HL Deb 10 November 1997 vol 583 cc30-80

Debate resumed.

4.26 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Birmingham

My Lords, the White Paper on eliminating world poverty is greatly to be welcomed. It starts implicitly, if not explicitly, from the basic premise that as human beings we are interdependent and irreducibly so. It is part of being human that we are responsible to and for one another both as individuals and as communities. If ever we find ourselves asking the question, "Am I my brother's keeper?", we should remind ourselves that Cain, the man who first asked it, was his brother's murderer.

The White Paper set ambitious goals such as halving world poverty by the year 2015. Those are targets which we can and ought to meet. There are three goals in particular that I should like to commend. First, there is the commitment to focus all our efforts on the fight against poverty. It goes without saying that that is what our aid programme ought, above all, to be about.

Secondly, there is the promise of greater coherence across a range of government policy. Aid is important, but there is a whole range of policy areas which impact on developing countries. The Treasury will be key when discussing debt relief; MAFF will have a role in food supply; the DTI can open opportunities for trade and investment. This is a government White Paper and securing the co-ordinated involvement and commitment of a number of ministries will be a considerable achievement.

Thirdly, we should welcome the idea that we need alliances in order to meet the challenges we face. As the White Paper says, in the 1970s we thought that the state would deliver everything; in the 1980s we wanted to leave it to the market. The paper recognises that the answers are much more complicated. It calls for a new alliance between governments, the private sector and non-governmental organisations in order to deliver development.

The White Paper sets ambitious goals together with a framework to guide our policy into the next millennium. The challenge now is to turn those bold ideals into reality. As well as the big global goals for 2015, we need to set some interim targets to see how we are progressing. For example, what are we going to achieve by the year 2005? We also need to set clear and measurable targets for the areas that are directly under our control. For example, the White Paper sets targets for educating people overseas. But where are the targets and resources for development education here in Britain?

I broadly welcome the White Paper but should like to suggest three areas where it could have gone further. The first is debt relief. If poor countries are to develop then, as the White Paper acknowledges, we urgently need to solve the debt crisis, not merely to alleviate it. Let us mark the millennium with a comprehensive package of debt remission. Here we cannot help noticing echoes of words which Christians use every day: "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors". Christian Aid and the Jubilee 2000 Coalition are asking for a one-off cancellation by the year 2000 of the backlog of unpayable debt owed by the world's poorest countries under a fair and transparent process. I should like to remind your Lordships that the Church of England's General Synod has already endorsed the main aims of Jubilee 2000.

The issue of debt release has been identified by the African bishops as a key issue for next year's worldwide meeting of Anglican bishops—the Lambeth conference—in Canterbury. Archbishop Desmond Tutu's successor, Archbishop Ndungane of Cape Town, is playing a leading role in promoting this concern for debt relief. The House has already debated this specific initiative, in a debate on 9th July introduced by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford.

Secondly, I refer to aid volume. The Government remain committed to the United Nations aid target of 0.7 per cent. of GNP, but so far they have declined to set a timetable to reach that target. It will take a number of years to increase the aid budget from its current level of 0.27 per cent. to the UN target. Can the Government at least promise that by the end of this term they will have met the European Union average of 0.37 per cent.? Setting and meeting this kind of achievable interim target would help convince us that the Government are truly committed to translating the fine ideals of the White Paper into the kind of action which will make a real difference.

Finally, I underline everything that was said by the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, about the conventional arms trade, a trade whose victims are, above all, the poor people of poor countries

4.31 p.m.

Lord Jopling

My Lords, this occasion brings vivid recollections of the nervousness I felt almost exactly 33 years ago when I first rose to my feet in another place, so I hope your Lordships will forgive my similar nervousness today.

Having read the White Paper, I feel—and I hope I am not being controversial—that one cannot but come to the conclusion that a good deal of it is a reaffirmation of the work of my noble friend Lady Chalker, to whom, quite rightly, the Minister and the Secretary of State have paid tribute in recent times.

Moving next to the generalities of the White Paper, I have a great deal of sympathy for what the noble Lord, Lord Steel, and the right reverend Prelate said with regard to the need for the Government to be rather more specific about their targets over the immediate period ahead. We realise that public spending is sterilised at previous levels for the next two years, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Steel, said, we are entitled to know more precisely what the Government mean when they say they are going to move positively to the 0.7 per cent. of GDP referred to in the White Paper. I should also like to hear what the Minister feels about the point raised last Wednesday by my noble friend Lord Howell when he pointed to what I believe is a much more important and realistic target of 1 per cent. of GNP for both public and private investment in the developing world. The United Kingdom exceeds that figure very considerably at the moment. I hope the Minister will give an undertaking that the Government will do everything they can to maintain that current commendable level of public and private aid.

I come now to the core of what I want to say. I am disappointed by the absence from the White Paper, except for one small mention in paragraph 3.55, of any reference to the universal problem of landmines. It is one of the great scourges of today and contributes so much to world poverty in areas where millions of landmines lie dormant. I pay tribute to the noble Baroness the Minister for taking an interest in the all-party group on landmines of which I have had the honour of being vice-chairman since its inception. She attended one of our meetings before the summer Recess; her visit was very welcome. However, I am disappointed that there is not more reference in the White Paper to what is a terrible scourge.

It was, I believe, the current Secretary of State for Defence who pointed out the other day that every hour around the world three people lose either their lives or limbs through stepping on landmines. But it does not stop there. So often the people maimed or killed through landmine accidents are the breadwinners of the family and, as a consequence, a whole raft of extra people are affected and brought back towards poverty. Far too little is done for people maimed by landmines around the world. I was associated for a number of years with Sandy Gall's appeal on behalf of Afghanistan, which does wonderful work providing artificial limbs for those who have suffered these tragic accidents. I hope that the Government will do everything possible to encourage that type of assistance and aid.

The principal point I wish to draw to your Lordships' attention is the fact that, by the very existence of those millions of mines, huge tracts of land become totally unusable for agriculture and food production. Hence, huge numbers of people are pushed further towards poverty. Anyone who has flown over the Zambezi delta in Mozambique will have seen vast tracts of highly productive land which cannot be used, partly because it has been mined and partly through the activities previously of that wicked organisation, RENAMO, which was financed by the most malevolent people in southern Africa. They have a great deal to answer for because all that wonderful land is lying sterile.

It is vital—I hope that the Government will apply their attention to this point—to increase efforts to find better ways of detecting and clearing mines and so restore more quickly land to the local population, enabling them to sustain themselves and drag themselves away from poverty. I refuse to believe that, in an age when we can manipulate the genetic components of a living cell or land on the moon, it continues to be the situation that the only way we can detect mines is by wonderful and brave people crawling about on their hands and knees, poking steel rods into the ground and hoping they will detect these terrible weapons. It is a poor reflection on the ingenuity of man. Anyone who has seen the work of the Halo Trust, among others, in clearing land in a painstaking way will know precisely what I mean.

Surely the Government realise that great strides would be made in relieving world poverty if we could achieve a breakthrough in detecting mines much more efficiently. I know that some work is being done in the United Kingdom at the Defence Equipment Research Agency and that a good deal of work is also being carried out in the United States. A number of us who are members of the NATO Assembly visited the Lawrence Livermore Laboratories in California last year. I believe that there is great potential, through various techniques such as ground-penetrating radar or microwave impulse radar, among a good many other techniques, for finding and clearing mines more effectively. Again, last week, we saw in the press some publicity as regards a device called AARDVARK, which I believe is made near Aberdeen. It seems perhaps to be more efficient to continue techniques which were used through flails on the front of tanks during World War II.

But there is much to be done. I hope that the Government recognise the importance of such work in eliminating world poverty. I believe that huge strides would be made if only mines could be cleared more effectively. I hope that the Minister will look again into these issues and that she will join those of us who regard this as a personal crusade. I wish the Government well in the discussions in Ottawa next month, and I hope that we can make real progress

4.41 p.m.

Lord Judd

My Lords, I know that I speak for the whole House in saying how much we have appreciated the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Jopling. I had the joy of knowing him quite well when I was a Member of the other place. I know in what high regard he was held by colleagues in all parts of that House. I also know, as what is called in that part of the world "a recent offcomer" to the north, that he is held in immensely high regard in the north of England, as represented by his honorary doctorate from the University of Newcastle. He is also held in great respect and high regard in the international community. That is no mean record. It stems from his inherent decency, integrity and compassion. What we have heard today is a model of how he approaches politics: he does not speak in airy-fairy, theoretical terms about the principles which concern him deeply; he speaks of them practically, in a dimension which affects millions of people in the world. We look forward to hearing the noble Lord frequently informing and improving the quality of our debates in the many years that lie ahead of him in this House.

As I said in the defence debate last week, I have been working professionally and voluntarily for most of my life with NGOs and humanitarian agencies concerned with security and development issues, and I still do so. Oxfam, ODI, Safer World and International Alert are examples. It is therefore necessary for me to declare an interest.

The strategy described in the White Paper is unambiguous. The unequivocal objective of the Secretary of State is the war against poverty, and that provides a refreshing challenge, demonstrating that New Labour can be as rooted in the conviction about the moral imperative of the fight for social justice as old Labour ever was. But social justice cannot be achieved without some redistribution of wealth, whether it be in the United Kingdom or the third world. One key test of all that the White Paper aspires to achieve is whether it helps to close the gap which is so disturbingly widening between the excessively wealthy and the desperately poor.

Equality of opportunity becomes hollow aspiration unless greater equality of outcome is demonstrably the outcome. It is self-deceptive to suppose that the grotesquely disadvantaged will be able to take advantage of the opportunities unless the handicaps which hamper them are removed—bad health facilities, homelessness, unemployment, urban or rural squalor, dreadful environmental pollution, violent conflict and, above all, grinding poverty are obvious examples. That is why I believe that the argument about where to strike the dynamic balance between the market and intervention for the common good with well resourced public services remains and will always remain as central as ever. It matters in the United Kingdom and it matters in the world. "Cannot afford" is not the same as "Choose not to afford". In so far as it goes, the promise to reverse the downward trend in expenditure is to be heartily welcomed, but we shall need to know a good deal more about what that really means.

We live in a time of revolutionised communications. Nobody can plead ignorance of the grim reality of deprivation and poverty. To know how people suffer and then to turn our backs on it is to build some hell on earth. It not only stunts our own qualitative development; it literally locks us into our own prisons as we build our walls higher, make our grills stronger and deploy more security paraphernalia and personnel to keep the threatening consequences of our selfishness from invading our selfish enclaves.

We know that to be true with the security systems which increasingly clutter up our homes in Britain. We know it to be true as we ponder the dangerous mix of millions of people with nothing to loss,--including perhaps as many as a 100 million refugees and displaced people by the year 2000, and all the nightmares presented by the accessible techniques for modern international terrorism. It is ominous that 15 of the 20 poorest countries in the world have experienced significant violent conflict in the past 15 years.

Social justice and the war against poverty are not to be relegated to the moral appendices of political manifestos. They are central to any prospect for a decent, viable future for our children and grandchildren. We are increasingly anxious about the environment. We proclaim our refrains about sustainable development. But every time we speak of sustainable development it raises the most immense issues of access, distribution and justice. If, as they climb out of poverty, the poor of the world are to play their part in managing the global environment successfully, it will be because they do as we should have done but did not. And that will cost them a great deal of money. As the Secretary of State for the Environment mounts his international crusade, it will, frankly, lack credibility unless he leads a campaign for increased resources for the poor world to do it right. We simply cannot ignore that 20 to 25 per cent. of the world's population has an approaching 80 per cent. share of the consumption of the world's resources and has been responsible for the lion's share of pollution. Nowhere is the imperative for redistribution better illustrated.

If I have learned anything in my years of work on so-called third world issues, it is that it is not a matter of whether macro-economic strategies are the priority or micro-economic projects are the basic essential. Both are badly needed. They are complementary. And I believe that this White Paper establishes that very clearly. There is its emphasis on directing aid into primary education, not least for girls, into primary and preventive health care, and the provision of clean water. At the same time there is recognition of the indispensability of trade in development, with the paper's support for fairer trade and market access for developing countries to developed markets.

In this respect it will be essential to see a closer alignment between the terms of the Lomé agreement and those of the GSP. Real and substantial progress on debt relief, and still more relevant policies from the World Bank and IMF, will also be indispensable. There is a good deal of evidence that the spirit is willing in these spheres. The reportedly good rapport between the Secretary of State and the President of the World Bank is good news. But the muscles of enlightenment in the financial institutions still need a great deal of strengthening. It is disappointing that the White Paper does not say more on the untying of aid. Tied aid can play havoc with instilling sound economic disciplines in government: it is often counter-productive. This issue has to be tackled. However, in the shadow of Pergau, helicopters for India and the rest, the resolve of the Secretary of State to ensure that development is about development and that aid funds will never again be misused as short-term sweeteners for commercial contracts—let alone sinister arms deals—is altogether wholesome.

The abuse of the Aid Trade Provision by the previous government was legendary and depressing. That had to be put right. But it is imaginative that in the White Paper we see a re-emphasis of the sound and extensive ethical contribution that British business is capable of making to development and of the need for government and the private sector to work out what should be their mutually reinforcing roles.

On that front, the Commonwealth Development Corporation must not be abandoned to the conventional world of merchant banking. It has a special function in bringing investment to less attractive target countries and in building management capability. The Government must use their influence to keep CDC firmly committed in that direction. It is reassuring to read of the Government's determination to consult both the private sector and the NGOs, with their often unrivalled insight, based as it is on their front-line engagement, when country and other development strategies are being prepared.

The values and commitment of political leadership in any country are fundamental to the prospects of development. I am glad that the White Paper recognises that. The partnership principle is a good one. The Government are right to give priority to co-operation with those governments who are committed to international poverty eradication targets, pro-poor economic growth, sustainable livelihoods, good governance, human rights and, within this context, environmental sustainability.

