HL Deb 27 March 1985 vol 461 cc1081-115

6.22 p.m.

Lord Hatch of Lusby rose to call attention to the current tragedies of starvation in the third world and the danger of their repetition in the future; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. This is, indeed, an auspicious occasion for me. It has been my lifetime's ambition to open the batting for England and I am delighted that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool is taking the non-striker's end and allowing me to take first ball. I am also delighted to welcome the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, to which we are very much looking forward. I know that the noble Lord is on his way from Southern Africa to Washington where he is working for the World Bank, and it could not be a more apt stop-over than to take part in this debate.

Last Monday in a leading article,The Times began with these words: When the House of Lords on Wednesday debates Third World starvation will it be able to avoid concentrating entirely on the symptoms rather than the causes of the crisis which now afflicts Africa? I hope that we shall be able to concentrate on the causes, and I intend to give a lead in that direction. However, before doing so it would be quite wrong for this House to blind itself, to close its eyes, to the present situation.

Very briefly, I want to outline to your Lordships the situation as I see it at the moment, although it has to be very much attenuated. In the last decade starvation in the world has doubled. There are now 500 million undernourished people. In Africa alone 20 million are at urgent risk; 7.5 million are at immediate risk. If one adds Latin America—the north east of Brazil, Mexico, Ecuador, San Salvador and Honduras—and if one adds in Asia the people of Bangladesh as only one example, one is bound to see a horrifying picture. While we are debating this Motion literally thousands of people throughout the world are burying their dead.

Yet is it not an obscene scandal that these tragedies are taking place at a time when Europe has the largest food mountains in history, when we are able to see what is happening in the world because of the modern technology of satellites, when we have planes and helicopters, when we could very easily organise field hospitals, good kitchens, instant communications, and when technology is at a height that it has never reached before in the history of mankind?

There is only one obstacle to the application of that technology to the tragedy which besets millions of people today—that is a lack of political will. Whether it is in Britain, in the United States, in the Soviet Union, in East and West Europe or in Japan, that political will is missing. However, it is not very long since that political will was shown, and shown by this country, in the sending of the task force to the Falklands. Today we are spending £215 million on a new airport in the Falklands and £3 million a day on the 1,800 inhabitants of the Falklands. Last year we spent £26 million on the Ethiopian drought tragedy. That was the Government figure, a figure which was surpassed by the individual citizens of this country, who contributed £30 million to those relief funds. We are told—and we have been told only during the last few days—that Her Majesty's Government have decided to reduce famine relief to the African continent from £90 million last year to £60 million this year. We are told that, in response to the urgent appeal for a special African fund with a requirement of well over 1 billion dollars after it has been scaled down from 6 billion dollars, this Government are willing to contribute only £15 million a year over the next five years.

It is not good enough to say that we are in a depression and that we cannot afford it; others can. Even Italy is contributing a great deal more than this country. Nor is it good enough for the Government to say that the electorate of this country is not willing for the Government to spend taxpayers' money in this way. I have already given your Lordships the figure of £30 million that individual citizens have contributed to famine relief, but recently in a commissioned public opinion poll conducted by Neilson 76 per cent. of those polled said that they wanted the Government to spend more money or as much money on famine relief and overseas aid as they are doing today, and only 18 per cent. said that we should be spending less.

Nor can we in the West escape from some direct responsibility for these famine conditions. We still use the groundnuts that could be eaten in Senegal, in Chad and in Mali to feed our cattle in order to eat meat. It is an appalling fact that more fertilisers are used on golf courses in the United States than are used in the whole of the Indian subcontinent. Then we have our absurd common agricultural policy in Europe, building up these mountains of food.

Meanwhile, wealth is being transferred from the third world to the first world, to the developed world. Just last week that very remarkable man, President Nyerere, who has been so calumnied by our press and media, pointed out that in his country of Tanzania between 1980 and 1984 import prices of necessary goods had risen by 15.2 per cent. whereas the value of Tanzanian exports has risen by only 3.3 per cent.—a transfer of wealth from that country to the West.

I am not suggesting for a moment that it is simply the West or, indeed, the industrialised countries which are solely responsible for the conditions of famine in Africa and other parts of the world. Those who have read that seminal book of Professor Dumont, published 24 years ago, those who have read it in the English translation, will see that it was prefaced by the late and much lamented Lord Balogh, and that there was a chapter within it that was written by me.

I was privileged to work with Professor Dumont, with the late Lord Balogh and with the noble Lord, Lord Kaldor, from the 1950s onwards, and my desk is full of reports made to presidents and prime ministers begging them to concentrate on the development of agriculture rather than on prestige objects. Dumont will always be remembered as the man who tried to persuade Africans to use bullocks and hoes instead of tractors.

But, my Lords, that is the past and the present. Let us look to the future. Before I make specific proposals to the noble Baroness who is to reply, may I point out that we have been shown this year what can be done. The country of Zimbabwe this year has a record harvest of 3 million tonnes. It is going to export grain. Why?—because its peasants have increased their productivity substantially; and, despite what has been said at various times in this House, Zimbabwe is now not only self-sufficient in grain but is also going to be able to export grain to its neighbours during the coming year.

I want to concentrate the rest of what I have to say on constructive proposals as to how these terrible conditions of famine can be avoided in the future. I want to concentrate, with that as a particular example, on the International Fund for Agricultural Development which, as your Lordships know, is a United Nations organisation. Again, despite what has been said, particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Bauer, the International Fund for Agricultural Development is universally accepted as cost effective and efficient. Its administrative costs are only 5 per cent. It goes to the roots of the problems of African agriculture and agriculture in other parts of the third world. It provides seeds, it provides wells, it provides credit, it provides extension services. It provides appropriate technology, marketing services and storage; and it provides draught power. But it provides them in conjunction with the people of the localities in which it is working. Not least, it pays special attention to the important role played by women in agricultural development. And in Africa more than half of its projects are projects directly related to the women's part in agricultural development.

As I elicited from the Government only last week, whereas when that fund was started and my great friend Judith Hart was Minister for Overseas Development in another place, her Government contributed £,18 million to the beginning of that organisation, the present Government's contribution is under 13 million. Surely, this is an organisation which is directly designed to do, and has proved itself capable of doing, the kind of work which will prevent in the future these famine conditions that we all so regret. We are told that the funds to be provided for the International Fund for Agricultural Development this year are round about half of what they were in its past period. And they are being provided a year late!

Let me say one word of warning here. I am not suggesting that the third world countries should become rural backwaters, but we must start with agriculture and it must be from the surplus created by agricultural development that industry develops—which also means that we, ourselves, in the developed world have to make sure that we admit the goods of their early, infant industries if they are going to build up a healthy economic future.

I want to make a number of specific suggestions to the noble Baroness. There is a need for structural alterations, for structural change—first, internationally; and, unfortunately, we have seen both the United States Government and the United Kingdom Government over the last few years turning increasingly against international organisations. It is necessary to reform the IMF which at the moment, in the great debt crisis, is causing third world countries to reduce their indigenous development, to concentrate on exports simply in order to pay interest. So there is again a transfer of capital from the third world to the developed world today.

It is also necessary to restructure our domestic institution so far as overseas aid and trade are concerned. I should like to see the Overseas Development Administration taken (as we took it) out of the Foreign Office and set up as a separate ministry with its Minister in the Cabinet, and with its members representing the British Government in international forums, whether at the World Bank, the IMF or elsewhere. I should like to see that ministry reestablish the Development Education Committee which at the time it was destroyed by this Government was on the point of doing such valuable work in persuading the people of this country of the necessity of overseas aid and trade.

I should like to see the Department of Trade and Industry take over the aid and trade provision from the ODA and deal with it as a part of the trading interest of this country. And I should like to see the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food taking over the agricultural side of the trade and aid provision from this country, with a co-ordination and a co-operation within the Government in order that there shall be a focus and a leadership for a policy of overseas aid and trade in this country. I believe that this could affect many of today's British inventors who are working in this field and who can be encouraged to work in it. Here I would mention, as I have before, the soil conditioners whom I know of in Devon, under the title of Landspeed, who can give much to our contribution to development in the third world, if the Government will give them some encouragement.

Finally, the much beloved and much missed Barbara Ward once spoke of the fragility of "Spaceship Earth". I would repeat that phrase. I believe that here is an opportunity for Britain to take a leading role, a new role, in the world; in a world which, between now and the end of the century, is going to be moulded. Moulded how? Are we looking for the kind of world community to bequeath to our children and grandchildren for the rest of this century and into the 21st century which will be free from the tragedies that we have seen on our television screens over the last few weeks, which will give the people of the world the opportunity of sharing out and developing the resources of the world, and which will give them a chance of achieving peace and harmony between the communities of the world? My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

6.40 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Liverpool

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, for reminding us, at a time when the media has compelled our attention to overwhelming tragedies, of the danger of their repetition. We knew that these tragedies were coming, but we did so little to prevent them. Four years ago the World Bank's Berg Report focused on sub-Saharan Africa, with its population growing more rapidly than any other region in the world and with, at the same time, food consumption declining throughout the 1970s. Sub-Saharan Africa has been experiencing what so many parts of the world have known: migration to the cities because of impoverishment and lack of investment in the countryside. In sub-Saharan Africa 20 years ago there were five cities, each of over one million inhabitants. Now there are more than 20 such cities. Villages lose their more active and versatile labour force, while the overcrowded cities become human time-bombs. Governments subsidise food supplies to prevent political unrest in overcrowded cities, and that adds to the process by which food growers do not receive sufficient price incentive to grow more food.

It is hard to imagine people wanting to move into the shanty towns of cities. Just under two years ago I went visiting with the Churches in Lima, Peru, in the Pueblos Jovenes. Lima's population was one million 25 years ago; today it is more than seven million. I asked some elderly women in a shanty town where they had come from. They had come from the slums of inner-city Lima, but years before that they had come down from the villages in the mountains. "Which is better", I asked, "in the mountains or here in the shanty town?" There was no hesitation about the answer, "Here is better"—because of what they knew of starvation in the villages.

