HL Deb 23 May 1990 vol 519 cc935-82

5.48 p.m.

Lord Rea rose to call attention to the relationship of poverty, illiteracy and environmental degradation to rapid world population growth; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, before moving my Motion, perhaps I may ask the Leader of the House to clarify one point. While I think it is the intention of all noble Lords who will speak to keep to the spirit of a short two-and-a-half hour debate, am I right in thinking that there is no formal limit to the time allotted to the debate?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I have taken advice. I thought there was a formal time limit but the noble Lord is right. There is not, because the Motion was not moved.

Lord Rea

My Lords, nevertheless, I hope that we shall keep to the spirit of the normal two-and-a-half-hour short debate.

I have centred this Motion on the world population problem because it is such a widely accepted concern. But I hope to show that it is a problem which demands a much wider view of the human situation, particularly of the relationship between the developed affluent North and the under-developed poorer South, than would be obtained by a narrowly focused discussion on family planning as such, vital though that is. It is a huge subject upon which I would have to speak for an hour or more in order to cover the whole field—and then there would still be many gaps. As it is, I hope in about 15 minutes to set the stage—and truly for this topic all the world is a stage—for the 14 distinguished speakers who will follow me. I know that they will make the evening much more interesting and inform the House much more fully than would be the case if I were to attempt the task alone.

Many noble Lords will know the size and shape of the problem. At present the world's population is estimated at 5.28 billion. By the time my 15 minutes has elapsed, it will have increased by another 2, 700. It took the human race about 250,000 years since it first evolved from its ape-like ancestors to reach I billion. That occurred in the early years of the 19th century. It took a further 110 years or so to reach 2 billion. That occurred in about 1925. Since that time the next billion took only 35 years to evolve, the following one 15 years and the next one took 13 years. It will not be until the human race reaches the total of 7 billion in about the year 2010 that the rate of increase is likely to start to slow down, but even that prediction is now in doubt according to the most recent report of the United Nations Fund for Population Activities.

The final size of the human population is estimated by the United Nations to stabilise at something between 11 billion at a medium projection and 14 billion at a higher projection by the end of the next century. Whether we reach the lower or the higher of those estimates very much depends upon what happens in the next decade, because of the built-in increase which will inevitably occur as young people born now mature and have their own families.

The industrialised North has virtually ceased to increase in numbers and in the next century the vast majority of people on the earth will be born in the South. In the face of all that busy reproduction, I am tempted to stand back at this point and reflect that as all this activity is due to sex, the obvious answer is perhaps self-control and abstinence. To quote from a source which I shall not name: The pleasure is momentary, the position ridiculous and the consequences disastrous". I doubt whether that view will be shared by many of your Lordships present in the Chamber tonight.

I have committed the impermissible: I have mislaid one of the pages of my speech. Therefore, the next section of my speech will be slightly disjointed. When a species increases in vast numbers, as the human race has done, it can be held to be a mark of its success in adapting to the environment. In man's case, not only have we adapted to the environment; we have also been able to adapt the environment itself to our own ends. So far as concerns tonight's discussion, there is no measure which we have achieved more effectively than that of controlling mortality.

In the last century we gradually became more aware of our environment and increased our industrial growth. The increase in our population was slow because we had not yet begun to understand fully the causes of death. Therefore, the increasing prosperity was able to match, or go ahead of, the increase in the size of the population, although we had our own population explosion. However, these days, we are able to export to the developing South the techniques we have developed to control mortality so that mortality rates there have begun to fall much more quickly than birth rates.

In the third world the birth rate has been affected by a colossally high mortality rate due to a whole range of tropical diseases, such as malaria, as well as intermittent shortages of food supplies and a full range of other diseases from which we suffer, such as tuberculosis, pneumonia and diarrhoea. As I said, we have been able to export quite simple methods of mortality control to the South. This has happened almost inadvertently; for example, as regards transporation, the building of roads has a major effect in limiting mortality. It is much easier now for a family to bring their sick children to a village some distance away from their home than it was when they had to trek on foot for many miles through the bush.

The result of this development has been that out of six or seven children per mother, four of five are now surviving rather than the two or three that usually survived before modern means of controlling mortality were introduced from the North. Even so, that still leaves a very high mortality rate of up to 25 per cent. in many countries in the developing world, compared with our rate of 1 per cent. or 2 per cent. Therefore, there is still a colossal wastage of child life in many developing countries due to entirely avoidable causes. According to the WHO, 14 mil ion children die each year.

The possibility, even though it is less than it was previously, that their children may die is a potent reason why many third world mothers continue to desire to have large families. They wish to ensure that some of their children survive. In subsistence economies children are perceived as an economic asset. In contrast, in more developed countries with a better educated population, having fewer children frees women to pursue a fuller and more economically productive life.

At present, many third world countries are at that "transitional" or turning point. It is especially there that women are eager to avail themselves of modern means of contraception. Sadly, those means are nowhere near as readily available as they should be.

The current economic plight of many developing countries makes it more difficult to supply them even if there is a government that is willing to do so. Indeed, that is the case with the majority of governments in the third world today.

I should now like to concentrate on the three factors mentioned in the title of the Motion. I shall deal first with poverty. If countries are plotted on a graph, with GNP per head on one axis and the fertility rate on the other, one can see that there is as clear relationship between income and fertility, although it is not consistent. Some points are well outside the main trend. On the useful axiom that the exception proves the rule, it is worth looking at the outliers. There are, first, those that are poor but have low fertility. Three countries stand out—China, Cuba and Sri Lanka. Cuba has the lowest fertility rate in the third world, equal to some European countries; China, with its 1 billion plus population, follows closely behind. Both those countries have in common a strong government commitment to promote health care, and have achieved low infant mortality rates. China in particular has a powerful population policy, although there is recent evidence that the one-child-per-couple policy is less successful than earlier campaigns because it has gone beyond what the population can accept. It may even have been counter-productive. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord McNair, will be able to give an account of life in Sri Lanka, which may lie behind its lower fertility rate.

The other outliers on the graph are the Arab oil producing countries whose GNP per capita equals, and in some cases exceeds, that of the richest countries. However, women continue to bear five to seven children, and the population increase is about 3 per cent., whereas in China and Sri Lanka it is about 1-3 per cent. and in Cuba, only 0-9 per cent. Two factors are probably at work in those countries. There is an unequal distribution of wealth, and women, despite the fact that many are now going to school, are still trapped in a male-dominated society which, by and large, insists that a woman's place is in the home as a child raiser. The role of education, especially of women, is crucial.

I chose the word "illiteracy" because this is International Literacy Year. In fact, it is secondary education which is correlated most clearly with decreased fertility. That is not hard to understand. The ability to read, as taught in primary schools, is a help in understanding simple written instructions, but it does not widen the scope of outlook beyond the traditional community as much as do further years of schooling. They widen horizons and enable children to key into the world store of knowledge by using the printed word as a source of exploration.

Secondary education can open women's eyes to possibilities other than raising children or looking after the family plot. It is from that wider outlook that the desire to limit family size takes root. UNFPA figures show that women with seven years' education have on average 2.2 fewer children than those with no education. In nearly all developing countries, women's education lags behind that of men, and male education is not so highly correlated with family size.

I added the factor of environmental degradation to the Motion because it rightly disturbs many people. Its relationship to population pressure is not, however, as simple as it might appear. In many countries, as rural populations grow the size of each family plot of land diminishes and overgrazing occurs. There is increasing cultivation of marginal lands. That can result in soil erosion and even eventual desertification. I have seen that in countries as far apart as Kenya and Guatemala. It is not just population pressure that is to blame. An important aspect is the use of the most fertile land by large landowners and the state for the export crops which are necessary to pay for imports and to service debt.

Many of your Lordships may have eaten the delicious mange tout peas imported from Guatemala, and may think that that is doing Guatemala a good turn. We may be helping its debt problem, but those peas are grown on land which could be feeding Guatemalan peasants who, having been displaced from the best lands, are farming land pitched at about 45 degrees half-way up the side of a volcano. Their fields look pretty scrappy.

I shall leave it to other noble Lords to go further into the ecological aspects of the problem. We are in part to blame. The export of agricultural produce and timber from the south to the north accounts for a large part of the rain forest destruction, erosion and cultivation of marginal lands. If we are to preach environmental conservation, we should start by putting our own house in order, as was discussed at Question Time today.

As the south develops, and the standard of life of its people improves, it is hypocritical to suggest that they must be more frugal and environmentally conscious than we are.

Thanks to the IPPF, I was recently privileged to be invited as an observer to the second Western Hemisphere Conference of Parliamentarians on Population and Development, held in Quito, Ecuador, in March this year. Practically every American and Caribbean country sent delegates. There is now a realisation that family limitation is not an imperialist plot. Development is slow if too high a proportion of resources has to go on education and child care. A notable absentee from that conference was the United States of America, which has pulled out of population activities because of its own domestic problems with the pro-life anti-abortion lobby—surely a short-sighted and mistaken move.

I must draw my speech to a close because I am overrunning my time. I understand that the IMF and the World Bank are having second thoughts about the effects their requirements for economic reform have had on social programmes (health and education) of countries that receive loans.

One of the major reasons why progress in Africa in health and education has been so slow, and has even become worse in the past decade, is that there are virtually no social programmes left because the countries are so impoverished. Despite that, the UNFPA feels that an injection of a further £2 billion into population activities worldwide would enable nearly all women who wish to be able to limit their families to do so with the help of modern methods. That would probably result in a reduction of about one-third in the number of births.

In conclusion, I should like to ask the Minister whether he will act on the advice of Sir Charles Morrison, chairman of the All-Party Group on Population and Development, contained in his letter to The Times yesterday: that the Government should increase considerably their contribution to population activities in their overseas aid budget. At present it stands at £17 million—about 1 per cent. only of the total. At the same time, will the Minister ensure that those aspects of our aid budget going to health and education projects are increased for the reasons that I have outlined and take a more prominent and generous role in international discussions, aimed at phasing out as soon as possible the external debt of the poorest countries? To do those things would be acting in our interests. Population expansion will be slowed more quickly; environmental pressures will be lessened; and poorer countries will be in a better position to enter the world market and pay for our exports, rather than becoming poorer and seeing all their earnings swallowed up in the dismal, losing battle against increasing debt. I beg to move for Papers.

6.10 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Manchester

My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rea, for introducing this tremendous subject to us this afternoon. His background of medical knowledge and overseas experience has given him insights from which we benefit. The subject is so vast and important that it must make much of the political debate in which we are currently engaged rather trivial in comparison.

There are constant calls to developing countries to limit their population by family planning. Earlier this afternoon the point was made in the discussion following the Question by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy. However, we need to appreciate the constraints on family planning programmes in developing countries. We are caught in a vicious circle in our world because no such programmes can possibly succeed without rising living standards. That includes both education, to which the noble Lord, Lord Rea, referred, and security.

Perhaps I may illustrate this by a little anecdote from the years that I spent in Kenya. That country still has the most dubious distinction of having the fastest growing population in the world. The Kenya family planning association put out a poster which it thought would be effective. It was divided into two halves. On one half was a hut and outside were a man and woman sitting on nicely made chairs with a table; two well dressed, well cared for children played outside. The other half of the picture was given over to a dilapidated hut with a man and woman, poorly dressed, obviously undernourished, sitting on packing cases, with something like 10 children who looked poor and tattered playing in the dust. The association had to withdraw the poster because it gathered that people said, "Look at that poor man, he only has two children". I think your Lordships would agree that this makes the point that it is no use pushing family planning programmes in situations where children are seen as an essential means of security. Many people in Britain today do not appreciate that.

Things have changed in Kenya, as elsewhere. There is a much more widespread appreciation of the importance of the limitation of families. As affluence in a certain section of the population begins to increase, so these factors begin to operate. That makes people want to keep to smaller families and have children when they are wanted. However, millions and millions of others are trapped in hopeless poverty and near starvation. Children are regarded by them as a sign of security and wealth.

We might note one other constraint on family planning programmes. That is in situations of tribal or racial tension. It is considered that the attempt to limit families in one's own tribe may cause one to lose out to those who will exercise power on the other side. So conditions of social justice and equilibrium where there are racial tensions are also important in the spreading of effective family planning programmes.

Religious objections have also been a powerful constraint, and still are in many parts of the world, on artificial methods of birth control. The Church of England agonised over this in years gone by, but for many years it has been the view of the Church of England, reinforced by successive Lambeth conferences, for example, that artificial methods of birth control can be used responsibly. They are part of God's gift for use within marriage.

