised by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, now the Prime Minister—but that will come as no surprise to the House.

Mr. Corbyn

Does my hon. Friend agree that, while the Government parade around the world their supposed help with debt, they have done nothing but undermine the real prices paid for commodities to countries that are trying to get out of debt in the first place? Far from growing, many African economies are getting smaller because of the reduced prices paid for vital commodities.

Mr. Clarke

I could not agree more, as is shown by the evidence in African countries that I visited. Uganda, for example, to deal with the problem of falling commodity prices, has been compelled to introduce health service and education charges which hon. Members on both sides of the House would find unacceptable for Great Britain.

Let us consider the Government's record on overseas aid. The House recognises the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent., which we are told all parties in the House claim they are committed to achieving. Under Labour, we had reached 0.51 per cent., more than three quarters of the UN target, and it was increasing. Under this Government, our contribution has been reduced to a pathetic 0.31 per cent., which is less than half the UN target in 1992. The figures for 1993—

Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Clarke

I will not give way again. Conservative Members should be patient. I have been particularly generous so far.

The figures for 1993 are likely to be no better. The figures for this year and next year are likely to be even worse. In 1979, Britain was the largest donor of the G7 nations and the most generous of the world's richest countries. We have now fallen to fifth place out of seven, a record of which the Conservative party can hardly be proud. From being one of the leaders in development, we are increasingly becoming one of the also-rans.

As well as considerably reducing the volume of British aid, the Government have changed the way in which aid is divided up. Eighteen months ago at the Edinburgh summit, the Prime Minister committed himself to very large increases in European Union aid. The consequence of that, without an increase in resources, must be cuts in the bilateral budget, cuts in the Overseas Development Agency itself, cuts in our support for the UN and UN agencies such as UNICEF and cuts in respect of other multilateral agencies such as the World bank's development wing, the International Development Association.

As the House will know, negotiations for the next replenishment of IDA funds will begin later this year. Consequently, I want to ask the Government and the two Ministers who will be involved in the debate a specific question about the 11th replenishment. Will they cut our percentage contribution, or will they make a commitment to no further cuts?

Last year, the Government abolished the separate Budget headings for aid to developing countries and assistance to eastern Europe. Aid to eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union is increasing from £188 million in 1992–93 to £331 million in 1995–96. Promises that that would not be at the expense of developing countries have, in our experience, simply proved to be hollow. Of course, there is a need for assistance to eastern Europe, but not at the expense of even poorer people elsewhere. It cannot be right that sub-Saharan Africa, where less than half the children receive education, should lose out to eastern Europe, where literacy is almost 100 per cent.

We move our motion in the knowledge that world poverty in the modern age is entirely unacceptable. We see it as one of the greatest challenges of our time and as a threat to peace. I do not apologise for asking for a crusade against world poverty. We must tell ourselves that it simply cannot be right that 80 per cent. of the world's resources are consumed by 20 per cent. of the world's population. We cannot be complacent about the fact that every year an additional 26 million people, equivalent to almost half the population of Britain, experience absolute poverty.

When I was elected to the House in the early 1980s, our debates on the subject tended to be dominated—and rightly so—by the Brandt report. The response to that report included two massive lobbies, amounting to 30,000 people, to the House in the 1980s. That led to the Commission, after other international reaction, publishing a second report, entitled "A Common Crisis". In his introduction to the second report, the late Willy Brandt said: Every two seconds of this year a child will die of hunger or disease. And no statistic can express what it is to see even one child die…to see the uncomprehending panic in eyes which are the clear and lucid eyes of a child. I believed then that that is why we place such emphasis on poverty and why we have a duty to do so today.

More than 60 per cent. of the populations of the least developed countries are living in absolute poverty. That is not reflected in the present priorities of the Government's aid programme. Targeting the poor means not only delivering aid to the poorest countries of the world, but making sure that aid is delivered to the poorest people within those countries.

In order to focus aid programmes on reducing poverty, we need to know how our aid is being spent. I welcome the introduction of the policy information marker system, or PIMS, which identifies what proportion of the ODA budget is allocated to each of the Department's seven objectives, but frankly it does not go far enough. Despite PIMS, the Government still do not know how much of their aid is reducing poverty. They still have no idea of who actually benefits from British taxpayers' money.

I give one example. In another place last year, Baroness Chalker said that about 30 per cent. of our bilateral aid was spent on the basic needs of health care and education. This year's ODA report said that the proportion spent on education alone was 17 per cent. But if we want to know how much aid was spent on improving basic education for children and adults in order to reduce poverty, those figures are no help at all. The reality is that less than 6 per cent. of education spending in the aid budget in 1991–92 was spent on primary and adult basic education.

If we want our aid to focus on reducing poverty, it is those aspects that matter most. In particular, we should make a greater contribution to the education of women and girls. Female education is one of the most important commitments that a developing country can make to its future. Those policies must clearly be viewed as essential in the long term—for example, nutrition, family planning, child health and women's rights are profoundly affected by whether a country educates its girls. I do not believe that we have established a priority in that respect. It is still the case that, in sub-Saharan Africa, only 40 per cent. of girls receive any form of education, and in south-east Asia the figure is only 53 per cent. Our education aid budget should address such issues, but, frankly, it does not.

In a speech to the Overseas Development Institute last week, which I attended, Baroness Chalker made much of how the ODA could teach others how to improve their aid programmes. For example, she said that the European Union could learn from us about focusing aid on poverty reduction. Perhaps we should take a leaf out of the book of the World bank. Since 1991, the development wing of the bank has assessed all its development projects according to their impact on poverty. The programme of targeting interventions, or PTI, gives priority to projects that are specifically targeted at those living in absolute poverty and to projects that have a general benefit for the community, but, rightly, a disproportionately high level of benefit for the poor.

Mr. WilliamCash (Stafford)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Clarke

I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman because I know of his genuine interest in these matters.

Mr. Cash

Does the hon. Gentleman acknowledge that, regardless of whether the World bank focuses on poverty, there is a substantial problem with regard to World bank debt—that countries such as Uganda must pay as much as one third of their total revenue in the repayment of debt to the World bank? Will the hon. Gentleman encourage the World bank to suspend that debt to help such countries to improve their economies?

Mr. Clarke

I recognise the sincerity of the hon. Gentleman's intervention. If he had been here earlier, he would have heard me make precisely that point.

If the World bank can deal with projects which have a genuine benefit to the community but which rightly discriminate disproportionately in terms of benefit to the poor, I see no reason why the ODA cannot do the same. I ask the Government a specific question: will they introduce in their development programme a system of monitoring or targeting to reduce poverty, such as the one which they agreed to the World bank adopting three years ago? Frankly, that would not have gone through if the British had not agreed to it.

It is also clear that if we are to achieve poverty reduction in our aid programme, we must involve the poor themselves. Participation of local people at all stages of projects is absolutely crucial. That includes consultation on suitability, research and design. If we are serious about helping people to escape poverty by their own efforts, it is manifestly essential that we take their views seriously when it comes to designing projects. I have a further question for the Minister: what proportion of the ODA's bilateral projects involve participation of local communities at the design stage, and what are the Government's plans to increase that?

To improve the quality of aid and to achieve a proper poverty focus also requires more openness and accountability in the Government's decision-making process. Last week, Baroness Chalker said that this was also an area where the ODA—as she put it—already excelled. I find that hard to accept. If we had an open and accountable decision-making process, a decision such as that on Pergau would never have been approved.

If Baroness Chalker meant that the Government would learn the lessons of Pergau, and that one of the lessons of Pergau is the need for disclosure of information, that is all well and good and we welcome that repentance. If that is what the Government mean, presumably they will agree to make project information available to interested parties when a project is in preparation. They will also agree that after a project has been approved, the appraisals of its effectiveness should be made public after any confidential information has been omitted. I therefore ask the Government a further question: will they support the release of project information documents and project appraisal documents for all the development initiatives funded by the ODA?

In making these proposals to improve the work of the ODA, I do not in any way understate the tremendous commitment and high quality of the people who serve in the development field. Indeed, one of the main purposes of bringing forward the debate is to protect and strengthen those who work in the ODA and whose influence extends elsewhere. I am afraid that that does not always appear to be the priority of Ministers.

As part of the ideologically driven interference by the Tory party in the work of the Department, I understand that a new approach to project preparation and management has been introduced. It comes all the way from the United States of America and is inspired by an organisation with the title of Team Technologies Incorporated. I have here the job description for the post of project preparation facilitator, which was introduced into the ODA under this exciting new initiative. Hon. Members will be delighted to learn that one of the requirements for the post is proven capacity to communicate orally very effectively and with enthusiasm, bilaterally and in the training room. In other words, the ability to talk. With leadership like that, we can see that the future of Britain's reputation in development will be safe in their hands.

However, development is a serious subject. It is a very serious matter that the Government have admitted that they tolerated a linkage between British aid expenditure and the sale of arms. It is a serious matter that thousands of the world's children are killed or severely disabled every year by the many millions of land mines that have been laid in developing countries in the past 30 years. It is a very serious matter that the Government continue to equivocate on the issue of land mine exports, even though the ODA recognises that land mines are one of the greatest obstacles to post-war reconstruction in developing countries. Therefore, it is with the utmost seriousness that I call on the Government urgently to review their policy on land mines and to give the highest priority to the protection of innocent men, women and children.

It is also extremely serious that the latest reports from Ethiopia suggest that that country is about to face a famine even more severe than that of 1984–85. I welcome today's announcement of a further 20,000 tonnes of food aid to Ethiopia, although its timing is extremely interesting. However, the number of people at risk is between 6 million and 7 million and a much larger response from the whole international community to the impending crisis in Ethiopia is clearly required. Therefore, I ask the Government what more they intend to do and what steps they intend to take to secure an adequate response from the European Union as a whole.

I referred earlier to Willy Brandt's introduction to the important and moving document, practical though it was, "A Common Crisis". I conclude with his conclusion. He said: A new century nears, and with it the prospects of a new civilization. Could we not begin to lay the basis for that new community with reasonable relations among all people and nations, and to build a world in which sharing, justice and freedom, and peace prevail? That is why we challenge poverty wherever it exists. It is an evil whether it is in Britain or overseas. We will fight poverty for all we are worth and fight injustices wherever they occur. To do that, we need a strategy for the future of British development policy such as only a White Paper can provide. That is why I commend our motion to the House.

4.43 pm
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Alastair Goodlad)

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: 'supports the Government's clear strategy to support sustainable economic and social development, particularly in the poorest countries; commends the lead the Prime Minister has taken through his Trinidad Terms initiative, from which 22 countries now benefit, to reduce the debt burden of developing countries; welcomes the role played by the Government in the successful conclusion of the GATT Uruguay round, which will improve trading opportunities for developing countries and help them generate more of the resources they need for their development; commends its substantial and effective aid programme and in particular the use it makes of the expertise of British institutions, companies and non-governmental organisations; and welcomes the fact that the Government now publishes more information about the aid programme than ever before.'. I am grateful to the Opposition, and to the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke), for giving the House the opportunity to discuss this very important matter this afternoon. The Government's policy towards developing countries is clear and straightforward: to help them to help themselves. We believe that it is right to use a portion of the country's wealth to help poorer countries and that it is strongly in our interests as a major trading nation that there should be greater stability and prosperity in the developing world.

Long-term economic growth and good government are central to achieving that stability. The past few decades have shown that sensible economic policies can produce economic growth. Bad policies lead to economic stagnation and decline, with countries unable to provide for their growing populations. Good government, too, is vital; efficient and accountable government with respect for human rights.

I endorse what the hon. Member for Monklands, West said about South Africa and the recent elections there. They are a milestone in the march towards a free and non-racial democratic society.

Mr. Gyles Brandreth (City of Chester)

Can my right hon. Friend say whether there is any way in which we shall be able to turn that into tangible form? One obviously endorses entirely his sentiments, but now that we have the new South Africa, will we be able to manifest that, as it were?

Mr. Goodlad

There are important challenges and South Africans will look to their friends in the international community to help dismantle the apartheid legacy and rebuild the country. The South African Government's reconstruction and development programme provides the basis for that. Our aid since 1979 has been a demonstration of our commitment to help the transition process. For example, we have trained more than 1,000 non-white South Africans a year for their rightful role in government and society. The present South Africa can count on our support for sound policies.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary announced on 4 May that we expected to provide £100 million of aid over the next three years. Our objectives will include good governance, including public administration and police reform, education, health and the promotion of small businesses. We hope to build on the work that we have already done. In addition, investment by the private sector is crucial to sustainable economic growth. We are already discussing the priorities for aid with the new Government and we shall continue to work with South African non-governmental organisations where appropriate.

On a personal basis, having done voluntary service overseas in South Africa in the early 1960s, I am glad to see VSO back in South Africa and that normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

The House will recognise what progress there has been in the developing world as a whole. During the 25 years to 1990, GDP growth in low and middle income countries was almost 5 per cent. per year. The growth in per capita incomes was almost 2.5 per cent. At that rate of growth, per capita incomes double in 30 years. The United Nations development programme's human development index rose from 25 per cent. in 1960 to 60 per cent. in 1992. Other achievements have helped to improve the living standards of people in developing countries. A dramatic improvement in agricultural yields and in adequate food supply has led to the virtual elimination of famine in south Asia and China.

According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, in 1965 only about 25 countries met their daily per capita calorie requirements. By 1990, that figure had doubled to 50. There has been significant progress in improving health. In the past three decades, average life expectancy in developing countries has increased from 51 to 64 years.

Mrs. Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley)

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned UNDP and talked about poor people's basic needs. Can he explain why, according to UNDP, only 6.6 per cent. of British overseas aid is focused on poor people's basic needs of clean water, health care, primary school education and so on, whereas Denmark manages to focus 25 per cent. of its overseas aid on poor people's basic needs? Why is the United Kingdom's overseas aid programme skewed so that it focuses so little of its aid on those needs?

Mr. Goodlad

I will come to the question of poverty a little later. Britain has one of the best records—among the OECD's Development Assistance Committee donors—of allocating aid to the poorest countries. In each of the past five years, between 80 per cent. and 85 per cent. of our bilateral aid which is allocatable by income group has been spent in low-income countries—those with an income per capita of less than $765.

The British aid programme tackles poverty at all levels: the direct poverty reduction level, often with our partners in non-governmental organisations; and the sectoral level, with aid to improve reforms, to help with education and water supplies, with humanitarian aid and with aid for broader policy and institutional reforms, which help to bring faster, broad-based, labour-intensive growth with widespread benefits for poor people

The rate of infant mortality has nearly halved. Since 1980, the proportion of families with access to safe drinking water has risen from 38 per cent. to 68 per cent. in south-east Asia, from 66 per cent. to 78 per cent. in Latin America, and from 32 per cent. to 43 per cent. in Africa. Enrolment rates in primary and secondary eduction have increased.

Mr. Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie)

Why is the Minister claiming credit for that when our contribution has fallen?

Mr. Goodlad

Our contribution has increased this year and will increase next year.

There has also been encouraging progress in the demographic transition in developing countries. Family sizes have dropped rapidly throughout Asia and parts of Latin America. The average number of children per woman in developing countries has dropped by a third, falling from more than six to below four.

Politically, there has been a widespread move towards democratic and accountable government—for example, in Latin America and in a number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Between half and three quarters of the world's population now live under pluralistic and democratic regimes. Last year, elections were held in 45 countries—in some, for the first time.

Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington)

How can the Minister claim that all those welcome phenomena are due to British Government policy? We await his claim that the Government are responsible for the sun rising and setting every day. There have been positive developments in the third world, but they are no thanks to the Government and their appalling record on aid.

Mr. Goodlad

The hon. Lady is entitled to her view.

Change has been most dramatic in east and south-east Asia, where there has been development at a rate unparalleled in history. During the past 25 years, many of those countries have grown, from being poor by any standards to approaching or in some cases passing living standards in OECD countries. They are formidable competitors in their own right.

That experience is now spreading. In south Asia there is a growing commitment to economic reform. Countries are starting to reap the benefits. India—for some years our biggest aid recipient—has seen an eightfold growth in foreign investment. Growth has doubled during the past three years and India's export growth is forecast at more than 13 per cent. this year.

Those in favour of protectionism may quail at the emergence of those new competitors, but it is clear evidence that countries pursuing the right sort of policies can develop successfully and it is a development that we should welcome. Yes, they present competitive challenges, but they also present rapidly increasing markets for our trade and investment.

The most important single factor in determining whether countries develop successfully is their Government's actions and policies. Do those provide a framework in which individuals and communities can help themselves? Do they encourage wealth creation? It is both wrong and patronising to see the developed world as being solely responsible for the fate of the developing world. The successful developing countries are increasingly earning their own way in the world through trade and through rapidly increasing private investment to finance their development.

One encouraging feature has been the substantial increase in the flow of private finance to developing countries. The OECD estimates that total resource flows to the developing world rose by $42 billion in 1992, to $176 billion—a 23 per cent. real-terms increase. Virtually all of that growth was attributable to the large expansion of private finance flows, which rose by nearly 50 per cent. The World bank expects private finance flows to have exceeded official flows in 1993.

To take two examples, although world-wide foreign direct investment fell in 1991 and 1992, flows of direct investment into the developing world increased. Portfolio equity investment soared by more than 60 per cent. in 1992 as new stock markets opened, many in developing countries.

Dr. Kim Howells (Pontypridd)

I am sure that few hon. Members present will not welcome those figures, but will the Minister make it clear that much of that money is going to a few markets only? It is going mainly to the south-east Asian countries—the Pacific tigers—and not to Africa, which is what worries us.

Mr. Goodlad

The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point. Certain developing countries, such as India, have been very aid dependent, but are beginning to attract flows of private investment, by the methods that I am attempting to describe. We want to help other countries, such as those in sub-Saharan Africa, to reach a position where they can collect such flows of private investment. That is an important point.

British companies and financial institutions have played a major part in that flow—accounting for around half the European Community total. That clear evidence of their increasing attractiveness for private investment and lending is one reason for a degree of greater optimism about the prospects for developing countries. That is a very important change.

Successes in development must not obscure the massive needs that many of the poorest people in the poorest countries still have. Progress has not been uniform. More than 1 billion people in the world are still in absolute poverty—70 per cent. of them are in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. A key element of our strategy is, therefore, to focus our aid where it is most needed—on the poorest. Those countries do not yet have access to private investment. Many of the poorest countries, particularly those in sub-Saharan Africa, have not benefited from the increase in flows of private finance that we have seen.

Our strategy to help developing countries is clear and has a number of strands. First, developing countries need peace and security. That is not something that can be imposed from outside, but the United Kingdom's role in the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the Commonwealth makes a major contribution to the international effort to create a more stable and more peaceful world, and our armed forces provide a highly effective and highly valued presence in many peacekeeping forces.

Secondly, many countries need debt relief. For the poorest, most indebted countries, debt repayments continue to pose a massive burden. They swallow up resources which could otherwise be used to finance productive investment and thus raise living standards. If a country is not making repayments, that presents a major obstacle to its receiving renewed external finance other than aid. Again, that is an area in which we have taken the lead. We have relieved developing countries of the burden of £1.1 billion of old aid loans. All our aid to those countries is on grant terms.

We have constantly led the way in promoting international agreement on debt relief for the poorest and most indebted countries through the Toronto terms in 1988, the Trinidad terms in 1991, and now in our push for improved Trinidad terms. The current terms have so far benefited 22 of the poorest, most indebted countries. More than $2.7 billion will be forgiven over the lifetime of those agreements. We believe that more needs to be done and are pressing other creditors to agree to implement full Trinidad terms. We must move forward, with others, to maximise the benefits to indebted countries.

Mr. Cash

On that point and on the very satisfactory arrangements that we have made in regard to Trinidad, does my right hon. Friend agree with my earlier argument about the World bank? Will he do everything that he can to encourage it to adjust its arrangements to suspend debt where necessary, and where appropriate circumstances apply, in countries that are helping to help themselves?

Mr. Goodlad

Yes. On the Trinidad terms, we recognise the seriousness of the debt situation of the poorest, most indebted countries in Africa, which is reflected in the World bank report, and the need for the most generous levels of debt reduction, under the Trinidad terms, on a case-by-case basis. We shall continue to press our partners to take the same view. We regard it as important that multilateral debts are serviced to maintain the integrity of the institutions, but generous balance of payments aid to those countries pursuing economic reform is designed to permit such debt servicing, as well as meeting their import requirements.

I share the concern of my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) about Uganda's heavy debt burden, but action on bilateral debt through the Paris Club will be the most effective way to tackle the problem. Full Trinidad terms—we would like Uganda to be one of the first beneficiaries if these are agreed—would release more money for multilateral debt servicing and other needs.

A critical issue is the ability to pay, and donors have been careful to ensure that Uganda has no balance of payments crisis. Altogether it received £244 million more in 1992 than it paid. This report is very flexible and can be used to service multilateral debt if Uganda so chooses.

Thirdly, developing countries need freer trade. Opening markets is probably the most important single thing that the developed world can do for developing countries as a whole and for the former eastern bloc. None worked harder than the UK in pushing for a succesful outcome to the GATT Uruguay round.

The Uruguay round presents opportunities to all countries and should be seen as a threat by no one. Certainly various studies have suggested that the benefits to developing countries will be unevenly spread. But the increased world prosperity which a successful Uruguay round will bring is good news for all the world and gives all countries the opportunity to benefit—provided they pursue the right mix of economic policies to enable them to do so.

Mr. John Denham (Southampton, Itchen)

The Minister has referred to various studies which generally show that African countries will be worse off in absolute terms as a result of the GATT negotiations because the relative advantage of the Lomé preferences will be lost. Will the Minister give a commitment to make sure that those countries are compensated for the loss they will suffer under the new trading arrangements?

Mr. Goodlad

The recent OECD-World bank study on the round concluded that the proposed liberalisation of trade in manufactured and agricultural products would raise incomes in non-OECD countries by some $78 billion a year. [Interruption.] I will answer the hon. Gentleman's point in a moment. [Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)

Order. The House does not need a running commentary from hon. Members.

Mr. Goodlad

The report concluded that developing countries would suffer most from a continuation of protectionism or, worse still, an intensification of protectionism.

However, we agree that the effects on some developing countries will need to be looked at in the light of the real concern they have expressed, for example, about the erosion of their advantages in terms of tariff preferences. At the European Community-African Caribbean Pacific council in April we endorsed a commitment to do that, a commitment which was already enshrined in the fourth Lomé convention.

Mr. Mike Gapes (Ilford, South)

What proposals will the Government make to assist the countries in the Caribbean which are particularly badly hit, as well as those in Africa?

Mr. Goodlad

That is a matter for the Lomé review.

Particular concern has been expressed about the difficulties which net food importing developing countries may face if world food prices rise as a result of cuts in subsidies under the Uruguay round agricultural agreement. But the GATT agreement includes provisions to assist net food importers in such circumstances and, in the longer term, higher prices should stimulate agricultural production in developing countries and so boost rural economies.

Mr. Cynog Dafis (Ceredigion and Pembroke, North)

I am a little worried by the facile assumption that increased world trade will inevitably lead to a better world for the people who live in it. Is not it true that constant and massive expansion of world trade could involve constantly increasingly transportation unless there is particular application to the question of the environmental effects? Is not constantly increasing transportation one of the great threats to the environment? Is not it time we were talking seriously about internalising the environmental costs of transportation and of trade into prices so that we could have a different and more decentralist pattern of production, consumption and distribution?

Mr. Goodlad

I think that the increase in world trade will benefit all countries, but it will be uneven in its impact. I accept that transportation increases will have environmental effects, and I shall say something about environmental matters in a moment.

Ms Abbott

On the specific point of the GATT round, is the Minister aware of the particular problems in the eastern Caribbean, which almost wholly depends on the export of bananas for its balance of trade? When will Ministers face up to the fact that one cannot look at the issues of aid and development in isolation? If the small agriculturists in the countries of the eastern Caribbean are no longer able to sell their bananas, many of them will instead turn to drug production. We cannot look at aid policies in isolation, because they also impact on issues such as the international drugs trade and the refugee question.

Mr. Goodlad

I quite agree that we cannot look at aid issues in isolation, and I am trying to demonstrate that a large number of factors are involved. I hope that we have fought a good fight for Caribbean banana producers.

Mr. Lester

Does not my hon. Friend agree that, as far as the GATT round is concerned, developing countries co-operated fully in the negotiations for the first time? They have been the largest group in the negotiations and they are queuing up to join the World Trade Organisation. That hardly suggests that those countries have all the fears which are being expressed by Opposition Members. The House had a debate on GATT last week.

Mr. Goodlad

My hon. Friend is very knowledgeable on these matters and he makes an extremely accurate point as usual.

