HL Deb 26 January 2005 vol 668 cc1282-330

4.10 p.m.

Baroness Whitaker rose to call attention to Her Majesty's Government's policies to reduce poverty in developing countries; and to move for Papers.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, any debate on this subject must be coloured by the disaster of the tsunami, but I would like to set the situation of the urgent catastrophe in the context of the long-term needs of development. DfID's exemplary response is now turning towards helping rebuilding on the Indian Ocean shores more sustainably and strengthening their infrastructure against calamity.

Many departments of state have an influence on poverty in developing countries. Those of us who think of the world as increasingly interdependent—"one moral universe", to quote my right honourable friend the Chancellor—applaud the policy of the Department of Trade and Industry and the Foreign Office to push for trade justice and market access for the exports of developing countries, and look to that of the Ministry of Defence on arms control and effort on small arms brokering. The responsibility of the Home Office for anti-corruption legislation—still awaited—is a heavy one, in view of the devastating effect corruption by developed country companies has on developing economies and democracies. The Department of Trade and Industry's influence over the standards of the Export Credit Guarantee Department is another part of the anti-corruption jigsaw.

The Foreign Office uses its Global Opportunities Fund to strengthen governance in emerging markets so that economic growth can be sustained, and it works to implement the United Nations Resolution 1325 to enlarge the role of women in conflict resolution, who, of course, suffer disproportionately in war.

The home departments of health, education, environment, work and pensions, revenue collection, among others, contribute their expertise as part of a remarkable government front against poverty in the developing world.

All this, of course, is in most cases co-ordinated by the real experts in poverty reduction, the Department for International Development, and where it is not, I suggest it should be. DfID, under the leadership of my right honourable friend Hilary Benn, has a strategic focus which directs a mighty British engine at the world's most pervasive evil. I quote: An independent panel of government auditors recently declared DfID a model for effective delivery". But I am not quoting DfID there; I am quoting The Economist. I met a friend recently who had come back to this country after 10 years away and said, "What has happened to international development? When I went away, the department was small, impoverished and on the margins of government. Now it is respected all over the world, has really significant funding and leads central government policy".

DfID directs this in alliance with my right honourable friend the Chancellor, whose role in debt reduction, advocating world support for increased aid, financial instruments of leverage like the international financing facility and DfID's own increasing budget— which has nearly doubled in real terms since 1997, making it the fourth largest donor in the world— makes one of the magnificent partnerships in the history of the government of this country.

If we play our full part and persuade others to follow our example, along with the other great nations in international development like Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands and emerging ones like Japan, the realisation of the millennium development goals is within the world's grasp. If we do not, we shall have let slip the first and greatest opportunity to make poverty history. In two months, the Africa Commission, set up by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, but with a majority of African members, will need support for its recommendations. Next September, world leaders will assess progress towards the millennium development goals. Before that, the UK will chair G8, as well as the presidency of the European Union. So this opportunity is hugely in our hands, and there is a need for the public throughout the developed world to put pressure on politicians now to reflect their concerns.

I am sure we all agree that it is economic growth which makes real, permanent inroads into poverty, and that the purpose of development aid is to propel equitable economic growth.

DfID's focus has been to confer ownership of development on the nation states themselves through direct budget support for the very first basis of growth— health, sanitation and education, with appropriate conditions to make investment effective. Thus, Uganda has universal primary education and Tanzania has very recently brought primary education enrolment from 50 per cent to 90 per cent, with British help. DfID's work in conflict resolution and post-conflict restoration, as well as humanitarian aid, supplements this. But it is now also refashioning its policy on agricultural support to enable rapid smallholder productivity growth, such a feature of the Asian rise to prosperity. No doubt it will draw on the new report of the Inter-Academy Council to the UN Secretary-General—Realising the Promise and Potential of African Agriculture —which proposes means to achieve ample food security for the whole continent. But I hope DfID will go beyond food security to helping make agricultural development the springboard for growth.

The paradox of agriculture is that only expansion of agriculture can bring developing regions out of poverty, because such an overwhelming proportion of the people in poor countries are employed in it, and no other sector could provide work for so many people who need work; but then it must also diminish as a proportion of GDP. Growth cannot increase without accompanying development in manufacturing and services, with the prizes going to those which have seized the most technological opportunities and produced the most trained workforce. For instance, a new, effective cure for malaria, the killer of most African children, has been extracted from the plant artemisia, which is in very short supply and is now being cultivated in Kenya and Tanzania. If the drug could be manufactured there rather than grown only as a cash crop and shipped unprocessed to Novartis, how much more value-added and training the local workforce would accumulate.

I would like to say one more thing about that workforce. It is increasing. There is a sharp rise in the proportion of adults aged 15 to 60 in sub-Saharan Africa. When a similar event occurred in Asia, there was a huge rise in growth and in the share of growth which went to the poor, because demand for labour rose equally fast, initially mainly because of the needs of successful smallholder production, according to very interesting research by Michael Lipton and Robert Eastwood. Subsequently, investment in competitive, highly technical industries provided opportunities for training and further employment. Of course, countries like India and China had previously also invested in basic infrastructure, including education. This proportionate increase in the labour force in sub-Saharan Africa is likely to be slowing down by 2050, so if its benefit is to be reaped, the infrastructure must be laid down now.

Together with physical infrastructure and research, human capital must be developed. Throughout Africa there are not enough people trained in the skills needed by the growth industries. Even South Africa has only increased enrolment at tertiary level in technical subjects to 13 per cent, as compared with Thailand and Malaysia's 30 per cent. This is where partnerships of aid agencies, NGOs and the private sector could make a remarkable difference. Cultures need to change. Uganda is not alone in paying too much respect to academic tertiary education and not enough to technical skills aimed at greater productivity. As well as trade policy, productivity policy should be an essential part of national poverty reduction strategies, and DfID works with developing country governments to help this along.

Poverty reduction strategies could in particular improve growth by paying attention to women. DfID knows well how women's work is pivotal in development, and my noble friend Lady Royall will speak about that.

In conclusion, this Government have arguably done more than any in our history to reduce poverty in developing countries, but more than ever in our history are we all at risk from the misfortunes of each other. War, disease, crime, harmful drugs and terror do not respect national boundaries. As long ago as 2002, Mary Robinson said in her Commonwealth lecture: We now understand in a more profound way that no nation can isolate or exclude itself from the effects of global problems of endemic poverty and conflict". If it was true then, it is even more true now.

We have a unique opportunity to influence profoundly the chances of those of our fellow human beings whom circumstances and error have served badly and thus, incidentally, to secure for ourselves a safer and more prosperous future. The British people's moving contribution to tsunami disaster aid shows that we all care about the fate of others—so we should all put pressure on governments to confront those who keep systemic poverty in place through protectionism, lax controls on corruption, underfunding and the spread of small arms. We should take advantage of this moment in history, in part created by our own Government, to conquer deeply entrenched poverty.

I look forward very much to the debate, and I beg to move for Papers.

4.21 p.m.

Lord Eden of Winton

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness on the way in which she has introduced this debate. She speaks with great authority founded on her long experience of the subject under discussion. By comparison, my own few faltering words will appear lamentably facile. I put before your Lordships this afternoon three words—greed, garments, goats— the relevance of which I hope will become apparent in a few moments.

The major efforts by governments and large organisations to alleviate poverty are vital. There is a need to ensure that, as far as possible, those efforts are precisely targeted and practical. We must ensure that the receiving end has a good administrative structure, not only at the top, but also well down the line. Two organisations, Oxfam and Merlin, set good examples of how to work in the field. They work with local people.

If one understands the culture of the people one is trying to help, there may be a hope of curbing some of the enthusiasm of greedy local officials who so often manage to siphon off the assistance intended for poor people. That applies equally in the commercial world. Agreements made by directors sometimes have little impact at the workface. For example, the logging operations in Congo were, in my view, rather disgracefully promoted by the World Bank. The interests of indigenous people are being ignored and their livelihoods destroyed. If trade is the answer to poverty, which in part it certainly is, let the wealthy West be more open with its markets to the export of poorer countries' products.

I have an interest in Sri Lanka. Many of those I know over there are totally dependent on the garment trade. What a difference it would make to them and to their future if the West were more liberal in opening its markets to their product. One way of lifting people out of poverty is to help them to help themselves. My friends Mr and Mrs Kotelawala in Sri Lanka head up a big organisation called the Ceylinco Group. They deploy the resources of the Grameen Bank. By means of making small loans, the bank provides start-up assistance on favourable terms to enable individuals, women as well as men, to establish themselves in business and so come to stand on their own feet.

In the post-tsunami world, Sri Lanka has benefited enormously from the very substantial and imaginative assistance given by the Government and by voluntary organisations. I congratulate them on the tremendous work that is being done. It is both practical and sensitive, but tragically even here there is evidence of widespread corruption, jealousies and grotesque bureaucracy. My son, Jack Eden, and my stepson, Robert Drummond, both live in Sri Lanka. They have mobilised their charity, Friends of the South, to give direct help to individuals. They give tools to artisans to enable them to start up work again. They are providing all the equipment necessary to a shipbuilder who has lost everything so that he can begin to rebuild his own business. Even so, they are frustrated in their efforts by officialdom.

I turn to my last word: goats. Where there are large populations of goats, there is invariably poverty. Where there is poverty, there are invariably large populations of goats. Goats are marauding and indiscriminately destructive creatures. In his typically trenchant piece in last week's Spectator, Matthew Parris described them as, rank-smelling weapons of mass destruction". They destroy all vegetation, they kill reafforestation, they promote erosion and, in the long term, help to perpetuate poverty. Alternatives must be found.

So, I have spoken of greed, garments and goats; three words to ponder in the context of this debate. If those three words could be addressed along the lines I have suggested, they would go some way to offering a better future to the world's poorer people.

4.27 p.m.

Lord Roberts of Llandudno

My Lords, it is a privilege to have the opportunity to join in the debate initiated this afternoon by the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker. I come from Llandudno where we have a big problem with wild goats. There are around 260 of them wandering on the Great Orme, but I am sure that that is not the direction my speech should take today.