As I read about third world famine, an unwelcome phrase has kept coming to mind—an act of God. Five years of drought, the never-ending queues in the relief camps—it all seems beyond human control. But disaster is not inevitable. If we start talking about acts of God, we need to ask rather more about how God has made the world. He has put the responsibility into our hands. He teaches us that we are members one of another in His world. Bishops have been rebuked recently for not knowing about the real world, and for being cuckoos, indeed. I have been told this afternoon of a church youth group which has ordered some purple badges with "We love cuckoos" printed on them. In the context of that criticism of bishops, the real world appears to me to be the world of money markets. But what I saw in Lima, and what I see in Liverpool every day, is the real world, too. Part of our responsibility is to insist that we are members one of another, both those in Lima's shanty towns and those in the business city, where money calls to money.

The Churches have rightly given a major priority to charitable response to the hungry world. I am glad to say that Christian Aid this year has raised substantially more than ever before. The voluntary agencies have an important and continuing role to provide well-aimed, flexible help, to emphasise that help must be offered in partnership with local people towards their own development so that they can take control of their own destiny, and to treat those who are suffering as real persons, with a name and a human face, and not just as statistics in a queue.

The voluntary bodies have an important part to play, but the needs we are talking about stretch far beyond what they can meet. Governments can do more. The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, has rightly shown us some of the proportions of Government spending on overseas aid. If we are concerned about removing causes of conflict in the world our expenditure on aid should be critically compared with our expenditure on armaments. The EEC's plan of action to combat world hunger can do much to support national policies for developing the agricultural sector, for re-structuring economies away from dependence on cash crops. The report, Real Aid—A Strategy for Britain, recommends that Food Aid should support long-term food strategies, not undermine them by discouraging local food production"; and Food Aid should help relieve the high cost of imports, especially grain imports.

A former United States Secretary for Agriculture, Mr. Butz, said that increasing grain shortages could give Washington virtual life-and-death power over the fate of the multitudes of the needy. Again, as a Church leader I am conscious of God's purpose that we should be members one of another and of those different real worlds belonging to each other. How can we avoid raising those uncomfortable questions about economics and politics? The profitability of American food-processing companies continues to rise. An industrial chaplain told me that he paid a visit to General Foods of Banbury, Oxfordshire, where they process Maxwell House coffee. He was uncomfortably aware of Susan George's book, How the Other Half Dies. She alleges that General Foods singlehandedly prevented the United States from importing instant processed coffee from Brazil, despite the urgent need for producers of food and primary products to process their own commodities and thereby earn the maximum amount of profit from them. I am aware that those who make complex decisions in major companies also have a name and a human face, and they also matter. I think of a manager saying to another industrial chaplain, "I am conscious of the power I have and of the powers to which I am subject".

The problem is a political and social one, not merely a technical one. No doubt the answers are very complex, but starvation is not inevitable: it is not an act of God. He has given us the brains, if only we have the will to live as members one of another.

6.48 p.m.

Lord Grenfell

My Lords, I like to think that my late father would not have been disappointed had he known I would choose a debate on world starvation as the occasion for my maiden speech in your Lordships' House. Noble Lords who knew him will recall that he was, above all, a man of deep compassion. The distinctive and infectious laughter that we all remember so well manifested a very rich and abiding sense of humour, which never deserted him through fortunate times and through less fortunate times. But that laugh also manifested a profound joy that he derived from his love and concern for his fellow human beings, particularly those who were mentally handicapped, sick, elderly, and above all, for the children.

Many of your Lordships will recall, I believe, that over a period of some 30 post-war years he showed great devotion to the cause of the sick and the handicapped, right up to his last days, when finally the body could no longer do what the spirit demanded of him. His respect and affection for your Lordships' House was, I believe, second to none, and to no person; and it is a matter of very great pride in our family that that respect and affection were reciprocated by so many noble Lords on both sides of this House.

It is a combination of the appropriate reluctance of an international civil servant to engage in the legislative processes, and the fact that I work on the other side of the Atlantic, that has inhibited my participation in the business of your Lordships' House for so long. But on this occasion, passing through London on my way back from Southern Africa to return to my desk in Washington, I learned of this debate and felt compelled to participate. I am indeed most grateful to my noble friend Lord Hatch for his initiation of this very timely discussion.

I should like to focus in my very brief remarks—and my remarks are of an entirely personal nature—on the current situation in Africa and I want to make only two points. The first is that it is governments and not the weather that will decide whether there is to be a continuous chain of tragedies of the dimensions of the Ethiopian tragedy on the continent of Africa in the years to come. The second is that if the lessons that are learned are vigorously and imaginatively applied, there is no reason why the people of sub-Saharan Africa should be condemned for all time by the threat of starvation.

Twenty-five years ago, experts of wisdom and learning—and I suspect rather more of the latter than of the former—were confidently, if sadly, predicting that India would forever be dependent on food aid. Look, my Lords, at India today. The circumstances of India then and of Africa today cannot be wholly equated, but the point is that human ingenuity, herculean labour, political will, as was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Hatch, international co-operation—all of these combined to bring India to self-sufficiency in food, so who are we to say that the same cannot be achieved eventually in Africa?

Today's tragedy is set against a background of decades of economic decline in Africa. Today in Africa the average African is poorer than he was in 1970, and by 1995 will, if present trends continue, be poorer than at independence. Only in Africa has there been a generation of decline in per capita incomes, reflecting, first, the highest population growth rate in the world, which is accelerating and which must be reduced, principally by enhancing the role of women in Africa; and, secondly, the lowest efficiency of investment, which must be raised but is now declining. All the while, growth in food production has been proceeding at a snail's pace.

It is all too easy to blame it all on the poor natural resources and to say that is the root of the problem. That is certainly a factor in the Sahel, but the Sahel is only 20 per cent. of Africa's land area and only 8 per cent. of its population. There are many areas of huge potential. The Food and Agriculture Organisation has estimated that Africa's potential rain-fed cropland is 800 million hectares compared with 350 million in Asia. Neither inadequate natural resources nor the weather should shoulder the whole burden of blame, because the truth is that African agriculture has endured years of neglect and regression.

Small-scale farmers, who are, after all, Africa's most special resource, have seen their needs for better roads, for better fertilisers, for better seeds, for better marketing facilities, unmet or ignored. Private incentives for higher food production have been either absent or inadequate in far too many countries, and in too many countries governments have believed that a growing industrial sector is a quicker way to faster development than modernisation and growth in the agricultural sector. It is not hard, therefore, to understand that when the rains fail to fall in Africa, the impact descends from crop failure to crisis and to starvation all too quickly.

We have learned some terrible lessons. Governments and people, international organisations, such as the one for which I work, the bilateral agencies and the private organisations have all learned lessons and are now reshaping their attack on the slow growth of agriculture. But the small farmer is the key, as a leader in The Times on Monday said, but I part company with The Times when it suggests that funds, expertise and technology should reach the agricultural sector only through non-governmental organisations working with the private sector, either completely outside the framework of government or in collaboration with small local agencies.

I yield to no one in my admiration for the work of non-governmental organisations—those that have been founded here in this country and are based here in particular, and especially those that are working under difficult conditions in Africa. But the problem of slow agricultural growth in Africa is far too vast to exclude the contribution that Governments, inter-governmental organisations and financial agencies not only can, but indeed must, make. What is needed is a soundly co-ordinated co-operative effort by all parties. The miracle of India has not been achieved with less, and it will not be achieved in Africa with less.

I should like to make a final plea of a more specific nature. It is that we foster everywhere a far greater awareness of the dangers of not addressing in time the problems of deforestation, so that we can avoid rapidly increasing difficulties. In most African countries there is a higher demand for fuel wood than there is forest to meet it. Even heavily forested countries are affected where resources are not everywhere economically accessible. This is a problem that has to be addressed, and addressed quickly, for, indeed, the insidious path from the first stage of declining tree cover to the final stage of massive soil erosion, the end of biological production and starvation, migration and death is an all too tragically short road. We have been moved and we have been horrified by what we know of the tragedy in Africa today. But we must not be deterred from helping Africa to help herself look to the long-term before the necessary steps which she, with our help, must take to avoid the tragedy that we see today.

6.57 p.m.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, it is always a pleasure for me, but seldom do I have an opportunity to be the first to recommend to your Lordships a maiden speech of such quality. This I sincerely do, and with confidence, for my felicitations are merited. The feelings of the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, are obvious and his authority is great. Surprisingly, I also agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, that out of a prosperous agriculture will come a surplus to develop for the third world its own industry and higher standard of living. But I do not underestimate the value of cash crops, because it seems to me better for the Egyptians, for instance, on their very rich nilotic soil, to sell vegetables and high-value crops and to import low-value wheat which is cheaper and more extensively grown.

Anyone who has not been shatteringly moved by the television pictures and the stories that have emerged recently from Africa must either be made of stone or have the insensitivity of a Roman mob watching a Coliseum slaughter. Our instinctive reaction has been to reach for our cheque books, both public and private. Palliatives and immediate relief are, of course, essential, even though it is surprising how well fed are the Abyssinian soldiers who are forcibly transferring Ethiopian peasants to another part of Abyssinia.

Of course, as the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, said, the drought has been more intensive and nastier than several others and it has contributed to the famine which we see in front of us. But why is it that China, India, Europe and the United States have all become, and all are, grain exporters? Africa, as has already been said, has for the most part reduced its agricultural production and thus its ability to feed itself. In the above countries, farmers have been well rewarded. China is now self-sufficient in grain because private crops have been allowed and the peasants have had, according to the Economist, higher productivity gains over the last year or two than either American hank presidents or Japanese car workers; and that, I suggest, is quite an achievement.

In East Anglia, the common agricultural policy has enabled gentlemen farmers to drive around in Range Rovers, while those of the Ukraine failed to feed Russia. Tsar Nicholas II's Russia exported food; Gorbachev's Russia holds up by its purchases the international price of grain. Stalin collectivised agriculture and thus ruined Russian food production.