We welcome the establishment of the World Trade Organisation which will put the GAIT on a permanent institutional footing for the first time ever.

Fourthly, we have a substantial aid programme, one that has been highly commended for its effectiveness. As the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD recently reported: The UK has a highly concessional, well organised bilateral programme based on substantial natural expertise and is orientated towards the poorest developing countries. At over £2.2 billion this year, it is the sixth biggest programme in the world. I understand that new OECD figures are likely to be released tomorrow showing that in 1993 the UK's Aid-GNP ratio of 0.31 per cent. was above the average for all donors, and that the UK was one of seven donors who increased their aid. At a time when many donors are facing pressures on their budgets, that is clear evidence of the Government's commitment to a substantial aid programme.

One key factor in the programme's effectiveness is that it is closely focused on where it will do most good. It is targeted closely on the specific needs of developing countries. Focusing our aid on the individual needs of countries means taking account of the changes in the developing world which I described earlier.

For the more successful and better-off developing countries, well-targeted aid has played a major part in helping their countries develop. In many of them it continues to do so. But with their increasing access to private investment, many no longer need large scale concessional finance to finance their development.

Aid is equivalent to less than 1 per cent. of the GNP of Asian developing countries, and less than 0.5 per cent. of that of Latin American developing countries. In those countries, our aid strategy therefore is increasingly to provide advice and know-how, and filling skills gaps in areas central to their development.

We have also helped the vital transition to market economies and political pluralism in east and central Europe and the former Soviet Union.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Goodlad

I must make some progress.

That has involved help through multilateral channels and through our bilateral programme, the know-how fund, which seeks to harness British expertise to help this vital transition. Our know-how fund was a pioneering idea, and has offered a model of technical assistance which others have tried to copy. Much of the know-how fund is directed at bringing about systemic change, particularly in areas central to the functioning of the market economy such as privatisation, banking and capital markets. In Russia, we are co-operating with the International Finance Corporation in launching and testing a system for land privatisation which has been adopted by the Russian Government as a model for the country.

Longer-term institutional development is not neglected, however. A major part of know-how fund resources is devoted to training, including the setting up and strengthening of local institutions. In Poland, we have helped to set up a network of four regional management centres to train a new generation in private investment. Nor do we neglect the importance of the political transition to democracy. In Russia, for example, our programme for democracy is supporting a variety of parliamentary exchanges and educational programmes involving democratic institutions and principles. The know-how fund's responsiveness and effectiveness in supporting reform are known and recognised throughout the region.

I referred earlier to the continuing needs of the poorest countries. Our strategy is to focus most of our concessional finance assistance on those countries whose needs are greatest and which are unable to attract significant private finance. Some 80 per cent. of our bilateral aid goes to the poorest countries—a larger proportion than is provided by any other G7 donor. Our 10 biggest aid recipients are all low-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia: our record stands comparison with that of any major donor. All our aid is on grant terms, thus avoiding adding to the debt burden of developing countries.

In those countries, sustainable development and the reduction of poverty are at the centre of our effort. Our aid is targeted on areas that were recognised at the United Nations conference on environment and development at Rio as being central to promoting sustainable development —such as support for sound economic policies that encourage wealth creation, and helping developing countries to improve the education and health services that they provide.

An important example is the increasing part that we are playing in the effort to help developing countries to address the population pressures that many of them face. The world's population is currently 5.6 billion; it is growing by almost 1 billion each decade, and could double by the year 2050.

Recent decades have seen remarkable progress in the provision of family planning information and services for millions of people in developing countries, but population growth in such countries is at an historic high. More than 90 per cent. of the annual increase in population of over 90 million takes place in the countries that can least afford to provide for their new citizens. In the poorest countries, population growth threatens the prospect of achieving sustainable dvelopment and reducing poverty. Half a million women in developing countries die each year from pregnancy-related causes, including unsafe and often illegal abortions. There are at least 250 million cases of sexually transmitted disease each year, and more than 14 million people are now estimated to be infected with HIV.

Providing safe, effective and affordable reproductive health services, including family planning, will lead to improvements in the health of women and children and reduce the number of maternal and child deaths.

Mr. Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South)

I am delighted that my right hon. Friend is focusing his remarks on the question of population. I know that, as a founder member of the all-party group on population and development, he has a personal interest in the matter.

Many of us agree with my right hon. Friend that over-population is a root cause of poverty. Does that not make it all the more surprising that the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke), whose speech was made in all sincerity, made no reference to the population question?

Mr. Goodlad

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He is right: I was a founder secretary of that all-party group, under the chairmanship of my right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker). When I entered the Government, I was succeeded by my hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Dorrell), who is now Financial Secretary to the Treasury. We attended the 1979 United Nations conference in Columbo, to which I believe an extremely distinguished contribution was made by Madam Speaker herself.

The hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) did not mention population in his speech; he could not mention everything, and I cannot do so either. It is an important matter, however. I believe that providing the services that I have mentioned will enable women to take more control over their lives.

Mr. Tom Clarke

I am grateful to the Minister: I know that he said that there were many issues with which we might have wished to deal. Today's debate is taking place in Opposition time. I promise that, if the Government give us a full day to debate these matters, I shall be happy to deal with the question of population and other issues.

Mr. Goodlad

I would hardly support my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House if he gave us a whole day to debate population.

The services that we are providing will help to slow population growth and lead to improvements in the quality of life for families. Helping family planning and other reproductive health services is an integral element of our sustainable development strategy. The ODA aims to continue to help more women and men to choose when to have children, to improve their reproductive health. We shall focus on improving access to family planning for both women and men, making pregnancy and childbirth safer for women and improving the sexual health of men and women.

We are playing an active part in preparations for the United Nations international conference on population and development, to be held in Cairo in September this year. Agreement among donors and developing countries on the need for urgent action has never been greater. The conference will provide a good opportunity for us to build on the current level of consensus, which is extremely important. We are working hard to ensure wide support for the Cairo action plan.

As I have said, most of our aid is long-term development assistance; but if disaster strikes—whether man-made or natural—we make a major contribution to the international emergency aid effort. The terrible conflict in Rwanda, of which the hon. Member for Monklands, West gave a moving account, is at the centre of our attention. My noble Friend the Minister for Overseas Development announced a further allocation of £5.23 million in emergency aid on 2 June. A large proportion will continue to support the relief activities of non-governmental organisations. More than £11 million has now been committed bilaterally since 6 April.

We were one of the first countries to respond with key logistical help to open up communications in northern Tanzania to the refugee camps. We are providing 5,000 tonnes of emergency food aid—a quarter of the amount specified in the world food programme appeal.

We are monitoring the position closely. In May we sent an assessment mission to the region; it found that British emergency aid, including that of the NGOs, is being used effectively and is much appreciated. The co-ordination between the United Nations agencies, the NGOs and the Red Cross movement was impressive. A further ODA assessment mission will be sent next month.

As the hon. Member for Monklands, West knows, the political situation is still volatile and the refugee exodus continues. External emergency aid is required for the foreseeable future. We remain ready to do more, particularly when safe access to other parts of Rwanda is possible. We have offered logistical support to the United Nations aid mission in Rwanda, but not troops.

We continue to be at the forefront of the international community's efforts to help to relieve the suffering of those caught up in the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. We have committed nearly £175 million in humanitarian aid so far. More than 100 British trucks, together with drivers and support staff, are working as part of the delivery operation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. We are also assisting with vital work to restore the infrastructure—such as electricity supplies in central Bosnia—and helping to restore water and sewerage systems. We are at the forefront of the international reconstruction effort in Sarajevo.

In 1992–93 we provided, bilaterally and multilaterally, more than £290 million in emergency assistance. I pay particular tribute to the NGOs, with which we work both in providing emergency aid and in our long-term development programmes. They show great dedication—as both the hon. Member for Monklands, West and I have seen for ourselves—great industry and, in many cases, great courage. More of our aid is being channelled through them—more than £140 million in 1992–93—in recognition of their special abilities, particularly in working with the poorest. I am sure that the whole House will join me in recognising the dedication of those NGOs and the people who work in them.

Finally, we use aid to help developing countries to address issues such as climate change, the destruction of biodiversity and ozone depletion, helping them play their part in tackling those global challenges. The United Kingdom has contributed £130 million to the global environment facility, which helps developing countries to meet the costs which they face in doing so. That makes us the fifth largest contributor overall.

The speech of the hon. Member for Monklands, West, who is the kindest of men, was an excellent example of what his party does best: pious sentiments combined with woolly thinking—not to mention an intellectual sleight of hand which I will come to in a moment. Predictably, he plays games with numbers, and I make no complaint about that. But he should come clean with the House. Is he prepared to pledge that Labour would reach the UN target of 0.7 per cent. of GNP within the lifetime of a Parliament? Is he aware that the shadow Chancellor, the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown), is repudiating all the spending pledges made by his fellow Front-Bench spokesmen in his bid to win the Labour party some economic respectability? Has he cleared his lines with the shadow Chancellor, or does he have his own personal supply of confetti money?

Once again, the Labour party is trying to have it both ways, and it will be rumbled. Fine intentions are simply not enough: the last Labour Government gave a firm pledge in 1974 to meet the UN target and ended up cutting £50 million off the aid budget in 1977 and 1978.

There is only one way to maintain a substantial aid programme, and that is to pursue policies for enterprise and sustainable growth. Until the Labour party understands how prosperity is generated, it will have to go on looking for ever more ingenious ways of dividing up a shrinking cake.

If we are serious about helping the poorest countries, we must let the facts of economic life intrude. Nowhere is that more true than with trade, which brings developing countries three times as much revenue as aid. If we do not take their exports, we shall condemn them to continued poverty. The crucial point is that trade is not a zero-sum game. All countries benefit from increased trade. Yet the Labour party cannot get its collective brain, or its collectivist brain, around this point. The European socialist manifesto, to which Labour is committed and which the shadow Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), apparently co-authored, warns that the principle of free trade must not be used to undermine social standards in Europe. We must protect our economy from unfair trading and we must try to combat social and environmental dumping". We could not have it clearer than that. The Labour party sees an inherent conflict between the interests of the developing countries and the interests of Europe. It is worried that the poorest countries might try to exploit their competitive advantage by exporting into our markets. It calls that dumping. We on this side of the House call it something rather different. We see trade with the developing world for what it is—a chance for developing countries to build up their own economies and to become more self-reliant. That is why we have led the drive to open up world markets. The Labour party's hostility to free trade shows that, when the chips are down, it puts the interests of the trade unions—its paymasters—over the interests of the world's poorest countries. While Labour postures, the Conservatives will leave our friends in the developing world in no doubt that only we can be relied upon to champion their interests.

The Government have helped to transform the international debate about aid to the overwhelming advantage of the world's poorest countries. Unlike many who strike attitudes on the subject of aid, our aim has been not to salve our consciences but to take practical steps to help developing countries achieve self-reliance.

We have led the way on debt relief. We have introduced the idea of using aid as a lever for good government, sensible economic policies and human rights. We have led the fight for open and generous trade arrangements for the third world through the GATT. We have argued that aid programmes should be targeted first and foremost on the poorest countries, and we practise what we preach. With our excellent voluntary agencies, whose expertise and experience in the field is second to none—not to mention our outstanding military personnel—we have shown how emergency relief should play a key role in aid strategy. We are saving hundreds of thousands of lives in the process, as we are in Bosnia—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. Watson) thinks that that is funny. He has a warped sense of humour.

We have helped to bring about a whole new emphasis on the quality and effectiveness of aid programmes, with the European Commission next in our sights.

The British people are a generous and outward-looking people, with broad horizons born of our history. Under this Government, they have seen Britain recover its standing as a global power with global interests and global responsibilities. Under this Government, there can be no question of shuffling off those responsibilities or retreating into our shell. Nor will we fight shy of asking some hard and searching questions when it is in the interests of the poorest countries that we should do so.

Those are the measures of our commitment to work with others to eliminate the poverty and misery that still affect much of the world. The British public expect nothing less. The world's poorest deserve nothing less.

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

I have never heard the Minister's best friends accuse him of being a dangerous demagogue and I suppose that we must congratulate him on batting nobly for the Government this afternoon. I hope that he will not take it personally if I say that overseas aid debates have suffered in this Parliament from the fact that the Minister responsible for those matters is in another place and not here to participate in the debates; but that cannot be helped.

I do not know whether hon. Members can be accused of tedious repetition if they repeat what they said on previous occasions. I suppose that they should be, and I shall not repeat all our criticisms of the decline in the overseas aid budget, our recognition of what the Government have done on debt, or the fact that they need to do more. I have spoken on those subjects before. In this brief contribution, I wish to support the basic plea for a White Paper on overseas development made in the Opposition motion, but to do so in the context of two issues that are rarely dealt with in these debates: first, the campaign against the arms trade and, secondly, the campaign against corruption.

I remind the House that, last year, a young graduate, Sean Devereux, was killed in Somalia while working for UNICEF. Some time later, his father wrote to me enclosing a last letter that the young man had written to his parish church. In it, he described the chaos in Somalia. I shall quote two paragraphs from it as it serves as an introduction to my remarks this evening. He wrote: Everything was turned upside down because of the greed and ego of certain men. Siad Barre, the former dictator, General Aideed, Morgan and Ali Mahadi, the so-called warlords, are the usual names mentioned in this battle of power. But one must add to the list: the US Congress, the former Soviet Politburo, the Italian and British parliaments; apparently a noble collection of men and women, who over the years approved the production and delivery of weapons of destruction to Somalia—for its own self-interest of course. The greed starts here. Today in Somalia, in the southern part of Kismayo, I cannot walk from my house to my office (a distance of 400 metres) without heavily armed bodyguards. Thousands upon thousands of men in Somalia have their own weapons …they tell me this is for 'survival'. Boys of 14 live out their Rambo fantasies, believing they are fighting for freedom. They are so blind…but who can blame children. In Kismayo I wander through the market, checking the prices of looted UN food—wheat, rice, beans, etc., and I see next to the bananas and camel meatAK47s, Kalashnikovs, Barrettas, M16s, Bazookas, varying in prices from $75 up to $200—all made in the so-called 'civilised world'. Next door to my home is a shack with the sign 'SPARE PARTS'. Sadly it's not for cars but for weapons, again made in the 'civilised world'. We have a lot to answer for. As I have said before in the House, there is no more appalling hypocrisy in international politics today than the way that countries in the developed world compete in the sale of arms to unstable regimes, then stand around wringing their collective hands the moment that they are used.

The United Nations Children's Fund, the organisation for which Sean Devereux worked, estimates in a recent report that throughout the late 1980s, the world's military spending was running close to $1 trillion a year, or the equivalent of the combined annual incomes of the poorest half of the world's people. Those are shattering statistics. The donor nations, including ourselves, need to re-examine collectively our military spending and our dependence on the export of military equipment and technology. I acknowledge that the United Nations register of arms sales is a start, but it needs to be upgraded into an instrument to control the trade.

One of the places where we must begin is the European Union, because it is no good one nation unilaterally taking steps if another undermines the policy. All hon. Members —or most, at any rate—have ended up subscribing to the intentions of the Maastricht treaty to develop a common foreign policy in the European Union. If one considers the arms trade in the European Union, one realises the need for such a policy. For example, Portugal decided on a national ban of arms sales to Indonesia, but the German Government provided naval vessels to Indonesia, so the action of one European Union member state is vitiated by the action of another. The need for a common policy could not be more obvious.

That is also true of land mines, which were mentioned by the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke), the Opposition spokesman. As long ago as last December, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling for a ban on the export of anti-personnel mines. If the Government will not listen —as, apparently, they do not—to the Opposition or myself, they might take note of the trenchant article written by that wise old bird, Lord Deedes, in The Daily Telegraph as a result of his experiences in Angola, where he saw the effect of land mines. That is another issue on which the European Union could give a lead.

On the wider issue of the effect of arms sales on the developing world, the United Nations Development Programme has just published a substantial and valuable report showing clearly how reductions in weapon expenditure in the developing world could give major help with human resource development. It has argued in that report that it is doubtful whether the spending by the developing world brought increased security to the average citizen. It says: In developing countries, the chances of dying front social neglect (from malnutrition and preventable diseases) are 33 times greater than the chances of dying in a war from external aggression. Yet, on average, there are about 20 soldiers for every physician in the developing world. If anything, the soldiers are more likely to reduce personal security than to increase it. We know of plenty of evidence of that. It also says: Developing countries have fought few international wars, and many have used their armed forces to repress their own people. Arms spending undermines human security in another way—by eating up precious resources that could have been used for human development. It is a great pity that we do not allow visual aids in the Chamber because that report publishes a graph, which I can only attempt to describe to the House. It shows, on the left hand side, a column of the military spending in the developing world, and points out that a 12 per cent. cut in such spending could have the following effect on the health of the people in the third world. It could make available the additional funds to provide primary health care for all, including immunisation of all children, elimination of severe malnutrition, the halving of moderate malnutrition and the provision of safe drinking water for all.

A further 4 per cent. cut in military spending in the developing world could produce the resources to reduce adult illiteracy by half, providing universal primary education and educating women to the same level as men. A further 8 per cent. cut, making a total of a 24 per cent. cut in military spending, would provide the additional cost of a basic family planning package to all willing couples and—this takes up the Minister's point—stabilise the world population by the year 2015. In other words, the gains to be had by giving greater political priority to the control of the arms trade are colossal. I believe that we should pay far more attention to that subject.

Secondly, but more briefly, I shall mention the fight against corruption. Although I am not suggesting that our overseas aid has to a large extent been misused in the developing world, it is a common perception that that might be so. There are undeniably too many examples of the misuse of power for private profit and large-scale corruption in some countries, involving the holders of public office and corporations. That tendency is on the increase.

The victims of that corruption are the poorest people —those who suffer most—because public resources are wasted instead of being used to meet their basic needs. The social fabric of their societies is undermined, accountable government is subverted and market competition itself is distorted. Obviously, grand corruption exists everywhere on the globe. It is shocking enough when we come across it in the north, but countries in the south and the east simply cannot afford it.

That is why I hope that the Government will give full support to a new organisation, which was established last year, called Transparency International. It is a non profit-making organisation registered in Germany. The support for that initiative has come from leaders in developing and industrial countries, from nongovernmental institutions, from some multinational corporations and from foreign assistance agencies. It is a timely initiative, because in my opinion the fight against corruption is intimately linked with the promotion of democracy, good governance and accountability, which are the phrases used by our Foreign Office.

I am indebted to the publication "Africa Analysis" for some recent examples of individual corruption by rulers which has deprived countries of the resources that they should have had. Perhaps the most spectacular example today in sub-Saharan Africa is President Mobutu of Zaire. According to "Africa Analysis", it is estimated that his personal fortune is now about $5 billion. There is even some criticism of President Moi of Kenya, an ally of this country, and it is estimated that his personal wealth is now about £3 billion. President Banda of Malawi, who has just been voted out of office, is estimated to have acquired a personal fortune of about £2 billion—a third of the country's gross domestic product. When one looks back over the history of the period since the independence of African countries, one realises that it is, unhappily, the case that, during the cold war, we in the western developed nations were not too fussy about who we were supporting as long as they were perceived to be on the right side of the global ideological argument.

The cold war is over. It is now right to draw attention to those two subjects. What is needed to tackle the arms trade and corruption is not injections of money—the Government are always being urged to provide more money for this, that and the other, including overseas development—but far greater political will on behalf of the Government and allied Governments in the west. I hope that in reply I shall receive some assurance that there will be a greater recognition that those two subjects deserve closer attention.

5.38 pm
Sir John Stanley (Tonbridge and Malling)

The right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel) said that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State had batted nobly in the Government's cause. I think that he batted very effectively in setting out what the Government have done throughout their interrelated policy in relation to overseas aid. Perhaps understandably, he moved somewhat lightly over the huge scale of the challenges that remain to be dealt with in that key policy area. I shall spend a few moments discussing what I regard as three of the key challenges in policy terms that still confront the Government.

The hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) mentioned the fact that the balance of our overseas aid expenditure has shifted significantly. At the end of the period of the last Labour Government, the bilateral programme took 75 per cent. of our total overseas aid expenditure; the multilateral contribution, obviously, represented the other 25 per cent. This financial year marks an historic watershed. It would seem that 1994–95 will be the last year in which the bilateral element of our programme will take just over 50 per cent. of total aid expenditure. Figures from the ODA show that the crossover point will be reached next year. In 1995–96, the multilateral programme will take 50.4 per cent. of total expenditure; in 1996–97 that will rise to 52.8 per cent.—and it is likely to rise again significantly thereafter.

Perhaps I was not alone in the House in being unaware of the profound significance of the agreements reached at the Edinburgh Council of Ministers in 1992, and of the impact of those agreements on the control exercised by this House and this country over our aid programme. We face a huge increase in our multilateral contribution via the European Union. ODA figures show that expenditure on the EU element of the programme—I combine our contributions to the EU budget and, quite reasonably, to the European development fund—will take up this year just over half a billion pounds of our total overseas aid expenditure. In just two years' time, in 1996–97, that will have risen to three quarters of a billion pounds, and the figure is set to rise still further.

Figures published only last month in the Journal of the European Communitiesgive us the data for the five financial years from 1992–93 to 1996–97. In that period, the British contribution to the EU's aid programme rises at an annual average compound growth rate of 25 per cent. That represents a huge cuckoo in the nest of our total overseas aid programme. As we know, the overall programme is fairly static in cash terms, and hence likely to be declining in real terms. That means that we face a considerable reduction in the overall cash amounts available for the bilateral programme. As the Minister rightly said when opening the debate, the bilateral programme is extremely well conducted; it is performed to very high standards.

I regret the relative ease with which we made concessions at the Edinburgh summit of 1992, the more so now that their full impact is becoming apparent. Nevertheless, the decisions have been made: they are water under the bridge now. They are legally binding, and they are not capable of review until 1999. We therefore have to live with them. Still, for all Members of this House who are interested in overseas aid, the new situation poses a challenge—how will Members be informed about those programmes in future, and what degree of accountability will be obtained for what will represent a major slice of our overseas aid programme?

The Government must examine various ways of ensuring accountability to this House for the large sums of overseas aid that are now going to the EU—sums which, as I have said, are due to rise to three quarters of a billion in two years' time. It will not be enough if the Government merely pay the cheques and offer us a few bland paragraphs in annual departmental reports, and then leave it at that. The House will want information, under four heads, on how this expenditure is being used.

First, we shall want to know how the money has been spent—to which countries it has gone and on what sort of projects it has been spent. Secondly, the House will want to know how much of the money that has gone across the channel to Brussels has been swallowed up in expenses and administration instead of getting out to the communities for which it was destined. Thirdly, we shall want a proper evaluation of the quality of the programmes—how well or how badly they have been run, for instance. The right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale referred to corruption, and we shall want to know how much of this —British taxpayers'—money has not found its way into the right hands. How much of it has been lost on the way owing to corrupt practices?

Fourthly, the House will want to know how much of the three quarters of a billion pounds going across the channel to Brussels will come back in the form of EU contributions to British non-governmental organisations and will be used in their invaluable work. An altogether fuller analysis will be required if we are to achieve any sort of accountability to the House for the largest single component of our overseas aid programme—that which goes to the European Union.

The second huge challenge that we face is in emergency relief. The Government have made significant progress during their period of office. When the Foreign Office set up its emergencies unit, it took an important step forward in that respect. Through the 1980s and into the 1990s, there has been better co-ordination between the Ministry of Defence and the FCO, and that fact has been reflected in our response to a whole series of emergencies—the Ethiopian famine of 1984–85, the Mexican earthquake, the Colombian volcanic eruption and the serious floods in Bangladesh, not to mention last year's flooding in Nepal. There is no doubt that we can make effective, well-targeted and usually timely responses to smaller scale emergencies.

There is, however, a great need to see what more can be done to improve responses to major international disasters. Somalia and Rwanda have exposed the appalling lack of international co-ordination and will that need to be applied to these major emergencies, which are clearly beyond the capabilities of any single country. I am sure that the Government are by no means satisfied with the response made so far by the international community to the emergencies in Somalia and Rwanda.

In this day and age it is not acceptable that hundreds of thousands of people should lose their lives by starvation in Somalia, or that hundreds of thousands should lose their lives because of appalling tribalism in places such as Rwanda—with the international community apparently paralysed and unable to intervene while small numbers of lightly armed insurgents and militias, outright murderers and bandits, perpetrate their violence. Surely they should not be allowed to hold the international community to ransom.