First, however, I too want to comment on the magnificent response to the tsunami appeal. I am told that the funds raised now stand at £250 million, which makes this the largest response to any appeal in the history of the United Kingdom. At the weekend I was proud to note that Cardiff hosted the Wales Millennium Centre concert. But I am also proud of all the small communities where handfuls of people have raised hundreds, if not thousands of pounds. When people see a need, they do respond.

That gives us an opportunity at this time, when need is so apparent, to engender a spirit of goodwill and generosity that could lead to the problems of poverty being tackled not just by governments, but taking their place in the hearts of the people. The opportunity is there, and it is one that I am sure we would squander at our risk.

Let us remember the events of 9/11. The hearts of the world were with the people of New York and around the United States as a result of that terrible disaster. Yet, in only a little while, so much of that goodwill had gone as a result of the actions following the disaster. The spirit of goodwill can be lost in a very short time.

We need to look at what has happened in the regions around the Indian Ocean and say to ourselves, "Here is a new opportunity". We must not then squander that opportunity. Thus, anything which follows that may undermine people's goodwill and generosity should be avoided at every step of the way. Action that arouses outrage and anger could do a great deal of damage, even though there is an opportunity for people to operate together and to begin to understand and sympathise with each other. It is not only governments which should take the lead, but also ordinary people.

We know that resources are limited. Yesterday, sadly, I read that the President of the United States wants another 80 billion dollars to continue the occupation of Iraq. It is a sad story when that money could be used in more positive ways. Some time ago in this House, I asked the Minister about the cost of British intervention in Iraq. He said that it was £1.3 billion for nine months. I am told that it is now more than £5 billion. The money there cannot be spent elsewhere.

We pass the despairing, poverty-stricken, hungry and hopeless on any march towards war and conflict. Opportunities are missed. I am sure that the Government have no intention of doing so, but any support by the United Kingdom for an incursion into Iran would bring such outrage that the 1 million people marching through London two years ago would be a fraction of those who would march on such an occasion.

We must work together peacefully and constructively, through international organisations, whether it be to bring peace, to restrict terrorism or to make the most of opportunities to bring an end to poverty. This year, we are all challenged to make poverty history. I will not speak at great length today, but others will speak and say, "Yes, the opportunity is there. This is what we can do". We already have examples of what we could do to eradicate so much poverty, which is a blemish on the lives of countless millions of people.

Some nation must take the lead. I am pleased about the efforts of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in Africa, so could the United Kingdom be the nation which says, "Look, this is our top priority in this coming year. The priority is to make poverty history."? We could do it if we could rise to that challenge.

4.32 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Southwell

My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, for initiating this important debate. It is timely not only because of the appalling human tragedy in the tsunami and the crisis and international action flowing from it, but also because 2005 offers the British Government the unique set of opportunities to garner the necessary political will to help make poverty history.

The disaster has seen thousands of lives lost and millions of livelihoods destroyed. The subsequent international response has highlighted, on the one hand, the fragility of human life and, on the other hand, the generosity of the human spirit. Like other noble Lords, one cannot but be moved by the passionate and charitable response of private donors and individuals.

The subsequent pledges by governments and international institutions will be crucial for Asia's long-term reconstruction. These pledges are to be applauded provided that they are honoured. They must represent new money, rather than the recycling of money already allocated to existing aid efforts for the poorest parts of our planet. A welcome moratorium on debt repayments for those countries most affected by the tragedy can be no substitute for the comprehensive cancellation of the unpayable debts of all the world's poorest countries.

Emergency assistance to those in immediate need and debt relief for the poorest must surely be accompanied by the determination on the part of the international community to tackling those systemic barriers, referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, such as the imbalance in international trade, which continue to prevent many countries in the region realising their full economic potential.

Ongoing trade negotiations and the implementation of new trade rules should not compromise the ability of countries affected by the tsunami to rebuild their livelihoods. As such, aid and debt relief must not be conditional on economic policy reforms such as privatisation, fiscal austerity or trade liberalisation.

The challenge, however, is to see how we can move from the particular, responding to the suffering and devastation caused by the tsunami, to the general, finding effective and sustainable mechanisms to tackling global poverty. It would be a terrible human failure if international compassion for victims of the tsunami blotted our compassion for the many millions of other people suffering from other humanitarian crises—from Darfur in Sudan, to Uganda, the Congo and Zimbabwe or the tens of thousands of people who die each day from poverty.

This poverty is sustained not by chance or nature, but by our human failing. It is a scar on our collective conscience. As the Church of England's House of Bishops' recognised in a statement earlier this month: emergency relief and development aid count for little if the underlying causes of poverty and deprivation, such as the injustice and imbalances in current global trade practices are not addressed. The impressive international response to the tsunami disaster stands in marked contrast with the lack of political will that has so far frustrated the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Given the conclusion of the UN Millennium Project's report that the MDGs are both affordable and achievable, it would be nothing short of scandalous if these targets were not met.

The specific recommendations of the Sachs report will no doubt be heavily debated. Such debate, while welcome, should not obscure the report's most basic point; namely, that with sufficient political will the MDGs can be met. Although the Sachs report provides a vision of how the world might look in 2015 if the goals are met, we should not be blind to what the world might look like if the goals remain elusive. Failure to meet these targets will result in shrinking islands of prosperity in a growing sea of depravity giving rise to an unbearable level of marginalisation and alienation.

It is encouraging that a number of the Sachs recommendations echo those made by the Chancellor in his speech earlier this year advocating the need for a new Marshall Plan. The decision to prioritise debt relief, aid and trade will have given immense encouragement to a significant number of people who have campaigned tirelessly on these issues in recent years.

As a member of the Make Poverty History Coalition, we, on this Bench, recognise that the issues of trade, debt and aid are inextricably linked and we are committed to achieving change on all three. The Government can be assured that the Church of England, alongside many other members of the Make Poverty History Coalition, will mobilise its own constituency at key opportunities in 2005 to encourage the Government to drive forward the struggle against poverty and injustice. In doing so, we will repeatedly remind the Government that the MDGs are both achievable and affordable.

4.37 p.m.

Baroness Jay of Paddington

My Lords, I, too, congratulate my noble friend Lady Whitaker on introducing the debate with her customary authority. I greatly value her authority and expertise in development policy issues in her membership of the Council of the Overseas Development Institute. I declare an interest as chairman of that council.

Like other noble Lords, I congratulate the Government on their leadership in raising the fundamental issues of global poverty in forums such as the G8 and the European Union. I commend their specific current policies, particularly the proposals on the international finance facility and debt relief. But I also support the policy of raising general aid levels to the 0.7 per cent of GDP by 2013. I support the so-called "Marshall Aid" plan for Africa.

However, noble Lords will be aware that recently some distinguished commentators and economists—I am glad to see my noble friend Lord Desai in his place as he has certainly contributed to this—have argued that aid in the conventional sense is an ineffective and inefficient method of reducing poverty. To put it in headline terms, with which I am sure he would disagree, they argue that the state of governance and levels of corruption in many African states are so bad that we should not pour more financial aid into a black hole which may lead directly to Swiss bank accounts. The noble Lord, Lord Eden, has already spoken of greed in this context.

My concern is that we must not abandon conventional aid programmes in the hope that taking this line will stimulate more rapid reform. The humanitarian, economic and public health crises in sub-Saharan Africa are too immediate for that approach. After all, poverty is increasing rather than decreasing in that area, where 46 per cent of the population are living on less than a dollar a day.

On the other hand, I do not think it is any longer sufficient for donor governments simply to "exhort" their counterparts to change their ways or to impose conventional conditionally on aid. The scale of inadequate governance and need in the poorest states is too great for that.

For example, indicators developed by the World Bank on effective government and the rule of law show only a handful of sub-Saharan African countries scoring more than 25 per cent. Another international checklist, which uses the criteria of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and assesses political freedoms and civil liberties, puts fewer than a quarter of African countries in a positive category.

I very much welcome DfID's new initiative announced this month on these so-called "fragile" states which aims to give more rather than less aid to them but, at the same time, to confront the problems of instability and corruption head on, to give help to institution building and to try to move to a more preventive than reactive position on current crises.

I am also pleased to see that after a somewhat tortuous process, my right honourable friend Patricia Hewitt has agreed a public review, through the Export Credit Guarantees Department, of the new anti-bribery rules. Initially, these had seemed a laudable attempt to reduce corruption involving UK companies, but then appeared to have been rather watered down. Perhaps in his reply my noble friend Lord Triesman could elucidate a little more on the current situation in regard to these anti-bribery rules because there have been conflicting reports about them in the press in recent days.

Overall, DfID is leading an encouraging new approach to aid through its "Drivers of Change" programmes, which involve political analysis of traditional systems and social development initiatives in fragile states receiving aid. It also puts an emphasis, which I am very glad to see, on the work of NGOs in delivering aid at the grass roots. I know from one of my own daughters, who is working on such a programme currently in Bangladesh, that where these initiatives are culturally sensitive, culturally appropriate and work with the grain of the local understanding of leadership and accountability, for example, real progress can be made.

The "capable" state, as defined by the UN's Economic Commission for Africa, is still, I am sure, a distant aspiration for many sub-Saharan countries, but at least through the work of NePAD—the New Partnership for Africa's Development—and the OECD, key indicators of change are being developed and a path for reform is being mapped out.

On crucial matters, such as the independent oversight of government spending and public sector management, the Economic Commission for Africa wants both aid donors and recipients to establish what it calls mutual accountability for investment and reform programmes; to accept mutual accountability for their outcomes. As the executive secretary of the commission wrote very recently: When development aid is made available both sides of the relationship have obligations". Our Government, I am sure, can take the political lead in recognising these obligations and acting on them, and also in creating the practical tools to ensure that aid is better spent on the ground. Aid properly spent does work; and to achieve the millennium development goals we need to make it work, even in the most fragile and failing states.

4.43 p.m.

Lord Selsdon

My Lords, it is rather sad that on this great and important subject the party of government will speak for 107 minutes, the Official Opposition for 22 minutes, the Liberal Democrats for 24 minutes, the Cross-Benches for 18 minutes and the right reverend Prelate for six minutes. As I was told I should speak for only five minutes, I wish to protest slightly.

