§ 3.7 p.m.
§ Lord Seebohm rose to call attention to the accelerating growth of world hunger and to the urgent need of practical assistance to the third world to encourage the increased production of food; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, first, I must thank the House for slotting this debate into the very short time between the general election and the Recess and I must thank my, colleagues on these Benches for allotting this very precious time to me. I believe that this is an important subject for two particular reasons. The first reason is that apart from nuclear war, starvation and hunger in the world is probably the most serious problem affecting mankind. One might say that it is the worst problem because we do not know whether there will be a nuclear war, but we do know that there will be more starvation. I guess that by the time this debate is over several hundred people will have died from starvation. It could be thousands.
§ The second reason is a personal one. For 20 years I was a senior executive of an overseas bank operating mainly in the third world and I suppose that for every one of those years I was in and out of Africa. Anyone who has had that experience not only becomes fascinated—and at times utterly frustrated—by that strange continent but finds it gets you in its grip and does not let go. During this past decade since I retired I have kept a close watch on what has been happening. During that decade things have steadily deteriorated and not improved.
§ In recent time we have had some very interesting reports from commissions on this subject. But it is fair to say that even in the early days when I was operative in those countries I realised that about 75 per cent, of the population was not benefiting in any way from the boom that came with independence. I was able during that time to see presidents and ministers, and although they paid lipservice to the importance of agriculture there was no political will at all and very little happened. I suppose one did one's best in providing funds for co-operatives and marketing boards. Agricultural advisers were appointed in West Africa. East Africa. and central Africa but even at the end of those two decades I was bitterly disappointed in what had been achieved.
§ Some time in 1960 or 1961 I ran into a senior consultant of a well-known firm of American consultants. It is a household name that your Lordships would recognise if I repeated it so I shall not repeat it. He was an adviser to the United States Agency for International Development about where money should be placed. I said. "I hope that you will do 801 something substantial for agriculture". To which he replied, "No, I am not recommending any money going to agriculture. The object of USAID is to create an industrial base in Nigeria, and from that everything else will flow". That was the first time, I think, that I had heard of what came to be known as the policy of "trickle down". In other words, if you get prosperity at the top, it will soon get down to those at the bottom. In my experience, even in my day in Africa, it was exactly the opposite. What happened was that people left the country and swarmed into the towns looking for employment. In fact, that was the reason for the formation of the vast and ghastly shanty towns round Lagos and Abadan and Kano.
I suppose that the latest report of any real importance was what I call the No. 2 Brandt Report The Common Crisis, which the noble Lord, Lord Oram, introduced for debate in this House a few weeks ago. But the most important document that I think I have seen in recent years is the book called, Down to Earth, which is by Erick Eckholm. It was produced at the instigation of the International Institute for Environmental Development, which, as I think some noble Lords will know, was the platform for that magnificent and widely-known person Barbara Ward—Lady Jackson. She wrote the foreword for this book, and I think it likely that it was the last thing that she ever wrote. I think it is fair, therefore, to make one short quotation from her introduction, which is as follows:
One of the saddest of all the metaphors is surely that of eating the seedcorn. Yet the inexorable pressures of population in a limited environment and its resources are at the moment forcing hundreds of millions of people to do just this, to burn cow dung instead of using it to enrich the soil, to cultivate steep slopes until the precious soil is washed away down the rivers".
§ Eric Eckholm tells us that there are now 68 million Africans who are believed to be undernourished—that is about 15 per cent, of the entire population of Africa—and this in a continent where the world's greatest reserves of unexploited food production exist and where agricultural development can only be described as dismal. The per capitaoutput has been reduced by 10 per cent, in the last 20 years. If human hunger is to be wiped out, Eckholm points out, it is necessary to have agrarian reform, small holder progress, employment creation and dissemination of the means to exploit the opportunities which exist. I do not propose to make many quotations, but further on in this book it says that the world has at present 1.5 billion hectares of arable land under cultivation, and also estimates that 5 million to 7 million hectares of this are being completely lost for agricultural production every year through soil degradation.
§ I realise that family planning is a very important side of this coin, and I expect other speakers will deal with it, but to me it is such a complicated and important one that I think it should be the subject of another debate. I think that, in the context, it is worth saying that it is anticipated by the United Nations that the 470 million people now in Africa will rise in number by the end of the next century to 2.2 billion. How they are to be fed, we just do not know. It has been said that if you improve hygiene, medical conditions and so on the population will not increase at that rate and that 802 the birth rate will fall. In the long run, I think that this may be true. I believe that it has been true in the European context. In Kenya, where great strides have been made in improving these particular conditions, they seem to want more babies than ever—and I will refer to that later on.
I do not want to quote too many statistics, but the World Bank estimates that there are now one billion absolute poor in the world. The best definition that I have seen of "absolute poor" is one by Robert Macnamara, which says:
those whose condition of life is so degraded by disease, illiteracy, malnutrition and squalor as to deny its victims basic human necessities: a condition of life so limited as to prevent realisation of the potential of the genius with which one is born, so degrading as to insult human dignity".
Another sinister statement that he makes is:
The era of the population explosion will necessarily be … short".
They will starve.
§ For some time, food production in Africa has been increasing by only 1.6 per cent. per annum while the population growth has been increasing at double that rate. Africa, south of the Sahara, is the only region in the world where food production per capita has declined over the last two decades and where food imports have increased by 9 per cent, per annum. In Kenya, which I have mentioned before, once the great hope of the African independent countries, there is a population growth of 4 per cent, per annum—the greatest in Africa—and a food production growth of only 1.5 per cent., It is now importing food on a considerable scale. This is a country which, on the whole, has made good use of its aid. There are few prestigious enterprises serving no useful purpose, but overseas earnings that should be bringing in the many requirements for further development are now being used almost entirely for the importation of food.
§ It has been pointed out that food aid is changing the tastes of the people for foodstuffs, mainly grains, and that they are no longer prepared to put up with the cassava, and the millet, which was their normal food. African countries are now importing 40 million tonnes of food per annum, and the Brandt forecast is that this figure will he 72 million tonnes by the end of this decade and 100 million tonnes, if such food exists, by the end of the century. My final figures—and I will not bore your Lordships with any more—are for Nigeria, a country which I know well, where even in my day, in the late 'fifties, we were financing the importation of a great amount of grain from America. In 1981, Nigeria imported no less than £1.8 billion-worth of food. After severe import restrictions in 1982, that was reduced to £1.2 billion-worth of food. On top of that, to my surprise, they are said to be importing £440 million-worth of alcoholic drinks. This is the story of what has happened to their bonanza of oil—unlimited imports of all types of goods, including food, in a country which could almost feed the rest of Africa. I think I have painted a sufficiently gloomy background to come to my point, which is this. What do we do about it? What can we actually do? The time has come for something practical to be done. The first thing is to deal with the problem of food aid. It is quite natural, I think, that people should say there is so much surplus grain—the Americans are paying people not to grow it—and we have milk lakes, butter mountains, wine 803 lakes and all sorts of other examples of surplus food production in the EEC and elsewhere, why can we not use this to solve some of the problems?
§ In June 1981 the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, told the House that the British Government had reservations about the development benefits of food aid and that they had consistently opposed increases in EEC dairy food aid. He was right. I hold the proof in my hand. I received quite recently a book sent to me by OXFAM, produced by that well-known man, Tony Jackson, and by Deborah Eade, who are research people who know more than anybody about the distribution of food. It is called Against the Grain—a very appropriate title. They point out that, already. £1 billion-worth of food is sent annually in aid from the developed world to the developing countries, 70 per cent, is sold on concessional terms, and 30 per cent., on what is called project food aid. Food donors fail to acknowledge that in most cases project food aid applies a first-aid measure to what is a long-term disease. It ignores the fundamental problem, which is poverty, and attempts to address the symptom, which is hunger.
This book gives example after example of the complete failure of the world food programme to deal with disasters, quite apart from the fundamental problem. For instance, in 1976 the world food programme aimed to send food to Bangladesh for starving children and pregnant mothers. It arrived more than a year late. In the Haiti drought of 1977, food arrived in 1978 after a good harvest. Skimmed milk requested by Granada after the disastrous floods in 1976 arrived in 1979. The United States food aid for the Bas Zaire famine in 1977/78 arrived in July 1979, and so on. The Oxfam survey said:
We found in all the major disasters that there was always enough food in the surrounding area to take care of the needs and there was rarely any necessity to import food at all. What was needed was money.
The EEC has a notorious record for the late arrival of food aid. There are also too few routine checks on donations to ensure that inappropriate foods are not sent—because a large amount of inappropriate food has been sent—and that it arrives at the right destination.
So much for food aid for disasters. We must continue to look at disasters, of course, but what about countries with persistent food shortages? In 1980, the CRS medical director for sub-Sahara Africa said this:
The question is—does supplementary feeding added to education and the development process provide the answer to the problem? One would like to say yes, but experience and extensive literature on the subject tell us that the answer is no.
This report concludes by saying:
It may be going against the grain to call for a substantial reduction in non-emergency project food aid. However. analysis of the experience of the last 25 years suggests that it is time we did.
That is what Tony Jackson says.
I now come to what I think is the best suggestion made so far and that is from Mr. Pisani, who is the EEC Commissioner responsible for the policy on aid and development. He has visited several countries himself: I think they were Mali, Kenya and Zambia. He said to the presidents of those countries:
Only a change of policies will enable you to reach self-sufficiency. I am here to tell you that as soon as you have adopted new policies we can provide you with inputs designed to implement them.
That is a very good start, but I was very depressed when I saw a working document which came out a few weeks ago from the European Parliament by the rapporteur, Mrs. Cerretti. While welcoming Mr. Pisani's initiative, they did state that 50 million ECUs (about £30 million) would be made available to support the initiative. They went on to say that the strategies required are production, marketing, storage, transportation and structural measures which consist during the first stage of financing measures to pave the way for action in the four main preselected areas. There should be food, fuel, reafforestation, watersupply, diversification and efficient management of domestic livestock. All that is absoluteley right. Provision is also made for training operations in these two fields. However, it is also said that aid should be made available to all the developing countries, with priority being given to the least developed countries. That is going back to a global approach instead of what I thought Mr. Pisani was doing: he was picking one or two places and making a start on really practical measures. Instead of saying "the least developed countries", I would say "wherever there is some chance of success". I think that is the important thing.
§ The more sinister thing about this report is that it goes on to say at the end that the whole thing is subject, despite what is said, to the Commission's proposals and agreement. This could lead to a delay of up to several months as regards the dispersal of urgently needed aid and it could put the funds in jeopardy. It would enable the Council, acting by a qualified majority, to take a different decision from that proposed by the Parliament. So, while I would praise what Mr. Pisani has done, it still leaves us in the steering position, and action must be taken by the United Kingdom.
§ I suggest that we have various reasons for doing this. First, we still have some responsibility for our ex-colonial territories and, secondly, we have a special relationship with them. I am glad to say that, after certain difficulties, the relationship seems to be improving again. But, more importantly, we have expertise in this country which cannot be matched by any other country in the world. First, we have the CDC which we debated in your Lordships' House not long ago. That has a magnificent record of achievement and, if there had been the necessary political will in the countries where it operates, there could have been vast improvements. In fact, it has started hundreds of small farms, which has been a magnificent demonstration of what can be done.
§ Then there is the Overseas Development Institute, which was started by the late Sir Leslie Rowan. I was a founder member with him, and over the last 20 years they have accumulated some impressive knowledge and done a great deal of fieldwork. They probably know as much about this problem as anyone. Also there are a number of academic institutions—for example, Reading Unversity—which have carried out some most interesting experiments. There are Wye College, Norwich, Sussex, and IDS, and of course Oxfam. Also I should mention the Intermediate Technology Development Group, a much neglected and under-funded institution, which of course was the brainchild of the late Dr. Schumacher. It has done 805 some astonishingly good work in providing intermediate technology to developing countries—small pumps and things like that, which are of tremendous use.
§ I believe that from these institutions which I have mentioned—and no doubt there are others—we could form teams which could sit down and draw up a package for each country. The needs of each country are entirely different, so each needs a different package. It is all very well to say, as Dr. Pisani has said,"If you start to change your policies then we will give you what you want". We have to tell them what they want, because they do not know but we do. I think there is a great responsibility on this country to start producing package deals so that we can put them to these countries and see whether we cannot get something going.
§ Some people will say that the problem is one of conditionality—a well-known phrase, which means that people do not like being told what they have got to do. That is perfectly true but I think that with the special relations we now have with our ex-colonies the situation is very different. Also the situation is so serious that they would take a different view. I had the pleasure a few weeks ago of receiving six people who had just returned from the British Executive Service Overseas. They had spent some months in various developing countries. They said their welcome was overwhelming and I believe things have changed and that, if we took the initiative, we should be welcome. I know that there are many other calls on aid but what we are doing to help is extremely impressive, What is the good of bringing more babies safely into the world if during the next three years they are going to die of starvation or live a life of deprivation and degradation?
§ I also know that there are other things which are equally important. For example, commodity prices are what we have to look at all the time. I do not know whether people realise that commodity prices in 1960 were 25 per cent, higher in real terms than they are today; yet that coincided with the biggest economic growth in the Western world. If we could afford to pay those prices then and prosper, it is foolish for us to think that we have good terms of trade now when, by having cheap commodities, we are ruining our customers, who are going bankrupt. If we did have that 25 per cent, increase in commodity prices, this great financial crisis would disappear overnight.
§ I think I have said enough on this life-and-death problem. I want to finish with a little tailpiece. A few years ago I was in Tokyo leading an international financial mission and during it I said to a leading Japanese, "What is your attitude to the third world?" He said, "Oh, we shall give it massive help, but do not think that we do it from any altruistic motive: we do it because we believe it is the only way of stopping a third world war". I have nothing against altruism but, to put the whole thing at its lowest, what I am recommending is in our self-interest. I should like to end by saying that if they turn to us and we turn them down, we know very well to whom they will turn. I beg to move for Papers.806
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, for this timely debate. It follows soon after our debate in the last Session on the Brandt Commission's memorandum and it comes at a time when a number of countries, particularly in Southern Africa, are facing serious food shortages, largely as a result of a further year of drought. Against such a background, I am glad that we now have the opportunity to consider such a very important matter.
The Government have made it clear, in the many debates we have had on development issues in this House and in another place, that we view with concern the plight of those people in poorer developing countries who day by day do not have enough to eat. This makes tremendous demands in terms of commitment and organisation on the governments of the developing countries themselves, and poses a challenge to industrialised countries to use the resources we have to help build up a long-term solution. As a background to other noble Lords' contributions, I should like to sketch out how we are using our own aid programme to assist in the increase in food production. With your Lordships' permission, I should like to speak again towards the end of the debate and try to pick up any points made by noble Lords which call for a reply from the Government.
Information on the subject of world hunger is controversial. There is probably a sufficient overall supply of food in the world—the problem is getting it to those in need. Here I must stress that increased food aid is not the answer, and I agree very much with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm. Food aid makes sense for emergency relief, as he said, but in other situations can actually discourage food production in developing countries and make matters worse. The solution lies in encouraging self-reliance in food by developing countries, so that they can afford to buy what they need.
It seems generally accepted that the present world population of about 4.400 million people is likely to increase to about 6,200 million by the year 2000, because of increasing life expectancy, particularly in the poorer countries. To meet the effective world demand for agricultural products, present output will have to be doubled by the year 2000. Most of this will have to be met in the presently poorer countries.
Cereals provide most of the energy and protein supplies of most people in the world. They are also a major source of animal food. Today around 1,500 million tons of cereals are produced each year. If world production is to reach the present level of consumption in Western Europe, about 3.000 million tons will be needed in the year 2000. There will be a need for similar increases in root crop, vegetable, fruit and beverage crop production, as well as of fibre and oil seed crops. It is generally accepted that bringing presently unused land into production will not make a major contribution to increased crop production. Such land has low productivity and the costs of making it productive will be great. The greater part of increased production will need to come from increased yields per unit area and from improved farming systems.
807 For many years, successive British Governments have accepted the importance to developing countries of rural development and food production in particular. The increased importance attached to the agricultural sector in British aid policy was matched by a similar reorientation by other donors, notably the World Bank.
Aid to the agricultural sector remains a high priority, because agriculture is the basis of the economy in nearly all developing countries. Following the Cancun Summit meeting, the Prime Minister reported in another place that:The main priority must be for developing countries to grow more food for their own people, This means giving farmers the right incentives and technical support. Aid should be designed to reinforce these objectives".—[0fficial Report,Commons. 26/10/81; Col. 557.]In November 1981, the then Minister for Overseas Development, Sir Neil Marten, told the FAO Conference that:the United Kingdom gives special support to rural development concentrating a high proportion on the poorest developing countries … we are trying to increase our total aid co-operation investment in food and agriculture both directly and indirectly".Others have been similarly concerned. The European Community Council of Ministers reaffirmed the priority which the Community gives to the food and agriculture sector and has launched a National Food Strategy initiative which we have been actively supporting. Commonwealth Heads of Government, at their meeting in Melbourne in 1981, recognised that the ultimate solution to the world food problem lies in greater food self-sufficiency in developing countries.
In formulating aid policy to the agricultural sector, we take into account the specific needs of different countries, but of course what we do is subject to requests from developing countries. In Asia, the high priority areas are irrigation, land resource conservation and assessment, oil seeds, crop protection. forestry and agricultural research. In Africa, priority is attached to agricultural policy and planning, crop protection, agricultural research—including farming systems—marketing and credit, agricultural management, livestock, forestry extension and training. Inputs are needed in many countries in post-harvest activities, such as processing, storage and marketing.
While the experience of the mid-1970s demonstrated some difficulties in channelling aid resources productively into the agricultural sector, it has also shown some of the constraints which need to be tackled for development of the sector and which can be relieved by effective aid. For example, there is a particular need in Africa for inputs of skilled technical manpower to enable capital aid to be absorbed effectively. We have found that programmes need longer periods of active involvement by donors than in the past.
In Britain, we have built up and sustained a unique capability to co-operate with developing countries to meet their varied needs, Our expertise—again, a point referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm—covers a wide range of disciplines, and many institutions are involved, including private firms of consultants and contractors, universities and government-supported research stations.
808 The aid programme draws on this valuable pool of experience. For example, about half the total research and development programme commissioned by the Overseas Development Administration is directed to the agricultural sector. This programme is aimed at gathering new knowledge and evolving new techniques directly related to the needs of developing countries. The emphasis is on research likely to be of practical use in a reasonable period of time, and special priority is given to research and development of direct relevance to the poorer sectors of the poorer countries, with particular reference to the development of the rural sector. Relatively small investments in contracted research enable the resources of British science to be brought to bear on the needs of developing countries.
Under the aid programme, our help to the agricultural sector falls into two main categories —multilateral and bilateral. On the multilateral front, we are playing an important part through our contributions to the international institutions, such as the World Bank, the European Development Fund, the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the International Fund for Agricultural Development. The last-named fund began operating in 1977 and our contribution to the initial funding was £18 million. Our share under the First Replenishment is £12.9 million. The World Bank's lending for agricultural and research and development projects increased dramatically from 2.2 billion U.S. dollars in 1970 to 1973 to more than 13.2 billion U.S. dollars in 1978 to 1981. That was an increase from 19 to 31 per cent. of total World Bank and IDA lending. A rising share of this total supported the poorest countries and there has been greater emphasis on crops most likely to be grown or eaten by the poor.
The Regional Banks are another important source of funds for agricultural development. For example, under the programmes of the Inter-American Development Bank in the period 1961–82 5,138 million US dollars (22.8 per cent, of the total aid) went to the agricultural and fisheries sector. In the current financial year, the United Kingdom is expected to provide over £5 million to the Bank. Technical co-operation is a vital support to capital aid, and the largest multilateral source of funding for such co-operation is the United Nations Development Programme, to which the United Kingdom is a major contributor, providing £18.5 million in 1983.
The United Kingdom is a founder member of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research. The centres in this system perform a crucial role in helping to build up agricultural production in developing countries. The success of the International Rice Research Institute in developing improved rice varieties with high yield potential, and their impact on rice production in Asia is well known. Other centres have also made significant contributions towards improving food production in developing countries. Increased emphasis is being placed on the development of new technologies suited to the poor farmer. Improved varieties, genetically endowed with drought tolerance, resistance to major pests and diseases, and the ability to yield well with fewer inputs, are of special benefit to farmers with few resources.
809 It is a long-term operation but there have been remarkable successes already. Neither farm size nor form of land tenure significantly affects the adoption of improved varieties. Among consumers, low income groups gain most from the low food prices resulting from increased supplies. Income gains among farmers are directly proportional to farm size but additional income generated by new varieties stimulates non-agricultural as well as agricultural employment. The high yielding varieties are grown on more than one-third of the total wheat and rice lands in the developing world—by 1980, a total of 55 million hectares, equal to the total cereal growing area of Central and South America—and their extent continues to grow by some 4.5 million hectares a year. Since 1971 our contributions to the core budgets of the centres have come to over £25 million. In 1983 we are contributing £4 million. In addition, we are spending in 1983 about £1 million on contracted back-up research in this country in support of the centres. This enables the sophisticated resources of British science to be brought to bear upon the more basic research problems necessary to the centres' work but beyond their present resources.
