HL Deb 05 November 1997 vol 582 cc1385-98

3.43 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean)

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development about international development. The Statement is as follows

"With permission, I wish to make a Statement about international development. I am today publishing a White Paper, Eliminating World Poverty: A Challenge for the 21st Century. It will beavailable in the Vote Office when I have finished speaking

"The White Paper sets out the Government's policies for the sustainable development of the planet. This requires greater progress in eliminating poverty. Nearly one in four of the people of the world live on the margins of human existence. This is morally repugnant and threatening to future security and stability. Our manifesto made clear that we would give much greater priority to international development than the previous administration. The creation of my department, and the fact that it is headed by a Cabinet Minister, reflects that, as does the publication of this White Paper. It is the first White Paper on development for over 20 years.

"Considerable progress in poverty elimination is now possible. The past 50 years have seen great advances. On average, people live longer and in better health. More people have clean water. More are literate. More people have escaped from poverty in the past 50 years than in the previous 500 years. But because of population growth, more people are living in abject poverty than ever before.

"The challenge of development is to apply the lessons of success to enable the poor to work their way out of poverty. We are committing ourselves to refocus our international development efforts on poverty elimination. That can only be achieved through economic growth which benefits the poor and through measures which provide education and healthcare and enable the poor to develop their talents. As Michel Camdessus, managing director of the IMF, said recently, 'We support high quality growth. This means growth that results in a permanent reduction in poverty and greater equality of economic opportunity.

' "We will measure our progress against clear, internationally accepted targets that have been agreed at UN conferences and by the OECD. The key target is to halve the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by 2015. The targets also cover environmental conservation and human development. We want everyone to have access to basic healthcare, education and clean water. The targets are challenging, but they are both affordable and achievable.

"We will pursue the targets in partnership with developing countries which are also committed to them. We will offer such countries a longer-term commitment of support, more resources and greater flexibility in using those resources. Our aim is to ensure that good governments succeed. The nature of our partnership will depend on the circumstances of each partner country and how we can best help.

"We will also work in partnership with other donors and international institutions in pursuit of the targets. Britain has unique international links which we intend to use actively.

"British business, voluntary agencies and our research community have a vital contribution to make to the eradication of poverty. We have held discussions with all these sectors who are keen to make a greater contribution. British business is increasingly clear that ethical business means good business in every sense and is keen to contribute to development. The aid and trade provision, which lacks poverty elimination as its central focus, will end, though we are keeping the option of providing mixed credits within agreed country programmes if they can contribute to the primary aim of reducing poverty. We will consult the private sector when preparing country and other development strategies.

"We will transform the Commonwealth Development Corporation into a public-private partnership which will increase the flow of private investment to the poorer countries. As the Prime Minister announced last month, we will seek to enlarge the resources at CDC's disposal by introducing private sector capital, with the Government retaining a substantial minority holding and a golden share. CDC will act as an ethical and socially responsible investor in poorer countries, with the proceeds from the sale being ploughed back into the development programme.

"This White Paper is not simply about aid. It covers the full range of government policies affecting poorer countries. We shall ensure much greater consistency across the range of government policies, including environment, trade, investment and agricultural policy. All will take account of our sustainable development objectives.

"We will give particular attention to human rights, transparent and accountable government and core labour standards, building on the Government's ethical approach to international relations.

"We will use our influence to promote political stability, social cohesion and, wherever possible, to resolve conflict. I recently announced a doubling of my department's resources for demining. I will be signing for the United Kingdom the international convention on anti-personnel landmines in Ottawa next month.

"We must also do more to reduce the external debt of developing countries. The Chancellor of the Exchequer launched a new initiative at the Commonwealth Finance Ministers' meeting in September. I have also set in place arrangements to write off aid debt owed to the UK by lower income Commonwealth countries committed to pro-poor and transparent policies. We will do all we can to mobilise stronger international commitment to debt reduction.