In Africa, as the right reverend Prelate has very rightly said, the peasants have been shanty-townised and the countryside has been impoverished by low food prices. As the noble Lord, Lord Hatch said, in Zimbabwe the private plots have been very successful. Why have they been successful? Because the peasant has been paid a decent price for his produce and consequently he has been content to produce it. Zimbabwe is now a food exporting country and it has had just the same problems with drought as has the rest of Africa.

Africa determined on her independence. That independence has in many cases been abused by her rulers and exploited by her soldiers. Africa can easily feed herself, and the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, produced the figures. But she can feed herself only if she sensibly rewards her farmers. Tanzania had something in the region of £600 million in aid very recently. Tanzanian agriculture is in a mess. Ethiopia had 1,000 million dollars worth of aid between 1978 and 1982. Ethiopian agriculture is in a mess. It is not a question of chucking large sums of money at governments. Where has most of the aid gone? It has gone on a new capital called Dodoma; it has gone on a new capital called Abuja; it has subsidised the expensive Pan-African frolics of the OAU. It has bought vast quantities of arms.

In the 1950s, there were only 10 battalions of the King's African Rifles, stretching from Uganda, Kenya, Tanganyika through to Nyasaland. The Gold Coast regiment was small. The Royal West African Frontier Force was equally microscopic. The successor states, with one or two notable exceptions, now all have tanks and planes with which either to threaten their neighbours or to oppress their populations. If we are to continue long-term aid, it must be conditional on the countries concerned adopting sensible policies. If we are accused of interfering with internal affairs, the choice must be given to those governments: "You do with our money what we want because it is a much greater interference in our affairs to help yourselves to our taxpayers' money to fritter away on useless and expensive projects, than is our offering guidance to satisfactory agricultural schemes".

After all, the EEC problems of surplus food production are the problems of efficient production helped by high prices. Ethiopian and the Sahels' problems of food production are the problems of failure, low prices and inefficiency, which have produced the greatest failure any Government can achieve—the failure to feed their own people. If only African governments could encourage settled and secure land tenure systems, a fair price for the farmer and no more brutal state monopoly buying systems—I suggest that the technology is known, the fertilisers are there and the seeds are there—famine could be something of the past and Pliny would be correct in saying, "Ex Africa semper aliquid novo".

7.4 p.m.

Lord Soper

My Lords, perhaps I may add my words of congratulation to the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, on his maiden speech. How excellently he caught the temper and spirit of what this debate ought to be about. I reflect that it is no intrusion when we who belong to the cloth represent it in moral terms. I shall not however endeavour to burnish the shield already so clearly lifted up by my noble friend the right reverend Prelate. In the short space of time which is available to us, I shall recollect that this particular debate falls into two parts.

The first is to deplore the present situation and to derive what lessons can be learnt from it. I would presume to enlarge the area of our circumspection of this particular issue, and I hope not to do so as if to divert the attention that has been so properly paid to the immediate projects, which have been so eloquently set forth by my noble friend Lord Hatch. As the attitude to the eternity of God has diminished—and so it has in the contemporary world—the immutability of matter has acquired a preponderance of interest which has for a time assumed a doctrinal authority to which it is not entitled. We are the more ready now, I believe, to listen to our old friends the Greeks who said that everything is in a state of flux.

This is no airy generalisation. If we cannot decide what kind of world it intrinsically is, we shall finally be in no condition to provide the kind of answers that are necessary to solve the problems that we face. It is not an immutable and eternal world. The astronomers and others are telling us that changes take place and our recollection of other generations of creatures on this planet who have disappeared should remind us that, although it may not be immediate, there is every prospect that the world in which we live is in a constant condition of change; and maybe of decay and maybe of annihilation. This properly, I suppose, is more of a technical problem for the theologian than a practical one for discussion in your Lordships' House today. But, nevertheless, it is of vital importance that we ask ourselves: "Is this the kind of world in which our hopes and aspirations for the feeding of all who are hungry and the setting of life within the general framework of amenity is possible?" I believe it is; but that is a faith which, however insecure in final terms, is enough to satisfy us for the time being.

What is not so immediately available is the information as to whether we are co-operating with some eternal purpose by our bad behaviour in creating circumstances in which, whatever may be the final outcome of this planet, we are in danger of polluting it at this point in time, and indeed creating situations among those who are impoverished and starving which may appear to some people to be inevitable.

I was very much interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, whose maiden speech I so much enjoyed, said about deforestation. Whatever we may think of the attitude of eternal purpose, there can be no doubt that our participation in deforestation is one of the calamities which, by the erosion of the soil in the depopulated areas and the deforestated areas, can indeed produce situations in which the size of the Sahara may be almost enlarged beyond even the fears of those who recognise now that in the time of the Caesars the northern Sahara was the granary of the Roman Empire. And in the grasslands to the south of the Sahara I think that something like two feet of desolation and of erosion takes place every year.

Furthermore—and this is perhaps even more significant—here lie some of the opportunities which can be accepted and prosecuted. I had the opportunity last night of talking to a responsible member of the board of a vast timber international company. He was telling me of the way in which the deforestation in Finland must be accompanied by afforestation; otherwise it is illegal. This compares favourably with Canada but most unfavourably with Indonesia and Brazil, where the difficulty, as my noble friend who spoke earlier in his maiden speech probably knows far better than I do, is one of the ways in which we are contributing to problems, and unless we face them and reverse their processes, we shall find we are looking into a situation of which much that we hope for will be prevented by the very force of our evil behaviour.

It is I believe possible and sensible that we should look upon this not in any sentimental way but in the processes of ultimate moral justice. However I believe also that it is perfectly true—we have had it clearly exposed to us this evening—that if we are prepared to operate certain programmes, we can reduce those problems and we can probably create the kind of situation which, optimistically, the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, put before us. But it cannot be done by the nation state for the very reasons that its preoccupations and parameters are antisocial in the sense of the whole community in which we live.

It is therefore in the outcome of such discussions as we are taking part in tonight that we should recognise that we must have some supra-national authority to put into effect those very proper suggestions which have been made so succinctly by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch.

I believe that this is so. I have always believed that the nationstate is the most predatory institution to which man has ever committed himself. It is impossible within its framework to produce the kind of opportunities which should be seized now if it is possible—as I believe it can be—to alleviate the threat of a continuing disaster such as that which has impinged itself on our minds and wrung our hearts over the past few days and years, and indeed through the particular ministrations of television.

Therefore, may I add my words to those put so eloquently by the right reverend Prelate that we are in a position now to face a moral situation which is possible at this time. However I do not believe that if we delay that moral decision we shall not so have impaired the prospects of its fulfilment as to engender a continuing starvation situation in this world which, far from abating, may become even more virulent and even more lethal.

7.11 p.m.

Lord Harris of High Cross

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, on inviting us to look beyond the immediate tragedy of starvation in the third world and to contemplate the danger of repetition in the future. Confronted with such horrors in Ethiopia as we have seen on television, we are united in calling for the maximum emergency aid with food and medical care. But it will not serve the longterm needs of millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa if we conceal the deep differences which divide many of us from the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, on the most appropriate policies to prevent a recurrence of famine. Ethiopia is not alone in facing crisis. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa has warned that most of the continent may be heading for disaster within a decade or two.

I should like to add very briefly that it will not do to blame the suffering throughout Africa on drought without examining the policies long followed by many governments that have intensified the plight of their own people. I propose to project the underlying issue into perhaps over-sharp focus by asking more than a rhetorical question. Why does the weather always seem to be so much worse in socialist countries? What is it about socialist policies which impairs the natural tendency throughout history for fluctuating food supplies to serve at least the minimum needs of growing populations? Why is it that Russia, after 50 years of agricultural planning, is still dependent on the West to make good its deficiency of basic food? Why has Tanzania, which could feed a large part of Africa, declined in recent years from an exporter to an importer of food?

There is, I am glad to say, an emerging consensus that the chronic pressure on food supplies has been caused by socialist or even Stalinist policies that work against the grain of market forces. I promise the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, that I shall get from the Library and study the volume he mentioned of Professor Dumont, and I ask him in return to get from the Library and study a copy of a report published by Indiana University with the vivid title, The Distortion of Agricultural Incentives. It indicates that wherever prices are free to fluctuate there is evidence that peasants respond to economic incentives by increasing production to meet shortages, and by traders shifting supplies from areas of surplus to areas of scarcity where prices are higher. When governments discharge their primary function of maintaining security for person and property, peasants husband their resources and store food from good times to tide them over the bad.

Alas, throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa socialist governments have long disrupted, distorted or destroyed the beneficial processes of self-help and self-improvement. Again and again they have fixed prices too low, even below the cost of production. They have established monopoly buying agencies and prohibited the movement of produce without a licence; they have prevented the storage of surpluses, which is denounced as hoarding.

There are several causes for this bias against the agricultural sector. One is that socialist governments are always haunted by the fears of the emergence of a Kulak class, and another is that politicians throughout Africa and elsewhere want cheap food for consumers in urban areas, which are their own power base.

If we return to Ethiopia we find a history of punitive price control and other restrictive policies going hand in hand with the failure to reform customary practices which further impair agricultural production. In the absence of private property rights in land we have casual, nomadic cultivation which has led to over-cropping, over-grazing, and the destruction of ground cover. The predictable result has been increasing soil erosion and the conversion of fertile land into desert. For some time economists have coined the ugly word "desertification" to describe the appalling process of environmental destruction, particularly in the Sahel.

Nor does the Ethiopian Government's socialist version of co-operative farming offer the least hope of amelioration. Instead of freeholds for their peasants, they offer the annual re-allocation of plots with the result that farmers are discouraged from fertilising their land, improving drainage, clearing boulders, or building anti-erosion terraces. At the same time, heavy taxation on farmers leads to the consumption of seed corn and the forced sale of draught oxen and cattle.

In the short term, past neglect leaves us no choice but to urge the maximum emergency relief to save as many victims as possible from hunger and, indeed, lingering death. But we are left with this searching dilemma for the future: how best can we help the millions of victims of wicked or corrupt or incompetent policies without reinforcing the governments responsible for so much suffering? Even the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, might agree that 30 years of so-called foreign aid has failed miserably in its noble purpose. I want to ask the noble Baroness the Minister, in her reply: is it not time the Government should insist that foreign aid is in future made conditional upon recipient governments abandoning these self-destructive policies?