On the bilateral front, our aid to the agricultural sector remains a high priority. Agricultural projects involving capital aid are often associated with technical co-operation assistance in the form of personnel, training and consultancies. Experience shows that agricultural projects need particularly careful preparation and need to involve a wide range of expertise.
This expertise is available to us from the professional staff of the Overseas Development Administration, and from consultants in the private sector, universities and other research organisations. With changing needs and growing capacity elsewhere, we have judged it possible to reduce the size of the Land Resources Development Centre and to merge the former Tropical Products Institute and Centre for Overseas Pest Research into the newly-created Tropical Development and Research Institute. We regard these organisations, with their high international reputations, as a valuable part of our aid programme and believe that these changes will make them more cost-effective. Faced with the problems of world hunger and the urgent need for practical assistance, we think it vital to ensure that we obtain the greatest possible benefits from the aid money that we spend.
Some examples will illustrate what we can do under our bilateral aid programme. One project about to start is for deep tubewells in Bangladesh. We are contributing £17.36 million towards this 142 million dollar World Bank project. The main aim is to increase food production by installing 4,000 deep tubewells in areas identified as largely unsuitable for other types. The wells will irrigate 300,000 acres and enable crops to be grown during the dry season. The project will also assist farmer co-operatives as well as providing for groundwater studies and experiments to test different water distribution systems and alternative deep tubewell designs. It will be supported by British consultants.
810 Our aid programme to Zambia provides examples of two approaches to boosting agricultural production. To assist smallholders, we have allocated, as part of the Zambian integrated rural development programme, £3 million, plus a team of technical co-operation officers to three districts which presently import food from other parts of the country. Under the project, oxen are being trained and sold to farmers, roads and bridges built to open up agricultural areas, local marketing organisations improved through the provision of stores and scales, and health units and village wells constructed. The project, together with economic farmgate prices—a vital element for sound agricultural development—has produced a 50 per cent. increase in maize production. To help meet the growing demand for bread in urban areas, we are providing £500,000 for irrigation equipment for wheat production. This will be sold to large-scale commercial farmers. At present, Zambia imports 90 per cent, of its wheat requirements.
Our technical co-operation programme in Egypt illustrates what we are doing to help over the important question of skilled technical manpower. In 1982 a consultancy agreement was concluded under which assistance totalling £300,000 is being given over three years for the development of the Agricultural Staff Training Centre at Sakha as a "centre of excellence" in agricultural extension, crop production and agricultural mechanisation. Under this agreement, we are providing a full-time resident adviser; a series of consultancy visits; a total of 15 training awards in Britain for staff from Sakha; specialist equipment, machinery and books; and a grant towards the cost of site improvements at the centre.
The work done by the Commonwealth Development Corporation in the agricultural sector constitutes a significant part of the United Kingdom's contribution to alleviating world hunger. The CDC has been traditionally active in agriculture. Forty-nine per cent, of its total commitment of over £700 million is in renewable natural resources; between 50 and 60 per cent, of its new commitments each year go into this sector. Projects it operates or is assisting currently farm over 1 million hectares throughout 49 countries. It has developed the nucleus estate and smallholder formula, allowing some 485,000 small farmers to make the transition from subsistence to cash crops.
This debate is given particular focus by the reports we have been receiving of the drought in Africa. We are watching the situation closely. The picture that is emerging suggests that the effects of the drought are patchy. Some countries have escaped altogether, or very lightly. Central and Southern Africa, including countries such as Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe, is the region worst hit. East Africa, with Ethiopia the principal and a tragic exception, has escaped the worst effects. Ghana and Mauritania in West Africa are very badly affected.
Of course the effects of the drought have been compounded by other factors. Animal diseases, such as rinderpest and foot and mouth, have taken their toll. Refugee problems are both a cause and a symptom of the difficulties faced by some countries. Pest infestation and lack of roads and transport are other crucial factors.
811 Again we are doing what we can. In the current crisis, we have already provided approximately £½ million of drought relief assistance to Ethiopia. In addition to the substantial relief we provided last year, we have this year donated mobile trucks for Botswana's emergency feeding programme. Over the last two financial years we have contributed towards an emergency airlift of food in Chad and have provided transport to ferry relief supplies. We have also just agreed to transport emergency food supplies presented to the Office of the United Nations Disaster Relief Co-ordinator for Chad by another donor. We have responded to a Red Cross appeal for transport and other items for an emergency feeding programme in Mauritania. We have provided transport for Zimbabwe's emergency feeding arrangements through non-government organisations working there.
This is disaster relief. We also do much, under our normal bilateral programmes, to counter the effects of droughts such as this. I shall return to this subject at the end of the debate, if noble Lords wish.
We cannot let a debate like this pass without a reference to the work done by British voluntary agencies, such as the British Red Cross Society, VSO, Save the Children Fund and Christian Aid, to mention just a few among many, in helping to reduce the misery brought by drought and hunger. It goes almost without saying that they are able to meet needs which even the best designed and administered official programmes simply cannot cope with.
Noble Lords will know that we continue to support the voluntary agencies through the aid programme under the pound for pound scheme. Their work is not limited to disaster relief; they do much to encourage agricultural production and to bring long-term benefits. We are, for example, supporting with Action Aid a village project in the Gambia aimed at helping women to grow and market a variety of vegetables. In Andhra Pradesh in India, we are supporting an Oxfam project which is providing advice and loans to a group of smallholders who are improving a stretch of previously uncultivated land. We are convinced that this small part of the aid programme gives us good value for money.
These are some of the areas in which we are using the aid programme in support of food production policies. Our aid to this sector is flexible, and it is backed, as I have tried to show, by a high degree of British expertise. We work closely with international organisations and other donors, recognising that we cannot make a great impact on our own and that our efforts have to be seen in the context of international actions. But we take seriously our responsibility to contribute where we can to the efforts of the poorer developing countries to feed their people, and we shall continue to make this a priority within our aid programme.
§ 3.51 p.m.
My Lords, I should like to begin, like the noble Baroness, Lady Young, by congratulating most sincerely the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, on having introduced this debate—but more particularly, upon the skill of his speech. I know from personal experience the great difficulty of covering this kind of 812 subject in a short speech and I felt that the speech to which we listened earlier was an admirable example of what should be done.
As to the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, which we have just heard, I am sure we are all grateful to her for that description of the way in which the aid programme is directed towards food production. But I cannot let it pass without pointing out that the noble Baroness was speaking only a few days after the announcement of Government expenditure cuts which involve, if I am right, cuts in the aid programme of £20 million. In the context of today's debate, I express the hope that when that £20 million comes to be detailed in its application in the operations of the Overseas Development Administration at least those aspects of it to which the noble Baroness has referred will not suffer cuts, because of the urgency of the matters to which the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, has referred.
May I begin my own contribution to this debate much as the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, did—by briefly looking back 20 years. He was then in Africa, and I had the experience at that time of some ministerial responsibility in inaugurating the aid programme. It was then, as a junior Minister, that I joined with Mrs Barbara Castle and with Sir Andrew Cohen in establishing the new Ministry of Overseas Development. I remember our early discussions in the Ministry about development strategy. I sat with Mrs Castle in consultation with that group of experts whom we had gathered together in Eland House. Time and again during those discussions I felt like interjecting—and I know that on a number of occasions I did interject—the simple question: what about agriculture? I recall that in those days, as the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, said in respect of African countries, third world agriculture did not receive a high priority in our deliberations.
I have a second recollection of those days. It was when Mrs Castle, who was then Minister, went on a ministerial visit to India and asked to see, and did see, family planning clinics in that country. She came back full of determination to help in the battle against the population explosion. I recall also that at that time, the whole subject of family planning was still regarded as a most delicate one; I remember how Mrs Castle's enthusiasm raised quite a number of official eyebrows during our consultations.
Looking back from the standpoint of this debate, I feel inclined to say how right I was to ask that question: what about agriculture? And how right Mrs Castle was to urge the importance of population policies. I say this because the problem of world hunger is a twofold one. On the one hand, it is a question of food production and food distribution, to which the noble Baroness devoted her speech; but on the other hand, there is the pressure of population on the world's food resources. To my mind, there is little use in tackling food production unless the population problem is tackled with equal vigour. The two are inextricably intertwined.
On this subject of the interplay of population with food production, the experts give us figures galore of great complexity and sophistication. One can find evidence of progress in this country and that; but elsewhere one finds depressing evidence that matters 813 are getting worse. We are told, for instance, that over the past decade, in the world as a whole food production just kept pace with the growth of population. But overall statistics and averages can conceal tragedies for those who are below the average. As the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, adequately described, in the continent of Africa as a whole we are well below the average. Because during the 1970s output per capita there fell by some 15 per cent.
We are expecting this week a gloomy report from the Food and Agriculture Organisation documenting the food crisis that threatens huge areas of Africa because of the relentless drought. Famine is threatening there on a massive scale. We have seen tragedy after tragedy, but we are told by the experts that we are on the verge of a greater tragedy yet. The message of this debate therefore can be simply told in simple language. Many—too many—babies are being horn in the third world; many—too many—babies are dying in the third world—for the simple reason that they and their parents do not have enough to eat.
Yet we are told—and I am sure that it is true—that enough food is being grown and produced in the world for every one of them to be adequately fed. But we then come up against the problem of mal-distribution. The food is not being produced where it is needed, and nor is it being moved through the process of trade to the places where it is needed. I pause to ask the question: why do not the processes of trade—the well-known market forces—move the food to where it is needed? The simple answer is, the food does not go to those places because the people there are too poor to pay for it and there is no profit to be had in moving it there. Therefore, we are faced with a vicious circle of poverty.
Throughout much of the third world, children are born into a poverty-stricken countryside. Some—many of them—die; but those who do survive spend their lives, which are sadly all too short, eking out a bare, miserable subsistence often from an unrewarding and unwatered soil. Some of them, as the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, reminded us, seek to escape; they move into the cities. But those cities are already grossly overcrowded; they are already taking the form of the miserable shanty towns where the lives of the people who live in them are even worse than in the impoverished countryside from which they originate.
Then comes the challenge to us. Those teeming millions—many of them unemployed; most of them drastically poor—are living on the verge of social unrest and potential revolution. Therefore their governments in order to maintain some sort of social stability need to borrow the resources to attempt that task, So we enter upon the vicious financial circle within what I have called the vicious circle of poverty. The third world governments borrow more than they should; they cannot repay the interest, and so the international banks allow them to borrow more in order to repay the interest. We have had the example only this week of the IMF wrestling with the problem of Brazil.
I ask the question: what are we in the West doing about this vicious circle of poverty? I should like to recall, as the noble Baroness, Lady Young, did, the Cancun conference and what happened after it 814 because I think we have there a glaring example of supreme folly in our wrongheaded approach to this problem. The noble Baroness said that after the Cancun conference the Prime Minister spoke in another place about the need for food in the third world. I recall that before the Prime Minister came back to make that statement she went to Mexico City to inaugurate a vast steelworks which was financed by a huge British loan—in my judgment, the very worst kind of development from all points of view.
Recently in the European Select Committee of your Lordships' House—on which I am happy to serve—I had the chance of getting the reaction of Mr. Ian MacGregor to that kind of policy and that kind of action. In posing my question, I said to him that it seemed to me that it was wrong from the point of view of the developing country to have that kind of huge steelworks built with our money. I asked him how wise did he, as Chairman of the British Steel Corporation, think it was to build up yet another competitor in a steel market already grossly over-provided. He agreed that it was wrong; but then he went on to say that if we do not provide the money someone else will. So we have to do crazy things because if we do not then others will. What a basis for policy that is! Surely that is not the way to break into the vicious circle that I have described. It simply increases the pace at which the circle spins around.
We behave in these matters—as we do indeed in domestic policy—in the mistaken belief (to use the much quoted phrase) that there is no alternative. There is an alternative if we break into the present policies which have proved and are proving disastrous and if we implement new policies. Some of those were admirably put before your Lordships by the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, and his remarks parallel what I now want to say.
We should start in the African village, or indeed among the peasants throughout the world, and we should do those things and help the villagers to do those things which can improve the quality of life in the villages. We should abandon the folly of trying to bring about a Western style industrialisation in the third world. We should bring amenities, especially water and electricity, to the villages, rather than drive the village population into the towns. This does not mean by any means that we should condemn the villagers to be forever hewers of wood and drawers of water. We should bring appropriate industry and appropriate technology to the villages where the people live. That can and should be done not by the futile transfer of massive Western technology to the third world; we should seek out, we should invent and we should develop technologies appropriate to the third world's needs. Despite some examples which the noble Baroness gave us, I do not believe we are doing nearly enough in this respect.
There are of course many organisations in the world which are engaged in the pursuit of this kind of technology. But they are the poor relations of development organisations. They are largely voluntary and are not yet sufficiently supported by either national or international funds. I should like particularly to refer to one of the organisations to which the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, referred, and I am proud to be a vice-president of it. He referred to the 815 Intermediate Technology Development Group. I would just recall to your Lordships that two young mountaineers have just recently been running more than 2,000 miles through the Himalayas in order to gather some small voluntary contributions for that organisation. That organisation and many others should be substantially financed from official funds and should not have to rely on that kind of fund raising.
Regarding Government policy in these matters it seems to be the case that, far from giving aid and much needed support to the development of appropriate technologies, the Government seem intent on cutting down on certain units which are doing valuable work in this field. The noble Baroness described an outline of Government policy in relation to the scientific units of ODA, and we are of course expecting a Government White Paper on that precise subject. I suggest that the evidence which was put before the House of Commons Select Committee on these units—and particularly the evidence which came from Oxfam and similar voluntary bodies who know the value of these scientific units in the third world at the grass roots—proves the case for more rather than less official support for those scientific units. We shall look for the White Paper, I fear, with some apprehension but with some remaining hope that the Government's policies will be in the right direction in this matter.
On other occasions we have argued in this House particularly, as has been referred to, about the Brandt Commission Report and for the need for a great increase in resources to be made available to the third world. My purpose today has not been to deploy that argument, although of course it remains very strong in my mind and I repeat the regret that this week there has been a reduction in the aid programme. What I am doing today is urging the Government to rethink the nature of the aid that is provided. It is not only more aid that is needed in order to conquer hunger; it is aid that is better directed. I say this despite my admiration for much of the work of the Overseas Development Administration described by the noble Baroness.
There is an urgent need for the promotion of sounder development policies. Here, the responsibility rests as much with third world Governments as it does with aid-giving Governments. But there are ways and means whereby aid-giving Governments, including our own, can induce the adoption of better development policies by the third world Governments. Therefore, I conclude that the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, is perfectly right to call our attention, as he has done, to the urgency of the hunger problem in the world today.
In my view, an urgent reappraisal of policies is needed to meet the crisis which the noble Lord has described. People must become more conscious of and therefore I suggest more angry about the crisis of hunger. There will be less hunger in the world only when there is more anger in the world: anger that too many children are born only to die before the year is out; anger that poverty and misery are the fate of two-thirds of the human race; anger that Western industry stagnates through, we are told, lack of demand but when in the world there are hundreds of millions of people whose very basic needs are not being met; anger, I suggest, that Western statesmen are failing to 816 harness the massive resources which are at our disposal to meet the massive needs of the south; anger that the nations which could do something about all this are led by Governments that seemingly will not do anything about it; and anger that the demands articulated through the Brandt Report, through the group of 77 at the Belgrade UNCTAD conference, and in conference after conference throughout the world, are sadly falling on unresponsive minds.
In my experience your Lordships' House is not the most likely forum in which such anger can be expressed, but I think that we can and should respond to what the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, has done. He is to be congratulated in presenting to us one of the world's greatest problems—and, I agree, perhaps the world's greatest problem—facing us today.
§ 4.14 p.m.
§ Lord Mackie of Benshie
My Lords, 30 years ago I was trying to borrow what was then a great deal of money from a banker to pay for a large tract of upland Scotland that I had bought. I put a tremendous story in front of this chap, and with great skill I outlined what I wanted and what I was going to do for Scotland. He sat with a stony face and I knew that I had failed. However, at the end of the time the stony-hearted chap sighed and said, "It is wonderful. It is what I should like to do myself. Of course you can have the money". That was the first time I realised that bankers have hearts. The second time in 30 years is today. The noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, with great practicality, put the case on a subject which he obviously knows well and illustrated it in a manner that was totally convincing to me. I congratulate him not only on bringing the subject forward but for putting it in a way which I can understand and which I believe will help to solve some part of the problem rather more quickly, if I may say so, than the anger which the noble Lord, Lord Oram, thought was necessary.
This is a problem which is enormously long-term. Recently I sat in front of my house during fine weather and I looked over the Howe of Strathmore. I saw the marvellous countryside with the crops looking tremendous—I am happy to say my own are looking better than my neighbours'—and was thinking about my speech on this problem of hunger in Africa. When I looked at the Howe of Strathmore I realised the enormous long-term investment not only in the land and the drainage and the build-up of the humus in the land but in the education of the people who bring it to the productivity—and indeed beauty—which is providing the surpluses which we have in Europe today. There was a time when people in this country starved. It was cured by the farming revolution that took place at the same time as the industrial revolution. Until the prairies were opened up this country itself fed the expanding industrial population. A great many pioneers in England and Scotland—Coke of Norfolk, "Turnip" Townsend, Grant of Monymusk, and many others—put enormous work into the training of people to bring the land and production to its present perfection. It is that problem which we face all over the world, and particularly in Africa.
When one considers the multiplicity of Government and private schemes and the amount of money involved and what has been done that the noble 817 Baroness—perhaps slightly complacently from her department brief—was telling us about, the effect has not been great. It is not all bad, of course. There are successes. Without any doubt the success in India of planting new varieties, of providing education and of pouring in fertilisers has made a tremendous improvement in the feeding of that country. But no one who has been in Calcutta could possibly say that it has been totally effective. There is a great deal to do yet.
However, although we must consider many other things apart from straight aid and straight knowledge, the type of people and their history is also enormously important. I have been with the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, in China, several times and I have been enormously impressed with what they have been able to do there. The great achievement of the revolution and the Communist Government was not in any system that they put in but simply the provision of peace for agriculture to develop and the Chinese to use their ancient skills. But there they had the organisation, the people and the inherited skill of over 6,000 years of the cultivation of irrigated land, which is enormously important. What the Chinese do in various places—Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong—shows that one is dealing with an enormously industrious and clever people. But even they need all the help that they can get in the form of modern techniques.
It is terribly true that the structure and quality of the Government has a terrific amount to do with the ability to use aid properly. To take one example in Africa—I should like the Minister to confirm this if she can—the United Republic of the Cameroon, way back in the early days of food aid, turned away two food ships. I was told this by the Prime Minister at the time, who is now the Speaker of the joint Parliament, Dr. Muna. They discussed the position and they realised that the effort in distributing the food would take more of their time, money and energy than would be worth it; with the result that, so far as I can find out, there is no record of aid to the Cameroon recently. They tell me that they are self-sufficient in food. This must be an example of competent people and a competent Government adopting the right policy. I hope that we are assisting them in every way we can with advice, seeds, new varieties and that sort of thing. But their own efforts have obviously been enormously important.
The structure of agriculture in the USSR is enormously important to all of us in the West. It has been a total and complete failure. I remember the late Nye Bevan saying that there were two ways of dealing with farmers: in Britain and Europe we bribed them and we had plenty of food; in Russia Stalin shot them, and he was short of food. I have said this before in this House: basically the motivation of the farmers is perhaps the most important factor in the production of food. If they do not get something out of it, they will not produce the food. It is here that Tony Jackson in his book (which had a great effect on myself, as well as on the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm) highlighted the harm that had been done by well-meaning schemes in removing the motivation for the ordinary farmer to grow the food. In many cases—in Nigeria, for 818 example—the importation of food destroyed the agriculture simply because it was not worth growing more food than you needed to support your own family.
We talk of village and rural life. The noble Lord, Lord Oram, was perfectly correct to talk of the rural poverty and squalor in which many people live in African villages. They look at their life before them. They can see it on a map. They come into a little bit of ground if they are lucky enough to have a father who has some, and they labour there all their lives for little. Their children are born, and some of them die, and they can see no future. It is little wonder that they, and particularly their wives, are attracted to the towns where at least they can see some change and opportunity—in spite of the fact that when they get to places like Lagos they turn it into an unsafe and squalid collection of shanties. But still the life in the village must be improved. A little cash in the pocket is enormously important to a peasant farmer and particularly to his sons and daughters living in the village.
I was in Nigeria recently. I took the opportunity to fly up to Kano and have a look round the project there, because I had been there 40 years before. I was amazed at what could be done in the area round there by good advice. I went to see a commercial firm of consultants. They showed me what they were doing, and what they were doing was good. They were taking target farms and putting new seed and new techniques into these farms and making the particular farmers or peasants a little better off. They were producing a green spear or a green dot in the middle of an area, and the farmers round about wanted to know how they could get in on the act. It is this sort of practical demonstration which can do an enormous amount to improve the food production in a particular area.
