HC Deb 03 November 1999 vol 337 cc275-6
1. Mr. Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie)

What assessment she has made of the likely impact of the new challenge fund on the activities of development organisations concerned with supporting her reproductive health policy. [95580]

7. Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold)

For what reason funding for family planning and reproductive health in the civil society challenge fund has been reduced to 50 per cent. matched funding. [95586]

The Secretary of State for International Development (Clare Short)

Our new civil society challenge fund is designed to engage a wide range of organisations in the UK in the development of a strong civil society, speaking up for the poor in developing countries. This replaces the old joint funding scheme which predominately financed service delivery by development non-governmental organisations. Our health programme is a more effective instrument for building countrywide access to reproductive health care and NGOs are frequently involved in this work. To help reproductive health care organisations adjust to the new arrangements, I have decided to phase in this change by offering 85 per cent. funding for year 1 of the new fund and 70 per cent. for year 2, reaching 50 per cent. in year 3.

Mr. Worthington

I welcome the decision by my right hon. Friend to phase in the changes. She will be well aware that organisations such as Marie Stopes International and Population Concern received 100 per cent. funding because of the sheer difficulty of raising funds for matters such as the sexual education of the young. Will my right hon. Friend keep an eye on this matter—I know of her commitment to it—so that we ensure that we meet our Cairo targets and that the work increases in the coming years?

Clare Short

The Department tried to find out why those NGOs were given 100 per cent. funding, unlike everyone else. To be honest, we could not get to the root of it, although what my hon. Friend has mentioned is alleged to be the reason. I am pleased to phase in the change, but my hon. Friend may like to know that we have doubled our commitment to £80 million, and that lots of NGOs are involved. The old joint funding scheme was worth £3 million. This is not the only route to giving people access to control over their fertility, and NGOs are involved in the much larger-scale work that we do.

Mr. Clifton-Brown

Will the Secretary of State confirm that the NGOs involved in reproductive and sexual health are regarded as among the best in the world? There is a fear among them that, if the matched funding is reduced from 100 to 85 per cent. in year 1, and then to 75 and 50 per cent., our Cairo targets may not be met. Will the Secretary of State keep the matter under review and, if that proves to be the case, alter the targets?

Clare Short

I shall gently repeat the figures that I have just put to the House. As a Government, we are committed to meeting the Cairo targets so that every person and family in the world can control their fertility and raise healthy children. NGOs cannot provide that service all over the world, but they can help us to help Governments to provide a universal service for their people. Those are our objectives. We have increased spending through our mainstream health programmes to £80 million a year, whereas the old funding scheme provided £3 million a year. We want NGOs to be involved, but we want universal services—not just a patchy provision.

Ms Chris McCafferty (Calder Valley)

I commend my right hon. Friend for her recognition that access to sexual and reproductive health services plays such an important part in the promotion of sustainable development and the elimination of poverty. Does she agree that, if all donor countries met their United Nations targets, 150 million people who want access to family planning would have it? The United Kingdom Government are paying more than their dues in this respect, and I commend her for that.

I, too, thank my right hon. Friend for recognising the difficulty that UK NGOs working on sexual and reproductive health have in raising funds. Will she do what she can to encourage British companies and foundations to support and make a fuller contribution to those NGOs, which do such a good job in raising awareness of the issues and providing services to people both here and in developing countries?

Clare Short

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. We are committed to a human rights-based approach to development. All human beings, without exception, should have the chance to control their fertility, to have healthy children, to have those children educated and to see their families become better off. This work is part of giving people that freedom and improvement in their quality of life. I promise that we will continue to work with NGOs that are committed to those objectives.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

Further to what the Secretary of State has just told the House, can she confirm that her Department funds no birth control policies abroad that would be unacceptable in the United Kingdom?

Clare Short

I can absolutely confirm that. The Cairo principles represented a great breakthrough after all the argument in the international system about population control by compulsion and the bad example that was set in the past in India and China. The great achievement of Cairo was to establish that there should be freedom of choice with no compulsion or pressure on people. We work absolutely according to those principles. There is much misreporting of our around £17 million a year support to the United Nations Population Fund, which is working in China to get away from compulsion and towards freedom of choice. We strongly support that.

Forward to