The right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale referred to a common foreign policy. I should also like to speak about that. The European Union's resources include aid and military resources, and its expertise will be increased by the Scandinavians. Surely, under the common foreign policy to which we are committed, we should be able to put together in the EU a basis by which the EU itself could mobilise sufficient resources to deal more effectively with situations such as those which have arisen in Somalia and Rwanda and produce effective action on the ground much more quickly. Within the Council of Ministers and the EU, we should make contingency arrangements for a European Union rapid response to deal with major crises which clearly require international action because they are beyond the capabilities of one country.

Finally, some hon. Members have spoken about the targeting of aid to the poorest people. There was an extraordinarily vast lacuna between the statistics offered by the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd)—I fear that my Welsh pronunciation may not be quite right —and those offered by the Minister. The hon. Lady, who has now left her place, mentioned 6 per cent. but my right hon. Friend the Minister spoke about some 80 per cent. I do not know how those percentages can be reconciled and I may wish to probe the matter through parliamentary questions.

My key point is that, although British aid flows to countries that have relatively low per capita incomes, it may not reach the really poor communities within those countries. Most hon. Members have visited such countries and will be familiar with that phenomenon. A major challenge to the Government is to ensure that British aid continues to reach poor communities. The debate should be in community terms and not in country terms and measured by per capita GNP.

That is a major challenge because much of the aid will be spent multilaterally and we no longer have control over how the money is spent. A significant chunk of the bilateral element of the aid programme goes to eastern Europe and to the former Soviet Union through the know-how funds. The problems in those areas are mostly of a lesser order than they are in the poorest parts of third-world countries. Within the bilateral provision, there is the aid and trade provision whose purpose is avowedly to try to assist the export of British goods and materials. Therefore, there is major financial pressure on the Government to keep their aid programme focused on the poorest.

The policy issue facing the Government is that they need to recognise more fully than they have so far that if they want to get real help such as basic health care and education, water supplies and improved agricultural production into the hands of poor communities, the only way to do it is by and large through non-governmental organisations, and especially through British nongovernmental organisations. British NGOs go to the poorest areas not just to visit but to stay for years until they have produced a sustainable uplift in conditions in those areas.

In looking further at how to improve the impact of their aid programme on the poorest communities, I hope that the Government will look particularly at the joint funding scheme. They have increased somewhat the contribution to that scheme, which is the vehicle by which British NGOs can be brought in and by which British public expenditure through money privately subscribed to charities, which British people do with considerable generosity, can be harnessed. That will ensure that the money goes to poor communities in poor countries. I hope that, against the overall backcloth that I have described, the Government will take a radical look at the joint funding programme and significantly increase our contribution.

The three key challenges are: accountability to the House for our huge contribution to the EU, the mobilizing within the EU of effective international means of responding to major emergencies such as that in Rwanda and trying to find fresh ways of ensuring that our residual bilateral programme is even better concentrated on the poorest people.

5.54 pm
Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

Both the Minister and the right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Mailing (Sir J. Stanley) spoke about aid being given to former states of the USSR. What information does the Minister have about assistance given by the European Union to the three countries that are suffering most severely from the policing of sanctions against the former Yugoslavia? I refer to Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania.

The Minister will not be surprised to hear that I wish to focus on the relationship between trade and human rights and, more especially, on relations between the United Kingdom and China and the violation of human rights in Tibet. I think that I am accurate in saying that in terms of trade between the United Kingdom and China, the UK has shifted from a crude surplus of some £209 million in 1986 to a deficit this year which may exceed £500 million.

Many Chinese goods exported to the west are produced by Laogai labour, which is slave labour. A report which has come into my hands states: Day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year, tens of thousands of ordinary people in China pick cotton, sew clothing, tan hides, harvest tea, cut shoe leather, assemble chain hoists, mix chemicals, mine coal, manufacture sophisticated machinery or perform one of hundreds of other jobs. These 'workers' lives are no longer ordinary. The life of a slave labourer is not ordinary in any sense of the word, except to their guards and the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party who steadfastly refuse to dismantle the Laogai. The west must deal firmly with the aging leaders of China, but at present there is a conspicuous lack of toughness among our leaders. As chairman of the all-party group on Tibet, at the end of April I wrote to President Clinton urging him to stand firm on the relationship between trade and the maintenance of human rights. In a letter that I received just yesterday, President Clinton sought to justify his decision to sever the link between trade—that is, most favoured nation status—and human rights criteria. The President stated: As you will have noted from my decision of May 27 on Most-Favored-Nation trade status for China, our evaluation of the situation with respect to Tibet was the same as yours, that no significant progress has been made by the Chinese government this past year. Regretfully, the President's letter goes on to state: As you know, I nonetheless decided to end the linkage between MFN and specific human rights criteria. To he sure, I believe that my Executive Order on China played a useful purpose in engaging the Chinese on a range of human rights issues and in producing limited progress in a number of areas, including freedom of emigration and exports of goods produced by prison labor. At the same time, I believe that our future efforts on human rights in China can best take place outside the context of the annual MFN debate. In his letter, the President acknowledged that there has been little or no movement on China's part to improve human rights in China and Tibet. It also appears that, by his decision, President Clinton is seeking to separate on a permanent basis the relationship between the issues of human rights and trade with China. He said in his letter: I have ended the linkage between the two". In other words, he has removed one of the most powerful sanctions he can employ in his negotiations with the old men in Peking on the important issue of human rights. However, while he and other western leaders would dearly wish the issues of human rights in Tibet and China and the autonomy of the Tibetan people to be put to one side, others continue to press for reform.

Among those significant others I am pleased to say are the members of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons. and I shall quote from paragraph 28 on pages 91 and 92 of their fine report. I am not a member of the Committee, but I was pleased to read such a fine report. Paragraph 28 states: We recommend that the UK Government pursues its dialogue with the PRC on the matter of particular human rights abuses in Tibet and opens a discussion on the subject of Tibet's right to self-determination. We conclude that a satisfactory conclusion to the former concern may only be achieved by progress on the latter. Furthermore we conclude that China's attitude to Tibet may contain a warning for the future of Hong Kong. The world will not allow the issue of Tibet to be ignored". The members of that Select Committee are offering a warning, and indeed some advice, to the people who rule China. We cannot allow the United Nations and the European Union to ignore the tragic plight of the indigenous people of Tibet.

The admirable Select Committee report has stunned the Chinese Government and angered the old men in Peking, who have accused the Committee of gross interference in China's internal affairs for including recommendations relating to Tibet. They offered similar sharp criticism in response to a report produced by a human rights committee in the Australian Federal Parliament which, following a visit to China and Tibet, was as critical of the regime in Peking as our Foreign Affairs Committee was. Those Australian Members of Parliament were denied a return visit to China because of their firmly worded critical report on the violation of human rights in China and Tibet.

Despite the massive trade balance in favour of China, fears of retaliation against United States business exports to China led to the granting of most favoured nation status by President Clinton in direct contradiction with many of his speeches during the election campaign. Once again, we have a example of the President changing course quite dramatically. However, there has to be a maintenance of focus on the relationship between trade and human rights violations.

The Dalai Lama recently voiced his deep despair over the failure—I would say the honourable failure—of his non-violent and realistic approach to the Chinese Government concerning negotiations over the autonomy of his people. Others argue for a violent course of action, but the Dalai Lama has always argued a non-violent approach to the Chinese Government, which is wholly admirable as well as right and proper. The policy of absorbing Tibet into China continues apace through economic means, through the subjugation of the indigenous people of Tibet and through a continuing settlement programme of Chinese workers and their families into the very heart of Tibet.

With other members of the all-party committee on Tibet, I shall be meeting the Minister on Monday afternoon to discuss these matters, but it seems to me that parliamentarians in the west should be demanding that the United Nations, the European Union and the rich countries of the west should use their power in relation to negotiations with the Chinese Government to wrest significant concessions from that Administration in relation to the understandable, natural and justifiable demand of the Tibetan people to enjoy their own way of life in terms of their culture and religion.

The Dalai Lama is not demanding independence but, along with the Government in exile in northern India, he is arguing that the Chinese must pay respect to the needs and interests of the Tibetan people in terms of their culture, their religion and their way of life. We should be saying, "Yes, that is absolutely right: you have a right to such autonomy in your own land."

For many people in the west, they are forgotten people, but some of us throughout the western world seek to bring their plight to the attention of Ministers, who are sympathetic—there is no doubt about that—but who are not doing enough for the ordinary people of China and are failing dismally to protect and defend the interests of the long-forgotten people of Tibet.

6.6 pm

Mr. Nirj Joseph Deva (Brentford and Isleworth)

In rising to speak in this important debate, I must first pay a warm tribute and commend to the House the speech of my right hon. Friend the Minister. It was a thoughtful, caring and detailed speech, full of facts and policy initiatives.

I also listened carefully to the speech by the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) who is unfortunately no longer in the Chamber. He used the words, "Fighting poverty" 10 times. He said that we should fight poverty on the beaches, on the hills, in the vales, and so on, but not once did he use the words, "Creating wealth". We cannot fight poverty without creating wealth in poor countries. Unless and until the Opposition recognise that the only way to eradicate poverty in developing countries is to give them the instruments, the methods and the techniques for creating wealth, speeches about running around the world fighting poverty will remain empty rhetoric.

Far from being ashamed of our aid policies, we should be very proud of them. I was born in a developing country and I have seen the effectiveness and efficacy with which British aid was used in Sri Lanka. Today there are 700,000 farmers who create food and provide employment because of what the British aid programme provided for that country. Some time ago, Sri Lanka was a net importer of food, but through the Maha valley scheme, today that country is a net exporter of food.

Labour Members have made a number of points about Rwanda. I remind them that Britain was the first country to go into Rwanda when the problems arose. So far, we have spent more than £11 million in emergency relief to alleviate the enormous suffering in that country and the damage caused by the civil war.

We have heard today about how well our aid programme is targeted. Over the past four years the budget has increased by 10 per cent. The Government's commitment to helping the poorest countries is what our aid programme is all about. We have written off £1 billion of debt under the Trinidad terms. Some poor developing countries—or non-developing countries—were spending 80 to 90 per cent. of their export earnings on servicing their debts. That has been helped by the writing off of £1 billion.

The essence of our aid programme is poverty reduction, health reforms, water supplies and humanitarian aid. Underlying that is a principle that the Labour party probably recognises—Sir John Rawls' "A Theory of Justice", which is to help those who are least advantaged in society to improve themselves. Through aid, we must give them the weapons, tools and opportunities to create a better standard of living for themselves. Otherwise, it is simply an open-ended system under which we provide support, temporary relief, rehabilitation, and so on, but at the end of the day those countries are no better off than when the process started.

Above all else in our aid programme, we can be most proud of the "good governance" criteria that we have employed over the years in the provision of aid. The criteria are sound economic policies, open and accountable government, free and fair elections, efficient public administration and respect for human rights. After all, it is from this place that the rule of law, democracy and constitutional government have spread. Today, especially in the Commonwealth, 1.8 billion people understand and recognise—even if some do not put them into practice—the values and inherent ideas that have come from this institution.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Mailing (Sir J. Stanley) made some salient points about the European Community. Our aid programme is being pressured—if that is the right word—so that currently we are putting about 23 per cent. of it into the EC multilateral budget. Unfortunately, we have committed ourselves to increasing that to 33 per cent. by 1999. We must study what is happening in the EC. Rather than acting as a 13th donor country, it should play a more strategic role. It should not become fatter by drawing funds from other donor countries; it should have a strategic, monitoring role in which it could harness the support of the 12 member nations and deal more rapidly with problems as they arise. There will be continuing conflict if the EC acts as the 13th donor entity, growing ever fatter on funds from the 12 member countries. We have succeeded in preventing the EC from drawing more funds into its coffers and in encouraging the EC Commissioner to spend the underspent money more effectively and to set up long-term procedures for disaster relief and rehabilitation aid.

There are more than 18 civil wars taking place in Africa. When they are ended, which I hope will be soon, a massive programme of rehabilitation aid will be required. Currently, the EC is underspending what it has in its coffers. People far better qualified than I have conducted research into that. For instance, the European Court of Auditors found that the Commission did not delegate enough power to staff working on aid provision programmes. Highly paid EC staff were brought in to do mundane jobs in recipient countries.

The United Kingdom has built up, over many years, a vast network through our embassies, high commissions and non-governmental organisations, so we do not have the problem of highly paid staff from London doing mundane jobs in recipient countries. We have a network of people already in place to implement aid programmes effectively. The Court of Auditors' report found that the Community's efforts had so far lacked realism in setting its targets. It also found that 60 per cent. of the projects funded by the EC were over-ambitious or had failed to take local constraints sufficiently into account in their preparation.

The Court of Auditors found that in its projects the EC was prepared to act hastily and without undertaking feasibility studies before creating the restructuring and production programmes to bring people back on stream. As a result, projects had to be considerably modified after only a few months, following further consultation. The Commission seems to engender an ad hoc, learn-as-you-go process. It seems to be on a learning curve. Others who have done the job far better for years should be consulted, or at least left alone to get on with what they are doing while the Commission adopts a different strategy.

I wish to make one recommendation to my right hon. Friend the Minister on our aid and trade provision. Our current practice is to provide finance for development projects proposed by British companies. However, if one of the prioritised projects does not come to fruition, we underspend our ATP budget. Last year it was underspent by 25 per cent. My recommendation is that we have a list of priority projects and if, for whatever reason, project No. I fails, project No. 2 can immediately call on the ATP funds allocated for that year, rather than having to go through the whole process again.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman has had his 10 minutes.

6.17 pm
Mr. Mike Gapes (Ilford, South)

I want briefly to follow the points about the aid and trade provision. The Foreign Affairs Select Committee is to produce a detailed report on that in the next few weeks. I am sure that its recommendations will be widely welcomed.

I want to comment specifically on what was said by the right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Mailing (Sir J. Stanley), who drew attention to the serious issue of the reduction in the proportion of the total overseas development assistance budget going to bilateral aid and the increase in the proportion going to multilateral aid. My figures show that the bilateral proportion will drop from 58.3 per cent. in 1988–89 to only 47.2 per cent. in 1996–97, while the multilateral proportion will increase from 41.7 per cent. to 52.8 per cent.

In the context of a declining or static overseas aid budget, which has been the case under the Conservative Government over the past 15 years, if the multilateral proportion is increased through organisations such as the European Union or the World bank, but there is no increase in the total budget, this Parliament and Government will have less control over what is spent. That leaves aside the question whether money spent through the EU is the best way to dispense resources. The real answer is to increase the aid budget, and then the proportion going to bilateral would not reduce in the way that it has, or is planned to be, in the next few years.

Figures from UNICEF show that a serious gap has opened between the few countries which are generous aid givers—such as Norway, Sweden and Denmark, which all spend more than 1 per cent. of their gross domestic product on overseas aid—and countries which spend significantly less. Only four countries—the three that I named and the Netherlands—exceed the UN target of 0.7 per cent. of GNP set many years ago. They are followed by France at 0.61 per cent., Finland at 0.55 per cent., Switzerland at 0.46 per cent., Canada at 0.44 per cent., Portugal at 0.41 per cent., Belgium at 0.40 per cent., Germany at 0.38 per cent., Italy at 0.35 per cent., and Australia and Japan at 0.32 per cent. Way down the list, at 15th place, is the United Kingdom.

Under a Labour Government in 1979, the UK spent 0.51 per cent. of GNP on overseas aid, but the Thatcher Government drastically cut that figure, and the Major Government have lowered it further. We have already heard it said that the figure will not change significantly over the next few years. It currently stands at 0.28 per cent. of GNP.

Mr. Deva

Is it not true that the last Labour Government cut the aid budget by £50 million a year for three years, which is the equivalent of £100 million today?

Mr. Gapes

The last Labour Government committed themselves, as did the present Government, to moving towards the UN target, but the present Conservative Government are consistently moving away from that target, year on year. The commitment by Ministers to the UN target is probably not worth the paper that it is written on.

As to the wider aspects of development, much has been said about the need for good government and for policies that assist countries to deal with conflicts. Nations suffering from internal dissension are often those where living standards are lowest and where the problems for tens or hundreds of millions of people are the most serious. It is therefore essential to give the maximum support to the UN and to its various agencies.

They include an organisation from which the Government have, disgracefully, withdrawn British participation and refused to rejoin. I refer to UNESCO. Last year, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee said that the Government should take the UK back into UNESCO. The cost of £12 million is given as the reason for refusing to rejoin UNESCO, but the Pergau dam cost £234 million. I suggest that rejoining UNESCO would be high on most people's list of priorities.

I conclude on one other aspect of peacekeeping—the assistance we give in the form of humanitarian aid in areas of conflict. Clearly, it is not possible for the UK or for European Union member states collectively to act as the world's policeman. Neither is it possible for the UK alone to play a significant role in every internal conflict in every region.

However, it does not help when the American Congress adopts crass and stupid positions. It is not prepared to send in American troops to assist a peace settlement in Bosnia, but it votes to lift an arms embargo so that American weapons could be used to kill British troops operating humanitarian convoys. If the American Congress persists, the time will be near when, for the safety of our own troops, we shall have to take steps to withdraw our forces from Bosnia.

If we do not, outside pressures—together with an unresolved military conflict between the three parties to that civil war—will mean that our troops will be like meat in a sandwich. I say that as someone who is committed to the UN and to international action, supports NATO and is regarded as an Atlanticist. The American Congress—the Senate and the House of Representatives—having effectively encouraged one side not to enter a peace settlement, is now taking decisions that could lead to further loss of life and serious conflict in the future.

It was important for the Opposition to seek a full debate on this issue today. I hope that there will be further opportunities in normal time—whatever that might become—to discuss these serious matters. Given the millions of people who are dying from malnutrition and the tens of millions of refugees worldwide, it is regrettable that this country should become so obsessed with trivia that it does not give proper attention to such issues.

6.26 pm
Mr. Matthew Banks (Southport)

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to catch your eye. I confess that I did not expect to be called quite so early, but I am delighted. I note that a number of Opposition Members have gone about their other business. I am sure that they will return, but, in view of the 10-minute rule, if you find that we are short of speakers later, perhaps you will allow us a second go.

It is clear that right hon. and hon. Members who seek to catch the eye of the Chair today have taken a particular interest in overseas development and aid to less developed nations for some time—in some instances, before they entered the House. There is evidently considerable expertise among right hon. and hon. Members who have spoken or who have yet to speak.

Although I appreciate that the Opposition are here to oppose, some of the wording of Labour's motion is unfortunate, if not deliberately disingenuous. It criticises the Government for the failure to target aid on those in greatest need …the absence of any clear, coordinated strategy for promoting effective and sustainable development". Earlier, hon. Members spoke of targeting aid to benefit the poorest people in developing countries. One important aspect of the British overseas aid programme is its quality rather than quantity. Targeting and quality are absolutely vital.

So far, except by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, sufficient gratitude has not been expressed for the enormous efforts of those who work for non-governmental organisations and the Overseas Development Administration. They do splendid work, often in very difficult circumstances, and Britain is rightly proud of them.

In his opening remarks, the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) drew attention to some of the difficulties of moving towards the target of 0.7 per cent. of gross national product. Although the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells) may refer to this later, I did not hear a clear statement of where the Opposition intend to find the money to move from the present percentage of GNP to the target of 0.7 per cent.

We all recognise the importance of moving gradually towards that target. Because of the situation in the United Kingdom, I would be the first to accept that it is regrettable, in view of the real increases over the past four years, that there is to be a small reduction in the percentage over the next couple of years. As we look towards the next decade, it is vital that we build towards the target figure of 0.7 per cent.

Although I am sure that the hon. Member for Monklands, West did not mean to be too unfair, as he is generally very even-handed, he did not adequately describe the enormous success of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in negotiating the Trinidad terms. We should not belittle a drop of £1 billion in the indebtedness of some of the poorest nations in the world.

So far, 22 nations have benefited from the renegotiation of the Trinidad terms. I take issue with a point made earlier in an intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash). It is not simply a question of writing off the debt of lesser developed nations: as my right hon. Friend the Minister of State said, we must consider the way in which the economies of lesser developed countries are run. In the short time available to me this evening, I want to consider that issue.

First, I want to refer to a point made by the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Gapes). I agree that we should take great care when protecting our aid workers. I have always believed that, if they cannot operate satisfactorily, we should consider withdrawing them from work, wherever they are. Bosnia is just one example.

I am particularly concerned by the suggestion of the hon. Member for Monklands, West that we are not doing enough in troubled areas. The implication was that we should send in more British troops to sort the problem out. Long before I became a Member of this House, I recall attending a dinner at the home of Derek Partridge, the then long-serving British high commissioner in Freetown in Sierra Leone. He had done sterling work with his colleagues, and was about to leave his post.

The then longest serving Foreign Minister of Sierra Leone was also at the dinner. As a small group of us discussed the incursion of Charles Taylor's men from Liberia into Sierra Leone—I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and to Baroness Chalker for ensuring that appropriate assistance is being given to help displaced persons in Sierra Leone—the Foreign Minister tackled the high commissioner and said, "We need your military assistance to tackle the incursion."

As the House knows, because of the war many hundreds of miles from Freetown, there was a coup, and that Government in Sierra Leone fell. One of the poorest countries, and one of the most difficult countries from the point of view of providing aid, is struggling with leaders much younger than I am. When they marched to complain to their leaders in Freetown, they suddenly found that, by default, they were running a country when they had been used to running a platoon of soldiers.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. Watson) is detained on other business, and will return to the House shortly to contribute to the debate. In London last year, he and I met a senior journalist on one of the local newspapers in Freetown. The gentleman concerned, who was in his 60s, was advising the young men of 25 and 26 on how they should be running the country.

My right hon. Friend the Minister of State drew attention to the importance of British aid not just helping with health care programmes or providing tangible support for irrigation projects, but helping through the know-how fund to deal with some of the difficulties to which I have referred.

I conclude by paying tribute, as I did earlier, to the work of the ODA. Although we should be moving, sooner rather than later, towards the 0.7 per cent. target, there is already a £2.2 billion fund in the ODA budget. I believe that that fund is being used extremely effectively, and I very much hope that we will, in the not too distant future, be able to see a real increase, as we have over the past four years.

6.36 pm
Mr. John Denham (Southampton, Itchen)

The Opposition motion draws attention to the absence of any clear, co-ordinated strategy for promoting effective and sustainable development". I was struck by June's UNICEF briefing which, under the heading "Aid is not enough", states: The industrialised nations will also have to create an 'enabling' rather than a 'disabling' economic environment within which the developing world can achieve economic growth. In practice, this will mean agreements on fair and stable commodity prices, agreements on more open access to markets for the manufactured exports from poor countries and agreements to write down a significant proportion of debt". I want to address the question whether there is any sign that the industrialised countries, including our own, are creating that enabling environment for the poorest developing countries. I believe that there is little evidence that they are.

Before I was elected to the House, I was a lobbyist for several development and environment non-governmental organisations. Just prior to the 1992 general election, I spent some time lobbying for the interests of the poorest people in the poorest countries in the GATT negotiations. I was often told by, among others, senior officials at the GATT secretariat and senior negotiators from the European Commission that Africa had nothing to do with GATT or the Uruguay round.

I do not think that those people were expressing pejorative judgments on Africa or the African people. That view was simply the reflection of a reality in their eyes, that African countries, which buy little and sell less on world markets, were not to be players in negotiations that were to govern world trade. That was a club essentially for the rich nations, and for the wealthier sections of some of the middle-income countries. The trading rules that were going to be shaped in the Uruguay round were going to be shaped in those interests, not in the interests of the poorest countries.

That highlights a contradiction at the heart of the economic policies that have been pressed on poor countries in recent years through the structural adjustment programmes promoted by the World bank and the International Monetary Fund. At their heart, they assume that the route to development for the poorest countries is through the effective participation of those countries in the global markets governed by the new trading arrangements. However, the conditions for that have not been created and the rules of the game have not been shaped in the interests of the poorest countries.

In the promotion of those structural adjustment policies and with the aim of enabling—that is the theory—the poorest countries to participate effectively in the global market, a number of measures have been taken. The poorest developing countries have been required to make proportionally much larger tariff cuts on their imports than the European Community and, indeed, industrialised nations generally would consider. Those countries have been forced to dismantle protectionist agricultural policies which were far smaller in scale and impact than the protectionist common agricultural policy, or United States agricultural policies.

Indeed, those countries, having dismantled their own agricultural policies at the behest of the bank and the fund, will continue to face subsidised export dumping from the European Community and from the United States of America. Their exports will continue to face escalating tariff barriers, and the greater the value added they attempt to give their goods, the greater their barrier to exporting to our markets.

It was mentioned that GATT has reduced the relative value of the Lomé agreement to many of the poorest developing countries. In response to my intervention, the Minister said that compensation for the Lomé countries would be addressed in the future round of negotiations. That is very significant, because the Uruguay round went on for seven years, and, according to the original agreement, it was supposed not to be completed without a full assessment of its impact on the poorest developing countries. However, to all intents and purposes, that deal is complete, and only now are people beginning to address, without commitment, the impact of that agreement on the countries which will lose.