The farmers will do it if they are shown how and if they are shown that it leaves a profit. But it is no good the farmers producing extra food if they find they simply cannot sell it at a reasonable price. You have to have a Government structure which gives some form of fall-back protection against miserably low prices and gives them some guarantee and security for their productivity. It is that which has produced the surpluses that we are now worrying about in Europe. We have grave need for the countries of Africa in particular to have this sort of worry instead of the appalling worry which they have at the moment.
I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, was very practical when he said that we should tackle first our own ex-colonies and present friends. What he says is perfectly true: advice of a practical nature is extremely welcome. We could do a great deal in these colonies if a particular scheme was produced and promoted by Britain, as a bilateral move, and backed properly by Government money. It makes a tremendous difference if you know the country and know the culture. I am sure that that sort of specific scheme should get our full backing. It would work. I think that if the Japanese believe that it is necessary for their prosperity to promote the prosperity of the third world, then it must be right and it must be wholly practical. We should engage the enthusiasm of people in this country, and all over the world, to help. There is nothing more satisfactory than making the 819 traditional or conventional two blades of grass grow where one grew before.
We should take as a motto for the movement, to educate and to motivate. One is no use without the other. The person who ultimately can do it under proper conditions of Government and education, is the peasant himself on his own land. If he is properly educated and motivated, then the hunger problem can be solved.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ Lord Stamp
My Lords, I should like to join with other noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Seehohm, for initiating this debate today. In taking part, if your Lordships will bear with me, I should like to consider in depth and in some detail an aspect of aid to the third world that is very relevant to the subject we are discussing and one in which I have been deeply involved for many years. It is concerned with the communication of information and instruction and the distribution of material aid for raising living standards—of which increasing food production is such a vitally important part—for the poorest of the poor, particularly the many millions living in rural areas.
The urgent need for such aid and the magnitude of the problems involved were fully stressed in the Brandt Reports and doubtless will also be stressed in the present debate. My deep interest in aid to the third world in the educational field developed over the 25 years when I was Professor of Bacteriology at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School, where I was engaged in teaching qualified doctors, a high proportion of whom came from the developing countries, many destined to become teachers on returning home.
The training of medical teachers was in fact a most important aspect of my school's activities, and I learnt at first hand of the great part our country is in a position to play in aid to the developing world in the training of teachers—not necessarily medical—who would pass on to others what they had been taught. It is an aspect on which I feel too little emphasis was placed in the recent debate when the question of increased financial assistance for students coming to this country from overseas was being discussed.
There can be few, if any, forms of aid likely to be more cost effective, and for this reason in my view the highest priority should be given to would-be teachers from the developing world, particularly in certain disciplines of basic importance. These include non-medical aspects of biology as applied to agriculture, food production, and conservation, in which also, as a member for 30 years of the governing body of Imperial College of Science and Technology, I became very interested, particularly in the work being done at the college's field station at Silwood Park.
During those years there was also deepening concern at the rapidly increasing world population, with many debates on the subject in your Lordships' House, and teaching in family planning methods came to be regarded as more and more necessary in the training of doctors working in the third world. But the training of university teachers could be only one part of the problem. At the other end of the spectrum there was 820 an even greater need for the training of the so-called extension workers—the communicators of instruction and information to the millions living in abject poverty, to whom I have referred. This has been a major interest of mine since I retired 12 years ago, and one that I have discussed with many people in a number of countries.
My ideas on the subject as a teacher have changed considerably from in the early days an over-emphasis on the use of audio-visual aids as the answer to the problem of the shortage of extension workers, to a more balanced and comprehensive view of what is required. I shall be going into that later. I have taken part in some of the discussions on the subject as a member of the British delegation to conferences of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. As a member of the Scientific, Education and Cultural Committee I have raised the subject on several occasions—at Tokyo in 1974, at Prague in 1979, and in Caracas in the same year. Following that last occasion I continued on a personal visit to Brazil, for discussions at the University of Pernambuco, at Recife. While considerable interest was expressed there I became very conscious of the problems involved in implementing my ideas, not only in Brazil, but in the whole of the South American continent and other countries where there was an urgent need for agrarian reform, and where there may be marked resistance to birth control.
During another year I went on a personal visit to the Gulf States, and then on to Riyadh. In all those places I found many people who were deeply interested in what I had to say, expressing the hope that our country would take a lead in developing some ideas that I put forward. But that was as far as it went, and I seemed to make very little progress with those here who were in a position to help. I need not go into the correspondence on the subject that I have had with the Overseas Development Administration, but there was a ray of hope when, in April of last year, I was invited, through the British Council, to visit the University of Gezira, in the Sudan, to discuss there my ideas. In this I was greatly encouraged by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, who thoroughly approved of my ideas, though he emphasised that requests for aid along the lines that I was advocating should come from the Government of the developing country. It was not for the donor country to make suggestions, though of course we should be prepared to consider any, subject to other existing priorities.
It would take too long for me to describe my experiences on that trip, much as I should like to do so, but it helped me to formulate further my plan and my ideas, which I should now like to outline. The overriding aim, over which there can surely be no disagreement, whatever may be one's views on aid to the third world as at present administered, must be to achieve the maximum possible cost effectiveness at all levels—organisational, administrative, and operational. This involves, in the first place, the greatest possible co-operation between developed and developing countries, and between those working in the different fields. It also requires a sense of dedication and personal involvement on the part of all, from leaders in the countries concerned and all who are in a position to promote the plan, to the humblest workers in the field.
821 Further, in order to make the most effective use of the manpower available, and having regard to the immense task with which they are faced, extension workers should, as a basic principle, be trained in more than one field, embodied in the concept of combined extension service training. In this, each field, whether that of food, health, or family planning, must be looked upon as being of equal importance and interdependent. I liken the concept to a stool with three legs, which must be equally strong if it is to bear the immense load to be placed upon it.
The training should be carried out in developing countries in institutes set up for the purpose. They might perhaps be known as National Institutes for Combined Extension Service Training, with the acronym NICEST. The organising of the institutes would be the responsibility of experts from the developed and developing countries, working in close co-operation with one another, those from the latter, with their intimate knowledge of what is required and the problems involved in the country concerned, being particlarly important. Together they would have to consider, in the first place, the qualifications required of the staff and students who, having regard to the importance to be attached to national involvement, should, as far as possible, be nationals of the country concerned.
In the case of the teachers, in view of the likely shortage of candidates with adequate qualification in many, if not most, countries, they might have to be supplemented, at least in the initial stages, by graduates from developed countries. In any case the staff would have to undergo a preliminary training course covering all aspects of the work in which they would be involved. This could best be organised in an industrialised country, where the co-ordinating machinery and advisory expertise would be most readily available.
So far as the students were concerned, as the qualifications required would be of a much lower standard—for example, up to O-levels—it is to be hoped that their places could in most cases be filled entirely by nationals, at least after the initial stages. This is essential, in view of the importance of a knowledge of the language or languages and perhaps dialects of the country concerned, as well as a knowledge of local customs and even superstitions, that make the task of the extension worker so much less difficult. It is a lack of all this that is such a handicap to those from developed countries working in such organisations as Voluntary Service Overseas, and the American Peace Corps, valuable as their work has been, and still must be for the immediate future.
The organisation of the institutes would also involve a consideration of the length and depth of training possible in the different fields, which might include, on the agricultural side, production of non-food crops for export, as well as of food, and, on the veterinary side, animal husbandry concerned especially with livestock. On the medical side it might include mass immunisation, public health, and child care, together with, wherever possible, the all-important family planning. Instruction in literacy, however, would clearly be impracticable in the time available, 822 important though this might be in the long run. In each of these fields the particular aspects that should be included as first priorities would have to be settled, and these would of course vary considerably from country to country, with the aim being to confer the greatest possible overall benefit on the community concerned.
It would also be important to avoid over-loading the curriculum, which, as I know from experience is not an easy matter when teachers in different subjects are competing with one another for time on a course. Time would also have to be found for the students to receive instruction in the use and care of audio-visual aids—an essential aspect of the whole plan—and also, if possible, in the driving and care of their means of transport, whether this be lorry, Land Rover, Jeep, motor-cycle or beast of burden. The object of all this must be to make them as far as possible a "Jack of all trades", which must also contribute to cost-effectiveness.
Besides receiving a basic technical training, the instructors would also have to be trained in their overall duties and responsibilities, which might be referred to as the "five Is" and summarised as follows. First, instruction, followed, secondly, by interrogation to assess its effectiveness. Thirdly, implementation, involving the provision of material forms of aid of all kinds, followed, fourthly, by inspection to determine the extent to which the instruction had been applied in practice. Finally, the institution or setting up of local village community centres where instruction could be continued, providing also a source of feedback of information as to the results achieved. Such training should be given in the first place in the class, and subsequently in the field. Bearing in mind the capabilities of the students, instruction, interrogation and inspection should be as standardised, as objective and as simple as possible—principles represented by another acronym, "SOS", which is not entirely inappropriate.
Instruction should be primarily by means of audiovisual aids with programmes, covering all the subjects to be studied, drawn up by the experts, particularly those with a knowledge of local needs and problems. In each subject the aid should basically be to inform as to what and what not to do, and why, and how to do it. Interrogation should be by means of comprehensive multiple choice questions, which provide the simplest and most accurate way of marking, following which the results would be statistically analysed and stored in a computer. Such monitoring of instruction, which is most important in achieving cost-effectiveness, would be carried out regularly and be regarded as part of the course in which the students would participate. In this way they would learn evaluation methods that they themselves would use later on in field work. Under such conditions, of course, interrogation would have to be verbal in the case of the illiterate.
Before all these proposals were implemented on a major scale, pilot trials would be necessary in a few countries so that if necessary they could be modified in the light of experience. An important aspect of these trials would be research into teaching methods and planning, following the principles outlined under "SOS". With these basic procedures, variables that might affect the overall effectiveness of instruction 823 could be studied in turn—for example, the effect of the immediate repetition of instruction, followed by re-examination. I can think of few experiments more fascinating than such a study—one that would be shared by the students and increase their interest. They would also be given a second chance to absorb information and be able to learn from their mistakes.
Another vitally important study that might be carried out under such controlled conditions would be of different types of audio-visual aids, comparing in particular moving and still picture techniques, and also comparing audio-visual aid systems with sound only systems. This would be most interesting in view of all the arguments I have heard over the years concerning their relative cost-effectiveness. It would also be most interesting to assess the relative effectiveness of all these methods in the field and, in particular, that of the transistor radio used without any personal instruction. There is also the effect of incentives, such as prizes or other forms of reward both in class and in the field. This by no means exhausts the possibilities for investigation, some of which might only become apparent during the course of these studies.
I turn now to the countries that might participate in the trials. The approach to these countries would be important. It should be made in the first place as a request for help in promoting a project that might be of great value to the whole of the developing world in the educational field, rather than just another suggestion with regard to aid for their own country. In this way, the importance of a unified policy and procedure would be emphasised. This must involve the fullest discussion of the proposals between representatives and experts of potential donor agencies and of participating countries, and full agreement reached on the principles laid down.
However, the difficulties that might be encountered in obtaining this agreement should not be underestimated. There might well be jealousies and rivalries among those whose co-operation was essential, and also resentment at any suggestion of outside help over a project they felt they could develop on their own. Alternatively, it might be said that it was all being done already, however unrealistic such a claim might be having regard to the special features of these ideas. However, with goodwill and a full appreciation of what was involved, these problems could doubtless be overcome.
The selection of a country for the trials would be vitally important, affecting as it would the whole future of the project. Few, if any, would be suitable from all points of view. In the first place, it should have a relatively stable Government with the leader and the ministers involved in fullest sympathy with the project. The needs of the country should ideally encompass the whole range of instruction envisaged, with subsistence farming and acceptability of family planning particularly important in this respect. As I have already said, adequate numbers of suitably qualified students should be available, bearing in mind that, for the type of training involved, qualities of character and dedication would be even more important than scholastic achievement. The selection of students on this basis would, in fact, be a vitally 824 important procedure also affecting the whole success of the plan.
Other factors that would have to be taken into account would include ethnic composition, the number of languages or dialects involved, tribal relationships, and so on. It is clear that, before the selection was made, feasibility studies would have to be carried out. It would be several—perhaps many—years before the trials could be completed and failure in some countries would have to be allowed for. It is to be hoped, therefore, that the trials might be initiated by several industrialised countries before proceeding to implement the plan on the widest possible scale As regards that aspect, cost-effectiveness must continue to be the overriding aim. This would involve group co-operation between countries—including the sharing of training facilities, expertise, et cetera—particularly between those having in common certain important features such as religion, language, race and culture which would facilitate and encourage their collaboration, a collaboration which would also be in association with industrialised countries with which they had special links.
Equally essential would be the development of a streamlined organisation in each country, free as far as possible from unnecessary bureaucracy, with adequate supervision of financing to ensure that funds available were used as effectively as possible, including as far as possible the elimination of waste and corruption. It goes without saying that there would have to be the closest co-operation also with existing international and voluntary organisations working in these fields, the plan being essentially complementary to all they are doing and designed to make it as effective as possible.
To many of your Lordships the problems involved may appear well nigh insuperable, as they have so often seemed to me over the years. There has, however, been a recent development that offers more than a ray of hope for a breakthrough and points a way forward. One of our largest multinational companies is planning to finance some feasibility studies, to which I have referred, in several countries. If the results are promising, this could well lead to the establishment of institutes in one or more. This initiative is to be in co-operation with a very well-known institute concerned with the promotion of intermediate technology in various fields and at different levels in this country and overseas. I need hardly say what impetus this undertaking must give to the whole project, providing a lead for others, both in our own and other industrialised countries, to follow. It must also be a stimulus to Governments and other international aid-giving agencies throughout the free world to do likewise and also help provide the very large sums of money that must eventually be required. As regards this aspect, voluntary fund-raising organisations might also play a big part, particularly in view of the many-sided objectives of the project.
The provision of adequate financial aid to the developing world and its effective use for the purposes that I have described are a challenge to rich and poor countries alike. Both aims are essential if the world is to be saved from the disaster on an unprecedented scale that we are discussing today. This challenge must be met.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Lord Mottistone
My Lords, I too should very much like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, both on introducing this debate and on the clear way in which he set out the problems as they are before us today. This is my first opportunity to congratulate my noble friend Lady Young on her introduction as to what the Government are doing, which clearly will not satisfy everybody. I think that what they are doing is most enlightening and, indeed, enlightened in that it is being directed at the areas where the needs are perceived to be.
I shall talk from a different and I hope complementary point of view—complementary not only to other noble Lords who I have mentioned and the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, but also complementary to the noble Lord, Lord Stamp, who again spoke from a slightly different point of view. I shall talk as a food processor. I must, of course, remind your Lordships that I work for the Cake and Biscuit Alliance and the Cocoa Chocolate & Confectionery Alliance, which in their turn look after the manufacturers of those products.
The key word that I detect in the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, is the word "urgent". I would suggest to your Lordships that that is what we must look at most. Initially, I came across this problem of hunger in what is called the third world in the 20 years after the war when I travelled the world in the Navy. At that time I suppose that the most important country afflicted in this way was India. To that extent as far as I could tell Africa had not become a problem.
Then—perhaps importantly as a stage in one's acquaintanceship with this problem—I met a friend, a Dr. Staughton, who was a retired professor of agriculture and who in his time had also been Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana. When I spoke to him, which was around 1970, he had retired and was working for the World Health Organisation. He told me of his experiences. One thing that stuck, which I believe is very relevant today, was that he said it would then have been possible for Kenya alone to produce all the wheat required throughout Africa. He had explained that Kenya had the right climate and soil and that everything else was right. I asked why Kenya was not doing so. He replied, "Because the other African Governments will not let it in".
That is where I believe the urgent side of the problem arises. The problem is not so much that we in the developed countries are not trying to do the right thing—of course, we are not putting in enough money and for this sort of problem one never can—but people are starving today because, for various reasons (I shall not question the reasons) Governments are erecting trade barriers which prevent food from being imported into their countries.
I ask my noble friend Lady Young to encompass this when she winds up the debate in order to see whether the Government have seized the point. We should try to persuade these Governments that a freeing of trade barriers would allow them to import, in particular, processed foods. I absolutely agree with all those who say that the long-term solution—and, indeed, to a certain extent the short-term solution—for these countries is to encourage them to develop their own 826 agriculture efficiently. I believe that that is absolutely right. But that will not solve the problem urgently because it will take time before adequate provision of local agriculture will tackle this problem. The noble Lord, Lord Stamp, has pointed out how instruction and education is required and he suggested the means to help that along.
§ Lord Mottistone
My Lords, I think it would be much better if the noble Lord did not interrupt at this point. I am quite prepared to sit down soon, but not now. I have a theme and I am trying to develop it. The noble Lord has already interrupted me enough to be a nuisance. To return to the point—and I am absolutely at a loss because of the noble Lord, Lord Mackie—the fact is that we will not feed these people on an urgent basis if we rely entirely on the development of their local agriculture. It is a fact that in the developed countries 65 per cent. of the food that is consumed today is processed food. There are two reasons for that. One is that the vast majority of the population is in the urban centres, and, for practical purposes, they can only be fed if there is a reasonable amount of processed food which can be kept over a relatively long period of time.
It is also true that many of the peoples in the newly emergent nations—and the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, mentioned this—have in fact gone to the urban districts and present a problem there. We would all, perhaps, like them to return to their farms, but the fact is that if you want to feed people in large cities of India above starvation level then you must have a great deal of processed food. I shall not plug the percentages and the particular facts. but it is an essential part of the developed countries' ordinary diet. In fact, it is also very wholesome, because regulations are made to ensure that that is the case. Therefore, if it were possible to break down trade barriers so as to enable countries in the immediate future to import processed foods, then we would go some way towards licking the problem of immediate hunger, immediate starvation and immediate deaths.
Your Lordships will say—as the noble Lord, Lord Oram, said in his speech—that there is the problem of finance. I entirely agree that this is a key factor. I am no economist and cannot provide the immediate answer to that, but last night I happened to read what I thought was a most interesting suggestion on this general theme by the noble Lord, Lord Lever, published in the current edition of the Economist. I think that that article is worthy of a glance.
If the developed world is prepared to put in the sort of money to get the development of agriculture within these countries off the ground, it might perhaps be prepared to put the same sort of money into freeing the barriers which these countries now think they have to erect in order to pay for the relatively cheap processed foods from the highly developed Western world in order to solve the problems of immediate hunger and death. It is urgent and immediate; I am not concerned about the long-term.
People say that if we follow this line—indeed, the countries themselves say this—that will impede the 827 development of the processing of food within the countries themselves. As the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, indicated, it has taken 100 years or so for the Scottish farmers and, indeed, the other British farmers to reach the stage of efficiency and competence at which they are today, and to obtain from their land what they can, which these other countries can also obtain. Likewise, it has taken a 100 years for us in the food processing industry to reach the present stage, and this applies particularly to the last 50 years. It is not something that can be done overnight.
Some of my friends in industry have experimented with joint ventures in various countries overseas and on the whole they have not been successful. They have not been immediately successful, partly because it is a fairly complicated and sophisticated operation which requires extra experience—not training—of actually working with this modern machinery to produce as economically as one can the sort of products about which I am talking. There is no immediate competition with the local development.
Relevant to this is a visit I made to Japan in November last, when we were investigating this same sort of problem. Of course, the Japanese are not in the same position as the countries we are talking about; there is no question of starvation there. However, there is a massive change in local tastes taking place. I believe it is principally because of the newly-emergent freedoms of the women of Japan. They are saying, "We are not going to waste time making conventional Japanese food; nor are we going to stay at home to do it. Therefore, we have to have easy-to-eat processed foods, just like the Europeans, or the Americans, or both". This has led to a great demand for processed foods of all sorts; but over the last 30 or 40 years the Japanese have not concentrated on developing either their agriculture or, even more so, their food processing capability. Therefore, they are way behind in what they need in that area in order to satisfy their own increasing current demand.
In this respect I would suggest that when you take a country like India exactly the same sort of thing applies. They have a biscuit industry, and it was introduced by British companies. The demand of the people who we know are dying and who are living below starvation level is there today, and could absorb not only the Indian capability of biscuit production within the Indian biscuit environment, not only their own agriculture, but more still. This is where we should provide it—and provide it from the sort of resource in which we have the expertise, which is well developed, but which they have not yet got.
We must tackle these barriers. It really is tragic. It is impossible for our people to export to India because the tariff rates are high. There are restrictions on taking out any profits you make on a transaction; and it is really a gift to the Indians if you get something in there and you then cannot get it out again. All this is balanced, in effect—no doubt for very good reasons—to make sure that overseas companies cannot work their way in and sell their products in a reasonable marketing way within that country.