Accelerated debt relief should be available to such governments. Support for good governance, decentralisation, the rule of law and enhanced legal strategies in partner countries are also certainly appropriate. But this means that, where governments are bad and the people are consequently suffering, NGOs will have a crucial humanitarian role to play. The Government must understand this and support them.

Many of us will welcome the recommitment to development education here at home in the UK. At the heart of our education system there should be a constant recognition of our inescapable involvement in the world. Any learning which is not based on that will be irrelevant to the century ahead. The Development Policy Forum, building an interactive constituency of informed and, I hope, constructively critical support for development, also makes a great deal of sense. The annual report, with an annual debate on it in Parliament. is clearly right.

When I completed my time as Director of Oxfam, more than 50 per cent. of our work worldwide was conflict related. In Africa it was more than 70 per cent. I was mesmerised by the awful statistic that, whereas in the Second World War some 50 per cent. of the casualties were civilian, the proportion is now over 90 per cent—and the poor, not having the means to escape, often get hit hardest. Indeed, it was this concern that took me into work with Safer World and International Alert. Conflict resolution, pre-emptive diplomacy and firm control of the arms trade are imperatives of any coherent humanitarian development strategy. So, too, is post-conflict reconstruction.

I hope that my noble friend the Minister will forgive me if I put several specific inquiries to her in this context. What effective and meaningful part is DfID playing in the current foreign policy-led strategic defence review? If the New Labour Government are really facing up to all that is involved in international security, why is the Secretary of State for International Development not on the Ministerial Committee on Defence and Overseas Policy? What are the Government doing to ensure that conflict prevention is fully integrated into the entire range of the Government's international policy? How can the Government ensure that development assistance for post-conflict reconstruction is dovetailed with FCO or MoD assistance for demobilisation and demilitarisation? How will DfID fulfil the role it has been given in the arms exporting licensing process?

I believe it was the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, who said we should learn to think of—I believe the words were—"all ministries as development ministries" with a role to play in reducing poverty and promoting sustainable development. He was right. The Department for International Development and its Secretary of State are the catalysts: but they must mobilise agriculture, health, environment, education, trade and the others and, above all, the FCO, the Treasury and No. 10 itself. If the Government are serious—and on international security grounds no less than humanitarian grounds they simply have to be—what is required, as the White Paper so rightly indicates, is the orchestrated input of the Government as a whole. Their leadership and commitment in the European Union, not least on the reform of the CAP, and in the multilateral organisations, will be every bit as important as their bilateral programmes and priorities. The two should complement each other.

I believe the White Paper sets out an urgent agenda. The Government are to be congratulated. But they will now have to provide the means. Fifteenth in the OECD league table of the proportion of GNP committed to overseas development by Development Assistance Committee member states is not an overwhelmingly convincing place to be for a nation whose new Government is on record as wanting to play a lead role in international responsibility. The downward trend has to be reversed. It is good that the White Paper says that, but it cannot be said too strongly

4.56 p.m.

Lord Newby

My Lords, it is a great privilege for me to be able to make my maiden speech on a subject of such importance as international development and in particular the reduction of widespread poverty across much of the globe. It is a double privilege to be able to speak in a debate initiated by the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, because many moons ago, as a humble principal in Her Majesty's Customs and Excise, I was also an active member of the First Division Association, of which the noble Baroness was such a distinguished general secretary. This debate, for me at least, is therefore something of an FDA alumni reunion.

It is not, however, as a result of my experience of attempting to harmonise European Community customs law or worrying about the structure of tobacco taxation that I wish to speak in this debate. For almost 20 years I have been a trustee of a small charitable trust, the Allachy Trust, the purpose of which is to support sustainable development projects in the poorest parts of the developing world. I therefore strongly support the central thrust of the White Paper and the statement by the Secretary of State for International Development that the challenge of development is to apply the lessons of success to enable the poor to work their way out of poverty and that that can be achieved only by enabling the poor to develop their talents. If one accepts that the key aim of development policy is, indeed, to enable the poor to develop their own talents, the type of project which should receive support is vastly different from those which have often been funded in the past. The Allachy Trust is inundated with increasing numbers of increasingly well thought-out proposals which enable poor people to undertake sustainable economic activity which sits squarely within the priorities of the White Paper.

I wonder whether I may refer to just one such project which can serve as an example of the best. The Adivasi Forest Produce Programme is a new project in which funding from the UK, from both the Government and the voluntary sector, is being used to give the indigenous Adivasi people the means to collect and market forest produce in a systematic and economically viable manner. The project is set in a large area of protected forest in Tamil Nadu, India. The five-year cost of the project is £250,000. Thereafter, it becomes self-sustaining and profitable. The UK end of the project is being managed by the highly impressive charity Find Your Feet. This project has the great advantages of being targeted at the very poor, and of being small scale, replicable, involving women as much as men (to the extent of requiring that 50 per cent. of the management board comprise women—a proposal incidentally which could not secure support even within the Liberal Democrat Party). The project is sustainable economically and environmentally. It empowers entire communities which traditionally have had few rights and economic independence. It is also unashamedly unglamorous; it will never hit the headlines. How different it is from a dam or a fleet of helicopters, but how much more intrinsically worthwhile.

When one thinks of development in the world's poorest countries one tends to think principally of rural development, because in the past these countries have had overwhelmingly rural economies, and some still do. But the flight from the countryside has caused an explosive growth in cities across the third world. The physical and social infrastructure of those cities cannot begin to cope. The imagination that has gone into the development of appropriate projects in rural areas is largely lacking when considering how to tackle these horrendous urban problems. In that context I have a suggestion to proffer to the Minister and her colleagues. In looking at ways to motivate poor people in cities, particularly young people, to undertake a range of socially and environmentally beneficial activities, she should not overlook the role that sport can play in the development process. That is a role which VSO, for example, has recently recognised. Those who attended the CHOGM Sports Conference a few weeks ago were privileged to hear about the Mathare Youth Sports Association which is based in a huge poverty-stricken shanty town on the outskirts of Nairobi. That association not only runs footballing activities but also contributes to every aspect of the development process. For example, before anyone is allowed to play football they must help to collect garbage or unblock the perpetually blocked drainage ditches. Each has to receive AIDS counselling and stop taking drugs. Furthermore, their footballing heroes tell them to stay at school, and by and large they do so. The association encourages girls to participate in sports activities and in decision making. The association runs itself, encouraging the concepts of good governance and accountability among its largely teenage members. They are also extremely—and worryingly—good footballers.

The imagination, maturity and success of those who run the Mathare project challenge the perception of many people about the ability of the poor and the young in the most unpromising circumstances to help themselves. It also demonstrates that sport is not simply a frivolous adjunct to real life but can be a very powerful force for personal and community development.

The White Paper should make it easier for the Government to support the type of project that I have described this afternoon. In doing so it offers the prospect of empowering some of the world's poorest individuals and communities to haul themselves out of poverty on a sustainable basis. Therefore, it deserves our strong support

5.3 p.

Lord Rea

My Lords, what a privilege it is to be able to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Newby, on a highly professional, very relevant and pleasantly witty maiden speech. It was an affable speech, which made it appear that he had been here for years. In his curriculum vitae as a civil servant in Customs and Excise, as a political administrator, and property developer his extensive knowledge of the developing world does not appear. Who knows what other wisdom we can expect from the noble Lord? We look forward to his contributions on a wide range of topics in future.

Like many other noble Lords, I should like to give this clearly written and clear-sighted White Paper a big welcome. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, should realise that it is more a statement of principles than a detailed description of the future work of DfID. It may therefore seem to be a little short on how the aims are to be achieved rather than what those aims are, and why they need to be achieved. The style is a little grandiose, particularly the purple passage on the back of the front page. This kind of language may be suitable for a pre-election speech but it is an embarrassment in a White Paper. The last sentence of that passage reads: and we will give back to our children what they deserve—a heritage of hope". At the present time that is a rather unfortunate statement in relation to paragraph 3.42 of the White Paper, which reads: We are working with other governments towards a global ban on tobacco advertising. In the meantime we will support an international code of conduct … covering the content and exposure of children to advertising". Children are avid watchers of Formula One motor racing. They know the logos and colour schemes of tobacco companies on racing cars without any writing being displayed at all. With the leave of the House, for a further moment I should like to diverge from the theme of the debate to say how mistaken the Government have been in reneging on their promise to phase out the tobacco sponsorship of sport. Not only the health professions, in strength, led by the British Medical Association, but a large part of the electorate are dismayed by this decision. Eighty two per cent. of the "Question Time" audience last Thursday believed that the Government had been wrong to submit to the tobacco industry on the issue of sponsorship of Formula One motor racing. The Secretary of State for International Development, Clare Short, who was on that panel, was clearly uncomfortable in her defence of that decision which nevertheless she carried out loyally as a member of the Cabinet. Perhaps my noble friend can suggest to her right honourable friend the Secretary of State that this matter be further discussed in Cabinet. It may already have happened. Something can be saved from this humiliating government surrender to a powerful lobby if a date in the near future for the phasing out of this form of tobacco promotion can be fixed—and a good deal nearer than the 10 years mooted in the Guardian this morning as a possibility. I am glad to say that this issue is very much in the news, and I hope that it will continue to be so until the Government—my Government—reverse this quite unnecessary departure from an electoral undertaking.

Having got that off my chest, it is time to take a selective look at the White Paper itself. First, to consider the old chestnut of the division of funds between bilateral and multilateral development assistance. I am concerned about the diversion of large parts of our bilateral aid to the European Development Fund. This is nothing new. But perhaps my noble friend can inform the House how the new department will increase its involvement in monitoring and improve the effectiveness of this aid. How many staff from the DflD will be located in Brussels? What influence can they exert? What are the arrangements to ensure proper linkage between member governments and the commissioners responsible for European aid policy? Perhaps more important, what is the linkage at the lower levels of decision making?

In the second section of the White Paper the content of our development assistance is set out clearly in nine panels. Much of this continues and further develops the work of ODA under the previous government. I am pleased that there will be continued support for essential healthcare and population activities which were high on the priority list of the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker. I ask my noble friend whether the expenditure on health and population activities will remain level or perhaps even rise in the budget plans of the department. Is the calculation of that proportion of expenditure inclusive of activities under these headings that are funded under the joint funding and volunteer schemes or is it additional to that expenditure?

In addition, in the second section of the White Paper the concept of development partnerships is put forward. In theory this is an excellent idea; but, as is recognised in paragraph 2.24, it may run into the difficulty that many governments profess that they are committed to pro-poor growth and conservation but pursue policies that favour an elite or a particular ethnic group. In other cases governments may be so poor and corruption or human rights abuses so great that official assistance must be withdrawn. Yet, as my noble friend Lord Judd pointed out, poor people in those countries need help desperately. Paragraph 2.24 recognises that assistance will be provided through a number of alternative channels and will be tightly focused on the victims of neglect and oppression. That is an important use of aid, but a difficult one because some governments could regard that as letting them off the hook.

As my noble friend the Minister, and many other noble Lords know, that is where the local knowledge and connections of locally based NGOs, and the links that they have with international organisations are so important. So it is good to see in paragraph 2.40: The Government wishes to strengthen its partnership with voluntary charitable and non-profit making organisations". It was while my noble friend Lord Judd, as director of Oxfam, was visiting some of the projects funded by Oxfam under the nose of the Pinochet regime that he and I first met. I, too, was visiting Chile 11 years ago. I expected no less than that the Government would be supporting the NGOs, but it is good to see it stated clearly in the White Paper.

In the debate on the environment on 5th November I queried the effect that trade and investment policy had on the environment. In particular, I asked about the multilateral agreement on investment which is being developed by the OECD at the moment. That subject is discussed in paragraphs 3.29 and 3.30. That states: We recognise that the MAI is not designed for the economic and constitutional constraints of poorer developing countries. We arc exploring how their needs can be taken into account". It also mentions a future WTO agreement on investment which may be developed. How far are representatives of the least developed countries and NGOs, which are particularly aware of their needs, being consulted during those discussions on future investment policy? Some of the provisions of the MAI which I read out during the debate on the environment seemed to be so severe that they could undermine the independence of countries which signed up to them, and would appear to confirm the dominance of trans-national corporations and other foreign investors as virtual neo-imperialist.

I shall not weary your Lordships by discussing the rest of the interesting section on trade, agriculture and investment, but it is an important section of the White Paper. It has 17 subsections, covering many areas in which DfID will have to collaborate closely with other departments of state, particularly trade and industry, the EU, and UN financial institutions.

Another section entitled "Responding Effectively to Conflict", which was discussed by my noble friend Lord Judd covers another important area. It is discussed in paragraphs 3.48 to 3.55. There will be, as he said, a need to collaborate closely with the MoD as well as the FCO.

I mention those areas briefly to demonstrate that the decision to make international development an independent department. headed by a Cabinet Minister, was amply justified and long overdue. By having the status of a Cabinet Minister, it will be much easier for my right honourable friend to have high level discussions with other departments of state.

To sum up, this is an excellent plan of campaign, drawn up by a dedicated and enthusiastic Secretary of State with a clear sense of direction. The programme should ensure that the people of Britain and the developing world obtain good value for money from DfID where it is needed

5.15 p.m.

Lord Cromwell

My Lords, I have spent the past 10 years working in the international development sector, but in making my maiden speech I am all too painfully aware of what a tiny drop in the ocean of experience and knowledge that is in this House. I am grateful to your Lordships for allowing me to participate in the debate today. I should also declare an interest in that I am currently working on a number of such projects around the world.