When I first came to this House only 42 years ago, these independent debates on Wednesdays were cross-party; there was no division between us, as there is not on this subject. If you were lucky enough—or unfortunate enough—to be given the time, you would be asked to choose a number of people who knew their subject, all of whom would speak without notes. You would write a hand-written letter to them—I made the mistake of sending a typed letter once—asking them if they would be kind enough to speak. They would write back and the debate would be staged so that no one repeated what was said. But now I feel rather like John Cleese in the film "Clockwise"—"One minute".

I will now turn to my subject and a topic which will include goats and Gleneagles. I begin by explaining how I got involved in what we called the third world and which consisted of most parts of Africa. I then got involved in and was promoted, like British Rail, to the second world, which was eastern Europe, where there was considerable poverty. I ended up in the banking world as an adviser to many third world countries, my favourite of which was the Government of Jamaica because I was conceived on the beach. Part of our plan was to try to replace the trade in what we called the "weed of wisdom" with more suitable agricultural products.

I was out there when in came the United States of America to try to put pressure upon Jamaica to boycott—an Irish word—Grenada. ODA had just finished building the airport there to open up Grenada when the Secretary of State, Mr George Bush, came to put pressure on Jamaica. He said "You know, you must boycott Grenada". Then the Prime Minister, Edward Seaga, and his team said to me "Malcolm, is it really true that Boycott is going to play cricket in South Africa?".

I had an involvement in government with sport and noble Lords may remember that, in the end, it was the Gleneagles agreement that got rid of apartheid. The United States has never understood that baseball is played only in Cuba and one of the other Caribbean countries—and American football not in many places—but cricket, rugby and soccer are played worldwide. We look at the performance now of our great premier leagues, where the third world, if I can call it that, is present. The sense of pride that it has in the achievements of its stars in sport has helped to raise the standards of thought and pleasure of its countries.

I shall not tell your Lordships how the Sudan could have been made the breadbasket of the Arab world in 1974 and could grow enough grain for the whole of Africa—but politics got it wrong. So with politics, trade and finance are the key aspects.

We once upon time had a facility known as the ATP—the aid and trade provision facility. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, for starting off in the right way. We cannot get rid of poverty unless there is added value in the countries concerned and unless there is trade. One of the original thoughts—which is not new when I look at the Baker plan and I see the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, and think of the remarkable work that IFC did to try to encourage investment—is that we need to buy.

Any orders that we place should be financed by the equipment that comes in. Yesterday, when I heard that British uniforms were to be made in China, I thought that maybe they could be made in another country. When you consider all the textiles consumed by the National Health Service, you could place a regular order to any one of those host countries. This could lead to the supply of the equipment, then to the training of their people and the buy-back, as is done with energy. These actions, in theory and in practice, are fairly reasonable.

But we should look, too, to the great Victorian entrepreneurs and philanthropists. I am extraordinarily impressed by the decision of Bill Gates to put—not as a grant—750 million dollars into the principle of vaccinating people in order to save lives. Looking back to the Jesse Boot's of this world, the Peabody's and Sir Thomas Salt, we should realise that many great corporations could be encouraged to make these gestures, but as investments and not as grants.

I was moved to note, with all the money produced for these recent disasters, that the one body that said it had enough money was Medecins Sans Frontieres. The other organisations said "We want more money, we want more money", but had not decided what to do with it. It is very simple: you need communications, accommodation and plant and machinery to make what the nations are good at.

The new Gleneagles agreement should be drafted today, planned and introduced rapidly. At the moment we are playing Simon says. Tony says "Do this", Gordon says "Do that"—but Peter is in Brussels and could wind up the Commission on these matters.

It is a matter of creating that added value and, in the United Kingdom, realising that many of these countries are Commonwealth countries and bringing together the Commonwealth. Forget not that there will be other disasters. I sit down with the perishing thought that as many people were killed in this recent disaster as were killed by British and Empire troops during the last world war.

4.49 p.m.

The Earl of Sandwich

My Lords, the noble Baroness has again led us into a timely discussion of poverty. We have heard the Chancellor skilfully draw our attention back to Africa and the many challenges there. The tsunami has again concentrated our attention on the immediate relief of suffering, but we must keep disasters in proportion. Even the record numbers of dead and displaced this time are small beside the casualties of war in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. In Sri Lanka alone, tens of thousands had died before the tsunami. A similar number of dead in Iraq, including civilians, has hardly evoked international sympathy on the scale we have recently seen. Why is that?

The numbers of war dead are again eclipsed by the hundreds of millions of absolute poor, of whom millions suffer untimely death from treatable diseases. Their pain can be just as acute as drowning or gunshot wounds. It would be absurd to make these comparisons academically. I seek only to refocus attention on the more fundamental needs of one in six of humanity, which in some ways may be easier to meet than those of the victims of natural disasters.

I welcome the Secretary of State's new commitment in this context, but it is not a foregone conclusion that the millennium development goals will be met even in Asia. For example, India, with more than 300 million people living below the poverty line, is simultaneously a leading industrial nation and one of the poorest. India suffered enormous losses and damage from the tsunami and yet, with its considerable experience of emergency relief, it preferred not to seek help but to look after its own and many of Sri Lanka's victims too. But it was a typically mixed message, because with so much poverty in many areas, India still needs and benefits from international aid.

One of the critical factors in the complex maths of world poverty is the caste system. Its victims are largely invisible. So many of us subconsciously recognise caste as important; just as many of us turn away from it as an intractable problem. Yet the new Indian Government have to combat rural poverty, and the needs and rights of India's dalits, as they are called, are paramount. There are about 160 million dalits —formerly called untouchables—so that with 300 million people living on less than a dollar a day, there is a close link between poverty and caste.

Every week Indian newspapers are full of appalling crimes—exploitation and murder at the hands of high-caste landlords and political bosses. The caste system takes its toll in death, as it does in life. In emergencies, the poorest victims are always the last to be found in the debris, and their families are sometimes ignored and left to care for their own. And it is usually they who have to remove the bodies.

We often speak of rights in these debates, but for these people, rights hardly exist. The lowest castes in India are often unaware that the law is on their side, although their employers manage to take every precaution to avoid it.

Human rights and legal education can go much further than economic development, although I hear what the noble Baroness says, because such work gives families the chance to improve their lives using existing legal channels. I hope to pursue this issue through a visit to dalit organisations in India during the coming Recess. I have only one question for the Minister: does he consider that caste is preventing India meeting its millennium development goals, and to what extent is the dalit community a focus of DfID policy?

It will require courage for aid workers to tackle poverty in states such as Bihar, where only good governance will really make a difference. More than half of India's poor live in only four states.

India's millennium development goals figures are most encouraging. Income poverty is falling steadily by all standards, and infant mortality is well down, from 127 per 1,000 births in 1970 to 68 in 2000. But there are many regional variations, and poverty indicators suggest that most targets are unlikely to be met by 2015. While the infant mortality rate has halved nationally, it is unlikely to fall as low as the target of 27 per 1,000 births by 2015.

The percentage of children under three who were malnourished in Orissa actually rose during the 1990s and the figure improved only marginally in other states. Even primary education may not hit the target: only 75 per cent of girls attend primary schools, and only two thirds complete their primary school education. Even DfID, with its considerable reputation in India, says that these goals are possible to meet only with effort. While water targets are good, those for access to sanitation—still below 30 per cent—are not. India still has a long way to go.

4.55 p.m.

Lord Parekh

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Whitaker for introducing this extremely important debate relating to the abolition of poverty in developing countries. This is one area in which the Labour Government have done a great deal of which to be proud. They have untied the aid budget so that poor countries receiving aid from us remain free to buy goods and services from the most cost-effective sources.

The Government have also increased the aid budget, almost doubling it since they came to power in 1997, and I am glad to hear that they intend to double it again and reach the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent by 2015. I particularly welcome the effort being made by the Government in reforming the common agricultural policy in the European Union and also with regard to the well known Commission for Africa.

If we keep going at this pace, I would not be surprised if the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer were, in three or four years' time, to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. I very much hope that they will. That could be the first time that a present and a future Prime Minister both receive the Nobel Peace Prize for the enormous effort they are making. I wish them well.

While I compliment the Government on what they have done so far, we still have a long way to go. We talk about 2015, by which time we want to halve world poverty. By 2015, at the current reckoning, between 80 and 100 million people will have died of poverty and disease. That is too large a number to contemplate. In fact, each one of these deaths indicts and diminishes us.

Even then, the question remains. This is not the first time we have seen efforts in this direction. It happened in the mid-1960s and again in the mid-1970s. It is very easy to lose momentum in these matters. What should we be doing so that the momentum that we have generated is kept up? That will require a clear and unambiguous programme of action, a firm institutional structure in place so that it generates its own logic, and a mobilising of popular support so that even when governments slacken, enough steam will come from people at large to make sure that the process continues.

That leads me to a few important points. Poverty, by and large, as all the economists and political scientists will certify, is a result of four important factors. First, the heavy indebtedness of some countries means that a large amount of their money or earnings goes towards servicing the debt, leaving them very little to develop their own infrastructure. Secondly, there is political instability and civil war, a great deal of corruption and lack of social conscience in many of the developing countries. The third factor is unfair trade, about which I need not say more because many noble Lords have spoken about this, and the fourth is lack of resources. Those are the four fundamental factors responsible for the enormous amount of poverty that stares us in the face in the world at large. We should be asking ourselves what we can do on each front.

Naturally, there is a good deal to be done by the poor countries themselves. Civil wars are not sent by gods, nor are they natural events. They are human creations, and there is a great deal that those countries can do themselves. They can also do a great deal about the corruption that prevails. Nevertheless, there is a substantial agenda to be addressed by us, and I want to speak about these four factors very briefly.

On debt relief, I think we have taken a lead. I remember some years ago—in 1997 or 1998—when I was involved in a movement that Bishop Tutu started in Britain, in my own city of Hull. Although we have taken that on board, we have not really pushed the matter as much as we could have done.

On the question of civil wars and political instability, although a great deal needs to be done by the countries themselves, we cannot entirely be absolved of our own responsibility. The major powers have caused a good deal of harm to developing countries by using them as pawns in geo-political strategies—in Afghanistan or Iraq, for example. I can give noble Lords half a dozen examples straight away. If we cannot at least help them we ought to ensure that we abstain from inflicting harm on them. Some of the civil wars are in fact caused by our own policies, wittingly or unwittingly, and if we could at least learn to discipline ourselves and not use those countries as pawns, we would have done enough on that front.