Take, for example, another country—Nigeria. They have an import duty of 115 per cent. on chocolate 828 products. Practically all of their cocoa, which is one of their main industries, is bought by this country. They have not yet got a chocolate manufacturing industry of any significance at all. They are, in effect, depriving their people of chocolate products because they have this great barrier. Perhaps we could concentrate again on the urgency expressed within the Motion before us, and say to ourselves, "Yes, we will do all the things other people have been talking about; yes, we will get on and help them develop their agriculture, and do all these things; but for the immediate future let us encourage them to take down their tariff barriers and allow us to supply them while we have the expertise to do it, and then we can save the lives of the starving millions".
§ Lord Mackie of Benshie
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, without wishing to upset him further may I inform him, and ask for his comment on the fact, that the sort of aid that he has been talking about, of a temporary character, even on basics like wheat, has been ruining the economies of the said countries without them paying the extra price for food? That has been the subject of all the literature that has been produced in recent years showing the failure of the sort of food aid the noble Lord has talked about.
§ Lord Mottistone
My Lords, I am not talking about food aid; I am talking about food trade. We are not able to provide the sort of food I am talking about within the food aid umbrella. It is the raw materials that the farmers produce, or the primary processed products as opposed to the secondary processed products, that go in under food aid. Even that has a problem, if your Lordships will forgive me, for I have really finished. There was a stage when we were trying to develop a biscuit which had a high proportion of milk as part of the way of solving the milk lake. We tried this out on certain African countries under food aid. In the end it came to a halt because it was much too expensive to produce.
When the people were given these special biscuits, which all the nutritionists had said were the best biscuits that had ever been produced—the doctors thought that they were spiffing, too; and the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, would have loved them—in places like Kenya they said, "Why should we have a special biscuit? Why shouldn't we be treated just like the people in Europe who produce them, and have their biscuits?" You cannot get the food aid type of product, which is not the real thing, in there: you have to have the ordinary product that people are used to. I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Mackie. We have not been given a chance. We have not been able to get into India with products that would make any difference, not for 30 years. That is what we must be allowed to do, and I would put it at the top of my list.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ Lord Brockway
My Lords, although it has been said before, not in a formal way but with great sincerity, I want to thank the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, and my noble friends for introducing this debate. Those of us who have been campaigning on this issue for many years must have been encouraged by most of this debate. The interest, knowledge and the ideas which have been expressed in speeches have stimulated us all. 829 The fact that one has such a long list of speakers today indicates a concern which we must all welcome.
I think it will be generally accepted that there are three great issues before the world today. The first is the breakdown of our economic system, which means that 36 million people are unemployed in Western countries. The second is the danger of nuclear war to future generations. The third is the subject we are discussing today. I do not know how we can live calmly when, according to the World Health Organisation, 30 million people are dying every year from hunger and from medical neglect, 17 million of them children. That would mean that in 10 years 300 million people had died unnecessarily, 170 million of them children. Those figures are almost as great as those involved in the fear of the disaster of a nuclear war.
Often, when we discuss this subject, we are urged to be compassionate. But compassion has a certain sense of those who are better off assisting those who are worse off. I want to urge a sentiment greater than that. Those millions in Africa and Asia who die are us. We are all a human family. We are they and they are us and it is a sense, not of compassion for others, but of identity with others which we must seek if we are to find a solution for this problem.
I hope no one will think that we are being generous if we give aid to these hungry people. For three centuries this country and other countries in Western Europe have benefited from their occupation of the territories of the third world in Africa and Asia: cheap food; cheap raw materials from them, and we have done little in those 300 years to remove the poverty that was in their midst. At the end of it we have left them with unbalanced economies which prevent them from removing the poverty in their countries today.
Yes, aid is necessary; necessary, as Willy Brandt and his commission pointed out in his recent report, particularly for the poorest countries, and it is here that the relationship with the second of the great issues which I have described—military expenditure—is brought in. Willy Brandt says in his report that a mere fraction of 1 per cent. of military expenditure could end poverty in the poorest countries of the third world within a decade.
The principal point that I want to make in speaking to the House today is this. Absolutely necessary as aid is in the present situation, it is no solution to the problem. The poverty and hunger in the third world are due to the economic relationships between the developed and the developing nations. They were settled at Bretton Woods in 1944 before the nations of the third world even had their independence. They were not represented. Due to the benevolence of Keynes, those decisions were better than one might have expected under those conditions, but they were very heavily weighted on the side of the West and in more recent years those relationships have worsened. Therefore, a solution must be found, not merely in thinking of aid but in thinking of new economic relations between the industrial powers and the developing world.
For 10 years now this has been discussed at UNCTAD and elsewhere, and the opposition which has been expressed—first by representatives of the 830 United States of America and, secondly, by the representatives of our own Government—to any fundamental change in economic relations during the last ten years is largely responsible for the hunger that is in the world today.
The third world nations have made their own proposals. They are called the new international economic order. They ask for a partnership between the industrialised nations of the world and the third world instead of the present weighted relationships. They ask for it in financial aid. They ask for it in the operation of multinational companies. They ask for control of prices which vary so much and may thrust people into poverty owing to lower prices for their goods. They ask for a partnership in wholesale and retail trades, because we in this country pay 10 times more for goods produced in the third world than the producers receive. They ask for partnership in freightage of their goods. That new international economic order is the only long-term solution to the problems of hunger and poverty. Only when the Western world begins to understand that it must fundamentally change its relationship, not think just in terms of profit, dividend and exploitation but in terms of human need, shall we be able to solve this problem.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ Lord Energlyn
My Lords, in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, I should like to approach this Motion just like the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, in its practical and urgent aspects. I was recently in Finland and they have a well-known furnace for smelting copper. They devised a scheme whereby Finnish engineers assembled these furnaces in different parts of the world. Finnish engineers commissioned them and Finnish engineers are circulating round the world keeping them in good condition. This is a task force bringing the employment of 2,000 engineers into Finland. This is the kind of thing which is in my mind in approaching this very important point that the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, makes, which is that we should set up practical package deals to meet the needs of a particular country.
The technology of agriculture may not appear to be as glamorous as the micro-chip or computers, but this technology is playing an increasingly important part in the understanding of soils, plant growth and in the sophisticated development of agriculture.
When the earth was formed there were no animals or plants on dry land; they all had to live in or close to water. Then, some 250 million years ago, Nature changed all that and invented, for the animals, glandular tissue so that they could reproduce out of contact with water. She invented pollen so that the bare land could be vegetated for the animals to live upon. And so evolution began. This became a feature of the earth which had some extraordinary results. Some 300 million years ago there were forests adjacent to water which were gigantic, They made the forests of the Amazon look like undergrowth. It was in those forests that vast quantities of humus were formed, which created the coal that we mine today. By studying this somewhat academic subject there has emerged an understanding of this incredible growth of plants in this significant period of the earth's history because 831 after that time, as I have said, Nature had invented glandular tissue and pollen.
Both of these biochemical events made use of only one type of amino-acid, that is, the type where all the atoms are arranged on the left-hand side. Nature abandoned the use of the right-handed amino-acids. The left-handed amino-acids are the ones that cause growth; the right-handed amino-acids are the ones that prevent disease. The combination of these two acids has been the subject of this somewhat academic investigation.
Some 10 years ago, in collaboration with the Hungarians, I had been following their experiments and they had been following mine; and some few weeks ago I was there to witness the result of our experiment, which is that by using the commodity called coal we can now accelerate the growth of disease-free plants by a factor of three-fold. This is a dramatic illustration of the use of academic science in the problems of the growing of food so that with reasonable confidence I can suggest to your Lordships that we shall soon see in Britain coal mines producing coal not for the purposes of fuel but for the purposes of agriculture. We shall be producing a special type of fertiliser which will accelerate growth. Here is a product from Britain which would fit into Lord Seebohm's point; there are certain areas of the world where this type of export could be of enormous and immediate value in the production of food.
To return to task forces, I maintain that it is worthy of your Lordships' consideration to think of the training of task forces in this country where young people can be attracted into the technology of agriculture. I mentioned this recently in your Lordships' House and I was besieged with letters from young people wanting to join my "land army", as they called it. I persist in this because here we have an outlet for young people which will give an immediate new area of employment for the benefit of the countryside and the way of life in Britain.
To develop that theme further, again I should like, in a somewhat academic way, to refer to the most important natural element or, rather, molecules in this whole subject; namely, water, Without water you can do absolutely nothing. Water controls the population of every animal and plant on the face of the earth, so the understanding of water is an important academic subject of enormous practical value. In Britain we have a vast amount of knowledge of water and its various forms and I suggest that task forces of engineers could be sent abroad to create more water supply in the right places. But, in sending them out, I personally think that we ought to adopt a kind of lease-lend approach to the problem and finance them on a lease-lend basis. The opportunities that this would create for young people I believe would catch on.
Turning to the more erudite biochemical developments which are taking place, I have previously mentioned in your Lordships' House—and I quote:the example of a young man called Allan Cooke, who has developed and proved a substance which he calls Agrosoke, which would convert the sand dunes into fertile soils. All one has to do is to level the sand dune, sprinkle it with Agrosoke, cover it over with 832 more sand, and some manure and water, and one has a fertile soil. He has proved this and has received a massive order from the Government of Abu Dhabi. This is a material which could be made to work for us."—[Official Report, 2/2/83; col. 839.]This certainly is a very valuable export into those arid areas of the undeveloped countries of the world.
I personally am also involved in this area. We have been fabricating new soils. These soils can be containerised. Your Lordships will be aware of the familiar domestic grow-bag technique. We have now come to the conclusion, on cost analysis, that we can export these new soils into soil-less areas as cheaply as one can export cement. With these few illustrations, I should like to suggest to your Lordships that task forces should be created in Britain to develop the practical thrust of the package deal which the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, recommended to the House.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ Lord Quinton
My Lords, in thanking Lord Seebohm for raising this topic for our general discussion, I want first to apologise to him for having no special expertise of the kind that many previous speakers have displayed in the subject; although it is one that I have thought about and one that, in its scope and generality, seems to me to be very proper for us to discuss here. I must also apologise to your Lordships for the fact that I may have to leave before the debate is terminated.
I do not think that anybody can have looked at any television report on the terrible tragedy brought about by drought in Ethiopia without feeling not so much the anger that the noble Lord, Lord Oram, spoke about—since there is no human individual to be angry with or, if so, only in the most marginal and indirect way, for it is a horrible freak of nature which brings this state of affairs into being—so much as of general distress and indeed a certain helplessness. It seems to me that this is, and must be, the first priority in any style of foreign aid, the relief of immediate and intense distress. If I understood the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, quite rightly in one stage of what he was saying, he was suggesting that this was a rather meagre view of the whole problem and that, in general, local resources were usually sufficient to deal with emergency conditions where large numbers were likely to be wiped out in a short period of time; and that, anyway, the West European countries attempting to work in concert had proved themselves hopelessly incapable at relieving distress because they always got the relieving materials to the distressed spot long after those there had more or less forgotten about it and had by some means or another got back on to some normal basis of living. I think it might be worth emphasising this priority, as I see it, to the relief of distress over any constructive or projected programme of altering the fundamental economic character of less developed countries by reflecting a little on the history of foreign aid. After all, we ourselves were the beneficiaries of foreign aid immediately after the last war: we and other Western European countries. The benefits were very great and the whole of Western Europe was put back on its feet: the rather unstable (in principle) democracy introduced into the Federal Republic of Germany, the reinstituted democracy of France and, after a long interval, the reintroduced democracy of Italy. This was essentially a stabilising exercise, the 833 economic aid that reconstituted war-battered Western Europe after 1945.
In the light of that, I think it was very natural that people should suppose that large monetary credits given to nations in difficulties by nations better off than they would produce the same beneficial effect. Of course we all know that did not happen; and I think it is a recognised wisdom among the development community, if I may so describe them, that the reason for this is that the pouring of large sums of money into the less developed countries had a highly destabilising effect in Africa which has tended to preoccupy us today, and also in South East Asia and Latin America.
The effect of this was the production of an extremely unattractive variety of authoritarian government of various types of ideological flavours varying from extreme left to extreme right, but all in various ways dislikeable from our point of view as being extremely negligent of human rights, and incapable of preserving that degree of order and public decency in the communities over which they rule which it would be reasonable to expect—certainly that any donor country would expect to find in a recipient of aid so that there would be some guaranteee of the aid going in the direction intended.
This connects with the contention from which I began because the point about the relief of distress is that the gap between the recognition of distress and the identification of the immediate things which are needed to remove it and the getting of those things to the people who need them is a very small one. There are not, so to speak, a long series of inferential connections to be made between the problem's identification and its solution. It is a question of being reasonably efficient. Immediately, as the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, said, this efficiency has not always been evident when relief has been supplied on an intergovernmental scale by the European Community. But when done by private organisations such as Oxfam, it has been, so it seems, rather notably efficient.
I think it is a universally distressing human experience to give money to a charity and then find that most of it has been wasted on administration or in some other way not directly relevant to the proclaimed purpose of the charity. Thinking about this beforehand, it seemed to me that it was even more disagreeable than to be taken in by a confidence trickster—pound for pound, I hasten to add—because at least the confidence trickster gives you a show for your money whereas on the whole the charity offers no more than the rattling of a tin.
Reference was made earlier to the idea that we should somehow awaken an enormous wave of public enthusiasm for aid; but that kind of thing is not terribly popular with electorates, which are I think merciful or capable of feeling pity for distress—that is, for bringing relief where relief is needed—but less enthusiastic about making contributions to build up from a very low basis some community other than their own. So that is another good and politically practical reason for laying emphasis on the relief of distress.
But more serious I think is the lack of connection. I said that the point here was that in the case of aid to 834 under-developed countries after the war the reason why it was not a success in the form in which it was originally undertaken was that the monies were stolen by intermediaries or used for absurd purposes such as superfluous airlines, bodyguards, imperial grandeur, and so on in developing countries instead of going to the intended destination to meet the basic needs of the people. This had a destabilising effect because it was not in its nature reconstructive. It was not reestablishing an existing social equilibrium; and that is exactly what Marshall Plan aid was. The disasters of the war had themselves had a destabilising effect which it was the function—one which was successfully carried out—of aid to the Western European countries to correct.
This leads us to the next step, and the ideas put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, do take this very much into account without explicitly referring to it. His idea is that aid should be designed to attach itself to the most primary basic need, the need for food. But there is one subject, alluded to very explicitly by the noble Lord, Lord Oram, which I feel we have circled about a little. That is the problem of population. If the food output of undeveloped countries is greatly augmented, can we be sure that it will not simply lead to an increase in population which does not in effect enlarge the actual intake of food by the persons who have come to be added to these communities: in other words, the Malthusian effect will follow in which the population increases to the largest number just capable of subsistence.
There has always been a certain mystery about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. There are War, Pestilence and Famine, but experts differ on what the fourth is. I think it is fairly obvious that it must be some form of family planning—certainly by far the most agreeable of these four beasts. In saying this, I am simply underlining what the noble Lord, Lord Oram, was saying: his programme for increasing the food supply, which is as near as possible to the relief of distress, for it seeks to cater for the most primary of human needs. That is something which must have at any rate the very next priority to the direct relief of the kind of immense distress which exists in Ethiopia at the present time. Even this, unlike the relief of distress, which has an equilibrium-preserving character, may have a destabilising effect if it is not undertaken in a very full consciousness and awareness of what the effects might be on population. My noble friend Lady Young said that the estimation was that the world population of 4 billion-plus at the present time would increase to 6 billion by the end of the century. Is this a prospect that we ought to view with calm resolution? I do not say that I have any very obvious or immediate way of preventing it from coming about, but I do recall in my late boyhood hearing a clamour in this country—I refer to the mid-30s—about our declining population and the decline of our net reproduction rate to below one.
That soon ceased to be the case whatever reason there may have been for it —the blackout, perhaps. At any rate, it shows that it is a speculative exercise to extrapolate population trends, and always has been. All I am saying is that any programme which is designed to increase world food supplies ought to be 835 constantly monitored for its effect on population; and if it proves to be in effect self-defeating—simply multiplying the number of people who have enough to stay alive in a miserable way but not enough to enjoy their lives or to develop the capacities that lie within them—then some alternative device needs to be adopted. It is an extreme, but I think it is still a perfectly conceivable possibility, that even a programme as well conceived and as answerable to experience as the one outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, could still destroy itself by simply running away in population increase: a multiplication of the existing misery. It is in fact partly because of my suspicion that this might happen that I still want to emphasise the very special priority for the relief of obvious distress—the case where something totally new occurs; not just the continuing existence of a great deal of hunger and deprivation in the world but a condition of absolute, destructive, social catastrophe. That I think must always have our first attention.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Lord Beaumont of Whitley
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Quinton, has raised a number of fascinating points in the speech that we have just heard. He is really the first person to deal with the problem of population, although, as he said, it was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Oram. I am not capable of producing anything like a full answer to what the noble Lord, Lord Quinton, has said. Nevertheless, I think it is the general experience of developing countries that they go through a phase when they get above starvation level—if they happen to have been at that level—and when they are getting enough food, so that people are no longer dying of starvation, and when the population goes up by leaps and bounds.
But then, fairly soon after that, following a number of developments which are not actually part of the providing of food but which follow on from the providing of food—because until you have a good supply of food you do not get decent education, decent government or all sorts of things that you need—the population increase starts to come under control. But you have to go through this bad period, when it appears that what you are doing in producing food is merely producing more babies who are going to need more food.
I think it is the experience of most developing countries who have gone through that period that the only humane way of dealing with the problem is, first, to produce the food and then to go on to the other fruits of civilisation which can be produced only by a country which is not suffering from starvation. It is only when you get to the stage where your children are being brought up healthily that you can open up the schools and can start teaching and producing a middle-class, and doing all the things which are necessary if you are eventually to get a stable, healthy and properly fed population producing its own wealth within its own country. But the beginning of all this is the production of enough food for the country, and we must thank the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, not only for putting down this subject for debate but for the terms in which he has done it, and, also, for the way in which he has centred on the problem of food as being 836 absolutely basic and on the need for countries to feed themselves.
It may be a little bold to say it, speaking from these Benches, but I believe that free trade is a bonus. Free trade is something which is secondary to the production of food. Before you have free trade, it is important that every country—and I do not except our own or the developing countries—is able to feed itself. It is only after that that free trade becomes something important which can increase wealth, because it is swapping surpluses between countries. At the moment when you are swapping less than surpluses and are dealing with necessities, free trade can be much more of a danger than a help.
I must say that I was not at all happy with some of the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, who I regret to see is not in his place, and particularly with what he said about Nigeria and the production of chocolate. I believe that the Nigerian Government has behaved in the most exemplary way. It seems to me that when you get a developing country producing raw materials and, for one reason or another, not processing those raw materials but shipping them to developed countries for them to process and then send back to the countries from which the raw materials originally came, it is a very bad situation. What we need to do is to encourage places such as Nigeria and other producers of chocolate, coffee and similar commodities to gain the ability to process their own food, partly for their own people and partly for export. Although it could be very nice for us if we were able to produce the machinery and the labour to process the food for them, it would not be particularly good for them or for the world as a whole. That is another sense in which protectionism probably comes a necessary first, before free trade.
Aid needs to be channelled to the relief of the poor, and one of the problems is that in every country there is a ruling class which sees itself as the embodiment of its country and which does not necessarily have the right judgments as to what helps the poor. It is extremely important that donor countries should make up their own minds about their priorities. We went though a period which lasted for 10 or 15 years, and which is not yet quite over, when we all used to have heart-searching about the kind of aid that we gave to countries and said,"It is not for us to decide what kind of aid we should give." But if it is not for us to decide, we should not be giving the aid. It is for us to decide how we must give it; and we must give it according to our consciences and in a way which we think will best relieve the poverty and the misery which we see as the problem that must be dealt with. For that reason, it is extremely important that this Government concentrate on helping the basic needs of countries—helping agriculture and helping people to produce food in the way that I have been talking about.
When we are looking at the problems which face the present Government and at how they spend their money on aid, we must give the Government the greatest possible encouragement in that area. We do not do very much good if we just sit here on the Opposition Benches and say that the Government must spend more money. We know that the Government will not spend more money. We may deplore it, 837 but it is the truth. We must find a way in which the Government can and should spend money, and which the Government themselves will see as an effective way of spending money.
It seems to me that we have that way in the shape of the various organs which the Overseas Development Administration has developed—the Tropical Products Institute, the Centre for Overseas Pest Research, about which I have talked earlier in this House, and the Land Resources Development Centre. Those three bodies are a good start, and they are much appreciated and much respected by the countries which we are trying to help. It is madness to try to cut such resources, which go to the very root of the matter, which are chock-full of real expertise and which, above all, are trusted by Governments in a way that private firms are not trusted by Governments. It is no defence of the cuts made in them to say that they are not being abolished. The fact is that at the moment there is a real threat that they will be cut down to the stage where they will not be able to operate as well as they should. Pound for pound, they produce really solid work for the developing countries. I believe that the Government should think again about this particular point.
There are other bodies like them and there are other areas in which what I am saying also applies. For instance, the Centre for World Development Education, which we have discussed in this House in the past, is, I believe, very well worthwhile. I started to discuss it and plead its cause before I became a member of its governing body. Now I am a member of its governing body and must declare an interest. However, my belief in this centre dates from well before that time. It is quite interesting to note that the centre has been looking for outside support. The centre has had to look for outside support because the Government have told it that it will not get any more Government money and that it must go out and find private support. It has done so. Indeed, it has been extremely successful in obtaining private support.