I regard it as deeply sad that our Roman Catholic friends, who are so influential in many of the parts of the world about which we are speaking, have not yet come to that point of view. However, as we well know, many Roman Catholic lay men and lay women ignore the leadership given on the issue, whether from the Vatican or elsewhere.

We must face the enormous challenge of world poverty. It is no use simply isolating birth control programmes as the answer to rising population. Until standards begin to rise in these countries and there is greater security, and people are not so dependent on feeling that they must have large families in order to face old age, family planning programmes will not be effective. Far too of ten in this country people simply make excuses for world poverty by saying, "There you are, you can see how many children they produce. It's all their own fault". We do not appreciate that because of our wasteful lifestyle we ourselves put far more pressure on the resources of the world. In a way if this pressure is followed in other parts of the world and people emulate our lifestyle, on present predictions that lifestyle is quite unsustainable.

It is sad that in the run up to the next election, which we are told by our newspapers is now beginning, the whole aspect of the challenges facing our world is not likely to feature prominently. Instead, there is bargaining between the various political parties as to who can be seen to offer the lowest taxation. However, higher taxation might well be required to implement social programmes in our own country and to provide the kind of support which we should give to nations overseas. I am quite aware that there are economic implications in taxation; there must be limits to it. However, I still find it deeply saddening that we have this constant bargaining going on and each party is afraid to be labelled the party of high taxation.

The truth is that there is always a temptation to concentrate simply on the short-term self-interest. This operates as much in a democratic society—or perhaps even more so—as anywhere else. With periodic elections, the temptations for politicians of all parties to concentrate on the short term is overwhelming. We might well need, for example, to hear voices calling for lower growth instead of the constant appeals to people to have it even better when they have never had it so good. We are consuming far too much in our country already. People, even in an electorate like ours, can see the challenge on occasion. There was one classic instance back in 1984 when it was widely rumoured that there would be major cuts in the government overseas aid programmes. Whether or not there was truth in the rumours I do not know, but there was a sharp revolt. It is worth noting that the revolt was joined by many of those who would be described as middle ground Conservative voters who were horrified and outraged that this should be suggested at a time when there was publicity over the famine in Ethiopia and the Sahel. So an educated, informed public opinion on these matters can exist and needs to be encouraged. The sadness, again, is that all too of ten it depends on these disasters which appear on our television screens from time to time. There is insufficient widespread public appreciation that disasters are only the tip of a catastrophic iceberg, if I may use that metaphor.

The charities have a major part to play—Christian Aid, CAFOD, Oxfam, the Save the Children Fund—with their overseas experience in educating our electorate. It is dangerous and misguided for some people to put Oxfam under investigation for being too political in a non-party sense. That is what they are. I am reminded of the comments of Archbishop Desmond Tutu about the religious inspiration behind many charities. He said, "When people tell me that there are no politics in the Bible, I wonder which Bible they are reading".

These matters are deeply entwined with political programmes of various kinds. It is vital for the health, the well-being and future of our own country and our descendants that these problems of world poverty and the enormous growth in population should be tackled effectively. Fortunately, many creative writers and artists are thinking about these matters today. The television programme "The March", which some of your Lordships may have seen the other day, tried to depict in a stark form the rising masses of Africa revolting under their poverty. That picture was brought in front of the public.

The programme was based on a very simple slogan on the part of the Africans shown marching to Europe. The slogan was: "We are poor because they are rich". We all know that that is an over- simplification yet it also contains a profound truth. One can understand that truth when one looks at the debt problem which has already been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Rea, in opening the debate. In a sense the repayment of debt has been rightly described as the most powerful engine yet devised, except perhaps for slavery, for transferring wealth from the poor to the rich.

We need encouragement at this moment in our history when we are faced with so many tremendous challenges and changes on the world scene. We need to combat a certain feeling of hopelessness. In the 19th century that feeling must have been strong in the days when Charles Dickens was writing his novels. Yet, somehow, there was a major breakthrough and conditions of greater equality and a greater sharing of resources arose in our own country. However, the danger is that we may be slipping back to conditions of greater inequality once more. It has of ten been remarked that it was only when the health of those in middle class areas was threatened by cholera from working class districts that there were major advances in public health. That, surely, is what is beginning to happen on the world scene today. As regards environmental problems, people in the affluent countries such as our own are at last beginning to realise that their own health, safety and future are threatened.

One of the major problems that must be faced is the debt problem. I am sure that later in the debate other noble Lords will address themselves to that problem in a more expert manner than I am capable of. The Brady plan was put forward by Nicholas Brady, US Treasury Secretary, to: rekindle the hope of the people and leaders of debtor nations that their sacrifices would lead to greater prosperity in the present and the prospect of a future unclouded by debt". That plan has been sharply criticised in Latin American countries and also by the Organisation of African Unity for having far too little sense of urgency as regards the catastrophic situation facing so many countries at the present time. I look forward to hearing the Minister give us some encouragement that the Government are taking these problems of world debt, fairer trade terms and overseas aid immensely seriously.

As we look to the future shape of societies under change, such as those in Eastern Europe, it is no good to expect that free market economies will bring the solutions we need to these great problems. Certainly the free market should have a role to play but we need a much deeper philosophy than that in order to cope with what confronts our world.

6.22 p.m.

Lord Monkswell

My Lords, first of all I must apologise as I shall not unfortunately be able to stay until the end of the debate. However, I shall read all the contributions tomorrow in Hansard and take careful note of them. When I mentioned to someone last night that I was going to take part in both the debates this afternoon, on civil liberties and on population control respectively, the response was that I could not speak in both as one debate was a contradiction of the other. It was presumed that I was going to speak in favour of telling people that they had to control their procreation activities.

That is something we must be careful about. I speak as someone who enjoys sex. We should be careful that we do not tell other people how many children they should have and when and where they should indulge in sex. That would be an enormous and monstrous presumption on our part. However, we can appreciate the fact that if this planet of ours is made to support an ever-increasing number of people it will eventually run out of resources. There is a need to ask how we are going to balance the world's population with the resources that the world can generate.

One of the things that I think about is why we have children. There are probably two main reasons apart from the enjoyment of the act of procreation that I have already mentioned. One reason for having children is instinctive. One has an instinctive desire to perpetuate one's genes, personality and persona into the future. The other reason is rather more material. We want to ensure that our standard of living in the future is maintained. On the one hand we have children to carry ourselves forward and on the other hand we have them to support us in our old age. If we think about that latter point we can appreciate that in some circumstances it necessitates having a large number of children. If there is a high risk that one's children will die because of pestilence, war or famine, one needs to have a large number of children to ensure that some of them survive.

If there is no pension provision through a mechanism such as social security for people in their old age, they need to ensure that they have as many offspring as they can produce to support them. It stands to reason that if the life expectancy of children is high and there is some degree of material protection for old age, there will be a reduced need for people to have a large number of children. On a worldwide basis the way forward is to ensure that the life expectancy of individual people is enhanced and that there is material provision for people's old age. But how do we do that on a worldwide basis? It is interesting that in the advanced Western economies of the world life expectancy is fairly high—people live to 60, 70 or 80 years of age—and material support is available for people of pensionable age. Virtually every Western country has a mechanism for pension provision which reduces the need to be dependent on one's offspring.

The message is clear. What we need to do as a world is to ensure that the conditions which currently pertain in the more affluent countries of the world pertain world wide. It is not a question of the rich and affluent countries of the world telling the poorer countries that their people should not have large families. Rather it is a question of the rich and powerful nations of the world saying that they will ensure that there is pension provision for everyone on God's planet and that there is a reasonable life expectancy for everyone born on God's planet. That is a very large task. It is a completely different task to the one that is proposed by those who suggest that some people on this planet should tell other people on this planet when and where they will indulge in sexual activity and how many children they will or will not have. I would argue that it is far more important for us to work towards world pension provision and an increase in life expectancy for everyone on the planet rather than to tell other people when they shall indulge in sexual activity and how many children they shall or shall not have.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Walston

My Lords, I too must start with an apology. I was under the impression that this debate was to be limited to two-and-a-half hours and made arrangements on that assumption. If, as seems possible the debate continues for rather longer I may not be able to stay to hear the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, speak.

I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Rea, for introducing this very important subject and for giving us such a wealth of information and wisdom based largely on personal experience.

As usual, I find myself in complete agreement—although last time it was only partial agreement—with the right reverened Prelate. The problem of overpopulation is primarily a problem of poverty. As the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, also pointed out—although I did not agree with everything that he said—one of the primary reasons for large families in poor areas, especially in the third world, is that they are an insurance for old age. So long as poverty continues and old age is uncertain families will be large.

To a certain extent we are in a cleft stick, because the spread of medical knowledge, even in the most remote corners of the world, means that many diseases have not been conquered. Even in poor and isolated communities people live longer and as years go by will live even longer. Populations will grow for that reason. At the same time, because the problems of poverty and security have not been dealt with to the satisfaction of those who today suffer so much from insecurity, in many countries there will continue to be large families.

I suggest that the way to deal with that problem is through a combination of education and literacy, which goes hand in hand with education, and the improvement of the standards of living of those in the poorest parts of all the continents. That means a redistribution of wealth, and I shall come to that point later. Above all, it means that in rural areas there must be good teaching, good educational facilities, good practical agricultural education and good education in the schools themselves.

What happens today? Envisage a remote village, let us say in Africa but it could be anywhere in the third world. There is a bright young student at a not very good village school. The headmaster of that school will say to the parents of that girl or boy that they have a bright child, and if they can save up enough money to send the child to the nearest town he or she will have a better education and a better chance of getting on in life. With luck the child will be able to become a schoolteacher, a doctor or even a lawyer—although I would deprecate wasting good education in the third world on turning out more lawyers and I would rather turn out more agriculturalists and doctors. When the child has had a good education and become a doctor or schoolteacher, what choice is there? He or she can go back to the village and live in simplicity, walking a mile to fill a bucket with water and going to bed early at night because there is only an oil lamp which is not sufficient to read by. There is no stimulating company because it is only a small village and the people living there are mainly illiterate. Or will he or she stay in the city where there is electricity, running water and stimulating company?

The great majority of those children who have the capability of benefit from a better education will not go back to the countryside but will stay in the cities. In other words, there is an automatic creaming of f of the most intelligent and the brightest away from the rural areas into urban areas. God knows, poverty exists in urban areas. In some ways it is more visible and in some ways it is worse. However, so long as that situation persists we shall continue to see the proliferation of illiteracy, poverty and large families.

The problem can only be overcome by a serious effort at the redistribution of wealth. That is where we have failed. In the so-called civilised world we have an amazing record—of harnessing the atom, putting men on the moon and exploring space, crossing the Atlantic in three-and-a-half hours and other magnificent achievements of that kind. However, we have not solved the problem of how to redistribute the wealth which we are capable of producing and which we produce here.

A short while ago I was sent some figures which made a great impression on me. They came from an organisation in Geneva. Imagine that the world, instead of consisting of billions of people, consisted of a village of 1,000 people. On the basis of the way in which wealth is distributed today, of those 1,000 people 60 would have half the total income of the village; 500—half the population—would be hungry; 600 would live in appalling conditions in terms of shelter; and 700 would be illiterate. We know perfectly well that if we lived in a community of only 1,000 and happened to be one of those 60 enjoying half the income, we should not be happy living in the fleshpots while such conditions existed among our neighbours.

It is only because the tens of billions of people in poverty live 1,000 or 10,000 miles away that we can close our eyes and turn our backs. That is where our effort must be made. It is not only this country that is at fault; I am not thinking only of us or the rich world. Other countries do the same. We know that there is maldistribution of wealth even in the poorest countries of the third world.

I have some more figures from India—a poor country, but an extremely civilised one in many respects. It now has the world's third largest pool of scientific manpower. It comes just after the superpowers. It produces scientists, engineers and doctors at a rate that by far outstrips its economy's capacity to absorb them. That is an amazing achievement for India. Not only has it achieved agricultural self-sufficiency, but at present it has a glut of many of its products.

However, in spite of that, homelessness and starvation persist. Some 288 million Indians, or 36 per cent. of the population, live below the Government's poverty income line. Its population is growing at the rate of 2 per cent. a year. Again, it is a problem of distribution of capacity to produce wealth and wealth itself. In addition to concentrating on the points that I and the right reverend Prelate have mentioned and that other noble Lords will mention—the alleviation of poverty in the rural and poorest areas, education, more food and so on—we should give more thought to how we in our democratic society can persuade people of the situation as if it applied to our village of 1,000 inhabitants. We must persuade people that we have just as much responsibility for the tens of billions as we would have for neighbours living at our own front door.

6.41 p.m.