7.18 p.m.

The Marquess of Ailsa

My Lords, I should like to add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, on his most excellent and informative maiden speech. Perhaps I may ask that he stops over more often on his journey between Africa and the United States, because we could listen to him time and time again.

I should also like to commend the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, for drawing our attention to the starvation taking place in various parts of the world. I cannot help but remember Sir John Boyd-Orr's comments and dire warnings about the world shortage of food. Unfortunately, in some parts of the world this seems to be taking place, especially in Africa, where at the present moment, while food production is falling, the population is increasing. We have all been impressed and astonished by the response made by the exposé in the media of what has been happening in Ethiopia. I myself, while on my way to Somalia, stopped over at Addis Ababa and it was heartening to see a hard-worked Hercules being cheerfully maintained by the crew, while in the background stood 10 Russian transport planes, highly polished, and not a soul in sight. I do not think they moved very often. I am very pleased to learn that meantime the RAF is going to be allowed to carry on with its present mission in Ethiopia. All that is happening in Ethiopia has tended to blind us to what is happening elsewhere in Africia and the world. I understand that there are more than 20 African countries in dire straits and which are unlikely to be able to feed their own people. It was very heartening to learn at a recent conference on the emergency situation in Africa that more than 100 countries, including the United Kingdom, and more than 60 voluntary organisations have agreed to give their aid.

As has already been stated, while the immediate cause of the famine has been drought, there is more to it than that. The real cause is that for far too long productive lands all over the country have been grossly mismanaged. For centuries there has been a vicious environmental degradation taking place. In the past two decades this process has produced conditions of almost permanent drought. The topsoil has been so denuded that seeds cannot germinate, wells are drying up, and land which was once good is now becoming non-productive. Over-cultivation without irrigation has destroyed the top soil. The cutting down of trees and bushes for firewood has allowed the desert to advance. Even when there has been successful harvests, much has been lost through the inability to distribute those harvests or have them adequately stored.

Nowadays there are numerous third world countries unable to produce sufficient food to feed themselves. They have to rely, and have tended to rely for all too long, on food aid from outside to keep themselves going. When they do support their own agriculture, it is nearly always for cash crops in order to pay for foreign exchange, to support a prestigious project they have in mind. Land management and agriculture take a very low priority. This is shown by the fact that Africa failed to support the Lagos plan of action adopted by the OAU in 1980. This plan made agriculture the key to Africa's economic development and food self-sufficiency. It called for a rapid increase in the production of rice, sorghum, etc.

It is deeds that are needed, not words. The other day I heard of an African country which is no way near being self-sufficient, which was not interested in improving its agriculture because it would provide nothing for party funds. That country is far happier undertaking prestigious products. Somehow, all such countries and their governments must be made to learn that there is an important link between political independence and self-sufficiency in food production. All too often the leaders of third world countries spend their lives telling those of us in the developed world what we should be doing to help them. They try very hard to play one country, and one form of government, off against another. I must confess that all too often we in the West and those in the East pander to this practice, with the result that there is much vying between one country and another to see how much they can give. In my humble opinion, this has done untold harm.

All too often political and doctrinal ideas have been allowed to dominate. Ethiopia could have mitigated its present situation if it had taken heed of a United Nations study in 1982 which produced ideas for how Ethiopia could meet the famine it knew was coming. But land and its management never responds well to planned economies. To have any chance of success it is essential to have a great degree of free enterprise. Land needs to be loved and cosseted. If that is done, it will give bounteously. Green fingers mean more to it than diplomas or degrees. But all too often, as has already been stated, too little has been done to encourage the African farmer. I fear that it is too late for some parts of Africa; the land has given all that it can ever give.

The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, asked: what can we do to prevent these tragedies happening in the future? Regrettably, there is no simple answer. Much play has been made, and is being made, about the surpluses in the West. We must always remember that even some developed countries are not self-sufficient in their own foodstuffs; this applies to the Soviet Union and to a certain extent it applies to ourselves. But we must ensure as far as possible that such surpluses as do exist in the short term are made available to those who need them. In the longer term we must ensure that such aid as is given is directed to encouraging those countries to be more self-sufficient in their food production. Then they can really enjoy the independence which they are so determined to have.

7.26 p.m.

Lord Brockway

My Lords, the Motion directs one to speak about the terrible happenings in East Africa. The most useful thing I can do is to propose international action which would prevent their recurrence or which would at least prevent their worst features. I want to propose a series of measures.

First, there is evidence that the famine in Ethiopia was long foreseen. Christian Aid gave the warning more than one year ago. I suggest that the Food and Agricultural Organisation should be instructed to keep a watch on the situation and to inform the Security Council of the United Nations if danger is occurring, and to give the widest publicity to it.

Secondly, I suggest that there should be a permanent relief force in association with the United Nations, with stocks of food and medical requirements which would be available immediately a famine occurred to go to its relief; and that the United Nations organisation should also have the duty of alerting and co-ordinating action by other nations.

Thirdly, I strongly propose that while aid should be increased, it should be applied to particular tasks. The famine in Ethiopia has indicated a need for water. But water is needed in Africa not only to prevent drought; it is also needed by the women of almost every African village. So often they have to walk miles to get water, carrying a pailfull back. I remember in the Togoland area, which was incorporated with Ghana, seeing a woman in front of a water tap. I asked her for her view of Nkrumah. She replied, "I love him because he brought the water here. Before, I had to walk five miles to carry water for my family". I suggest that aid, as well as in other forms, should be directly, technically, aimed towards a solution of that water problem.

Fourthly, I urge a new attitude towards the proposal for a new world economic order. For 11 years now there have been almost fruitless discussions at UNCTAD and other international conferences. The committee of 70 non-aligned countries—now a committee of 130—put forward a series of definite proposals for partnership between the great industrial countries and the third world. They were resisted both by the American Government and by the British Government. I strongly urge that there should be a new attitude towards the proposal for new arrangements in the world so that trade can be more equal.

Fifthly, I want to urge that something must be done about the arms trade to the African countries. Arms pour in at a cost of millions of pounds. African governments are responding to this sale; they are responding by spending millions of pounds on arms which should be devoted to development—particularly agricultural development—and ending the poverty in their countries. The cost of one Hawk aircraft could provide 1.5 million people with clean water for life. Great Britain is seriously involved in this infamous arms traffic to the third world. I beg the Government to take some initiative to secure international action in order that the arms provision to the third world shall be gravely reduced, if not absolutely abolished.

We hear a great deal about the virtue of compassion. I want something further even than that. Compassion assumes that those who are better-off help those who are poorer. I want to see identity with the peoples of Africa and the third world in the problems which we have discussed; being of them and with them. If we can develop that attitude of identity with them, then we can establish the kind of co-operation which will end the present hunger in the third world.

7.35 p.m.

Lord Bauer

My Lords, I am genuinely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, for his Motion. The subject is not only of immediate concern but will, I fear, remain topical for a long time. In the time available today I can only summarise arguments and state conclusions rather than develop them. Moreover, many of us spoke on famine in July 1983 in the debate initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, and again last month on the Motion of the noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, on the closely-related subject of third world refugees. Some of us will speak again tomorrow on the related topic of foreign aid.

In the past few years the weather in much of Africa has been exceptionally unfavourable, but this does not explain the appalling conditions in Ethiopia and elsewhere. Why did such conditions not occur in colonial times, or even more recently in Northern Nigeria, the climate of which is similar to that of the Sahel? Why, for instance, have parts of Uganda and Zaire been visited by famines, even in the absence of drought?

Production of cash crops in place of food crops is often blamed for the recurrent food shortages. Some noble Lords have hinted at that in this debate. That idea is unfounded. The great bulk of cash crops in Africa, notably in the worst hit countries, is grown by African peasants. They often produce these crops alongside traditional food crops. But even when this is not so, production of cash crops does not explain shortage of food. Africans cultivate cash crops rather than food crops because they expect higher living standards; that is, to buy more goods and services, including food. They act in this way like practically everybody in Britain, including most of your Lordships.

The primary cause of recent famines in Africa is the destruction of the exchange economy, as a result of immensely damaging policies pursued by governments who, at the same time, neglect their basic tasks. Examples include the persecution, even expulsion, of productive people; forced collectivisation and removal of people from their homes; conscription of peasants; underpayment of farmers; suppression of trade beyond its most trivial forms; state monopoly of imports and exports; and the restriction of essential supplies as well as the inflow of capital, enterprise and skills. All of these have operated in Ethiopia since 1974 and in varying degrees elsewhere. Private trade is suppressed throughout the Sahel. Severe underpayment of farmers by government buying monopolies is a well-worn theme. Even when pursued singly, such policies as the underpayment of farmers, the suppression of trade and the restriction of essential supplies, impede production for both domestic and export markets. In combination, their effect is devastating, as in Ethiopia.

Such policies are all too often accompanied by a neglect of even the most essential functions of government. First comes the failure to provide security for person and property, followed closely by the neglect of communications. Then there is the lack of interest in the reform of wasteful land tenure, under which everybody has rights over common land. Land which belongs to everybody belongs to nobody, so that no one has the incentive or even the possibility of maintaining its fertility. The significance of this issue was emphasised by East African Royal Commission as long ago as 1955.

The current famine and the threat of its periodic or persistent recurrence highlight the need both for relief and for radical reform. For relief we must rely heavily on voluntary agencies, and preferably on those which are not politicised and are concerned only with helping people in need. Voluntary agencies must play a crucial role because in most third world countries there is no machinery for state assistance to needy people. The administrative apparatus is not available. State relief of poverty is alien to local custom, and also all too often contacts with the political interests of the rulers.