However, it has come up against some refusals, and I should like to quote to your Lordships one such refusal from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. This we all know to be a body of considerable responsibility which weighs its words. It replied as follows:The materials produced by the centre are clearly of a high standard and my trustees would take the view that Government support for work in this area should be strengthened rather than diminished. But my trustees feel that they should not be prevailed upon to step in where the Government is withdrawing its support, and accordingly I have to inform you they do not feel able to respond to your request".The Government may feel that that is a wrong-headed approach, but it is a fairly common approach. Bodies like the Centre for World Development Education—bodies which are so important in the aid world—are not, I believe, going to be able to do the absolutely first-class work that they are doing unless the Government re-think some of their attitudes towards helping them.
As I have said before, I am not one of those who ask for the total amount of money to be increased. I suspect that if I were the Minister responsible I should be tempted to cut down aid and to start again from the 838 beginning. But the place where I would start again from the beginning would be the firm base of these bodies and this expertise, because they are known and trusted by the various countries concerned.
The Minister responsible for overseas aid is at the moment in Kenya. This is very good. He will learn a great deal. I know that he has already learned a great deal. The Minister is, of course, a man who, we know from his past, has a very particular interest in and a real conscience about matters of this kind. We also have a new Foreign Secretary. Both these men are capable of recognising value for money. However, when we recognise value for money we must not succumb to ideological prejudice. It is a mistake to think that things can necessarily be done better by private enterprise. There are certain areas in which private enterprise is at its best. There are, quite clearly, other areas in which established Government bodies serve in a way in which private enterprise is incapable of serving.
In the field of aid I believe that there is a very strong case for a real substratum of public endeavour and public expenditure, and it is the Government of this country which must express the goodwill of this country towards the developing countries. The Government of this country must express that good will by producing the machinery as well as by producing some of the money for it. I hope that as a result of this debate the Government will turn their attention even more keenly than they have in the past to the problem of how to tackle the basic problem of aid. The basic problem of aid is to do with food and with the rescuing of developing countries from starvation. It is on these matters that aid must be built up. I believe and hope that this Government can do something about it.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Lord Soper
My Lords, I would add my tribute of thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, for introducing what by any estimation seems to me to be one of the most imperative and important issues upon which your Lordships could be engaged. I would approach it from the standpoint of the church. In this regard I dare say that I can speak without impudence for the Bench of Bishops, who are engaged on their proper business in York at this moment, for there is a tradition within the Christian church with regard to poverty which should not be excluded from this debate. We have always believed in the necessity of almsgiving. This is not a peculiar attitude that is unknown elsewhere. I believe that one of the quadruple requisites of a good Muslim life is the regular giving of alms. The begging bowl is one of the most important elements in the Buddhist make-up. And, indeed, we have the authority, over the spikenard incident in the New Testament, that,The poor ye always have with you".For it was of course a fact that almsgiving was the melancholy realisation that though it was possible to alleviate the misery of a few, the basic problem of poverty was insoluble. Therefore, in approaching it from the moral standpoint "I must" was dependent upon whether "I can" and contingent upon "I can".
839 What has happened comparatively recently is that the morality of almsgiving has had to be replaced by something which can be regarded as aid. That is not a conclusive way of describing it, but it recognises that now we must do very much more because we can do very much more. It is not impossible now to feed the hungry. Hitherto it has always been impossible, in general terms, to undertake that benevolent enterprise. We can now say, with comparative certainty, that, but for the problems of distribution, there is enough food to go round if those problems of distribution can be overcome. It is in that light that I seek to approach this particular debate today, and not least to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, upon two of the phrases included in his Motion: "The accelerating growth of world hunger" and "practical assistance to the third world to encourage the increased production of food".
Let me begin by recognising that the church does not necessarily represent as large a community as churchmen would desire and that indeed the church cannot be regarded as the sole contributor to the solution of this problem. But I think that the church has a very important part to play. In that regard, I quickly move to some of the practical opportunities which I think lie within the concept of the approach to this problem, and which indeed can provide some kind of temporary answer to the most iniquitous, dangerous and immediate impacts of hunger.
It is not very much use talking about the long-term treatment of hunger. Hunger is an immediate problem. It is no good talking about the preservation of the future if you are in the process of destroying the present. Therefore, what touches my heart and exercises my mind in the first place is what can we do, what can be done, in order to save the lives of those who are now dying so terribly in misery and in such shortness of life on this planet? And if there is one answer, it seems to me to lie within the possibility that voluntary organisations, and others which have been mentioned by the speaker who immediately preceded me, can in fact provide that immediacy, though we do not in any way denigrate the opportunity and the demand for more corporate action—and, indeed, for action on the part of communities acting as a whole.
May I therefore make one or two suggestions in this area? It is beyond doubt that the churches themselves have access to immediate problems and instances of hunger through the missionary field. We in the Methodist Church—and I hope that I may be allowed to boast a little about what we have seen useful to do—have already agreed to offer 1 per cent. of the income of Methodists to the provision, through the missionary societies and through the churches overseas, of immediate aid where that aid can be quickly channelled and does not go through the kind of composite and difficult procedures which in many cases seem, unfortunately, to deny the very purpose for which these benefactions are offered.
This kind of immediacy can in my judgment meet what the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, and others referred to as the danger spots: the type of famines which spring up from time to time and which, if they cannnot be eradicated, can be largely contained by this kind of direct action.
840 Secondly—and this is by way of introducing into this debate a matter that has not appeared before your Lordships as yet—it is possible (and I hope it can be done) that the Christian churches will improve upon the general evangelical process by which, hitherto, they have marvellously advanced the prospects of wellbeing but in others have retarded it. It is no secret that we are confronted with a resurgence of a particular kind of evangelism which concentrates on the next world, is charismatic without being sensible, and has very little to say about the immediate needs of people—counselling that they should be content for the sake of "pie in the sky" rather than embark upon the kind of programmes which could improve their condition down below.
I wonder whether your Lordships appreciate to what extent this kind of envangelism has impeded the real progress of people living in the third world, and how quickly it could be withstood if there were a harder and less sympathetic line being offered to those who quite sincerely but nevertheless are retarding the very processes which the Christian faith should be encourged to change. This can be done, and I hope that it will be done.
I will now pass on to a matter that is not so immediate but which seems to me to be as imperative. A great deal of the aid that is offered today is offered contingent upon the acceptance of certain responsibilities in a warlike world. I join with the noble Lord who spoke earlier and with my noble friend Lord Brockway in the assertion that there is a very close connection very often between the granting of aid and the preservation of the kind of security that is offered in terms of armaments. If only we could transfer something of this enormous burden of armaments to the cultivation of educational processes and remedial processes, remembering that for the cost of one jet fighter there could be provided 40,000 health clinics.
I know that this is a risk, but perhaps your Lordships will allow me to repeat that which I have said on other occasions in the House—that I believe the risk of such a transfer of goods from the field of armaments to the fields of culture and wellbeing would be a risk worth taking, and one that could offer far greater hopes of avoiding the holocaust which otherwise seems to loom.
There is one other aspect to which I now come for a brief moment: the increase in world poverty. I saw some statistics the other day to the effect that 100 years ago the average rich person was about twice as well off as the average poor person. That statistic, like a great many others, can be open to some disagreement. But what is not open to disagreement is the geometric progresssion whereby that gap is now 35 times as wide; and by 1985, it will be 45 times as wide. We are living in a world where, hitherto, poverty—both basically and comparatively—has increased. And why? There are many more manifestations of goodwill. There are many more people who are concerned to help. There are many more communities of various kinds, under various names, which are attempting to alleviate poverty. Yet poverty grows larger, more ominous, more dangerous and more dreadful year by year. I ask, why?
The Brandt Report is an attempt to solve the problem of poverty within the framework of a capital- 841 ist society. All but one of those participating in the Brandt Report were representatives of capitalist communities. I believe that this is a false and wrong process. There is an inbuilt necessity whereby, by the processes of enlightened self-interest, privatisation and capitalist principles in general, the inevitability of the widening of the gap—whatever the goodwill of those who seek to close it—is a foregone conclusion. Therefore, I will conclude by reading to your Lordships something that the Methodist Church has said—and it is an august and powerful institution, as your Lordships know:The marketing system always was loaded in favour of the powerful. In the last 30 years it has run riot. Huge multinational and transnational corporations have created monopolies, cornered markets, and gobbled up small firms. In the name of efficiency, they have streamlined operations and increased unemployment in many places. Yet the people running them have usually been doing their job conscientiously—increasing profits for their shareholders and following the principles which they have been taught. Who is to blame? Blaming the system is not enough. The task is to change the system".I am well aware, as I sit down, that I have nothing very particular and immediate to say about changing the system. I am convinced that the import of this conversation promoted by the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, today, carries with it the affirmation of a system that can support true aid—not to the point of some kind of special almsgiving from those who have to those who have not but in the resettlement of the whole constitutional process whereby we cross the boundaries of nation, state and privilege and become members of one common humanity. If this conversation this afternoon can contribute in any way to that end, it will have been infinitely worth while.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ The Earl of Perth
My Lords, I wish to venture outside the main theme of the valuable debate begun by the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, and not cover so much of the very valuable ground and suggestions which have been made by others. My reason for doing so is that I believe the main problem we face today is to get the third countries back on to a sound economic base. It is all very well to think in terms of help with food production and so forth, but unless there is law and order in those countries, and unless there are peaceful conditions in which agriculture can be improved, then there is no hope for those who are hungry.
I know that the noble Lords, Lord Seebohm and Lord Oram, and others, have touched on the financial crisis and on that aspect of the matter it is the great banking nations which have to shoulder an immediate responsibility. Their loans—or rather the loans of their banks—to the third world have become an intolerable burden. That is not the fault of those who borrowed. Rather, it is the fault of the terms on which the loans were originally made.
The loans were made in dollars. We all know what has happened to the dollar; the dollar has appreciated, so that those who borrowed in dollars find that repayments are harder to meet than before. They have been borrowed on interest terms which are impossibly high. I know why the creditor countries originally made those terms; it was in their fight against inflation, but in fighting against inflation the burden for the third world becomes insupportable. Again, the borrowing 842 was too short-term and the third world cannot be developed on the basis of short-term loans and long-term projects.
Apart from all that, we have had the fall in commodity prices. We have had countries or groups of countries like the European Community encouraging the production of things like sugar on terms which are fine for their own people but lead to a surplus, and only the rich can afford to encourage such surplus, to the damage of the poor, to the damage of the countries which are much more natural sugar producers. Lastly, of course, over the last 15 years there has been the vast rise in the price of oil.
What has all that led to? Again and again in the last year or so we have had the International Monetary Fund trying to solve the problem by restructuring the debts of various countries, a rescheduling worked out on terms which are essentially capitalist terms and terms in which the banks who are also taking part have a special interest. The terms are too severe, and the rulers, in trying to implement what they have been told to do, are forced to cut the living standards of their people, living standards which are already pitifully low. The sequel to all this, as we know, is grave disorders; the capitalist world is blamed and Russia rejoices in the troubled waters.
We are in measure to blame, for the financial crisis is, as I have endeavoured to show, in degree our own fault. The noble Lord, Lord Quinton, touched on this and so did various other noble Lords who have spoken this afternoon. The third world countries were encouraged to over-borrow for unsound projects, and who were they to resist when they thought that this in some measure might be for the benefit of their people? Terms were set which have become impossible to honour. There was a notable article in the Investors Chronicle of 3rd June by Bryan Reading, their consultant editor, It is titled "Come the Whirlwind", and its sub-title contains the following:Williamsburg summiteers be damned for your shortsighted complacency".I will quote no more, but I do recommend all your Lordships to read it, and I beg the Williamsburg summiteers not only to read it but to act on it. It sets out vividly and in detail the trouble of the debt crisis and the urgent need for the rich nations to act now.
It is not enough for Governments to hope that somehow industrial recovery and the efforts of the International Monetary Fund, the Bank for International Settlements and the World Bank, will get over the difficulties. The burden of the debt is too heavy and, as I have tried to show, it is not all the fault of the third world countries. Only the summiteers, if I can call them that, can afford the cost of rescue, and they must do so, or where they have sown Russia will reap. No wonder Mr. Andropov is reported as saying:We firmly believe that socialism"—and, I would put in brackets, communism—will prove its advantages through peaceful competition with capitalism".It is not, of course, all the fault of the banks. A good deal of it is the fault of our Western governments, for they form economic policy and they are the ones who must help before the crisis breaks. Unemployment, we all know, is a scourge of the world, but I believe that 843 for the third world countries their debts and what follows from their debts is even worse. We alone can provide the cure.
What do I suggest to break this vicious circle, this crisis? I suggest that the seven Williamsburg countries and several other of the rich capitalist countries—Switzerland and Saudi Arabia, for example—should announce the equivalent of a Marshall Aid Plan for the third world debtor countries. Of course, the treatment for the different countries will vary according to the circumstances. In the case of Nigeria all that are needed are some tiding-over arrangements. The case of Sudan is totally different. Take Mexico; I think there again the need is for some tiding over. But for Chile more aid and real help is needed.
What should be the guidelines for this help? I think there are three things the Western world should do. The first is that they have to reduce the dollar burden of the debts. Secondly, they must allow a much lower rate of interest, totally different from the sort of figures that are having to be paid now. And lastly, the terms of the debts must be extended for up to 20 years. It cannot all be dealt with at once. We must recognise, having made the announcement of Marshall Aid, that we have got to deal with it piecemeal. I would suggest, for example, that the United States of America should take the main responsibility for the South American countries. I would suggest that the European Community should take the main responsibility for Africa, and so on.
I know that the creditor banks will have to accept some loss over the years, but they, knowing that their governments are in some measure going to shoulder the burden and relieve them of the spectre of default which now faces them, would surely be more than compensated. Such bodies as the International Monetary Fund should continue to monitor the economic plans of the third world, and in so doing they should encourage them in moderate degree to buy again from the capitalist countries. That could importantly help our unemployment and could help world recovery. I have tried to show that the solution of the debt problem can do more at this moment to help the destitute nations than anything else. It is the rich capitalist countries that must help. Otherwise we shall be faced—and I am sure of this—with a crisis which grows on itself and at that moment something will have to be done.
I am sure the first priority must be, as I said earlier, to restore the economic soundness of the third world countries. The capitalist world, the Western world, must wake up and act now along Marshall aid lines. I recognise that this calls for real sacrifices by us, but we can afford it. We are indeed the only people who can afford it. We must remember that if we do it will be to the long-term benefit of us all.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, it is not simply conventional etiquette for me to begin by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm for initiating this debate. It was to have been initiated before the election. The noble Lord and I have had very similar Motions down 844 on the Order Paper. He has been lucky, and I am glad that he has been enabled to initiate this debate today.
There is a practical reason why I thank the noble Lord, not only for initiating the debate but for his opening speech, and that is because he touched on what seems to me to be one of the crucial issues in the whole wide spectrum of world hunger. He pointed out that an attempt has been made to introduce an industrial society into many third world countries before there had been a sound and solid routing of the agrarian system. I believe that history has shown that all successful industrial revolutions have been based upon the surplus created by an agrarian revolution; that always the industrial revolution has followed a successful agrarian revolution. Whether it be the capitalist or communist countries, during this century both regimes have tried to introduce industry before agriculture into third world countries. To me that appears to be one of the fundamental weaknesses in our traditional aid system, in the efforts of the communists and in the very well-meaning efforts of those who have been advising the third world countries on their economic development.
This leads me to pay a particular tribute to my noble friend Lord Balogh, who has been teaching the same lesson, to my knowledge, for 30 years, and also to his collaborator, Professor René Dumont, of France, with both of whom I have been privileged to be associated in trying to counteract this false advice that has been given so often to the third world Governments. Therefore, it is for a specific reason that I thank the noble Lord for initiating this debate and for the way in which he did so.
When I came here today one noble Lord, who shall be nameless, said to me, "There are 23 speakers on world hunger this afternoon. You are the thirteenth. How can you possibly say anything that has not been said before?" I am going to try, because I believe that I have a particular and perhaps unique short message to give in this debate. The noble Baroness who is to wind up will be surprised to hear that it is a message of hope. It is a cheerful message, and it is a remarkable message. I refer your Lordships to the small county town of Cullompton in Devonshire. Why? It is because in that town an experiment has taken place, and is taking place, which may be the most important experiment that has been conducted in any field in the 20th century. I say that quite advisedly. Over the past 10 years a man called David Mackenzie has been experimenting with a new form of soil conditioner. He has been kind enough to send me full details of his experiments, of the production of the soil conditioner and of the tests now being conducted by Dr. Jayaweera, a chemist from the Plymouth Polytechnic. Incidentally, Mr Mackenzie has been greatly helped in this work by the local Co-operative Bank
I cannot say, because I am not a chemist, that this experiment is yet a proven success, but it has been sufficiently proven to have already attracted £400 million-worth of orders. What does it do? As a layman I can only describe to your Lordships that we know, for instance, that the Sahara has not always been a desert and that there was a time when it flourished and was cultivated right across its present width. We believe that soil can turn to sand and that eventually, perhaps after millions of years, sand can turn back to 845 soil. All that I can say to your Lordships as a layman is that in this case Mr. Mackenzie claims that his soil conditioner, which is called Landspeed, acts in the same way but much quicker than the natural process of the transformation of sand and clay to productive soil. He does not know how it works except that, as distinct from the normal fertiliser which is spread on the surface of the ground and has to sink in, this seems to work from underneath to break down the clay and transform the sand, provided—and this is the point I particularly make to the Government and to which I shall return in a few moments—there is not a large amount but a sufficient quantity of water available in the locality.
This new company shows that British people still have inventiveness and still have compassion, because Mr. Mackenzie was turned to this experiment from his experience of seeing the malnutrition and the death of children from hunger that we have heard about this afternoon. Therefore, the experiment shows that in Britain we still have the initiative and the compassion to turn our efforts to the solution of the life and death problems which are facing half of mankind. The result of this experiment, and the setting up of Mr. Mackenzie's firm, provided that it is successful, as it appears to be at the moment, will of course provide a great deal of employment in the Devon area, where unemployment is running at the rate of 13 per cent.
This is precisely the issue which I have been trying to get across to this Government ever since they came to office four years ago. Here is one method—and I have always stressed, one method—by which the world depression, and the British part of the world depression, can be tackled in conjunction with an effort to meet the needs of that half of the world's population which does not have the purchasing power today to buy the goods that our unemployed could be producing. But the success of this experiment depends upon there being, first, an infrastructure (even if it is only rudimentary) of irrigation, and, secondly, the purchasing power of Governments in third world countries for such a thing as this new soil conditioner. If it is successful, it will revolutionise the agricultural production of the world—and this is where the Government come in.
There are three specific questions which I should like to ask the noble Baroness who is to wind up for the Government. I was surprised that in her list of the Government's achievements she mentioned British Government support for the United Nations Development Programme. Since 1978 British Government support for the UNDP has fallen in real terms by 56 per cent., and yet this was a programme initiated by the British under the leadership of that very noteworthy British civil servant, the late David Owen. This programme provides us with more resources from the expenditure in Britain and the employment of Britons than it costs us in monetary subscription to the programme. It does what I have been arguing for over the past four years: it provides to Britain a greater return than our investment in it. Yet the Government have cut it, and are cutting it. I understand that this year's subscription to the UNDP will be the same monetary figure as last year, which, 846 given inflation, means that there has been a cut. I should like the noble Baroness to meet this point.
Secondly, I would ask the noble Baroness what is the Government's attitude towards the scientific units of the Overseas Development Administration, which have been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, among others. Here, again, this is an area of British Government activity that should already be cognisant of the work going on in Devon and should be there helping, offering scientific services and integrating the work of Mr. Mackenzie into British overseas development. But I understand that those scientific units, which are so valuable in overcoming the practical difficulties in the third world and which cost so little, are being cut. I ask the noble Baroness whether this is the case and, if so, why. Are they not an investment, and not an expenditure, for this country?