Baroness Lockwood

My Lords, the timing of the debate is opportune as the United Nations Population Fund's annual report, entitled The State of World Population, was published last week. In some respects, that report could be regarded as being an encouraging report; in other respects, it could be regarded as being most depressing.

The report is encouraging because, between the mid-1960s and the present time, global fertility rates for women have fallen from almost 5 to 3.4. In the developing countries the decline has been even deeper—from over 6 to 3.9. Life expectancy has increased, as my noble friend Lord Rea indicated, from 51 years to 59 years for men and from 53 years to 61 years for women. Infant mortality in the first year has fallen from 103 per 1,000 to 71.

The acceptability of family planning has increased worldwide and so too has political support, both in the recognition by governments that their birth rate is too high and in the increasing number of governments who are directly involved in the provision of family planning facilities. In that respect, the political impetus comes not from the governments of the first world but from the governments of the third world.

All that is on the plus side and is encouraging, but—and it is a big but—there is also a negative side. Those improvements have been in percentages and proportions of total numbers in world population. The discouraging aspect is in the actual numbers that we are discussing—numbers that are increasing in totality. Again, as my noble friend Lord Rea said, world population is growing rapidly. It is growing more rapidly than at any time in our previous history. A section of the report, appropriately entitled Running to stand still, points out that global population growth of 2 per cent. has slowed social progress.

So much additional investment has been required to increase the quantity of health, education and other services to meet the increasing needs of a growing population that the quality of the services has suffered as a consequence. I quote from the report because it is an apt quotation: Racing to provide services for fast-growing populations is like running up the down escalator: you have to run very fast indeed to maintain upward motion". As has been indicated, there are many factors involved in those increasing numbers. One of the most important is the age profile. While in the northern hemisphere we have an ageing profile with population growth below replacement level, in the southern hemisphere it is a young profile where both the birthrate and the fertility rate of women is very high. To bring the birthrate down, we must control the fertility rate.

A factor of overriding importance in that respect is women's literacy. For the next few minutes available to me, I want to concentrate on the problems of literacy, particularly women's literacy. When we talk of the 28 per cent. of the world's population that is illiterate, we are talking about women because two-thirds of that 28 per cent. are women.

In addition, in talking about literacy we are concerned not just with the ability of women to read and write but with the wider effects of literacy on the well-being of the whole community. Adult literacy programmes recognise that and build in to the programme such matters as knowlege of legal rights and access to practical information such as preventive health care and family planning. Such programmes are not always welcomed by men who see them as a threat to their own position of power. As a result, women are of ten deterred from participating in those programmes.

Education offers a new status to women beyond that of childbearing alone. It is recognised in many developing countries that the status of women depends on the number of children that they produce, but education helps to take them beyond that. Studies have shown that women with seven years of education tend to marry on average almost four years later than those women who have no education. That is important both in respect to their own health and to the health of the children who might be born to them.

The use of contraceptives by educated women is on average two and a half times higher, and in Africa four times higher, than that by non-educated women. Here I would say to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester that those women would have seen the point behind the poster to which he referred.

Four to six years of education for women lowers the fertility rate by between 5 per cent. in Asian and African countries and 15 per cent. in Latin American countries. Child mortality is lower. In Kenya, women with no education lose 104 children under five years per 1,000 while women who have completed primary education lose 72, and women who have secondary education lose 64. Those numbers are still high by our standards but the relevance of education is obvious.

Mothers with more education tend to enter the labour force more than other women. That brings not only improved status and financial independence but more resources to spend on the family diet. There also tends to be more communication between husband and wife. That also has an influence on fertility rates as well as an improvement in the quality of life.

Better feeding practices, verbal communication with the child—which again helps the child—the use of medical facilities in clinics for immunisation, and pre-natal and post-natal care are all consequences of better education for women. Those benefits accrue not only to the women themselves but to the families and to the community.

The World Bank has said that female education is one of the strongest factors in reducing fertility. I suggest that it is also one of the strongest factors in creating a healthier and more stable world population. Consequently I hope that provision for women's literacy and of better family planning services to meet the unmet demands of women—because there is an unmet demand by women in the third world—will feature more in world population and development programmes.

I should like to think that the United Kingdom could give a lead in that respect. In the first place I should like us to increase our contribution to the underdeveloped world to at least the UN target of 0-7 per cent. of GNP. I should also like to see an increase on the 1 per cent. contribution that goes to family planning services. I should like at least 2 per cent. of funds to be earmarked for that purpose. I should also like to see an earmarking of funds especially for women's literacy programmes. I believe that that would be a very appropriate gesture in this current International Literacy Year.

6.54 p.m.

Lord Thurlow

My Lords, in speaking today I have a certain sense of dé jà vu because with great pleasure I find myself again following the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood. She has talked about population. On 22nd March when we debated the report of your Lordships' Select Committee on Overseas Aid I followed the noble Baroness when speaking on the same subject. I am glad to say that I agree with almost everything that she said. She spoke with great authority of the areas that she emphasised.

In the report of your Lordships' Select Committee on Overseas Aid emphasis was put on the underlying fact that population pressures overshadow every aspect of life in the third world. Restriction of population can be encouraged either by direct means such as the family planning that the noble Baroness discussed or indirectly by education. The noble Baroness and other noble Lords have already referred to that.

In the debate on the report the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, hit the nail on the head when she commented—as have also the right reverend Prelate and others tonight—that there will not be promotion of family planning on a large scale as long as poverty is of such a degree that people can look only to their children for help in old age and emergency. Poverty is the central obstruction.

However, I differ from the right reverned Prelate and the noble Lord, Lord Walston, about the main means by which poverty is to be countered. I do not see that solution coming about by redistribution. By all means let us aim at greatly increasing the contribution of this and other developed countries to the third world. Let us hasten to achieve the percentage figure to which the noble Baroness referred. We are limping a long way behind.

Nevertheless, from my experience of working in parts of the third world, in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean, I simply do not believe that it is practical politics to view the solution to the gap between the rich world and the poor world in redistribution. We may be sorry about that but as a matter of practical politics I do not believe that it will happen.

There is a gap in so far as noble Lords on the Government Benches are not speaking tonight, apart from the noble Lord who will answer for the Government. Perhaps I am fulfilling their role. However, I believe that many noble Lords on the Benches opposite would share the view that redistribution is unlikely and in my view will not happen.

But does that mean that we have to despair? I certainly do not despair. On the contrary I believe that there is a way forward. It is possible to crack the problem. The key is education. If we consider the present state of education in the third world, how can we expect that the breakthrough can come quickly enough? Many noble Lords have visited schools, as I have done, at all levels in Africa, India and the Caribbean. There is a limit to the extent to which their resources can be channelled. There is a great limit on such resources. In any of the countries of central, western and eastern Africa I do not believe that there is the slightest possibility of resources on a sufficient scale being available for improving the number and quality of schools, colleges and so forth. That is not the means by which we can face and conquer the problems of the crisis.

As was eloquently shown by the noble Lord, Lord Rea—and I am grateful to him for introducing the debate—the new report of the United Nations on population trends confronts the planet with a crisis. The only means by which the crisis can be tackled with a hope of success is by a strategic plan for a new kind of education.

It is all very well for me to talk about the desirability of a new kind of education, especially with eminent educators sitting beside me. However, to my knowledge the research necessary to work out the means of accelerated education of a new kind is being carried out. The prospect is that there is soon likely to be an application of the results on the continent of Africa. I am most hopeful about its possibilities. I shall not bore your Lordships by describing the principles of the accelerated educational method but, briefly, it looks towards a constellation of educational units. There will be a central unit to train the trainers and teachers and a ring of subtended units. They are capable of offering within a matter of weeks a form of education that can provide peasants and illiterate urban people with enough know-how and the means of obtaining know-how to tackle their particular problems of agricultural production together with advice from extension services and so forth.

With members of your Lordships' Select Committee I visited Nigeria in the autumn. As the noble Lord, Lord Walston, will remember, we then saw a form of new cultivation which had been worked out at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Ibadan. It is capable of being applied over a large area of Africa and can produce the equivalent of the Asian green revolution. One of our puzzles has been that a green revolution has been achieved in Asia but not in Africa. However, the means now exists; the research work has been done. But how can the results of that work be brought to the ordinary farmer? That will involve an enormous increase in agricultural extension services and in bringing to the peasant the capacity to respond to advice.

I believe that the breakthrough in accelerated educational techniques is the means by which this kind of change can take place, thereby producing teachers and transmitting the capacity to respond on the part of peasants. That applies not only in the agricultural sphere but also in the sphere of illiterates in the terrible growing conurbations cropping up all over the third world.

We can be cautiously optimistic about overcoming the population explosion if a concerted effort is made by the governments of third world countries while working with the governments of the developing world, the United Nations and specialised agencies, industrial companies, which have a great contribution to make, and research institutions. The blueprint for accelerated education now exists as the key to increased economic progress, to much greater wealth creation and then to the fulfilment of the objective of widely applied family planning.

Noble Lords may recall that estate agents have defined three criteria for choosing property to invest in first, location, secondly, location and, thirdly, location. In the field we are discussing, the solution lies in applying three criteria; first, education, secondly, education and, thirdly, education.

7.8 p.m.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, a little over 20 years ago I was asked from time to time to advise an African president on what was happening in his country. At the end of my visits I put forward a list of my observations but left the most sensitive to the end. Then I asked whether he had any idea of the population increase in his country. He told me that he had not and I told him that it was 2-9 per cent. He asked, "How does that bear on what we are trying to do?" I explained to him that at that time, before 1970, 45 per cent. of his population was aged 15 or under and that within 10 years it would be over 50 per cent. Taking into account the old people it meant that less than half his population had to maintain all the services, particularly the social services, for more than half the population. I must add that he turned to me and said, "How do I convince my people to reduce the size of their families? I have nine children myself. I have not yet found an answer to that question.

That country made valiant and very largely successful attempts to introduce entirely free primary education; it greatly increased secondary education and added tertiary education through a university system, none of which it had when it was left to become independent by the British. Today every sector of that educational system has broken down. Free education has gone, illiteracy is growing, secondary education has declined and is expensive and the universities are just as of ten closed as they are open. What is more, in the field of health, drugs are not available, hospitals have started to charge for beds, overcrowding is endemic and diseases are spreading very rapidly. That was a country which started not just with high hopes but which had very high endeavours and which achieved a great deal.

I need say little more than to support everything which the right reverend Prelate said. He said what I would have said and he said it better. I merely wish to hammer home one or two of the lessons which he put before your Lordships. The first is that, although we of course support every form of family planning endeavour in the Third World, none will work unless there is a change in the balance between poverty and riches.

I pick up a point made by the right reverend Prelate. He will remember that in that film "The March", which was shown to us in this House a week ago, there was a phrase which is worth remembering. It was that the world today is divided by economic apartheid. That division is the division which has been illustrated so many times. It is a division which can be so easily seen on all the tables. One only needs to look at the World Bank's annual reports. On the one hand, in this country, which is by no means one of the richest in the world today, the average per capita GNP is something over 10,000 dollars. There are 30 countries—the poorest 30 countries in this world—where that average has to be put against an average of 275 dollars. That is an average falling down to just over 100 dollars.

That is related to another statistic relevant to this debate. Whereas in this country the number of children dying during the first five years of life is 1.1 per cent. (11 per 1000), in the 30 countries to which I have referred that average is over 20 per cent. (over 200 per thousand). Again that is an average. For example, in Ethiopia it is over 30 per cent. (over 300 per 1000). As the right reverend Prelate and other speakers have said, as long as there is high infant mortality, no form of birth control programme will succeed.

The noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, has just been speaking about education. However, education is breaking down and the number of illiterates in the world is increasing. At the same time, health services are breaking down and diseases are spreading throughout the world. Malnutrition is increasing. That has now reached over one in 10 of the total world population. There are over 500 million people who are living, according to United Nations' standards, below the point of malnutrition. As the noble Lord, Lord Rea, said in his introductory speech, something like 14 million or 15 million children are dying each year.

This afternoon we have heard much which was well intentioned but always with the word "if. I am more concerned about our responsibility and what we should be doing in those circumstances. We should not be doing what is becoming so common in the world economy, the global economy, in which we live. For example, because the tobacco companies are finding a reduction in their profits in this country through propaganda and education, they are making their pr of its by exporting strong tar cigarettes to the third world. That is increasing the burden on and the diseases in those countries. We see armament firms persuading third world countries to buy arms which they cannot afford and which cannot bring them anything but disaster. That is not the way in which we in the developed world should be tackling the problems which have been identified this afternoon.