Although many developing countries have signed up to GATT and will join the multilateral trading organisation, the decision-making lay largely in the quad group of major countries, and, to a lesser extent the only place where developing countries had a voice was in groups such as the Cairns group, which was dominated by the middle-income agricultural producers.

The external polices that are being pressed on the poorest countries, coupled with those of debt, have already made it inherently difficult for those countries to participate successfully in global markets. That has been made worse by the internal impact of the structural adjustment policies which the bank and the fund have promoted. Almost by definition, the poorest developing countries lack the developed productive capacity, both physical and human, to produce, sell and trade effectively in global markets.

Structural adjustment policies have simply failed to develop the human resources and ensure the capital investment to enable those countries to play the role set out for them within the global market. All too often, those countries have found that they have been competing over a limited range of basic commodities whose prices have fallen as a result.

Often, despite the emphasis on paper on developing the human capacity of the poorest countries, the immediate impact of structural adjustment policies has been to reduce expenditure on education, health and the skills and abilities of the poorest people. Indeed, although to some extent structural adjustment policies have been linked with political changes—they have promoted privatisation, reduced the role of the state, and reduced state spending —in most countries the main immediate effect of structural adjustment policies has been to widen the gap between the rich, who do exist in poor countries, and the poor in poor countries.

However, from the successful experience of other developing countries such as those in south-east Asia, we know that the fundamental principles that enabled them to expand were, first, that there was a very narrow differential of incomes between the rich and the poor; secondly, that there was equitable access to resources such as land and an equitable distribution of land; and, thirdly, that the state in those economies played an important role in organising economic activity and promoting the development of those countries.

Although there have been lessons about how very poor countries can become successful players in the international economy, those lessons have not been learnt, encouraged or applied, particularly in the countries of Africa. Far too little has been done, beyond the rhetoric, to enable the empowerment of poor people within developing countries. Indeed, the real political effect of structural adjustment policies has been to take the capacity for autonomous decision-making from the poor and the existing governmental structures of developing countries and place it in the hands of what effectively is an international bureaucracy promoted by the bank and the fund.

The Government's policies are going wrong in a sector that has not been mentioned today. It is a matter not just of the level and quality of our aid programme but the fact that our aid programme, however good it is, is swimming against the tide of the type of economic development which is being encouraged among developing countries.

They are being set an impossible task—to move from their current poverty and lack of well-developed, productive technologies and well-developed and diverse economies—they do not have such things—and are being asked to compete successfully in global markets without even the levels of protection and support that, even now, we in this country and the European Union take for granted.

That challenge to those countries is doomed to failure. If we want our development assistance to be effective, we must review the policies that we are promoting in respect of developing countries, not to lock them out of the global market but to enable them to participate in it effectively.

6.45 pm
Mr. Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South)

My right hon. Friend the Minister rightly dwelt on population policy. When I listened to his account of the glittering careers of his fellow founder members of the all-party group on population development, I could not help thinking that there might yet be some hope for me as its current chairman.

There have been significant developments in population policy over the past two years. The most obvious, of course, is the change of United States policy with the new Administration. The second was the monumental decision by the G7 summit to address the issue of population and to invite the United Nations international conference on population and development in Cairo, which is due to take place in September, to address the issue and to come up with proposals for the world to consider.

We know the serious statistics on population growth. The world's population has doubled since the war, and it is expected to double again over the next 42 years. But the most frightening aspect of all is that 95 per cent. of that growth is in the world's poorest regions, which, as hon. Members have pointed out, are affected by crime, disease, tribalism and scarcity.

Those countries want to do something about that. They realise that population growth is the root cause of their problems, and that they must have population policies, but they also face severe problems in the implementation of those policies. As a result, there is an unmet demand for contraception by 350 million couples, and there are undoubtedly hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people who are unaware of available contraception facilities.

The United Nations conference in Cairo in September is the best last chance to do something, for two very good reasons. The first is that the climate in the underdeveloped world is now of preparation to accept and face up to the issue. There is awareness that family planning is the best aid investment going. A classic example is Indonesia. It is now considered that 64 developing countries have explicit demographic policies, compared with 31 in 1975 and a mere 15 in 1965.

The second reason why this might be a critical moment is that the climate is as good as it is ever going to be in the developed world to introduce a global family planning programme. I have always felt that the two most influential people in that issue are the President of the United States and the Pope.

As we know, the United States has changed its policy. The 1984 Mexico conference resulted in a reduction of funding for the United Nations population fund and the International Planned Parenthood Federation. The cause was the controversy over abortion and the unwillingness of the United States to fund those organisations. I am pleased to say that the Clinton Administration has overruled that. Frankly, I would like to have been a fly on the wall during President Clinton's meeting with the Pope the other day when he drew the Pope's attention to the fact that his policy on abortion is that it should be safe, legal and rare. He also said that he did not support abortion as a means of birth control—neither do I—for the simple reason that it is a very inefficient method.

Sadly, the Pope has not changed his mind. If anything, he has become more entrenched recently. I have huge respect for the Pope and the religious movement that he leads; they made a significant contribution to the end of the cold war. However, on abortion, I believe that he is a minority interest. I respect his objection to abortion, but I find his objection to contraception puzzling. What is of greater concern to me is the determination of the Vatican to try to influence the outcome of the Cairo conference. I hope that my hon. Friends in the Government will resist the Vatican's attempts to water down the final declaration.

It is absolutely vital that the Cairo conference is a success and picks up the gauntlet thrown down by the G7 summit. We must now establish a global demographic plan. I have not seen the final draft document which is being circulated, but I understand that it runs to 118 pages and has 16 chapters. It should have only four pages and be set out in simple terms. The Government have made a big input into the preparation of the document. After all, it was my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister who got the issue of population on to the G7 agenda, and I know that officials in the Overseas Development Administration have been very active.

I shall make several points about the Cairo conference and the final declaration. First, it is essential that the conference steers away from making abortion a big issue. It is a matter for national Governments to decide, not for international conferences. Secondly, I hope that the final declaration recognises the significance of the fact that reproductive health is included in it. After all, healthy mothers and children lead to smaller families.

Thirdly, I hope that the conference will recognise the significant role that non-governmental organisations can play. I would like to see NGOs around the world follow the example of charities such as Population Concern and Marie Stopes International, which pioneered the concept of social marketing in family planning.

As ever, the key outstanding issue for the Cairo conference is that of resources. I believe that the world is at a crossroads on that issue. We must decide whether population growth is a fundamental issue; if so, we must ensure that it has proper funding. It is estimated that, by 2000, a reproductive health programme will need some $17 billion, of which the family planning component will be $10.2 billion. Two thirds of that can come from developing countries.

If all developed countries contributed 4 per cent. of their overseas aid budget for family planning, population policies and population programmes, that would raise more than $8 billion, and more than make up the shortfall. If that was forthcoming, we would see the world population stabilise at about the 10 billion to 11 billion mark.

The British Government have a fine record in this field. I am proud of their record, and I am prepared to defend it. I know of few other areas of government which have seen such a significant increase in funding as the area of population programmes. I know that the Government are reluctant to set targets, but I urge them to take the figure of 4 per cent. seriously and to recognise the urgency of the situation.

Generations look to the Cairo conference to come up with a solution. If it can establish the kernel of a global demographic family planning programme, if the Governments of the world can commit themselves to substantial increases in funding, and if Britain can say that it has played a part in that, the conference will be a turning point in our history, global turmoil in the next millennium will be averted, and the British Government will be able to say that they played a part in a monumental year. If all that happens, it will have been worth while.

6.54 pm
Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

With the problems of the developed and the developing world, one would expect that what is needed is a sense of mission and vision. Sadly, that is lacking in the Government's policies.

We have almost become too familiar with the statistics but it is worth putting at least some of them on the record. We are all aware that the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent. of gross national product is desirable, but no Government in this country of whatever complexion has ever reached that target, although the Labour Government got closest.

Currently, our percentage of GNP is hovering at about 0.3 per cent., but by the year 1995–96 it will be down to 0.26 per cent. of GNP. We are going the wrong way: we are going backwards all the time and giving less and less. The Government will argue that it is not so much a matter of arbitrary statistics plucked out the air as about quality and delivery. If we look at what is happening in the world, however, it is clear that the situation is getting much worse.

Trends suggest that by the end of this decade 770 million people will lack access to safe water and 100 million children will not be enrolled in primary schools. Moreover, the number of people living in absolute poverty is rising by 2 per cent. per annum, so by the year 2000 that figure is likely to have risen from 1.3 billion to 1.5 billion —about a quarter of the world's population.

Access to health services is remarkably low. In Mozambique, for example, 61 per cent. of the population have no access to health services. In Uganda, 39 per cent. have no access to health services. Elsewhere in Africa the picture is similar, and in the Indian sub-continent things are not much better. For those who have not seen the document and who want to study the matter in detail I commend the Actionaid publication, "The Reality of Aid 1994", which calls for comprehensive reading and a lot of study.

The argument about overseas aid—how it is used and how it is delivered—has gone on for a long time. Some years ago, my late friend Judith Hart, when she was Minister for Overseas Development, pointed out that trade had an important part to play in assisting developing countries. All of us realised that we did not want recipient countries to be simply supplicants living off the crumbs from the rich man's table: we wanted to see them develop their own economies and sustain themselves, but the balance is now completely the wrong way round.

The Government rest on trade figures as being wholly wonderful. They forget that 40 per cent. of British aid is tied to goods and services bought from this country. In many cases, developing countries are paying more for the goods than they might otherwise pay. What we are seeing is not a new world order, but a sort of new economic imperialism. We must address that topic.

Due to the shortage of time, I shall concentrate on the specific problems of Uganda, which has been struggling on two fronts: first, to recover from the Amin years and, secondly, to cope with the immense spread of the AIDS virus. As though that were not enough, it now faces an immense problem as a consequence of the horrific conflict in Rwanda, with bodies floating down the Kagera river to the north-western shores of Lake Victoria. The health problems that they pose are too horrific to contemplate. I am grateful to the Minister and to Peter Troy of the disaster unit of the emergency aid department of the ODA for giving me a copy of a letter of 15 June from the high commission in Uganda saying that that particular problem is now being contained. However, the Government believe that there is no need for an emergency aid contribution at this stage, apart from urgently needed medical drugs for the worst affected areas, including Mpigi, Rakai, Masaka and Kalangala. Has sanction been given for those medical supplies? What other steps will be taken to deal with the problem, which in my view will persist for a long time to come? Some people in Uganda feel that they have been let down because past promises have not been fulfilled.

We have all heard trumpeted from the Dispatch Box or on television immense new programmes of aid to be provided in different parts of the world, but sometimes it does not arrive. For example, Mr. Manuel Pinto, Member of Parliament for Rakai and director-general of the Uganda AIDS Commission secretariat, says that Actionaid UK and Virgin Atlantic were to collect an airlift of materials for AIDS patients from Europe to take to Uganda, but none of it has arrived and there are no signs of its arriving. I have asked Actionaid to investigate the matter and to give me a report.

The Minister acknowledged in his speech that aid and development policy were inextricably linked with foreign policy, that aid and development strategy were not only about provision or delivery of money or materials, and that of primary importance was the creation of political stability to allow for reconstruction and growth. It is in view of that that I wish to deal quickly with two other issues.

The first is what is happening in Angola, where a great tragedy is unfolding. The pluralistic electoral process brokered by the United Nations broke down when UNITA refused to accept the election results. The problem is that in the discussions and negotiations the western Governments, and Britain in particular, exhorted and pressured the legitimate Government of Angola to make one concession after another to UNITA' s Savimbi. We are now at the dangerous stage at which the United Nations might even withdraw its mandate, which has been extended only until 30 June.

We have to grasp such problems. It is no use brokering an agreement and then walking away from it. We have to realise that loss of life is continuing both as a result of the fighting between the two forces and due to lack of food and starvation because humanitarian aid is not getting through. Only yesterday a United Nations aid convoy was attacked and more than half the convoy burnt. Why cannot we grasp the nettle? Why cannot we see that we have to deal with the problem? We ought to look closely at the involvement and engagement of Zaire in the problem. We must face up to these things. It is necessary for the Government to take action. The situation cannot be allowed to continue.

We are in great danger of making the same mistake in Mozambique as was made in Angola. In Mozambique the pluralist election process is being discussed and moved forward. The United Nations has not learnt the lesson of its failings in Angola. It did not make sure that the combatants were properly disarmed. It did not ensure that the influence of the central Government extended throughout the whole country. As a result of that failure, we have seen a terrible breakdown. We must learn the lessons for Mozambique and make sure that policies are carried forward properly.

There is a tremendous new force in Africa. We all expect great things from the new, democratic South Africa. It has tremendous problems to solve on its own doorstep. South Africa has dominated the region in a malign way for decades. It can now do so in a benign way, but problems remain to be resolved. There is an argument about whether South Africa will suck in investment to the detriment of its friends in the front line states, but that is an issue of which the South African Government are well aware. We have to discuss the problems with the people round about.

As I said at the beginning of my speech, we must deal with the problems which are manifest throughout the world. We do not have time to go into them all tonight, but the spectre of poverty and ill health stalks the land. We require political will and firm commitments, but I honestly do not believe that we shall get such commitments—so that promises can be translated into reality—until we have a Labour Government.

7.4 pm

Mr. Gyles Brandreth (City of Chester)

I am grateful for the opportunity to make a brief contribution to today's debate, despite the fact that the issue of overseas aid does not dominate my postbag. I receive articulate and well-argued letters from concerned groups, as we all do, but when I receive letters from ordinary individuals they do not ask why the Government are not spending more: they usually ask why the Government spend as much as they do overseas when there is still so much to be done at home. For most taxpayers, spending on overseas aid is not a key priority. That may well be a matter for regret, but it needs to be recognised. Those of us who want to lift overseas aid up the pecking order of priorities need to make the case, not to convince ourselves but to convince those who have to foot the bill. That is why I believe that the Opposition's motion is ill conceived as well as ill considered. It is ill considered simply because it flies in the face of the facts.

I do not believe that the Opposition heard what my right hon. Friend the Minister said to us this afternoon. He pointed out that at £2.2 billion this year our overseas programme is the sixth biggest in the world. I understood my right hon. Friend to say that new Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development figures are likely to be released tomorrow showing that in 1993 the United Kingdom's aid:GNP ratio was above the average for all donors and that the United Kingdom was one of only seven donors which increased their aid. That is good news. Praise from the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) is neither here nor there, but praise from the OECD and the United Nations is worth acknowledging.

The Opposition's motion is ill conceived because it represents a missed opportunity. Instead of using the debate to make the case for an even greater commitment to overseas aid, the Opposition blithely assume that the case has already been taken on board by the public, which it has not, and then indulge themselves in somewhat sanctimonious, holier-than-thou platitudinising, which rings a bit hollow. It is easy to engage in parliamentary knockabout as to who will achieve the 0.7 per cent. of GNP target first. In the mouths of the Liberal Democrats, it is irrelevant. They once talked about 1 per cent. That is laudable perhaps, but it is neither here nor there: it is all moonshine. In the mouths of Labour Members, it is hypocrisy. When the Labour party was last in office, so parlous was the state of public finances under its stewardship that it had to announce cuts of millions in its overseas aid plans. Whether it is under the shop stewards of yesteryear or—who knows—the ship's steward of tomorrow, it will amount to the same thing: high-minded rhetoric combined with a fatal failure to deliver.

I should like our electors and taxpayers to understand why overseas aid is so important, not only to other countries but to our country. That is one of the reasons why in my constituency about two years ago I brought together a range of individuals from local aid organisations and pressure groups such as Christian Aid, UNICEF, the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development, Results and others to form the Chester World Development Group. Our aim was not simply to reinforce our prejudices, which is easily done, as we can see from the Opposition Benches, but to find others who may not have given such issues much consideration and to try to convince them.

Last Friday, for instance, we met the leading high street bankers in our community at the Institute of Bankers in Chester and together we examined the issue of third-world debt. The House has been reminded starkly of the dilemma: debt and interest payments due from the third world are three times more than all the aid that they now receive. According to the OECD, the poorest people in the world paid the rich nations £13.4 billion more in debt repayments in 1992 than we gave them in aid.

What are we to do about third-world debt? As the world recognises, even if the Opposition will not, Britain has taken a lead. It has cancelled £1 billion of debt owed by the poorest nations. When my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister set out the Trinidad terms back in September 1990, he also asked the UK commercial banks to make "a comparable response". So far, that response has not been forthcoming. Instead, the banks have either sold off the bulk of their third-world debt portfolio to other financial institutions on the secondary market, or they have retained the debt. Neither of those approaches provides any reduction in the debt burden of countries with a desperate lack of resources in which millions of innocent people face an enormous struggle to survive.

The 40 low-income countries have a gross national product of less than $650 per head per annum; yet they owe $4.3 billion to the financial institutions of the richest nations. The humanitarian argument is the overriding argument for reducing the debts of the poorest countries, but there are other important reasons—reasons of self-interest—why commercial banks and other financial institutions should respond to the call for debt relief. If the shackles of debt can be removed from the poorest countries so that they can begin to build their economies, many of the products and services that they will require will have to be obtained from the industrialised countries. That would be good news for us, for our economy, for businesses in our country and for the customers of the commercial banks.

Rightly, the high street banks increasingly promote their role in the community. When there is a disaster in the developing world, the banks are always among the first to step forward to offer help, for example, by providing collecting centres for aid. They are ready to help actively with the short-term crisis, as part of their commitment to the worldwide community. They could promote a more positive image for themselves by acting to reduce the debt burden on the poorest countries in the long term too. In making provision against their profits for non-payment of the capital interest on loans for the poorest countries, the banks have already borne the adverse effects of the debt crisis on their profits. Reducing the outstanding debts would have a minimal impact on their results and on the expectations of their shareholders and depositors.

What intrigued me about the meeting with the bankers in Chester was the fact that, for many of them, it was clearly the first time the issue had been properly discussed; yet it affects their shareholders and customers, just as the Government's approach to third-world debt affects their customers and shareholders—the electorate and the taxpayer. Of course, there is more to be done. One step is to take the public with us on the issue. A top-down policy without a bottom-up understanding and shared ownership of that policy will not work in the long term.

I am pleased that the briefing notes that Christian Aid —whose head of finance, Paul Tyler, made such a key contribution to our meeting with the bankers in Chester —sent to hon. Members for today's debate acknowledged the considerable progress that has been made in recent years. In the south, in the past three decades, the mortality rate of young children has nearly halved, adult literacy has increased by more than one third, the number of people with access to safe drinking water has increased by more than two thirds and the proportion of the world's people living in absolute poverty has fallen from perhaps 50 per cent. to 20 per cent. But that still leaves 1.2 billion people living in absolute poverty.

Aid remains essential for the poorest countries, but overall the economies of the developing world will benefit far more from increased access to trade opportunities than from aid on its own. Christian Aid is one of the organisations which are rightly pressing for much more to be done. It is also one of those organisations which rightly acknowledge that much that is positive can be said about the British aid programme. In no small measure, that is due to the remarkable leadership that the Overseas Development Administration has enjoyed in recent years under my noble Friend Baroness Chalker, ably supported by my right hon. Friends.

Much that is positive can be said about the British aid programme, but the Opposition motion singularly fails to say it. That was clear from the contribution of the hon. Member for Monklands, West, who spoke movingly of his experiences in Africa, but failed to deliver any prescription. He was a fine example of high-minded rhetoric without the will to deliver. The Opposition motion fails to say anything positive. That is because the Opposition remain a party of protest. They just want to make a noise: we want to make a difference—and in this vital area I believe that we shall continue to do so.

7.13 pm
Mr. Cynog Dafis (Ceredigion and Pembroke, North)

I congratulate the Labour party on its selection of this subject for the debate. It seems to have based its choice on the publication of the document entitled "The Reality of Aid" produced by Actionaid. I endorse the analysis in that document and the demands that it makes.

I approach the subject from a very important perspective, which is in danger of being neglected entirely and has been neglected during tonight's debate. A month ago, I attended the high-level segment of the second annual meeting of the Commission for Sustainable Development at the United Nations. It was also attended by the Secretary of State for the Environment and Baroness Chalker.

Astonishingly, no statement was made following that meeting about its outcome and there was no debate on it. It is astonishing because, in theory, the CSD should be one of the most important global agencies. This year's meeting was especially important. Even though it has a permanent staff of only just over 20, following the Rio summit, it is charged with the task of leading the world towards sustainable development and, in doing so, of saving the planet from the ecological catastrophe that it is generally agreed may be facing us. One cannot get much more important than that.

It is essential to consider overseas aid in the context of what the CSD is supposed to be doing and is trying to achieve, especially as one of the decisions at this year's meeting, which was emphasised by the United Kingdom delegation in particular, was the need to establish close liaison between the CSD and the Bretton Woods institutions—the World bank and the International Monetary Fund—and the new World Trade Organisation, which has a trade and environment committee, and high time, too.

I strongly support the demand for a White Paper on overseas aid, not least because it is time for us to ask what such aid is intended to achieve. Not long ago, it would have been assumed that the answer to a question like that was that the purpose of aid was to enable the countries of the south—to use popular shorthand—to emulate the development model of the north and in that way achieve similar patterns and levels of production and consumption. If Rio established one thing, however, it was that that idea is now entirely untenable because the natural environment is incapable of providing for and absorbing the effects of constantly expanding consumption with an expanding world population, which is what we will have for the foreseeable future, whatever policies are pursued. That is a fundamental fact, which we must understand.

Gro Harlem Brundtland put it well at an international symposium on sustainable consumption in January—part of the Rio process—when she said: It took all of human history to grow to the 600 billion dollars world economy of the year 1900. Today, the world economy grows by more than this every two years. Each year, economic expansion corresponds to the entire economy of South America. Only a lifetime away, our 14 trillion dollar world economy may have grown fivefold …It is simply impossible for the world as a whole to sustain a Western level of consumption for all. In fact, if 7 billion people were to consume as much energy and resources as we do in the West today we would need 10 worlds, not one, to satisfy all our needs. That talk of 10 worlds is based on a statistical calculation of what resources, and capacity to absorb the effects of production and consumption, are required. If we take that seriously—we must take it very seriously indeed —it implies an enormously radical change of direction. It implies a turning point in human history and certainly a far-reaching rewriting of economic theory and therefore of ideas about economic development.

There is all the difference in the world between a model of development based on constant economic expansion, which intends to benefit the poor either through the celebrated trickle-down effect, or by some combination of redistributive taxation and income policy, and the model that recognises, as does more and more expert opinion, that there are absolute limits to expansion and that social equity has to be achieved within those limits. All that was recognised at the CSD, which comprises 53 representative nations which this year were represented by their environment Ministers. All the. CSD's assumptions are things to which the UK is signed up in declarations and policy statements.

At the CSD, there was a constant repetition of certain fundamental demands. First, we needed new indicators of economic success, as it was recognised that growth rate and GNP are hopelessly inadequate and misleading indicators. Secondly—a revolutionary idea—there is a need to internalise environmental costs so that the real costs of any enterprise in production and consumption are expressed increasingly in prices, and that is particularly relevant to transport. If it were applied to transport, it would transform the pattern of production, distribution and trade, and particularly trade. Thirdly, we must develop economic instruments to encourage development of the sustainable kind. There was a demand for significant changes in taxation patterns, including a far greater emphasis on resource taxation and a reduction in taxation on people and, particularly, on employment.

All this in turn has far-reaching implications for overseas development policies. The countries of the south need to be encouraged and convinced that their new development patterns must be sustainable. That is entirely consistent with the demands of Actionaid, Oxfam, Christian Aid and so on that aid should be focused on poverty reduction, the empowerment of the poor and human development. The organisations are talking about a kind of bottom-up pattern of development, and not the alleviation of poverty through the trickle-down process, which is an entirely discredited theory now.

The southern countries need to be persuaded and convinced of that. However, there is no way in which the countries of the south can be persuaded to for go conventional patterns of growth unless the north and the elites within the southern countries are prepared to modify their current patterns of profligate, unsustainable and conspicuous consumption. That is another fundamental reality. Currently, 25 per cent. of the world's population consume 80 per cent. of the world's resources and produce, for example, 75 per cent. of the world's municipal and industrial wastes.