Finally, I ask the noble Baroness whether she considers that it is possible to talk seriously about world hunger and the problem of assisting that half of mankind who are suffering from that hunger to produce for themselves, to become self-sufficient in food and to get the farmers of the third world interested and back on their land, while the common agricultural policy of the EEC remains as it is. That common agricultural policy, with its artificial and wasteful subsidisation of Europe's farmers, has, as I think the noble Baroness will confirm, doubled Government expenditure on subsidies to farmers this year. It is partly the reason for the cuts in public expenditure announced last week; and it is now costing this Government £462 million this year in subsidies. Is it possible consistently to talk at one and the same time about helping and encouraging third world farmers to produce and create self-sufficiency in their own countries when the Government are spending taxpayers' money in subsidising agricultural exports that go to the rapidly increasing populations of the towns in the third world countries, about which we have heard this afternoon? Is that not a contradiction? I suggest that it is. So long as we—
§ Lord Mottistone
My Lords, I think that the noble Lord is using the wrong phrase when he talks about the subsidy of exports. Export refunds are not subsidies. They are the refund of extra costs endured by paying, in accordance with the common agricultural policy, higher costs on the raw materials from which the exports are made. In point of fact, the refunds do not measure up to the extra costs of the raw materials; they are always slightly less. But in no way are they subsidies. It is an error which other people have fallen into in identifying that particular point, and I should just like to put the noble Lord right.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, I think that this is very much a matter of semantics. In practice, what is happening is that, subsidised by their Governments, the Western world, of which we are a part, is exporting agricultural produce (particularly processed produce) to the third world countries at such a rate that the farmers in the third world just cannot compete with it. We have only to look at our grain and butter mountains today. The figure which I have just quoted, which I do not think the noble Lord has contradicted—and I shall be interested to hear it 847 commented on by the noble Baroness—is £462 million this year which the Government are having to pay out to the farmers. It is double the figure of last year.
I simply suggest that here are three specific questions to which I should like the noble Baroness to address herself in winding up. It seems to be a contradiction, on the one hand, to use fine words about how the third world farmers should get back to the land and, at the same time, to be cutting down the institutions in this country which can help them with their problems; and, coincidentally, to be using the monetary power of the developed world to thrust upon these countries exported agricultural products which are making it less likely and attractive for their farmers to produce for their own people.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Lord Auckland
My Lords, I should like to join in the tributes paid to the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, not only for enabling us to discuss this very important topic today but for the masterly way in which he presented his case. With his distinguished background in a banking career, if I may say so, that comes as no surprise. This is the first time that I have embarked on this particular subject, although it has been discussed in your Lordships' House on a number of occasions. I do so with considerable diffidence. I know a lot less about it from personal experience than most noble Lords who have taken part.
However I recall back in 1946 my National Service in Austria, a country which hardly qualifies to be called part of the third world, but in which there was a great deal of hunger. I do not think that it was hunger on the scale which there is today in, for instance, parts of India, and Somalia, but there was a great deal of hunger, in particular among children and older people. If it had not been for UNRRA—which, if I have my facts right, I believe to stand for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration—in a country two or three hours away by air from here there would have prevailed disasters similar to those which undoubtedly now prevail in at least some of the countries of the third world. So it is a sobering thought that back in 1946 that kind of thing was happening.
Paradoxically, I was supposed to have gone to India for my National Service as previous National Service drafts had done, but the then War Office, in the way in which it decided things, decided at 48 hours' notice that we should be sent elsewhere. So I eventually found myself in Austria, much to my disappointment, and the nearest that I have been to India was when recently I saw that very impressive, if rather controversial film, "Ghandi".
I was interested to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, in his mention of the delightful Devon town of Cullompton. I think that it is 30 years or more since I was last there. I was at school at Tiverton, five miles away, during some of the war years, and I used to visit Cullompton regularly, in particular during the school holidays. So far as I am aware, the very interesting piece of technology which the noble Lord has described was not in existence at that time, but it is interesting to consider what a small town can do in connection with this very big social problem.
848 I was also especially interested in the reference to Finland made by my noble friend—if I may so call him—Lord Energlyn. I have twice visited Finland, and I know that it can do a great deal, in particular from the standpoint of its medical, industrial and technological expertise. I believe that it has done much for the third world countries, particularly in terms of medical and technical knowledge. Of course one must get things into perspective. A country such as Finland has fewer commitments than, for example, have we and can probably spend more of its gross national product in helping third world countries. However, if I may say so, I think that the noble Lord was right to mention the point.
I should like to make a final point in the form of a question. As my noble friend the Minister knows, in April I was in Canada for a week, not on any direct parliamentary business under the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association or anything like that, but for the Joint Statutory Instruments Commonwealth Seminar. I got talking to one or two of the Indian delegates. We were discussing constituencies, and how many constituents they had to represent. One Indian mentioned that he had 1 million constituents. That I think shows, at least indirectly, the problem which countries such as India face. Presumably that delegate has to look after farmers, as well as workers in industry, commerce, and elsewhere, and he has to become au fait with the general social problems of India, with the poverty trap there, and with how his country can most effectively be fed and he has to liaise with the sources which carry out all this work.
I should like to ask my noble friend the Minister to what extent have what I might call our old Commonwealth countries—Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, besides ourselves—when they have met for the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, discussed the whole matter of help to the third world, with particular reference to food? Further, to what extent are there discussions among the countries as to which of the third world countries they can best help? To me, as a complete greenhorn in a matter of this kind, it seems that this is probably one of the most effective methods of giving help.
A few years ago I was one of the delegates to the Annual Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in Jamaica, a country which has a tremendous amount of raw material—bauxite, much of it, I think, Canadian owned. Although I think that in the past few years Jamaica has made tremendous strides, I wonder whether it has had enough practical expertise and help, not so much in terms of money, but in terms of equipment and knowhow, possibly from Canada, which I think I am right in saying has poured so much capital into that country, and I believe some of the other Caribbean countries too.
I make those points very briefly. I am afraid that I am cynical enough to think that it will be very difficult to solve this problem in the lifetime of most of us, but I wonder whether it can be helped along by more communication, more discussion, among the Commonwealth countries, particularly when they meet for their annual conference. I did not give my noble friend the Minister notice of this question, but perhaps it might be considered.
§ 6.49 p.m.
§ Lord Northbourne
My Lords, it is sometimes said that your Lordships' House is out of touch with the modern world, and it is therefore with some trepidation that I take as my theme for this evening an extract from a letter written by a provincial governor to the Emperor of China, in the year 1069. He said:Now we propose to survey the situation in regard to surpluses and shortages in each circuit, to sell when grain is dear and buy when it is cheap, in order to increase the accumulation in government storage, and to stabilise the price of commodities. This will make it possible for farmers to go ahead with their work at the proper season, while the monopolists will no longer be able to take advantage of their temporary stringency".I should like this evening to try to develop a little the twin themes of food storage and price stabilisation. However, first, I should like to look briefly at what appear to be the causes of world hunger and famine. It seems that hunger today is not caused by a shortage of food; it is caused by the inability of people to acquire the means to obtain the food that they need. Poverty and hunger stalk hand in hand and that seems to he the case even in relation to famine. For instance, during the Ethiopian famine of 1973 the estimates of mortality varied from 50,000 to 200,000, but there was no dramatic decline in food reserves in the country. In fact, food was actually exported from two of the provinces which suffered the main impact of the famine. The Sahel suffered one of the worst famines in recent memory in the late 1960s and the early 1970s. Deaths in 1973 were thought to have amounted to over 100,000. Yet the FAO has documented that every country in the Sahel actually produced enough grain to feed its entire population, even during the worst drought years. In Bangladesh in 1974, 26,000 or more people died in the famine. Yet 1974 was actually a peak year in Bangladesh for the production of rice and feed grains.
How can so many people have died of starvation when there was enough food available in the country and sometimes even in the province where the famine was taking place? The answer is that only certain groups suffered the effects of the famine. The natural disasters which gave rise to the famines deprived those groups of their ability to acquire food—they deprived them of their entitlement to food. For instance, in Ethiopia the pasturalists suffered through the drought. Many of their cattle died. The cattle which remained were unsaleable. They had no resources to acquire food and they starved. In Bangladesh and also in Ethiopia the landless agricultural workers were not hired because the farmers were feeling the pinch of the drought. In the case of Bangladesh a great deal of the rich agricultural land was flooded and so there was no work for the labourers to do. They had no source of income and so they starved. In each of these recent famines food was available, but some sectors of the community did not have the means to acquire it.
What is true of famine is also true of seasonal pre-harvest hunger. It is not enough to have reserves of food. Each family or individual must have its or his/her entitlement to a share of that food reserve. One answer lies in storage. Too often the difference between the buying price of staple foods at harvest time and the selling price to consumers later in the year is far too wide. Often Government agencies may 850 be inefficient or inept; private traders may profiteer; storage is insufficient or inadequate; and storage losses are too high.
To bridge the gap between one harvest and the next, and to cover climatic disasters, there is a great need for more cheap, efficient storage for staple food grains. Help in providing and managing storage is a highly cost-effective form of aid. Good storage reduces the cost of holding food reserves by reducing waste. It makes possible a strategy for food security and market stabilisation, and it provides the physical reserves of food which are needed where they are wanted and when they are wanted.
The Tropical Development and Research Institute tell me that they regard the two most effective forms of storage to be, on the one hand, the traditional village or on-farm storage controlled by the producer; and, on the other hand, at the other extreme, nationally controlled high technology storage with professionally managed stores. In the small village store or small farm store, traditional storage methods are very often already well adapted to local conditions although some small improvements may be possible. Storage in these small stores for short periods is quite an economic proposition as a form of private sector enterprise.
In contrast, long term storage and storage from season to season is unlikely to be a profit-making enterprise, unless profits are taken which can be regarded as profiteering. There is a strong case for Government aid to, and control of, long term storage. It is in this area that I believe there is major scope for highly cost-effective inputs of capital equipment and management technology from this country in the form of aid. I strongly urge the Government not to make any cuts in aid which would affect this sector.
Another most important form of aid to the agricultural community is one upon which this country has, under successive Governments, rightly concentrated. It is a contribution to knowledge, to appropriate technology, to research, to extension and rural education. Again, I urge the Government not to cut back on funding to the institutions which are serving agriculture in the third world, especially the small farmer, but rather to extend this very cost-effective form of aid. In this context I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, in his plea for a reconsideration of Government plans to cut back expenditure on the Land Development Resources Centre and the Tropical Development Research Institute.
I have argued that hunger in the third world today is caused not by an absolute shortage of food, but by the poverty of the rural poor. I have argued that improved storage and the dissemination of appropriate technology can effectively and relatively cheaply help to alleviate the problem of hunger. These are economic considerations but there is also a moral dimension.
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, I have listened to many debates on this topic over the years and a long time ago I played the part which the noble Baroness, Lady Young, plays so gracefully at present. But in all 851 those years I have never heard a more effective opening speech than that of the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm. If I say that I put it on a par with that of our own Labour Party champion, my noble friend Lord Oram on the last occasion, the noble Lord will realise that I am paying him a large compliment.
The noble Lord may be getting rather bored with compliments and so I will offer a criticism, perhaps the first that he has really encountered today. I was not too happy with the way in which he decided to end his speech with an appeal to self-interest, which is another word for "selfishness". I thought that he could have learnt some valuable lessons from the noble Lord who has just sat down and who was about to deal—if he had given himself more time—with the moral aspect. Indeed, the noble Earl, Lord Perth, sitting beside him also spoke in moral terms. So the noble Lord is surrounded by moralists and if he wanted any more moral stiffening he could get it from the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, who talked about sacrifice on an earlier occasion.
The noble Lord will forgive me for saying that, because I do not want it to sound like a jarring note when all is praise. However, I must add the thought that no one is less likely than the noble Lord himself to respond to a selfish appeal. He is, above all, a man who has devoted himself to this cause with total disregard for his own interests. So I felt that the appeal to our lower nature did not come well from one whose higher nature is so evident.
I must follow the example of my noble friend Lord Oram today in taking the general position of the Government on this occasion more or less for granted—in sorrow, but also, as my noble friend Lord Oram said, in anger, although neither the noble Lord, Lord Oram, nor I are perhaps good examples of angry old men. At any rate, I share with him the view that one ought to be indignant about the Government's attitude in this matter.
We were told on the last occasion that during the first period of Conservative rule in recent times the real aid was cut by 19 per cent. The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, told us just now that some particular aspects of it were cut by 56 per cent. So it is no good pretending that we applaud the attitude of the Government; we condemn it. Personally, I regard it as a scandal that in a Christian country, whoever is in power, we should make such a paltry contribution to these malnourished countries of the world. But I am afraid that in recent times the Conservative Government have set us a very bad example, and from the latest pronouncement it seems that the example may deteriorate rather than improve. But let us not be too despondent about that in advance.
I very much agree with what was said by the last speaker about this puzzling phenomenon of increasing wealth and growing hunger. I am following here the War on Want organisation's views, but that organisation must not be held responsible for what I say. However, it has given me a good deal of assistance. I would submit that this puzzling phenomenon of increasing wealth, increasing poverty and even increasing starvation is not the result of population growth. Indeed, even today the global community is 852 able to produce enough proteins and calories to feed everyone. As the noble Lord has. just said, it is the result of growing economic inequalities between the poor and the rich. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, and other speakers dwelt on that during the debate.
The poor go hungry because they do not have enough purchasing power to buy food at prevailing prices. Of course, in this island—which is still powerful and wealthy compared to most countries in the world—we can bewail that, and we cannot put all that right even by the most heroic, self-sacrificing exertions. But it is a fact and should be a guide, a background, for all we say.
Following the noble Lord, Lord Oram, and other speakers, and leaving over what you might call a general condemnation of the Government's attitude to aid, I should just like to take up one or two points which have been submitted to me as being particularly important. I make no apology for repeating the first one, although it has already been made by, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, whose speech I missed, and by the noble Lords, Lord Hatch and Lord Northbourne. According to a document shown to me, 30 per cent. of the world's food production is destroyed by pests—a problem which is particularly acute in tropical and the poorest countries of the world. The last speaker may well have had that in mind when he reminded us that the United Kingdom has established a unique reputation through the work of the Tropical Products Institute and the Centre for Overseas Pest Research, both organisations working under the auspices of the Overseas Development Administration.
The noble Baroness may not have had much notice of this particular question, although I am not the first person in the debate to raise it, but can she give us any idea whether our impression is right that the Government intend to make savage cuts which will greatly reduce the operation of the bodies mentioned and also the equally respected Land Resources Development Centre? I do not think that I need dwell on this as it has been touched on by other speakers. I am wondering whether the noble Baroness can tell us what will happen, because if that work is being undermined, it would really be a shocking performance.
It has also been brought home to me that the International Fund for Agricultural Development draws support from this country and other countries. It has been established to respond to the fundamental rethinking of food strategies. A willingness to contribute additional resources to this body would be a practical sign of a commitment to tackling world hunger. I have not given the noble Baroness notice of this and I do not see why, off the top of her head, she should be expected to provide answers, but at any rate I must raise the question of what the Government intend to do about our contribution towards the International Fund for Agricultural Development.
I realise that the time is late, but I ought to say just a few words about the work of British voluntary agencies. I have in mind such bodies as Oxfam, Christian Aid and War on Want, which helped me with these remarks, and CAFOD. I would also mention International Relief, which is not primarily based in Britain but is important here. I would couple 853 that body with the other bodies, except that it is not looking for Government assistance. I understand that in Britain we give only some £500,000 a year to match contributions from voluntary agencies for development projects. This figure appears to be derived from official information; I wonder whether it can be confirmed? It is a figure which compares very poorly with those of our European partners, which have very much larger schemes in operation with their respective voluntary agencies.
There is obviously an opportunity to do quite a lot to aid the third world—the most impoverished countries—without some colossal drain on the Government's expenses and without interfering with their particular philosophies. Such projects must enhance community development and go direct to the problem of hunger and malnutrition in a locality. There are various ways in which the Government could co-operate much more closely with the voluntary agencies, including joint development financing. So I am putting it to the noble Baroness—and this is a general question with which she might well be prepared to deal—are the Government prepared to do anything more than they are doing at this moment to assist voluntary agencies, and are they ready to work more closely with them?
There are a great many speakers yet to come. I do not come before your Lordships as one with first-hand knowledge of the subject, as have the last speaker and other speakers. I come before your Lordships rather as someone who has studied these questions for many years, looking at them from the point of view of a Christian citizen in a country which is incredibly wealthy compared to the countries which we are discussing. As I said earlier, I think it is shocking that we do not do more, and I am only horrified at the thought that we might be about to do less.
§ 7.7 p.m.
My Lords, having spent most of my adult life in the third world, it gives me the greatest pleasure to welcome the initiative of my noble friend Lord Seebohm in tabling this Motion tonight. However, I would put it to your Lordships that the debate we are having this evening is of added importance in that it forms part of a series of debates on the third world which we have had over the past few months. As your Lordships are well aware, we have had valuable and wide-ranging debates on the Brandt Commission Report and on communism in the Middle East and the third world generally. Indeed, if the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, had been fortunate in the ballot for the debate next Wednesday—and I offer him my sincere apologies, having been unfortunate myself on so many occasions—we would have been discussing the need to extend British exports to the third world.
Finally, if I may mention it, next Wednesday, with the leave of your Lordships, I hope to ask an Unstarred Question about what is to my mind the most terrible and the most tragic of all the problems affecting the third world—the continuing violation of human rights.
However, I must return to world hunger. I should like to amplify what many noble Lords have said this evening in praising the work of the Overseas 854 Development Administration. I think that our effort over the years has been truly magnificent and it has been widely praised. I should like to look at four areas: first, the Arabian Gulf; secondly, Bangladesh; thirdly, Uganda and, fourthly, the Yemen Arab Republic.
First, let me deal with the desert. To some of your Lordships, and perhaps others outside your Lordships' House, desert food conjures up visions of sheep's eyes, camel's liver and other Bedouin specialities too indelicate to mention in your Lordships' House; and of course also dates which are, as I am sure we are all aware, one of the most nutritious foods in the world. It was British expertise which was responsible for the improvement of date cultivation, particularly in Iraq. To others perhaps the desert would bring to mind St. John the Baptist and his diet of locusts and wild honey. Like the Baptist, I have eaten both with relish.
Few of your Lordships would need any invitation to sample wild honey, but sad to say it is becoming increasingly rare. Indeed, when one can find it in Arabia it is almost more expensive than the most valuable honey one can find in the West End. But the locust is, of course, a more refined taste; but how good it can be when eaten fried in rancid butter. Indeed, if it were possible I would like to see its introduction by the Refreshment Department of your Lordships' House.
While we would all deplore the gradual disappearance of wild honey, none of us would regret the passing of the locust plagues, which of course have played such a terrible part in destroying the world's resources of food. Some of your Lordships may perhaps remember the great locust plagues of the 1940s and 1950s. I have seen them myself. I have seen the sky darken with clouds of locusts which descend on any living thing and strip it so completely that nothing is left after their visitation. But the point I want to make is that it was British expertise which, in the 1940s and 1950s, got to grips with this problem by locating the main areas of the swarms and by poisoning the hoppers with poisoned bait.
Let me turn now to Uganda where there is an important project going on just now which is concerned mainly with pesticides. In Bangladesh, as the noble Baroness the Minister of State has mentioned, there are useful projects going on which concentrate mainly on wells, the use of fertilisers, and on improving rice cultivation. The fourth area I should like to examine is the North Yemen, the Yemen Arab Republic, which I know well. There there are two very important projects. One is a research and development project which has done a great deal to raise the standard of agricultural and forestry development, and the other is a veterinary project which again is very well valued and that has concentrated on both preventive and curative medicine, on training, and on research.
In all these schemes we have been greatly helped in our efforts—and this is an important point to make—not only by the excellence of our expertise but by the excellence of our training resources. We take great pains to train our personnel not only in the technical skills which are essential but also in getting to know the countries and, above all, in learning the language. In this we have the edge over many other 855 donor countries. Where, for example, can one find a Dutchman who speaks fluent Swahili?
Backing up the training of our own personnel we can of course offer excellent training facilities in Britain which are widely appreciated. We have, of course, suffered many setbacks and frustrations in our aid programmes. Some of them have been mentioned by noble Lords, and perhaps I may mention a few others. One is the lack of co-operation with the locals. Another, and important one, is the failure of local countries to produce personnel who are able to take over from British personnel and follow in the way they have indicated. But perhaps the most important setback is the lack which so often occurs of a properly structured state pricing mechanism.
So much for the activities of the Overseas Development Administration. I should like to turn now briefly to two voluntary agencies. Several of your Lordships have mentioned in your speeches the part they play in the fight against hunger. I have time to mention only two. One is Oxfam and the other is the British Red Cross. Many of your Lordships will be aware of what Oxfam does in the way of encouraging local people to dig their own wells, and so on. I would mention a really first-class scheme which is now going on in Upper Volta where the people are being encouraged to dig their own wells, often with very little outside financial help. They are saving money to build dams and to construct their own grain stores. In all these ways the agencies' emphasis—and this, of course, goes for the British official effort too—has been on self-help and on making use of the best existing resources, whether they be human or material.
Another important project which Oxfam is engaged in—and I do not think that this has been mentioned by any of your Lordships, although I have not been able to listen to every speech—is the study of pesticides. We all realise the value of pesticides in increasing food output. But according to a fascinating survey which has been undertaken by Oxfam—if your Lordships wish to read more about it I would recommend to you a little booklet called The Circle of Poison by the Pesticides Action Network—the uncontrolled use of pesticides has brought about considerable human poisoning, pollution of the environment, and unfortunately an upsurge of insect resistance to pesticides. Indeed, according to Oxfam's estimate there are something like 275,000 pesticide poisonings in the third world every year, of which 10,000 result in deaths.