Long-term reform requires a far more discriminating approach to the allocation of official aid. Above all, it calls for much closer monitoring of the conduct of the recipient Governments. We should put an early end to the anomaly of propping up rulers who inflict appalling hardship on their own people. Such monitoring is somewhat more likely under direct aid. This is one reason why I strongly oppose the substantial shift to multilateral aid under the United Kingdom aid programme in defiance of the present Government's earlier declared intention.

7.41 p.m.

Viscount Buckmaster

My Lords, the theme of my speech is the search for water, which has been referred to eloquently by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway. It is a subject which interests me greatly, and it is of course absolutely crucial to the problem of starvation. For about 30 years, from 1951 to 1981, I was engaged on the outer periphery of research into water resources and water development, although I am no hydrologist. Here I must pay a very warm tribute to the Land Resources Division of the Overseas Development Administration, with which I worked closely on many occasions and which has supplied me with some of the information for this speech.

I shall take as my text that lovely quotation from the Koran: We have created from water every living thing". What a lovely idea that is! As far as I know, it is not found in the Bible or in any other great religious work, but of course it is absolutely true. Water is the key to the whole problem. To grow food, which we would all want to do to relieve the terrible suffering—and so many noble Lords have spoken about this—one needs sunshine, soil and water.

There is sunshine in abundance, blazing down every day. It is 125 degrees in the shade sometimes. I have experienced that myself. The soil is there, and it is good soil. When I first went to the Middle East in 1951 it was thought that the desert could not grow crops. Others more knowledgeable than I started experimenting, and before very long, in what were then the Trucial States and are now the United Arab Emirates, tomatoes were being grown. The same thing happened in Libya. They produced their tomatoes, and I saw one which weighed 2 kilos. Can you believe it, my Lords? That was in an area which people said was desert.

We have sunshine and we have soil, and we also have water and it is water which is the key to the whole thing: We have created from water every living thing". The interesting thing about rainfall in the Sahara, contrary to what has been said in the press and contrary, indeed, to what one or two noble Lords have mentioned today, is that the rainfall has been declining steadily ever since 1960. There was of course the very serious drought from 1972 to 1974, after which the rainfall picked up. But if one looks at the graph, it is a steady decline over the past 20 years. Indeed, some water experts are saying that the whole pattern of rainfall in the Sahara has changed for the worse. I do not know. How can one say that? One has to look back much further than 20 or 30 years. One must look back hundreds of years.

There has been abundant rainfall in Zimbabwe this year. Does that mean that the cycle of drought will break in Africa? I do not know. All I can say is that the pattern of climate and rainfall in the southern hemisphere is basically different from that in the northern hemisphere.

What can one do to produce rainfall? There is, of course, the possibility of seeding clouds. The Israelis, the Australians, the Russians and the Chinese claim some success in that sphere, but it is very difficult. In the desert, of course, it is virtually impossible because there are no clouds, and, if there are no clouds, at least you need warm, moist air. Water attracts water. Indeed, in some South American rain forests the water is recycled as often as 10 times.

How can one make the best use of the limited amount of rainfall available? The experts are now trying to encourage the Africans to engage in what is called water harvesting. That means to say that if there is an area of four or five acres over which rain falls, you concentrate on bringing that water to one acre only by canalisation, and so on.

Other sources of water are in shallow wells. Those are found abundantly in areas near the coast and near the major rivers, but I am afraid that they are not found in the centre of the Sahel, which is the area about which we are concerned.

Then, of course, there are deep wells and aquifers. That is perhaps the most fascinating area of all. I am speaking now of water which is known as fossil water. It dates back perhaps to the Pleisticine age. It may have been lying there for 10,000 or 20,000 years. It can be tapped. When I was travelling in the desert I would meet an oil company team and I would ask whether they had found oil. Very often they would say, "No, we have not found oil, but we have found water".

There are then these great aquifers. There is one, I believe, which flows from the Nile across to the Mediterranean. The quality of their water is not certain. It is often saline, but they should provide reserves of water if only they can be tapped and if only the water can be extracted. That, surely, is the crucial problem. The water can be extracted. The Libyans have done great things by sprinkler irrigators, with great circular sprays, but it costs an enormous amount of money.

Next to deep wells we come to rivers and lakes. Of course, in the Sahel area which is affected by the drought there are very few rivers. There is the Niger River, but unfortunately the canal scheme in that area has failed because the farmers do not make proper use of the water resources available, in great contrast to the Yemenis, with whom I worked, who use every available gallon of water.

Then we have Lake Chad, which is a great resource of water, one might say, but it has been shrinking rapidly. In normal times the area is between 20,000 and 25,000 square kilometres. It is estimated at present at only 4,000 square kilometres, and the inflow has been decreasing very rapidly.

I have explored, as I see it, all the possible ways of bringing water to the Sahel. I greatly hope that the noble Baroness can give us an assurance that Her Majesty's Government are pursuing, through the ODA, this very important matter. Though feckless, the Africans surely do not deserve to suffer as they have. We complain if we fail to get a third gin and tonic at a cocktail party. They are quite happy with a glass of brackish water. It is of course water which is the key to the whole problem: We have created from water every living thing".

7.49 p.m.

Lord Rea

My Lords, I would only briefly dwell on the measures to deal with the present disaster. Like other noble Lords, I wish to speak more about the long-term problem. But let me say a few words about the present situation.

I come first to the voluntary organisations. Here I find myself agreeing to some extent with the noble Lord, Lord Bauer. At present we do not have the international emergency system which my noble friend Lord Brockway suggests—an international body with antennae which are detecting approaching disasters and can meet them before they erupt. I think that the voluntary orgnisations are playing an important part. They have a lot of local know-how and connections. Sometimes they can channel supplies to rebel areas which official aid cannot reach.

I think there is a big place for collaboration of government with the local agencies which have successful roots in the areas concerned. I have been asked by Oxfam to mention one or two particular points as questions or suggestions to the Government. There is an area of the Sudan, the Red Sea Hills district, which is in a critical state. It is quite difficult to reach. There is information that it is in a critical state at the moment, that the population are about to desert their homes and flood into the refugee camps. It is possible that the situation can be saved by a rapid diversion of aid there. There is another request to the Government: please keep the Hercules aircraft there. They are doing a wonderful job and they are much appreciated by all workers on the spot.

To talk about the long-term situation, and particularly centring it on the Sahel—although it also applies to other areas in the developing world, particularly in Africa—in the Sahel there is a very precarious ecological balance. It is really a fragile earth zone. As the noble Viscount says, quite a lot of rain can fall but it is concentrated in a very small part of the year. The rainfall has been decreasing over the years.

It is possible that man has played a part in this. For instance, if plant cover is destroyed, the land surface can become hotter. It becomes paler in colour. It can reflect the heat of the sun into the atmosphere more and that can prevent the formation of rain clouds. On a sufficiently large scale, this may actually have played a part in creating the increasing frequency of droughts in that area. There is no proof of this but I think it is quite a sensible hypothesis.

However, there are methods of agriculture which might reverse this trend, by permanently covering the ground with vegetation. That is afforestation, or reafforestation, of course; using crops on a plantation which stay there all the time, and more controlled grazing, as well as other ways of collecting the run-off water. The noble Viscount mentioned rivers, lakes and wells. But the rivers very often run for a few weeks and then disappear. It is possible to make use of this water and not let it run to waste.

I am only mentioning these matters to illustrate that there is know-how there to ameliorate the situation and perhaps to turn back this huge and increasing problem. However, the most difficult problem is to help governments in the countries concerned to persuade, help, educate, and, perhaps most important of all, provide incentives for farmers to take the necessary steps and to discourage the destructive and outdated methods of farming which are now being used, often on very unsuitable marginal land and land which is extending further into the desert margins, further up onto the mountainsides.

These lands are being used for several reasons. My information here actually differs from that of the noble Lord, Lord Bauer: that the best land is now being used for export crops which are needed to pay off the terrible debts that many of these countries have. One can only ask here again for further efforts to look at settling commodity prices at a stable level and a considerably higher level than they are at now.

As well as that, there is economic pressure to produce meat and other food to feed the increasing populations of the cities. The rural populations are getting increasingly into debt as buyers from the towns, as has been mentioned before, buy cheap and sell dear to the farmers. It is not only socialist governments that practise this policy; it is also private merchants who will do this. I do not think we can blame the political colour of the government for this.

Another problem in the countryside is that women are often left to manage the farmlands on their own when they have their hands full in looking after their families and feeding them. The problem is obviously hugely complex. I am not saying that the solutions are at all easy but they are documented and they are potentially soluble.

I have discovered that rural development is becoming a top priority for all thinking administrators and politicians in the developing world. Both there, and particularly in the developed world, expertise is available but there is a great need for more training. This is why it is a great pity that this country has made it more difficult for overseas students to come and work in our universities. There is a great need for more training of local agricultural extension workers who will go out into the villages and persuade and demonstrate how farmers can do better. However, it requires some investment from the governments for the infrastructure, roads for instance, and to set up training schools and to provide some equipment to start schemes off. This is surely a place where aid should be channelled. The International Agricultural Development Agency, as my noble friend has suggested, is an excellent place for it to go.

I have just returned from Thailand where I was privileged to be an observer at the IPU/WHO Conference on Health and Development. There I was able to see a rural development scheme in action. Not only was wealth increasing in the formerly poor zone that I visited but health statistics and literacy were also improving, not to mention the rate of population increase, which was rapidly coming down. It is now generally accepted that family limitation begins to be acceptable only when standards of living and literacy are on the upturn.

For all these reasons I am particularly anxious to ask the Minister to give an assurance that funds for the present emergency will not be subtracted from our total aid budget but will be additional to it. I think I am not alone in asking here if we can have exact figures on this. I am afraid that this emergency will not end this year. It will take many years of patient effort to resettle the millions of people who have left their homes, even if there is a succession of good rainy seasons. I hope the Government will keep up and increase the scale of the support they are giving to the many ingenious and dedicated people out there of all nationalities who are working on this massive problem.

7.58 p.m.