"The Government attach great importance to increasing development awareness in Britain. Every child should be educated about development issues so that they can influence the shape of the world they will inherit. And every adult should have the chance to influence the Government's policies. We will establish a working group of educationalists and others to improve development education.

"We will also establish an annual development policy forum representing the many strands of society with an interest in international development. We will publish an annual report explaining how we will secure the objectives described in the White Paper and what progress has been made against the international development targets. We will also consult on the case for a new international development Act.

"The resources which the international community has made available to support the development process have declined over recent years. The previous administration almost halved Britain's development assistance as a proportion of GNP. This Government will reverse the decline in UK spending on development assistance. We also reaffirm our commitment to the 0.7 per cent. UN target.

"Every generation has a moral duty to reach out to the poor and needy. But the present generation carries an extra responsibility to ensure the international development targets are met. If we do not, there is a real danger that by the middle of the next century the world will simply not be sustainable. Population pressures, environmental degradation, conflict and disease could impose catastrophic pressure on the planet.

"This White Paper sets out how we can make progress. We should not overestimate what we can achieve alone. We should not underestimate what we can achieve with others. The new British Government commit themselves in this White Paper to working for a major advance in poverty elimination and the building of a more just and sustainable future for all the people of the world".

My Lords, that completes the Statement.

3.52 p.m.

Lord Lucas

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for repeating her right honourable friend's Statement made in another place. I think it is a Statement we can welcome but I am not certain. It is a very opaque and rather wishy-washy Statement which I find difficult to draw nuggets of truth and fact out of. I feel rather like someone fishing around in some very dirty bath water trying to find the soap. Sometimes I think I have my hands on it but it slips out of my grasp; at other times I find things which perhaps I wish were not in the bath at all. There seem at points in the Statement to be indications of some very old Labour policies coming into what is on the whole, I think, a reworking of our 1994 policy, and all the more welcome for that.

In particular, I note that the target of halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by 2015 was originated by my noble friend Lady Chalker of Wallasey, who is to be warmly congratulated. I hope that the noble Baroness opposite feels able to share in those congratulations. We have a chance to debate this Statement and the White Paper that underlies it in a great deal more detail next Monday, so I shall not speak for too long. However, there are some points on which I think the Government might take the chance today to give us a better idea of what is really going on in terms of policy and how the words of the Statement will translate into reality.

When the Government talk about refocusing our international development efforts on poverty elimination, what sort of projects currently being undertaken will now not be pursued? I can understand what kind of new projects the Government envisage, but what will they not do that we are now doing? Can the noble Baroness confirm that what we are not doing in particular is just deciding that our policies will be to make the poor more comfortable rather than—as our policies were—to make them rich like us? Surely it would be a backward step, an old Labour step, to talk in terms of keeping the poor poor and comfortable.

The Statement states: We will offer such countries a longer term commitment". Is this something that the Treasury has agreed to? If it has agreed, is this something we can hope for in other areas too? The year by year progress of the Treasury has crippled many sections of our economy. Has the DfID suddenly had a derogation from that to enable it to offer five-year plans and commitments of money? I should be delighted to hear that that was the case. The Statement also states that there will be more resources. Can the noble Baroness confirm that those will be put into bilateral aid schemes rather than channelled through the European Union or other multilateral schemes?

The Statement makes, I think, one mention of voluntary agencies. I hope that such scant attention to the part they play does not mean that we are going to see a more centralised approach. I hope we are going to continue to make use of their many talents and indeed rely on them to a greater extent than we have in the past, if that is possible.

The Statement heralds the end of the aid and trade provision. I have two questions. First, the Government are retaining the option of providing mixed credits. Does the budget for that option exceed the aid and trade budget, or, if there is a reduction, how much is that reduction? When the Government talk about sparing projects which contribute to the primary aim of reducing poverty, which projects undertaken since 1993 would fall outside that provision? Which particular projects would the Government—had they been in power in 1993 and afterwards—not have undertaken under their new provisions that were undertaken under aid and trade?