Those ideas are no longer the domain of a kind of green fringe. They are now part of an emerging consensus on an international level. The ideas are found, for example, in Paleokrassas's chapter in the European White Paper on Growth, Competitiveness and Employment. They can be seen in a recent brilliant essay by Herman Daly, who was, until recently, a senior economist at the World bank. They can be found in the report of the Oslo symposium on sustainable consumption, with its emphasis on reducing transportation and on what is called the proximity principle, which is the very opposite of the law of comparative advantage on which the modern theory of trade is based. The proximity principle says that one should produce as near to the market as possible, thus reducing transportation requirements. That changes everything in relation to the GATT agreement.

The agenda is being elaborated now as part of the Rio process in a plethora of seminars and conferences on various aspects of sustainability and in the inter-sessionals of the CSD. It is a painstaking process, especially because of the need to achieve consensus. We should pay tribute to the heroic efforts of Klaus Töfler, the German Environment Minister, in trying to create that consensus. It is a painstaking process, but it is also a race against time. We have an urgent problem. There is conflict between getting it right and the need for urgent action. Töfler put it rather well, saying it is better to get things precisely right at a somewhat later date than to get them precisely wrong now". That is only half the position, and we must get things going quickly as well. There are—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse)


7.24 pm
Lady Olga Maitland (Sutton and Cheam)

May I first give a word of caution to the Opposition, who seem hell-bent on spending the taxpayer's money on a host of projects, both nationally and internationally? I draw their attention to the remarks made by the Minister for Overseas Development when she spoke in another place: No one would thank us for putting ourselves once again in hock to the IMF by such spending as is boasted about by some Members of the Labour Opposition."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 23 June 1992; Vol. 538, c. 431.] Salutary words of advice indeed.

I shall concentrate my remarks on the phrase in the Government amendment drawing attention to the diversity of agencies which they wish to bring in to help with delivering overseas aid. Among the companies, consultants and non-governmental organisations upon which the British aid programme is heavily dependent is an organisation in my constituency, the Crown Agents.

The House will know that the Crown Agents provide a range of services to the ODA, as they do to other bilateral and multilateral donors. I have seen for myself the excellent work they have been undertaking in Malawi on behalf of the Japanese Government, the European Commission and the World bank. Their considerable logistical expertise and experience have, for the past two years, been providing invaluable assistance in delivering humanitarian aid in Bosnia.

The ODA convoy teams managed by the Crown Agents have, for the past two years, quietly established a level of professional competence and excellence in delivering aid safely and reliably to the most desperate people in the world. It is also worth paying tribute to those who have lost their lives on Crown Agents convoys, as regrettably they have been given barely a word of thanks. We should remember them.

The Crown Agents spread their work across the globe, covering more than 130 countries in the developing world. They have a declared and proven commitment to the highest standards of efficiency and integrity and are independent of any commercial interest.

I stress one example of a country in which I have seen the Crown Agents, and indeed other agencies, operate— Malawi. The lesson which I learnt there particularly was the value of targeting aid accurately and precisely and in Malawi we have certainly seen the benefits of that.

One of the factors that struck me keenly is how effective the international aid community can be when those involved work together. When the atrocious human rights record, which had been continuing for many years in Malawi, reached a point at which it was quite unbearable, the international aid community said that it would withdraw all aid apart from essential humanitarian assistance until it was resolved. The upshot was that elections were held and—to cut a long story short—I was privileged to be an observer at those elections recently.

Malawi is the fifth poorest country in the world. It is a country where life expectancy is only 47, where one child in three dies before the age of five and where only an average of 40 per cent. of the population is literate. In addition, it is one of most densely populated countries in Africa. We have seen what can happen when such countries go wildly out of control, with people fighting for land as in Rwanda.

That lesson of targeting aid really came home to me when we landed at Lilongwe airport, a marvellous edifice which was one of President Banda's prestige projects. It was unacceptable. We drove along a magnificent road into town and yet 20 ft away from the motorway people were hungry, barefoot and living in mud and wattle houses. There was no clean water and disease was constantly in their lives. The essence of survival was always foremost in their minds.

When we give aid, we must ensure that it is used in the right way. Perhaps the most classic example that has hit me was provided by a visit to the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Blantyre. As I entered, I saw workmen feverishly putting together a special intensive care unit that had been designed for President Banda, at enormous cost to the country's health budget. Just down the corridor, the hospital's director was rightly outraged. He said, "What can I do? We are running out of antibiotics and anaesthetics, while money is being spent on that unit."

I am proud to say that the British Government have taken the problem on board and have persuaded the new Malawi Government to divert their efforts away from prestige projects and into rural areas and districts. When I visited a district hospital in a rural area of Chikwawa, I saw the extent to which poverty was affecting medical care. I think it appropriate for the British Government to target assistance on that area.

Education is also important. It is all very well for the education programme to provide university professors, but I think that we should think again about primary education. I welcome the British Government's efforts to encourage the Malawi Government to move away from prestige projects in this regard as well, and to concentrate on primary education in rural areas.

In Malawi, primary education does not mean what it means in this country. Anyone aged between five and 45 can attend primary school there, learning basic literary skills. Without education, it is impossible for any country to develop—or, indeed, to understand how to handle its economy and the importance of family planning. I welcome the Government's efforts to focus particularly on helping women to become more educated and to be more confident about going to school: only when women can take control of their own lives will a successful family planning programme come into effect.

The problems of Malawi are wide and deep, but it is particularly encouraging that the Malawi people hold Britain in the highest regard. They turn to Britain at every moment of crisis; and by developing good trade, cultural and political links we are not only helping the Malawi people, but setting up friends for life.

7.32 pm
Mr. Mike Watson (Glasgow, Central)

I welcome the opportunity to speak, not least because of the rather mean-minded comments of the hon. Member for City of Chester (Mr. Brandreth). What he said flies in the face of the facts, and even contradicts the Minister's observation that the people of Britain feel generous when it comes to aid provision and want it to be increased.

We have heard the figures often enough this evening. We know that current aid spending in this country is 0.28 per cent. of gross national product—the lowest-ever level —and that, because of the freeze, it will fall to 0.26 per cent. by 1995–96. The United Kingdom will then rank 14th in the Development Assistance Committee's list of 21 OECD members. That is not a record of which the Government should be proud; perhaps it explains why they never call debates on overseas aid, which have to take place in Opposition time.

Earlier this year, the committee reported: The United Kingdom has not increased its total aid allocations in an amount corresponding to its increased multilateral commitments, particularly through the EU. There was widespread concern among other DAC Members that this pressure resulting from a lack of growth in aid resources, if continued in a programme as important as the British one, could result in a diminution of the distinctive British contribution to the overall donor effort. That is quite a damning indictment. Despite the comments of the hon. Member for City of Chester, I am sure that his constituents are not the mean, miserly moaners that he suggested them to be, writing to complain about the level of aid spending. That certainly runs counter to the trend —and I do not refer only to other hon. Members. Although there is considerable poverty in my constituency in Glasgow, people there are generous and feel that the Government should also be generous in helping the developing world. I have never been to Chester, and after what the hon. Gentleman said, I have no intention of going.

Nor does the trend suggested by the hon. Gentleman match the mood of opinion polls. Following the run-up to the general election of April 1992, a Labour politician might not be expected to be a particular exponent of opinion polls. I can tell the House, however, that an opinion poll survey commissioned by the World Development Movement just three weeks ago found that almost one person in two in this country thought that Britain should increase its aid as a percentage of national wealth to meet or top the European average within five years. Incidentally, more than half those polled thought that the peace dividend should be used to increase aid.

Sixty per cent. of respondents said that helping poor people in poor countries should be the most important reason for aid. In a MORI poll carried out for the aid charity War on Want last month, which surveyed 1,900 adults throughout the country, two thirds believed that the United Kingdom's aid spending should be equal to or above the average across Europe. If the calculation involves only the 12 member countries of the European Union, that places the figure at 0.45 per cent., 0.17 per cent. above the British level.

May I throw one more statistic at the House? Fully 67 per cent. of Conservatives who were interviewed wanted aid spending to be at or above the European average—only 4 per cent. fewer than members of the Labour party.

Mr. Brandreth

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Watson

I am sorry, but I cannot give way because of the time restriction.

That certainly gives the lie to the theory that charity begins at home. I hope that we can now bury that idea: people want more aid to be given.

Mr. Brandreth


Mr. Watson

I will give way to the hon. Gentleman, as I mentioned him specifically.

Mr. Brandreth

I shall be as brief as I can. My point is that constituents write to me complaining about the amount that we give. The whole point of my meeting the bankers was that they were saying that their customers often felt that they should not be reducing the amount of overseas debt. I was saying that our task was to encourage people to understand the reasons why an even greater commitment to overseas aid is so important. The hon. Gentleman is mischief-making in order to make a debating point on a serious subject.

Mr. Watson

I do not need any lectures on the fact that this is a serious subject. Unlike the hon. Gentleman, I have been present throughout the debate. I am treating it seriously and I am not interested in making debating points.

Mr. Brandreth

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. When an hon. Member has been in the Chamber since the beginning of a debate, is it in order for another hon. Member to suggest that he has not been? I have not left the Chamber once, except for 30 seconds.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Member for City of Chester (Mr. Brandreth) has made his statement. No doubt the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. Watson) will note what he has said.

Mr. Watson

If the hon. Gentleman has been present throughout the debate, I withdraw what I said. But I have used up enough time on this point; let me simply say that people are more than happy for our aid effort to be increased.

Let me deal with a specific aspect of the aid that we have given in recent years. I refer to the middle east and, in particular, to the question of Palestinian refugees. Recently, I was privileged to visit a number of countries where such refugees are placed. It is the responsibility of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency to deliver aid to the refugees. There are 2.7 million of them in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the west bank and Gaza, and UNRWA performs an essential task in delivering education, health care and general welfare to 59 camps in difficult and often dangerous conditions.

When I visited those camps—in particular, Shatila and Bourj el-Barajni in Beirut—it was pointed out to me, and to other members of the delegation, that the total UNRWA budget of some £400 million was inadequate to deal with the needs of the Palestinians. The British contribution to that total, incidentally, is £6 million in direct aid, but a contribution is also made through the European Union.

In Lebanon, Palestinians do not enjoy citizenship, have no rights to education, are not allowed to work, are stuck in the camps and have no individual rights. I ask the Government to turn their attention to the Palestinians' needs, especially in the Lebanon.

When we met UNRWA officials, especially Lionel Brisson, head of the field office in the Lebanon, a number of projects were brought to our attention. Some of them were basic and simply involved rehousing Palestinians, many of whom were made refugees in 1948 and displaced persons following the conflict after the Israeli attacks in 1982 and again in 1986–87. Simple matters such as the construction of internal sewerage systems and clinical laboratories in the camps and the provision of general housing are pressing for those concerned. They specifically asked that I raise this matter, which I am pleased to do. I hope that the Minister will reply because those refugees are in a desperate position and the recent peace negotiations —the Gaza-Jericho accord—mean nothing to them. They have been abandoned, but feel that UNRWA could look after them, if only it had adequate resources to do so.

I also met UNRWA officials when I visited Gaza. Although I have found no hon. Member opposed to the Gaza-Jericho agreement, it can progress no further because of the lack of resources in the municipality in Gaza. I met the Palestinian police and the army general in charge of overall security in Gaza. Of the $5 billion committed there over the next five years to underwrite the accord of September 1993, only $30 million has been delivered. The local administration needed in Gaza cannot be set up and services cannot be provided to the people in what is the most densely populated part of the world. Thus the people are caught in a catch-22 situation: the donor countries will not release the money because there are no accounting or taxation systems, so the money that is spent cannot be accounted for; yet the Palestinians do not have the money to install those systems and ensure that what they do is transparent.

The donor countries seem to be interested only in capital projects, which means that the people of Gaza are stuck and the whole peace process could grind to a halt. That could never have been the intention of the donor countries and those who brokered the historic agreement of last year. UNRWA will act as a conduit for funds if that is how the donor countries are happy to proceed. It is important that the logjam be broken. Civil servants, local government administrators and legal administrators are needed to set up those processes to allow the Palestinians to help themselves. Nobody ever believed that the peace process would grind to a halt because Gaza did not have the resources to do what the agreement allows it to do.

If the British Government will not assist, will they get together with the other donor Governments and ensure that the funds to enable the Palestinians to build their own authority in Gaza and, one hopes, take the peace process a step further are put into place without further delay? Not to allow that accession, as part of the peace process, to continue will simply play into the hands of the extremists, which could bring the whole process to a grinding halt. That would be tragic not just for the Palestinians but for those countries that have so patiently and meticulously brought the peace negotiations to their present position.

7.42 pm
Miss Emma Nicholson (Torridge and Devon, West)

I am grateful for an opportunity to speak in this important debate. I apologise for not being here for the opening speeches, but the rail strike meant that I had to go more slowly by car to Exeter to speak to Exeter university agriculture students. Although I enjoyed that, I was sorry to miss the opening speeches in a debate of such profound value and importance.

In this Chamber and beyond, it is widely recognised that the policies of Her Majesty's Government on overseas aid and development are influential. Not only do they assist the poorest of the poor, finding jobs for people in many countries overseas and creating sustainable development, but they are honest, give value for money and respect the people whom they attempt to serve.

I speak from personal experience. Hon. Members often do not have the benefit of personal experience but speak from other people's experience. I was keen to contribute to the debate because I have had the benefit of learning about the Government's aid and trade policies from the grass roots—the developing countries' perspective—for some time. I was the director of fund raising for the Save the Children Fund, Britain's oldest and largest children's charity for developing nations.

I now have the honour to be on the United Kingdom board of UNICEF, so I have a little experience—not much, as I have not been there long—of United Nations agencies' work through UNICEF. I also work hard as a partner of UNESCO in my work as chairman of the AMAR appeal, a charitable organisation registered in the United Kingdom, which works in the Persian Gulf. We now also work in eastern Europe—Bosnia, Romania and Poland—and we hope also to work in central Asia. Thus, I have had personal experience of the aid policies that we are debating tonight. I also declare a personal family interest: my husband, Sir Michael Caine, is deputy chairman of the Commonwealth Development Corporation.

The Opposition motion says that the poorest are not aided by the British Government. In fact, while our policies and agencies cannot hope to touch all of the many millions of the poorest of the poor, I can honestly say that they reach out and meet the needs of a large number of them. In the aftermath of the Gulf war, when the degradation of the marsh Arabs in Mesopotamia and the plight of the Iraqi Shi-ites hit no headlines anywhere, while the Kurdish tragedy was spilling over on our screens, to whom should I turn first but to the Minister for Overseas Development? She found time to give me invaluable assistance. Her Department works hard and carefully.

From that day to this, assisted by the Overseas Development Agency—I pay tribute to Ron White who currently runs the Iraq desk—and the European Community Humanitarian Office of the European Union, we have been able to feed some 2.5 million needy people. By "needy" I mean starving people who have no water, who may have cholera, anaemia or bilharzia. Some of them are dying and we cannot save their lives but it has been heartening to discover the great understanding in the Overseas Development Agency for that important work. We now have a team of 60 medical staff and 160 teachers on the ground in southern Iran. I hasten to add that by no means is that work fully funded by the ODA. How wonderfully easy my life as chairman would be if it were. We make extensive public appeals.

The late Neil Marten was the Minister responsible for overseas development when the non-governmental organisation pound-for-pound policy was created. Some hon. Members here tonight, and many hon. Members not in the Chamber, will recall how he set about that task. He invented that policy and countless millions of the poorest of the poor have benefited from it. He made it possible for British non-governmental organisations, large and small, to start excellent projects—for which it is not always possible to gain the necessary support from the general public—and have pound-for-pound matching grant aid. A pound given in a church collection is matched by a pound given by the Government; a pound raised by shaking tins on street corners or at Victoria station is matched by a pound taken out of the pocket of UK taxpayers.

I know the difficulty of justifying such far-sighted aid and development policies when people in inner cities or rural areas such as my constituency have a difficult time financially, particularly during a recession. For example, the margins of farming in Dartmoor are so slender that they are sometimes invisible. Yet overall, the benign policies and views of the Government and the United Kingdom public continue to make our overseas aid programme one of the largest and most important in the world today.

The Commonwealth Development Corporation was set up in 1947. My father-in-law, Sir Sidney Caine, was instrumental in the Treasury in bringing that into being. I am proud of the fact that Her Majesty's Government foster the concept of creating sustainable development, and that we have done so since the immediate post-war period by mens of the CDC.

I have witnessed many possibilities for sustainable development in which the Commonwealth Development Corporation, through loans, has invested British taxpayers' money. Indeed, I think that it has only to wash its face; it does not aim to make a profit and it must not make a loss. Any small surplus is ploughed back in again. By careful handling of the funds and the policies, it has created many hundreds of thousands of jobs in the developing world. The organisation now works in about 47 different countries.

When I was in Brussels recently, the senior ECHO official, Mr. Donato Chiarini, and his superior, the director, Mr. Gomez Reino, spoke most warmly about the non-governmental organisation world in the United Kingdom, commenting favourably on that system of charitable support for the poorest of the poor and for sustainable development, which flows out of the United Kingdom. That non-governmental organisation effort would be much less than half the relative success that it is if Her Majesty's Government did not perceive the importance of assisting throughout the world in so many difficult regions, in regions of conflict, in regions of poverty, and in regions of unbelievable human misery, such as the Mesopotamian marshlands.

I commend Her Majesty's Government for the fine work that they do in overseas aid and in sustainable development and I urge them to do more.

7.51 pm
Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

I wish to put on record my apologies to the House for missing half the debate. I was at the meeting of the Select Committee on Social Security and therefore obviously could not be in two places at once, although one does try.

The debate must be put in the context of the horrors that confront the majority of the population of the world and the devastation that confronts a significant minority of the world's population. At any time, 20 per cent. of the world's population are desperately hungry; half are on the brink of complete starvation. Twenty-five per cent. of the world's population lack safe water, 33 per cent. live in conditions that none of us would recognise as anything other than dreadful poverty, and every year there are 8 million wholly preventable child deaths throughout the world. The slum conditions that used to appertain in Victorian England—and Scotland and Wales, for that matter—are being visited on the children of a fast-developing world where there is an increasing level of disproportionate poverty.

Members of the House are pretty good at travelling. I hope that when they travel they manage to get outside the Sheraton hotel of whichever capital city they happen to have landed in, and go to look at the shanty towns that are growing around the capital cities of every third world country as a process of industrialisation and depopulation of rural areas takes place. I hope that they will look at the misery that those communities live in and have to suffer.

In that context, one has to ask, what policies can be followed by any national Government, and what policies can be followed by multinational agencies, to try to redress those horrors? If we did not care about them, we would not even be debating them.

Although in a short speech one can give only a few pointers, I think that the emphasis that was given by my hon. Friend the Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) to the problems of debt and debt write-off is important. Obviously, it is important to write off debts, which, frankly, have not been incurred in a spendthrift, dangerous or profligate way by those poor countries. They have been imposed on them by the rigidity of a commodity pricing system and a penurious banking system which drags money from the poorest to pay to the richest. A rapidly increasing transfer of wealth from the very poorest to the richest is taking place in the world. Wealth is not flowing in the direction in which it is needed.

Although I welcome any debt write-off—obviously, everyone would welcome any debt write-off—it is not good enough to write off a debt if at the same time one does not try to create the economic conditions that can prevent a recurrence of that debt. If, as I said in an intervention in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Monklands, West, the commodity prices that are paid to poor farmers in those communities are not increased, the debt problem simply becomes worse. The poorest countries in sub-Saharan Africa, even after Trinidad terms, are being forced to spend a huge proportion of their export earnings simply on paying debt to the banking systems of the north. It is wrong and it is immoral, and many people fully understand that.

We have an aid budget in this country, insufficient and inadequate though it may be. The Government also promote a political philosophy, which is one of essentially trying to impose their curious view of the world and economic and political systems on the rest of the world. They are increasingly trying to tie aid to political systems in the recipient countries. Increasingly, they are trying to tie aid to what they call economic restructuring and the development of a free market economy, in the clever mixture of words that Mrs. Thatcher was so good at using by saying that a free market economy equals a free society and a free democracy. It certainly does not. There are plenty of examples throughout the world of countries where there has been a totally free market economy and a fascist political system to ensure that it maintains itself as a free market economy. Throughout the Pinochet years in Chile there was very much a free market economy with a secret police to ensure that it stayed that way—and there was no excessive expenditure on the social needs of the people.

There are pressures in the other direction because we, as millions of people do throughout the world, understand the unsustainability of the world's economic system. We cannot go on exploiting raw materials at the rate that we do, we cannot go on polluting the waters, we cannot go on overfishing the seas, and we cannot go on destroying natural forests, be they tropical rain forests, temperate forests, Arctic forests or sub-Arctic forests, without paying a penalty. The penalty is in climatic change; the penalty is in environmental disaster.

It is not something that will happen; it is happening here and now. The Rio summit, the Rio conference, was an important step forward in that, for once, all the countries of the world at least met to discuss the common agenda of the environmental problems of the world.

There were some serious flaws in the declaration at the end of the Rio summit. President Bush ensured that there were some serious flaws in it, because he was not prepared to agree to the transfer of technology and intellectual property to poor countries. Essentially, it was an attempt to maintain that power in the wealthier countries of the north.

We have now had the GATT deal, which we debated last week. The GATT deal has been presented as a victory for everyone—"Everyone is a winner in GATT'. It is rather like The Sun bingo competition, which no one ever apparently loses. I do not welcome the GATT deal. It has some appalling side effects. For example, it is estimated that sub-Saharan African countries will lose $3 billion as a result of the GATT trade deal. It was far from welcomed universally by the Ministers of the southern and poorer countries who were there. For example, Shamsul Islam, the Commerce Minister of Bangladesh, said: the concerns of the least developed countries have not been adequately reflected in the Final Act". He went on to ask for a comprehensive assessment of the results of the GATT round, and pointed out that the share of world trade by the least developed countries declined from 0.6 per cent. in 1980 to 0.3 per cent. in 1992. In that period, the ratio of their exports to gross domestic product decreased from 14.4 per cent. to 7 per cent. That is hardly a success story throughout the 1980s, and I suspect that the GATT treaty and the GATT deal that has come with it will not improve things for those countries; it will increase the disparity between the richest and the poorest nations. Those issues must seriously be tackled.

We must then ask where the overseas aid budget of the British Government fits into that, as that is the one over which, one hopes, we have some control in the House. The experience of some of the expenditure on aid is appalling. There is a lack of examination of the side effects of major projects. The Mahawili dam in Sri Lanka was a marvelous project; it is a shame that the people who lived around it could not afford to buy the electricity that was produced from it. The Pergau dam was a scandalous waste of money. It was designed to benefit corrupt politicians in the country concerned and to benefit certain companies in this country. There is nothing wrong with exporting goods from here, but let us be honest about what aid projects are for.

We always have to ensure that any aid we send helps to promote sustainable development and to keep communities together, not to split them up. We must develop sustainable agriculture systems of the type that existed centuries before the European colonialists arrived in Africa, Asia and Latin America. We have no right to flood those countries for major dam projects, or to impose on them the excessive use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers. Sustainable development is the only way forward.

Instead, the record of our aid budget has been appalling, and the fact that it is declining is also a disgrace. My hon. Friends have pointed out that many people support an increase in the aid budget because they understand that, in humanitarian terms, it is simply wrong that 8 million children a year should die of wholly preventable diseases and that a quarter of the world's population should go hungry every day. We have to do something about that, otherwise we shall reap the whirlwind in decades to come.

8 pm

Mr. Jim Lester (Broxtowe)

I always seem to follow the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) in these debates—

Mr. Corbyn

The hon. Gentleman should agree with me then.

Mr. Lester

I do agree with some of what the hon. Gentleman says, but not with an awful lot of it.

We debated GATT only a week ago, for instance. Bangladesh is one of the many poorer countries that will experience export growth—over 14 per cent. in its case —as a result of GATT. It was strange, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman should pick on it as one of the countries that will not benefit. The developing world fully co-operated in the GATT round and was one of the driving forces behind it. All the estimates that I have seen suggest that the developing world stands to benefit by more than a third in terms of world growth. Certainly we know that there are problems in certain sub-Saharan and African countries, but steps have been taken to deal with them, and it would be wrong to discourage the rest of the world just because there are likely to be problems with some of the weaker links—provided we can deal with those weaker links.

I listened carefully to the speech by the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke). It was typically full of humanitarian concern, and he described visits that he has made and situations that he has witnessed. I assure him that not all of us stay in Sheraton hotels. I dare say I have stayed in more grubby places than has the hon. Member for Islington, North.

We are all capable of reciting a litany of the world's problems, but I thought that the hon. Member for Monklands, West was short on solutions and particularly short on committing the Labour party to spending more money. He carefully avoided any such commitments, presumably because the shadow Chancellor takes the same view of these matters as the Chancellor does. The problem will certainly not be solved by a White Paper.