Lord Gisborough

My Lords, there is no argument about the amount of aid and rescue that has been given by national, international and private organisations. So much of this has gone into Ethiopia, as we all know, because we have seen the situation there on the television, and so on. But, of course, we know equally that there are many other areas no less in trouble, quietly starving away and with less publicity. All these areas not only need help but, as has been said by others, need in the future to have early warning of the impending tragedy so that there is time to act and action can be taken in time.

About six or eight years ago I went over to Ethiopia. I visited a number of towns which are now in the news because they are among the most starving. All these towns were agricultural, they had agriculturally based economies. I remember in Aksum I passed a reservoir which used to produce water for irrigation in the days of the Queen of Sheba, and steps down which the Queen of Sheba walked were still there. But the reservoir was dilapidated and no longer working, and there was no sign whatsoever that anybody was ever going to put it right.

There were also the roads that the Italians had built and the buildings they had put up. No repairs had been carried out where stones had fallen down or potholes had developed. In these agricultural towns of perhaps 10,000 population there were drains down the sides of the roads and the services were totally inadequate. After the town clerk had shown me round, he asked: "Can you help?" What are needed are simple systems, usually labour-intensive. The people need their reservoirs repaired so that they can irrigate their agriculture. They want agricultural advice. They want water filtration and basic drainage of the most simple possible design.

Many towns in this country twin with other towns in the United States, France, Germany and all over the world. How pleasant it is to twin with a town in France where there is the opportunity to go and drink the wine, to enjoy the sun and the joviality of the town hall. Many town halls criticise the Government for the inevitable inadequacy of aid. Aid is of course inadequate; it could always be more. I believe that the town halls miss an enormous opportunity. They should twin not just with wine towns but with third world towns. Very few do. For example, Kano is the only place in Nigeria, according to the Library that is twinned with a district in this country, North Yorkshire. In Sierra Leone, Freetown and Kenema are both twinned but no others. In Ethiopia there is no twin town; in Somalia and in Zimbabwe there are one each. If there was greater twinning, it would be possible for our towns perhaps to subsidise their young surveyor to spend a working holiday in the twin town, to encourage and enthuse the people there and to set up a quite simple organisation based on what he had learnt in his training. Similarly, a young vet, fresh out of school, could be sent to a twin town to obtain real training among the difficulties that he would encounter there. He would not only be able to contribute a great deal but would also learn from what could prove to be the opportunity of a lifetime. Horticulturalists from the parks department could do their share while counties such as North Yorkshire could send an agriculturalist. Teachers would be able to visit and report on what was needed. There would also be a great opportunity for towns to pass on out-of-date equipment. So much equipment which is no longer used in this country because it is out of date is still probably perfectly sound and in working order. The last thing that third world countries want is sophisticated equipment.

These contracts would also provide outlets for the produce of the third world. Carvings come first to mind, but there are other examples. Third world towns and our own young professionals would benefit. A great deal of contact could develop between officials—perhaps a line of communication whereby the town clerk in, say, Aksum could ring, on Christian name terms, his opposite number here to explain that there were likely to be serious problems in the next year, and to ask for help. Surely, by such contact, action could be taken in time. I hope that the Government will consider these suggestions and see whether they can be implemented.

8.4 p.m.

Lady Kinloss

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, is to be congratulated on having won the ballot for a short debate and for having chosen such an important and wide-ranging subject. About two-and-a-half-years ago I was able to revisit Kenya, both the highlands and the coast almost up to the Somali border, after some years. For about 10 years, I lived in what is now Tanzania and then in Ghana. I have visited quite a number of other African countries, some for considerable periods. I went as a wife whose husband was working in African education. Much of our time was spent in bush villages, very much more than in the towns. I learned Swahili and found this of great use as it meant that I was able to talk to anyone, even to non-English speaking Europeans.

A number of points occur to me. In a short debate, it would not be right to deal with more than a few. Of course, we must do all that we can in the short term to supply food in famine areas. I once spent some time in a famine area where of course there was very little water. We queued with the local population for a bucket of water from a small hole dug in a river bed. It stank, was brown and tasted vile. But it was water. I understand very well what was said to me in Kenya on my last visit by a former district commissioner. "Whenever I get to a new district" he said, "there will be no famine. Our priorities will be water and the crops that will survive drought. After that, we can think about other things".

What is being done to exploit water reserves under Africa? The noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, has mentioned the rainfall in the Sahara. I understood that there were immense reserves under the Sahara. Is there none there? Is there none in the famine areas of Ethiopia and southern Sudan? I remember very well in what is now South Yemen, when we lived there, the endless "pop-pop" of stationary engines raising water.

As regards drought resistant crops, nobody in East Africa at least likes planting muhogo. That is cassava; what we call tapioca in England. It is a rather tasteless, white, carrot-like root. It can be left in the ground for long periods for use when needed and survives drought. While it is true that many people do not like it. it can save lives at least for a time.

In the long term, I especially wish to see a much greater emphasis on agricultural education. More than 30 years ago, our first safaris were near Lake Victoria in Tanzania. There, at that time, the first school plots were being planted by the children as an example. The aim was to educate the children and their elders in the best agricultural methods and to demonstrate tie-ridging to conserve water and dew. It was most effective in many places. I wonder whether any of these school schemes still exist. They were found at primary and middle school but, sadly, not at secondary school level.

When in Ghana, I would go to the market every day to try to obtain vegetables. This was at the time of the late President Nkrumah. Seed had been allowed to degenerate and no new seed was being produced for general distribution. Tomatoes on an average were no more than one inch in diameter, if as much. All the other vegetables were just as poor. Ghanaians like vegetables as much as we do. I venture to think that schemes to encourage agriculture are needed to assist university faculties of agriculture, and agricultural experimental stations. I believe, too, that a proper college of tropical agriculture is needed in Africa to study problems centrally and to co-ordinate and disseminate knowledge throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Perhaps this could be funded by the EEC direct to the Organisation of African Unity.

In East Africa, more than half the agricultural work is carried out only by women. Men do heavy digging. But planting and harvesting is carried out almost exclusively by women. I have never heard of a woman agricultural officer. I have never heard of a woman being trained in agriculture except what she might learn in a primary or middle school. I have never been a feminist but it seems absurd that in this branch of activity the education of women should be so neglected. I am very much aware of the wonderful work that is being done by the British Council in arranging courses for overseas students. I am grateful for much information that it has given me. I am certain that its officers are doing all that they can within present rigorous financial limits. I would suggest, however, that where possible women should be encouraged to take courses in agriculture and not just in nursing, education and the like. As a great Ghanaian educationist, Dr. James Aggrey, said, "When you educate a woman you educate an entire family". In rural East Africa more than half a woman's life is spent in agricultural work. I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, has said with regard to the necessity for training women in agriculture.

8.10 p.m.

The Viscount of Falkland

My Lords, I find it a great privilege to be addressing your Lordships in this debate. We have to thank the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, for introducing this topic. I do not think that in the short time I have been speaking in this House—just under a year—I have heard from both sides of the House so many speeches which have had such quality. I think that whatever television brings one way or the other to the reputation of your Lordships' House, speeches of this kind deserve to be read by everybody. One of the first things I shall do is to show the copy of Hansard to my children in the hope that they will learn something about the kind of sincerity and quality of debate that we get in this House on these absolutely crucial issues. I should like to say in passing, without wasting your Lordships' time—I know that the custom of the House is to be not too generous in one's praise—that my noble friend Lord Grenfell made a magnificent maiden speech. He is a real expert on his subject, and all his remarks really deserve to be noted.

I am going to address myself to sub-Saharan Africa because that is the part of the area of the world afflicted by these terrible problems that I know the best. Since other noble Lords have mentioned specific countries, I am going to address myself to Kenya. I pronounce it "Kee-nya", and not Kenya. Africans do not mind if one pronounces it Kenya or "Kee-nya". Kenya is a country which I know well; in fact, my father was born there and my grandfather served there fighting the Nandi wars in the early days of this century. Noble Lords have talked of political will. There was certainly political will in the early days of this century. There was a political will to go out there and colonise this part of Africa and to create—perhaps this is the root of many of the problems—a kind of society which, as it were, was based on the kind of experience we had had ourselves post-Industrial Revolution. This was perhaps the error. We expected too much of Africa. We thought that this new expansion, this new Utopia of Africa—the great, wonderful expanses and profitable farms which would emerge—would go on for ever; and of course they did not.

What happened was that when in these countries, particularly in Kenya, they received their independence, they were left with a way of life which had been created for them and which they had no choice but to follow. They had to follow the aims which had proved to be incorrect. What we have now are two Africas. There is the Africa which those people who do not know it very well perceive. That is the Africa which is promoted in the press; it is promoted by government propaganda, I am afraid; it is promoted by ignorance: it is the Africa of the acceptable facade. Kenya has an acceptable facade in this country, for some curious reason. Kenya is no different from any other country in that area. It is subject to famine; it is subject to all the problems—the poverty, the massive debt—to which other countries in that area are subject and which have accelerated in recent years with oil crises and so forth. It is subject to the famine which we are discussing this evening.

I am referring to the acceptable facade which the businessman sees on his cursory visit, and which the tourist sees: the land of game parks, of golf courses, of Hilton hotels, of discos in Nairobi, of comfortable airports built at enormous cost with aid from donor countries. I must not continue without mentioning the African—the well-dressed African, the Europeanised prosperous African. This is what the visitor sees when he goes to Africa on a brief visit.

Then there is the other Africa—what I maintain is the real Africa. You do not have to go very far out of Nairobi; in fact, you have to go only to the outskirts of Nairobi. I remember when I first went to Nairobi; it was in 1970. I stayed in a club some four miles out of Nairobi. One evening I heard the most appalling noise. It was a cracking noise. The whole sky was red, and there was screaming and shouting. I talked to one of the elderly residents of the club and I said, "What on earth is all that noise?" He said, "The shanty town has gone up again". I said, "Gone up? That's awful. Have they all been killed?". He said, "No, no. It happens frequently. You will find that the injuries are quite slight". In fact, it had completely burnt down and a whole population of urban poor were that evening shifting to new shacks covered with pieces of corrugated iron and plastic. This, only just outside Nairobi, is the real face of Africa.