I make a third accusation against the way in which we in Britain are contributing to that problem. It is directly in the lap of Her Majesty's Government. We have heard many times from that Front Bench how generous we are in our aid to the third world. What has never been answered is why, over the past 10 years, the proportion of our gross national product given in overseas aid has declined from 0-53 per cent. to what is now something like 0-33 per cent.

Why his it declined? We were told earlier that it had to decline because of the depression, because of the increase in unemployment and because of the state of our economy. We have been told for years now that there has been an economic miracle. I know that the noble Lord, who has answered me on this matter several times, will say that that percentage is of a higher gross national product. However, should it not be? Should not the percentage be higher? As our gross national product increases, should we not achieve a higher proportion? Can the noble Lord find it within himself to say that that is generosity when the proportion of the wealth in this country contributed to the third world has declined steadily and rapidly over the past 10 years?

However, that is a minor point because the disaster to which all speakers have referred this evening—and it was just referred to as a crisis—needs a great deal more than any amount of overseas aid which we give from this country. It needs nothing less than the Marshall Plan that rehabilitated Europe after the Second World War.

The British Government cannot produce a Marshall Plan. They can take an initiative, and there are other governments, particularly in Scandinavia, Germany and Holland, which can take that initiative through the United Nations and other international organisations. Nothing less than something on the scale of the Marshall Plan can save this situation from disaster.

Finally, it was said—I refer to it only in passing because I have referred to it many times before—that not only is there a threat to the world population and world society; but there is a threat to the place of humanity on our planet. If we are hoping to see the third world people increase their standard of living to the point at which they can maintain life, then I ask can they do it? Can we show them how to do it without them then following the disastrous path that we followed? If they follow that path, and if the 80 per cent. that we now contribute to pollution is followed by third world endeavours in order to increase; heir standard of living, then this planet is doomed for human life.

We have an opportunity. There are methods which exist in this country. For example, there are methods of decommissioning refrigerators. That requires legislation and the backing of the Government. There are British methods which are available to the third world. The third world can be prevented from bringing disaster to our planet only if we are prepared to put our resources behind the transformation of life that can be produced in their world without entailing environmental disaster for the whole planet.

7.22 p.m.

Lord McNair

My Lords, much of what I had planned to say has already been said far better and with greater authority by previous speakers. I hope your Lordships will forgive any repetition. I should also like to say how grateful I am to the noble Lord, Lord Rea, for giving us an opportunity to debate this vital matter.

It is common sense that better health care leads to longer life expectancy and lower infant mortality. It also used to be thought obvious that following from that families would automatically somehow become smaller. We failed to take into account that ideas of family size are deeply rooted in our culture and that to change those ideas requires two other important ingredients; first, education; and, secondly, a growing sense of economic security.

We cannot now assume that the sense of economic security can always be provided. We must find a way of slowing the rate of population growth, especially in areas where the economic prospects are grim. The weight of population is already putting a strain on resources and a brake on development. We must manage to slow the increase in the number of people without promising an immediate economic pay- of f.

Female education, as has been said by many speakers, has proved to be a vital factor, the key which unlocks the problem. Although the figures vary from one country to another there is a clear correlation between the level of female education and family size. There is another considerable direct benefit to a woman who limits her family to two or three children rather than five, 10 or even more; her health and therefore her life expectancy are greatly increased, which in turn makes it more likely that she will be able to provide effective and continuing care to those children she has.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, for her detailed description of the effects of education on the attitudes of women and I hope that what I say will add a little to that. From my experience there are admirable qualities of family life in many third world countries. However, too of ten it is the men who extol the merits of their system. The voices of women in those societies are seldom heard. An important side effect of improving the level of education of women is that it would enable women in those societies to re-examine their roles as women.

Too of ten we find extreme examples of the double standards for men and women. It is not so long ago that our society placed women on a pedestal, overtly protected, covertly exploited—a condition sometimes referred to with approval as Victorian values. Raising the self-confidence and self-awareness of women in developing countries is a delicate business, but it is vital to success both in stemming the tide of humanity which threatens to engulf the world and in improving the quality of life for those already born.

I agree with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester. I expect I will upset some people by saying this, but in my personal opinion the ancient teachings of the Catholic Church on contraception are (not to put too fine a point on it) extremely unhelpful. They are sensibly ignored by many of those engaged in this desperate struggle.

I should like to mention Sri Lanka, of which I have some slight personal experience. It is a tropical island about half the size of our own with two main ethnic groups. The main and indeed the state religion is Buddhism. I suspect that that may be a significant reason why Sri Lanka's population increase started to slow much earlier than that of many comparable nations.

R. H. Tawney in his book Religion and the Rise of Capitalism explained the relationship between religious belief and economic development. Although his conclusions are widely if not universally accepted, I do not know of any similar study applied to religion in countries which have yet to achieve a substantial degree of economic development.

Sri Lanka has an excellent national health service. Admittedly it does not have the high-tech equipment of our own, but there are no waiting lists and the standards of medicine and nursing care are excellent. The education system too, though the facilities might strike noble Lords as rather basic, are universal and free up to secondary level. There is a deep and powerful desire among the majority of the population to obtain an education. I visited a school in the interior; in other words, a village school far from the nearest town. It catered for children from nought to 16. If the figures of the headmistress are accurate, as well as teaching all the children to plant and cultivate rice it managed to obtain better O-level results than I guess would be obtained by a comparable school in this country.

I should like to commend to your Lordships' House the outstanding contribution to developments in Africa, Asia and Latin America made by both Oxfam Trading and Traidcraft. I have more information regarding the latter, but both organisations are similar. Traidcraft is not a charity; it is a pic, a business. It is a trading organisation like any other except for its clearly defined purchasing policy. It buys only from organisations operating for the benefit of their workpeople and/or the local community. It pays a fair price for what it buys. It makes advance payments to suppliers where appropriate and also provides them with help in the development of their businesses.

There is nothing that Traidcraft is doing which could not, in principle, be done by any other business trading with the developing world. It has set up Traidcraft Exchange, which is a charitable trust associated with the company and has a growing consultancy business providing service to small-scale enterprises in developing countries. In the year 1989-90 its sales comprised: craft products from the developing world, 30 per cent.; food products from the developing world, 28 per cent.; clothing items, 5 per cent.; and the rest was recycled products from this country.

The products are sold through mail order catalogues, shops and over 1, 700 voluntary representatives. The organisation provides employment on fair terms for 4,000 people in the third world and so far it has generated £9 million of earnings which have gone direct to some of the poorest people on the planet.

In addition to the monetary benefit are the effects on the suppliers' self esteem. Laxmi Rani Malik, a lady who works in a small sewing and tailoring co-operative near Calcutta, makes silk scarves. She is quoted as saying, Before I came here I didn't only have financial worries but mental worries too. Now with the money I'm getting I can manage". She is now supporting herself and her two young sons. Truly, Traidcraft is a model for development that should be enabled to expand and be duplicated all over the world. By that I mean replicated widely but on a human scale. The scale is terribly important. There is an important concept here. Schumacher, in his book Small is Beautiful, wrote of 2 million villages. That is what we need to bear in mind. What works best in the absence of an organisation like Traidcraft is having poor people selling to poor people, not poor people selling to rich people by whom they are too easily exploited.

The stages of economic development all over the world have been, first, craft workers making simple products in their own homes or small workshops which are then centralised into larger workshops for the convenience of the merchants who buy their products, and eventually into large factories—the dark satanic mills of William Blake. The next step is for those who can afford it to move out and repopulate the deserted villages, enjoying the kind of life the original inhabitants could easily have had if only matters had been arranged somewhat differently, while their descendants struggle as landless labourers in a seething, dirty, third world city.

Using the Traidcraft model of development, this process can be short-circuited and people can control their working environments, living intrinsically healthier and independent lives in better surroundings, contributing to their village, town, country and the world. I can assure your Lordships that working at a craft for which you receive fair remuneration and in pleasant surroundings is a very satisfying way of life. We of ten ask for too much. Most of the world's population would be more than happy with enough.

There is a role for top down internationally aided government projects. The Mahevili River scheme in Sri Lanka is an excellent example, providing hydro-electricity and irrigating large areas of formerly arid land. Successive British governments are to be congratulated on its conception and execution.

The American contribution to development in Nicaragua has been less happy. At a conservative estimate 30,000 people have been killed in the past 12 or 13 years and millions of dollars, largely obtained through the drugs and arms trades, have been spent on financing armed insurrection. It has been estimated that it will take 20 years of exports just to repair the damage that the civil war has caused.

However, bad as conditions were in that country, and despite fighting a war at the same time, the educational campaign increased the level of literacy from 50 per cent. to 87-5 per cent. and won an international prize in 1981. Sadly, partly as a result of the economic effects of the war and partly as a result of direct attacks which damaged schools and killed teachers, it has now fallen back to between 75 per cent. and 80 per cent. That is still a marked improvement. I leave to your Lordships' imagination what could have been achieved had all this money and effort gone in the direction of positive development.

In Latin America there is a highly regarded educationist, Paulo Freire. His approach to literacy is to start from people's own experience, to create an educational process out of that, and then to build self-help programmes and direct action to improve their living conditions and their immediate environment. With the continuing third world debt crisis, and also from a human point of view, I believe that "bottom up" or "bootstrap" development of this kind has the best chance of bringing about the necessary changes.

Finally, I refer to rural electrification. There are many benefits to a third world village from having an electricity supply. It is a great help to any educational activity. Families in the third world of ten work very long hours and extending the working day makes studying at home after work a possibility. As has been mentioned, paraffin lamps—the most widely used means of lighting in the third world—are unsatisfactory because the most that can be obtained is the equivalent of about 8 watts candlepower, and that is not enough to study by. Another effect is that the younger people in the village are less likely to leave for what they believe are the bright lights of the town or city.

When I was discussing this debate beforehand with my noble friend Lady Seear she said to me that the numbers are so vast that they must be emphasised. It is true; the numbers are unimaginable. But there is a Chinese saying that a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. Perhaps we can regard the example and success of Laxmi Rani Malik as a first step.

7.35 p.m.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, it is about time that more leaders of affairs in politics, religion, industry and education came into this debate. Some of us have been working in it for many years and although there has been widespread interest in our work throughout the world, governments themselves have not entered the debate as they should.

I am extremely pleased that His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh made such a splendid address to the United Nations' Fund for Population Activities in New York on 30th March. It was masterly in its presentation and delivery. I am only echoing what he said on this matter of bringing more people at top level in to counsel on the crisis that undoubtedly faces the world today.

The address given by the Duke of Edinburgh was one which neither Mrs. Thatcher nor Mr. Kinnock would have been disposed to make. They would have been afraid of the political implications of what they were saying. Most certainly the Pope would not have made that speech because he would have been afraid of the implications in the field of sexual morality, contraception and abortion, and all the other aspects that he abhors about the natural activities of mankind. Nor would the President of the United States deliver that address, for he is carrying on the capricious policy of his predecessor of selective aid, from an American standpoint, to the more deserving nations of the world.

There are undoubtedly prejudices and undercurrents of diffidence, inhibition and dogma. When are the religious leaders of the world going to face the facts about humanity and its future? When will the political leaders stop being afraid of evangelical forces at home and ignore their prejudices against certain matters when deciding what aid they shall give to other countries. President Reagan, without any warning, cut of f large amounts of aid that the United States was giving to the United Nations Fund for Population Activities for the purposes of spreading opportunity, facilities and education related to family planning.

Why is it countries are so afraid of discussing birth control? If man does not have the common sense to control the instincts of his species, then he will pay the penalty which nature always imposes on those who disregard its conditions. Now we have President Bush. Last November Congress voted a 15 million dollar grant to the United Nations Fund for Population Activities for the year 1990; but President Bush not only vetoed that, he vetoed the 14 billion dollars of foreign appropriation. Why? It was because the United Nations Fund for Population Activities gives aid to China, and China is believed to indulge in coercive abortion. The American people will not stand for that. Happily, other countries have come to the rescue of this work in order to avoid the serious collapse of activities in the field. Those activities would have been dismantled without much notice had not Sweden and the United Kingdom come to the rescue in the financial crisis.

We are members of three institutions of the world: the United Nations, the EC and the Commonwealth. I ask the Minister: what are we doing to influence those with whom we associate in those institutions in order to make them aware of the problem and make them willing to contribute to its solution? Let us get rid of the eternal squabble about sanctions in South Africa whenever the Commonwealth representatives meet. They should talk about some of the practical questions affecting the countries themselves to which they belong.

