HC Deb 25 June 1997 vol 296 cc835-6
12. Miss Anne Begg

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what consultations she has had on the renewal of United Kingdom membership of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. [3866]

Clare Short

I met Mr. Mayor, UNESCO's director-general, in London on 2 June. I shall follow this up with a visit to UNESCO next Tuesday. I shall attend, along with United Kingdom staff, the raising of the Union Jack once again outside the UNESCO building.

Miss Begg

On what date shall we be rejoining UNESCO and, once we do so, what will Britain's priority be in that organisations?

Clare Short

Our renewed membership takes effect from 1 July, the day on which the Union flag will be rehoisted. I have already had talks with the director-general. Our additional funding in the first year will be spent on one of our overwhelming priorities—bringing primary education to all children in the world, especially girls. Educating girls is the most developmental thing that one can do. UNESCO will prioritise that work as part of its welcome of Britain back into the organisation.

Mr. Wells

I congratulate the right hon. Lady on Britain's return to UNESCO, but how will she compensate the bilateral aid budget for the £12 million that she will have to spend in that organisation for our membership?

Clare Short

It is actually £5 million this year. As I have said, that money will be spent on work that we absolutely support: getting all the children of the world into primary education is one of the most important developmental things that we will do. The money for this year will come out of the contingency reserve. The implication of the hon. Gentleman's remarks is that any money that we spend in the World bank or on United Nations' work is not beneficial, but that is not so. We must ensure that that money is spent to serve our aim to eradicate poverty in the world.