HL Deb 09 July 2003 vol 651 cc268-9

2.57 p.m.

Lord Hunt of Chesterton asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their current and planned expenditure on reducing the adverse effect of natural disasters in developing countries and how much of this expenditure is devoted to preventive measures.

The Secretary of State for International Development (Baroness Amos)

My Lords, the Department for International Development's office for humanitarian assistance deals with the immediate aftermath of a disaster. Preventive work includes addressing the scale of the hazard, reducing the community's vulnerability and strengthening its capacity to deal with disasters. Much of that preventive work is integrated into wider development programmes. Therefore, it is difficult to itemise all prevention expenditure. A sum of £3 million is provided annually to international bodies working on prevention.

Lord Hunt of Chesterton

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply. Does she agree that the United Nations International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction, which finished a couple of years ago, showed that in government agencies, academia and the private sector there was considerable UK expertise in the science and technology of natural disaster reduction and that that could be used more effectively to partner work in developing countries with further support by her own and other relevant departments?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, I agree with my noble friend that there is significant UK expertise in the area of disaster reduction. Indeed, the Department for International Development supports a number of initiatives that call upon UK expertise. These include a recent Overseas Development Institute study on the economic and financial impact of natural disasters and annual support to the British Red Cross Society. We are in the process of reviewing how we might step up our work in this important area.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, does the Secretary of State agree that there are two stages? One is disaster relief and the other is dealing with the many major problems that continue long after the immediate disaster relief has been carried out. Is it not important that NGOs working in these areas should pick up that part of the job and do their best to deal with it?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness that there are two stages—in fact, there are three. There is prevention work. We are carrying out considerable work in countries like Bangladesh and in the Caribbean region. There is then disaster relief itself and what one does afterwards. I agree with the noble Baroness that we need to engage a range of actors, including NGOs, in that process.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

My Lords, is the Minister aware of the project being supported by the ProVention Consortium that encourages young, innovative professionals to come together in what I believe is called "virtual space" to share best practice and ideas? Is she also aware that the size of that pilot project is very small? The grants are only £5,000 and it involves around 50 people. If the project proves very worth while, will she encourage the consortium to be much more generous and enable the project to be spread far more widely?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, I am aware of the work of the ProVention Consortium. In fact, we support the consortium. I take the point made by the noble Baroness. If there is success and we are able to increase funding, I shall be happy to look at that.