It is very difficult indeed not to despair of mankind. He is probably the biggest fool ever of all the species because he has the brains but he does not use them; he has the will but he cannot use it. The time comes when, as I have said, nature takes revenge on thoughtlessness and neglect. That is likely to be the future fate of large parts of the world. I wish that we could find something better than the constant references to the third world. What is the first world? What is the second world? Why the third world? What is this disparagement and this contempt for poverty? Let us find a different reference that will convey to those whom we are addressing what we really wish to say. The title third world puts people of f almost before they begin to consider a situation.

The noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, has had so much experience in this matter and with affairs at large. When he has hope, then it is not for the rest of us to lose it. We need a combination of political, industrial and financial power when considering this crisis. The first consideration for industry is its location. We want investment in countries which are lacking it. We want educated people to be there. There should be a new kind of world assistance.

In centuries gone by we were noted for our genius for colonisation, administration and industrial development in all parts of the world. Why cannot we mobilise that genius again? Let us expand our voluntary services overseas. There are plenty of young people about who are looking for satisfying and worthwhile jobs among people whom they want to help. We should finance them. Investment can be made in these countries not only for agriculture but for some forms of manufacturing so that these countries can supply some of their own goods.

A new economic discipline is needed. A survey should be conducted of national resources available throughout the world. We should get rid of the idea of sovereignty and the attitude that if you have a separate sovereign state it is yours to do what you like with and it is nobody else's business. You can cut down all your trees and get into a state of desert poverty. You can dissipate your resources. All these resources now belong to the planet as a whole and we have to regard them as being in the care of us all.

The new economic discipline must avoid the reckless use of finite resources for the purpose of raising the standard of living. We have to have more regard for the use of resources which are sustainable or replaceable. That is better than using up our basic assets as some countries are doing today.

The problem is becoming a matter of world concern. I am glad that this debate has been so well supported. Reference has been made to top people coming into this field of concern. Top people are already in it. There is the all-Party British Parliamentary Group for Population and Development. I was its first chairman. The present more active and skilled chairman is Sir Charles Morrison, the Member of Parliament for Devizes.

We are constantly in touch with all parts of the world. We are keeping this Parliament in touch with the movement in every possible respect. We have a close association with the United Nations Fund for Population Activities. We want support in your Lordships' House and in Parliament as well. It does not matter what are our problems because they are small compared with those of other nations. It does not matter what are our privations because they are minute compared with those of other nations.

I recently saw a film which had a considerable emotional impact. It dealt with abortion clinics in Calcutta. There was an attempt made by the Marie Stopes overseas trust to arrange for abortions to take place in conditions which give reasonable hope for survival. The film showed the squalor and the depth of degradation that the women experienced. It was revolting. But those women have already had six, seven or eight children and they do not know what else to do. There are no birth control facilities for them. They are uneducated. They are sick of children and sick of bearing them. They are also poverty-stricken. They get into the hands of charlatans or of charities to relieve them of the burden of further additions to the family.

Why are these conditions allowed to continue? Nine-tenths of the grievances of the British people are minor grievances compared with those that exist in other countries. How can we be complacent and speak about the philosophy of aid which says that we must get richer ourselves in order to have more money to dispose of in charitable grants to the third world? We must get rid of that attitude.

7.49 p.m.

Lord Vernon

My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, who was in his usual vigorous form. I agree with every word that he said.

I have a special interest in this subject. For the past five years I have been chairman of an organisation called Population Concern of which some of your Lordships may be aware. It does something in a small way to try to help family planning clinics overseas. I have travelled in various countries, especially in India, and so I have seen a little of what is going on.

In 1972, about 18 years ago, I introduced a Motion in your Lordships' House drawing attention to the need for a population policy in the United Kingdom. It seemed to me then, as it does now, that if we are to ask the poorer countries to reduce their level of population and their growth of population, we in the West, whose populations grew so dramatically in the last century and just after and who are responsible for so much of the present environmental damage and pollution, must play our part and set an example in population reduction.

Reading through the speeches in that debate I was much struck by some words of the late Lord Gardiner. Explaining why, notwithstanding his many other duties, he had assumed the presidency of what at that time was the Birth Control Campaign, he said: I did so because I think quite simply that this is probably the most important single subject in the world".—[official Report, 26/4/72; col. 431.] If it was the most important single subject in the world back in 1972, how much more is it today when, as we have heard, world population is accelerating at such an alarming rate and between now and the end of the century will increase by one-fifth?

The destruction of the rain forests, the over-fishing of the oceans, the pollution of the atmosphere, global warming and so on have all been talked about in both the press and on television. One would have thought that this information, with its horrifying implications for the environment, would make our Government and other governments sit up and take notice. After all we had detailed reports from the Brundtland Commission, from the Brandt Commission, from the World Bank and from many other responsible bodies telling us exactly what is happening; and still the Western world does nothing or almost nothing about it.

It was suggested by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester and by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, and others that if the abysmally low living standards in the third world can only be improved by the introduction of massive Western aid, family size will drop automatically. That is true in theory. We know that it happened in this country in the last century. We know that with increasing literacy, better health and better education, people stopped having so many children, so why should it not happen in the third world? That is the argument, but there is a flaw in it. The flaw is principally the time factor and the rate and scale at which population growth is taking place. It is much faster than anything experienced by the Western nations in the last century, when in any case we were able to export our surplus population to the United States of America and to the colonies, an option not open to any of these countries today.

If this problem is to be solved in a civilised and humanitarian way and not left to nature—nature, as we all know, can be very cruel—much more drastic action is required. The noble Lord, Lord Rea, referred to the Chinese. The Chinese, with one-fifth of the world's population, have discovered that family size must be brought down before living standards can go up, and not vice versa. They are achieving this by methods which some people may regard as unacceptable and ruthless but which I believe are fully justified in the circumstances. It has been suggested that the Chinese experience has not been as successful as they thought it would be. However, the doubling time of the Chinese population today is 49 years when previously it was going to be somewhere between 20 and 30 years. That is an enormous improvement. It has given them a breathing space with which to increase their living standards and so bring that process into effect.

It lies with individual countries and individual governments to decide exactly how they will tackle this situation. But we must give them all possible help. We must also try to persuade the countries of the EC and other countries to give more help also. There was a time when countries were highly suspicious of the advocacy of family planning by the West; but not now, as their governments battle with the economic effects of seeing their populations double in anything between 17 and 25 years. They welcome with open arms any help from us.

The World Health Organisation has estimated that there are today 300 million married couples who would stop having more children if they had the means of doing so. That is so at the present moment without them having this higher standard of living. In addition, there are many more millions who would reduce the size of their families if they were made aware of the greater life expectancy of both mothers and children and also of the opportunities for them to lead fuller and more rewarding lives once they had arranged to space their families.

In the present era, family planning is not just a matter of handing out contraceptives. There is a huge educational job to be done. My noble friend Lord Thurlow dealt with the educational aspect. This is just a part of what he was talking about. This can be done in conjunction with the local family planning associations. It is not just the women who must be educated; the men must also be educated because the views of many men, as we all know, are unhelpful to say the least.

Therefore, I urge the Government, as other noble Lords have done, to increase substantially the proportion of the aid given to family planning. In that respect I go further than the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood. Several years ago I was told that out of the whole overseas budget only 2 per cent. goes to family planning. I suggest that that should be doubled to 4 per cent. I hope that when the noble Lord replies to the debate he will be able to say something specific on that aspect of the matter.

Finally, I suggest that all overseas aid to countries with fast growing populations whose governments do not operate effective family planning policies should be reassessed. Without such family planning policies, our money is being poured straight down the drain.

8.1 p.m.

Lord Dormand of Easington

My Lords, if the Government had any doubt about the relationship of poverty, illiteracy and environmental degradation to rapid world population growth, I hope that it has been dispelled by the excellent speech we heard today from my noble friend Lord Rea. It is the kind of detailed, well-researched speech to which we shall refer time and again. I also congratulate him on initiating the debate, not only for the intrinsic value of what has so far been, and I am sure will be when finalised, an excellent debate but also because I hope ! that it will be one of a number of debates that will continue in your Lordships' House on what many of us think is a major issue facing mankind.

In mentioning that fact, perhaps I may say how deeply saddened I am that we have not heard a single contribution from the Government Back-Benches. Indeed, at present there is not even one Conservative Back-Bencher in attendance. I hope—and I am sure that I am right—that that is not an indication of a lack of interest in such an important matter.

There is overwhelming evidence of the relationship to which I refer provided not only by reports from the United Nations but also from the activity carried out by the various agencies and voluntary organisations working in this field. The question is what to do about the problem. There are many aspects which are particularly worrying. The most important, as I see it, is perhaps the fact that the fall in birth rate in most of the developing world in the 1960s and 1970s slowed down in the 1980s. The latest United Nations report says that between 1990 and 2000 the population will grow by 1,000 million, which will be a greater increase than in any previous decade.

There have been welcome improvements in certain areas, some of which have been mentioned by noble Lords this afternoon. However, it is clear that the overall position is becoming worse. Last week's report from the population fund, which has been referred to several times, and the recently published United Nations report World Population at the Turn of the Century— which has not been mentioned so far in the debate but which is a most valuable document—confirm that view. As they provide the most up-to-date information on the position, I hope that the Minister's reply will in part at least be directed to the contents of those two reports.

The debate is justified by the contents of the two reports. The so-called bottom billion, who live in poverty, threaten land degradation and destruction of the rain forests, and the so-called top billion, who have the biggest share of resources, create the most waste, damage the ozone layer, create acidification and are largely responsible for global warming.

I was concerned at the Answer which I received to a Question as recently as 9th May from the Minister who is present tonight. I asked what action the Government were taking in association with other countries to deal with the problem of the population explosion. I was perturbed to learn that we are contributing only £17 million to the various organisations involved with the problem and that in 1988 the figure was as little as £6.5 million. Some of my noble friends, and indeed the previous speaker, referred to the percentage of GDP. While I shall not repeat what was said, it seems to me that that is the kind of standard at which we should be looking.

Money is not, by itself, the solution. I shall touch upon other measures later. But financial contributions by governments are a major factor. I say to the Government that if they feel that £17 million is the best that they can do, they are not as concerned as they pretend to be about the problem. After all, there is a self-interest factor. For example, the benefits which accrue to this country by increased trade, by the use of special skills in underdeveloped countries, by vastly improved political relationships—this is perhaps the most important aspect—and by other matters are a form of investment. But I hope that our assistance is based on the morality of helping human beings who are in many instances in dire circumstances. I am sure that the Government make their contributions at least partly on that basis.

We are constantly reminded by the Prime Minister and others that we have had an economic miracle in this country. Indeed, I think that my noble friend Lord Hatch referred to that fact. If the most we can afford from such a miracle is £17 million, the millions of people in India, Africa and South America who have a continuing struggle for existence must indeed be cynical about our professed concern for them.

However, I repeat that money is not a solution in itself. I find that one of the most depressing factors is the slow progress in introducing family planning. It is a matter for education. Strenuous efforts are made to improve education in many countries but we have to recognise that they are not as successful as they should be. I must say how saddened I was to hear the right reverend Prelate and my noble friend Lord Monkswell (who have both left the Chamber for reasons about which we are all aware) play down the importance of family planning. But I realise that they were putting it into the context of education.

As someone who has been engaged in education for the whole of my life, perhaps I may say that I readily agree that education, which has been mentioned by every speaker so far, is of prime importance. However, that is not to say that the importance of family planning should be played down. I greatly appreciate the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Vernon, justifying, if it needs to be justified, the essential role which family planning must play. Efforts made in education and family planning must go hand in hand; they are not separate matters and they ought to be dealt with together.

In a statement issued only last week Dr. Nafis Sadik, the director of the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, made specific reference to the disappointing results being achieved in family planning. The dedicated people who devote their lives to education in family planning in third world countries need and deserve all the help we can give them with what is a basic weapon in dealing with the population problem.

I have not had the wide and deep experience of third world countries of other noble Lords who have contributed to the debate. My experience is a result of short visits on parliamentary delegations. That is different from the kind of experience we have heard about from other speakers.

I recognise—I am aware that the Government do too—that family planning has its own problems, not least the view taken of it by some religions. It was deeply disturbing to some of us to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Vernon, last week when my Question was being answered that the Reagan Government cancelled all United States funding to the IPPF as a result of pressure from the so-called "life lobby". I was pleased to hear my noble friend Lord Houghton repeat that remark, and indeed go further and talk about what President Bush is doing in that respect. I am not sure whether the Government feel themselves competent to make representations on that issue, but many Members of your Lordships' House are deeply concerned about the attitude being shown by our friends in America.