I turn to the two last questions, of fair trade and aid. Many noble Lords have spoken on fair trade, and I do not want to spend too much time on it, except to hope that when the Doha round takes place in December in Hong Kong, we will at least have reached a broad consensus on what we should be doing. As for aid, it is important to bear in mind that some economies like to argue that fair or free trade will do the trick and that aid is not really important. I do not think that would wash, for the very simple reason that many poor countries do not have the facilities—the infrastructure, the water supply, basic education, roads, ability to eliminate diseases, and so on—and they need foreign aid.

That aid can come not only from government sources, although that is quite important of course; when we talk about 0.7 per cent, we are directing our attention to the Government. But there are lots of other sources from which aid can come. The global lottery is one that has been talked about; Tobin tax is another; and I can think of many others, such as individuals earmarking a certain percentage of their income to be collected by the national government. What is important is to bear in mind that none of those things can work unless we recognise a certain spirit of global solidarity. That spirit of solidarity is missing, and without it we cannot generate the momentum. That would require some very imaginative gestures, such as creating an international poverty day in which we all participate.

5.2 p.m.

Baroness Flather

My Lords, I start by thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, for initiating this debate. I am grateful for the opportunity to say something about my favourite subject. All noble Lords have spoken about poverty, poor countries and poor people, but nobody has yet spoken about the poorest of the poor. These are not the dalits, by the way, but women. In every poor country, they suffer more from poverty, disproportionately, than the men. I do not know how many of your Lordships are aware that in developing countries, women's health overall is twice as bad as men's. The health of the wives is twice as bad as that of the husbands.

The Chancellor has recently been to Africa; we all know about that; and he, too, has discovered that women can be agents of change. Maybe we will see a new era when people will start to focus on those agents of change. So far as I know, there has never been a real concerted effort to focus on women and see how they can contribute to family prosperity and poverty alleviation in so many different ways. Whenever the NGOs have tried different kinds of projects, they have been hugely successful—amazingly successful.

Grameen Bank was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Eden. It started in Bangladesh as a normal lending bank, but very soon realised that money came back only from the women, so it became a bank lending to women alone. Hundreds of thousands of women have been helped to acquire independence and self-worth through the lending policies of Grameen Bank.

It is clear that women benefit as soon as they can bring in some money from outside the family—and that they benefit from the interaction that they have with the other women. It gives them the fundamental necessity for all human beings, which is a sense of self-worth. Most of those women have been brought up to believe that they are not worth anything and are just there to look after the family. They are the last ones to eat and be looked after, and a means of getting a bit of money into the family gives them all those opportunities.

I have mentioned Grameen, but I should like to mention Opportunity International as well, with which I know the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, is involved. That organisation has 487,000 clients, out of whom 84 per cent are women. Grameen has become a very big bank, although it did not start as such; it is producing mobile phones and does all sorts of other things. That is also the policy of Opportunity International—recycling money, so that a small loan, or micro-credit, comes back and is given to someone else. It does not involve huge sums of money being put in continuously.

I have been involved with an Indian charity called Seva Mandir, which has set up in a village in Udaipur and given the women some piecework, such a embroidery and sewing. I went to see those women, and it was a joy to see their upbeat appearance and the way in which they behaved. They have managed to get themselves a place to wash and bathe. Noble Lords may well ask, "Don't they have a place to wash and bathe?" No, they do not; they cannot even ask for that because they do not have any self-worth to begin with.

I personally feel very strongly that the millennium development goal on education and Western notions about equality have held back some of the initiatives. Unless women begin to realise that they can achieve something and are capable, they will not look to education or think in terms of other aspects of life. Equality is a very long way off and we do not have the time to wait for those concepts to become part of their life. Let us get them started on the road—that is the key thing.

I cannot tell noble Lords how many women have told me that they want their children to be educated and that they do not want them to have a life like their own. Men have never said that to me—and do not forget the peer group pressure on men and women. If you give men some money, what will they do? At least part of it they will drink, part they will gamble, and they will come home and they will beat up their wife. This is not a joke—it is a fact. Women on the other hand will save the money and try to help the family and improve the situation.

I have no time to tell noble Lords about all the things I wanted to talk about. However, one fact that I would like to leave noble Lords with is that a lot of monogamous women in India are HIV positive. Many of them are not allowed to go to the clinics because it brings shame on the family. Those who are very against family planning and abortion should remember that 200 women die every day from unsafe abortions. So do let us think about the poorest of the poor, the ones without any human rights, including the dalits. They do not treat their women well. Those who are discriminated against should not discriminate. And for those who are interested in goats, they make very good curry.

5.8 p.m.

Baroness Massey of Darwen

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lady Whitaker on securing this debate and inspiring so many noble Lords to participate. My brief contribution will be about the importance of the education of girls in reducing poverty and improving the life chances of whole populations. That follows on appropriately from the contribution of the noble Baroness, Lady Flather—although it was not planned, I assure noble Lords.

I was glad to see a new DfID strategy for girls' education called, appropriately, "A Better Future for All", launched this morning. That will please the noble Baroness, I believe. My own interest in this matter stems from working for some years as the DfID project officer in health education and reproductive health in a variety of countries.

Both the millennium development goals and the Dakar "Education for All" agreement speak of the importance of education. In the Dakar agreement, one of the goals is: Ensuring that by 2015 all children, particularly girls … have access to complete, free and compulsory primary education of good quality". The UNICEF report Childhood Under Threat points out that around 121 million children, mainly girls, do not attend school and are denied their right to education—a right to which their governments committed themselves under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The failure to meet millennium development goals will be that 75 million children—70 per cent of them in sub-Saharan Africa—will be denied their right to primary education in 2015.

A wise essay by the economic educator Joseph Stiglitz, entitled "A Willing World Can End Child Poverty", says that, a lack of education … has severe and lifelong repercussions for children. Study after study confirms the high economic returns to both individuals and economies from investment in education". And it would cost only 40 dollars a year per student.

So is the world willing to tackle this? Will the Minister tell the House what sums DfID intends to spend on the education of girls in its new strategy and also whether there are examples of good practice to educate girls in developing countries? For resolving this issue will take imagination and dedication as well as more funding.

The challenges for educating girls are many and include, as the DfID strategy points out, the accessibility of schools—are they within reasonable distance? Are they safe for girls? Are there appropriate teachers? Some girls may learn better with a female teacher. Is the girl healthy and able to learn, or is she burdened with household chores or working to supplement the family income? Is she expected to marry and have children early? Does she have parents who can support a family? Do they value education for girls and can they afford it? Will the girl's standing in the community rise with education and will there be new opportunities? If not, her parents may not be interested in educating her.

Girls themselves may need more than basic education. They may also need, as a report from the Forum on Marriage and the Rights of Women points out, to develop skills and confidence and have an enabling environment where they can feel empowered. That may benefit reproductive health decisions and contribute to removing the cycle of poverty, early marriage, too many children with little space between them, and, in turn, a low priority on education because it is not affordable.

We should not forget that sexual and reproductive health problems account for 18 per cent of the total global burden of disease, 32 per cent among women. For every male child infected with HIV in Africa, between three and six girls are infected. In Uganda, children who have been to secondary school are four times less likely to become HIV positive. Those are telling figures and show that education is a powerful tool in improving health outcomes as well as for itself.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child views the child as both an individual and as a member of a larger community. It confirms that governments have commitments and communities have commitments to all children, and this should not be gender specific. Much progress has been made since that declaration; for example, reductions in child mortality, increases in immunisation programmes, access to safe drinking water, fewer child deaths from diarrhoea and a reduction in cases of polio.

The UN General Assembly special session on children, in May 2002, pledged to accelerate progress on child development, including quality education, protection from abuse and combating HIV/AIDS. Those commitments resulted in the agreement "A World Fit for Children".

The education of girls can have a significant impact on the health and welfare of children and their families. The education of girls contributes to gender equality and to the recognition that children have rights. I hope that the Minister will be able to say in his summary that DfID will play a leading part in sustaining progress on the education of girls and on the welfare of children. This surely will have an impact on poverty as great as any other measures.

5.14 p.m.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, for introducing this debate and for her understanding of the importance of small farmers. I am probably speaking against my own interest as a farmer and landowner in England. I am concerned about the subsidies that developed countries pay on exported food and farm crops to the rest of the world, often to the poorest developing countries. These can take away the whole livelihood of small farmers and growers who may be earning little more than a dollar a day. Export of milk powder, for example, can be particularly harmful to poorer dairy farmers and may discourage breastfeeding, so important to the health of children in all countries.

It is, of course, internationally agreed that export subsidies should be reduced and eventually abolished as distortions to fair trade. Some progress has been made; for example, in the European Union, where export subsidies have dropped from about 14 per cent to 5 per cent of the common agricultural policy total budget between 2000 and 2003. I shall come back to the size of export subsidies and the difficult task of ending them.

I turn now to the benefits of stopping these subsidies. Money is immediately saved, which can be used for better purposes. Once dumping of cheap exports has ended, producers and consumers in developing countries are freed to make their own decisions and plans. I argue that this freeing of local and regional markets is a better form of help than direct aid or debt relief. That is so because both aid and relief require administration before they can be translated into better health and education services or other social investments. These desirable results can be achieved only slowly, whereas the ending of export subsidies should immediately start to put money into the hands of local people. Removing subsidised imports should stimulate local markets and be relatively unaffected by corruption or maladministration. The United Nations and other aid agencies have already admitted that an alarming proportion of aid is siphoned off and never reaches the poorest people.

I come now to the scale of the subsidies in question. In 2003, the European Union spent 3.7 billion euros on agricultural export refunds. That was significantly less than in 2000, but more than in 2001 or 2002. The United States Government were recently spending over 6 billion dollars per year on agricultural exports including food aid. I mention in passing that food aid can have unhelpful effects similar to export subsidies. Cash aid or vouchers are in almost all cases better.

In the case of cotton, the United States is thought to have subsidised 25,000 growers by more than 3.5 billion dollars. That is three times the amount of American aid to the whole of Africa and more than the entire gross domestic product of some African cotton-growing countries. European sugar subsidies are roughly equivalent to the current cost of fighting HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia or the whole cost per annum of primary healthcare in Malawi. World Bank advisers, as is well known, have been for some time saying that cutting farm export subsidies would reduce poverty, especially in Africa.