You go further out of Nairobi into the rural areas and you see what is really the true face. You see the reduced areas of local farmers, who have been mentioned by many of your Lordships. You go a little further out into the marginal areas. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, who mentioned people going five miles to collect water. This still happens in Kenya. People have to walk as far as 15 or 25 miles—they run, actually—to school. That is why they produce such fine athletes in that country. These are the realities of Kenya.

You also see, apart from that, the unacceptable mounting debt of the country, which is oppressing everybody; the other unacceptable aspects, apart from obvious hunger: urban squalor, and the indifference of the affluent and influential Africans. All this has emerged—this curious paradox of what the casual visitor sees, of what the politician likes to see in a country which he considers to be politically acceptable.

Noble Lords have mentioned Tanzania. That is a country I also know well. That is a country which has problems identical to those of Kenya, but it is not acceptable because the president of that country has embarked on an experiment, a social experiment, which unfortunately has not worked in all aspects. But because it is unacceptable it always gets loaded upon it comments that it is being ruined and destroyed. In fact, there is no difference between any of these countries. They are all subject to the same misunderstanding: the two Africas.

Unless governments and people in countries begin to understand the reality of Africa—the poverty, the massive corruption and the race and competition that there is by the industrialised countries of the West to thrust upon these countries goods and projects which they do not need but which they have to pay for or else build up massive debts which alter radically the structure and customs of that country—there is no way in which we can get down to the basic problem of getting these countries themselves to solve their own problems.

Recently I read in the paper (I think this has been mentioned) that the Americans have thought of a phrase which is fairly unpoetic but which is accurate, as are a lot of American phrases. We have reached what they call "a level of compassion fatigue". I am afraid this is true. No longer can we go on getting people to be compassionate to the degree that they have been, so that they contribute these enormous sums for emergency aid. We have now to reach the stage where we get down to the basic problem. Instead of filling up these countries with unnecessary projects and supplying them with arms, we must get down, not to defence projects but to agricultural and food projects. If we went into the African countries and encouraged them to develop their own agriculture and build up their own food stocks to combat the inevitable fluctuations of climate, and so on, which produce the terrible disasters, we would have their support. Only in further understanding can we get down to solving the problems which now exist and which will continue.

8.20 p.m.

Lord Oram

My Lords, I very much agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, that we have had an excellent debate, and we are grateful to my noble friend Lord Hatch for putting down in the first instance a most excellently worded Motion and for his very fine comprehensive speech. We all appreciated the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell. I echo what was said about our wish that he would stop off frequently and embellish our debates. Apart from the speech of my noble friend Lord Hatch, little has been said about what our own Government are doing in these matters. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, would be disappointed if I failed to make some comments on that subject.

The current food crisis in Africa is not a sudden, unforeseen, temporary disaster. It is not the kind of calamity that arises from an earthquake, a flood or a bush fire, because it has been coming over decades. The encroaching desert in Africa has been with us for a long time and thousands of children have been dying from malnutrition over a period of many years. If there is anything sudden about this situation, it is the sudden public appreciation of the situation—the appreciation last October which arose from the stark presentation by the TV cameras. It not only roused public conscience in these matters; it roused also the British Government and other official agencies into action in response to public pressure.

From time to time the Overseas Development Administration has, through press issues and in other ways, detailed the various actions which the Government have taken in Ethiopia, the Sudan and elsewhere in Africa. They are good actions, and I do not in any way wish to belittle them. But I have two anxieties about them. The first is that few, if any, of the actions which the Government tell us about are financed by new money—that is, by funds over and above the normal overseas aid budget.

When, for instance, the Prime Minister announced that the United Kingdom would provide 110,000 tonnes of grain for Ethiopia, that of course was very good news. But I doubt whether the Treasury was releasing new money to pay for it. The grain would be paid for out of the ODA's contingency reserve. When some of us protested about that, we were told that that is what a contingency reserve is for, and that sounds fine. But the African crisis is no normal contingency capable of being catered for within the limits of normal budgeting for contingencies. It needs extra effort; it needs extra resources.

Moreover, if the African crisis is, as I am sure it is, making quite abnormal inroads on the ODA's contingencies reserves, it follows that claims to meet unexpected problems elsewhere in the world will be judged by much stricter criteria, and it means that poor people elsewhere in the world will suffer still further in order to meet the needs of those who in Africa are poorer and more desperate still.

My second anxiety is about speed. Much of what we do is being done in conjunction, and rightly, with our European partners. But there is much evidence that EEC aid is slow in getting through and I wonder whether the Government are doing all that they can do and should do to speed up matters, particularly in the bureaucracies of Brussels. In my view the Government should be much more ready to join urgently with other donor nations in a concerted effort to meet the long-term development needs of African countries—a point which has been made in speech after speech this evening. My noble friend Lord Hatch has referred to this matter. We have an outstanding recent example of the United Kingdom dragging its feet. This was in connection with the World Bank's special fund for Africa. As one report that I saw put it, Britain on that occasion in those negotiations was left on the sidelines, looking mean.

That is bad enough, but it is made worse when, in justification of our stance, we resort to weasel words and weasel statistics. We say that we support the fund in principle—whatever that means. It does not mean money, and it certainly does not mean new money. Then I suspect—this may be a caricature, and I am open to be corrected by the noble Baroness—that what happens is that someone goes round the African geographical desks in the ODA, asks them what plans they already have for certain development projects in Africa, adds up their returns, finds that it comes to £15 million a year and says that we shall earmark that amount in support of the World Bank's special fund. In other words, it is what we will do in any case, and that I believe runs directly contrary to the World Bank's aim of mobilising new funds for Africa.

In my judgment the very first essential is that this country, together with other donor nations, must mobilise new resources to defeat worldwide poverty. We need to do that not only for the sake of the developing countries which are suffering the famines, but in the interests of the developed world as well. This was made crystal clear by the Brandt Commission five years ago. It is a mutual problem, requiring a solution on a mutual basis. That is the first essential.

The second essential is that those new resources, if we can mobilise them, must be applied in a radically different way from that which we have followed in the past. I am glad to see that tomorrow evening the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, in asking an Unstarred Question, will give us an opportunity to debate perhaps more fundamental questions about aid administration than we have had in this evening's debate.

As so many speakers have said, priority must be given to the development of third world argriculture and third world rural communities. I remember M. Pisani's memorable phrase: "We must stop building cathedrals in the desert". We have been doing the wrong things. We must now develop a new kind of policy dialogue between the industrialised and the developing nations. However, as I say, these propositions of a broader and more fundamental character are to be the subject of tomorrow night's debate. I shall look forward not only to hearing the noble Baroness's reply to the debate that we have had this evening, but also to the debate that will take place tomorrow evening.

8.30 p.m.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Young)

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, has raised an important issue and we have had a good debate upon it. Before answering the points that have been raised, I should first like to add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, on his maiden speech. If I may say so, it was wise, compassionate and realistic. I hope we hear from him on many occasions in the future.

I believe that even the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, could not argue that the Government have not been giving the problem that he has raised—that of the tragedies of starvation in the third world—their fullest attention. Since April 1984—in 11 months—Her Majesty's Government have made available over £100 million for bilateral and multilateral drought relief in Africa. This sum includes bilateral food aid of £21.5 million and our share of Community Food Aid, which is now £29.6 million. It includes the Ministry of Defence contribution towards the cost of the Royal Air Force airlift and the supplies drop in Ethiopia. As my right honourable friend the Minister for Overseas Development said in another place last week, this airlift will be continued for the time being. I hope that that gives an assurance to my noble friend Lord Ailsa and to the noble Lord, Lord Rea. We have promised to give a month's notice before we withdraw the team.

I can also confirm what the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, said about the magnificent and generous response to the tragedy in Africa from private citizens. I understand that this now totals over £50 million. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool referred to assistance by voluntary agencies, and I can confirm to him that, by means of a joint funding scheme, the official aid programme helps finance on a 50–50 basis development projects undertaken by voluntary agencies. The allocation for this in 1985–86 will be £4.8 million, compared with £3.6 million this year. The aid programme also finances the work of more than 1,100 British volunteers in developing countries, and, in 1985–86, almost £7 million will be provided for this purpose. We have also channelled substantial amounts of emergency aid to various voluntary agencies in the last two years. In 1984–85, disaster aid totalling £6.56 million was allocated in this way.

For the future, we cannot see for certain what the full needs will be. However, in order to help with planning of relief aid for the rest of this year we announced a minimum bilateral commitment of £30 million for relief in Africa for the financial year 1985–86. I should like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, that we have made clear that if more is necessary we shall add all that we can. I hope that this also answers the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Oram. In addition, we expect our share of the European Community contribution to be £30 million. The relief aid we give should be distinguished from our direct bilateral development aid. Next year we plan to spend nearly £125 million directly on the 20 countries identified by the United Nations as being likely to face critical food shortages in 1985.

The Government's response has been quick. The scale of the problem is, of course, immense, and more needs to be done. In the Sudan, for example, the Sudan Government says that some 44 million people have lost their crops and livestock and are unable to maintain themselves. In addition, there is an ever-growing number of refugees. Recently-arrived Ethiopian refugees now total over a quarter of a million, and there has also been an influx of some 60,000 Chadian refugees in the east of the country. Thanks particularly to the rapid and generous response of the United States, food aid supplies are now beginning to build up, but more is needed. That is why, on his return from the Sudan, my right honourable friend the Minister for Overseas Development decided to allocate a further 30,000 tonnes of bilateral food aid. Since then, we have agreed to a request from the World Food Programme to send 5,000 tonnes of grain from our contribution to the International Emergency Food Reserve.

The noble Lord, Lord Rea, mentioned the plight of the people in the Red Sea hills. My right honourable friend the Minister for Overseas Development, on his return from the Sudan, announced grants of a half-million pounds each to Oxfam and to the Save the Children Fund, and asked that some of this money should be used for the people in the Red Sea hills. My right honourable friend was, I know, deeply impressed with the work of both Oxfam and the Save the Children Fund in that area.