The British Red Cross are also doing excellent work, and they are aware of the importance of training schemes to raise food production, and in addition to that of course, as I am sure your Lordships are aware, they send every years tens of thounsands of tonnes of food to victims of natural and man-made disasters. I think I have said enough to indicate the value of our continuing and, if possible, increased contribution.
I shall not argue about the need for greater financial aid. I am fully aware of the stringencies. But perhaps I could put to the noble Baroness the Minister of State three possible guidelines for the future. First, I would recommend that we devote more aid to agriculture, and particularly to small farms. I think that those of your Lordships who have had experience of the third 856 world will agree that it must be the small farmer whom we help. We need to put more money to small farmers and less to big steel mills—this was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Oram—power stations, and so on, which do not benefit the poorer people.
Secondly—and this is a point which the noble Earl, Lord Longford, mentioned—we need to increase our co-funding of the voluntary agencies. It may surprise your Lordships to know that both West Germany and Holland devote 6 per cent. of their total aid budget to this purpose. Ireland devotes 4 per cent; Great Britain, unfortunately, devotes 0.23 per cent. and if one includes the volunteer programmes 0.7 per cent. I would strongly recommend that that proportion be increased.
Thirdly, I would suggest that we take a more positive role in pesticide control in the light of the Oxfam survey. We need to revise the licensing requirements for pesticides and to improve the monitoring of pesticide residues.
Finally, there is another very important aspect to this question. Whatever we may do, whatever the British Government may do, whatever the voluntary agencies may do, we must surely instil among the richer countries of the third world, and indeed in the developed world too, a greater sense of their own awareness of this problem, and a greater realisation of their own responsibilities.
I went back to the Arab Gulf last summer trying to raise money for a certain charity. I was met by a man who, 27 years ago, was a very humble employee of mine. He was a launch driver living in the simplest of conditions. He met me in his second Mercedes. He took me to dinner at the Hilton, of which he was a part-owner; and he also claimed to be a part-owner of three other major hotels. He boasted about his four houses, two of them in the Gulf and two in Britain. There were other examples I met of this extraordinary rags to riches syndrome.
Some of your Lordships will be aware of the enormous budget which the Getty Museum in Malibu has. If I am correct, the budget is one million dollars a week. Just think how much good only a tiny part of this money could do if it were properly channelled towards the developing world through the aid agencies. But that is not happening, although many countries are giving a good deal of money, and those in the Gulf through the Governments; but private individuals seem so distressingly unaware of this need.
I will end, if I may, by quoting from a speech by Robert Kennedy at Capetown in 1966:Each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others, he sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centres of energy and daring, these ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance".
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Lord Bauer
My Lords, I too wish to thank the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, for his Motion. That many people must be starving must arouse the concern and compassion of us all. Hunger and famine are concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia. They are not general in the third world. If they were, the population could not have grown so rapidly in recent decades. Many people. including some noble Lords, 857 blame population pressure and population growth for third world poverty and hunger. Yet people do not starve in the densely populated Asian countries such as Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore, or the relatively densely populated regions of Western Malaysia, the Ivory Coast and Southern Nigeria. Most of Africa and much of Asia is sparsely populated, and even in India much uncultivated land is officially decribed as usable.
Nor is rapid population growth, the so-called population explosion, behind poverty. The population explosion is another word for a large fall in mortality. Is this a disaster for those directly involved? In the third world, as in the West, people like to live longer and to see their children survive. Nor are these children an unwanted burden, thrust upon their parents. They give emotional satisfaction and often also contribute to family income. The idea that people in the third world procreate, heedless of consequences, reflects distasteful and unwarranted contempt for hundreds of millions of people. Adverse weather, notably drought, cannot explain famine and hunger. Governments cannot control the weather, but they do control their policies.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s I spent five years on a study of Nigeria and the Gold Coast, now Ghana. Northern Nigeria is adjacent to the Sahel, with a broadly similar climate. In contrast to the present-day Sahel, there were no famines in colonial times in Northern Nigeria. Why? It is because the pre-war colonial administration maintained public security, attended to basic communications, facilitated private trade and generally allowed people to pursue their own economic activities. Even today one does not hear about famine in Northern Nigeria or the Ivory Cost, while it seems to recur regularly in Ethiopia, the Sahel and some other African countries where private trade is virtually suppressed.
With a smoothly functioning trading system there are reserves of stocks and trading links between regions and countries. An area hit by drought can then draw on stocks or on outside sources. Where private trading is suppressed and trade put into the hands of state monopolies, the position becomes precarious. This is the situation in many African and some Asian countries, where efficient trading systems have been destroyed or crippled, sometimes with expropriation and expulsion of unpopular groups, especially ethnic minorities. Adverse weather causes acute and widespread hardship, even famine—witness in recent years Ethiopia, the Sahel, Mozambique, Uganda and Zaire.
In most of sub-Saharan Africa, Governments pursue other policies besides suppression of trade which obstruct agricultural advance and emergence from subsistence farming and thereby reduce food supplies. I can mention only a few: under-pricing of farm produce by Governments; ban on the import of consumer goods and of simple farming equipment; large-scale diversion of resources to prestige projects, including uneconomic industrialisation; forced uprooting of people from their homes; compulsory collectivisation of farming. There is a more comprehensive treatment in a 1981 World Bank report on accelerated development in sub-Saharan Africa.
858 In Tanzania, the suppression of private economic activity and compulsory villagisation have been official policy for many years. The effects on food production have often been noted in the British press. This is what Dr. David Hopper of the World Bank has written about these policies:Government attempts to bring about a social transformation…have been responsible for a major decline in national food output.…As long as food aid"—or long-term loans for food purchases—is supplied to Tanzania by the industrial nations, the social experiment will continue".The food situation is also precarious in parts of India. This is to some extent the result of attitudes and beliefs deeply ingrained in rural India, such as the caste system and the reluctance to take animal life, especially that of cows. But some Government policies, such as restrictions on trade, investment and imports, expensive industrialisation and large-scale official spending on the space programme, armaments and nuclear weapons, have also exacerbated poverty and hunger.
Hunger in Africa and Asia is not the result of inescapable natural calamities or of irresponsible procreation; nor is it the result of Western misconduct, as the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, has said. Throughout the third world the poorest and most backward countries and groups have few or no external contacts, and multinationals do not operate there. Government policies are largely to blame. The Governments in question have often been supported morally, politically and financially by the West. To take but one example, it has been widely and rightly recognised, even by supporters of President Nyerere, that without large-scale aid he would not have been able to persist for so many years with the forced, large-scale removal of people into so-called socialist villages.
I spent April of this year in the Sudan. There are more than 650,000 refugees there from neighbouring countries some two-thirds from Ethiopia, about a quarter from Uganda and the rest mostly from Chad and Zaire. I visited two refugee camps. It was harrowing. The refugees had fled because of political persecution, lack of public security or economic adversity caused or aggravated by official policies in that country. The churches and other voluntary agencies help as best they can. Their efforts are reinforced by modest official funds. But these funds, as well as those which go to drought-stricken areas, are trivial compared to the large official transfers which go to the governments whose policies have forced the refugees to flee, policies which are underpinned by official Western aid, often including British aid.
Several noble Lords, and above all the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, have eloquently drawn our attention to the plight of millions of people. We should carefully scrutinise the policies we pursue or support in order to make as sure as we can that these policies truly benefit those millions of hungry people and do not aggravate their plight or add to their number.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I did not wish to interrupt his speech; but would he agree that so far as Tanzania is concerned the policy of Ujama is a policy of self-help and self-reliance and that the private trading that he speaks of as being suppressed did not exist?
§ Lord Bauer
My Lords, I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, that the compulsory herding of millions of people into the Ujama villages is a form of self-help. What is certain is that its effect on food production has been devastating. Certainly there was considerable private trading in the market towns and rural areas of Tanzania, in large measure by Asian traders who have been forcibly squeezed out.
§ Lord Molloy
My Lords, the debate has been a very interesting one and it is a pleasure to listen to very well-informed people speaking on their specific subjects. The only speech that flung me into the depths of the Gobi Desert for an absence of understanding and realism was the speech from the noble Lord, Lord Bauer. But I will not deal with that now. The Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, was:To call attention to the accelerating growth of world hunger"—and we ought to note "accelerating growth"—and to the urgent need of practical assistance to the third world to encourage the increased production of food".And, I should have thought, to encourage the increased production and better distribution of food.
I must say that in my travels around this globe, in the various desolate parts of Africa, India, Australia and other countries—and I should like the noble Lord, Lord Bauer, to note this—I have seen people terribly hungry in those parts of the world just as they were in South Wales, just 190 miles away from where I am speaking. when I was a child, when they were under a vicious, uncaring Government. Let us not get too worked up about state industry, state this, state that or private initiative and private enterprise. Let us concentrate on the results.
I think that we have had a number of good suggestions. I am always keen to listen to my noble friend Lord Energlyn. He never speaks for long but what he has to say is always something practical and useful and something which can help. It is not tied up with state monopoly or private enterprise but with a genuine concern to make a real contribution.
I think that this is particularly important because, up to the last world war, in which I spent a lot of time in peculiar places, and when I was in Parliament in the other place and then went round the globe, I can tell your Lordships that what struck me almost as forcibly as the poverty that I saw, the ignorance that I saw and the disease that I saw, was the shame that these lands had been colonies of my country. That is what hit me in my travels. It would not have hit me so hard if I had come from another country. I thought my own country was a better place. I was born here. I had a conscience about it and still have.
When we listen to people talking with their immense amount of knowledge—and I think of the noble Lords, Lord Oram, Lord Energlyn and the noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, with their great knowledge and experience—we realise that what we do not seem to be able to do is to plan a worthwhile result to it all. Millions of pounds are given for help and aid; but, somehow or the other, as the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, expresses—and incidentally he moved his Motion excellently earlier this afternoon—it brought to us the awful truth, the terrible truth, that, despite a better conscience in the 860 world since the end of the last bout of insanity, the second world war, and despite the improved conscience and the desire to do something much better, nevertheless hunger, ignorance and disease have been on the increase.
As the noble Lord, Lord Bauer, said—and I agree with him—there is no use our holding up our hands in horror and saying that it is all because of increased population. There is always an argument about that. Every baby that is born is born with a pair of hands, as well. They might become useful hands if we could make them practical and increase their own standards.
The noble Baroness, in her worthwhile contribution (and I am in no way critical) had to resort to figures to make sure that we understood that our Government are doing their best in making their contribution—and no doubt they are. But I must say that I am sorry that the Ministry of Overseas Development has been done away with. That Ministry had a tough job but it was slowly and surely being freed of the shackles of other departments of state. With the Home Office and the Foreign Office it was on its own, shouting. I believe it would have been an example to other such organisations as the United Nations and some others in the EEC.
And, talking about the EEC, there is the need for planning there. Here we are talking about starvation and hunger in the third world: that is, the places with nowhere to live or to sleep properly, places with no medication. Perhaps they would be almost glad if a hydrogen war were to wipe them out. While debating that, we shall be probably debating again in a few weeks' time the lakes of wine, the mountains of butter, and so on, in the Common Market. All the warehouses that I have seen built there are full of food which we cannot give away—and we do not know how to do so.
I really find it difficult to believe that with this massive know-how we cannot really do this. The reason we cannot do it is because we do not sit down to plan it. When I listen to people like the noble Lord, Lord Energlyn, and the noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, with their massive experience in both their great disciplines, I think I am on fairly good ground in saying they would be the last people to decry sensible, intelligent planning, whether in science or in a desire to help other people.
It also seems to me that we have to make certain that we understand the difference between what somebody called urban squalor and poverty, whether it be in Africa or in India, and that in the rural parts of Africa. It seems from the statistics I have been reading that you can link the two things together, so that where you have poverty-stricken peasantry, even, the real people who are starving are those who are totally landless. This is information that I have had given to me by experts who have travelled to these places, made investigations and written books about them. Therefore, it would be very arrogant to disregard the people who make that sort of claim.
The problem that we have to face is: what has it got to do with us? If they are landless, as some are, in what way can we help when we have no political say whatsoever in such countries? This, I think, was a factor mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Bauer. This is indeed a very grievous problem, but we must not 861 surrender. I believe that we have to continue; and one of the things I should like the noble Baroness, Lady Young, to take on board is this. It is something we tried in the late 1960s, and it began to work. We in this country have a vast amount of experience. If we in this country, with our great British Empire, have been the only nation which has been able to transform an empire into a commonwealth of nations, I believe that, with the kind of rough justice and sound commonsense that we possess, we should be able to find ways, as we have done here and there, of alleviating the starvation that afflicts mankind, and, in so doing, make use of our technology and education.
I link these together because, as I understand it, it is not impossible for technology by itself, when applied to what is described as the third world, to exacerbate the situation and to produce more people having more hunger, and that therefore there needs to be very intricate planning as to how it is applied. We do a bit of it in this country now. We have a couple of machines which throw two or three thousand people out of work, or we have a particular policy which throws a few millions of people out of work. They are not starving, but they are angry and hurt. But when this happens in other parts of the world it can really result in starvation, and I do not think we can just shrug it off by saying that it has nothing to do with us. We have to make a contribution in the world's forums. I sometimes despair of the United Nations until I remember some of the endeavours made in various parts of the world by its various organisations. They have been mentioned during this debate. Then one wonders why we cannot do more.
It is not just a case of getting young men and women in agronomy, in agriculture and in medicine in various parts of the world, because no matter how much money we give them they have to be doing two things. First and foremost they have to alleviate, and then, after that, they have to teach. That is what Julius Nyerere fought so hard to do in Tanzania when he resisted all the aid from the Chinese and the Soviet Union. He thought he could go it alone, and he tried. He did not get much aid from the West. He might have got a bit more from the Soviets or the Chinese, but he did not ask because he happens to be a Roman Catholic and that country is a strong Christian country.
That is another thing I should like the noble Baroness to take on board: that there are people who might turn to a form of society that we would find detestable. That is a very real threat; but it is necessary that we should go that way. We must see to it and get our colleagues in the free world to give help and aid, and not do stupid things as we did three or four decades ago. I can remember, and I saw—let me say this slowly—the success of the groundnut scheme. In its first few years it faltered. There were errors made: I was there, and saw them. People had never seen an internal combustion engine in their lives. Somebody once said, "It would be far better if you got a thousand oxen here instead of these machines". There was a little place where we trained people to become engine artificers, and in the Gambia there was a little miniature university that we built at the same time as the aid was given. A young boy went there at 12 years 862 old, and in the end he knew more about an internal combustion engine or a combine harvester than I did, in a brief period of 10 years. Such a person was making a very useful contribution.
We have to see that education and technology are channelled so that the standard of life is improved and more food is produced so that people can grope slowly forward to the position of being able to stand on their own two feet. That must be taken into consideration as well as the aid. Aid by itself is a wonderful thing, of course, and the contributions from the voluntary overseas organisations are magnificent; but aid by itself is about as useless—I am sorry to have to say it—as a flag day to maintain the Royal Navy or the Royal Air Force, or shaking a few tins on a Saturday afternoon to maintain the National Health Service. Those days have gone. You cannot do that any more. You need people collecting money in a sensible and civilised way, and that is so internationally, too.
I should like to see our country making a brand-new start on this, because it seems to me that when you are talking about science and technology and coupling them together to reduce world hunger, you have to add another dimension. That dimension is humanity. Humanity always has to be at the centre. It is not the science itself; it is not the technology itself; it is the good effects that can be brought about for suffering humanity. If the world were told it could really ban the bomb collectively by doing away with world hunger and concentrating upon the Motion moved today by the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, then I think that in an international way we could take full cognisance not only of the Motion but, indeed, of the speech of the noble Lord. We have also had many other well-informed speeches during debate today.
International action is going to require international understanding. That action and that understanding have to make full use of all our science and technology; but, at the same time, never must we lose sight of the humanity of it all. Neither must we do it for purely political purposes: that will not get us anywhere, either. It has to be something we feel within the depths of our souls, so that we understand what it really can mean.
I believe this country has made a remarkable contribution; and I hope that we will not simply leave this as a debate in your Lordships' House, so that by 10 o'clock tonight it will be all over and forgotten. If that happens we need not have bothered to come here today, need we? I hope that the Government will take on board some of the propositions that were voiced right the way through this debate, beginning with the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, so that they can be examined. We know full well that our country cannot do it all by itself, but it can set an example for others to follow and make a real contribution in erasing this appalling affliction that exists among so many of human kind today.
§ Lord Bauer
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, why he regards the British colonial record in Africa as so bad, when he considers that Ethiopia and Liberia are two countries which are in a worse condition but have never been colonies of Britain or of any other European country?
§ Lord Molloy
My Lords, Ethiopia has. But I cannot get comfort from saying "Look how terrible, starving, mutilated and suffering from ignorance and disease this country is, which is a percentage sight worse than it was when it was a former British colony". That would be an appalling attitude, barren of any understanding, and if we take that view we might as well get hold of the New Testament and rip out the parable of the Good Samaritan once and for all.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ Lord Walston
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, is a modest man, but tonight he has every reason to feel not only pleased but proud about the debate that he has stimulated, first by his very thoughtful and well-informed speech, and, secondly, by the successive speakers who have contributed to this debate. I share the gratitude of other noble Lords who have spoken, for the fact that he has given us this opportunity. Having listened to all the speeches, I find it hard—and I would not expect, in any case, to do so—to make any original contributions to the debate. But it may be helpful if I give your Lordships some of the thoughts which have come into my mind while listening to the speeches, and pick out those aspects of them which seem to me most important.
First, it is absolutely right when people say that the causes of hunger throughout the world are, first, poverty and, secondly—a very close second—ignorance. Poverty stems from very many causes and I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Bauer, would agree that it is not only found in those countries which have been in receipt of massive aid, or in those countries which have suffered under or enjoyed—depending on which way you look at it—socialist forms of government. Poverty is found in such countries as Ecuador, the Philippines and the homelands of South Africa, none of those having received any significant degree of aid, and none of those having languished under totalitarian, or, at least, socialist-communist governments. But poverty is to be found everywhere and especially in the third world.
I found the final remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, extremely important and they were supported by the noble Earl, Lord Perth, and the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. He spoke on the price received for the primary commodities which are, after all, the main source of wealth for most of the third world. I suggest to your Lordships that it is impossible significantly to reduce poverty in the third world without a drastic change in the terms of trade. Until the developed world pays more for the primary products of the third world, in relation to the price that it receives for its manufactured products, there will be no significant change in the poverty that exists in the third world. That is the first point that we must have very firmly in our minds. There must be higher and more stable commodity prices. This may be the place, but it is certainly not the time to go into the methods of achieving that. We have had debates on it and I hope we shall have more. I am fully aware of the weaknesses and the failures of many commodity arrangements, but it is to that problem that we must first direct our minds.
864 The second factor, which is in some ways more complex and in other ways easier to solve, is the problem of ignorance. I believe that ignorance in the third world, and particularly in the rural areas of the third world, among those who are responsible for creating the major wealth from the primary and agricultural products stems from what I would call the Dick Whittington syndrome. As your Lordships will remember, Dick Whittington left his village because he saw no future for himself there. He was a young man of ambition and he trekked to London in order to find his fortune. You know the story of how he remained, after a certain setback, and later became Lord Mayor of London.
The people of the third world are to a very large extent imbued with the Whittington syndrome. Certainly, the most ambitious and the most intelligent of them are, and those of your Lordships who have had experience of the third world and its rural areas will know full well that, when there is a particularly bright child in a rural school anywhere in the third world, the school teacher will say, "Work a little harder and you will be able to get into the city. You will be able to get a job there with a white shirt. You can sit in an air-conditioned office. You may become a lawyer, you may become a bank clerk or, if you are very clever, you may even work for Barclays Bank". That is the ambition of the best and brightest people in the rural areas of the third world.
In other words, there is, as there was in this country until relatively recently, a creaming-off of all those with the greatest ambition and the greatest intelligence and potential from the rural areas into the urban areas, with the result that it is the least intelligent—the skimmed milk and not the cream—who are left behind. If you are going to have a prosperous, modern and efficient agriculture it cannot be left to such people. It must have the leaders of society, the most intelligent, and they must be persuaded to remain in the rural areas.
Why do they not do so? It is not only because of the fact that in the cities they will earn, or think they will earn, more money—though sometimes they are mistaken. It is also because of the amenities that they get in the city, because they will have electricity instead of an oil lamp, they will have television, they will have running water from a tap, so they will not have to walk a mile down to the stream with a bucket on their head when they come back from working in the fields, in order to carry water back to their families.
Those are some of the reasons, but not the only ones. It is because they find that there are better schools and because the best teachers stay in the city. They do not bury themselves in the bush, in the jungle or in the outback. So if the parents have ambition for their children, as all good parents do, they will say, "They must be brought up, not like I was in the village school, but in the city where they have good teachers". They will get better medical services there, because, again, the best doctors and the best hospitals are to be found in the city and not in the rural areas. Also—and this is something which should not be forgotten but often is—people find more intellectual stimulus in a city because there are others around them there who have similar ideas which stimulate them. They will have a mutual interchange of view, which is difficult to 865 find in small rural communities in the third world. Those are all problems which have to be overcome if we are to have the right sort of people staying in the rural areas.