As for the Government motion, it is certainly accurate to say that we now provide more information about overseas aid and development than ever before. That is a direct result of the concerted campaign by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee for such information. Our report on China has already been mentioned. I am sure that most hon. Members who read our foreign affairs reports recognise their fairness and their independence.

That brings me to the sloppy way in which the Opposition motion has been drafted, particularly as it relates to the Pergau dam affair. The Opposition seem to mutter it like an incantation—"Pergau dam, £300 million. Pergau dam, £300 million." The Select Committee is examining the matter objectively and we shall produce a report that will be both fair and accurate. The Opposition, too, should try to be fair and accurate; they should recognise that the dam is not a white elephant. Nor is it true to say that it is not wanted by the country concerned. It will last for 100 years, generating electricity, and it was well engineered. The extent of the commitment is £70 million over 14 years. That represents 1.3 per cent. of the aid and trade provisions budget, which in turn is only 9 per cent. of the total budget for overseas development. Any attempt, therefore, to link it with the genuine bilateral aid programme amounts to disinformation.

It behoves the Labour party to recall that it invented the ATP programme during its period of office, a long while ago, yet now the Opposition criticise it. Are they prepared to see British industry go naked into the market places of the world? The contenders for the Labour leadership campaign on the issue of employment. Perhaps they should first check how much employment is provided by the companies involved in the Pergau dam affair. If they want to talk about employment in the United Kingdom, as well as improvements in the rest of the world, they should first clarify their position on the aid and trade provisions. They should certainly not confuse the latter with our major bilateral aid programme.

I can certainly confirm what the Minister said about the British Government's commitment on debt. Along with two Labour and two Conservative Members, I happen to be a member of the African caucus, which has been doing a great deal of work on Ugandan debt and the debts held by sub-Saharan Africa. The most enthusiastically supportive people whom we have met have been the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, both of whom are prepared to see the International Monetary Fund sell gold to achieve some movement in this area.

The point I want to get across to the Opposition is that we cannot do this on our own. We are part of a multilateral organisation. To be sure, the enhanced Trinidad terms, which we invented and pushed for, apply; but unless we can persuade the Japanese to come on board, we can make no more progress. We would welcome help from the Opposition in these matters, instead of which they slate us while we continue to be positive and get on with the job. They should bring their influence to bear on the people who are impeding progress—in this case, the Japanese.

The all-party group on overseas development set up a working party on multilateral debt. It has finished its research and is now drafting its report. In this area, too, it is not the British who are holding up progress. We are trying to persuade the Americans, the major contributors, to change their policies. Most of us recognise that the writing off of bad debt must be framed and understood in a new way—without writing off bad debt. Perhaps we could put it in cold storage and call it something else; in any case, the way forward must involve the ending of repayments. It is no longer sensible of the Opposition to hammer away at us, claiming that it is all our fault. We are taking the lead in forcing through change, and we are not the ones preventing progress.

I am entirely satisfied with the direction of our aid programme and the analysis given to it. I do not share the concern expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Mailing (Sir J. Stanley) about the proportion of the budget that goes to European Union multilateral organisations. If that aid is properly channelled and organised in the same way as we handle bilateral aid, it can have a cumulatively good effect. Of course, we all want the money to be wisely spent and carefully scrutinised, but there is nothing wrong with nations increasingly co-operating in this area.

We receive many European documents—if people are only prepared to read them—that analyse the European aid programme. The European Community humanitarian office has just released to us a document of this type. It has already accredited eight of our NGOs—eight out of a total of 80. That is fine. They are all worthy organisations: the British Red Cross Society, Care Britain, Catholic Fund for Overseas Development, Christian Aid, Feed the Children, Helpage International, Oxfam, and Save the Children Fund. These NGOs will be the recipients of money that comes partly from Britain and partly from the other 11 member states, and together they will be able to carry out worthwhile humanitarian aims.

It is all very well to complain about an increasing proportion of the budget going elsewhere, but a lid has been put on the total budget. I, like the Opposition, want an increased aid programme; meanwhile, it is no good moaning about the proportion going elsewhere as long as overall limits are put on the total amount. In those conditions, the proportion going elsewhere will obviously increase. We look forward to an early increase in our aid budget.

I want to comment principally this evening on the role of the United Nations, especially as it affects Rwanda. Of course we must also consider the United Nations in the context of Angola and Cambodia where the UN carried out operations. In Angola it conducted an election for a Government, but because the international community did not commit sufficient funds to the organisation and enough military power to disarm the combatants, the election was null and void and since then the situation has become worse. There have been more tragic and dreadful deaths in a country that has tremendous potential. With a proper Government it could develop that potential and its resources through links to South Africa. It is a tragedy that after the UN exercise the problem is worse.

I have given many years of my life to Cambodia, and the situation there is precisely the same. There was tremendous UN participation in taking over a country in which genocide in my generation really came to the fore. The UN ran an election that everyone praised and 85 per cent. of the population turned out to elect the Government that they wanted. However, because we now seem to feel that internationally we have done our bit, we have turned our backs on a country which continues to be undermined by the Khmer Rouge. The international community does not seem prepared to give that genuinely elected coalition Government the resources to carry out their function in defending the country's borders and dealing with people who do everything that they can to undermine the work to which we have all subscribed through the United Nations.

Mr. Matthew Banks

Does my hon. Friend think that the international co-operative efforts that he has described would be better handled by the United Nations, or does he agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Mailing (Sir J. Stanley), who seemed to place greater emphasis on the European Union?

Mr. Lester

I am interested in that matter and I shall answer my hon. Friend's question as I develop my speech.

The real concern about Rwanda is that there is no international will to deal with what I would describe as a machete-wielding militia. Let me read from the report about Rwanda that the Secretary-General sent to the Security Council: The delay in reaction by the international community to the genocide in Rwanda has demonstrated graphically its extreme inadequacy to respond urgently with prompt and decisive action to humanitarian crises entwined with armed conflict. I shall not read the whole of the report. I responded to the hon. Member for Monklands, West when he said that the UNAMIR minimum presence was reduced. The report states: since its original mandate did not allow it to take action when the carnage started, the international community appears paralysed in reacting almost two months later even to the revised mandate established by the Security Council…Our readiness and capacity for action has been demonstrated to be inadequate at best, and deplorable at worst, owing to the absence of the collective political will. That brings me to the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Banks). I constantly hear it said, "Is the life of a British soldier worth involvement in Rwanda?" Could we see British forces in Rwanda—or American forces in Bosnia, as was mentioned by the hon. Member for Islington, North? There is concern about seeing our national forces involved in a peace-making operation. The consensus seems to be that we need a peace agreement and then we will monitor it. But from much experience of looking at these events around the world, I submit that we need something between chapters 6 and 7 of the United Nations mandate. Those chapters are quite clear, but many situations in the world fall between the two and call for chapter 6.5 or 6.75.

We must address the problem of how to give the United Nations the means to carry out our collective will because if that collective will does not operate there can be no international law or an international community. There are two options and the Select Committee spent much time looking at the future of the United Nations and how it could be developed. We said that first and foremost there should be a genuine military assessment system at the disposal of the Secretary-General consisting of people who could make active plans of what was needed and where it should come from.

Secondly, we suggested that every country with well-trained forces—and such countries exist not just in western Europe but throughout the world—should be able to second special units and have them ready and available if the United Nations wanted them quickly. Those of us who followed events in Somalia knew that Ambassador Shanoun, who was trying to solve the problems there, said that if he had got the Pakistani forces within weeks instead of months the situation in Somalia would never have deteriorated to the extent that it did.

It is a question of how to provide the military means for the United Nations to operate. A friend of mine, Congressman Jim Leach, looked at the United Nations in exactly the same way as the Select Committee. Congress came to the conclusion that the United Nations itself should have at its disposal trained soldiers who had committed themselves to international intervention. That is one of the ways forward and it was suggested in the original charter. The Government, the Opposition and all those who are genuinely concerned to see international order have to grasp the nettle and argue the case. Do we have specialist units trained and available, or should the United Nations itself have trained forces?

Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and Zimbabwe have all offered their troops to help to solve the problem in Rwanda; but none of those countries has the means to get them there or to equip them to do the job. The French have said, "We are sick of this terrible tragedy of people being slaughtered by machete-wielding militia, and 2,000 good French troops could solve the problem." I suppose that they could, but then we encountered the problem of the Rwandan Patriotic Front saying, "We do not trust the French." Back we go, and in the meantime more children are slaughtered, more die and more innocent people are harmed.

As part of the overall concept of international order we need to grasp the problem of how to give the United Nations the means for its collective will to be enforced efficiently and properly. That is the principle.

Dr. Kim Howells

I am loth to interrupt the hon. Gentleman's speech because it is so thoughtful and visionary, but what is his view of the lack of a feasible power bloc in Africa? Is one of the vacuums in Rwanda and Somalia due to the fact that there is not the presence that there is in Europe of, for example, NATO?

Mr. Lester

Of course, and the problem with Africa is simply that it does not have workable regional organisations in any context, whether in trade, aid or working together. Part of its poverty is simply due to the fact that, collectively, it hardly trades within itself. I think that throughout Africa 4 per cent. of countries trade one with another. The same applies to the military.

Of all continents, Africa has been the victim of the cold war, with different regimes profiting first from the Americans and then the Russians and then from anybody else who would give them money. They had got used to that, and now they have to start all over again and we need to help them. That is the most important point.

In today's world there are changing needs. In the past 20 years during which I have been in the House the way in which we look at aid and the way in which countries receive it have changed dramatically. There are now institutions such as the Foundation for Democracy and the know-how funds, which have worked particularly well. I should like to make a plug for the local government content, which I was pleased to note my right hon. Friend the Minister mentioned. In my experience, throughout the world many people who need the sort of services and support that the hon. Member for Islington, North mentioned get them, not from national Governments, but from local organisations and local government. That dimension has just started to come forward.

The local government international bureau has just published a very good document on global partnership. I commend it to all hon. Members and urge them to get a copy to check whether their local authorities are involved in an international partnership. Thanks to a private Member's Bill for which I was responsible, such partnerships can now be thickened from knowing, talking and exchanging from schools to the actual transfer of technology and knowledge which is of real benefit to the people that they serve. It is done at minimal cost, as cost is not great in terms of know-how, technology and information. I hope that we shall all encourage our own local authorities to show an interest in the international concept of what they can achieve.

I am also delighted to tell the House that, thanks to the generosity of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development, who provided some pump-priming money, we now have a Commonwealth local government forum which we designed as a momentum within the Commonwealth to promote throughout the Commonwealth, all speaking the same language, the concept of local government change. It will be based here in London, as is the Commonwealth Secretariat, and its role will be as a posting box to introduce those local authorities throughout the Commonwealth which need help to those who can give it—not specifically from Britain; Canada, Australia, India and many other countries have available expertise.

I hope that we can concentrate on the big picture, which is international order and where we can give most practical help to people on the ground. I suspect that through local government and know-how we could make a better contribution than we have made so far.

8.20 pm
Mr. Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie)

It is a pleasure to follow the speech of the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester), which was characteristically thoughtful. It was a Minister's speech and included a speech on Rwanda that probably should have been made by the Minister.

Let us consider what has happened today. We have on the Order Paper a motion that mentions the inadequate response of the Government and the world community to Rwanda, and what has the Minister said? He has simply said that we have given aid and logistical support to the military effort. I see from one of the answers I received today that it is 50 trucks. That is Britain's contribution to Rwanda.

Dr. Kim Howells

It is £500,000.

Mr. Worthington

My hon. Friend on the Front Bench says that it is £500,000. The Secretary-General of the United Nations described what has happened in Rwanda as a tragedy, as deplorable, as a collapse of the world will and as a total failure. He said that the United Nations had failed. If the United Nations has failed, we have failed. It is not Dr. Boutros Boutros Ghali; it is the Government and the House of Commons of Britain and of all the countries that contribute to the United Nations.

What kind of House and Government do not seek to make a statement when 500,000 people are slaughtered? Here we are today, debating the tragedy in Opposition time, and the Government have made no attempt to make any statement to the House.

The Minister talked about leadership, about a world position. We are on the Security Council. What kind of leadership do we have when it will not even speak to our House of Commons about the tragedy in Rwanda? What kind of leadership function is that?

Let us take another example. Recently, there was an unparalleled special emergency meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Commission to consider the genocide that has occurred in Rwanda. Even the Government use the word; it is admitted as genocide. We considered it so special, such an emergency, that we did not even send a Minister. We sent a civil servant to an emergency meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Commission. How many people have to die before it is worth sending a Minister to show our commitment?

What lessons have the Government learnt? I respond to what the hon. Member for Broxtowe said. We cannot go on running famines and wars by committees which take weeks and months to meet. That is what happened in Somalia, Angola and Rwanda. It is a no-no. It is no way of dealing with the problem. It plays into the hands of the Milosevics and of the Government of Rwanda. Such people love to see us behaving in that way.

We also have to consider how the Security Council operates. At the moment, frankly, it looks as if the United Nations is praying for the war to end before the troops get there. The Rwanda Patriotic Front is doing a better job than the United Nations about ending the war and the bloodshed.

We do not even have human rights monitors there at present. The presence of journalists has probably done as much as the presence of the United Nations to stop deaths. Simply to be there and for those in Rwanda to know that the world is looking stops deaths.

We must try to rescue something from this. I hope there will be another occasion when we can have a serious debate about the role of the United Nations Security Council. As the hon. Member for Broxtowe was saying, the United Nations should have a rapid reaction force of people from the nations of the world who have volunteered to join that force and owe it their allegiance.

That will be a difficult operation, but the current difficulty of deciding whether one would be willing to lose a British life in Rwanda would become a different question if those young people had made a commitment to join the United Nations special reaction force. It is the volunteering of a person to do a worthwhile job for the world. There are inadequacies with that, but the position could not be much worse than it is at the moment, and we must try to rescue something.

I want to talk about three things. I have already mentioned the first, the position in Rwanda, but Dr. Boutros Boutros Ghali and others are now talking about preventive diplomacy or how we avoid such tragedies and intervene in a helpful way.

I want to talk about one particular country and flag up the fact that problems will occur there. I have just been there, and I think that we will be reading about tragedies there in the next year or two unless we act now. That country is Kenya. All the signs are that there will be a Government-sponsored civil war there unless we take note of what is happening. I think that Kenya runs the risk of going badly wrong.

One issue I wish we had talked about tonight—and which the Minister can still rectify—is controversial. The Government are quite right to allocate their aid budget to emphasise good governance. That is fundamentally right. There are exceptions to that, in that humanitarian aid has to go to the people in any circumstances, regardless of the goodness or badness of the Government, but if one is giving development aid, in order to justify it to one's constituents, one should make sure that that money is properly applied in a context that respects human rights. I suspect that it is a highly selective policy. In Indonesia, where there are big markets, I suspect that a blind eye is turned to human rights issues.

Let us take Kenya as an example. A couple of years ago, the international community said that enough was enough, and stopped aid and co-operation. It worked to a certain extent, in that President Moi was forced into multi-party elections, which were given an okay verdict by the international observers. However, that verdict was like a verdict in a World Boxing Organisation title fight—very dubious. Many aspects of those elections were highly questionable. For example, in the Rift valley, there were 16 unopposed Kenya African National Union MPs, because no one else could place his nomination papers.

I fear the worst for Kenya because of the gargantuan scale of the corruption and the undermining of the democratic rights of the people. The corruption is on a huge scale. Is there any corruption anywhere to match the scale involved in the Goldenburg scandal? Hundreds of millions of Kenyan shillings were paid to the Goldenburg firm as a reward for doing nothing at all except fill in bogus forms pretending to have exported gold when no gold had left the country.

It is calculated that the scale of the scam amounted to 20 per cent. of the total value of the Kenyan economy. The corruption extends to the most senior levels of the Kenyan Government. What is so wicked is that, just as there is no such thing as a free lunch, so there is no such thing as a free scam. That scam provoked runaway inflation, and those who are suffering most are the millions of Kenyans who live on a pittance.

The Kenyan Government were forced to hold an election, but it was a highly dubious one. Many opposition Members in Kenya have spent lengthy periods in Moi's gaols, and they are constantly harassed. They are not allowed to hold meetings in their constituencies without Government approval, which is often not given. About seven opposition Members have defected recently, and there has been no pretence that they have done so for any reason other than that they have been bought by the Kenyan Government. Millions of shillings have been paid to them to join KANU and stand again, and they are then re-elected with the assistance of Government money.

Kenyan Ministers openly state that no services will be provided in areas that support opposition Members. The courts are not independent. The universities have been on strike for seven months, and any research in a university must have the approval of the President's office.

Of most concern are the ethnic clashes, of which the most serious are in the Rift valley, where 1,500 people are said to have died and 250,000 have been displaced. There seems to be little doubt that Government-organised gangs raid, loot, kill and drive out Kikuyu so that the President's tribe, the Kalenjin, can be dominant and take over the land.

I went to Mtondia, near Mombasa, where 150 young fighters had turned up by coach, killed eight people, burned the village and displaced the villagers. They then threatened to return on 16 June. The fighters were recognised and could easily have been identified. It should have been an easy job for the police, but there was no interest in doing it. Responsible organisations like Africa Watch and Amnesty International have no doubt that the Government were behind the raid. Even The Economistintelligence unit says: the overwhelming evidence suggests that the incidents have been provoked by the ruling party at the provincial (and sometimes national) level to clear the affected areas of residents who do not belong to the Kalenjin group of tribes. The news editor of the Daily Nationnewspaper has been charged with subversion simply for saying that he had been told by local people that the fighters to whom I referred had arrived by helicopter at the home of a local Member of Parliament. When I objected to that, President Moi was very annoyed. Is commenting on something that has happened interfering in the affairs of an independent state?

President Moi will say that it is colonialism and imperialism. However, I think that there are clear British interests. On the question of Rwanda, the British Government have said, "It is not for us. It is Francophone Africa; it is for the Belgians and the French." The Government cannot say that about Kenya, because that country is an important market, and there is a long tradition of British involvement.

Mr. Lester

Surely the hon. Gentleman shared his views with the British high commissioner in Kenya. I have been long involved with Kenya; indeed, I am chairman of the British-Kenya group in the House. It has always been obvious that, whenever there is a problem in Kenya, the first people the Kenyans want to talk to and want assistance from are the British Government.

Mr. Worthington

I respect the hon. Gentleman's view. However, in recent times, the British Government have spoken far too softly, and have not used their influence in these matters. We shall see whether the United Nations and the British Government can exercise preventive diplomacy. There is no doubt in anyone's mind about the scale of corruption, about the appalling ethnic clashes or about the fact that those are inspired by the Kenyan Government. I want our Government to tell the Kenyan Government, "This is not on."

Next month, a meeting at the World bank will consider the relationship with Kenya. It is legitimate for this country, through its influence at the World bank and bilaterally, to say that the level of human rights abuse in Kenya is unacceptable to the world community. I hope that they do that before we go down a slippery slope.

The other issue I want to raise links with what has already been said—which I fully support—about the international conference on population and development in Cairo in September. We must make a success of that conference.

It is a fundamental right of the women of this world to choose the size of their families. It is cheap technology. Nothing has altered the lives of women in this country more than access to family planning. It has transformed their lives. In sub-Saharan Africa the population doubles every 25 years. The current populations of Britain and Egypt are about the same; the difference is that ours will double in about 260 years, whereas Egypt's will double in about 30 years. If ours were to double that quickly, we might concentrate a little harder on the issue.

The country with the slowest rate of population doubling is Italy, where it takes 3,466 years. I do not think that anyone in Italy should tell the women of a country in which the population doubles every 25 years that they cannot enjoy the same facilities as the women of Italy. That is a crucial point. Nothing will do more to help development and to end poverty than arming the women in the poorer parts of the world with good reproductive health facilities and primary education. They want that.

In Sierra Leone, only 4 per cent. of the population have modern family planning services. There was no objection to those services from local Muslims or the Roman Catholic Church; all that was stopping the women was lack of access to them.

I agree with the chairman of the all-party group on population and development, the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway), that it is important that the conference in Cairo is successful. There is a coming together of the peoples of the world. The Muslims have altered their views on family planning. It is no longer a rich north world saying to a poor south, "You must not have children." Now, the poor south is saying, "We don't want to have as many children as we did previously. Will you help us with the necessary resources?" I hope that the Cairo conference is a success.

8.29 pm
Ms Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate)

I am grateful to be allowed to participate in this debate because, due to a constituency engagement, I was not present for the opening speeches. It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington), who devoted part of his speech to the plight of women in the developing world. His was only the third mention of our gender in the speeches that I have heard.

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that the feeling is increasing among many women throughout the developing world that their family sizes are too large. Who could blame them for thinking that, when infant mortality shows no signs of reducing significantly, many young children die of easily preventable diseases and there is virtually no clean water available to millions of people in this, our one world?

This serious and important issue concerns not just the survival or the development of the third world but the survival of our world in total. We can no longer allow the human poverty, degradation, disease and sheer suffering that we see virtually every night on our television screens. I share the sentiments expressed by my hon. Friends about the thoughtful nature of the speech of the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester), and I am sorry that he is not in his place to hear me say so.

We have heard of the contributions by governmental and non-governmental organisations and individuals in communities, and of the shameful contribution by our own Government in respect of overseas aid and development. If we, as part of the developed world, genuinely mean to eradicate poverty, make sure that people do not go to bed hungry, and even selfishly want to ensure that, when the UK develops again and makes products for the rest of the world, there will be an increased market for them—one that does not exist currently because developing countries are not creating their own stable economic structures—we must acknowledge that we shall never solve those problems by working separately, in partial or small territorial groups.

I strongly agree with those hon. Members who said that the UN can only achieve as much as the nations of the world commit it to do by finance, material or personnel. The problems are often complex. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie that population control is immensely important, but it is not the only way to free women from the terrible burdens that shackle them.

Women make an immense contribution in their own families, societies and communities—but they are rarely if ever empowered to own land or to borrow money. However, they are infinitely capable of transforming the lives not only of their own families and communities but of regions. Those complex issues are intertwined—particularly in respect of women—in a structure that embraces culture, religion and education. At least five separate issues are contingent upon one possible solution working.

The developed world seems incapable of grasping that there is not one simple solution or even 10, but that there may be 1 million solutions. The co-ordination, bringing together and prioritising of solutions to the dreadful problems that confront the world can only be done by an organisation that all the nations of the world recognise—and one that is in a sense impartial, because it is consistently caring in a particular area. I argue that that organisation is conceivably the United Nations.

I argue equally that, in future, perhaps we cannot regard the UN as centred solely on New York. We might have to consider a UN for certain regions and areas of the world. None of that will be possible unless the developed nations take on board the fact that ours must be the major and central contribution.

Sometimes, I feel that the developed world regards the undeveloped world as a problem impossible to solve—that the most we can do will be inadequate, so the least we can do will be sufficient. I find that totally unacceptable. I believe that the majority of people in this country and throughout the world also find it unacceptable. It seems that only Governments tend to hold back. I sincerely hope that this debate will cause the British Government to reconsider the freezing of the UK's overseas aid budget.

8.45 pm
Mr. Hugh Bayley (York)

It was with shock and dismay that I learnt recently that hundreds of thousands of pounds from the Overseas Development Administration aid budget had been spent running tax havens in the Caribbean for the benefit of companies and individuals from this and other developed countries so that they may avoid paying tax in Europe and north America.

This year's Foreign Office departmental report states that the purpose of overseas aid is to help poorer countries and their peoples improve their standard of life. In a state of disbelief, I raised the matter with Baroness Chalker. She wrote to me: Britain has a duty to ensure that the offshore financial industry is developed in a responsible manner"— and that therefore it would not be sensible to insist that the Territories met the costs …of the UK recruited advisers. British aid money is paying for an inspector of offshore banks and trust companies, an insurance services adviser and a principal tax adviser in the British Virgin Islands. It is paying also for a superintendent and deputy superintendent of offshore finance and two further financial advisers in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

According to a written answer that I received from the Minister earlier this year, the cost of each post, including salary, accommodation and air fares, is approximately £70,000 per annum. That is the average cost of the technical co-operation officers in those two British dependent territories in the Caribbean. Common sense says that the cost of a teacher or health adviser would be rather less than the cost of weaning a financial adviser from the City.

I do not deny that there have been problems with offshore finance in the Caribbean. There were serious irregularities in the 1980s, when the United States Government complained to the British Government that ill-regulated offshore banks in BDTs in the Caribbean were being used to launder drug money and for other illicit purposes. Members of New Scotland Yard's fraud squad were sent to the Caribbean to investigate. There followed resignations by senior Caribbean politicians, the bringing of criminal charges and convictions.