The Government's proposals have been widely welcomed in the development community because they focus on human rights, democratisation and the eradication of poverty, which must form the basis of a safe, equitable and sustainable planet. I should like to add my welcome to those proposals. There are practical issues surrounding the implementation of those proposals about which we shall need to be vigilant. However, I believe that we are pointed in the right direction. It is now a question of having the energy, the resources, the opportunities and the international co-operation to attain the targets that the document sets out.

Having said all that, I should like to add one cautionary note about eastern Europe and the states of the former Soviet Union. The still relatively recent changes in that part of the world have shown us what benefits can be derived by those countries from the technical assistance that Britain does so well. The Government Know-How Fund and other members of the international donor community have achieved substantial and sustainable results in those countries. I remember when aid to that area was first announced. There was considerable adverse comment along the lines that it would divert resources from what might, depressingly, be called the traditional areas of aid in Africa and Asia.

I am sure that it is not necessary in this House to detail the strategic, economic and cultural importance of support to that part of the world. What is perhaps not so widely part of our thinking is the extent to which the issues of democratisation, human rights, and the eradication of poverty are relevant there. Anyone who has seen old women begging in minus 20, 30, or 40 degrees in that part of the world will know what I am talking about. Indicators of health, life expectancy and social welfare are showing a downturn rather than an upturn, particularly in the less visible areas—the rural areas, the economically depressed areas—and for vulnerable groups such as the elderly.

To illustrate my concern about the Government's proposals I hope that noble Lords will forgive a slightly pedantic approach to the document, in that I could not help but notice that Africa or African countries are mentioned 12 times, Asia or Asian countries five times, but Russia just once—as an aid giver. No other countries from central Europe, eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union or the central Asian republics are mentioned by name at all. More generally, the document refers repeatedly to support for and partnership with developing countries, something which I am sure we would all wish to support. The huge areas and populations of eastern Europe and the CIS, however, are specifically excluded in the document from that category. They are referred to as "in transition" in two short paragraphs and one panel.

I hope that the House and the Government will continue to recognise the merit of support and engagement with that part of the world. We have an immediate interest in its progress and stability, but perhaps more fundamentally, in the spirit of the humanitarian objectives within this set of proposals, there is much to be done.

To conclude, I should like once more to welcome these valuable proposals which point us all in the right direction. However, I suggest that it would be unwise politically and unfair from a humanitarian perspective to sideline, run down, or in some way to consider as secondary, our assistance to eastern Europe, central Europe and the former Soviet Union. They have recently re-emerged in our national consciousness. We have much to learn about them and from them. I believe that they are worthy of our support, not only for political reasons but because they fall squarely within the issues which the White Paper seeks to address

5.20 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

My Lords, this has been an impressive debate on a significant and important White Paper. I wish, first, to congratulate the maiden speakers, the noble Lords, Lord Cromwell, Lord Newby and Lord Jopling. They have contributed in every way to the excellent standard of the debate and have revealed their profound knowledge of various parts of the world. That will add greatly to the understanding of this House and to the enlightenment of the Government as regards world development.

The noble Lord, Lord Cromwell, addressed a part of the world with which 1. too, have been greatly involved. I declare an interest as director of the Harvard-based project, Liberty, which has worked mainly in transition countries. I was moved by what he said and wish to underline to the Government the importance of not neglecting totally that part of the world which has moved so rapidly from being within the communist bloc to trying to establish stable democracies, though not having yet done so

Perhaps I may bear out the noble Lord's comments in two ways. First, it is a terrifying fact that since 1989 the expectation of life among men in Russia has fallen by six years. It now stands at 58 years of age. considerably lower than the expectation of life of a man in India. Secondly, perhaps I may tell not a fact but a story. Earlier this year I was in a workshop in Romania and I do not forget what was said to me by one of the women there. She said, "We are very grateful to your people for sending us pillows and sheets for our orphanages. The only trouble is that children can't eat pillows and sheets".

It is difficult to describe the depth of the poverty in some areas of Russia and eastern Europe. It is largely disguised by GNP figures which hide discrepancies between the small number of people who have benefited hugely from "jungle capitalism" and the large number of elderly people, large families and those living in rural areas who have gained nothing from the transition and who in consequence, sadly, all too often vote for the devil they used to know rather than the devil they are now encountering.

Furthermore, I wish to comment on the two previous maiden speeches, both made by noble Lords whom I am proud to call friends. As my noble friend Lord Steel of Aikwood said, the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, has a distinguished record as a former Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. I know that he will contribute to the expertise sought by Members of this House with regard to agriculture in developing countries. But perhaps I may pay him the tribute of saying that he was one of the few Chief Whips who managed to maintain his humour, compassion and balance despite holding such a truly terrible job. I commend his experience to the present Chief Whips of both the governing and opposition parties.

My noble friend Lord Newby addressed the House movingly on two schemes which he commended to our attention. The House will learn a great deal from him; his modesty belies his outstanding talents. We are delighted to have heard from him today.

I do not wish to detain the House long but I wish to make a few points relating to the White Paper. Its aspirations are great and therefore it demands careful analysis. My first comment underlines what the noble Lord, Lord Cromwell, importantly told this House. The White Paper reflects a growing realisation on the part of international financial institutions, in particular the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development—a growing awareness that what happens to aid resources is directly related to the goodness and efficiency of governments. One can pour money into a badly governed country and it will be spent on prestige projects which enhance the standing of what are sometimes paranoid leaders but it will do little to benefit the country.

The World Bank in its most recent development report points to "collapsing" states— I would describe them as "hollow" states—in Africa. Asia and more developed countries than either continent can boast, where the leaders rip off their people and in some cases have escaped from their responsibilities with millions of dollars, pounds, francs and marks which they have stowed away in Swiss bank accounts. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, referred to President Mobutu, who was one of all too many examples. The world must find a way of penalising such leaders rather than penalising innocent people for their excesses and corruption and the misuse of development funds.

The understanding that what matters is good government is reflected in the current report of the World Bank. Perhaps I may quote one striking sentence: An effective state is vital for the provision of the goods and services and the rules and institutions which allow markets to flourish and people to lead healthier and happier lives". My noble friend Lord Steel of Aikwood pointed to the fact that this is the most neglected and underfunded area of development aid. We pour many millions of pounds—and other countries pour in their own currencies—into creating free markets, but we pour only the crumbs from a rich man's table into the creation of efficient, accountable and responsible governments. If your Lordships look at the articles of association of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development you will find that they are unamended from their first establishment and that in some cases those bodies are prohibited from putting money into constitutional and civil development. Yet we now know that that is crucial to the creation of an effective battle against poverty.

My first question is: can the Minister assure the House that some part of the aid for which Her Majesty's Government are responsible will continue to be devoted to the building of civil societies and responsible governments? Without that our money is going down the drain. Secondly, can she tell us that the Government will continue to support bodies such as those mentioned by my noble friend Lord Steel—the Westminster Foundation and the Know-How Fund—for their splendid work in this field? I repeat that it is the field into which much richer institutions put no money whatever.

The project, Liberty, which I have directed since 1989, has tried to spend small sums of money on providing workshops for civil servants in eastern Europe and for people thinking of entering national and local government in Russia, including the Moscow School of Political Studies which we strongly support. But, frankly, those sums are drops in an ocean of ignorance, unfamiliarity and often frustrated aspirations to try to create better governments. It is uniquely an area to which Britain is singularly able to contribute. It would be imaginative for us to work hard on setting up perhaps Open University-type structures which encourage democracy and civil society throughout the developing and, dare I say, some parts of the developed world.

The second point I wish to make is one which many noble Lords have made already. It concerns the extreme importance of concentrating on social infrastructure, primary education and primary healthcare. The right reverend Prelate reminded us of the importance of those matters in creating the basic structures to deal with poverty. In that context, I should mention that today 130 million children are without even primary education. More of those are girls than boys, but that does not matter. They are all being seriously neglected. Even some relatively poor countries, by investing in public health rather than curative medicine, can make a huge difference to the prospects of their country.

In that regard, it is remarkable that South Africa, in the first few years of its free existence, has established a primary medical system for one to six year-olds and for mothers expecting babies which is free, while the United States—one of the richest countries in the world—is still struggling to try to achieve the same end.

Finally, I wish to refer to the only non-grace note to which I am bound to return in the debate. We commend the Government for their emphasis on poverty and the Secretary of State for her emphasis on social infrastructure. But I must conclude with a second question in addition to that which I asked about supporting democratic governments and civic societies. I wonder whether the Government are suffering from what I believe is now known as the "millennium syndrome". That means a profound reluctance to address dates because dates can mean ruination for certain enterprises.

The Government were anxious to avoid any date in relation to the euro, and still tell us firmly that a date would be a bad idea. But as a former Minister I must say that my heart sank when the noble Baroness, in an otherwise extremely encouraging and illuminating speech, referred to that dreaded phrase, "changing the priorities within the Budget". In ministerial-speak, we all know that that means, "No more money; just take some money from Peter to pay Paul". If that were true, it would be a breach of the promise which the Government made clearly during their campaign, and have repeated, without dates, in their White Paper, to return to the UN target of 0.7 per cent. of GNP in what is now known in ministerial and other circles as the foreseeable future. Will the Minister tell us just how long is the foreseeable future? Can we at least look forward, as in the case, I understand, of the euro, to the foreseeable future being broadly equivalent to the lifetime of the current Parliament

5.33 p.m.

Lord Acton

My Lords, I was brought up on a farm in colonial Southern Rhodesia. After Zimbabwean independence in 1980, I returned to that country and for several years worked for the new government. Most people in Rhodesia and Zimbabwe were very poor but the full horror of African poverty was really brought home to me during the drought of the early 1980s. People in one area of Zimbabwe were managing to stay alive only by eating grass.

With the background of a love of Africa and an inkling of the poverty which exists there, I join the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, and virtually all other noble Lords, with the exception, I think, of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, in welcoming the White Paper—a tremendous statement of aspirations. I refer not to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, but to the White Paper.

I wish to concentrate on paragraph 2.37 of the White Paper which outlines plans to enable the Government's chief instrument in investing in the private sector of the poorest countries—the Commonwealth Development Corporation—to increase its capital and thus its investment in those countries.

After Mr. Ian Smith's unilateral declaration of independence in 1965, my parents left Rhodesia and went to live in Swaziland. I visited them there in 1969 and on my second day my father showed me the magnificent pine forest at the quaintly named Pigs Peak. He said with admiration, "This is all the work of the Commonwealth Development Corporation". That was my introduction to the CDC.

Today in Swaziland its wholly-owned subsidiary, the Shiselweni Forestry Company, has 2,950 hectares of pines, 6,200 hectares of eucalyptus and 670 hectares of oil-bearing eucalyptus. The company began harvesting the eucalyptus in 1977 and produces eucalyptus oil in its own mill. Previously, the land was undeveloped grassland. That forestry is but one example of the fine work of the Commonwealth Development Corporation.

As my noble friend Lady Symons of Vernham Dean said, the CDC has £1.6 billion invested in 404 enterprises in 54 of the world's poorest countries. Of that sum, the corporation has £485 million invested in 23 sub-Saharan African countries. From its own resources, the CDC finances about £300 million of new activities each year in the poorer countries—more than 30 per cent. on projects in sub-Saharan Africa. The enterprises in which the CDC invests there range from large agricultural businesses to manufacturing industry and venture capital companies.

While the CDC has clearly been a great success, the Government stress in the White Paper that they believe that the corporation is an under-utilised asset. Accordingly, they propose to introduce private sector capital, creating a public/private partnership and enabling the CDC to raise further capital to increase its investment in the private sector of poorer countries.

The plan is that the Government will form a company selling the majority of the shares to private investors but retaining a long-term substantial minority holding and a golden share. The Government will thereby ensure that the CDC remains a development organisation, which should comfort my noble friend Lord Judd. At the same time the CDC will be enabled to raise funds on the capital markets to invest in the poorer countries.

The CDC will make a strong commitment to ethical principles. When the time comes for the majority of shares to be sold, many individuals concerned with development may wish to invest in the CDC. Similarly, churches and ethically-minded pension funds may wish to invest. Furthermore, some institutions, anticipating the future emerging markets, may wish to participate.

We must bear in mind that it is the Commonwealth Development Corporation with 70 per cent. of its investments in the Commonwealth. Individuals and institutions in Commonwealth countries like Singapore, Australia and New Zealand may well wish to invest.

The Government plan to plough back the proceeds of the sale into the development programme and, as my noble friend Lady Symons of Vernham Dean said, the amount involved could possibly be a few hundred million pounds. Thus, the poorer countries would gain twice over: the sale proceeds would go to them as well as the investment funds raised by the CDC. Clearly, the sooner those admirable plans are put into practice, the better. Moreover, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development has said that the CDC is absolutely delighted with the proposals and is keen to take them forward.

I appreciate that much financial and legal preparation will need to be done for the new public/private partnership. I urge the Government to make it their goal to complete that work within the next year so that the legislation required can be foreshadowed in the gracious Speech in 1998. In 1948, a Labour government launched the corporation on its first 50 years. Now, let another Labour government, with high hopes, launch the second 50 years of the Commonwealth Development Corporation

5.40 p.m.

Lord Holderness

My Lords, I should like to begin by adding my congratulations to those already expressed to the three maiden speakers and, in particular, to my noble friend Lord Jopling. I must express my pleasure that I did not immediately follow him: otherwise, he might have been embarrassed by my fervent and enthusiastic congratulations not only on his speech this afternoon but also on all his work during the past years in the other place. I apologise for expressing my congratulations less eloquently than the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, but equally fervently. The other thing that gave me great pleasure was to hear the tributes being paid to the Minister's predecessor. the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, for the work that she carried out in overseas development.