Public concern about starvation has often been expressed in calls for food aid. Indeed, very large amounts of food aid are provided, particularly to sub-Saharan Africa. The United States, for example, provided over 1.4 million metric tonnes of grain to sub-Saharan Africa in the year to September 1984; and in the calendar year 1984 the European Community provided over 600,000 tonnes, and its member states a similar amount.

However, we have never made a secret of the fact that, with the major British voluntary agencies, we are sceptical about the development value of food aid given for other than immediate famine relief. I can confirm to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool that the views in the report Real Aid, to which he referred, correspond with this assessment. Some progress has been made in integrating the provision of food aid with agricultural strategies of developing countries. But a good deal of food aid simply provides balance-of-payments support. The drawbacks of it have been well rehearsed. The benefits of food aid do not always match its very high costs; nor is it always the right response to food shortages, not least because of the adverse effects it can have on indigenous food production.

But it is the right response when people are starving and their governments have no other way of providing for them. This is tragically the case in the belt of countries stretching across Africa from Mauretania to Ethiopia, and to varying degrees throughout the rest of sub-Saharan Africa. The European Council in Dublin in December pledged the Community and member states to provide 1.2 million tonnes of cereals to Africa this year. I am pleased to tell your Lordships that the Community and its member countries have now recorded commitments of over 1.2 million tonnes to the most seriously affected countries and of nearly 1.5 million tonnes to all the sub-Saharan African countries facing food shortages.

The noble Lord, Lord Oram, asked: is the aid not getting through too slowly? The Commission have worked hard to implement the Dublin commitment; and, of the £100 million committed for the first part of the Dublin plan in December, £50 million is now in the hands of local Commission delegations or international voluntary organisations, and the first 175,000 tonnes of the Community's 1985 food aid programme has already been allocated.

If I have seemed to neglect Asia in this survey, it is because the most pressing problems are in Africa. Two projects illustrate not only our continuing interest in Asia but also our wish to concentrate where possible on development aid rather than on emergency aid. My right honourable friend the Minister for Overseas Development has just approved £10 million for a United Kingdom project to rehabilitate the Sukkur Barrage, which is crucial to the irrigation system of the Lower Indus and, therefore, to food production in Pakistan. The Indo-British Fertiliser Education Project, for which some £13 million has so far been provided, is intended to encourage farmers to improve their use of fertilisers. It is showing encouraging results in the improvement of crop yield. The ODA's chief natural resources adviser has described it as one of the most successful projects with which he has been concerned in nearly 40 years. Other projects are now being implemented. We hope that they will be just as successful.

India is fortunate in being self-sufficient in food. The development of the new variety of seeds, linked with the sensible incentive policies of the Government of India, are the factors mainly responsible for this, but British development aid has played a part. It illustrates what can be done when a country possesses a stable government. However, we recognise that food aid can be required in Asia, too. We have recently agreed to a request from the Government of Bangladesh to use £4 million of our aid programme for the purchase of food.

Britain alone cannot, of course, finance the development required to eliminate starvation in the third world. We and other bilateral donors no doubt will continue to play our part, but the international community must look to the European Community and to the World Bank, to whose funds we make large contributions, for much of the investment that will be needed. One of the key instruments for helping to avoid a recurrence of famine is the World Bank's Special Facility for sub-Saharan Africa. Together with the Federal Republic of Germany, Japan and Switzerland, we are providing some of our bilateral aid for use in association with the Facility. We have earmarked £75 million for that purpose. We shall use it flexibly, in close consultation with the World Bank. It will not be tied to the procurement of British goods and services.

The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, mentioned the International Fund for Agricultural Development. The next meeting was due to take place on 1st and 2nd April but has now been postponed by the IFAD until 16th and 17th May. We hope that agreement will be reached then and in that event the United Kingdom would expect to contribute to the replenishment on a basis to be decided following the usual burden-sharing discussions among donors.

I should also mention the Community's contribution in the form of the Sixth European Development Fund of 7.5 billion ecu. Over 90 per cent. of this will go to Africa, and Britain's share in sterling, at the current rate of exchange, will be £780 million. The provisions of the new Lomé Convention for policy changes in development aid will, we hope, make European aid, particularly to agriculture, more effective.

But, as many of your Lordships have said, starvation can occur where no drought exists and money is not wanting. Starvation occurs when such factors as low rainfall, civil war, population pressures, indequate food storage and distribution systems and poor agricultural production are present. Where they are present there is a limit to what donors can do, and the noble Lord, Lord Harris of High Cross, drew our attention to this. The noble Lord, indeed, said that our aid should be conditional upon policy changes of the governments to whom aid is being given. The United Kingdom Governments policy is to encourge reforms and, together with other donors, to establish a more effective dialogue with recipient governments about such matters. The IMF and the World Bank assistance for structure-adjustment programes is conditional upon economic policy reform and much of our own aid is provided specifically in support of such programmes. Indeed, third world governments must play their part in ensuring peace and stability within their borders and in following sensible agricultural policies.

There are many areas where the Government believe our development aid supports these policies. I will mention three: natural resources, population programmes and research. Much of Africa today, and parts of Asia tomorrow, could be faced with deforestation of many parts of their considerable arid and semi-arid areas. That is a point to which the noble Lord, Lord Soper, drew attention. We welcome the efforts currently being made by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation to refocus its activities on increasing food production in Africa.

It is also essential to improve our international warning system. That was a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, and by my noble friend Lord Gisborough. We are glad that the FAO is now looking at this, but the system must be reinforced by better field observation and reporting. This can put strains on even the best agricultural service and it is important that the donor community does not overlook the need for redevelopment of human resources and institutions, in addition to simply providing help and food.

On the international warning system, which was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, I should say that the Food and Agriculture Organisation already operates a global information and early-warning system to alert governments and organisations to crop failures and food shortages. It needs improvement, and we are attending a meeting in Rome this week to discuss this, among other matters.

British bilateral aid aims to increase agricultural production in those areas of reliable rainfall or irrigation and better soils, for which proven production techniques are available, and to assist with research and training focused on drought-resistance programmes adapted to semi-arid areas. This will include work on drought-resistant millets and sorghums, drought-resistant tree species, appropriate livestock development and simple conservation methods. ODA offers considerable scientific expertise and long practical experience of working in cross-cultural and diverse ecological environments.

The noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, rightly spoke of the importance of water. We welcome the United Nations Water Decade and are currently contributing, under bilateral aid arrangements, some £102 million towards the cost of 73 drinking-water and sanitation schemes in 35 developing countries. We have also made a number of other contributions, including the work of our special units.

In Kenya we are supporting the National Research Organisation in trying to solve the pressing problem of virus diseases in arable crops. In Southern Sudan we are supporting work to test drought-resistant crops. In Port Sudan our fisheries project is reported to have increased landings fivefold; and I hope that will give some encouragement to the noble Lady, Lady Kinloss.

I would emphasise that natural resources development depends as much on organisation as on investment. As many of your Lordships have said, including my noble friend Lord Onslow, its effectiveness is too often reduced by civil disorder, inappropriate pricing policies and the difficulty that some recipient governments find in adapting their agrarian structures to absorb new technology without causing serious social problems.

The problem of rapidly-growing population has also placed its burden on Africa. In Africa, high rates of natural increase of about 2.9 per cent. a year (the excess of births over deaths) are a dominant demographic force affecting every aspect of development. This produces great pressures on already limited resources. Rapid population growth has the effect of cancelling out much of the progress made in increasing food production, which is increasing at less than 2 per cent. per year. African governments are aware of the role population policies have to play in their own development planning. The British Government remain willing to play their part in this exercise, by continuing our bilateral development effort in Africa, including support for population-related activities and by contributing to multilateral population programmes.

Finally, as regards research, since 1983 ODA have supported, and we shall continue to support, research into the use of economic and social information in famine prediction. The work has been carried out by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the International Disaster Institute, with field work carried out in Ethiopia and Bangladesh. A final report is expected shortly, as is a wider report by the University of East Anglia on the economic and development problems of the semi-arid pastoral areas of Africa. Further research is under consideration.

We have had a good debate, and we are going to have, as the noble Lord, Lord Oram, said, another debate on this same subject tomorrow night, no doubt going more deeply into the philosophy of the whole question of aid. I hope that I have said enough to assure your Lordships that the Government take the problem of famine today very seriously and are making a major contribution towards solving it.

8.48 p.m.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, it is the convention to thank those speakers who have participated in a debate, and this I do, individually and very warmly. However, I believe that each one of the speakers would regard me simply as an agent, allowing them to do what they would have wished to do anyway. I have no apology to make to other speakers in again picking out the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, and echoing the hope that he will make many more stopovers in his journeys to and from Washington, to participate in our debates.

One or two points have been raised, and I can mention only a very small selection. I very much welcomed the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, and his desire to see more twinning. He will be glad to know that, in addition to the instances he gave, I can give him the instance of the City of Sheffield, which is twinned with Anshan in China, where there is mutual co-operation in iron and steel and where the people of Sheffield, led by their mayor, have paid a visit and are exchanging not just cultural concepts but also economic development.

To the noble Lord, Lord Harris of High Cross, my old foe, I would say just two things. First, there was famine in the colonies during colonial days. There was famine in Ethiopia under Haile Selassie. It has not been confined to socialist regimes. Finally, I would just remind your Lordships that immediately after the Second World War this country appealed to Africa to help the people of Britain with their food shortage, and Africa responded despite their poverty. We have a duty to return that generosity.

We have been talking about, to use Barbara Ward's words, the character of space-ship earth over the next generation. I am appealing, despite the noble Baroness's words that the Government have responded quickly. My appeal is that the Government do not wait for the crisis to break in the future, but act now before the next crisis breaks to prevent famine in the future. I believe that Britain can give a lead. I believe that that lead is a good role for this country to play. I believe that that lead will be followed and welcomed by countries in Scandinavia and by Holland, by Canada and by Australasia. I appeal to the Government to use the resources, particularly the research resources, of this country to halt the deserts—indeed, to make them bloom—and to appeal to the international community to come in behind that lead in what must be the greatest of all tasks in the 20th century. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.