Against that background, in 1989 the Government acted by calling in Coopers and Lybrand to examine the situation. The Coopers and Lybrand report recommended, among other things, the appointment of advisers. The advisers face a daunting task. There are just two people in the British Virgin Islands, a bank inspector and an insurance adviser, to regulate the affairs of 110,000 offshore companies registered there. The British Virgin Islands has a population of 16,500, but last year alone, 30,000 new offshore companies were registered there.

Regulation is certainly needed. However, why should the cost of that fall on the limited and over-stretched British aid budget? If Britain wants to ensure that tax havens in British dependent territories are properly regulated, and if it wants to defend the Bank of England's reputation for probity, the Bank of England or the Department of Trade and Industry should pay for that.

I believe that the costs should, and certainly could, be borne locally. The British Virgin Islands Government raised £12,660,000 in taxes and charges from their offshore finance industry in 1992–93, but spent only £730,000, including the hand-out from the British aid budget, on regulating that industry. The Turks and Caicos Islands Government raised more than £1.5 million in taxation and charges from offshore finance, but they spent only £200,000 on regulating those offshore companies. The majority of that money came from the British aid budget.

Those territories could well afford to pay to regulate their offshore financial industries. It is not that tax levels are already punitive in the dependent territories. In the British Virgin Islands, income tax ranges from 3 per cent. to a top rate of 20 per cent. Company tax is 15 per cent. on chargeable income and offshore companies are largely exempt from taxation. In the Turks and Caicos Islands, there is no capital gains tax, no income tax and no corporation tax.

It is nothing short of a scandal that hard-pressed British taxpayers, many of whom are on low incomes and who are paying a greater proportion of their income in taxes now than they paid in 1979 under the previous Labour Government, are subsidising a lavish, low-tax lifestyle for Caribbean professionals who work in the offshore finance industry. Their tax contribution to the British aid budget is enabling rich Britons to avoid paying taxes in this country, secure in the knowledge that they have found a safe and well-regulated tax haven abroad.

I recognise that there are dangers in comparing tax rates in developed and under-developed countries. However, the British dependent territories are not poor, third-world countries. The Cayman Islands has a per capita gross domestic product of $20,000. That is higher than that of the United Kingdom, which is $15,800, and it is substantially higher than the GDP per capita in the north of England and in Wales. It pays for regulating its own offshore finance industry, but even so the Cayman Islands, with a higher average income for its population than we enjoy in this country, received £119,000 last year in UK aid.

The British Virgin Islands, as I have said, received substantial aid for running its tax havens. Its per capita GDP is $10,479 which is higher than that in some European Union member states. The British Virgin Islands received £1.2 million in aid from the British overseas aid budget, which works out at £74 per person. I have no doubt that some of that money trickles down to the poor. However, the well-paid local lawyers and bankers who work in the offshore finance industry in the British Virgin Islands do not need a tax handout from the people in this country on lower incomes and higher rates of tax.

I am wholly in favour of overseas aid for other Caribbean Commonwealth countries which have a greater need of aid. St. Vincent has a gross domestic product of $3,647, which is about one third of that of the British Virgin Islands, and it receives £9 per person in aid. Jamaica has an even lower per capita GDP, but it receives £2 per head.

This year's Foreign Office annual report promises to target aid on the poorest countries where the problems of development go deepest. The report also states: all of our priority objectives are therefore concerned with poverty reduction. In her letter to me, Baroness Chalker said that aid for Caribbean tax havens does not mean giving any less priority to the poorest. She then quoted the figures to which the Minister referred at the beginning of the debate. She said that India receives £90 million a year in aid, Bangladesh receives £50 million and Zimbabwe and Zambia each receive £40 million.

However, the Department's own publication, "British Overseas Aid Statistics", tells a different story. On a per person basis, Zambia receives £5 in aid. It has a per capita GDP not of tens of thousands of dollars, but of $744. Zimbabwe receives £4 a head. Bangladesh, which has a per capita GDP of $872, receives 40p per person in aid. India, with a per capita GDP of just over $1,000, receives lop per person in aid. However, the British Virgin Islands, with a per capita GDP 10 times greater than that of those states, receives £74 per person per year in aid.

Where is the justice in that? It directly conflicts with the Minister's stated policy of providing aid to poor countries and to poor people in poor countries. In her letter to me, Baroness Chalker stated: 80 per cent. of our bilateral aid goes to the poorest developing countries—a higher proportion than any other major donor. To whom does that aid go? It does not go to the poor. The PIMS system, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) referred earlier, which is the new performance monitoring system in the ODA, reveals that only 10 per cent. of the overseas aid budget is spent on poverty reduction.

Is the ODA serious about its statements in the Foreign Office annual report about targeting aid on the poorest? The right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Mailing (Sir J. Stanley) said that he was confused because 80 per cent. of the British bilateral aid budget was going to the poorest countries, but only 6.6 per cent., according to the UN development programme which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd), goes to meeting basic human needs. It is possible to reconcile the two. The money is going to the poorest countries, but it is not going for basic human development in the poorest countries. It is not going to the poor in the poorest countries.

People have been saying for a long time that it is right that aid should be directed at long-term development projects that are run for, and, wherever possible, by, the poorest people in the poorest countries. That principle underpinned Labour's White Paper entitled "More Help for the Poorest" as long ago as 1975. That principle was quietly dropped in 1979 when the Conservatives came to office, but I congratulate them on reinstating it in 1990.

The rhetoric has changed, but when will the reality of our aid programme change? If there was a need to refocus aid on the poorest in the 1970s, when the aid budget was growing in real terms and as a percentage of our national GDP, there is more need now when the aid budget is contracting.

I asked the Library to tell me, at constant prices, what had happened to the British bilateral aid budget since 1979. In 1979, it was £1.6 billion. It is now down to £1 billion, and it is set to fall further. The independent group on British aid, which draws together aid specialists from several development agencies, which hon. Members have praised fulsomely, predicts that that budget will shrink to £900 million by 1996. The technical co-operation element of the aid programme, which is what pays for the tax regulators in the Caribbean, absorbed a third of bilateral aid in 1982. It has risen to half now, from £394 million to £520 million in 1992 prices.

Transferring know-how can be an extremely effective way of improving the living standards of poor people in poor countries, and I welcome that when that is what happens. I have seen largely small-scale development projects in local communities transferring know-how from the United Kingdom to aid their development, but it can also end up enhancing the living standards of third-world elites. Hon. Members have talked about the high incomes and incredible wealth of some people in developing countries.

In its annual report, the Foreign Office says that, in future, technical assistance will be the only aid, in normal circumstances, given to middle-income countries. That suggests that we need a much tighter definition of technical assistance—for example, which projects in middle-income and low-income countries and which technical assistance projects will be supported and which should be avoided in order to ensure that aid reaches those who need it most.

There are good moral reasons for giving aid, and I have focused on them because of what I believe is the shocking immorality of spending aid on running tax havens for the wealthy from the developed world. There are the economic reasons which the Brandt report considered, and there are strategic reasons which are exercising people's attention, particularly now, after the cold war, as people consider where future security risks might come from—for example, from eastern Europe, where there is a danger of economic stagnation and migration to the west and of economic collapse, which will add fuel to the fire of extreme right-wingers when they take over. There is a need for aid, and aid has been given.

There is fear of a deterioration in relationships with the Islamic world, but aid is being given to many Islamic countries in the middle east, to the Yemen, to the west bank, to non-oil producing regions of the middle east, to north Africa, to Algeria, to Egypt, to Tunisia, to Morocco, and to the Muslim countries of west Africa.

People talk about the fear that the twin pressures of population and poverty will force an exodus from black Africa to the north which will threaten our security in Europe. There are two possible responses. There is the fortress Europe response: instead of guarding an east-west frontier, our troops and NATO should line up from Athens to Gibraltar and defend Europe from Africa. There is an alternative approach, which I describe as enlightened self-interest: we use our aid to tackle the problems of poverty, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, so that we reduce those pressures upon Europe.

Do not the Government realise that, when they misuse aid to run tax havens in the Caribbean, they run the risk of undermining the credibility of the whole aid programme with the British people? People in the United Kingdom generally are generous hearted. They understand—some even sympathise—when they pay their taxes that they are providing aid to help the poor, but they do not sympathise with aid to help bankers and tax exiles. The giving of aid for that purpose in the Caribbean will be regarded by the public as the Conservatives misusing public money to help their supporters. It is a scandal, when bilateral aid has been cut, that any of it should be squandered on creating tax breaks. That money—I hope that the Minister will respond to this point—should be switched immediately to provide aid to poor people in poor countries.

9.4 pm

Dr. Kim Howells (Pontypridd)

Throughout this debate, right hon. and hon. Members have identified a whole host of desperate humanitarian problems which fall within the broad spectrum of aid and development. Some, such as Rwanda, lie close to the political end of that spectrum; others, such as debt relief and trading agreements, reflect the sort of debate that the allies conducted 50 years ago as they tackled the problem of reconstructing Europe in the aftermath of the second world war. Perhaps I could begin by drawing the parallel out a little further and suggesting that we could learn a great deal from the discussions which took place 50 years ago at Bretton Woods, and those which followed in London and New York.

We should recall—and recall quickly—that for the best part of the past 50 years, we employed massive resources, including many of our bravest and most talented men and women, such as scientists, engineers, intelligence staff and the armed forces, and huge amounts of precious public finance in the name of defending liberty and democracy against a Soviet threat. It was an extraordinary mobilisation. Surely it is now time to transmute a small part of that commitment and ingenuity into a new crusade —trying to prevent future Rwandas or, at the very least, to ensure that once such catastrophes begin there can exist among the potential victims at least some hope of rescue or relief.

As hon. Members on both sides of the House have made clear, Rwanda is by no means the only horror story unfolding in the world. Terrible wars continue in Angola and Sudan, and scarcely less cruel conflicts rage from Bosnia and the trans-Caucasus through Afghanistan to East Timor. In countries brought to their knees by recent wars, such as Ethiopia, Cambodia and Mozambique, famine and the curses of land mines and smashed infrastructure continue to threaten the revival of civil society and sustainable economies. Indeed, right now, a combination of unreliable weather, extreme poverty and chronic malnutrition hold literally millions of Ethiopians in the shadow of impending starvation.

The terrible civil war against the dictator Mengistu is over and Ethiopia is at peace. As Andrew Timson of the Save the Children Fund points out, however, Ethiopia is getting minimal rewards for doing what the international community wants it to do—liberalising its economy and introducing, however imperfectly, multi-party democracy. The crisis in Ethiopia is acute, and the world must address it if we are to avoid falling back once again on the efforts of charities attempting heroically but often too late to stem the flow of innocent life into the dirt of sub-Saharan Africa.

It is our duty to find a means of breaking the desperate circle of war, poverty and famine. We do not lack the means or the capacity to do it. The incentive, besides common human decency, is the prospect of creating new and more prosperous trading partners. Right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House have confirmed that this country has a great reservoir of talent with huge experience and professionalism in helping developing countries and delivering aid and disaster relief. They and their colleagues in the British armed forces enjoy a world-wide reputation for the high quality of their performance and achievements.

We in this Chamber must try to assist them as they address the questions of how best to devise a means of heading off disasters in the first place, how to judge where best to deploy peacekeeping troops and equipment, how to shift food and supplies into the most needy areas and, infinitely more importantly—as the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Mr. Deva) reminded us—how best to encourage and help sub-Saharan Africa and the poorer countries of Asia and Latin America to produce and trade their way into a more prosperous 21st century. Their economic salvation lies primarily in their ability to feed, house, clothe and educate their populations, and to produce tradeable goods and commodities. However, many of those countries are hauling themselves through the painful trials of structural adjustment programmes which, in the short term at least, are causing enhanced levels of unemployment and hardship among populations already hard hit by decades of poverty and inflation. What those countries do not need is another 10 years or so of having to bear the additional burden of monumental debt repayments. To those ends, we must make further progress in tackling the problems of the debt trap, especially in Africa.

All of us welcome the writing off by Britain of £1.1 billion worth of debt. We welcome the initiative taken by the British Government on the issue at the G7 summit in Tokyo last July. However, those are limited measures and we urge the British Government to persuade the G7 countries and other member states of the European Union to extend the work that they have begun on bilateral debt arrangements in order to deal with the debt of countries such as Uganda to multilateral institutions. Her Majesty's Treasury and the World bank still insist that such debt cannot be considered for rescheduling or cancellation.

Clearly, it is farce shading rapidly into tragedy to force countries such as Uganda to seek fresh bilateral loans in order to pay off the interest on their multilateral loans. One of the most important and immediate adjustments in that respect would be for the World bank and the International Monetary Fund to modify their constitutions so that debt cancellation could become a real consideration.

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley)

The points that my hon. Friend makes are extremely important. Is it not also true that as a result of the pressure of debt some countries are forced to take decisions which are environmentally unsuitable to them and may have implications for countries in other parts of the world? They may be forced to take that line simply because they need the economic benefits.

Dr. Howells

Indeed, my hon. Friend is right. I remember that he and I examined the problem in the Environment Select Committee. We saw that countries desperate to earn foreign revenue were willing, for example, to take industrial waste that no one else was prepared to touch, and unscrupulous companies in Europe and America were prepared to dump such waste on them. It is important that we understand how developing countries have to degrade themselves environmentally and socially simply to gain foreign currency.

It is encouraging that the World bank acknowledged recently that it must take more radical action on the debt crisis simply because sub-Saharan Africa could not sustain its current levels of debt servicing. The debt arrears of those countries have risen from £12.8 billion in 1987 to almost £40 billion now. In 1992, for example, the developing countries repaid £100 billion in interest on their debts. That was more than twice the amounts that they received in aid. Between 1988 and 1992, the OECD countries cancelled £6.6 billion of debt. Those cancellations were very welcome, but those same countries received £318 billion in debt repayment—48 times as much.

The Government must build on their small but welcome beginnings on debt relief and urge their partners in the G7 and the European Union to address the problem with much more resolve and urgency. That point was made time and again during the debate on the subject last week in another place. Many noble Lords expressed concern about debt, as they did about the detrimental effects that the arms trade and excessive military expenditure have had on the ability of developing countries to escape the debt and poverty trap.

For example, Lord Desai warned against perpetuating the notion that poverty in the so-called third world was all the fault of the first world and that the third world was a helpless victim. That is not true. A recent United Nations Development Programme report, which Lord Desai helped to draft, criticises equally the Governments of countries which, despite the grinding poverty suffered by most of their populations, find money to spend on armaments when it should be spent on education and health. Lord Desai cited the cases of India and Pakistan, where the money spent on Migs and Mirage jets could have been spent on education, population control and the provision of clean water.

Baroness Chalker acknowledged that excessive military spending can create political and military insecurity and damage development by pre-empting scarce resources. The right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel) reminded us of the terrible consequences of that hard-sell, unregulated trade in arms, and of the trade in land mines. Yet the Department of Trade and Industry's provision of export credits for arms sales continues to rise, at the same time as aid is set to decline in real money terms. That mismatch urgently needs tackling. The most effective way to meet Britain's security objectives is not to arm and train regimes in the third world, but to guarantee international peace and tackle the underlying poverty.

There is a similar mismatch between the rhetoric of donor countries such as ours and our record on trade in general. There has been a welcome, wide-ranging and democratic demand in donor countries for greater accountability when it comes to judging the value for money and quality of funds allocated to aid and development projects. The World bank has demanded greater transparency to allow us to understand the effectiveness of public money spent in that way. Those demands formed part of a series of radical changes in the way in which the World bank disburses loans and grants and the context within which it expects them to be used. I support those changes and see no virtue in handing over funds for which there will be no accountability. It is extremely important that we stress that accountability.

Structural adjustment programmes in the third world have often entailed forcing recipient Governments to open up their markets to world trade and to deregulate considerable areas of administration. It is a miserable fact to have to record, therefore, that donor countries do not necessarily practise in their own countries and within their own trading alliances what they preach abroad.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham) pointed out, in the European Union we operate protectionist policies in the form of a barrage of restrictions against third-world producers. At the same time, third-world farmers have to compete locally with imports from Europe, such as beef and sugar, which are heavily subsidised by the common agricultural policy.

The manufacture of clothes and textiles has been identified as one of the few industrial sectors in which poor countries have an opportunity to compete with the rich. Despite the planned 10-year phase-out of the multi-fibre arrangement under the general agreement on tariffs and trade, however, the European Union continues to use that tariff system to limit the opportunities for poor countries to compete. The World Development Movement has calculated that, as a result, third-world producers have been denied up to $35 billion a year—as much as all the western aid put together.

Agricultural producers also suffer from the continuing vast subsidies paid to American and Japanese farmers, in direct contradiction to their rhetoric about the necessity to extend free trade.

The new democracies of eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union are already demanding that the European Union—the largest and most powerful trading bloc in the world—should open its doors to produce from the east. The Ukraine, once one of the grain-producing centres of the world, finds itself importing subsidised grain from the west and is already reminding us that if we are serious about encouraging the implementation of liberal democracies in that region we had better understand that we cannot buy it with money from the know-how fund, welcome though some of that may be to the eastern Europeans. We must open our agricultural markets to those countries and we had better decide now that it would be better for the Ukrainians and the British alike if the Ukrainians are able to tend their own fields and gardens rather than having to come here as economic refugees seeking our money to tend our gardens for us.

There is every possibility of progress if this country has the will to force through the required changes by making huge savings—savings which are wholly beneficial to all sides—and to begin seriously the work of reducing the crazy levels of expenditure on the common agricultural policy and its Japanese and American equivalents, which are costing European Union member states vast amounts in precious public funds and costing third-world farmers their livelihoods. I do not mind the taunts that we heard earlier from Conservative Members, who for 15 years have allowed that outrageous farce to continue at a cost of tens of billions of pounds to British taxpayers. If the Government want advice about the location of funds to aid the world's poorest people to move towards the UN target figure for contributions, let them look to their semi-detached relationship with the European Union and their failure to intervene to force down those outrageous subsidies.

On the question of European expenditure, will the Minister clarify the Government's position on certain trends which are beginning to manifest themselves in the way in which multilateral aid organisations and, in particular, the European Union are implementing that aid? Much as we may agree with the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester)—I certainly join him—in welcoming the activities of multilateral agencies and especially the co-ordinating role that they play in the distribution and allocation of funds for aid and development, we must be careful to ensure that the considerable allocation of funds from this country can be properly tracked through Brussels and the Commission.

The ODA estimates show significant trends away from the disposal of funds through bilateral channels and into new channels, some of which are rather more opaque in terms of public accountability than some of the bilateral channels. The World bank's annual world development report shows that about £132 billion per year of infrastructure investment in developing countries has greatly increased access to electricity, sanitation, paved roads, telephones and water, but points out that gross inefficiencies and poor maintenance of those investments have meant that money has been wasted and services have been patchy.

The president of the World bank, Lewis Preston, declared that the emphasis everywhere must be less on cutting ribbons to open new facilities and more on ensuring that those facilities deliver the intended services. The World bank stresses—as hon. Members have stressed today—the importance of involving local people, which is vital. The bank's study of 121 rural water supply projects shows that in Asia, Africa and Latin America, in those projects where participation by the local population was classified as high, 83 per cent. had good maintenance levels and 81 per cent were graded as effective in achieving their goals. Of those where participation was low, 23 per cent. had good maintenance levels and only 8 per cent. were graded as effective.

While non-governmental organisations applauded the World bank's call for more emphasis on maintenance and greater user participation, they said that the bank itself was a part of the problem: What proportion of Bank infrastructure lending goes to maintenance? There is no figure in the report, said Paul Spray, head of policy at London-based Christian Aid.

Returning to the issue of accountability, as the right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Mailing (Sir J. Stanley) and my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Gapes) pointed out, in 1993–94 an estimated 45 per cent. of the ODA' s expenditure went on multilateral projects by organisations such as the European Commission, and for 1996–97 that estimate is set to rise well above 52 per cent. We are told that the main reasons for this shift are the pledges made at the 1992 Edinburgh European Council, and that the planned allocation of the European Union's aid budget is set to rise from the current figure of around £300 million to almost £750 million by 1996–97. Can the Minister confirm whether our contribution to the European development fund is set to increase by more than 12 per cent. between now and 1996–97 and that under the terms of the Edinburgh agreement the expenditures are legally binding until 1999? That will mean only one thing—that the share of aid allocated to the poorest recipients will shrink.

I am afraid that the figures contradict the claims made by the Minister, the right hon. Member for Eddisbury (Mr. Goodlad), that the Government are successfully targeting the very poorest in the world. If they are doing so at the moment, it will not continue. The statistics cannot be welcome news to anyone concerned with aid and development. No one will argue against helping the eastern Europeans and the new democracies of the former Soviet Union and I have argued that it is vital that we do, but there must be no question of a compensatory reduction in our aid programme to the poorest countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The growing refugee problem in those areas is already an enormous drain on the resources of bilateral and multilateral agencies alike. All the briefings that we receive from the United Nations agencies, Oxfam, Actionaid, Save the Children, One World Action and all the other NGOs warn that the world's refugee population has grown substantially. From Bosnia on our doorstep to Afghanistan and Zaire, it is possible that as many as 42 million people worldwide have been displaced by wars and other catastrophes. How much longer will we be prepared to bear witness to their suffering? How much longer will we expect the relief agencies time and again to find the money to ease their pain and hardship?

I welcome the pleas issued by my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) and the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway), who stressed the case for greater availability of family planning resources. As they both said, the population of sub-Saharan Africa is doubling every 25 years, and many of those people are in refugee camps. There are 12 million more mouths to feed in Ethiopia than there were just 10 years ago. Surely it is time that we began to concentrate on that dilemma some of the energy, talent and ingenuity—and some of the resources—that for half a century we concentrated on the business of defending liberty and democracy during the years of the cold war. This is as good a time as any to begin that concentration. It is 50 years since D-day intensified the struggle for the liberation of Europe from the chains of fascism, and 50 years since the Bretton Woods agreements which helped to underpin the reconstruction of an entire continent.

In the year when democracy returned to South Africa and Malawi, let us not miss the opportunity to help South Africa to transform the whole southern half of the continent. This is one of the great opportunities in history. We are very lucky to have not only Nelson Mandela but an extraordinary figure in de Klerk. There have been many moments in history when we could have done with people of their calibre; now that we have them it is vital not to regard South Africa as a former trouble spot that we can now safely forget. If we help to make South Africa a success, we shall help to make the entire southern half of that continent a success.

Let us not throw away the opportunity to begin a new crusade against an enemy every bit as insidious and destructive as fascism. The chronic poverty and deprivation of so much of the underdeveloped world are a slur on the name of civilisation. The impotence and disarray of the United Nations Security Council are a negation of the spirit of hope and regeneration which established that organisation after the desperate years of the second world war. The murder of half a million Rwandans—after the murders of so many innocents in Bosnia, Somalia, Iraq, Sudan, Liberia, East Timor and a score of other places—leaves a stain on the hands of every one of us.

These are political problems which require political solutions. If we believe that our global agencies and international organisations are not up to the task of developing those solutions, as was argued by my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie and the hon. Member for Broxtowe, we must modify and reconstruct them—as the generation that defeated fascism constructed the UN in 1945. We may not succeed in every instance in alleviating debt burdens, encouraging production and opening up trade, heading off wars and denying famine and disease their terrible harvests of human life, but we shall be seen to be trying—to be caring, as we should care for each other on this fragile planet. If we care, and if sometimes we succeed in our great endeavours, we shall bring hope where now there is no hope—and there can be no greater achievement than that.

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

This has been an interesting and extensive debate, with many informed contributions. I shall try to answer them all as well as I can. I normally give way quite a few times, but so many hon. Members have spoken tonight that I do not know how often I shall be able to do so.

There has been talk of the need for a White Paper: the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel) mentioned it. I shall say more on the subject later, but let me say now that I do not believe that there is another Department of State in Whitehall that is so open with the information that it gives. I should know: I sign all the questions to which right hon. and hon. Members receive answers in this House, and I can only say that the answers are as long as the questions are numerous. I shall give further information to all hon. Members by letter if I do not manage to answer their comments.

The argument advanced by the Labour party was coloured by two characteristics. First, the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke), who opened the debate, and many of his colleagues sought to occupy the moral high ground. Labour Members always want to be up there doing good, but do not demean themselves by suggesting how they will pay for their promises. They think that the accountants and money men will find the money for them to pay for their promises. I must inform them that all those guys occupy a building in Whitehall called Her Majesty's Treasury. The Opposition enjoy the lack of responsibility and the luxury of not being in power. For the sake of our great country, I hope that they continue to enjoy their extravagant fantasies for many years to come from the comfort of the Opposition Benches.