Vested interests no doubt want to retain subsidies and are well organised. Next year, and 2007, will, however, bring real opportunities for reform, because both European Union and United States current policies expire, for example, for sugar, but also for other commodities. There has in the past been a tendency to say, "We can't stop our subsidies until the others do". The chance for all to stop is now coming and should be strongly supported by the World Trade Organisation, OECD and the G8. The EU and the US should act as partners and not as rivals in this.

I conclude by asking the Government this question: will they make full use of their approaching chairmanship both of the EU and the G8 to end the current system of export subsidies?

5.20 p.m.

Lord Brett

My Lords, I echo the appreciation expressed by others to my noble friend Lady Whitaker for giving us the opportunity to debate this subject. I shall try to rise to the challenge issued by the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, and not repeat what others have said, although I doubt whether I can match his eloquence in speaking for five minutes without notes.

I declare an interest as the director of the International Labour Organisation for the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland. However, it is not that bureaucratic experience that I want to bring to this debate but rather the experience of the previous 10 years when I served as a worker group chairman on the governing body of the ILO and travelled extensively in the developing world. That experience will result in my not repeating what others have said. In fact, I do not have to repeat their comments as I agreed with almost everything that they said. However, I am not quite sure I support the eradication of the goat for fear that as we speak a campaign is being launched to save the goat. That debate can wait another day.

I turn to a point raised by my noble friend Lady Jay concerning DfID's policy on institution building. One institution that I believe is vital in the developing world is the trade union movement. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Jordan will speak with greater eloquence and knowledge of the subject than I as he led the World Trade Union Movement for six years and travelled even more extensively in the developing world than I did.

The role of trade unions in the developing world is not limited to the workplace, as we might consider that it is in some parts of the United Kingdom. In the developing world trade unions are an essential element in the democratic process. It is not coincidental that in Poland in 1989 the opposition to communism was led by a trade union, Solidarnosc. It is not a coincidence that the aspiring presidential candidate in Zimbabwe, a good friend of the noble Lord, Lord Jordan, and I, Morgan Tsvangirai, and the parliamentary leader of the MDC in that Parliament, Gibson Sibanda, are the former president and secretary-general respectively of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions. Trade unions play an essential role in promoting democracy.

Trade unions also play a role in fighting the terrible pandemic of HIV/AIDS. Trade unions in the workplace in South Africa were key to achieving an understanding of the need to prevent the spread of that terrible disease. Child labour and gender equality are also issues in which the trade union movement has a crucial part to play. But, alas, the trade union movement is being weakened by two factors. First, the move to privatisation and "leaner" government services at both a local and national level is resulting in public servants who are trade unionists becoming unemployed. Therefore, the trade unions to which those people belonged no longer have the funds that they need to carry on the work that they are trying to do; for example, work with street children in Brazil and with workers in informal employment in India.

Secondly, the other social funding provided by trade unions in the wealthier northern hemisphere is also drying up because those unions are contracting in resource terms and do not have the necessary funds to continue that funding. Will the Minister consider specifically the role of trade unions in the institution building element of DfID? Excellent arrangements and systems to tackle these problems are in place in the United Kingdom within the trade union movement, the TUC and DfID. I refer to the Civil Society challenge funds, the Development Awareness Fund and the excellent document on labour standards and poverty eradication produced by DfID. DfID quite rightly dispenses the vast majority of its ODA at the country level. However, I am not sure at the country level that every DfID office and the staff within it fully understand the role of trade unions in this wider context. Will the Minister take that on board?

In every DfID office part of the funding is exclusive and can be spent only on HIV/AIDS. Is it possible to consider allocating a part of funding to increase the capacity of trade unions to do their job and in particular to reach out beyond the formal sector into the informal sector? Trade unions can play a crucial part in building not only democracy but also some of those things that we rightly demand of developing countries; namely, better governance and anti-corruption. In a whole series of areas the trade union movement may constitute the only spokesperson. I refer to health and safety and the incident in Bhopal. The people who suffered most lived near that plant, which suffered from bad management.

I do not think that we in this country, which benefits from a strong civil society, understand that in some developing countries the trade union movement constitutes the only real opposition to dictatorships. For example, Swaziland is a feudal kingdom. It has no democracy and parliamentary parties have been outlawed since 1974. A 30-year state of emergency has occurred. Unfortunately, the Foreign Office has announced that our High Commission in Swaziland is to close. I know from personal experience that the presence of successive High Commissioners has been essential to protect the lives of trade unionists who are the only democratic party, in a sense, allowed to operate in that country. I hope that the importance of trade unions in that regard is not forgotten. It will not be forgotten by my noble friend the Minister but I hope that DfID will give that matter closer attention. If it is, unions could form an inexpensive but central part of the fight to eradicate poverty.

5.26 p.m.

Lord Desai

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Whitaker for initiating this debate which has attracted some good speeches, notably those of the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and the noble Baroness, Lady Flather. I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, as he said everything that I wanted to say about export subsidies and thereby saved me some time.

My noble friend Lady Jay mentioned that I am something of a sceptic about the proposal to have a Marshall Plan. I must admit that whenever someone mentions the Marshall Plan, I develop a tic. I tend to think, "Oh, my God, not again". Tobin taxes lead to a similar reaction on my part. My reaction is due partly to the fact that those things will not happen. We are not going to have a Marshall Plan—forget it. We have a G8 that cannot even forgive debt, the receipts of which mean nothing to the national income. More money in the form of Marshall Aid will not be doled out. As that is not going to happen, the self-flagellation should stop.

I am not arguing that aid is not effective, but to think that poverty will be eradicated by doubling the money is, I am sorry to say, lazy thinking. Poverty would be eradicated by giving small amounts of properly directed money to countries where it will work. Measuring things by inputs is wrong; one should measure achievement by outputs. I am very much of the opinion that debt forgiveness is absolutely essential. I hope that Gordon Brown will lock up the other members of the G8 in a room and say, "Unless you agree on debt forgiveness, you are not getting out of here", or something equally drastic.

It is very important that we do something drastic about trade. Between debt and trade we are taking more money out of the third world than we are putting in. Therefore, the net flow of resources is negative and no amount of tsunami aid will improve chat. We must get a total resource flow picture clear in our minds. With one hand we are giving aid and with the other we are collecting debt. That is a daft way of conducting policy.

People say that health and education are very important—I do not deny that as I was part of the original human development report team and I contributed to that report for 13 years—but what that does is improve the supply of labour; it does nothing to increase the demand for labour. To increase the demand for labour you need proper investment either in agriculture or in industry. One either needs to encourage something on the domestic front so that resource flows improve or try to encourage the flow of private capital. No one has said anything so far about the flow of private capital. Eventually, a self-sustaining economy will have to have enough profitable business either in the countryside or in the urban areas. We are not all going to live off government jobs—we must have a viable economy. While problems such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, children's education and malnutrition are important, they are just one side of the equation and not the full answer.

In a previous debate, I said that I would like to do a mental experiment of saying, "If we have 50 billion dollars in aid, given that there are a billion poor, can we find any way of giving 50 dollars directly to each poor person?". The Minister was surprised that I had said that, and she did not know what to say. I assure my noble friend that I expect no answer from him to anything that I say at any time. I was surprised to find that there is a small body of literature about this proposal. It has been pointed out by Professor Hanlon of the Open University that they tried this experiment in Mozambique—they tried to give money directly to poor people by a cheque that they could then take to the post office and cash. It proved that the poor know well how to use the money that they are given; they do not misuse the money. Giving 1 dollar per week to a poor person is at least a 15 per cent increase in their income, if not more, which is a substantial increase. However, we have not actually found any way of doing it. When we give money, the proportion that reaches the poor is perhaps 10 or 15 per cent of the dollar that we give. We must find less bureaucratic ways of giving money that are more direct and effective, so that the money actually reaches the poor and not the people who are writing poverty strategies— they are friends of mine and they do not deserve any money

5.32 p.m

Lord Griffiths of Burry Port

My Lords, I add my tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, for instigating this debate. We started late because there was a Statement about combating terrorism, in the course of which it was mentioned that the prime duty of a Home Secretary or of any government is the security of the democracy and the state in which we live. That gives me a cue to begin any contribution that I can make to this debate. Some of the most fragile countries, and countries on the point of collapse, have such an absence of security that all talk of poverty alleviation is nonsense. The provision of security is of such a primordial nature that it is almost redundant and recondite for us to talk about grand strategies for alleviating poverty

I hope that I will not bore your Lordships by returning again and again in debates in this House to my own obsessions. I have in mind particularly a country a mere 90 minutes' flying time to the south of the landmass of the United States of America. I am conscious that I make my contribution to this debate less than a week after the inauguration of the President of the United States, in which the words "freedom" and "democracy" were widely blazoned abroad. I am talking about Haiti, where an absence of anything approaching what might meet any of the millennial development goals has been catalogued over the years. It is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. It could do with a dose of goats as much as anything else; I suspect that it would take anything

To indicate how when things are bad they get even worse, just last year there was a flash flood in September that brought deaths within a small concentration of land at the base of the Artibonite in the city of Gonai'ves that was pretty near tsunami levels; 3,000 within a tiny concentration of land. That had been preceded in May by another similar accident in which a further 3,000 were killed in Haiti. That occurred in a year when political turmoil on an unprecedented scale—even for that poor, beleaguered country—had seen the ousting of the last fig leaf of constitutional government, only to be replaced by government by renegades and convicted criminals and with a political vacuum such as I have not known in the whole history of Haiti, about which I have written extensively

This tiny country has its own word to say about freedom; it was the first black republic in the world, and these were the first slaves to overthrow their colonial masters, yet there is this dreadful situation. This week I received a detailed study of a recent visit to Haiti that was undertaken by a group from the Center for the Study of Human Rights in the University of Miami. It is almost mind-boggling, and the photographs simply ought not to be seen without a doctor's paper. They are of youngsters in the street shot one at a time by the security police simply for having sympathies with the ousted president. Each one of them was shot in the back of the head, the fifth to such an extent that his head was blown off by some large-calibre weapon, I know not what

