HL Deb 03 July 1981 vol 422 cc404-5

11.9 a.m.

Lord Brockway

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the second Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will contribute to the projects to develop communications in the third world to be undertaken under the 35-nation council set up by UNESCO.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, the council will concentrate first on identifying the needs in each country, and then encourage funding for projects from all possible sources. In the United Nations system we expect to contribute to such projects chiefly through what we put into the United Nations Development Programme. This provides each country with money to meet its national priorities for technical co-operation from the whole system. We shall also be ready to consider within the limits of our resources requests from individual countries for aid for sound projects identified by the council.

Lord Brockway

My Lords, while appreciating that Answer, may I ask the Minister this: Does not the UNESCO constitution involve the assurance of the free flow of information and ideals across frontiers? Is it not the case that, in addition to UNESCO, only seven countries have decided to make contributions for this purpose? Does not the fact that the only two western countries are the Netherlands and France mean that the third world may feel a further rebuff to the unfortunate dialogue that has taken place over the last seven years?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, yes; of course UNESCO is concerned with the free flow of information. Regarding the last supplementary question of the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, the information I have is that the Netherlands, India, Mexico and Iraq have already pledged to make money available to the fund and several other countries, including France and Norway, have said they hope to contribute. Other potential donors have argued strongly that the IPGC should not be a financing body.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, would the Minister agree that, in view of the grossly distorted views put out by a good deal—not all—of the Western press about the third world, it is very necessary to encourage third world communications not just among third world countries but to the West as well? Although I know that the noble Lord has not yet had time to consider this, will he bring to the attention of his noble and right honourable friends the Zimbabwean News Agency, which has been set up this week, and consider that as one of the projects which might very well qualify for the aid he is promising?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I am obviously unable to give any commitment to any particular project, as the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, will understand; but I most certainly agree with him that communications and the free flow of information are absolutely vital.

Lord Noel-Baker

My Lords, would the Government consider making it a matter of high priority to disseminate full information about the facts of world poverty and hunger, which are so lamentably unknown in most of the advanced countries of the world?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, public relations is always a problem, but we will certainly see that we do our best.

Baroness Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe

My Lords, while I think the whole House understands the rather unfortunate background to the whole UNESCO discussions on communications, it still remains an extremely important subject. Could the Government bear in mind the importance of the relations between North and South which will arise at the Mexico conference, and help to smooth some of the difficulties along this path before then?

Lord Skelmersdale

Yes, my Lords. The noble Baroness is, of course, quite right and we shall do everything we can to further this aim at the Mexico conference.

Lord Gladwyn

My Lords, would it not be advisable not to use the expression "third world" in this connection? Nobody seems to know exactly what it means. It comprises highly developed and extremely undeveloped countries.

Lord Skelmersdale

Yes, my Lords. Snap phrases seem to be all the rage and I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, on this.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, in view of the concern that there is on the question of communications, have the Government any reason to justify the proposed cuts in the external services of the BBC? Will there be an opportunity for this matter to be discussed in this House, in view of the considerable concern in all sections of it?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, that is rather wide of the original Question. But noble Lords will have an opportunity to question the Government on this matter on Tuesday, because there is a Question down by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi.