HL Deb 25 February 2002 vol 631 cc1225-7

2.51 p.m.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will make proposals for enhanced Commonwealth education co-operation at the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

Baroness Amos

My Lords, the Government will not put forward any new proposals at Coolum. However, we shall reiterate the importance of education for poverty reduction and development within the Commonwealth and for developing core Commonwealth values of democracy, tolerance, respect and understanding.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth

My Lords, is the Minister aware that there will he a general warm welcome for the Government's proposal to set up a fund in connection with the Queen's jubilee year to speed up the war against poverty in primary education for children throughout the Commonwealth? I f that is to succeed, a balanced education strategy is required. At the CHOGM in Brisbane, will the Government take up the recommendations made by the Commonwealth education Ministers at their recent meeting in Canada and seek their speedy implementation with a view to making the next meeting of Commonwealth education Ministers—which I believe will take place in Scotland—an outstanding success, for which the Government. will get some credit?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, I cannot comment on where the next meeting of Commonwealth education Ministers will take place, although I understand that an announcement will be made shortly. I agree with the noble Lord. Education, particularly primary education, is one of the key elements of our strategy for reducing poverty. We are committed to the millennium development goal. We have committed more than £600 million since 1997 to help to achieve that target. The Halifax statement set out a broad vision of education. Commonwealth education Ministers mandated the Commonwealth Secretariat to monitor and report on the implementation of the recommendations coming out of that meeting.

Viscount Waverley

My Lords, education is key and Britain has much to offer. I do not wish, with regret, to be too political about the issue, but does the Minister accept we are disadvantaging ourselves by inhibiting foreign students coming to be educated in this country through the raising of fees'?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, through our support for the Commonwealth Scholarships and Fellowships Plan, for example, DfID and the FCO have given substantial amounts of money to help Commonwealth scholars to study in the United Kingdom and in other parts of the Commonwealth. Supporting education in the Commonwealth remains a key part: of our strategy.

Lord Astor of Hever

My Lords, is the Minister aware that CDC capital partners are abandoning their investments in some very deprived poor countries? Does she accept that while Her Majesty's Government allow that to happen, the development of education in some of the Commonwealth's most vulnerable countries will suffer?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, I cannot agree with the noble Lord. The CDC legislation, which passed through both Houses of Parliament, has some clear strategy attached to it. The noble Lord will remember that the CDC is required to ensure that a certain proportion of its investment remains in the poorest countries, in particular in sub-Saharan Africa. We continue to recognise the importance of education in tackling poverty. Achieving the millennium development goal of getting children into universal primary education by 2015 remains a key part of our strategy. Through our work with the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan, we shall also continue to support Commonwealth scholars.

Lord Quirk

My Lords, do the Government agree that one of the remaining problems in education not only in the Commonwealth but in the third world generally is the relatively low take-up of primary education among girls as opposed to that among young boys?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, I entirely agree. Noble Lords will be aware of the goal to achieve gender equity in primary and secondary schooling by 2005. We are working very hard to achieve that, but it is difficult, particularly in situations in which boys' education is given much higher priority than girls' education.