HC Deb 10 January 2001 vol 360 cc1066-7
4. Ms Christine Russell (City of Chester)

What support her Department is providing to the global environment facility. [143198]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. George Foulkes)

The global environment facility was established following the UN Earth summit in Rio to provide funding to developing countries for their costs incurred in dealing with global environmental challenges. Up to now it has committed nearly $3 billion. The UK contribution to that has been £215 million. We have made it clear that we would like to have a third replenishment by 2002, to increase this facility by 50 per cent. Our Department stands willing to increase our own contribution by that amount.

Ms Russell

I am sure that the House will agree that that is welcome news. I wonder whether the House is aware that the Red Cross now estimates that more refugees lose their homes through natural disasters than through war and famine. Will my hon. Friend and my right hon. Friend give a commitment that environmental protection and sustainable development will be factored into all their Department's work?

Mr. Foulkes

I can give my hon. Friend that absolute assurance. She is absolutely right: the common perception is that refugees are principally fleeing conflict, but the vast majority are fleeing floods and other environmental degradation. That is why we need to put more money into the global environment facility, to stop the degradation and inhibit the flooding by replanting.

That is why we will put in more money, which would not be possible if the policies of the Government opposite—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] That would not be possible if the policies of the Opposition—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hooray."]—became the policies of the Government, and that is why they must be rejected.

Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire)

The Minister's Freudian slip harks back to the negotiation of the global environment facility at Rio in 1992 by my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major), on which I hope he will congratulate him. If the Government are as committed to environmental goals as the Minister claims, why, just yesterday, did the Environmental Audit Committee report say that they do not take the environment seriously at all?

Mr. Foulkes

I have read that report. The Committee criticised itself more than it criticised the Government. As the green Minister for our Department, I can say that it is entirely wrong in its criticism of the Government. We are taking the environment more seriously than any previous Government. As for Freudian slips, as a psychologist I can tell the House that I am somewhat prone to them—but there is one thing that I am absolutely sure about: when the people of this country are asked to choose the next Government, they will make no slip whatever.