Dr. Godman

The Minister wants a one-party state.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I shall not comment on the outrageous and foolish suggestion of the hon. Gentleman, who normally speaks better than that.

Mr. Worthington

The Minister said that our policies were theoretical. If the Government have been so successful, why has the proportion of aid fallen from 0.51 per cent. to 0.28 per cent., and why has the rate of growth been slower than under any Government since the war? Why have the Government been unable to match the achievements of the former Labour Government?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The hon. Gentleman will have to be patient. I intend to deal with the arguments in greater detail later and will pick up his point then.

The second characteristic of Opposition Members' contributions, particularly that of the hon. Member for Monklands, West, whom I respect, is that they have picked up the arguments in the papers which the World Development Movement has issued to all of us. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. Watson) had the temerity to repeat the information that he found on the first page of the World Development Movement's press release, which said that opinion polls show that everyone in Britain wants more aid expenditure. But paragraph 4 on the second page gives other statistics. It says that 33 per cent. of people wish to continue to give the current proportion of our national wealth as aid and 33 per cent. want to decrease the proportion. So two thirds of people think that we should either continue to give the same or give less than in the past.

So I say to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central and those who wrote the World Development Movement report that we know what it is all about—lies, damned lies and statistics. It makes no sense at all. In his opening contribution, the hon. Member for Monklands, West gave advance warning of what he was going to say by referring to the arguments of the World Development Movement —the same comments and criticisms—about what we are doing.

The World Development Movement is a lobby. I accept that it has a cause, but a lobby with a cause is a lobby none the less. The hon. Gentleman should not listen so extensively to organisations like the World Development Movement, but should seek information in many of the areas of his concern from the Overseas Development Administration, or, if he prefers, table questions to me, which I shall answer.

I shall make a few general comments. Our aid programme is a high-quality, successful programme. That is not simply my opinion, although I am happy to adopt it. The OECD's Development Assistance Committee completed a review of the British aid programme earlier this year. It said: The United Kingdom has a highly concessional, well organised bilateral programme based on substantial national expertise and largely oriented towards the poorest developing countries. We have heard an awful lot about how we do not help the poorest developing countries. That is not the view of the independent critics in the OECD.

We make extremely good use of taxpayers' money. Far from being a misuse of funds, the aid programme is effective because it is so well targeted. It is well targeted on where we spend our aid—the poorest countries in Africa and Asia. Eighty per cent. of our bilateral aid is targeted on the poorest countries. It is well targeted on clearly defined objectives, set out clearly in the speech of my noble Friend the Minister for Overseas Development at Chatham house last year.

Our aim is one which everyone in the House will agree as an ultimate objective—long-term sustainable development. Along with the lead we have taken on debt relief and on pushing for freer trade, that helps stability and contributes to the global economy. That is in Britain's interests and the interests of the countries that receive our aid.

I shall give a snapshot of some of the objectives that we support, including economic liberalisation—sound economic policies in other words—which encourage investment and give incentives to produce. We promote the productive capacity of developing countries. We improve management skills in developing countries. We encourage thereby more effective public expenditure programmes in those countries. We promote good government—an objective which hon. Members from both sides of the House of course endorse. We promote good government, to improve legitimacy and accountability, and promote the democratic process and respect for human rights. We are increasingly directing and focusing our programme on the direct reduction of poverty.

Mr. Robert Hughes


Mr. Lennox-Boyd

One moment.

We promote human development, including better education and health and access to family planning services. We help poorer countries tackle environmental problems, which were said by the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) to be a cause for great concern, with which I agree.

Mr. Robert Hughes


Mr. Lennox-Boyd

One moment.

We provide speedy and effective humanitarian assistance. All those objectives strike me as extremely good uses of British taxpayers' money.

Mr. Robert Hughes

The Minister has set out a marvellous range of objectives, with which none of us would disagree. The problem is that it is all rhetoric and no delivery. It is no use saying that he promotes good government and stability when he knows perfectly well that in Angola the actions of the British Government are leading to worse government, leading to tremendous humanitarian problems, and indeed, siding with people who do not accept the pluralistic electoral policy that he and his friends supported and indeed brokered.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I am sorry that I gave way. If I had not given way, I would have had more time to develop my speech and to give the detail which supports the assertions that I have just made.

I return to the argument of the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale that a White Paper was needed. Let me tell the House how we disseminate our information—I say it with some feeling because I am responsible for clearing it before it comes to the House of Commons. My noble Friend the Minister set out our aid strategy clearly in her speech at Chatham house last October—one of about 50 speeches she makes a year about aid. We publish annual departmental reports to Parliament, an annual review of the programme, an annual statistical review of the programme and a range of other booklets about specific aspects. Earlier this month, we launched new strategies on forestry and biodiversity. We are about to do the same on population strategy. [Interruption.] I am answering the right hon. Gentleman's request for a White Paper. It belittles the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) to interrupt in that way.

We have done a great deal to improve the flow of information. We have agreed, for instance, that the forthcoming review of the United Kingdom's aid programme by the OECD's Development Assistance Committee should be the first such report to be published in full. It will compare information on the performance of our programmes against our objectives.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester), who said that we are publishing more information about the aid programme than ever before, in an attempt to make it more transparent and to make a genuine contribution to the debate on development aid issues. I can see no case in those circumstances for a White Paper on aid and related matters.

Mr. Tom Clarke


Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to intervene once I have commented on what he had to say. I need to make a great deal of progress if I am to get through my speech, and I shall not be able to give way much more.

The hon. Member for Monklands, West and several other Opposition Members, including the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells), made much of the Trinidad terms. Certainly, the original Trinidad proposals were for a two thirds reduction for countries with a track record of economic reform—but we cannot move unilaterally to that target from 50 per cent. We must do so multilaterally, and we are pressing other creditors to agree to the full Trinidad terms. We must do this in conjunction with others if we are to be effective.

As for multilateral debt, both the IMF and the World bank say that full repayment of debt allows them to continue lending even when other lenders withdraw. The World bank argues that cancelling or rescheduling debt could make it more expensive for the bank to raise money on the world's money markets—money with which to help developing countries.

It is therefore not a question of any stubbornness on our part. Our views are based on what the institutions themselves want. It is most ungenerous of Opposition Members to give no credit to the Prime Minister, who initiated that whole process which is doing so much to help the developing world.

Mr. Tom Clarke

The Minister has accused my party of seeking to occupy the high moral ground. I plead guilty: I would not accuse him of that. Why does he believe that the World Development Movement is so far wrong? It enjoys a great deal more support than the Conservative party received in the recent European elections. The Minister sees fit to lecture us about the fig leaf of the Trinidad terms, so will he say why the Government will not explain, in a White Paper, the immorality of spending £300 million on the Pergau dam project, which stinks?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I cannot answer that gibe, save to say that I do not take too seriously a movement that does not even bother to check its own arithmetic.

I endorse the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe about debt relief. Of course, we should like better terms to be offered, but, as he recognises, that must be done multilaterally. He is right to stress the need for countries to support the efforts of the United Nations, thereby displaying our collective international will. We should never forget that we are the fourth-largest contributor of troops to UN peacekeeping operations.

The hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn)) said that developing countries pay out more than they receive. That is not true. OECD figures show that in 1991 developing countries received £31.4 billion more than they paid out. That is a fact, and I place it on the record.

The hon. Member for Monklands, West spoke about poverty focus and it was also mentioned by the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) who, I am sorry to say, is not in her place. It was said that 6.6 per cent. of bilateral aid was spent on human priorities, but that is wrong. The figure for expenditure in 1992 on basic needs was 10 per cent. of bilateral aid, and we are better than the average of all donors in that area.

On the monitoring of poverty, all our aid to the poorest countries is focused on the reduction of poverty. We have set seven priority objectives for the aid programme and they all contribute to sustainable development. We now have a computer-based system for measuring performance against those objectives and we have already made public information from that exercise. We shall publish more information later this year. Again I say that we are publishing more information about our aid programme than has ever been published before.

The hon. Member for Monklands, West asked a specific question to which he wanted a specific answer about the 11th replenishment of the International Development Association. Negotiations on IDA 11 start at the beginning of next year. Decisions on our contribution will be taken in the light of those negotiations. We have been major contributors to IDA and gave £620 million in the period 1993–96.

The subject of Rwanda was considerably developed by the hon. Member for Monklands, West and mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Mr. Deva). It was also mentioned by the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington), who is normally fair and whose constituency I think I pronounced rather more correctly then his Welsh colleague, the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells).

Mr. Worthington

The Minister has still got it wrong.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The hon. Gentleman grossly underestimates our contribution to assistance in Rwanda. The 50 trucks that he dismissed so contemptuously are precisely what the Secretary-General asked us to supply, but, of course, we have given £11 million worth of aid for Rwanda and for related situations. My right hon. Friend the Minister dealt with the political aspect at some length, so I shall say only that we were in the forefront in the Security Council in efforts to get an expanded UNAMIR.

As I have said, we have given £11 million worth of aid. We gave £1 million to establish an air bridge into northern Tanzania, £8 million to support NGO operations, which I will not list, and £2 million for strategic planning and management, including health, to the UNHCR and to the United Nations department of humanitarian affairs.

Mr. Tom Clarke

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I shall not give way again. The hon. Gentleman made a long contribution and I must get on with my speech. [Interruption.] I shall give way on this occasion, but I shall not do so again.

Mr. Clarke

We are on a serious issue and some of the Minister's earlier answers were rather flippant. Earlier in the debate the House addressed the important issue of Rwanda. Have the Government responded to the French initiative? If they have, have they borne in mind the sensitivities of Africans, including the people of Rwanda?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The hon. Gentleman mentions the disagreements in the aid lobbies about the French initiative. He said that he did not support it and I know that some of the aid lobbies and the NGOs do not support it either. By touching on that he shows the great complexity and difficulty of some of the circumstances—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman asked a question and he must let me answer it in my way. He owes me that courtesy and he should not interrupt. The hon. Gentleman illustrates the great difficulties. The answer to his question is that we support the French initiative, but I will not go into it tonight because it was not raised in the debate.

We made a rapid response. When the refugee exodus from Rwanda began at the beginning of May, the ODA went into immediate action. Within 36 hours we had equipment on the ground in Mwanza to establish the air bridge to which I referred, to enable relief supplies to be unloaded from aircraft and transported by road to refugee camps and to keep the runways open with night repair work. The NGO requests were approved within 24 hours.

I must say a word about South Africa because it is such an important development for the whole continent and has deep implications for our aid programme. There is no doubt that South Africa's external financing needs will be met primarily by enhanced export opportunities, by the international financial institutions and, very importantly, by direct private investment. That is why the political stability of South Africa is so very important.

Bilateral donors can best help by providing know-how in targeted areas, as described by my right hon. Friend this afternoon. That is why £100 million, which is a substantial commitment, has been made available over the next three years by the ODA and my right hon. Friend. Of this, some £60 million will be provided through our already well-established bilateral country programme, but the Commonwealth Development Corporation has also been authorised to invest in South Africa and I am sure will make an important contribution to wealth creation in the private sector.

I want to say a word about land mines. I shall touch on all the important issues. All weapons are abhorrent, particularly when used indiscriminately. In the case of land mines, the problem must be their indiscriminate use against civilian populations. The Government are deeply concerned about the effect of the indiscriminate use of anti-personnel mines on civilians. Therefore, Britain supported the resolution in the United Nations General Assembly last year which demanded a moratorium on the export of anti-personnel land mines, which pose a great danger to civilian populations.

The United Kingdom has not produced or exported conventional anti-personnel land mines since 1982. I hope that that clear statement can put to rest so much of the ill-informed comment on the subject.

Mr. Lester

On the subject of land mines, it is good that my hon. Friend has reinforced the point that Britain does not produce them. Those of us who have seen Cambodia, Angola and other parts of the world where land mines have been laid know that not a single one is from Britain. However, we spend thousands of pounds picking up those that others have put down.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I am happy to endorse, but I cannot give further details tonight, the enormous amount that we do for de-mining in our aid programme all over the world.

Let me touch upon another point that the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale made about corruption, which is a major problem. We actively support action against it as part of our good government policy and we support the overall objectives of Transparency International to which he referred. We have said that we are prepared to consider financing projects that it may put forward.

May I say a quick word to my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Lady Olga Maitland), who mentioned the Crown Agents? I certainly recognise the valuable role of the Crown Agents in our aid programme and, indeed, in relation to the aid programmes of others, notably Japan. That is a example where the Crown Agents are helping others while helping themselves and Britain. I am pleased to see that the recent honours lists recognised the bravery of the Crown Agents staff in Bosnia.

I should say something to my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Mailing (Sir J. Stanley). Of course, I agree with him entirely about the valuable role of NGOs and their ability to work with the poorest. If I may disagree with him on one point, he was wrong to say that we channel through our NGOs no more than modest amounts. It was a large sum of money which doubled in just three years from £65 million in 1989–90 to £147 million in 1992–93. He mentioned EC expenditure and the need for proper scrutiny of what is an ever-increasing part of our aid budget. I agree with him wholeheartedly and I wish that I had the time to say more about the issue tonight.

I invite my right hon. Friend to volunteer for European Standing Committee B, which is the forum in which these subjects can be properly debated. The hon. Member for Pontypridd should attend, too. It is where proper, detailed scrutiny should take place. I would say more about bilateral and multilateral aid if I had more time, but have not.

I must tell the hon. Member for Pontypridd that we are committed to a reform of the common agricultural policy which will cut prices. To the extent that that reduces European Union food exports and increases imports, world prices will rise. That will be good for the developing countries.

The hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham) referred to structural adjustment. It is important that we encourage correct policies in developing countries. The considerable development successes over the past three decades—especially, but not solely, in Asia—show the importance of the right policies to encourage wealth creation. Our policies of freer trade, debt relief and well-targeted aid help to provide the framework to allow developing countries to prosper.

I do not have the time to deal with the population question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway), which was also touched upon by the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms Jackson). I wish my hon. Friend well in Cairo; I only wish I were going with him.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Isleworth will be pleased to know that we already over permit on the aid budget in the expectation that not all offers of financial assistance to developing countries will be taken up.

I must say a word or two about aid volume, which has been referred to by my hon. Friends the Members for City of Chester (Mr. Brandreth) and for Southport (Mr. Banks), by the hon. Member for Monklands, West and by other hon. Members. No one contributor to our debate, other than my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester, has given recognition to the announcement made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State that the aid-GNP ratio will be confirmed tomorrow to be 0.31 per cent. That is an OECD figure. It shows that currently Britain's aid contribution is above the average of all donors and that we are one of only seven countries that have increased their aid at present.

It is arrogant and irresponsible of the Opposition constantly to claim that our aid programme is insubstantial and ineffective. It is arrogant because they fail to give credit to the skills and enormous achievements of those engaged in delivering aid and to our officials in the ODA. It is irresponsible because the Labour party aspires to come to power and govern this country, yet it refuses to acknowledge the facts. For example, it will not acknowledge the fact that four leading countries in the world—the United States, Canada, Italy and Germany—three of which are as rich as or richer than us, are this year either cutting or freezing their aid. There was no mention of that from the Opposition. That should be contrasted with the modest increase that we are managing to achieve in our aid programme this year. There was no mention either that ours is the sixth-largest aid programme in the world. Ours is the sixth-largest economy, so we are about par for the course.

Labour always says that it will find some way to increase aid. It wants to occupy the moral high ground. It is the same old assertion, but where would Labour find the money? Would it cut expenditure on social security? Would it raise taxes? If Labour intends to pay for increased aid by economic growth, it will not do that by encouraging railway signalmen to strike.

Mr. Alan Meale (Mansfield)

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question put accordingly:—

The House divided: Ayes 232, Noes 295.

Division No. 272] [9.59 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Clelland, David
Adams, Mrs Irene Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Ainger, Nick Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Allen, Graham Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Alton, David Corbett, Robin
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Corbyn, Jeremy
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Cousins, Jim
Armstrong, Hilary Cummings, John
Ashton, Joe Cunliffe, Lawrence
Austin-Walker, John Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Dafis, Cynog
Barnes, Harry Dalyell, Tam
Barron, Kevin Darling, Alistair
Battle, John Davidson, Ian
Bayley, Hugh Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)
Beith, Rt Hon A. J. Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Bell, Stuart Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)
Bennett, Andrew F. Denham, John
Benton, Joe Dewar, Donald
Bermingham, Gerald Dixon, Don
Berry, Roger Dobson, Frank
Betts, Clive Dowd, Jim
Blunkett, David Dunnachie, Jimmy
Boateng, Paul Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Boyes, Roland Enright, Derek
Bradley, Keith Etherington, Bill
Bray, Dr Jeremy Evans, John (St Helens N)
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E) Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Fatchett, Derek
Burden, Richard Faulds, Andrew
Byers, Stephen Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Callaghan, Jim Fisher, Mark
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Flynn, Paul
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Foulkes, George
Canavan, Dennis Fraser, John
Cann, Jamie Galloway, George
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry) Gapes, Mike
Chidgey, David Garrett, John
Chisholm, Malcolm George, Bruce
Church, Judith Gerrard, Neil
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Godman, Dr Norman A.
Godsiff, Roger Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Golding, Mrs Llin Morgan, Rhodri
Gordon, Mildred Morley, Elliot
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Grocott, Bruce Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Gunnell, John Mowlam, Marjorie
Hain, Peter Mullin, Chris
Hall, Mike O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)
Hanson, David O'Brien, William (Normanton)
Hardy, Peter O'Hara, Edward
Harman, Ms Harriet Olner, William
Harvey, Nick O'Neill, Martin
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Parry, Robert
Henderson, Doug Patchett, Terry
Heppell, John Pickthall, Colin
Hill, Keith (Streatham) Pike, Peter L.
Hinchliffe, David Pope, Greg
Hodge, Margaret Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Hoey, Kate Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Home Robertson, John Primarolo, Dawn
Hoon, Geoffrey Quin, Ms Joyce
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Radice, Giles
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd) Randall, Stuart
Hoyle, Doug Raynsford, Nick
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Redmond, Martin
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Rendel, David
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)
Hutton, John Roche, Mrs. Barbara
Jackson, Glenda (H'stead) Rogers, Allan
Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H) Rooker, Jeff
Jamieson, David Rooney, Terry
Johnston, Sir Russell Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side) Rowlands, Ted
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Ruddock, Joan
Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O) Sedgemore, Brian
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW) Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Jowell, Tessa Short, Clare
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Simpson, Alan
Keen, Alan Skinner, Dennis
Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn) Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Khabra, Piara S. Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'sbury)
Kilfoyle, Peter Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Kirkwood, Archy Snape, Peter
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Soley, Clive
Lewis, Terry Spearing, Nigel
Litherland, Robert Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Livingstone, Ken Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Steinberg, Gerry
Llwyd, Elfyn Stott, Roger
Loyden, Eddie Strang, Dr. Gavin
Lynne, Ms Liz Straw, Jack
McAvoy, Thomas Sutcliffe, Gerry
McCartney, Ian Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Macdonald, Calum Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
McKelvey, William Timms, Stephen
Mackinlay, Andrew Tipping, Paddy
McMaster, Gordon Turner, Dennis
McNamara, Kevin Vaz, Keith
McWilliam, John Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Madden, Max Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Maddock, Mrs Diana Wareing, Robert N
Mahon, Alice Watson, Mike
Mandelson, Peter Wicks, Malcolm
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S) Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Martlew, Eric Winnick, David
Maxton, John Worthington, Tony
Meacher, Michael Wright, Dr Tony
Michael, Alun
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Tellers for the Ayes:
Milburn, Alan Mr. Alan Meale and
Miller, Andrew Mr. Eric Illsley.
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Amess, David
Aitken, Jonathan Arbuthnot, James
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)
Ashby, David Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Aspinwall, Jack Fishburn, Dudley
Atkins, Robert Forman, Nigel
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Forth, Eric
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Baldry, Tony Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Bates, Michael Freeman, Rt Hon Roger
Batiste, Spencer French, Douglas
Bellingham, Henry Fry, Sir Peter
Bendall, Vivian Gale, Roger
Beresford, Sir Paul Gallie, Phil
Biffen, Rt Hon John Gardiner, Sir George
Blackburn, Dr John G. Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan
Body, Sir Richard Garnier, Edward
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Gillan, Cheryl
Booth, Hartley Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Boswell, Tim Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Gorst, Sir John
Bowden, Sir Andrew Grant, Sir A. (Cambs SW)
Bowis, John Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Brandreth, Gyles Grylls, Sir Michael
Brazier, Julian Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Bright, Graham Hague, William
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Browning, Mrs. Angela Hanley, Jeremy
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Hannam, Sir John
Burns, Simon Hargreaves, Andrew
Burt, Alistair Harris, David
Butcher, John Haselhurst, Alan
Butler, Peter Hawkins, Nick
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Hawksley, Warren
Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln) Hayes, Jerry
Carrington, Matthew Heathcoat-Amory, David
Carttiss, Michael Hendry, Charles
Cash, William Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hicks, Robert
Churchill, Mr Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L.
Clappison, James Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif) Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Horam, John
Coe, Sebastian Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Colvin, Michael Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Congdon, David Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Conway, Derek Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Hunter, Andrew
Cormack, Patrick Jack, Michael
Couchman, James Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Cran, James Jenkin, Bernard
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Jessel, Toby
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr)
Day, Stephen Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Deva, Nirj Joseph Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Dickens, Geoffrey Key, Robert
Dorrell, Stephen Kilfedder, Sir James
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James King, Rt Hon Tom
Dover, Den Kirkhope, Timothy
Duncan, Alan Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Duncan-Smith, Iain Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Dunn, Bob Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Durant, Sir Anthony Knox, Sir David
Eggar, Tim Kynoch, George (Kincardine)
Elletson, Harold Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield) Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) Lang, Rt Hon Ian
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Lawrence, Sir Ivan
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) Legg, Barry
Evennett, David Leigh, Edward
Faber, David Lennox-Boyd, Mark
Fabricant, Michael Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas Lidington, David
Fenner, Dame Peggy Lightbown, David
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Lloyd, Rt Hon Peter (Fareham) Pickles, Eric
Lord, Michael Porter, David (Waveney)
Luff, Peter Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Powell, William (Corby)
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Rathbone, Tim
MacKay, Andrew Redwood, Rt Hon John
Maclean, David Renton, Rt Hon Tim
McLoughlin, Patrick Richards, Rod
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Riddick, Graham
Madel, Sir David Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm
Maitland, Lady Olga Robathan, Andrew
Major, Rt Hon John Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Malone, Gerald Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Mans, Keith Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Marland, Paul Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Marlow, Tony Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Sackville, Tom
Mates, Michael Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Mellor, Rt Hon David Shaw, David (Dover)
Merchant, Piers Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW) Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Moate, Sir Roger Shersby, Michael
Monro, Sir Hector Sims, Roger
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Skeet, Sir Trevor
Moss, Malcolm Soames, Nicholas
Needham, Rt Hon Richard Speed, Sir Keith
Nelson, Anthony Spencer, Sir Derek
Neubert, Sir Michael Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Nicholls, Patrick Spink, Dr Robert
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Spring, Richard
Norris, Steve Sproat, Iain
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Oppenheim, Phillip Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Ottaway, Richard Steen, Anthony
Page, Richard Stephen, Michael
Paice, James Stern, Michael
Patnick, Irvine Stewart, Allan
Patten, Rt Hon John Streeter, Gary
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Sumberg, David
Pawsey, James Sweeney, Walter
Sykes, John Walden, George
Tapsell, Sir Peter Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Taylor, Ian (Esher) Ward, John
Taylor, John M. (Solihull) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E) Waterson, Nigel
Temple-Morris, Peter Watts, John
Thomason, Roy Whitney, Ray
Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V) Whittingdale, John
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N) Widdecombe, Ann
Thornton, Sir Malcolm Wilkinson, John
Thurnham, Peter Willetts, David
Townend, John (Bridlington) Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th) Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Tracey, Richard Wolfson, Mark
Tredinnick, David Wood, Timothy
Trend, Michael Yeo, Tim
Trotter, Neville
Twinn, Dr Ian Tellers for the Noes:
Vaughan, Sir Gerard Mr. Sydney Chapman and
Viggers, Peter Mr. Bowen Wells.
Waldegrave, Rt Hon William

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 30 (Questions on amendments) and agreed to.

MADAM SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved, That this House supports the Government's clear strategy to support sustainable economic and social development, particularly in the poorest countries; commends the lead the Prime Minister has taken through his Trinidad Terms initiative, from which 22 countries now benefit, to reduce the debt burden of developing countries; welcomes the role played by the Government in the successful conclusion of the GATT Uruguay round, which will improve trading opportunities for developing countries and help them generate more of the resources they need for their development; commends its substantial and effective aid programme and in particular the use it makes of the expertise of British institutions, companies and non-governmental organisations; and welcomes the fact that the Government now publishes more information about the aid programme than ever before.

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