It would be helpful if the Minister—not now but perhaps later—could give us some idea of how many British personnel are engaged in family planning education in the underdeveloped countries. I say that because it seems to me, as I said a moment ago, that the people doing the work at the coal face, if I may so describe it, are of the utmost importance.

The United Nations report recommends that spending on family planning be doubled by the end of the century and that a greater proportion of the aid budget be spent on such programmes. I hope that the Government will accept that recommendation as a matter of urgency; but I understand that there is, in some countries at least, the problem that such funds are not always used to improve family planning facilities. That is a point which needs to be watched carefully, and I am sure that the Government are doing so.

I am not sure how the Government receive reports from family planning workers in the field. They are the people who have to face the difficulties, and it is essential to know what the problems are so that solutions can be attempted.

It is heartening to learn from Family Health International that surveys carried out in many developing countries show that 50 per cent. to 80 per cent. of married women want to limit or space future births. My noble friend Lady Lockwood made a similar point which she put more eloquently than I have. A different story came from those countries only a few years ago, but even so there is a great variation. In Mexico in 1974 only 12 per cent. of women were using modern methods, but due to improved access to contraception the figure doubled by 1976 and doubled again in 1982. That is heartening news.

By contrast, in Africa where the problem is at its worst, only 23 per cent. of women who do not want more children use contraceptives. There is clearly a tremendous amount of work to be done there, and we cannot but be saddened by the rate of progress.

It is easy to be critical of population increase and its consequences, but I do not underestimate, despite my criticisms of the Government, the many and great problems involved. I repeat what I have said in the House previously: there is no greater problem facing mankind today. It brings about poverty and illiteracy on a massive scale and now more than ever it is realised that the effect on the environment may literally be calamitous. The difficulty is that it is not a problem which affects the daily lives of most people in the developed countries. I believe nevertheless that there is a slowly growing consciousness of just how serious overpopulation is to our planet.

When reading various reports and accounts of what is happening, one comes across nuggets, if I may so describe them, of success which are not just heartening but which are encouraging and a spur to further effort. Only yesterday I read of the first family planning success in southern India, which has been one of the hardest areas to cope with in relation to population control. Progress can come only from the concerted effort of all countries. I hope that our country and our Government will not be found wanting in that endeavour.

8.15 p.m.

Viscount Craigavon

My Lords, with the noble Lord, Lord Rea, I was able to attend the launch in London last week of the UNFPA report on The State of World Population 1990 which was introduced by Dr. Nafis Sadik. The noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, gave a good account of some hopeful details contained in that report. I have been encouraged by the extensive coverage of that excellent report in all the serious newspapers last week and this week, especially in the context of the present "One World Week", during which, although population is mentioned, it is still not being discussed as a vital, integral part of "green" problems. The media may have been encouraged to feature "population" because there appeared to be bad news.

Although that UNFPA report contains some bad news—mainly that future population projections are increasing slightly—there are also some positive sides to it, as the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, said and, as was pointed out in the leading letter in The Times yesterday from Sir Charles Morrison (chairman of the All-Party Group on Population and Development) which has been mentioned. I should perhaps say that I am vice-chairman of that group. He pointed out that the report also said that effective family planning programmes had played and continued to play a successful part in many countries in helping to achieve significant reductions in total fertility rates. He also quoted the estimate in the report that by the end of the century there will be a 60 per cent. increase in demand for family planning in the developing world. He suggested that our contribution towards that demand should be met by an increase from 1 per cent. to 2 per cent. in the funds devoted to family planning within the ODA budget. That is not a request for new money, but for a transfer of emphasis to that area.

Talk about population problems has recently increased. How quickly that talk is translated into results remains to be seen. Frustrating as it may be, even just talking about those problems seems to have had an effect over the years on the gradual change in the climate of opinion on that subject.

I thought that the Brundtland Report, although excellent in many respects, was disappointing in not making a clearer statement on population problems. I hope that last week's Bergen debate on population, which is being shown on BBC 1 tomorrow, will reflect how the debate has moved on since the Brundtland Report. That programme is part of the BBC's contribution to "One World Week", although it is disappointing that that recording has been assigned an 11 o'clock slot tomorrow morning. As part of that same project, according to The Times, Prince Charles will say on BBC 1 this evening: All main religions have had to think again about family planning", which he identifies as another significant saviour of the planet.

The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, mentioned Prince Phillip's masterly speech. Most noble Lords are aware that Prince Phillip has been speaking out on the subject of population for some time in a characteristically forthright manner. Unfortunately his remarkable speech in New York in March to the United Nations Population Fund received little coverage in this country. It was a lengthy and closely argued speech which I obtained from the Library. It would not be meaningful to pick out and quote just a few dramatic sentences, but it is one of the clearest and most graphic accounts of the problems that confront us, put in the most direct and challenging form. An abbreviated account of the speech appeared in Monday's Evening Standard.

Alarm bells have been sounded, but the question is: who will allow themselves to hear them? It may be surprising to some that the Prime Minister briefly sounded alarm bells about population in her speech last November to the United Nations in a debate on the subject of the global environmment. She said: More than anything, our environment is threatened by the sheer numbers of people and the plants and animals which go with them. When I was born the world's population was some 2 billion people. My grandson will grow up in a world of more than 6 billion people. Put in its bluntest form: the main threat to our environment is more and more people, and their activities". Those are strong and clear words on the central importance of population to the environment. I am not given to quoting the Prime Minister of ten. I also used that quotation in the speech that I made on 22nd March. I have done so for the reason that the noble Lord, Lord Dormand, pointed out, that we have no Conservative Back-Bench speakers on the Motion and there are in this Chamber no Conservative representatives on the Back Benches. That is a pity because this should be an all-party subject, as it has been, in my opinion, for a long time.

To be fair, everyone I have quoted, including the UNFPA, seems to recognise that for the environment a change of attitude is needed as much in the developed as in the developing world. With all the support that I have quoted from the top and given that the Minister, Mrs. Chalker, has an excellent and sympathetic record in the field, could we not expect that within the existing budget of the ODA substantially more should be directed towards population activities? I am sure that what I called the alarm bells are heard only too clearly in the Ministry, but the temptation must be to regard them as a distant sound and a distant problem. It is a long-term problem, but an act of will and vision is needed to respond to those long-term problems. If they are ignored now, they will become compounded, as the UN report clearly shows. We should ask the Government on our behalf to think and act in the long term in this field and to give an urgent lead to other Western governments.

8.22 p.m.

Lord Oram

My Lords, the Motion we are debating this evening and most of the speeches draw attention to one of the many vicious circles that face developing countries. The Motion starts with poverty, moves on to illiteracy and the environment and then to rapid population growth. My noble friend Lord Rea might well have traced the circle the other way round, starting with population growth and leading to poverty. It does not matter which way round we go, poverty is both a cause and a consequence of rapid population growth. Wherever we look in the developing countries, we find that one problem leads to another and we go round again full circle to where we started. The outstanding circular problem is debt. A country is poor; it borrows to feed its people; it is then charged interest which it cannot afford and so it borrows again. That is the nature of the development problem we face.

Where do we start with the problem? I suggest that we have no choice but to tackle all aspects simultaneously. That is why those of my noble friends who have called attention to the need for a larger aid programme are perfectly correct. All these problems are inter-related. If a country is poor, it cannot teach its people to read and write. If they are illiterate, they cannot easily be taught the need for or the methods of family planning.

The United Nations suggested one way in which we might break into this vicious circle. It has designated 1990 as International Literacy Year in the hope that public opinion worldwide can be mobilised to tackle the problem through elementary education. That can be the focal point, I suggest, for activity not by educationists alone but by health workers, economists, agriculturists, by the Churches (I see that the right reverend Prelate has just arrived in his place) and not least by governments.

It is not easy, when speaking of the problems of the developing world, to avoid the use of statistics. I only do so in order to emphasise the point that was so well made by my noble friend Lady Lockwood. If we take population and literacy statistics together, they reveal that a decreasing proportion of the world's population is illiterate. That is good news in a sense; but unfortunately population growth is such that the number of people who cannot read or write is increasing, despite the advances being made in respect of literacy taken in isolation. In other words, we are swimming against the tide. The only way to make progress against the tide is to redouble our efforts. That is what the world must do now if disaster is to be avoided.

Therefore I suggest it is to be hoped that in this International Literacy Year all international organisations—governmental and non-governmental alike and not just UNESCO—will redouble their efforts. I am glad that one international organisation with which I have had close association in the past—namely the International Co-operative Alliance—is taking a positive attitude to the task and to the International Literacy Year. It is urging all its national affiliates worldwide to incorporate literacy programmes into their activities. It is taking steps to monitor the response of the affiliated organisations.

I pick on this not only because of my personal association, but because it is important, since the co-operative movement has a network of co-operative societies with many millions of members, some in the developing countries. The important point is that they are organised right down to the village level. It is surely there that the messages of both literacy and family planning need to be delivered. We are concerned with that double message this evening. I wish to make a brief comment on the Government's attitude to that double problem.

I have little difficulty in commending the Government's record in relation to such organisations as the International Planned Parenthood Federation and the United Nations Fund for Population Activity. The United Kingdom has consistently been a leading donor to those organisations. However, my noble friends Lord Houghton of Sowerby and Lord Dormand have pointed to the fact that President Reagan succumbed to the pressures of the pro-life lobby in the United States and cut of f the United States' subscriptions to those organisations. It was commendable that this country refused to follow suit and continued to support those two international organisations.

However, this evening we are debating both population and literacy. I wish I could say the same things about the Government's record in respect of literacy as I have about family planning. On literacy the Government meekly followed the United States when that country withdrew from UNESCO. Only a few weeks ago we refused to rejoin UNESCO despite a massive expression of opinion that this country should be in it.

I recognise the validity of many of the criticisms that have been levelled at UNESCO, but I recognise also the efforts that are being made by the present director general, Sr. Major, who is trying to overcome UNESCO's problems. This country ought still to be a member of that body helping him with those efforts. That is especially true in relation to the subject of this evening's debate for UNESCO has a proud record in the fight against illiteracy. This country could make a contribution to that fight. We should still be in that body if we are serious, as the Minister will no doubt claim, about conquering illiteracy and the related problem of population growth.

8.32 p.m.

The Viscount of Falkland

My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rea, for giving us the opportunity this evening to discuss the problems of work population growth, illiteracy and poverty. I had not intended to speak in this debate as I thought that my noble friend Lady Robson was going to speak from her long and deep knowledge of world population problems. My noble friend kindly gave me notes to help me in my speech tonight. I hope she will not be of fended if I refer only briefly to the content of those notes. I suppose it is a guage of what happens to one after six years in your Lordships' House—it is six years to the day that I made my maiden speech on the closely related subject of aid to the third world—that I come back to where I began and speak with some enthusiasm about this topic but also with sadness that so little has happened during those six years to encourage us. I refer particularly to those countries in East and Central Africa of which I have some experience.

I was in Africa through the 1970s for long periods of time. I lived in four countries. I believe the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, mentioned one of those countries although he did not refer to it by name when he made his interesting and, as usual, perceptive speech. I saw at first hand hunger, disease, famine, and also corruption which has not been mentioned this evening That is why my speech is devoted to the problem of poverty. I take it as read that there is a connection between poverty, illiteracy and world population growth. However, as other noble Lords have said, we need to target our attention most particularly at the area of poverty.

Having said that I saw all those bad aspects of third world countries, I have to say also that I saw incredible good humour, resilience and good aspects of family life under conditions of extreme hardship. I also saw—this is very important—the extraordinary forgiving nature of Africans. That is a characteristic of Africans which we need to bear in mind when we consider the future of South Africa. When one considers how President Kenyatta was treated in prison, it is remarkable that when he came out and led the nation with a strong and by and large, good hand, he did not refer to the indignities that he had suffered in captivity.

I remember seeing shanty towns. The right reverend Prelate will know what I am talking about here. I remember one evening when I was outside Nairobi seeing an enormously red glow spreading against the wonderful African sky. I heard a most incredible noise of crackling, banging, shouting and screaming. A shanty town had caught fire. All the plastic and paper which formed the dwellings of the poor inhabitants had caught fire. That was very understandable as most of the material used for the houses was highly combustible. I shall never forget the screams of the dispossessed. However, another shanty town sprang up shortly afterwards and the same story goes on.

I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, will refer to the role of women in third world countries. I have seen women looking after the staple crops, carrying water, collecting wood and raising their families with precious little appreciation within their culture. I was in Africa as part of an aid project. I now look back on that as a most unsatisfactory period in terms of aid to the third world, and in particular Africa. In a small way I helped to direct aid to projects in Africa. Some of the projects were good but I regret to say that most of them were not very good and some of them were downright scandalous. I am not talking particularly about aid from Britain but aid that came from many of the industrialised countries. That aid was devoted to useless projects where money had to be borrowed in the first place because there was no foreign exchange. The donor nations took part in a race to lend money to those countries so that they could buy things for which they had no real need.