As has already been made clear, criticism of this White Paper is all too easy, and to some it is irresistible. Not only my noble friend but also the noble Lord, Lord Steel, and others expressed doubts about the White Paper which can certainly easily be seen as a catalogue of hopeful and optimistic aspirations. But, on reflection, I believe that that criticism can be made of any long-term policy of any government. I find myself among hardened politicians and former politicians: but it is rather refreshing to be given a vision—very literally an alarm call—rousing us up again to the world's greatest challenge and pointing to ways in which Great Britain, with the co-operation of other nations, can possibly do something to help.

I have never had the pleasure of meeting the right honourable lady, the Secretary of State. Rumour has it that, from time to time, she unfortunately has the habit of putting her foot in it. But more relevantly in connection with today's debate, I believe that she has succeeded in putting her finger on a situation which is bound to cause all of us a very great deal of concern. It causes us the greater concern because of the improvements and the economic advances which the noble Baroness told us about in her opening remarks. Because of those advances, I believe that we are all the more alarmed at the prospect of their likely erosion by the almost certain vast increase in the world's population in the next decade. Therefore, that possible erosion of the economic advances which have been made compels all of us who are in a position to help to run ever harder and harder in order to try to remain in the same place.

When I was Minister for Overseas Development (which I am sorry to admit was a very long time ago) I naturally considered as soon as I arrived in office all the needs of all the developing countries. But it was only too obvious then—and it has remained obvious since—that the potential for development was far greater in some of those countries than in others. I am sorry to make almost a platitudinous remark, but for those reasons it was tempting to offer aid more readily to countries which appeared to be much closer to what I call the "take-off ' from the grinding poverty of the past.

The incentive for industry to invest in those countries is similarly greater than in countries where the investment appears to have very little chance of bearing fruit. Yet, as a number of other speakers have pointed out, these are the countries where, by definition, poverty is often more insistent and the economic need more pressing. In any case, I always believed that the most important function of any aid programme was to act as a catalyst, as I believe my noble friend Lord Howell very clearly pointed out in our debate last Wednesday, to prepare the ground so that further help—whether provided by governments or international agencies or commercial undertakings—can produce the most abundant fruit.

In the last section of the White Paper, which is a very important part of it, the Secretary of State faces the challenge at home in this country. She says that, international development cannot succeed without the necessary political will in the developed countries". I believe that the Minister repeated that thought in her opening remarks. Therefore, the right honourable lady points to the need for educating public opinion. I believe that she is right and that there is a more caring attitude in this country than there was a generation ago. However, I do not know whether that is a universal view or whether the acute anxiety felt by many about the world's poverty is concentrated mainly in the hearts and minds of a relatively small minority.

Nevertheless, this is the moment when I perhaps ought to suggest the following warning. Soon after my arrival at the Overseas Development Administration, I was greatly cheered by the very positive answer to a question recently asked in an opinion poll; namely, "Would you support an increase in overseas aid?" The answer to that was an enthusiastic "Yes". However, when the poll subsequently asked, "Would you support it if it involved an increase of 2p in income tax?", the response, sadly, was rather less positive. Therefore, in this connection, it is important that we should ask about the ability of the right honourable lady and the department to increase very substantially the current programme to between two and three times its present size, which is what is required by her acceptance of the UN's 0.7 per cent. target.

In common with the noble Lord, Lord Steel, and other speakers, I do not necessarily consider the actual size of the aid programme to be the most important question that the right honourable lady addresses in the White Paper. However, it is an important yardstick against which the progress towards those government aspirations can be measured. Therefore, I must express my hope that the right honourable lady and the Government will succeed. I also hope that, at the same time, she will be able to merge the very real public concern felt by many in this country after earthquakes, famines or other disasters, which temporarily cripple a developing country, with the even more necessary day-to-day support of the country's ordinary programme. My own disappointing memory of the 1970s was that public concern after such disasters tended rapidly to fade when the crisis was overcome.

In conclusion, I wish the right honourable Lady well in her necessary education of public opinion. 1 wish her and the Government well in the struggle against poverty. I profoundly hope that the aspirations of the present will become the realities of the future. Today it is inevitable that doubts remain. I know that my whole duty is to support the right honourable Lady in her efforts to work for success

5.51 p.m.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

My Lords, like all noble Lords, and I believe even the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, I very much welcome the sentiments expressed in this remarkable document. As someone who has been interested and personally involved in these matters over many years, I read it and I was stirred. I felt like cheering when I read the declarations. However, that is not enough. I felt that I also wanted to examine the detail and to examine precisely what is the commitment of the Government in real terms.

It is relatively easy to make a generalised declaration in favour of the elimination of world poverty, but we must examine in greater detail what it means. As the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, asked in her peroration: what about the dates and the timescale for arriving at the 7 per cent. target? As one presidential candidate said to another in a notable debate in the United States, "Where is the beef'? I think we are entitled to ask precisely that question because, after all, throughout this document we are not only making a commitment as a country; we are talking about a multilateral commitment to achieve these aims. Without multilateral agreement these aims will never be achieved because we are relatively small in the total picture. We cannot ask countries to agree to our propositions and our strategy in this field when Japan spends 14.5 billion dollars a year on overseas aid, France 8.4 billion dollars and Germany 7.5 billion dollars. In the United Kingdom the figure is 3.1 billion dollars. Who are we to command other nations to participate in this great effort if our commitment is so small and our influence so limited in this area? I hope that we shall command leadership. I hope that we shall command admiration for the sentiments expressed in this document. But we shall not do that unless we make a much more formidable commitment as a nation.

I wish to ask one important question which relates to the abolition of the aid/trade provision. Overhanging all the discussion on this matter is the Pergau Dam. It was to the credit of the ODA that it opposed the granting of aid in the great scandal of the Pergau Dam. However, because this Pergau Dam was a proposition which should never have been supported, the whole area of aid/trade provision is prejudiced. I spent some time working in a London merchant bank on international project finance. With our clients we travelled all over the world bidding for contracts for British companies, largely heavy engineering companies which provided important jobs in the depressed engineering industries in the Midlands and elsewhere.

One must realise that when countries were placing contracts they were not simply concerned about the efficiency of an engineering company. They were not simply concerned about the ability of a Babcock boiler or a GEC generator to perform its work. They asked about the financial package to encourage them to place contracts with a British company. In travelling abroad one frequently found oneself in the same hotel as Mannesmann. Siemens or some other major competitor. The question that was asked of these companies concerned the financial package. Frequently an element of aid/trade provision was vital to attract major contracts for British companies. I notice it is stated that the credit mix element will not be totally discarded and that each case will be judged on its merits. However, I must tell my noble friend that this matter is important to British industry. British industry should not be left hanging in the air on this matter. There should be some reasonable commitment that aid will also play a part in contracts for worthwhile projects for developing countries.

I make that minor criticism but I wish to deal specifically with the question of debt as it is a great burden in these countries. I do not suggest that a reduction in debt will cure all the problems but it is an important immediate objective. Many of the matters that are discussed in this document involve long-term strategies, multilateral agreements and achieving a contribution to aid of 7 per cent. of GDP. All of those matters will take time to achieve but debt is an immediate and pressing problem which, if it is dealt with, will have an immediate impact.

Noble Lords may recall that these debts were accumulating in the 1970s when the price of oil rose and we were awash with petro-dollars. We were anxious to lend even at negative rates of interest to encourage investment. That was fine then but interest rates rose against these countries, raw material prices fell and the children of people who contracted the debts now face the consequences of this terrible debt burden. I suggest that we spend time looking at how we can contribute to the reduction of the debt burden.

It is good that the public is becoming aware of this issue largely by the encouragement of Jubilee 2000 which seeks to reduce poverty-stricken nations' debts as part of the celebration of the millennium. I regard that as a more significant, desirable and welcome proposition than the building of a plastic dome for a large sum in Greenwich. A substantial reduction of debt can be achieved; and what an appropriate Christian celebration that would be. What an important gesture it would be in what should be an essentially Christian celebration. I welcome the fact that Jubilee 2000 is stirring up concern in this field. I have its excellent literature here. I hope that the Government will recognise that and become strong allies.

Some actions have been undertaken towards the elimination of debt. The provisions of the World Bank and IMF have taken growing cognisance of this problem. But their provisions for dealing with poverty-stricken countries take a long time to mature. The country concerned has to have a six-year track record before it can qualify for the provisions of the IMF and the World Bank.

Similarly I much welcome the Mauritius initiative by Her Majesty's Government. It is welcome but relatively small. I hope therefore that the Government will take this matter on board as being a more immediate issue in which they can play a role.

I have one final point. It was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Steel. We must face the burden of armaments. In some of the debt we are discussing, it is a large factor. We provide generous ECGD assistance on the exporting of arms. Britain uses export credits to subsidise arms sales to the South. In 1993-94, 50 per cent. of all export credits provided by the DTI to exporters were for arms sales. Ninety-six per cent. of the debts owed to Britain by poor countries are owed to the export credit department of the DTI. We cannot preach moral gestures to the world. We cannot go around the world asking people to follow our leadership if that is evidence of how we regard these matters. I much welcome the statement in the Government's White Paper stating that they will take cognisance of this important issue. I hope that it will be pursued with vigour and urgency

6.4 p.m.

The Earl of Sandwich

My Lords, the White Paper is clearly an occasion for all-party enthusiasm, even celebration. It is not a time for carping or for platitudes which so easily creep into debates on this subject. The document sets out realistic objectives not just for Britain but for all the OECD countries. Its ideology takes us hack to the fundamentals of the Brandt Report. It is no coincidence that the World Bank has taken decisive steps towards poverty alleviation. It is an international idea whose time has come, and we should and do congratulate the Government for taking this bold first step.

In another place the Opposition Front Bench did not greet the White Paper with much enthusiasm. I wish that they could have heard the positive tones of the noble Lord, Lord Holderness. As has been pointed out, some of the ideas in the White Paper are a development of the pragmatic policies of the former Minister. One would have thought that that would be an occasion for suntan, not dismal umbrellas. I hope that the Opposition Front Bench will be gracious enough eventually to acknowledge that and bring back some of the Tory sunshine. After all, there is a lot of continuity in the White Paper. I refer, for example, to renewed co-operation with non-governmental organisations, which I welcome. I thank the noble Baroness for her remarks. I refer, too, to the search for a new level of investment which will help the poorest directly. There are also many areas of common ground on issues such as landmines, as has been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, and the special needs and advantages of countries like Mozambique.

I believe that the Conservatives have misread the mood of the country as regards international development. As the noble Lord, Lord Holderness, said, there has been a growing awareness of injustice in the world among young people and an impatience to redress obvious inequalities. Many who see extreme poverty and exploitation on our TV screens would like to see aid money used more directly to help those who are suffering. We need more not less accountability in the aid programme. That is where the tone of the White Paper is so important, even if the targets seem ambitious. It gives the younger generation an opportunity to see that the Government are attempting to tackle those problems head on, not just through a mist of multilateral agencies and company contracts. The new Secretary of State has just the right mould of character to achieve that. I am sure we shall see results. I know that the noble Baroness, too, understands that those policies are not just morally right but will attract popular support. That is what I sought to say during debate on the Statement last week.

I have a strong hunch that the Secretary of State means what she says in section 4 about development education. It is the strongest government statement that we have had so far. I questioned her about it at an all-party meeting last week. The Secretary of State and her friends at the DfEE have a real chance of influencing the national curriculum. It is not easy to ask teachers to find more space in the core subjects, but there are many methods of giving children more direct access to world affairs and citizenship through selective IT, more creative RE and language teaching, and better value from overseas visits and exchanges.

Another means which could be used more is the greater involvement of schools with their ethnic minorities who can so easily bring a global dimension to the classroom. In so many ways children are well ahead of adults in understanding the world and we have to acknowledge and build on that by equipping them better for the future. We have a good track record among European countries in this field. I hope that the Government will maintain that position.

The emphasis on development education extends to the wider community and much is expected of the supermarket chains in purveying more information on third world products while improving their trading standards. Having chaired a meeting on commercial prawn farming between a South Indian association and English supermarket buyers, I know how difficult it is to bridge the gap between human rights and sheer greed which is politely known as demand. Having heard the noble Lord, Lord Rea, I am also glad not to be arbitrating between the medical association and smaller tobacco growers in the developing world.

Companies are responding to the challenge of fair trade because they see that it as part of a new culture that will attract younger customers. Ethical standards, social clauses and codes of conduct, cumbersome though they may be, are helpful if they can be applied. However, in my judgment, it is pure economics which is drawing companies into the more politically correct areas of fair trade and investment.

Some of our large companies have a considerable influence on patterns of trade and investment in individual developing countries, and they need to reflect concerns at both the producer and the consumer end of their operation. Some have an excellent track record of helping in some of the poorest areas, as demonstrated by the annual Worldaware Business Awards. Perhaps the DTI will now put more weight behind initiatives of that kind in various sectors of business.

The White Paper says a lot about building partnerships in the delivery of aid and the mobilisation of private finance in poorer regions. It stresses the role of the private-public partnership, although it is not clear to what extent that will actively involve the NGOs. I should be grateful for clarification from the Minister.

This is an area that will need more working out, as some more businesslike MPs have already commented in another place. It is one thing to proclaim the abolition of the ATP, and quite another to define the "mixed credits" which are designed to support the least developed societies. The CDC is certainly one channel to try out and amplify. However, I am not so sure about eucalyptus. When it comes to eucalyptus plantations, the trickle-down theory sounds rather more like the soak-up theory. It may not be the most appropriate forestry.

My limited experience suggests that we should do more to create jobs at the micro-level, and that even where entrepreneurial skills are lacking loan repayment rates through credit schemes among poor communities are often remarkably high. It is not easy to find good schemes unless the local partner or non-governmental organisation carries respect and confidence in the community. Micro-credit is undoubtedly a good buzzword but there is a limit to the capacity of local organisations to deliver credit at this level—on the scale, say, of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh.

The Government know that they will have to tread very carefully here because direct intervention outside state institutions can have dire social and political consequences. A lot can be learnt in that regard from the eastern European programmes. That may be the reason why the White Paper, despite its emphasis on the private sector, is fairly reluctant to abandon the state altogether, even where human rights and local interests are being flouted.

The DfID has nevertheless built up a lot of expertise in people-based development and can demonstrate valuable experience of working both with governments and with voluntary agencies. That extends to the strengthening of democratic institutions, emphasised by the noble Lord, Lord Steel, which is a vital task taking place in parallel both in eastern Europe and in the developing countries. But even that process must be rooted, wherever possible, in the life of the people themselves, not just in the smart cars of the officers. That has more often been achieved through the non-governmental sector.

I wish some of this experience could be more widely explained and publicised since it is at the very nub of development, the "difficult" area to which the World Bank has also now committed itself. Inevitably there will be more competition between donors for the better projects because it is difficult to spend money effectively while avoiding bureaucracy—but perhaps that is healthy.

The DfID, alongside British NGOs, has already taken a lead and can influence the other international/ multilateral agencies in finding the most effective partnerships in development. There are some remarkable successes to build on. To mention only one example, the PUSH programme of CARE International in Lusaka has grown from two to 11 large urban compounds, affecting the lives of thousands of people and with DfID participation. In the public sector the Government's Andhra Pradesh primary education project, mentioned in our debate on India, has now achieved many of its stated targets. Those are successes to build on and to publicise. The rebuilding of civil society, even in the poorest, most war-torn areas such as former Yugoslavia or east Africa, is another stated priority. It goes hand in hand with the development of small business and the capacity-building of those vital economic institutions that bring communities back to life.

Here the White Paper comes full circle. If the successful experience of delivering aid to the poorest can be assessed, recorded and explained to the public, the sooner the benefits of aid will be understood by the taxpayer and the easier it will be for Gordon Brown to reach the 0.7 per cent. target—or even the 0.37 per cent. European Union target—as we must assume he would like to. After all, in the long term, stable and expanding markets overseas will surely bring benefits back to the British consumer as well.

I hope that the Government will therefore now move positively towards the UN targets—with the caveat mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Holderness, that the public has been fickle on the subject of providing public as opposed to private finance. Incidentally, the National Lottery Charities Board has completed its first £25 million international grants programme, helping 130 UK voluntary organisations with overseas projects and some development education. That is to be warmly welcomed, but it must in no way be allowed to let DfID off the hook.

6.16 p.m.

Lord Chesham

My Lords, at this stage of our debate there is little new to add to the excellent speeches that have gone before. I therefore have no intention of detaining the House long. I should like to raise just a couple of points.

Tackling poverty requires a combination of measures which are reflected in the long-term approach that British governments have taken to overseas assistance. That approach must take into account the link between poverty and political instability. I should hate to think that the Government do not adequately appreciate that link.

Secondly, a point not so far raised, in attacking the dire poverty that exists today we must be careful not to create additional poverty elsewhere by other actions. I have in mind the Caribbean countries that depend to a high degree on the export of bananas, from which they can make a living. At the instigation of the United States, the World Trade Organisation recently condemned special measures applied by the EU to make those sales possible. The EU, with the approval of the Government, accepted the WTO ruling. Do the Government accept the Conservative Government's target of achieving world free trade by the year 2020?

In her opening remarks the noble Baroness mentioned the problem of population growth. It is indeed a genuine problem. However, the White Paper places little emphasis on reproductive health. Surely the two go hand in hand. Continued emphasis on reproductive health in the poorest regions will help reduce population growth.

I was interested to read on page 44 of the White Paper, in a section relating to disasters and emergencies: Our objectives in assisting countries to deal with disaster are not only to save lives through emergency relief, but also to protect and rebuild livelihoods and communities, and reduce vulnerability to future disasters". I am sure that that quote would impress the people of Montserrat, with statements about golden elephants being particularly helpful. Speaking of golden elephants, I note that the Government intend to maintain a golden share from the privatisation of the CDC.

My final point relates to the need for new legislation. We are constantly told that room cannot be found for legislation. The White Paper clearly states that all the actions proposed in it can be put in place under the existing Overseas Development and Co-operation Act 1980. Surely all that is necessary is a clear definition of objectives, with a short statement as to how they can be achieved

6.20 p.m.

Baroness Lockwood

My Lords, like most noble Lords who have spoken, I welcome the White Paper. I also welcome the statement by the Government, reiterated this afternoon by my noble friend, that they will reverse the decline in the percentage of GDP spent on development assistance. That, together with their reaffirmation of the commitment to reaching the UN target of 0.7 per cent. of GDP, is most important. I hope that the target will be reached well within the lifetime of the present Parliament. One has only to look at the range and depth of the problems in developing countries to recognise how essential it is for the developed world to increase its commitment. The White Paper sets out to do that.

During the debate on the environment in this House last week, many speakers referred to the growth in world population as being one of the greatest threats to sustainable development. In my contribution this afternoon, I wish to concentrate on population problems and the role of women in development, including the importance of women's access to education and health services, especially reproductive health services, which I—unlike the noble Lord, Lord Chesham—think is addressed in the White Paper.

The contribution of women is critical not only to controlling population but also to eradicating poverty and ensuring development. That is so in many connected ways. For example, women who have access to education are more able to contribute to economic development; to demand and make effective use of health services, particularly reproductive health services; to understand the advantages of limiting the number and frequency of their pregnancies; and consequently to have fewer but healthier and better educated children, who in turn can contribute more to the economy and to development.

Experience has shown that the most effective contribution to controlling the growth in world population is through the education of women—a view shared by the previous Minister for Overseas Development, the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker. I am glad that the role of women is not only recognised by the Government but is given prominence in the White Paper. I was pleased that my noble friend the Minister referred to the fact that, of the 1.3 billion people in the world living on less than the equivalent of one dollar a day, 70 per cent. are women. That means that the poor, but particularly women, feel excluded from decision-making, and that makes them vulnerable to all sorts of violence and abuse.

I was somewhat depressed at the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas—who unfortunately is not in his place at the moment—that the Minister's reference last week to such matters as water and health depressed him. It seems to me that he does not understand the basic problems that have to be addressed: the fact that millions of people have no access to clean water; that untold hours are spent daily by women collecting water for their families; that 150 million children of primary school age do not go to school because there is no school for them to go to; that over 900 million adults, two-thirds of whom are women, are illiterate. Those are basic problems that must be attacked if we are to eliminate poverty and improve development.

I wonder whether it is recognised that some 585,000 women die each year as a result of pregnancy, 99 per cent. of them in developing countries; that 20 million unsafe abortions occur yearly, resulting in tens of thousands of deaths and millions of disabilities; that 120 million women do not want to be pregnant but have no access to contraception; that 15 million girls aged 15 to 19 give birth yearly; and that pregnancy and childbirth are the main cause of death of young people in that age group. Those are difficult problems that need to be addressed urgently.

United Nations figures indicate that in 1996 the world population was 5.77 billion. Its medium-term projection estimates that by the year 2050 the world population will be 9.46 billion. Despite the gigantic nature of the problem, there is an improving trend. Between the years 1990 and 1995 the growth rate of the world population was 1.4 per cent. per annum; but in the years between 1985 and 1990 it was 1.7 per cent. per annum. That decline in the growth rate—but not of course in total numbers—is largely due to the increase in family planning programmes worldwide, indicating that growth can be controlled.

However, for that to happen it is essential for the developed countries to meet their aid targets in this area. Studies from UNFPA suggest that this might not be happening—not in the developing countries themselves, which are now making tremendous efforts, but in the developed countries.

The UK currently spends £70 million per annum on its sexual and reproductive health programme—some 3 per cent. of the aid budget. In November 1992 the European Council of Ministers called upon its members to allocate 4 per cent. of aid to be spent on these programmes. I hope that the Government will move quickly to achieve and maintain that target.

I turn briefly to the role of NGOs. Like my noble friend Lord Rea, I welcome the Government's reference to strengthening ties with voluntary bodies. That is particularly relevant in the area of reproductive health. NGOs have made a significant contribution over the years. It is still a sensitive area and one where the less bureaucratic projects of the NGOs and non-governmental bodies are important. Therefore I hope that the Government, in developing their plans, will make greater use of the expertise in that important area

6.30 p.m.

Lord Bridges

My Lords, my perspective in this debate is as someone who, for the past eight years, has been chairman of the National Committee for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in this country. That is a position from which I have just retired. In that post I naturally had a good deal to do with the official aid programme and its supervising department, now the Department for International Development. I have no hesitation in giving a hearty welcome to the command paper before us today, which was the subject of the ministerial Statement last week. It is a worthy successor to Statements on the same subjects made in the past by the noble Baroness, Lady Castle of Blackburn, and Mrs. Judith Hart when they occupied the same ministerial chair.

I particularly appreciate the commitments made to multilateral endeavour in the command paper and the emphasis placed on helping women and children in developing countries. That is very much in line with the approach adopted by UNICEF in recent years and is associated with our visionary director, James Grant. It is thanks to his inspiration and guidance that we have the two fundamental texts which guide our work; namely, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the policies and targets adopted by the World Summit for Children. I find it refreshing to see the Government adopting the same programmatic approach in so many of the same key areas by setting specific targets for health, nutrition and child survival and development. That has been UNICEF's style for some years and we know that it works.

I hope that the Government will shortly be able to restore the cut of £1 million made by the last administration from their regular annual contribution to the UNICEF central budget. Such a decision could conveniently coincide with our return to the UNICEF Executive Board in January next and strengthen our ability to play a significant role in the world's largest organisation for international child welfare. In the last resort, development depends on spending money wisely; it also depends on spending it in sufficient quantity. The promise in the White Paper to spend more is the most significant part of the White Paper. It is time for us to do that now. I agree with other speakers in the debate such as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, and the noble Lord, Lord Holderness, who drew attention to the importance of living up to our commitments.

While I give my full support to the Government, I should like to mention one or two problem areas. First, in this extremely practical document there are occasional passages of what one might call "grand" language which look a little out of place. Other noble Lords may not agree with me, but I find it disquieting to read references to the "virtuous state" and to "moral duty". We know from sad experience that few states are really virtuous and that those states which see their activities in that light are hoisting a warning signal to the rest of us. Certain of their righteous intent, they may be capable of acts of truly awful barbarity. I recollect what happened in southern Africa in our lifetime.

I would prefer our policies to be based on less elevated ground and to rely instead on clearly stated principles which can be explained and justified in detail rather than on some sense of moral superiority. Those expressions can also be deeply offensive to others. Happily, the bulk of the text of the paper adopts a more rational and quieter approach which makes the passages to which I referred all the more more striking as exceptions to the general tone.

Next I should like to mention Third World debt. That has been a major preoccupation for developing countries in the past decade and is cause for real concern. Our national policy on government debt was founded on an excellent idea; that is, the so-called "Trinidad Terms" proposed by John Major when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer. He suggested that government-to-government loans—the so-called "official" debt—could be written off in cases where there was little or no real possibility of payment. That was an enlightened and practical suggestion but, sadly, did not attract much international support.

I am intrigued to read in this paper of the "Mauritius Mandate—a similar policy which may perhaps be regarded as "son of Trinidad". I hope that we may be able to muster good international support for it from our partners in Europe and in the OECD. If generally applied it would help a great deal at little real cost to the donors.

However, the larger and more intractable problem is commercial bank debt—typically loans advanced by the international banks to finance a project. That is a much heavier burden on the recipient countries and needs a major effort by the donor community. In UNICEF we developed a programme which could perhaps be adopted more widely. It consists of what are called, "debt swaps for development" and works in this wise.

A lender's debt is sold to a development agency—in our case UNICEF—at a significant discount, so the lender recovers some of his original outlay in a hard currency. The development agency then surrenders the loan to the borrower, whose debt is thus eliminated. But the borrower pays an agreed sum in local currency which is applied to the agency's own programme in the developing country. The process is rather complicated and time-consuming, but has worked in half a dozen cases in which we operated, thanks to support from the World Bank in facilitating the transaction and to colleagues in other UNICEF national committees who contributed substantial funds to it.

From the UNICEF angle, we were thus able to purchase counterpart funds for development at a discount. We always spent far more in the development fund than in buying the original loan. It does therefore work out at a profit. Governments may be able to develop other programmes of that kind in their own bilateral way. The Government might also take a look at the way in which tax laws operate in those circumstances. There are fiscal rules which control the amount of debt which a company or bank may write off against its own tax liability. If the tax rules could be adjusted to encourage that activity—which we may describe in the Government's language as "truly virtuous"—it would certainly help.

Another financial matter is the ending of the aid and trade provision to which a number of noble Lords referred. We were told last week that ATP is to be terminated, but that it may be possible to continue to fund some mixed credit schemes. That may be a bit misleading. My understanding is that mixed credit—a blending of government aid with a commercial loan—was an art form worked out originally in France. It was successful in winning orders for a large number of French exporters. ATP was conceived in this country as a device to enable us to follow the French example under another label. However, mixed credits were, and so far as I know still are, anathema to the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD as offending against the basic aid principles because this was tied aid and amounted to a form of export subsidy. If the Government abolish ATP—I understand their reasons for doing that—it may be difficult to continue with mixed credit. Some clarification on that point would be in order.

An issue I should like to mention briefly was mentioned by other noble Lords also. I refer to the environmental aspects of our aid programme. There is a panel—number 22—in the White Paper on this subject and its contents amount to a strong case for including the environmental issue as a basic element in our aid programmes.