In the Government newspaper Le Nouvelliste, there is a feature called the "Baghdad Column", which talks about the latest kidnappings and beheadings. This is happening in a country where the United States, Canada and France have taken direct responsibility for this time of transition since the ousting of the constitutional government. The United Nations has a force of 9,000 there, but it seems that they are not using their special peace-making mandate to separate warring factions, but rather occupying a peace-keeping role instead, thus just adding to the suffering

I know that better things can happen to alleviate poverty in Haiti, because to a large extent I have done them. I agree with the previous speaker, that if a dollar can go to a person much improvement can take place. I have planted trees and seen that they grow, organised co-operatives and seen that they work, organised literacy campaigns and established primary health care systems and founded and overseen schools; I therefore know that the energies that have never been tapped are the energies of the peasant people of Haiti. From that, we can draw conclusions that might be helpful in other places. It is possible that in the poorest countries, even those on the verge of collapse, better things might be done. All the grand strategies that have been alluded to in this debate must at the end of the day be measured by outcomes; the betterment of ordinary people who are trapped by their poverty

5.38 p.m

Baroness D'Souza

My Lords, I too wish to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, for securing this debate. By far the greatest trigger for extreme poverty and destitution is the enforced movement of communities due to conflict, drought, government land policies, and/or multinational investments, among other factors. A community that is forced to move is by definition vulnerable, because existing networks and coping strategies, which all small-scale societies have, are grossly disrupted. For these reasons, groups rarely move voluntarily, but when they do so it is an indication of their desperation

Endemic or chronic poverty is characterised more by a narrowing of income-earning choices and a consequent reduction in the variety of income sources. Destitution happens when there are no longer any choices to be made and the single source of income has dried up. In nearly all cases of extreme poverty and destitution, the cause is broadly political and to do with decisions made by governments over which people have no control but which adversely affect their lives and livelihoods. The obvious answer to ending poverty is to create democracies conducive to stability, development, investment and transparency. But that is long-term work, and the poor and the destitute need assistance today

The task is to build protection against extraneous events that precipitate poverty or destitution and/or to underpin methods of social security within communities—even displaced communities. However, development agencies accept that it is difficult to assist the really poor. There is typically no infrastructure through which external aid can be fairly distributed. Aid can also undermine fragile local coping strategies, such as mechanisms for income transfer, as in the hiring of seasonal labour, the building of local food reserves or the maintenance of distant family networks as social security

It is estimated that there are about 600 million children the world over who live in extreme poverty— that is, about one in four. In China, the figure is 4.2 million children and, although improvements in the standard of living generally have helped to reduce chronic poverty in that country, the move from a centrally planned economy to a globalised market economy has introduced new kinds of vulnerability. For example, the public sector lost about 31 million jobs between 1995 and 2000; the introduction of health and education charges has put pressure on households; and liberalisation has resulted in huge migration— something like 120 million since 1990—from the rural areas to the cities in search of better opportunities

Poverty can turn to destitution very suddenly. Perhaps I may give one example. In a town in south-western China, a man's sole source of income was from collecting stray plastic bags which he then tried to sell. His wife collected discarded vegetables and cooked them into a thin soup for sale in the daily market. The family of four had travelled from the far north to try to escape relentless poverty. They had no relatives anywhere nearby, and they belonged to a downtrodden ethnic group. Then the small daughter had a serious accident in which she fell into an oil vat in the market, with subsequent terrible injuries requiring surgery if she were to grow normally. The wife became emotionally and mentally distraught, unable to look after the children or to work. I hardly need tell your Lordships that the prognosis for this family was not very good. That is a real example but one of extreme circumstances

Amartya Sen, the economist, argues that destitution arises not so much from entitlement failures but from the causes of entitlement failures. If we are serious about alleviating poverty, we must be able, first, to monitor increasing failures in entitlement before destitution sets in

There are macro and micro ways of reducing poverty. Today, I am concerned with developing more efficient methods of identifying vulnerability at the community and even household levels and the introduction of capacity-building schemes, even among the destitute. There is a great deal of research in this area of development, but I think that one issue that still needs attention is how best to bring together the resources of democracy and development programmes for synergistic effect. Both democracy and development initiatives are multimillion dollar businesses, yet we also know that small-scale, local schemes from the bottom up really do make a difference, as has been said several times in this debate

Women have been empowered in communities all over the world. We also know from research that, once they have been empowered and protected from the daily threat of destitution, their earned resources will go into education and health schemes. Educating girls results in further development of the community—perhaps one of the only constant factors throughout the world. It has been said but it is perhaps worth saying it many times more: if you want development, educate girls

Small and organised local groups that make demands of local and regional government for supplies, roads or water purification are per se political groups. Politicised groups take on local issues and begin to have a voice. These groups can be strengthened through assistance with networking, small capital inputs, such as communications, leadership training, and legal and marketing services. The starting point is modest, highly localised material assistance specific to a given group's cultural norms and the end product is nascent democracy and civil society at the grass roots level. This is a hugely inexpensive way of delivering assistance

We need multilateral and bilateral aid to deal with trade, aid and debt. We need governments to pursue the millennium development goals with vigour. But we also need local initiatives that allow people to avoid destitution and provide choices upon which democracy can build. This is where development and human rights sometimes do, but always should, come together

5.44 p.m

Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws

My Lords, I, too, pay tribute to my noble friend Lady Whitaker, who has always been a champion of the poor. It is wonderful that she persuaded the powers that be to make space for this debate tonight.

It is a great source of pride to me that Labour in government has been playing such a powerful role in reminding the world of its responsibilities to the poor. This role for Britain in the international arena is what will inspire our young people. It is fair to say that many of our young have lost faith over the war in Iraq. But they know that there cannot be peace in the world without justice and they know that huge inequities fuel feelings of discontent. They care about poverty and they will be happy to know that the Government are playing such an important role. If our Government can gather the rich nations of the world around the flag of development, that will be a legacy of which we can be truly proud. So I add my admiration and appreciation to that of others for the energy and commitment of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose leadership has been awesome.

I also felt particularly proud last Thursday night when I listened to "Question Time" on which our very own colleague, my noble friend Lady Amos, was one of the panel. She not only looked wonderful but, happily, she is a politician who does not speak like the talking clock, emitting a programmed response to questions. We all know what that is like. When she was asked about the Bush policy of exporting freedom, she very eloquently argued that real freedom could never be achieved without development and that poverty had to be alleviated if people were to enjoy any freedom that came their way. It is a view that I suspect we would heartily endorse

I want to speak today particularly about the position of women and the importance of women's voices in seeking to find ways to alleviate poverty. I am a patron of WOMANKIND Worldwide. It is a wonderful organisation which does incredible work in the poorest nations to improve the position of women and children. It has been making submissions to the Commission for Africa on the importance of women in any dynamic strategy to make poverty history. A number of things are at the heart of that. The reason that WOMANKIND Worldwide argued so strenuously over the position of women—it is an argument that I take with me because I am an adviser to the World Bank Institute—is that in many of the poorest countries women are the hope for the future

However, there are a number of problems, and among the ones that I want to highlight is unequal development programmes—the ways in which programmes are too often designed with men in mind and do not take account of the reality of women's lives in poor countries

I also want to emphasise the problem of unequal property laws. That point is crucial, and I say this as a lawyer who has, at times, heard and read the work of Hernando de Soto. He is a very interesting Latin American thinker, who points out the way in which law can change people's lives in the poorest countries. Women constitute the majority of small farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, yet, because of customary laws, they continue to be denied the right to own the land they cultivate. Therefore, achieving gender equality with respect to property is a critical aspect of sustainable development and it is something for which we should be pushing considerably

There are also unequal trade policies. Trade liberalisation and economic growth do not automatically lead to a reduction in poverty. The idea of liberalisation is being pushed on the developing world as the only way forward. I think that that should be challenged. It should be seen that some of these countries have to develop ways that are right for them in the hope that they will eventually reach positions of greater prosperity and join freely in the kind of market systems that we have been advocating

The monitoring of trade policies has shown that such policies can impact very differently on men and women, but currently nearly all the policies are gender-blind. Therefore, we need to ensure that some of those policies really take account of the way that women have to carry double burdens: they are often the primary caretakers and are often the people who not only care for families but also grow the food on which the family lives and, indeed, make some money by selling it.

Many others have mentioned the issue of literacy. We must remember that, for many, education is still paid for and, as a result, families privilege their sons— they value the education of boys over that of girls. That is another area where we could have influence.

I want to mention the issue of women and war. While more men are killed in war, women experience rape, sexual exploitation, torture, mutilation and all manner of horrors. Often they are involved in abduction and slavery. They are often left to head households and as sole providers and they remain very vulnerable to attack by armed gangs and militia. That severely restricts women's mobility and can grossly impinge on the household and agricultural production of the community. Of course, it also exacerbates poverty. It is very important to see conflict resolution as part of the poverty alleviation strategy.

I have two final comments: first, women and AIDS. Women carry additional burdens because of the prevalence of AIDS. Reproductive health is crucial for women and addressing those problems is part of the parcel. Secondly, violence against women is a serious human rights issue the world over, but it should be addressed, particularly in areas where women experience female genital mutilation and other serious abuse. I strongly urge that law is seen as one of the strategies. We should see law as part of the armoury in challenging poverty the world over

5.51 p.m

Lord Hunt of Chesterton

My Lords, I welcome the debate in a critical year in which the world is focusing on saving and improving the lives of hundreds of millions of people in developing countries. A considerable success of this Government is that politicians of all parties in the UK now accept that it is in the interests of the whole world to eliminate poverty and ill health everywhere. In our global village, global health, tourism, trade and security are interdependent. Development, as other noble Lords have commented, also benefits the quality of human life; it leads to less social violence, more gender equality, democracy, culture, education and international understanding.

As the recent Sachs report to the Millennium Commission has emphasised, there are many different ways in which programmes of improvement can operate. A wide range of different contributions are needed and countries use quite different approaches with success in quite different ways.

I compliment my noble friend Lady Whitaker on her introduction, but I would like to moderate her enthusiasm on two points. Development is not just a matter of economics. Economists have not always been particularly effective in identifying funding or even in understanding many of the issues of development. They are not universally successful in running businesses either.