We welcome the CDC privatisation; it is a very forward looking move. However, who will be prepared to invest in it, with Clare Short acting as gauleiter of the ethical and socially responsible investment policy, has yet to be seen, but if that can be achieved we shall be delighted. We shall also be delighted to see other government departments becoming more involved in our development policies, particularly, as mentioned in the Statement, environment, trade, investment and agricultural policy. If one is to raise countries to equality with us, we need drastically to alter some of our trading agreements with them. At the moment, there are, for instance, very low tariffs on raw materials and much higher tariffs on manufactured goods. That has to end. We have to encourage countries to develop beyond the stage of gentle poverty to being true competitors with us.

I am delighted to see that the Government will put some more effort into resolving international conflicts. One hopes they have learnt something from their experiences in India in that regard. I am delighted to see that the Government will continue our policy of writing off debt, particularly, as the Statement says, for Commonwealth countries. But I should be grateful if the noble Baroness could make accessible to the House a list of those countries who are to have debt forgiven and to confirm that the anti-corruption policies put in place by her predecessor, my noble friend Lady Chalker, will continue and that we shall not forgive debt of corrupt regimes just because they are poor.

The Government have a policy of increasing everyone's awareness of development policies, in particular through education. May I urge the Government to be open in what they do? What is said in the Statement by way of involving a sort of little clique of educationalists in developing this policy, which will then be quietly slipped into all our curricula, seems to me to be the wrong approach. This is something which should be done openly and we should all understand what is happening.

Lastly, when the Government talk about increasing their aid spending, I think we can be totally comfortable. I hope, however, that the noble Baroness can confirm that the Government will pay equal attention to increasing the private element of our support for developing countries. In recent times that has been over twice the level of government aid. In many ways such aid is likely to be better directed and more suitable for lifting a country as a whole out of poverty. We must pay particular attention to encouraging that.

The Statement says little about the education of women, the availability of contraception, or women's issues in general. I am surprised at that. I hope that the noble Baroness can explain the omission. I shall be grateful for some indication from the noble Baroness as regards support for the Zimbabwean land grab, if I may so call it. Is this a policy that the Government support and will fund? Or is it something that they regret?

Lord Redesdale

My Lords, I believe that I can give a more qualified welcome to the Statement than the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, managed. The aims of the White Paper can be thoroughly supported by noble Lords on these Benches, although I wish to qualify that by flagging up some questions at this point. I shall raise points in more detail in the debate on Monday.

The noble Lord, Lord Judd, has pressed for the White Paper over the past couple of years. It shows the commitment of the Government to international development that they have brought the White Paper forward as a priority and with such speed. The fact that the Overseas Development Administration has been created a department—the new DfID—indicates their commitment.

I believe that everyone would support the halving of the number of those in extreme poverty by 2015. The White Paper links environment, population and sustainable development as primary issues that have to be considered.

I wish to raise a couple of issues on which the White Paper does not go far enough in my opinion. There is reference to the ending of the aid and trade provision, which lacks poverty elimination as its central focus. Can the Minister indicate whether aid and trade provision moneys, focused on good government, will also be stopped under those criteria?

I have had only a brief period in which to scan the White Paper. However, there appears no mention of tied aid. It is disappointing that tied aid is not to be abandoned. I realise that the Government are not in a position at present to take a unilateral step. However, the Prime Minister spoke of taking a leading role in Europe. Perhaps he can demonstrate that by our becoming the first European country to abandon tied aid.

Another issue raised is that of the CDC. I believe that it meets with universal approval that the CDC is to be given greater power. Indeed, one of the main complaints about the legislation enacted on the CDC was that there was a lack of funds. I hope that the Government will retain their position within the CDC as regards the golden share. Some might say that there will be little investment in an institution which has government participation. The Commonwealth Development Corporation is successful because, through its backing by the Government, it is able to invest in solid development projects in some of the weakest parts of the world. It is a great source of strength to the CDC that the Government have an influence in it.