Noble Lords who have travelled in Africa will have noticed that one of the strange aspects of that continent is that one nearly always finds grand airports full of marble and chrome. Yet when one leaves such countries a police officer or a customs officer begs one's fountain pen as a present. That is the kind of madness and nonsense which exists in Africa. Large projects are undertaken to build sophisticated airports, and highly sophisticated projects are carried out for making petrol out of molasses. There are high technology telephone exchanges, locomotives and railway equipment which are more sophisticated than that which is found in the donor countries. How did these projects come about? I come back to the point about corruption. Those projects required influence. Those who were in positions of power such as politicians and civil servants—they were known as the "fat cats"—received, in recognition of their services, large sums of money which were salted away in Swiss banks. Many of those who have survived that period are now exiles and live in big flats and houses, often in European countries, enjoying the fruits of their activities. I know some of those people myself. The effect on those countries of this continuing charade has been political instability.

There is no doubt that aid to Africa is now better targeted. It is high time that that occurred. However, not all countries were guilty of the sin of venality and ill-directed aid. The Scandinavian countries were notably effective in the kind of aid that they gave to countries in East Africa. They provided aid for simple projects to provide, for example, water and basic medicine rather than the high technology projects to which I have referred.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, that the right reverend Prelate made an admirable speech. I too should have liked to make such a comprehensive and perceptive speech. As the right reverend Prelate said, this country and many other countries in the developed world take a very short-term view, not only on the subject which we are now debating but regarding activities affecting those countries themselves. Large corporations in this country take such a short-term view that they can only think about what will happen to their share price on Monday morning; there is no thought of future planning and future investment. Young men who earn high salaries sit watching news screens, anxiously wondering what the stock market is doing, and passing the information on to their superiors. The Government take an equally short-term view. That is understandable because they have to consider their own future election prospects.

The right reverend Prelate also referred to the extraordinary consumerism in the West, which has a knock-on effect on the developing world. I am also guilty of the extraordinary gluttony which affects us all. We over-eat and then try to take of f weight. Some people are so narcissistic that they buy bicycles which do not go anywhere. They go jogging. One sees them running round our parks, sweating profusely, in the concentrated care of their own over-indulged bodies.

In Africa, where they do not have the wherewithal and the surplus to allow them to do that, people suffer from disease, illiteracy and overpopulation. It is sad, because in this country we have the ability to cope with those problems. There are enough resources, enough food and enough technology to be able to cope with the problem and to redistribute wealth in order to help solve it.

There is one further point which concerns me and which I do not believe any noble Lord has mentioned. What happens if we do not cope, apart from the fact that many will die or become diseased? I suggest that Moslem fundamentalism and other such extremist movements have a role to play. They of fer something to people who have nothing. When the Moslems moved into India the most ready converts to Islam were largely the Untouchables, those who had nothing. A great part of the Moslem population of India are descendants of those Untouchables who had nothing but to whom Islam gave some hope.

My noble friend Lord McNair, who made an excellent speech, referred to Sri Lanka and the success in providing medical care and basic provisions on that island. In the state of Kerala, in South West India, which I visited last year—it is a communist state, but that need not alarm noble Lords opposite (not that there are many)—exactly the same situation prevails. There has been a lowering of the birth rate. It has stabilised because education is offered and contraception is provided for women. The basic necessities of life are also provided.

I do not want to hold up the spectre of Moslem fundamentalism or communism as the inevitable effect of our neglect of the problem. However, I believe that the point is worth considering. Unless we find some way of coping with the problems, as many noble Lords have said, it could be too late. We could have disaster, on a gigantic scale, on our hands.

8.44 p.m.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

My Lords, a short time ago I noticed a tragic but unfortunately true statement in a recent World Health Organisation report. The report said: Childbirth is a universally celebrated event, an occasion for dancing, fireworks, flowers or gifts. Yet, for many thousands of women each day, childbirth is experienced not as the joyful event it should be, but as a private hell that may end in death". The reasons for that have little to do with personal circumstances but everything to do with the social and economic circumstances surrounding the birth. That is a factor which is central to our debate this evening and one on which I should like to focus—the position of women.

My noble friend mentioned some very disturbing statistics showing the trend in population growth. Many noble Lords have mentioned the UN Population Fund report and also the conference held this month in Norway entitled, Action for a Common Future. It has been pointed out that almost all of the population growth in the 1990s will be in the developing countries, with Africa doubling its population in 23 years' time. That point reflects the anxiety which has been shown by so many noble Lords this evening.

My noble friend Lord Rea, in his excellent introduction to this very important debate, said that priority must be given to relieving economic pressures in those countries and also to accelerating the educational process, in particular for women, to help them plan and control the size of their families. That is entirely true. There is little doubt that knowledge, wealth and access are key factors in infant and child mortality rates, maternal mortality and family size. Forty thousand children die every day of the year, most of them unnecessarily and avoidably. The average maternal mortality rate in the developing world is 15 times higher than that in industrialised countries. It is interesting to note that the United States had a maternal mortality rate of over 600 per 100,000 live births in 1915. That is similar to the rate today in sub-Saharan Africa. The reason is that in sub-Saharan Africa social conditions have not improved. There is no improved medical care and no application of existing medical knowledge and technology.

The relationship between knowledge and the prevention of infant and child death, and between child survival and decreases in population growth rates, has been well documented by UNICEF and the World Health Organisation. Major health hazards for both children and mothers are pregnancies which are too early, too late, too many or too frequent. In the early 1960s only a few countries had family planning programmes. Now over 120 governments support such programmes, either directly or indirectly. Unfortunately their spending on such programmes is less than 1 per cent. of their budgets. In over 50 countries, in which 20 per cent. of the world's women exist, contraceptive prevalence rates are below 10 per cent. Yet, as both my noble friend Lady Lockwood and the noble Lord, Lord Vernon, have pointed out, there are 300 million couples in developing countries who do not want any more children who are not taking any effective action to limit family size, for the very good reason that they do not know how to.

It is for that reason that I do not agree with my noble friend Lord Monkswell. He has left, but he said that he would read Hansard tomorrow morning. I do not agree with him that it is patronising to produce ways of helping women in developing countries to control their lives if the only way of doing so is to control the size of their families.

There is clear evidence from developing countries that if family planning services exist women will use them. Speaking as a woman, I am not surprised that they do. However, it is realised more and more that men have not been targeted enough in those family planning programmes. It is so of ten the man who influences the woman. It has been discovered that he is of ten aware of those programmes but does not tell his wife about them and she is therefore left entirely ignorant. To give an idea of the extra costs of bringing family planning to all women who want it, it is estimated that it would cost 2 billion dollars a year until the year 2000. That is slightly less than the annual US expenditure on tobacco and advertising. I find that a sobering thought.

UNICEF strongly believes that, as infant deaths decline and parents are assured of their children's survival, it will be easier to make people adopt family planning methods. UNICEF believes that family planning methods should be decided by the individuals and countries themselves, as is right.

I intended to give some details about the education of women, but my noble friend Lady Lockwood has already done that. She pointed to the worrying fact that a high proportion of the world's illiterates are women and that the more schooling women have, the more likely they are to have fewer children at more widely spaced intervals.

On a visit to Kenya in January, I noticed that women accepted the argument that spacing was to do with their health rather than with some ridiculous idea from the rich countries to compel them to have fewer children. They understood that it was in their interests and the interests of the whole family, including their existing children, if they looked after their health by spacing the births in their families.

I also saw a good example of the importance of literacy to women. I went to a poor area where there was a centre for immunisation and family planning. I asked how many of the women who came there could read and was told that nine out of 10 could probably read. That was certainly not representative of the proportion of women who could read in that poor area. It meant that it was only the women who could read who availed themelves of the family planning, immunisation and other advice facilities. That is an important point.

It has been stated time and time again this evening that there is a direct link between poverty, illiteracy and family size. Specific goals within a fixed time should therefore be set in those countries, but, as has been said this evening, given the external debt repayments of interest and principal which amount to three times the total of all new aid being received each year in those countries, it is inconceivable that those countries, especially those in Africa and Latin America, will have the resources to build the necessary economic foundation to meet those important human goals of the 1990s.

It has been an inevitable consequence that basic public services, particularly health and education, have suffered cuts, so the vicious circle of poor education, poverty, large families, poor health and nutrition and poor schooling continues. A major action programme to deal with the developing countries' debt would enable a significant switch of resources to the social sectors. As my noble friend Lord Hatch and other speakers have said, that is vital.

Perhaps I may conclude by asking one question of the Minister and making one suggestion. UNESCO is the lead organisation for International Literacy Year, to which my noble friend Lord Oram referred. As the United Kingdom is regrettably not a member of UNESCO, can the Minister tell us whether we are channelling any support towards that international year in some other way, as we are presumably not channelling it through UNESCO?

I am sure that the Minister knows that in September of this year there will be a summit for children in New York. Does he agree that it might be a wonderful opportunity for world leaders to work out a population policy? The noble Lord, Lord Vernon, said that a population policy was vital not only to developing countries but to us too. I should have thought that we could follow the example of the banks, which have written of f some of the developing countries' debts for development. The money has gone into development projects such as afforestation. The banks might also think of writing of f some of the developing countries' debts if the money went into social development so that family planning could be integrated into the primary health care programmes of those countries. That is important not only to the women of those countries but to all of us. That point might be worth considering.

8.55 p.m.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, this has been a most interesting debate on a most serious issue. Its implications cannot be minimised.

It is clear that rapid population growth, if not directly contributing to many of the developmental problems besetting the poorest countries of the world today, is certainly making the finding of sustainable solutions more difficult. It increases pressures on health and education services, on social infrastructure, on labour markets and on physical and natural resources generally.

However, as the right reverend prelate the Bishop of Manchester said, that is not the only mechanism at work. The relationship which is the subject of this debate is more like a vicious circle in which population growth is accompanied by poverty. The noble Lord, Lord Walston, emphasised that unless the poor are more secure they will not wish to limit their family sizes. Other noble Lords have stressed that we should understand that poor families will see the benefits of having many children as outweighing the costs.

Many noble Lords have indicated that when infant and child mortality rates remain high—and they are still unacceptably so in many societies—there is an obvious disincentive for parents to think of having fewer children. In many communities, the prevailing cultural and social pressures of ten result in the poorest women, particularly the illiterate, being least able to take advantage of family planning information and services. Large families in turn make for less healthy, less well educated and less productive children, and so the work of the vicious circle goes on.

These problems require a comprehensive and consistent strategy. The broad objectives of the Government's overseas aid programme are to promote sustainable economic and social development and to alleviate poverty in developing countries. Long-term alleviation of poverty is our central goal. That must be achieved through appropriate domestic policies. It is gratifying to see that more and more developing countries acknowledge the need for policy reforms and the benefits of promoting private sector incentives and initiative. A main plank of our bilateral aid programme is to provide financial assistance in support of these macroeconomic policy changes alongside other agencies such as the World Bank and the IMF.

Such policies can, however, be difficult to implement. Political and social opposition can be strong. Many previous attempts have been frustrated; and the results can be uncertain and disappointing. It is therefore all the more necessary to complement these measures by action which is aimed specifically at tackling the problems directly.

The Government give high priority to population-related activities within the overseas aid programme. In 1989, we spent more than £17 million in that sector. Our policy is quite clear. The noble Lord, Lord Dormand, quoted the figure for population-related activities in all our aid programmes which I gave in my Answer of 9th May. I regret to say that the figure of £6-5 million should have related to 1981, not to 1988. There was a misprint and I am writing separately to the noble Lord to put that right.

We support the need to reduce global population growth and we aim to encourage and assist developing country governments to gain an understanding of population issues and to help them deal with their problems. We do not support programmes in which there is an element of coercion: our watchword is planning, not control. The aim is to enable individuals in developing countries to choose voluntarily the number and spacing of their children.

Most of our assistance is channelled through multilateral population programmes, such as the United Nations Population Fund, the International Planned Parenthood Federation and WHO's Human Reproduction Programme. We are contributing some £15-5 million in 1990.