All these things can be done only with very considerable investment in services, rural electrification, good water supplies and a good transport system so that people can move about and do not feel isolated—and, above all, with very considerable investment in good clinics, doctors, schools and teachers. Those are investments which yield no return in the commercial sense of the word but they yield a very high return in human terms, though it takes a long time for it to come. But it is no good saying, "We will lend money from the World Bank", even if the money is lent at concessionary rates which will have to be paid back in five or 20 years' time. That cannot be done. This must be straightforward aid—a gift, properly administered, with no thought of the money coming back. Those are the things which must be done so far as the infrastructure is concerned.
Coupled with that, if more food is to be grown there will have to be not only the adoption of better techniques—which will need increasingly better educated people to make use of those techniques—there will have to be more land brought into cultivation, more drainage schemes, more bush clearing. All this costs money. If one is to get an economic return on that money, inevitably the food which is produced will have to cost more, because of the high standing charges. This presents one with something of a paradox or dilemma. We have already agreed that the cause of hunger is poverty. If we have a policy which puts up the cost of food we shall increase malnutrition and hunger. Therefore I come back to my original statement: there must be a reversal in the terms of trade so that the third world countries become relatively richer—richer relative to the developed world. Then even those who are working in factories and in city offices will have higher wages and will be able to afford to pay more for their food.
There is of course ample good land available in the world. There is no problem about that. There is no reason technically why there should be any food shortage. The land is there. The techniques are there. All that can be done, provided one realises what is needed in order to do it and provided that the funds are made available. That is the broad brush picture. But much can be done on a very much smaller canvas and I should like to touch briefly on two aspects. Both have been mentioned, one of them in passing by the noble Baroness. It concerns the activities of the Commonwealth Development Corporation with which I am proud to say I was, until recently, closely associated for many years.
As the noble Baroness told us, the Commonwealth Development Corporation has done a very great deal in many of the third countries of the world to promote agricultural production. It has done so in a variety of ways. It has learned a great deal about it. One of the most important things it has done, which was just touched upon by the noble Baroness, was to formulate the concept of the nucleus estate. This kind of estate is designed to grow a commodity for export—oil palms, tobacco, rubber, maybe sugar (though not so much for 866 export as for indigenous consumption)—and is not designed in most cases to grow food for internal consumption, for various technical reasons.
Coupled with the estate are the smallholdings of the workers and their families on the estate so that they can grow food for themselves on these smallholdings—also food which can then collectively be carried into local markets or into the nearest town, thus adding to the total food available for the non-rural population. Not only is the land made available for these people, so also is expertise—technical advice, machinery, fertilisers, sprays, which are properly and not dangerously used. The noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, rightly pointed out the dangers of the improper use of sprays. All this is under the aegis of the Commonwealth Development Corporation and makes a very great contribution both to the total wealth of the country concerned and also to the nutrition of the people of the whole district or region.
However, it is no good simply putting down a project of this kind in the middle of a remote, poverty-stricken area. I come back to my earlier remarks about the need for infrastructure in order to make this work. May I give an example. Six months ago I was in one of the islands of the group known now as Vanuatu in the South Pacific. This is a very big project of the Commonwealth Development Corporation which I hope is now being developed; but in order for it to develop a small and simple harbour is needed to ship out the produce and bring in the raw materials required. A few miles of road are also needed. They have to be constructed by means of aid. I hope that the money is now forthcoming and has already been given by ODA in order to make this possible. Without that money the whole scheme would fall to the ground. There had therefore to be a marriage of these two things.
That is simply one of the activities of the Commonwealth Development Corporation. It is a very significant contribution and is an example to many other people of what can be done.
In addition—I shall not dwell on this for any length of time because other noble Lords have mentioned it—the work done by the Tropical Products Institute and the Centre for Overseas Pest Research is enormously important. An area of research which has not been mentioned is that of research into bilharzia which causes malnutrition among some 85 million people. I am not sure of the figure but an enormous number of people suffer from bilharzia. But that research, which is now well advanced, is being impeded by lack of funds, as are many other small pieces of research of great value, which would cost only a few tens of thousands of pounds.
That brings me to my final point. I hope that the noble Baroness will not think that I am ending on a sour note, but the Government cannot say with sincerity that they deplore world hunger, malnutrition and starvation and then cut such modest contributions as we are making towards solving the problem. I should of course like the Government to announce tonight—although I know they cannot do so—that the recommendations of the Brandt Report will be implemented and that all the major countries of the world will cut their defence expenditure by 1 per cent., 867 which in our case would mean £140 million. That of course the noble Baroness cannot do; but I hope that she will try to persuade her colleagues in the Government that an offer of that kind, made in all sincerity while the Geneva talks are taking place and thrown out as a challenge not only to the United States but to the Soviet Union, could, putting at its lowest, have a very good public relations effect, and it might conceivably stimulate those two countries into making some gesture of that kind. It would be a fine thing if this country made such a gesture.
Apart from that—and this is a rather more mundane suggestion—I hope that the noble Baroness will come completely clean in her reply about these matters. I have to say to her that the record of this Government is not a very happy one or one to be proud of in the matter of aid. I hope that the noble Baroness will say, "This is a world shame. Rich countries such as our own, suffering from a whole series of diseases of excessive eating, must help—and we shall give more." Or she may say (but I hope that she will not), "It is too bad. What a pity. But after all we cannot jeopardise our already high standard of living by giving away a few more millions of pounds. It is true that without our aid some more children will die and that there will be more malnutrition. But our responsibility is towards maintaining our own standard of living." The noble Baroness must say one or other of those two things, and I hope that it will be the former.
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ Lord Pitt of Hampstead
My Lords, we have heard a very interesting debate and I join with other noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, for giving us this opportunity. I must also congratulate the noble Lord on the way in which he introduced this debate. I agree with him that the subject we are discussing tonight is of the utmost importance. In fact, I would put it on the same level as that which my noble friend Lord Brockway put it.
At any time, famine which will merit news headlines lies just below the surface of most third world countries. A little drought or flood, pest infestation, civil unrest or war and a marginally fed community tumbles into famine. Unfortunately, about 500 million people—and the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, put it as high as 1,000 million—live under such a condition. While those people live in such an impoverished state, farmers in certain other countries are being paid not to grow food. The people who live in those marginal conditions are in the third world; the farmers who are being paid not to grow food are in the north, or the area often referred to as the first world.
It is ironic that it is the third world that lives at this starvation level, because agriculture began in what is now called the third world. The ancestral homes of the world's most important crops are in third world countries—rice, wheat, maize, potato, cassava, sweet potato, yam, sugar cane, soya bean, pulses, numerous vegetables, most fruit trees, cotton and other fibres, many forage grasses and legumes, and numerous forest trees including most hardwood species. This is not surprising, because agriculture revolves around the harvest of solar energy—and abundant, year-round sunshine is the third world's greatest asset.
868 We should therefore ask the question: why should an abundance of natural resources co-exist with low farm productivity and constant hunger? Can we not take steps to convert the natural blessings of the third world—its basic life-support systems of land, water, sunshine, flora and fauna—into the wealth that is vital to its people? Why are many developing countries still giving low priority to agriculture?
Julius Nyerere once said that the people of Africa must recognise that, so far as Africa is concerned, development and rural developments are in reality synonymous. He was right. This holds good not only for Africa. The first essential in any success in the struggle against poverty and world hunger must be realisation and acceptance of that fact by many of the countries of the third world. Third world countries should lose no further time in developing a strong, national food security system which will protect basic life-support systems such as land, water, flora, fauna and the atmosphere. They should provide social security to provide the needed purchasing power to the rural and urban poor through greater opportunities for gainful employment. They need to take greater care in the use of non-controlled insecticides which cause crop and health injuries—and I was very glad that the noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, raised that last point.
Third world countries should also provide water security—for both drinking and irrigation. They should provide nutrition, education, population stabilisation and efficient health services. They should endeavour to increase the land under cultivation without undue deforestation and increase the productivity of land and labour of existing farms.
They should concentrate, too, on gradual improvements in small scale, "traditional" agricultural rather than rapid transformation to modern agriculture; and they should reorientate services in favour of smaller farmers. Farmers live in a world of action, so personal experience is the only meaningful source of conviction. Farmers must be shown how the blending of individual ownership and group action can better serve the interests of the individual and the community. Farmers are accustomed to co-operating; they help each other sow and they help each other reap. It is not too difficult to make them realise the need to co-operate in other spheres.
Agricultural research is also of the utmost importance and should be supported and encouraged with determination and vigour. Agricultural research organisations should help by demonstrating how enlightened self-interest demands that farmers who live in a watershed or in a village participate in the management of farm operations that elevate and stabilise yield per unit of cash input.
While much can be done to alleviate poverty in rural areas by improving conditions in agriculture, it would be wrong to think that rural poverty can be alleviated by the agricultural sector alone. Every possible incentive must be given to non-agricultural income and employment creation. Moreover, it is inconceivable that the countries which at present experience the type of poverty we are discussing can conquer it on their own. They need the help of the international community, and the international community owes them that help.
869 Moreover, most developing countries, but especially the poorest, now face severe economic difficulties resulting largely from harsh external circumstances beyond their control. While the prices of their manufactured imports have increased in line with inflation in the industrialised countries, the prices of their commodity exports have slumped to their lowest level in real terms for 50 years. As a group, developing countries are now estimated to have lost between 1980 and 1982 some 200 billion dollars in purchasing power. Let me draw attention to the fact that that is in only two years.
Moreover, it is now accepted wisdom—and I was expecting it to be challenged, but it has not been challenged this evening so far as I can gather—that there can be no sustained prosperity for the rich if there is no prospect of improvement in the condition of the poor. Were the rich to withdraw all measures of concessional development assistance, the poorest developing countries would have their quota of human suffering increased beyond its already intolerable levels. But the industrial countries would also suffer. The recommendations of the two Brandt Committee Reports are therefore relevant to our discussion today, and it is a pity that more action is not being taken along the lines suggested in those reports. The international agencies should be encouraged to play their full part in this struggle, and individual industrial countries should he called upon to fulfil their pledges on official aid. Only the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands have reached the target of 0.7 per cent. of gross national product as official aid. In fact they have exceeded it. But the richest country, the United States of America, has been among the ones furthest away from the target; and I am afraid this country is only half way there.
The World Bank, and in particular its Industrial Development Association window, has been devoting much of its resources to agricultural development, and it should be encouraged and supported in doing this. It is therefore very much to be deplored that the United States of America is refusing to make its contribution to the Industrial Development Association. I am glad that at least in this respect Her Majesty's Government have not followed their bad example. I know at least Her Majesty's Government are making their full contribution to IDA. Further, the EEC, and in particular its Development Commissioner, seems aware of the problem and I hope he will receive the proper support that he deserves. I like the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, about a package for each country, and I hope that that will be explored.
Now may I say a word about food aid. Food aid there must be; there will always be emergency situations, and there is also the need to help nations to meet their food needs while they develop their agriculture to its full potential. But food aid must supplement and not replace internal agricultural production. This is a question of fine balance; but that balance must be struck if food aid is to be beneficial and not detrimental to the fight against world poverty and hunger. I am glad that noble Lords have commended the work of the CDC; there is no need for me to say anything further than that I agree with what has been said. I am glad also that mention has been made of the good work of the non-governmental agencies. I 870 support those who have already asked that Government support to these non-governmental agencies should be increased. I think it is one of the ways in which one can get the food and the health services and the other welfare services into the remote areas. Therefore I hope there will be schemes for increasing the support that Government now give to these agencies.
Finally, I want to say a word about development education, because it is a pity that the Government continue to turn their back on this important contribution to this field. If we are to be successful in bridging the gap between the haves and the have-nots we must convince the man in the street of the importance of so doing. Therefore there must be an educational programme aimed at convincing him, because until that is done and done successfully we will not be able to do the job. I really do hope that the Government will re-think their attitude in this particular matter.
History shows us that man causes civilisations to blossom but he also causes them to decay. Some historic centres of agriculture are useless deserts today. The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, spoke about the Sahara. In contrast, some areas that were considered hopeless wastelands in the early part of this century are now fertile farming areas. A proper combination of political will, professionalism and people's action is essential to harness the power that science gives us for increasing human happiness and wealth. Franklin Roosevelt mentioned freedom from want among the four freedoms. In 1946 Lord Boyd-Orr resigned as Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation when a decision on his plan for "food security" was postponed. The words he used were:The people want bread and we are to give them paper.In 1960 President Kennedy promised that world hunger would be abolished within a decade. A decade later Dr. Kissinger made almost the same pledge. Yet the situation is worse than it was. We can solve this problem if we have the will. Let us go to it.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, I am sure that we have all listened with the greatest interest to the well-informed and comprehensive contributions made to this most interesting debate. I, too, add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, for introducing it and my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Pitt of Hampstead, who is speaking, I believe, for the first time from the Dispatch Box. We all listened with great interest to what he had to say.
I know from my contacts outside this House, particularly the many people that I met during the general election campaign, that this is a subject which attracts the attention that it deserves in this country. In the course of the debate we have heard a large number of constructive suggestions for dealing with the problem, starting with those of the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, himself. He proposed teams with a package of help for each country. He suggested better ways of making use of experts from scientific institutions and universities.
We heard from the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, about new methods of storage of staple food grains. 871 We had many examples of expertise from the noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster—one was in the control of pests—and many examples of help from voluntary organisations.
There was, I believe, general agreement that food aid was not the answer to many of the problems, except in emergencies—a point which I think the noble Lord. Lord Pitt, would accept—and agreement, too, that aid needed to go to the individual farmer, to the village, to the particular project, and that we have learned from mistakes in the past. I was very glad that there was praise from many of your Lordships for the Overseas Development Administration. I shall read with very great interest in Hansardtomorrow the speeches of my noble friends Lord Quinton and Lord Bauer. I shall return later to answer some of the specific points they raised. However, both noble Lords have made us think fundamentally about our ideas on aid, and fundamental thinking must be one of the purposes of such debates as we have had today.
I have been asked a number of questions, beginning with the content of the aid programme. I believe it was the noble Earl, Lord Longford, who described himself and the noble Lord. Lord Oram, as two angry old men. I do not know that that is entirely fair, and I am not sure that I can allay their anger or, indeed, that of the noble Lord, Lord Walston. But may I confirm that on the level of the aid programme, following the recent announcement of a reduction in public expenditure, I can do no better than quote the words of my right honourable friend the Minister for Overseas Development in another place. On 11th July he stated that,there will be an 8 per cent. increase in cash terms over last year's budget, and that will be ahead of the rate of inflation".—[Official Report,Commons, 1117/83; col. 607.]I can also confirm that no existing commitments are affected by reductions in this year's programmes.
I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Oram, referred to the responsibilities of developing countries themselves. This is sometimes forgotten by those most enthusiastic about aid when they urge the British Government to dictate development priorities in other countries. Britain's aid programme is one of genuine international co-operation. We must recognise that we support only a small part of the total development effort so that the aid we give to one sector may be matched by aid to other sectors and from other donors. This, of course, accounts for some of the apparent quirks in any aid programme.
Perhaps I may answer the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, by saying that we have our own ideas about where our aid should go, but the fact is that we have to work with Governments who also have their own ideas. May I also assure the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, who asked about the Cameroons, that he is quite right in saying that the Cameroons have not received any food aid from Britain or the Community for at least the last five years.
A number of noble Lords raised the old subject of population, hunger and family planning. This was raised, first, by the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, by the noble Lord, Lord Oram, by the noble Earl, Lord 872 Longford, and by my noble friend Lord Quinton. All referred to the necessity for curbing population growth.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, may I interrupt to say that I hope I am not associated with that remark on family planning.
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, I do not in any way wish to associate the noble Earl, Lord Longford, with something with which he does not wish to be associated. My point is that the noble Lord referred to the general problem, but I shall read Hansardand if I am mistaken I am very sorry and I apologise.
Noble Lords referred to the necessity for curbing population growth as well as for increasing agricultural production. As noble Lords will know, this is not a simple problem for official development assistance programmes. However, we always try to take account of the effects of population growth on our projects and will continue to support the work of international organisations working in this field such as the United Nations Family Planning Association and the International Planned Parenthood Federation.
My noble friend Lord Bauer said that the population increase was the result of a decrease in mortality rates. This statement is obviously correct. but what is really required is fewer babies, not more deaths, if I may put it in those terms.
The noble Lord, Lord Oram, referred to intermediate technology and spoke of voluntary efforts to raise money for it. The Intermediate Technology Development Group is not entirely ignored by official agencies. In fact, the ODA's appropriate technology fund channelled about £750,000 through the ITGD in the last financial year as well as financing other intermediate technology projects from other sources in the aid programme. Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord that we would not think it right for Government support to replace all voluntary funds. nor would we wish to remove the incentive for such exploits as mountain walking in the Himalayas for fund raising purposes.
The noble Earl, Lord Perth, and the noble Lords, Lord Brockway and Lord Soper, all referred to trade and the world economy. However, in spite of the reservations of the noble Earl, Lord Perth, the elements of a strategy to deal with indebtedness in developing countries were formed and solutions were identified at Williamsburg which we believe are the only sound solutions. They are, first, world-wide economic recovery: second, effective adjustment in development policies in the countries themselves; third, adequate private and official finance; and, fourth, the expansion of an open trading system. But we are not complacent and noble Lords will know that members of the IMF have recently taken steps to increase the resources available to the IMF.
I was not entirely sure whether the hunger mentioned in the Motion tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, was quite the same as the hunger mentioned by my noble friend, Lord Mottistone, but I confirm to him that we support an open trading system which we believe is in the best interests of the world economy.
873 I know that my professional advisers will be fascinated by the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Energlyn, on the use of coal to increase the growth rates of crops. The noble Lord, and the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, have underlined the existence of scientific resources in Britain that are able to meet the most pressing needs of the developing countries. I was interested to hear the proposals of the noble Lord, Lord Stamp, for the training of extension workers. We are, of course, always prepared to consider requests from developing countries for assistance in this respect.
The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, questioned our support for the United Nations' Development Programme. We have not been able to increase our level of support for the UNDP because of other competing claims on our aid programme. We are seeking in the longer term to direct more aid to bilateral activities because we have found, in general, that these are easier to design and control than the multilateral activities and that they are, in fact, more cost effective. The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, showed his own concern about mutilateral activities when he referred to the European Community. Of course the common agricultural policy is imperfect within the Community, but it is our responsibility to make it better.
A number of your Lordships referred to the scientific units—the noble Earl, Lord Longford, and the noble Lords, Lord Beaumont of Whitley and Lord Hatch of Lusby. The Government recognise the importance of these units and greatly value the work they do. We have noted the concern of a number of your Lordships who raised these points. Indeed, on the whole question of the scientific units of the Overseas Development Administration, I said in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Oram, on 4th July, in answer to a Question in the House, that a response to the report from the Foreign Affairs Committee in another place would be made as soon as was practical and the remarks that he made would be taken into account. That indeed remains the position.
My noble friend Lord Auckland asked about our co-operation with other Commonwealth countries. In my opening remarks I said that we would consult with other international institutions and other donors over our aid programme. I included in that Australia, Canada and New Zealand. We also share with these and other Commonwealth countries in supporting the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation, to which the British contribution is nearly £5 million a year.
A great many of your Lordships referred to voluntary agencies. I share the view expressed of their importance. I spoke of them in my opening remarks. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, asked specifically about the level of our support for voluntary agencies. I hope he will understand that I shall have to write to him with the details for these agencies. He mentioned Oxfam and CAFOD specifically.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, I was really asking for a general comment on the possibilities of expanding the aids through voluntary agencies. The noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, with much more expert knowledge than I have explained how 874 contemptible our record was compared with that of other countries.
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, at this late hour this is not a point on which I have the information. I think it would be wiser if I were to look at what the noble Earl said, and indeed the noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, and write to the noble Earl on the point of Government funding to voluntary agencies. I can assure them and other noble Lords that we shall continue to seek ways in which we can best support the efforts of voluntary agencies without destroying their essentially independent voluntary status, which is of course a very large part of their value.
I think that I showed earlier that we are doing much under the aid programme to help increase food production in the third world. We very much recognise the need for the third world to develop its agricultural sector. We shall be looking to increase the proportion of our aid going in this direction, particularly in areas where we can contribute from our own special experience and capacity. We have had very many examples of where this now happens. This is something which we must continue and increase. However, our resources are not unlimited and we must make sure that the funds available are directed to sensible and effective ends.
Many of your Lordships have referred to the need to draw attention to this important subject. It is, I think, debates in your Lordships' House on an occasion like this which enable us to cover a great many points, to hear the point of view of a great many of your Lordships and to have a number of valuable and constructive suggestions. We are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, for raising this issue today.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Lord Seebohm
My Lords, it would be quite improper for me to make another speech now, so I shall not do so. My only plea is that I think it is time that the talking stopped and more action started. I must say how immensely grateful I am to everybody who has supported my Motion. My little match seems to have lit quite a fire. I think it has been a splendid debate. I am most grateful to everybody. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.