HL Deb 30 June 1986 vol 477 cc586-8

2.52 p.m.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will take the opportunity afforded by the British presidency of the Council of the EC to ensure that projects in developing countries funded jointly by member states include measures for the prevention of disability.

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

My Lords, my right honourable friend the Minister for Overseas Development, who will chair the Council of Development Ministers in November, has said that reform of the European Community's food aid programme is his principal objective. We want to see it, and other EC aid programmes, become more effective instruments for improving the conditions which result in disablement, and for making a greater impact on the nutritional standards of developing countries through direct feeding projects and through aid for food production.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that very helpful and promising Answer. Is she aware that food aid is very important in the prevention of protein energy malnutrition? But is it not the case that much disablement could be prevented or avoided by including in jointly funded projects not merely food aid but also medical aid, socio-economic aid and environmental aid? Is it not further the case that in some of those areas at least family planning aid could play its part in the prevention during the perinatal period of disabling conditions to both the mother and the child?

Baroness Young

Yes, my Lords, I agree with both the points of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton. With regard to food aid, one of the major objectives of our presidency will be to improve the effectiveness of the Community food aid programme. On the noble Lord's wider point about help in preventing disablement, we support through our multilateral health assistance the World Health Organisation's special programme for research and training into tropical diseases, the expanded programme on immunisation and the action programme on essential drugs and vaccines.

Lord Diamond

My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware—and I notice that the Question is not limited to physical disability—that the citizens of this country suffer from a major disability in the exercise of their democratic rights in voting members to the EC? Are the Government intending to use our presidency to alter and remedy this major defect in our democracy?

Baroness Young

My Lords, I am quite sure that the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, would expect me to say what I am going to say—that the question of PR is wide of the Question on the Order Paper.

Baroness Lockwood

My Lords, in view of the Minister's response to the noble Lord's supplementary question, would she be prepared to discuss with her right honourable friend in another place the importance of emphasising family planning as a vital ingredient in the prevention of disability?

Baroness Young

My Lords, I am aware of the interest of the noble Baroness in this matter and I much regret that she was unable to have her debate on this important issue a short while ago. I shall certainly draw to the attention of my right honourable friend the point she makes.

Lord Oram

My Lords, will the noble Baroness accept that we on this side very much welcomed what the Minister for Overseas Development said in relation to food aid, particularly when he said: Europe should provide recipients with food they need, not food we want to dispose of? Surely that is the way to release funds for the particular causes that have been called to our attention by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton. Does the noble Baroness recall that on 14th May in the debate which the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, initiated, he brought forward some formidable figures about the size of the problem and also some very important figures about the small amount of funds that are needed in individual cases, perhaps to transform a young persons's life? Does not that series of facts indicate that anything we can do through the EDF or in other ways to be more specific in overcoming the problem of disability will be welcome on all sides?

Baroness Young

My Lords, in preparation for this Question I of course looked again at the debate of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, in your Lordships' House last month. I accept the important point that the noble Lord, Lord Oram, has repeated concernng what my right honourable friend Mr. Raison said about this matter. We believe that the best contribution the Community can make is through its food and financial aid programmes to improve the conditions which lead to disablement. My understanding is that for the Community direct help for the disabled overseas is best carried out through the bilateral aid support of each country, and that of course is how principally we shall be doing it.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

My Lords, will my noble friend the Minister confirm that not only do we supply financial aid, but that many members of the medical profession in this country go out and help the disabled of many countries in Africa? That is to my certain knowledge, having visited those countries.

Baroness Young

Yes, my Lords; my noble friend is quite right. We help through personnel; and I should add that through joint funding with voluntary organisations we have helped a number of specific schemes for the disabled.

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