The great breakthroughs in development have come from many types of expertise. So I particularly welcome the fact that DfID has seen that it needs to have a wider interdisciplinary approach which is advocated in the Sachs report. Recently, the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, welcomed the appointment of a chief scientist in DfID.

My other point in connection with my noble friend's enthusiasm is that the Government need to ensure that all of their departments and agencies should contribute to collaborative development projects. DfID is taking a lead but it needs to lead with all the other departments as well. Much more could be done in that direction, but DfID is reluctant to spend its budget through other departments—the usual Whitehall game. Surely it should also have the role of co-ordinating other departments' purchases, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, and of encouraging them in their wide international roles and responsibilities.

The Meteorological Office, of which I was proud to be the head for five and a half years, provides specialist advice and training in developing countries, like other government agencies. The improved weather services that result are essential to warnings of storms, floods, droughts, improved agriculture, safety for fishermen and civil aviation, which, of course, benefits tourism worldwide.

I particularly commend the Leader of the Opposition on his recent remarks. He has emphasised the need for such multilateral networks involving organisations in the UK and those in other countries. I have been hearing about very important networks developed with hospitals and universities in the UK; they are developing effective operational collaboration on a day-to-day basis. In terms of weather forecasts, if one collaborating organisation does not produce a weather forecast on a Monday morning it will receive a telephone call.

The advantage of such activities is that they can be carefully monitored and developed and they can involve many more people in the UK than the rather few and sparse members of DfID, which is a very economical and tightly run organisation. In that department they have to rely on providing large grants distributed to central governments and international agencies in the developing world. Sometimes there is not much control and, as I understand Mr Brown found in his visit to Kenya, the funds are not even being spent.

In my role as the UK permanent representative in the World Meteorological Organisation—a United Nations body—and as chair of an NGO, ACOPS, I know that UN agencies can be extremely good and great forces for good, but sometimes they need very careful monitoring to focus on their deliverables and to avoid malpractice. I refer noble Lords to the fairly strong debate held in this House on 18 January and to the debate, which will probably be equally strong, that is to be held on 3 February.

One of the greatest threats to development comes from natural disasters. More than 80 per cent of the economy of some central American states was destroyed by hurricanes, including the famous Hurricane Mitch in the 1990s. By contrast, the local economies of the United States and Japan are not destroyed by the frequent natural disasters that affect other countries. That is because they have engineering and preventive measures, warning systems and carry out very fast remedial measures following disasters.

We should greatly welcome the decision of the United Nations conference on natural disasters, held last week, in which DfID represented the UK and which the Prime Minister mentioned in his speech on 10 January. It was held in Kobe. Unlike the previous conference in 1994, to which I was a representative, I understand that the conference recommended that, even with trans-boundary hazards, early warnings are needed, including for tsunamis. To achieve that goal will require overcoming many bureaucratic and political obstacles, as I have seen. I hope that the Minister will explain how the UK will work to implement that vital recommendation. It would help many totally preventable disasters in the future, such as the flooding in Mozambique a few years ago and the recent tsunami disaster.

We should also note that climate change makes such communities more vulnerable. Despite threats from the United States that it might have been removing any such consideration from the final resolution of the Kobe conference, could the Minister confirm that that point was agreed by the conference?

5.57 p.m

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon

My Lords, I add my very warm thanks to my noble friend Lady Whitaker for tabling this debate, which I believe is of global importance. Our interdependent world is in need of urgent change, which requires leadership and consistent action by wealthy countries working together in partnership with each other and in partnership with developing countries. I am, of course, delighted that this Government are providing leadership and that this country is on track to meet the UN target of 0.7 per cent of national income to be spent on aid. I celebrate the fact that they are working in partnership and not in isolation.

I am slightly concerned about statements that the Conservative Party would wish unilaterally to withdraw the UK's contribution to the EU's aid programme. As we learnt from the debate last Thursday, European development aid has greatly improved and in some areas has made remarkable achievements; indeed the European Commission has today launched a new consultation document on the future development of policy. I would draw particular attention to the achievement of the EU peace facility for Africa, which backs the operations of the African Union, helping to bring much needed stability to the region.

I want to touch on long-term action to tackle failing states and the role of women. Those who suffer most when a state is unable or unwilling to carry out its basic functions are poor people. They suffer through low living standards, crumbling infrastructure, the spread of disease, limited access to basic services and pervasive insecurity. The World Bank estimates that 500 million people live in such countries. Instability in one country can spill over to its neighbours and to the whole region, as can refugees, disease and crime, as we have seen in Afghanistan and Sudan. Promoting more effective states is, therefore, a moral imperative, as well as being in our common interest.

The challenge is to produce capable states in which peace and security are guaranteed over a sustained period. Without adequate institutions and good governance there is seldom peace; without peace there can be no long-term development and growth. A prerequisite for growth is the implementation of policies that promote education and health, that protect the rights of minority communities, strengthen the capacity of civil society, and take action against corruption. Through its partnership fund, the Department for International Development is providing invaluable assistance in all these areas. As the noble Lord, Lord Brett, pointed out, the trade unions are also providing essential assistance in this area.

The British Council, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy and the BBC World Service also have very important contributions to make in helping to build effective and competent institutions and nurturing good governance. I should be grateful for an assurance from my noble friend the Minister that the Government will continue to provide the necessary support to these important institutions.

More and more women in developing countries are engaging in their systems of governance. They are assisted by organisations such as AWEPA—European Parliamentarians for Africa—which has always made the attainment of gender equality at all levels of political decision-making one of its key aims. It has made great progress. The first president of the Pan-African Parliament of the African Union is a woman; 48.8 per cent of Rwanda's MPs are women; and in Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa, women occupy over 25 per cent of national parliamentary seats. Fine role models— but that is not enough, hence the need for the Third millennium development goal that seeks to, promote gender equality and empower women". Throughout the world, women are primary carers in their families and communities, but they are also central to their local economies—90 per cent of agricultural production in Africa is carried out by women. Women have always done unpaid work, but where governments have supported the small-scale, localised co-operative and small business approach, this has resulted in effective local marketing of produce. Women's contribution to growth is, of course, enhanced by asset formation. In Birkina Faso, for example, women have more secure land rights than in other African countries and farmers' productivity there is significantly higher than in neighbouring states.

One extraordinary woman who has made a great difference to the lives of thousands is Dr Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement and the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. As my noble friend Lord Griffith said, she and thousands of others in Kenya and all over east Africa have been empowered by the planting of trees. These women have planted more than 20 million trees on farms, in schools and in Church grounds in order to conserve the environment. In doing so, they have helped themselves and their families. By stemming the problem of deforestation and desertification through the planting of trees, women have become economically productive, harvesting fruit and timber and providing stability in the home. Dr Maathai has understood for many years that if you enable a woman to lift herself out of poverty, she will take her family with her. That is a great outcome by any measurement.

Action to reduce poverty is the world's greatest challenge. It is a matter of justice for the poor, but also an imperative for a secure world in which the richest and the poorest nations are interdependent. Britain holds a special global responsibility through its presidencies of the G8 and the European Union. We all have a vested interest in their success. In the words of the South African constitution, the world belongs to all who live in it

6.3 p.m

Lord Brennan

My Lords, nations have characters. It is in the character of our nation that it should give help to developing countries, especially the poorest. This Government have pursued a sustained and vigorous development aid programme. That reflects our national character. The public response to the tsunami appeal was incredible. That reflects our national character. This coalition of government policy and public sentiment is fortuitous.

The Government are exercising leadership among the developing nations to reduce poverty. This coalition should fortify our Government to be ever more determined in this year's negotiations to reduce poverty in two particular ways. The first is funding. We should say "yes" to debt relief if the consequent saving to each country is properly used; and say "yes" to changes in world trade if that is done with sophistication and justice.

But most important of all, in the short-term we should say "yes" to achieving our promise to reach the millennium development goals. In 2000, we promised the poor that we would do that. In 2005, we are expected at the United Nations in September to tell them what progress we have made. We promised that by 2015 there would have been significant progress. The only realistic policy that has been put forward to achieve such goals—additional as they are to other aid programmes and commitments—is the international finance facility proposed by the Chancellor two years ago.

Apart from a scheme from France to do with an international taxation system, it is the only way put forward to honour the promise. In those circumstances it is pertinent to ask any country that does not agree with this scheme: what is your alternative? If the alternative is inaction or prevarication, we should say "no". If the promise is made between adults and broken that would be dishonourable. A promise made by rich adults to poor children that is broken is unforgivable. This policy deserves all-party and national support. I hope it receives that throughout 2005.

The second leadership issue for the Government is the management of aid. The time has passed to give money liberally to the governments of the poorest countries. It is past—over. From now on, you get the money against results-based analysis. Capacity building is not an end objective, it is the process through which you reach that end.

I invite the Government to pursue three ways of better managing aid. First, either by country—for example, Sri Lanka after the tsunami—or by sector education, to create international development trusts which involve governments, NGOs and governments of the poorest countries. The purpose of such trusts is to make sure that that money is spent the way it should be. Why not? Which government would put their own importance above the more important objective?

Secondly, there should be much more emphasis on the funding of NGOs and faith-based organisations giving local help. That is where poverty is best alleviated. Lastly, there are local schemes. In any village or small town of any poor country, to which many of us have been, they want to eat, they want to have their health looked after and they hope to have basic—and I mean basic— education to make tomorrow a better day. It is bottom-up—people to people.

Those three methods for the better management of aid are a very important objective. This year—2005— is an important year. It is a decision year. I invite the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, whom I thank for initiating this debate, to have another one in the autumn to take account of what we have done or failed to do this year. We have the resources; our Government and our nation have the political and national will. Others should join us.

6.9 p.m

Lord Jordan

My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lady Whitaker for initiating this debate. Yes, 2005 could prove to be a watershed in the fight against poverty in the developing world. The decisions taken this year by leaders of the developed nations on this issue will be a measure of their determination to tackle the world's greatest injustice. Britain has taken a significant lead on this vital matter. The initiatives taken by the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and the Department for International Development, especially those that affect Africa, can have far-reaching beneficial consequences.