Over the summer period, I was delighted to hear the Minister say that there would be a doubling of the department's resources for demining. The White Paper states that more money will be made available. Can the Minister give an indication of where the money will come from, and whether it will be available in the immediate future? As I understand it, little new money is coming into the DfID. With an increase of £5 million to £10 million spent on demining, that money will have to come from some other area.

Perhaps I may flag up the issue of UNESCO. I believe that next year our £11 million contribution to UNESCO will have to come out of the DfID's budget rather than from other sources. New money from the Government would help to alleviate those extra burdens.

One of the areas that we thoroughly support is the Government's commitment to reducing the debt burden of the Commonwealth countries. However, I believe that the language used about the international debt problems faced by the HIPC countries could have been stronger. I hope that the Minister can expand further, perhaps in the debate on Monday, on what strong, leading measures the Government will take.

I welcome the White Paper, and the Government's continued commitment to the target of 0.7 per cent. of GNP. I hope that the Minister can give us a timetable for that target at some point.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I thank noble Lords for their welcome of the Statement, albeit the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, was not entirely sure what he welcomed. He said that the Statement was opaque. I believe that the Statement and the White Paper very clearly set out government policy on these issues. The White Paper focuses the aid programme and the whole development effort on meeting an internationally agreed target of halving world poverty by the year 2015. I have no hesitation, nor any difficulty, in paying tribute to the work done by the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker. Indeed, I have done so on a number of occasions in this House. But I think it is worth pointing out that when the Labour administration left office in 1979, the commitment to aid was 0.51 per cent. of GNP; and when we took over on 1st May this year it was 0.27 per cent. of GNP. We are about reversing that trend; and I have been very clear on that point.

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said that it was clear what projects would be undertaken, but not those which would not be undertaken. The projects that will not be undertaken are those which are not aimed at the elimination of world poverty. I believe it is a clear statement, if I may say so, that it is the elimination of poverty which must lie at the heart of how the Government commit resources in this way in the future.

The noble Lord asked, too, about the Treasury commitment. The Treasury commitment is clearly set out. It was referred to by my right honourable friend when she spoke this morning on the radio. The commitment is that the cash limits will stay as they are for the next two years; and that in the financial year 1999 to 2000 they will start to rise, aiming at the target ultimately of 0.7 per cent of gross national product.

The noble Lord asked about the balancing of bilateral aid and aid through international organisations such as the European Union. Both sorts of aids will continue.

The NGOs have been consulted extensively over this paper, and will continue to be consulted. Indeed, there are specific commitments about the NGOs in relation to advice about a possible international development Act.

The noble Lord asked about the eradication of debt, and the Commonwealth countries which would benefit from those provisions. The debt provisions are consonant with the Government's wish that lower income Commonwealth countries should be committed to internationally agreed development targets, that they should be pursuing good government and encouraging transparency and, importantly, that they should be bearing down on corruption and applying economic policies which benefit the poor and encourage sustainable economic development. Formal offers have so far been extended to seven countries with aid debts totalling £18 million and discussions have started with others. The seven countries are Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Mauritius, St. Lucia, Tonga and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The noble Lord also asked about business involvement. Business has been widely consulted in drawing up the White Paper and will continue to be consulted. The importance of business and private sector involvement in taking forward the Government's policies is well understood by the Government. The noble Lord asked too about elements of the education of women and the way in which the White Paper will affect them. I hope that this Government have not been found wanting in their commitment to the education of women internationally. Indeed, we have discussed the question in your Lordships' House on a number of occasions. The importance of educating women, particularly in under-developed countries, about cleanliness, hygiene, clean water and, very importantly, about contraception, is well understood. That is an important part of any development programme.