This balance reflects the preferences of many developing countries, which prefer to receive assistance through multilateral agencies. But we also use the other channels available within the aid programme. Major bilateral projects have been mounted in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Kenya. These are wide-ranging in content and include census work, the provision of family planning information and services, health care services, and training programmes. There has been a steady flow of trainees from developing countries coming to study in this country; and we hope that this will increase. Non-governmental organisations have a vital role to play in this field. Under the Joint Funding Scheme, the ODA is prepared to meet up to the full cost of population projects run by British voluntary agencies, rather than 50 per cent. as in other sectors. ODA contributions on populations activities under the scheme have increased from £87,000 in 1978 to £641,000 last year. The United Kingdom is renowned for its expertise in population research and training. My right honourable friend the Minister for Overseas Development has recently launched a major new programme of support to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Research and training in population will be a key component.

It is important to remember that progress is being made in slowing population growth. Many developing country governments have established policies and invested funds in population programmes. Smaller family size is now the norm in some countries. Thailand and others in South-East Asia are the most obvious examples. The speed with which this has been achieved is without precedent in its rapidity. We now have the first positive signs of change in some African countries—in Kenya, Botswana and Zimbabwe.

I am delighted to report to the right reverend Prelate that during the past five years the proportion of couples in Kenya practising family planning has increased from 17 per cent. to 27 per cent. The average family size has fallen from 7-4 to 6-4. That is a result of intensified efforts by the Government of Kenya with substantial support from our own Government. These are early signs. There remains much hard work to be done but we can be optimistic that worthwhile results have been and will continue to be achieved.

I turn now to illiteracy. The benefits of education are many and varied, but I wish to stress here those which impinge most significantly on the issues under debate.

I should also like to make explicit what has been implicit in all that I have said so far; namely, the role and position of women, of which the noble Baronesses, Lady Lockwood and Lady Ewart-Biggs, made much in their speeches. These are centrally important for future population trends.

Experience has shown that as development progresses family size falls. To this extent the broad development objectives of the aid programme are consistent with that of reducing population growth. However, this is not the only force at work. As the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, has pointed out, studies have shown that birthrate decline is more closely associated with adult literacy and life expectancy than with income per head. In particular, women's educational attainment is the social factor that has proved most consistently and strongly related to family size. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, that women are especially vulnerable to the adverse implications of illiteracy, particularly those who are poor and living in rural areas. Factors at work here are the sexual division of labour and male control of women's sexuality. Girls who are deprived of schooling are more likely to enter into early marriages and social pressures can militate against the attendance of literacy classes by adult women. Education is a means of breaking this vicious circle. It opens up the options available to women and makes for later—and more discriminating—marriages. Children whose mothers have received some education are likely to be healthier, while reduced infant mortality in turn makes for the demand for smaller numbers of children. This effect is reinforced by the influence of education on the acceptability of family planning methods, access to them and the efficacy of their use.

The overseas aid programme's assistance to education covers a broad spectrum of activities, all of which do not necessarily bear directly on the issues underlying this debate. Increasingly, however, we are seeking to open up opportunities for women and girls to improve their skills and productivity as well as their general education level. In a number of cases, education forms a component of a wider social development programme. A current example is the literacy training and basic education provided under the Indore Slum Improvement Project in India. Improving women's access to education is a key factor. We are already helping, but we recognise that more needs to be done.

We have recently provided £1-5 million in support of the expansion of functional literacy in Ghana. The project, which is within the orbit of the social programme that addresses the effect of structural adjustment in Ghana, is designed directly to meet the functional needs of women and girls out of school. Appropriate population education materials will be integrated into the programme. Many literacy projects are supported under our Joint Funding Scheme for NGO, as these organisations are most closely in touch with the needs of people on the ground.

I turn to the environment. I come now to the question of environmental degradation and its relationship with population growth. It is a truism to say that people affect the enviroment in which they live. And it is equally self-evident that, for any given type of technology, level of consumption and mode of social organisation, the more people there are the greater the impact will be. It is, however, much less obvious—until recently—that people also affect environments in which they do not live. The fact that deforestation in mountain or upland regions brings the risk of flooding to low-lying areas, for instance, has long been recognised; but the potential risk of deforestation to life on this planet through its impact on global warming is a much more recently acknowledged danger. We have also only relatively recently acknowledged and begun to take action in connection with the international air-borne or water-borne transmission of pollutants, industrial or otherwise.

It follows from this that the faster population growth, the more difficult will be the task of arresting environmental degradation. This is why tackling population growth is an important aspect of the Government's overseas aid policy. But the threat to the environment also requires a direct response. This should be based on good science, good economics and, to the greatest possible extent, on the use of market mechanisms. One aspect of this is to emphasise the economic value of the environment and the costs associated with its degradation; costs which those who inflict the damage do not usually bear. This approach is reflected in the Government's policies on the environment. More than I can say here is set out in this booklet entitled The Environment and the British Aid Programme which my right honourable friend the Minister for Overseas Development is launching today. Our aims are particularly well exemplified in our support to tropical forestry. The intention is to help developing countries maximise the economic and social benefits that they enjoy from their forests in a sustainable way. Our aim is to limit deforestation by tackling its causes; to promote reforestation and agroforestry; and to strengthen government departments charged with the task of forest conservation and management. The programme also finances training and research projects designed to increase the productivity of forests.

The noble Lord, Lord Rea, told us that commercial logging for exports is a main cause of deforestation. Certainly that can be the case in some areas but not in general. An excellent article in this week's New Scientist by Paul Harrison tells us that some three-quarters of the deforestation which took place between 1971 and 1986 can be explained by population growth.

In 1988 we were supporting some 80 forestry projects at a cost of £45 million. Now we have ongoing or in preparation some 156 projects costing £150 million. In November last year, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister announced that we would aim to commit a further £100 million to tropical forestry activities over the subsequent three years. Part of the new money will be needed for projects now in preparation but there will still be room for many new activities.

Our support to the forestry sector is, as noble Lords will note from the figures that I have just given, substantial. It forms the largest element in the range of work that ODA is supporting to conserve biological diversity. On 17th May my right honourable friend the Minister for Overseas Development announced the ODA's plans to strengthen its activities which have biodiversity as a major aim. The ODA's environmental objectives also include energy conservation. On 3rd May my right honourable friend announced that one of the ODA's largest grants this year would be of £50 million in new aid towards energy efficiency projects in India.

As was said by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, action to halt environmental degradation needs, above all, global co-operation. The United Kingdom participates in the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and has signed the Montreal Protocol for the protection of the ozone layer. It is recognised, however, that the developing countries will need specific help in adapting to and limiting the adverse effects of climate change and phasing out the use of ozone depleters. The ODA is willing to give such assistance. It is funding developing country participation in the IPCC and in the Montreal Protocol process. In addition, more than £200,000 has been committed for a study now being undertaken of the options open to India to phase out ozone-depleters such as CFCs.

The noble Lord, Lord Rea, spoke of our contribution to population activities and referred to the letter from Sir Charles Morrison in yesterday's edition of The Times. As I have said, our contribution to these activities is now some £17 million per year. It is a priority area and we are ready and seeking to do more. We have recently reviewed our assistance to health and population in more than 10 priority countries with a view to increasing and rationalising our assistance and yielding sustained improvements in population health care and family planning. We hope that the lessons from these reviews will enable us to intensify that aid, particularly in the vital area of population.

Several noble Lords asked whether we can do more to relieve the developing countries of their debt. The extent of our activities to date may not be fully appreciated. We have already cancelled all the aid debts of the poorest countries, which are worth £1 billion. We took the initiative which resulted in the rescheduling of the Paris Club debts under the Toronto Agreement. We are the largest single contributor to the interest subsidy scheme under the IMF's enhanced structural adjustment facility. We also support the Brady Plan to provide official support for commercial bank debt reductions for countries pursuing economic reform through the IMF and the World Bank.

The noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, and the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, asked about the relationship of the aid programme to GNP. The Government have made clear their commitment to maintain a substantial and growing aid programme. At just over £1-6 billion this year the aid programme is 8 per cent. more than last year. By 1992-93 it is planned to increase it to £1-75 billion.

In view of the huge development tasks ahead, of which some have been highlighted in this debate, the Government recognise that additional efforts will be needed to increase the aggregate level of resources being transferred from developed to developing countries. However, resources are one thing; the use to which they are put is another. The Government attach as much importance to the quality of our aid as to the quantity. We are recognised internationally as playing a valuable role in enhancing the effectiveness of aid.

The Government have always made it clear that they accept in principle the target set by the United Nations of 0-7 per cent. of GNP for official development assistance. In 1988 our ODA GNP ratio was 0-32 per cent. That was up on the previous year, when it was 0-28 per cent. We also recognise that a target is only one of a number of possible aid performance measures. The important point is that our aid programme is growing and in real terms we are making strenuous efforts to improve the effectiveness of our aid for the recipients and the efficiency with which it is administered.

The noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, the noble Lord, Lord Vernon, and the noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, asked us whether we could spend more of the aid programme in the population field. As I said, we seek to do more on population, but the uses to which our aid is put is rightly determined by the requests that we receive from our partners in developing countries. I am not sure that it would be right for us to earmark unilaterally a fixed proportion of the aid programme to a particular activity or section.

I am pleased to agree with the noble Lord, Lord McNair, on the excellent work of the Intermediate Technology Development Group and Traidcraft. Both seek to tap the productive potential of poorer people. The ODA is supporting both those organisations and believes that the relationships has been extremely fruitful.

The noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, the noble Lord, Lord Dormand, and the noble Lord, Lord Oram, asked whether the Government would use their influence with the United States to encourage a resumption of US funding in the UN Population Fund and the International Planned Parenthood Federation. As has been said, population programmes raise difficult and sensitive issues, including that of abortion. The Government draw a clear distinction between advocating abortion and recognising the importance of family planning. We very much hope that the US Administration will be able to move towards our position. They are aware of our views and we shall continue our dialogue. In doing so, we must acknowledge that the United States has not withdrawn from funding population programmes worldwide and remains the largest bilateral donor for family planning programmes.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will give way. If he is hoping to use his influence with the United States and is anxious about the abortion issue, is he aware that every year there are about 500,000 deaths among women from abortions and that 90 per cent. of those deaths are in the third world? Is that not an argument for increasing the supply and provision of population control measures in order to prevent back-street abortions, which are now a feature of most third world countries?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I cannot confirm or deny the figure which the noble Lord gives. As I said, we support those organisations and we shall seek to persuade the Americans that they should do the same.

The noble Lord, Lord Oram, and the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, suggested that we could have been more effective in our work to help to eradicate iliteracy if we had stayed within UNESCO. We disagree. We left that organisation because it was ineffective. It sponsored some of the useless projects to which the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, referred. We diverted our contributions to UNESCO to other educational programmes which do work. A further gain was that UNESCO appreciated that it must mend its ways. In our view the total effect of our withdrawal has been positive.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord. How will support be channeled in International Literacy Year if we do not do that through UNESCO?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I cannot answer that. I know that we have channelled the support that we would have given to UNESCO up till now through our own ways. I shall certainly look at the specific point raised by the noble Baroness and write to her with my reply.

To conclude, the wider debate on environmental issues has given currency to a very potent concept; that of the present generation holding the planet in trust for future generations. To ignore the problems to population growth is to hasten environmental degradation, and without proper regard for the conservation of our national environment the long-term attack on global poverty will not succeed.

Lord Rea

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down and before I formally close the debate, perhaps he could clarify one of the figures that he gave. He mentioned that the ODA funds going to population activities for 1990 amount to £15-5 million. Will that figure be increased as 1990 progresses, or is it a final sum? He also gave figures for the increase in the total ODA aid budget. Was he speaking in cash terms or real terms when referring to estimates for the coming two years?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, in answer to the noble Lord's point, our provision of £17 million on population growth is for the current year. The figure of £15-5 million to which I referred was the provision to the specific multilateral agencies. In answer to the second point, the figures I gave were cash terms compared one with the other.

Lord Rea

My Lords, this has been a fascinating debate. Although I was impressed with the expertise shown by the speech of the noble Lord as given to him in his brief by the ODA officials, it is a sad reply. It does not show that that expertise will be harnessed as fully as we should like. This country has the skills and the tradition to play a major role in assisting the plight of the South (the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, has gone) rather than the third world.

The debate has confirmed the extent and severity of the crisis facing the world's population. Almost every speaker put forward a valuable suggestion as to how the problem should be tackled. I am most impressed and grateful for that. Overall the need for far more effectively directed economic, educational and technical assistance and investment has been made out, including assistance for health and population related activities.

My noble friend Lord Hatch in a most effective speech called for a new Marshall Plan, this time from the North to the South rather than from the West to the West. If a programme of major proportions such as that is not mounted, and very soon, I am afraid that we in the North as well as those in the South will bitterly regret it.

I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.