The Government's decision to rejoin UNESCO has some relevance to the outlines of aid policy. UNESCO could and indeed should have a larger and more clearly defined role in the development process. At present, it is my understanding that UNESCO plays only a very modest role in helping primary education—the literacy business—in developing countries, as it regards the educational part of its mandate as being more to do with higher education. That is no doubt a worthy cause, but it is not what is most urgently needed in Africa south of the Sahara, or in southern Asia, the two areas demanding priority attention. Indeed UNICEF, believing like our own government that education of the girl child is a priority target in such regions—I very much sympathise with what the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, has just said on this subject—has been obliged to spend money and resources on primary education in the developing world as a precondition for progress. Some refocusing of the UNESCO mission would seem to be called for.

Another aspect of education, which the Secretary of State mentions in her White Paper and which I find very encouraging. is development education in this country. We in UNICEF heartily agree, and we have our own programme for development education in British schools. One aspect of this which may be of interest to noble Lords is our so-called "National Non-uniform Day". usually held on the first Friday in February throughout the country, when participating schools allow pupils to attend school wearing clothes other than their normal uniform. This is thus marked out as a special day. for which we provide education packs designed to illustrate the lives of children in a particular developing country, as part of the regular curriculum of the school. Pupils are invited, if they wish, to make a small voluntary contribution.

In recent years we have covered Colombia—projects involving street children there—Tanzania—children with disabilities—and Indonesia—clean water and sanitation projects. This year the focus will be on India—schemes to eliminate child labour. We later provide reports to the children showing how the sums raised have been spent.

We agree with the Government in believing that education for development is extremely important, and we think we have found a way of enlarging the knowledge and understanding of young people and engaging their interest as well as assisting the work in progress. Our programme does, I think, coincide with the Government's own intentions in this field.

I like the emphasis in the White Paper on helping other nations to improve their programmes of public health, education and child welfare. It is important, I suggest, that developing countries have ownership and control of these programmes, although others can help and assist in their preparation and execution. This approach will help us to achieve our common ambition to create societies which are committed to social harmony at home and peace among the nations internationally. We need to beware of blueprints, however well intentioned, devised to mould others in our own image. The more we are able to help developing countries to become what they wish for themselves, the greater will be our chance of success

6.43 p.m.

Viscount Brentford

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, for introducing the debate so clearly and for summarising the White Paper for us. It has been a most interesting and informative debate. I particularly thank the three maiden speakers for their expert contributions. I found my noble friend Lord Jopling on landmine clearance, and also the noble Lord, Lord Newby, on the Mathari project in Nairobi, most interesting. The noble Lord, Lord Cromwell, who spoke from his obvious experience in eastern and central Europe, was also most interesting and informative.

I warmly support the White Paper. It continues many of the previous government's commitments to assist developing countries, a matter on which I have had many consultations in the past, and it provides evidence of the present Government's intention to continue and expand their support for the developing countries.

Many noble Lords have mentioned grandiose themes in this area. The only point that has slightly stuck in my throat is the title of the White Paper, Eliminating World Poverty. In fact, it is only intended to eliminate half the world's poverty. I would have preferred the title. "Towards Eliminating World Poverty", but that could rightly be said to be a quibble and does not affect the content of the White Paper.

Poverty—or rather extreme poverty—is described in paragraph 1.9 as being where people suffer through receiving less than the equivalent of one dollar a day. That is financial poverty, but the White Paper rightly looks at other aspects of poverty, of which there are many. Lack of opportunity for work and employment is one. Lack of water has been referred to. That is extremely important in my experience. Lack of food, shelter and access to medical facilities, lack of the right to self-determination, lack of education and access to information, and lack of religious freedom are other signs of poverty. Many of those aspects are dealt with in the White Paper.

I wish to touch on consistency and coherence between government departments, a matter to which paragraph 1.22 refers. Quite often, over the past 10 years, I have asked the government for more co-operation between different departments. I realise that it is difficult in practice, but I wish to ask the noble Baroness what mechanisms have been put in place to achieve this laudable target.

A great deal is said in the White Paper about partnerships, particularly partnerships between different countries. I was talking about this to some young professional international colleagues of mine over the weekend. They said, "You cannot talk about partnerships. That was the language of 10 years ago. You now have strategic alliances between countries about any project you want to name." Perhaps the Government should be more up to date in talking about strategic alliances rather than partnerships. That, again, is a matter of terminology, but I do not like the White Paper being rubbished because of that. I support the White Paper.

I wish to mention the World Bank and the IMF. Paragraph 2.10 states: Both institutions will be at the centre of the efforts to pursue the international development targets". I was very glad to read that in the White Paper. I appreciate the fact that both organisations are changing from where they were even two or three years ago. The third world has often been critical of the two organisations and their policies. The White Paper does not address those criticisms. Whether the Government now consider them to be irrelevant and to be history as opposed to current practice, I do not know. I wonder whether, in development education, there is a place for educating people in this country more about the World Bank and IMF changes and also about how the third world criticisms of their policies will be dealt with in the future.

Paragraph 2.34 of the White Paper deals with untying aid from trade, a matter to which other noble Lords have referred. It states that, we will pursue energetically the scope for multilateral untying of development assistance". The phraseology for dealing with bilateral aid is much less strong. After mentioning one or two aspects, the White Paper says that the Government, will not otherwise unilaterally untie our bilateral aid". I believe that some of the NGOs are questioning that difference of terminology at the present time. If untying aid is government policy, should they not energetically be persuading other countries also to untie their bilateral aid so that we can do so at the same time? It is a complicated question because, as many noble Lords have rightly said, we do not want to shoot our own businesses and manufacturing industries in the foot at the same time. Perhaps this is a matter that needs further thought and greater clarification in the future.

I have looked at paragraph 3.23 on CAP reform. I laud the Government's intention in the general field of CAP to press on with reform, as the previous government endeavoured to do. I hope that they are ready for the battles in Europe on that question, which I am sure will be very strong.

Paragraph 3.36 speaks about the abuse of child labour. Again, I strongly support the words on removing that problem. Perhaps I may put in one caveat. If the child is the only worker in the family, the loss of that job may make the position both of the child and of the family worse than it was before. Therefore, I hope that the Government's plans for removing the abuse of child labour will form part of a supportive package which will cover the needs of the whole family.

Perhaps I may now turn to debt, as many other noble Lords have done. The Mauritius mandate is welcome, but I wonder whether there is going to be further commitment from the Government before the year 2000 for the cancellation of unpayable debts. Like the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham, I listened to the General Synod debate on Jubilee 2000, which I found extremely encouraging. Do the Government accept all the measures being called for by the Jubilee 2000 coalition and are they supporting those aims more fully than I have read of their doing? The cancellation of unpayable debt is, as many noble Lords have said, an extremely important point. On visits to Africa it is a matter which is hammered at me whatever country I am in. It is stifling progress.

Can the Government say what pressure they are going to put on other governments and donors to support them in the work they are doing? The previous government were often blazing a lonely trail internationally on the issue. I hope that the present Government will get much greater support now. For instance, are the Government going to bring forward specific proposals at the G7 Summit in Birmingham next year?

I endorse what has been said about the need for some interim targets, which I would like to see included by the Government. How have they measured the effect of their proposals to ensure that their policies will eliminate 50 per cent. of extreme poverty by the year 2015? I warmly support the White Paper. However, the test for the future will not be the words contained in it, but the actions that flow from it

6.55 p.m.

Viscount Craigavon

My Lords, as the final speaker before the Front Bench speeches, I hope that the House will not mind me pointing out that we have had an extremely long list of distinguished speakers and, slightly to my surprise, the attendance in the Chamber throughout the debate has been extremely good. It may be that it has been 21 years, I believe the noble Baroness said, since we previously had a White Paper on the subject. But the prospect of having an annual debate on it—if I have this right—might lead to similar debates in the future rather than the matter being consigned to the late shift, which has often happened in the past.

I hope that I shall be able to be constructive and encouraging about the White Paper. Before I comment generally, I turn first to my particular interest. It is a subject which gets fairly small mention in a panel on page 27 headed "Population". In the context of the whole White Paper that virtual sole mention on a single page may seem rather insignificant. Although valuable, it is largely factual, together with a restatement, which is much welcome, of past commitments. However, I am then led to try to elucidate further aspects of the Government's attitude to population by looking at speeches on the subject by both the Secretary of State and her deputy, from which I shall shortly quote.

I believe that population matters will be taken seriously by this Government and will be an essential part of their emphasis on sustainable development and the attack on poverty. If I am right, I welcome that. We have had the benefit of a full and authoritative exposition by the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, on the subject. She has made the substantive points. I am trying to understand the present position of the Government slightly by trying to read between the lines.

Perhaps I may first return to the White Paper generally. As in other areas of the Government's programme. we may want to give a fair chance to new ideas and to a new approach. At the very least the approach of the White Paper is ambitious, and none the worse for that. But the chance of anything approaching success requires the co-operation of partners on all sides as well as the generation of more good will than has been seen in this area before. It may be that it will be the more mundane facets of human nature that might defeat this heroic attempt in front of us. What worries me about the ambitious scope of what is intended is that so much depends on the good will of those on all sides. especially outside this country and outside our direct influence. As the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, pointed out, we are going to need multilateral agreement.

I now come back to population in particular. I quote a sentence towards the end of the Secretary of State's foreword to the White Paper. She says: The combination of population growth. environmental degradation and the conflict and disease to which this will lead could impose catastrophic pressures upon the planet". I commend the Secretary of State for being prepared, as she has been elsewhere, to make explicit the general assumption that population growth above the level of economic growth leads to an increase in poverty.

I have said many times before, including in this Chamber, that in this field we should not be satisfied with talking about numbers but rather about the quality of life. The theme of attacking poverty and the provision of some sort of economic decency and security represent the same target. I believe that the implicit assumption is that we should realise now that any decent economic existence generally can only be possible with an early stabilisation of the world population.

We had a number of references to the debate on the environment last week. I should like to refer anyone interested in the point I have mentioned to an excellent and detailed argument put to this House in the speech I heard last Wednesday by the noble Lord, Lord Ashburton, (at col. 1414 of the Official Report). It reinforces what the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, was trying to say.

In July this year, on the eve of World Population Day, the Secretary of State gave a characteristically forthright speech at a reception downstairs in this House, organised jointly by the charity Population Concern and by the all-party Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health, of which I have the honour to be vice-chairman. We were told then that the early stabilisation of the world's population is the only way to offer a decent future to the generations to come. The Secretary of State talked of, and accepted (as had her predecessor), the massive unmet need of those presently without access to contraception and the necessity of providing genuine choice in reproductive health.

The Secretary of State also raised one of the biggest issues before us in shaping the eventual size of the world population—the statistical fact that one-fifth of the current population of the world comprises adolescents almost entirely from the less developed countries, with huge potential for present and future reproduction. The support, information and services that are to be available for those young people are crucial. That is one of the most important areas which the Government need to address. I know that the charity Population Concern is concentrating particularly on that area, which is a difficult one for many reasons.

On the more general point, I believe that it is too early to press the Minister for resources, but in terms of value for money I hope that in the area of population, the shortcomings and the quality of the programmes deriving from the significant proportion of funds allocated through the EU will be urgently examined.

Perhaps I may conclude by mentioning a more recent and excellent speech made a few weeks ago by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the department, Mr. George Foulkes, to a group at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Edinburgh, on women's health, population and development, with the subtitle "Time for Action". That gave a similar message to friends in Commonwealth countries whose partnership and sympathetic co-operation might be more readily forthcoming. Mr. Foulkes strongly advocated the benefits of women's choice and of improved access to family planning. He said that the most important matter of all will be the decisions made by today's generation of young people. Finally, Mr. Foulkes, addressing himself and the department as well as his audience—as I do now—said that now is the time for action. I agree with his final words when he said that we have to match fine words with even more energetic and effective actions. We simply cannot afford to fail.

7.2 p.m.

Lord Hankey

My Lords, I hope that your Lordships will forgive me if I add my voice to this debate, but I have only this morning returned from the Caribbean where I have been working on urban upgrading projects. I must also declare an interest as one who, with his company, has worked for international agencies over many years.

This debate is on the particularly important subject of eliminating world poverty. I agree with the aims and objectives of the White Paper and particularly with the methodologies which it proposes for implementation. There is an admirable breadth of economic, social and political balance in the White Paper.

I agree particularly with the statement made by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, about the international agencies which do not include in their articles of association the ability to adjust. and to contribute to, the host countries' institutional, administrative, legal and other capacities. As I shall seek to explain later, they are often the critical components which limit effective implementation of policy and the effectiveness of the aid that is given. I also agree very much with what the noble Lord, Lord Steel, said about accountability. That is of critical importance.

It is in the field of implementation that I should like to make some remarks. I hope that your Lordships will forgive me if I am brief at this late hour. I believe that effecting change requires the objectives of any aid programme to build upon a deep understanding of the ideologies, aspirations and anthropological character of the host country. Policy that incorporates a cross-cultural judgment is a great danger as it is merely ignored by the host community. At an economic and technical level, in the past investment by international funding agencies has often been limited by the imposition of standards of operation, maintenance and economic burden unrelated to the capacities of the host community.

I attach great importance to the achievement of sustainability by investment policies and programmes that ensure the ownership, involvement and partnership of the people in the carrying out of developments and investment policies. Governments throughout the world often find it difficult to promote this "bottom-up" approach which we in Calcutta spent much time promoting with the host community. Sadly, it is often much easier for governments to dictate policy from the top down, yet management of the implementation requires the ability to latch on to the anthropological conditions of the host community and to involve the population from the bottom up. With regard to the case of the future government of London, I believe that that principle applies equally to our considerations in any future debate.

In my experience, policies for assisting countries in their development must take care to deal with the whole problem in a balanced and multi-sectoral way. It has sometimes been my responsibility when commissioned by the World Bank or some other international agency to find a way of correcting projects in which there has been a single sectoral approach and where the balance of that solution has been inappropriate. Often, the problem arises not because of the consultants' perceptions but because of the terms of reference, if any, and their limitations. Surely that indicates that the international agencies should get their terms of reference right.