The noble Lords, Lord Lucas, and Lord Redesdale, asked about the ATP programme. The White Paper sets out a raft of new initiatives for a new partnership between British business and the relevant government departments to help eliminate poverty. Ending the ATP scheme under which such notorious projects as the Pergau dam were financed does not preclude the use of mixed credits if that fits squarely within our strategy for helping a country to eliminate poverty. We shall press for an international agreement on reducing and ultimately eliminating tied aid in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, suggested. UK exporters are highly competitive. Multilateral untying can create far greater opportunities for British exporters and bring value for money for aid recipients. The proportion of British aid classified as tied fell to 15 per cent. in 1995, excluding technical co-operation from the statistics.

Questions have been asked about the financing of the demining. I wish to deal with the detailed financing questions which I am sure a number of noble Lords will wish to raise about the White Paper in the more extended debate which we are to have in your Lordships' House on Monday. If there are further questions which I have not been able to answer from either the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, or the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, I shall endeavour to do so in the debate on Monday.

4.12 p.m.

Lord Howell of Guildford

My Lords, is the Minister aware—I am sure she is—that by far the most powerful engine of development in the world today is direct foreign investment, followed closely by access to the richer markets of the products of the developing countries? Is she further aware that, for example, last year direct foreign investment, including some of the poorer African countries like Uganda, amounted to well over 100 billion dollars? That dwarfs all official aid and assistance and indicates that that is where the real drive is coming from. Is it not therefore vital that aid and technical assistance, which continue to play a crucial role, should be accurately directed at encouraging conditions—political, social, economic and infrastructural—for the attraction of more private investment? That is the key. There did not seem to be much in the Statement about the central role of this giant engine of development which now dominates the scene. Perhaps we may have the assurance that there is a good deal more in the White Paper about what is now the key to the entire development process.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, one of the essential points in the White Paper is that there should be more help to developing countries to create the conditions which will attract foreign direct investment. The noble Lord is quite right and I have no difficulty in agreeing with the point he made. I also reiterate to him that my right honourable friend said in the other place that we shall make an annual report on progress on all those issues. So the noble Lord and all your Lordships will be able to monitor progress on the important point which he raised.

Lord Acton

My Lords, can my noble friend say how much money the Government estimate will be realised from the sale of shares in the Commonwealth Development Corporation? Approximately when do they expect that those funds will be available for the development programme?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I am afraid it is too early to be precise in any answer to my noble friend. The amounts involved could be significant for the Department for International Development—possibly in the region of a few hundred million pounds. The DfID is keen to mobilise new investment in CDC as soon as possible in order to carry out the Government's objectives, but there are many steps to be gone through, not least the need for legislation in an already busy parliamentary agenda. My right honourable friend expects to appoint advisers soon and to bring forward early legislation. It is intended to enable CDCs to access private capital during the life of the current Parliament.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

My Lords, I wish to ask one or two questions. First, between now and Monday's debate, can the Minister clarify in greater detail the aid and trade provisions which are so important to bidding for overseas contracts on the part of major British contractors? It would be useful if the lines were clearly defined because it is an important matter for industry.

Secondly, the 0.7 per cent. aid programme is ambitious and I congratulate the Government on grasping the nettle. On that point, can the Minister give us some idea of the timescale for achieving the 0.7 per cent. which, at the moment, is twice the existing aid programme? As I am sure the Minister is aware, the total amount of money paid by countries in Africa on debt servicing is, I think, three times what they receive in aid. Is she aware that servicing debt in Africa is four times what is spent on health services in Africa?

In developing her aid programme, will the Minister concentrate on the fact that immense public opinion is growing in this country, under the auspices of Jubilee 2000, to take a new look at third world debt, with a view to relieving the burden which is making economic development extremely difficult?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I have no difficulty in undertaking to give a fuller answer on the ATP question when we debate the matter on Monday. However, I reiterate to your Lordships that the Government will work with British business to strengthen support for investment in trade which promotes sustainable development. We shall make available to British business information about trade and investment opportunities in developing countries. We shall consult when preparing country and other development strategies, to take full account of the contribution that British business can make.

This Government believe that the ATP scheme lacks poverty elimination as its central focus. That is why we wish to do away with it. No more applications will be accepted and the scheme will be closed. We shall explore where mixed credits can be managed within agreed country programmes, with the primary aim of reducing poverty, not subsidising exports. This will avoid any repetition of the abuses to which I referred a little while ago.

The noble Lord asked how long it would take to achieve the target of 0.7 per cent. of GNP devoted to those programmes. I am not able to answer that as I am not in a position to know, for example, how the CDC investment is likely to go. What I can tell your Lordships is that we hope that the investment will start to grow in the financial year 1999–2000, as agreed by my right honourable friends the Secretary of State for International Development and the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The noble Lord also raised a point about the debt burden in Africa. It is well taken and is understood by both my right honourable friends, the Secretary of State for International Development and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. That is why he launched the Mauritius Mandate in September this year. The United Kingdom is providing a bilateral lead by contributing, for example, £6.5 million towards reducing Uganda's debt to the African Development Bank, so I believe that the United Kingdom Government are taking a very important initiative and I hope are setting a trend which will be followed by other governments in the developed world.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford

My Lords, I offer my warm and sincere congratulations to my noble friend the Minister and, through her, to the Government, on the publication of this, the first White Paper on the subject for over 20 years. We have heard statements on this subject since the days of the Lester Pearson Commission, now over 30 years ago, and to most of us very little seems to have happened to improve the lot of those underdeveloped and poverty-stricken countries.

Is my noble friend aware and will she accept that, contrary to what the noble Lord said about inward investment, not all inward investment is good inward investment? Some of it leads to the most appalling exploitation of children in terms of child labour in these countries, and some of it is really undesirable. So we ought not to give the impression that all inward investment is good. We should examine inward investment with a fine toothcomb.

Will my noble friend accept that the bottom line is these appalling pictures that we still see on our television sets of children suffering from malnutrition and dying, crippled and in bad health? Will my noble friend further accept that if we feed and clothe these children, and give them good health and good conditions in which to grow up in their own country and develop that country, then we shall have made a great contribution to alleviating poverty in the underdeveloped world.

Finally, I ask my noble friend to join with me, at a time when there has been so much "bitching" about the Italian footballers and football, in a tribute to Franco Baresi. Franco Baresi, as many of your Lordships will know, is an Italian international football player who has had an outstanding career with his club Inter Milan and the Italian national football team. He retired at the end of last season and only last week there was an international football match in his honour, staged in the Olympic stadium in Rome. Unlike all those highly paid football stars in this country who are only too desperate to pocket the millions that are made tax free from these testimonial matches, Franco Baresi insisted that the total proceeds from that match be given to the United Nations Save the Children Fund. Is that not a cause for congratulations?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

Yes, my Lords, I believe it is and there are sadly all too few examples of such selflessness that we see in the world. One of the important things to remember about this White Paper is that what the Government are suggesting is achievable. It is not something where there is no chance of the Government being able to sustain it. As the noble lord says, there are children in the world who are starving, who are without homes and the bare necessities of life, who need not be in that position.

Of course it is not just a question of aid; we know it is a question of investment, of trade and of environment. It is also a question of education, as the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said—of the education of mothers as well as of the children. The inward investment that we are looking at must be the kind of investment that not only achieves the short-term issues of dealing with the grinding poverty that so many people in the world so needlessly endure, but also of the long-term sustainability of future generations not having to endure such needless poverty.