I strongly commend the summary of policy objectives on page 30 of the White Paper. Implementation often requires adjustment of institutional, administrative, legal and educational arrangements within a country if aid packages are to be effective and to lead to sustainable projects and policies in the host country. Governments and aid agencies are often shy of interfering in the local political situation, but problems with institutional arrangements are often the principal obstacles to change. I return to my first remark: the World Bank's emphasis on trying to ensure implementation by that principle is to be welcomed.

Implementation often requires capacity building in the institutions of the host nation. The development of local skills is essential to avoid dependency on the public sector. Therefore, I believe that the management of implementation is as important as the objectives which any particular aid package is trying to fulfil. It is essential that we take note of implementation policy if we are to fulfil the intentions behind this excellent White Paper.

I also commend a review of past investment to assess its effectiveness. The international agencies often fail to review whether their policies and projects have fulfilled their original terms of reference. I say that with 25 years' experience. But on the important subject of spending public money I believe that transparency in this field is as important in the area of international aid for development. I commend the Government for the aspirations in this White Paper

7.10 p.m.

Lord Redesdale

My Lords, I welcome the White Paper, as I welcomed the Statement. However, I must be a little more reserved than the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. I have some reservations but I do not believe it can be said that the White Paper has its head in the stars and its feet in the clouds. I believe that that was the noble Lord's unreserved judgment on the White Paper.

I very much enjoyed the maiden speeches today. The other day my noble friend Lord Newby said that he did not believe he should speak on the subject because he had only 15 years' association with it. I learn today that he has 20 years' association with it. The noble Lord, Lord Jopling, spoke about landmines. I share his abhorrence of them. I have seen the effects of landmines in Mozambique. I once found myself trapped on a landmined road in Mozambique. The fear and inability to get out of the car that it creates cannot be understood until one has experienced it.

I also welcome the noble Lord, Lord Cromwell, and congratulate him on an interesting maiden speech. I echo what he said about the know-how fund. I declare an interest as a member of the advisory board to that fund. I commend the work of the Minister the right honourable Clare Short in modernising the work of the know-how fund. It began with set views on the market and how to reform the banking system in eastern Europe. It is now looking carefully at the civil society sector and is introducing the concept of local NGOs, a totally alien concept to many former eastern bloc countries.

One comment that can be made about the White Paper—the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, made it very clearly—is that for the first time in a long period it has led to a very upbeat debate in this House. To look at an issue on international development in such a positive light is very welcome. There is perhaps one lurking spectre that needs to be addressed: the question of funds. I should like to put one question to the Minister. I believe that she answered it earlier but I should like her to reiterate her response. Although the Government have decided to reverse the trend, which we thoroughly support, can she confirm that it will not start until 1998 when the present spending requirements can be altered? Many of us believe that this reversal has gone on for too long. If there is still a freeze on the level of finance until 1998, does it not mean that in real terms there will be a shrinkage of the aid budget under the present Government, although it is to be hoped that that will be reversed in 1998?

We can be proud of the fact that the United Kingdom has the sixth largest aid budget in the world. We spend an enormous amount of money on aid but we lag behind France and Germany. At least for this year we do not appear to be taking that first step. The problem about failing to increase the amount of money is one that we have heard before. One welcome addition to the debate is the absence of the word "efficiency". I have not heard that word used. One of the key indicators of cuts in spending is "increased efficiency", as used by the previous government. I understand that the present Government are refocusing the aid budget, which means spreading the money around. However, UNESCO's contribution of £11 million and an extra £5 million to be spent on mine clearance, both of which aims we thoroughly support, means that money will come from other projects. Although I hope that the Minister will look carefully at, and make available, the details of where that money will come from in an open and accountable manner, some people may feel that they are under pressure because the aid budget has been under such pressure for a long time.

The aim to reduce world poverty by half is achievable, but if one is looking at 1998 and 2015 one has a very tight timetable in which to achieve it. I appreciate the predicament in which the Government find themselves. I looked at Liberal Democrat policy on achieving a 0.7 per cent. target and fought through our conference system to increase the timetable from five to 10 years. When one looks at the real figures, to achieve 0.7 per cent. GNP means an increase in the aid budget of about £3.5 billion to £4 billion a year. That is a staggering amount. Of course, that is only a drop in the ocean when compared with the problems that the world faces, but that aim will be quite difficult to achieve. My calculations, which must be extremely rough, are that it represents 2p on income tax. Although we do not believe that the Government can achieve 0.7 per cent. tomorrow, there must be a stage at which the ball starts to roll. Perhaps the Minister can at some stage provide an indication of when the agenda will be set. To beat the world poverty target the first and probably the most bloody battle that Ministers face is the battle with the Treasury.

I should like to go on to deal with the more positive aspects of the White Paper. As regards education, its prominence in the White Paper is one of the highlights, but I believe that a rather interesting problem is developing. Perhaps I am being pedantic, but I believe that with the UK's signing of the Convention on the Rights of the Child—I agree with UNICEF it is disappointing that the Government have attached provisos to their signature—a problem associated with the IMF may arise. Universal primary education is now to be seen as a human right. However, the IMF. through its structural adjustment programmes in Africa, especially in Uganda, has caused the Ugandan Government to cut down their provision of primary education. In one respect one can say that since the signing of the convention the IMF is now breaching human rights. In the past when I broached this subject with certain people their response was that the IMF was not a signatory to the UN convention. However, Britain has signed the convention. If that is the case, the IMF is in a bit of a predicament because it is infringing the human rights of a vast number of people. That involves the whole question of the debt crisis. The multilateral institutions say that they must have their debt burden repaid, but to do that governments must infringe the rights of their own citizens which will cause a problem. Perhaps the Minister can raise this subject with our director on the board of the IMF. It may be an interesting way of pointing out that the IMF must finally ring-fence the money for the provision of primary education.

This brings me to another question. My noble friend Lord Steel and I tried to work out how contact could be made with the director. We could not think of a way of doing it. It is a full circle. I believe that there is no accountability and no transparency in the IMF at present. In future we must look at the question of making the IMF and the World Bank more accountable. They are the institutions that really should be looking at development. Rather than being a hindrance to development perhaps they should fulfil their primary function. We should perhaps also look at other institutions set up for one purpose that may handicap development in the future.

I shall speak about the WTO and its provisions as regards the banana regime. Although I believe that the WTO is looking in the right direction on world trade, according to the letter of the law there seems to be no way in which it can mitigate the results of its rulings and there seems to be no conscience attached to its viewpoint.

The White Paper is a great feast. The Minister has been answering questions for five hours so I shall have to limit myself. I wish to look at the multilateral/bilateral argument. Under a shrinking budget that was always seen as a point of conflict because what was taken from the bilateral budget to go into the multilateral budget was seen to be wrong. With an expanding budget in the future that argument may become obsolete. We have a role to play in the multilateral institutions. I find it unbelievable that we were not shouting from the tree tops about the positive roles we have taken. We are a country that always pays its debts on time and whose contributions are always up to date. That is something we never seem to expound upon.

Perhaps I may press the Government to take a lead role. They have been positive with regard to the aid and trade provision. Could not our presidency of the EU be an opportunity for the Government to say, "We are the president of the EU for this period. Could we not do something about tied aid? Could we not form an agreement in which tied aid is abandoned?" The argument against abandoning tied aid has always been that if we do not do it the Germans and Italians will jump into our place. Could we not have a European agreement on that?

With European agreements being looked at, I almost feel obliged to follow the noble Lord, Lord Rea, in his remarks about tobacco advertising and Formula One. I shall refrain, I promise, from doing that. However, I should like to flag up an issue which is of greater importance than the advertising on Formula One; it is the whole policy that tobacco companies are now undertaking. With falling sales and greater restrictions in the developed world, they are looking to market directly to the emerging countries. That is morally outrageous.

I speak finally on development education. I must declare an interest. I am a vice-chair of World Aware which does great work promoting development education, especially in primary schools. The great importance of development education is that although we seem to have access to all forms of communication—everyone is on the Internet—if one travels the world one sees things, but if one stays at home, with the great wealth of information that is available, one rarely sees poverty on the international media. Foreign news coverage in most newspapers today is shrinking rapidly and is of little value. If we are to achieve our objective of raising international development on the political timetable, people must be aware of it. To increase the amount of money available to DfID, it has to be a popular issue.

7.24 p.m.

Baroness Rawlings

My Lords, we have had an interesting and stimulating debate. I should like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, for giving your Lordships this early opportunity to debate the White Paper on Eliminating World Poverty, which has attracted such a long and star-studded cast of contributors in your Lordships' House.

As many of your Lordships said, today's debate has provided us with three outstanding maiden speeches. I know that it is not the custom for later speakers to congratulate the maidens in a debate, but I am sure that your Lordships would agree that my noble friend Lord Jopling and the noble Lords, Lord Newby and Lord Cromwell, gave impassioned contributions, with obviously deeply held convictions on a very serious problem. I support fully what my noble friend Lord Jopling said about landmines. It would be wrong if I, too, did not add my congratulations to all three. We greatly look forward to further speeches from them not just on this subject, but many others.

We welcome the White Paper, as my noble friend said so clearly at the start of this debate, but naturally with caveats. The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, who is so knowledgeable in this area, has misunderstood our views. I hope that I shall be able to reassure him on some of them.

We would all agree that the fight against poverty is a moral imperative. I, too, pay tribute to all the dedicated work done by my noble friend Lady Chalker in this area.

I am astonished that a government who purport to pursue an ethical foreign policy make promises dramatically raising expectations, which they are unlikely to fulfil. This would be highly unethical.

In 1992 the Labour manifesto said that it would raise commitments to aid to 0.7 per cent. within five years. In its 1997 election manifesto the target date was dropped. Now the Minister tells us that commitments will only start to rise in the financial year 1999 to 2000 aiming "ultimately" at that target.

Does that mean that the Government are going to raise over £3 billion in three years—a question asked also by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale? Can the Minister tell us how? The smiles of the Chancellor of the Exchequer do not reassure me: they are at best Delphic, at worst condescending. If, on the other hand, the target is pushed back in the distant future what good is the promise to the people living in absolute poverty now? Is it just a ploy to appease our own conscience? Being strong on words, the White Paper is very weak on detailed costings.

The White Paper in general does not appear to have shed some old Labour assumptions: that people's requirements are fundamentally the same everywhere; that the agenda of this Government is necessarily the agenda of those of developing countries; that the linchpin of development is the state, overlooking the very substantial flow of private investment at around $100 billion last year, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said so forcefully last week. It dwarfs all official aid and assistance.

The White Paper acknowledges that trade and investment are key to sustainable development—a point covered in detail by the noble Lord, Lord Judd, who is so experienced in this area through his work with Oxfam.

The commitment to further comprehensive trade liberalisation is welcome. I should have liked to have seen trade and investment receiving a higher priority on the Government agenda. Will the Government commit themselves to the target for achieving world free trade by 2020?

In Section 2, what will the Government do to encourage partner governments to create the conditions which will help to attract further private foreign investment rather than just straight aid?

My noble friend Lord Bauer wrote in Equality: the 3rd World and Economic Delusion: Aid is like champagne: in success you deserve it, in failure you need it". I fear that aid may be addictive, and that too great a reliance on aid rather than trade, private foreign investment and economic growth, would be a disservice to those whom we seek to help.

The White Paper rightly recognises that economic growth, and political stability, as was said by my noble friend Lord Chesham, are crucial to development. I welcome wholeheartedly the emphasis on environmentally sustainable development. However, as the Financial Times pointed out, much of its emphasis is on social objectives. Here the Government, needs to recognise that there is little point in wishing such an agenda on poorer countries unless they first have the prosperity needed to implement it. The Government should include in their criteria for partnership sound policies as shown in Latin America, in countries such as Brazil, which only today has had the courage to implement its fiscal adjustment programme for its economic austerity package. In particular, the Government have to be careful to promote universal primary education hand in hand with promoting both employment opportunity in towns and in rural areas. Otherwise they risk creating a mass of disaffected youths who do not fit any longer in the rural communities and do not have a job in towns. I should have liked to see greater emphasis on training, providing sometimes basic more often intermediate level skills to local people in areas such as crop management, reforestation, mother and child healthcare and sanitation. I have a great deal of sympathy with the noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, on population control. The noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, and the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, mentioned healthcare. Section 3.42 states that we are working with other governments towards a global ban on tobacco advertising as said by the noble Lord, Lord Rea. Does this include Formula One car racing?

I am disappointed however that higher priority was not given to the fight against corruption and to strengthen accountability. The Government emphasise greatly "the people". The White Paper smacks very much of a top down approach, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, in which the people are largely passive beneficiaries. I suggest the opposite. I urge the Government to study closely the superb work of organisations such as Intermediate Technology and the Westminster Foundation, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Steel.

I should have liked greater priority on measures to train people to promote and effect their own development. I should like to see a much greater reliance on local voluntary organisations. Independent organisations, like Seva Mandir in rural Rajasthan, seek to build up the ability of village groups to make local authorities more responsive, more accountable and fairer.

The White Paper, in paragraph 2.15, as the Overseas Development Institute has pointed out, primarily advocates changes to the UK bilateral aid which now forms less than half of the government expenditure, whereas roughly a third of our aid goes through the EU which is also responsible for trade matters. Perhaps the EU merits more than a few paragraphs in the White Paper, especially on the eve of the British presidency. When are the Government going to publish their position on the Lomé renegotiation?

Finally, I welcome the Government's proposals building on the Trinidad terms originally proposed by my right honourable friend John Major regarding debt relief. That was also mentioned by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham, the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, and the noble Viscount, Lord Brentford.

I also welcome the acknowledgment of the particular situation of countries in transition. That was ably covered by the noble Lord, Lord Cromwell, and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams. In the government agenda for support of these countries, however, except for Russia nothing is said about debt relief which remains acute in a few of them, particularly Bulgaria.