Lord Judd

My Lords, will my noble friend accept that many of us are extremely grateful to her for having repeated the Statement in the House this afternoon, and for giving us such a useful introduction to the more detailed debate on Monday, when we can pursue the full implications of the White Paper? Will my noble friend also convey to her right honourable friend the Secretary of State the congratulations which I am sure many of us in all parts of the House want to offer that, so early in her term of office, she has come to Parliament with a strategy for this far-reaching and highly complex aspect of Government responsibility? As she has just indicated in answer to the last question, if the full purpose of the White Paper is to be fulfilled, with poverty eradication back as the central target—and that really is exciting—that is going to require the co-ordinated and determined collaboration of a number of departments of state in this country. There will be the Treasury, environment, defence, and of course health. In this context, can my noble friend assure us, if not today then when she speaks on Monday, that she will be able to say something to the House about the specific arrangements being put in place to enable the co-ordinated drive by Government to be achieved? Without those the White Paper will never fulfil its real purpose.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I shall have great pleasure in conveying congratulations from your Lordships' House to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development. One of the strengths of the White Paper is the emphasis it places on the new and stronger partnership it is advocating for poverty alleviation. Those partnerships should be with developing countries, other development agencies, the private sector and voluntary agencies. As I said, it is not just a question of aid but, as the noble Lord has stated, of greater coherence across a number of different areas of government activity.

The White Paper reflects the collective use of governments and its preparation involved detailed discussion among many departments. The departments will continue to work together, giving greater priority than in the past to the developing country dimension. I would remind your Lordships that we will be establishing a working group of educationalists and others to improve the education issues—not just those from the DfEE but others with expertise in this area—and that there will also be an annual development policy forum representing many different strands in this country, many different strands of thought and many different organisations who have an interest in international development. There will be an annual report explaining how the White Paper is achieving its objectives each year.

The Viscount of Oxfuird

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her repetition of the Statement in this House. Can I just go back again to the importance of the aid and trade provision? Perhaps she may have had an opportunity of looking at an application form for the provision, where she will see that the information required by any applicant for this facility is very detailed and in very great depth. It is also a two-way operation. Not only does it apply to the country where the equipment, or whatever it may be, is going to be shipped, but it also applies to the United Kingdom. Certain questions on the aid and trade provision form demand detailed information on unemployment rates, the industries involved, the subsuppliers and a great deal of very important information. Therefore, I suggest that the noble Baroness might look at this application form, because it contains a wealth of information.

My second question is: where is the law deficient, so as to make it necessary to have a new international development Act? Perhaps she can tell the House.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I regret I have not looked at an ATP form—I do not suppose that that comes as a surprise to the noble Lord. However, I can assure him that my right honourable friend and her officials will have looked closely at the forms.

Many projects previously supported by ATP would not now be eligible following the introduction of new OECD rules—the Helsinki disciplines. In those cases British businesses can compete equally with foreign firms without subsidies from the taxpayer. The White Paper makes clear that mixed credits may be available if a project fits squarely within a country's poverty elimination strategy.

The noble Lord asks where the current legislation is deficient. Current legislation does not put the Government's objective of poverty elimination at the heart of the aid programme. There is a new emphasis. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, suggested to the House that somehow these were the same old policies recycled. That is clearly not the case. The Government may wish, having taken further advice—I stress the importance of consultation in this matter—to bring forward legislation to ensure that it is clear that poverty eradication lies at the heart of the Government's policy.

The Earl of Sandwich

My Lords, perhaps I can join in the general chorus of congratulations and commend in particular the Minister's emphasis on development education. That is an important passage in both the Statement and the White Paper. Now that the Government are doing the right thing in the White Paper, do they believe that support for development overseas will win elections? The reason for the lamentable decline in our gross national product percentage is because the Conservatives never thought that there were votes in overseas development. Can we hear something from the Minister in regard to the Government's commitment to the electorate over the next five years? We shall do well with schools through development education, but the wider public needs to understand what the Government are doing.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I have enough respect for the British public to believe that it supports poverty elimination; that it feels strongly about needless poverty where we find it in the world. We had no clearer demonstration of that than the recent sad events in relation to the tragic death of the Princess of Wales and the fact that she devoted so much of her time to children in poverty and related issues. Many people felt that something extraordinarily worthwhile was being undertaken.

However, we are not doing this for votes. The Government believe that needless poverty ought to be tackled and that what we are doing is right. The current position is repugnant and a government dedicated to ethical foreign policy should take a lead. We are doing what we said we would do in our manifesto and doing it with considerable energy.