I hope that the Minister will be able to address all the very important points made so succinctly by so many of your Lordships. She has a difficult task and has my full sympathy. I wish her luck and look forward to her reply

7.34 p.m.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, this has been a good debate and I am grateful to all those who have taken part. International development has long been an issue upon which there has been a good deal of agreement across party lines. I hope that that will remain the case and that the White Paper will command wide support.

I am particularly delighted that the noble Lords, Lord Jopling, Lord Newby and Lord Cromwell made such excellent maiden speeches on this important issue. All the speeches were extraordinarily knowledgeable and demonstrated the concern and commitment of all three noble Lords to the subject matter with which they were dealing. They had the added advantage of being extraordinarily eloquent and in the finest tradition of your Lordships' House. We all look forward to future contributions from all three noble Lords.

Debates of this kind contribute to the aim which the Government set out in the White Paper; that is, to engage more people in development issues and to spread awareness and understanding of those issues. The commentary in the press and broadcast media since the White Paper was published, even if we do not agree with all that has been said and written, contributes importantly to that. So does the work of Parliament, and we particularly welcome the decision of the International Development Select Committee in another place to conduct an inquiry into the White Paper.

As was suggested by the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, I should like to reply to as many points as possible. Perhaps one or two were covered in my opening remarks. However, it is unlikely that I shall be able to cover them all and if I do not manage to do so I hope noble Lords will accept letters from me covering those points.

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, was a little less than fulsome in his remarks about the White Paper. He said that it had its head in the stars and its feet in the clouds. But he also said that much in the White Paper reflected the position of his noble friend Lady Chalker. We on this side of the House have acknowledged the considerable contribution which the noble Baroness made to development issues. However, my right honourable friend has one or two advantages over the noble Baroness. My right honourable friend is a full member of the Cabinet and is also in charge of an independent department. Those factors demonstrate that the current Government are taking these issues in a more focused way and more seriously than the previous Administration. Furthermore, my right honourable friend enjoys the support of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer in her endeavours to raise the development budget, unlike her unfortunate predecessor, who saw it cut year on year under the previous Administration.

The noble Lord said that we were doing some things which would make the poor poorer. It is almost impossible to see how that can be the case, in particular when we have committed ourselves to tackle international development effort with a specific target of halving by 2015 the number of people who live on less than a dollar a day.

I could have cheered my noble friend Lady Lockwood when she put the noble Lord straight on one or two issues relating to women and poverty. She did so more eloquently than I am able and on the basis of great experience of women's issues. She was not alone in raising issues of population control; they were raised by the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, and the noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon. Gradually, the rate of population growth rose less steeply in the first half of the 1990s than it did in the latter part of the 1980s. But we still have a long way to go. For many years to come—probably until 2025—the world will continue to grow by some 80 million people a year. Almost all of those will be in developing countries; that is, those which are least well equipped to deal with the consequences.

Meanwhile, the ways in which we can measure population growth are pointing in the right direction. It is a fact that some 30 years ago only some 9 per cent. of couples used family planning methods. Today, as we know, some 57 per cent. use such methods.

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, raised the question of resource allocation and partnership policy. Allocations will be made each year in the resource allocation round for those countries committed to pro-poor economic policies, as well as policies promoting responsive and accountable government. Indeed, I believe that was the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Steel. Many of those countries will indeed be in sub-Saharan Africa and in south Asia. We shall also encourage partnerships with middle income countries, including those in the Caribbean.

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, asked in particular about a theatre project. This Government recognise the value of development theatre in conveying important messages on health, education, the environment and family planning to poor communities in the South Pacific and elsewhere in the world. We shall continue to support that medium where it is appropriate.

The noble Lord, Lord Steel, raised a number of important issues. In particular, he asked about ways in which we should be tackling debt issues and asked about our commitments in relation to helping the poor to realise their human rights, including the human rights that they have in democratic countries. We shall do what we can to help where we are able to do so. In countries where governments have no commitment to helping the poor in respect of their democratic rights, we shall seek to help them through alternative channels; that is, through voluntary agencies, institutions and civil society. Such assistance will be focused tightly, however, on the victims of neglect and oppression.

The noble Lord raised questions also about the Westminster Foundation for Democracy. That organisation is funded not by the DFID but by the FCO. The Government recognise the important contribution which the foundation makes to democracy and to responsible government. Government officials have regular consultations with the foundation to discuss current strategies in those areas.

The noble Lord asked also about the Oxfam suggestion of a conference on the future of the Great Lakes region. We support a well-prepared conference under the auspices of the UN and the OAU when the time is right. In the meantime, officials from the FCO and the DFID will be meeting Oxfam officials to discuss the proposal which has been put forward.

The noble Lord, Lord Steel, was not alone in raising questions of debt. That was mentioned also by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham, my noble friends Lord Judd and Lord Taylor of Gryfe and the noble Lord, Lord Bridges. The question of debt has been covered to some extent but perhaps I may put some more detail before your Lordships.

At a cost of £132 million, we are cancelling debts still owed to the UK by Commonwealth countries which are committed to pro-poor and transparent policies. Moreover, we have pledged £20 million without conditions to the IMF for the implementation of the heavily indebted countries programme. Formal offers have been extended so far to seven countries with aid debt. That totals £18 million. Discussions have started with others. The seven countries which have so far received formal offers are Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Mauritius, St. Lucia, Tonga and the Turks and Caicos islands.

But the UK cannot deal with the debt problem alone. We must work with our partners and, of course, with fellow creditors. The UK takes a leading position in the Paris Club discussions on relief of export credit related debts. We shall link up with multilateral institutions to provide debt relief under the heavily indebted countries programme and I have already mentioned the money that we have earmarked for that.

In his excellent maiden speech the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, drew our attention to the appalling havoc wreaked by landmines. I am sure that everyone in your Lordships' House is well aware of the ghastly consequences of landmines, so often visited upon children playing innocently, wherever they may be. I am sure that the noble Lord will be pleased to hear that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development will be signing the Ottawa Agreement on our behalf next month.

My noble friend Lord Judd raised a number of questions in relation to the part which the Department for International Development is playing in foreign policy. In particular, he referred to the Strategic Defence Review. The DFID is a member of the defence review steering group chaired by the Cabinet Office. I believe that the noble Lord rather implied that the DFID is not a member of that group. Discussions include consideration of the Government's wider international responsibilities, particularly in relation to the maintenance of peace, international order and stability, humanitarian principles and democratic rights.

My noble friend said that if the Government are serious about mainstream international development policy, why is the Secretary of State for International Development not a member of the DOP? The Secretary of State is invited to attend relevant meetings of the DOP and I hope that that gives my noble friend some reassurance.

He asked also what the Government are doing to ensure that conflict prevention is fully integrated into foreign policy. As I indicated in my opening remarks, the Government believe that conflict prevention is crucial to combat poverty and reduce suffering. We shall deploy our diplomatic development assistance and military instruments in a coherent and consistent manner.

My noble friend asked how the Government can ensure that development assistance posts and reconstruction after conflict dovetail with FCO or MoD assistance in relation to demobilisation and demilitarisation. The possibility of DFID and MoD officials working together on further work in relation to the role of development co-operation is being considered currently. The FCO, MoD and DFID consult fully on all issues of common interest. Those include programmes financed from each department's budget and broader policy questions, including the proportion of the budget to military expenditure in developing countries.

My noble friend Lord Rea had an ingenious way of drawing our attention to a subject which was clearly very dear to his heart. But he also asked questions about support for health and population control. The White Paper gives clear priority to the needs of poor people. That includes improving the health status, which will continue to be a major element in our activities. We are conducting a review of all expenditure to ensure that our expenditure meets our objectives. It is too early to say how that will affect future expenditure levels for particular sections.

The noble Lord, Lord Cromwell, in his maiden speech, drew our attention to the poverty within countries which might not necessarily be in those countries which are extraordinarily poor. In my opening remarks, I reflected on the 110 million people who live in poverty but in countries which may not be considered to be extremely poor at the moment. As I said then, we shall be looking at ways in which we can reshape the know-how fund and, indeed, consult the NGOs about how best to focus aid on those countries.

Questions were raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, about the know-how fund. We will continue to support the process of transition in central and eastern Europe and in central Asia. The know-how fund will continue to be a channel for British bilateral technical assistance for those countries. We will be working within the new strategy to ensure that the know-how fund continues to do the excellent job that it has in the past.

The noble Lord, Lord Acton, asked questions about the Commonwealth Development Corporation and drew our attention to the very valuable work that it has undertaken in the past. The Government are keen to mobilise new investment in the CDC as soon as possible in order to carry out our objectives. However, I am afraid that there are a number of steps which need to be taken, not least the need for legislation in an already busy Parliament. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development expects to appoint advisers soon and to bring forward early legislation.

Several noble Lords raised questions about the ATP, and working with business and untied aid. My noble friend Lord Taylor of Gryfe, the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, and the noble Viscount, Lord Brentford, drew our attention especially to that area. We are already developing a broader relationship with the private sector. We believe that such relationships are good for business and development. We will work with British business to strengthen support for investment and trade which supports sustainable development. We will make available to British business information about trade and investment opportunities in developing countries. We will consult business when we are preparing country and other development strategies and take full account of the contribution that business can make. Much work has already been done in that respect, but much still needs to be done. We will explore where mixed credits can be managed within agreed country programmes with the primary aim of reducing poverty, not subsidising exports. As I said in my introduction, we believe that that will avoid any abuses of the type that we saw over the Pergau Dam.

The White Paper is clear about our commitment to provide resources for the development programme. A number of speakers, including the noble Lord. Lord Redesdale, and my noble friend Lord Taylor of Gryfe-indeed, most speakers who spoke about the resources that will be needed—asked me to direct my attention to the way in which the Government's commitment to increase resources will be realised. The Government will start to reverse the decline in UK spending on development assistance. We have reaffirmed our commitment to the 0.7 per cent. UN target. This is not just something that should attract lip-curling sneering: it is an important government commitment.

We have said that this year and next our aid spending will be redirected to ensure that all resources are used effectively and in accordance with this Government's policy priorities. Only when we have done that can we justify increasing our development assistance budget from the year 1999-2000. The great advantage that we have in saying this is that our Cabinet is united on the point and that it is made with the specific agreement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

A number of other questions were raised on interdepartmental co-operation, especially by the noble Viscount, Lord Brentford. Interdepartmental co-operation is, of course, vital if the White Paper is to succeed. I made the point in my opening remarks that it is not merely a White Paper about aid: it is about investment; it is about trade; and it is about agriculture and the environment. All those departments—and, indeed, many others, including the Department for Education and Employment and the Department of Health—will have their part to play in ensuring that the White Paper is a success.

Many noble Lords raised questions about the Caribbean. It is worth reiterating to the House that, while it is disappointing that parts of the EU banana regime have been found to be incompatible with the World Trade Organisation's ruling, it is not all bad news. We can work with that ruling. While we accept it, we recognise the fact that it is highly complex. We are considering the findings very carefully and are in touch with the Commission in Brussels. We cannot yet comment in detail as I was asked to do, but I can assure noble Lords who have an interest in the matter that the ACP banana producers and their interests are very high on our agenda.

Some noble Lords raised the issue of child labour. As the White Paper makes clear, the ILO says that 250 million children throughout the world are working. Appallingly, a quarter of a million of them are soldiers and 1 million children are working on the basis of being sexually exploited. The Government support international efforts to enhance the well-being of children through the implementation of the convention on the rights of the child. We shall encourage and support stand-alone programmes which can enable development partner countries to protect children from violation of their rights.

The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, reiterated the remarks of her noble friends about the importance of investment in this area. We recognise that fact and also the importance of the many questions that the noble Baroness raised. She raised them rightly and properly; indeed, it was natural for her to raise them. However, I hope that the noble Baroness will accept that the Government are committing themselves to reporting each year on the progress that we make on the White Paper. We can debate such issues each year. We shall be accountable in that respect. I hope, therefore, that the noble Baroness will accept that undertaking in the spirit in which it is given.

A number of criticisms have been made about the White Paper. Some of them have stressed that it is too ambitious, while others have stated that it is not ambitious enough. I suspect that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has got it about right. We are focusing on what we can do. This is not, as the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, suggested, being done with our head in the stars and our feet in the clouds. It is practical politics. The White Paper makes clear that we will chart our progress against clear, internationally accepted targets that have been agreed at UN conferences and by the OECD. The programme is affordable and achievable. The Government will do everything possible to ensure that we stick by the commitments that we have made.

I should point out to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, that, while we all admire the admirable work undertaken by his noble friend Lady Chalker in the past, the White Paper before us does not reflect the same policy as that which went before. We have a Department for International Development. We have a Minister in Cabinet; and, indeed, we have a White Paper. Moreover, we are committing ourselves to discuss progress on that document year after year. If the noble Lord looks at it, I am sure that he will see that we have made 19 new commitments in the White Paper. On reflection, I hope that he will realise that some of the trenchant criticisms that he made in his speech were perhaps not entirely deserved.

In his introduction to the White Paper, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister—and I make no apologies for the language that he used—refers to building a new society for ourselves and for our children, where everyone has a stake and where we can create a future in which generations will have a heritage of hope. That is what the White Paper is about. It is safeguarding our world for now and for the future by tackling the greatest evil that we face; namely, the extreme poverty of 1.3 billion of our fellow human beings. It is not a short-term agenda which looks for votes in the next election. It is an undertaking to which we should all, whatever our political perspective, commit ourselves in the decades to come. The Government are making this commitment. We are ready to be judged as the noble Viscount, Lord Brentford, said we should be. We are ready to be judged year by year and over time by the progress that we, with our partners, will make.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at one minute before eight o'clock.

Back to