When, in September 2000, governments around the world signed up to the eight millennium goals, the new century seemed to offer the real promise of a breakthrough in ending the poverty and suffering of millions of people. But in September of this year, those same governments will have to conclude that, on present trends, the millennium goals will not be met. There has been progress but, when it is set against the enormity of the work still to be done, in the business of moving the mountain of world poverty we are still digging in the foothills.

The appalling statistics on world poverty must throw down the gauntlet to world leaders at this year's millennium review and provoke them to show more commitment and determination to honour the promises that they made five years ago. Undoubtedly, the serious reversals in the fight against poverty in Africa will rightly overshadow the millennium review's work.

The seriousness of the situation on that continent cannot be overstated. The Prime Minister's Commission for Africa initiative will provide a much-needed focus and a springboard for the resolution of some of the continent's many and massive problems. On current trends, poverty will not only not be halved on that continent by 2015, it will have increased by 86 million. Because of the ravages of AIDS, the continent's clock on life expectancy has been turned back.

The main factor causing the failure to meet the millennium targets is lack of resources. The failure to fulfil the financial promises made at Monterey and Johannesburg means that now all developed countries must commit to meeting the 0.7 per cent of GDP by 2015. Five countries have already reached the target, and Britain is among a group of nations committed to reaching it. International pressure must now be brought to bear on those countries that can and should pull their weight on this issue.

Gordon Brown's initiative on financing for development is an important means of increasing aid and eliminating debt to achieve the millennium goals. America would do well to recognise the degree of self-interest that it has in backing that proposal to the full. But whether it is aid or debt relief, the one condition that must be observed is the transparency of seeing that it is transformed into more schools and hospitals and invested in job creation.

Countries should own and dictate the way that their poverty reduction strategies are drawn up and delivered, but they have an obligation to donors and the people of their country to show that what the aid was intended to achieve is being delivered. Never again must the system be as weak as when Nigeria was being given 1 billion dollars in aid while its President Abacha and his family were robbing the people of that country of 3 billion to 4 billion dollars.

The murderous human consequences of conflicts such as those that have ravaged some African countries are tragically clear, but the legacy for survivors is a guarantee of poverty. The present UN peacekeeping force is a sad shadow of what is required to restore stability in conflict-ridden states. No nation should have the right to an autonomy that permits its government to slaughter its own people or do nothing while its people are slaughtering each other. The UN should not have the right or excuse to stand aside.

If a small proportion of the 900 billion dollars that the world's nations spend on arming themselves was spent on building a highly trained, properly equipped UN peacekeeping force with a clear authority to stop murder, it would be a significant contribution towards conflict resolution and a major step forward in the fight against poverty.

If we are looking for an effective weapon to tackle poverty, governments and international agencies should increase the involvement of trade unions and non-governmental organisations. They comprise men and women who are present and know what is really happening at the point of crisis—the place where solutions must be delivered. Trade unions, in particular, see decent work of the kind championed by the International Labour Organisation as being at the heart of poverty elimination. This year, through Britain's role in chairing both the G8 and the European Community, the Prime Minister and others have a unique opportunity to challenge the conscience of the developed nations and to urge them to think and act radically on aid and debt relief. In doing so, Britain will positively and decisively influence the course of the world's struggle to eliminate world poverty

6.16 p.m

Lord Rea

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Jordan for that cogent and stirring speech. My noble friend Lady Whitaker has chosen the right timing for this debate. As she and others reminded us, three very important statements on relieving world poverty have just been published. There is the Chancellor of the Exchequer's speech in Edinburgh on 6 January and his subsequent remarks in Africa; there is the OECD report on development assistance; and, last but not least, Jeffrey Sachs's UN report on the progress, or should we say lack of progress, towards meeting the millennium development goals. At the same time, the NGO consortium, Make Poverty History, has launched its campaign.

The remarkable fact is that they are all singing from more or less the same hymn sheet. To be effective, the attack on world poverty, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, must move simultaneously on three fronts. Many other noble Lords have described these; they are: effective—I stress that word—aid for infrastructure building; debt cancellation; and fair trade, so well discussed by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, and my noble friend Lord Desai.

But these are measures that those in the development field have been advocating for decades. It is excellent that these policies are now being advocated from positions of influence, but there is still more rhetoric than action, compelling though some of the rhetoric is. For that reason, I very much hope that the Chancellor and the Prime Minister will use all their persuasive skills at the forthcoming G8 meetings and at the EU summit when we take over the presidency. The method advocated by my noble friend Lord Desai to persuade other countries to our point of view may need some refinement. It would not be helpful to lock them up in a room and refuse to give them the key until they have agreed—but I understand precisely what he was getting at.

As many noble Lords have said, Gordon Brown is now calling for a new Marshall plan for the developing world. I can remember when, 20 years ago in your Lordships' House, my late friend Lord John Hatch, a lifelong friend of Africa, called for a Marshall plan for Africa. But a different government were then in power and those who knew him will remember that John Hatch lacked the diplomatic approach. He was the only noble Lord that I can remember who provoked a Motion that, "The noble Lord be no longer heard", when he once harried a Minister in true Paxman style.

It is almost impossible to do justice to the millennium project report—the Sachs report from the United Nations—in a short speech, but I should like to mention two of the many important points made in the overview of the report which has been published. It highlights the strong relationship between poverty and what it calls "adverse income shocks" on the onset of conflict. The converse is also true—that the risk of violent civil conflict declines steadily as national incomes increase. Conflict resolution therefore obviously has to be a top priority, because development cannot occur where civil society is disrupted.

Under the heading "Escaping the poverty trap", the report states that investment in human capital. is helped by a voluntary reduction in fertility, which promotes greater investments in the health, nutrition, and education of each child. We thus strongly support programs that promote sexual and reproductive health and rights, including voluntary family planning. Critical to overall success in economic growth and poverty reduction, they can help countries meet the Goals, freeing them from the poverty trap and their dependence on aid My noble friend will need no reminder of how important that aspect of development assistance is within the overall strategy. I hope that funds for this sector will be maintained and, if possible, increased. Some would like population matters to be considered as a ninth goal for the millennium.

On a different tack, I draw my noble friend's attention to a small but highly important organisation, the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative. It is a Swiss-based multinational foundation. This consortium promotes research and development of drugs for diseases that predominantly affect millions of poor people in the developing world—tropical diseases such as sleeping sickness or trypanosomiasis, Chagas's disease and Kala-Azar, as well as TB and malaria. It is not profitable for big multinational pharmaceutical companies to develop new drugs for those diseases, because poor people in the developing world who suffer from them cannot afford such drugs.

The DNDI uses innovative methods of harnessing resources, including public/private partnerships, to develop the drugs. It has a draw-down fund which needs around 150 million dollars a year in replenishment. In a few years, it has identified around 50 promising new compounds, but needs more support. If a meeting is not already in train, I suggest that my noble friend or one of his senior officials meets a representative of the DNDI to discuss future collaboration. That could well be very beneficial to the poorest people in the world

6.22 p.m

Baroness Northover

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, for introducing this important debate in such a wide-ranging and, as ever, well informed way. The humanitarian case for assisting the poorest countries is overwhelming but, as others have said, we should also recognise that we all benefit from the stability and security that prosperity fosters.

This indeed is a key year, as the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, said. The UK will be chairing the G8 Summit and holding the EU presidency, and it looks as though in addition we will have a general election. The Prime Minister says that he intends to put international development at the top of the agenda, which would surely be extremely welcome.

The Government have increased their commitment to international development, which is also welcome. Under recent Conservative governments, expenditure slowly declined, and at first Labour continued that trend when it came into office. In 1980 the percentage of GNI spent on aid was 0.34 per cent, declining by the 1997 general election to 0.26 per cent. In 1998 under Labour, it fell again to its lowest level in a generation, 0.24 per cent. No wonder Labour MPs wondered where they were heading. But we now see it rising again, to 0.34 per cent in 2003, and projected to rise above 0.4 per cent in 2006–07. The Chancellor said last year that the Government wished to maintain the rates of growth so that, by 2013, the UK could reach the level of 0.7 per cent promised so long ago. The Irish Government committed during their EU presidency to reach 0.7 per cent, but reneged on that in November. Promises do not necessarily mean delivery, but we welcome the UK Government's present intentions.

There remains an enormous gap between the money needed to meet the MDGs and that pledged. Which if any of the MDGs does the Minister think might be achievable by 2015? What timetable does he envisage for meeting the others? Gordon Brown has pledged to help to close the gap with his international finance facility, but seems to have secured little support for it. How many countries have now pledged support for the IFF?

Have the Government got their general approach to the relief of poverty right? A central problem of this Parliament has been the war in Iraq, which has not only taken funds from the poorest countries but, above all, distracted government focus from real need elsewhere. As my noble friend Lord Roberts indicated, the decision to go into Iraq has overshadowed everything else that the Government have done internationally. It seems from the Foreign Secretary's remarks in relation to Iran that the UK may have learnt its lesson but, as the Minister will know, the war in Iraq is seen in many parts of the world as removing much of the UK's moral authority to speak out on world issues. Bridges have to be built and maybe, if we now see a great concentration on international development, they will be. We await the results and the follow-up from the Africa commission with enormous interest.

What has been neglected as a result of the concentration on Iraq? Afghanistan, where there was indeed terrorism and about which there was international support for the overthrow of the Taliban, was certainly neglected. President Karzai appeals for international help to rebuild his country, and the world generally looks elsewhere and opium production soars. Money has been taken away from the Caribbean and south American countries, risking that those areas too become a route for drugs coming to the UK. It has been difficult too, in these circumstances, for the UK to contribute to a resolution of the Israel/Palestine conflict, even though it ought to be a very high priority for helping to stabilise world order and the reduction of poverty in the area.

Since Christmas, however, the world seems to have focused on the tsunami rather than Iraq. As other noble Lords have said, we have seen the incredibly generous response to the tsunami appeal. It is surely a challenge to engage public opinion to help to tackle intractable and growing problems around the world in a similar way. On the tsunami, what if anything remains in DfID's emergency coffers? What contingency plans might there be should we face another disaster? What risk assessment has been made of possible further earthquakes along the tectonic plate now damaged by the earthquake off Indonesia?

Can the Minister tell us about reconstruction plans in areas affected by the tsunami? In the light of this debate in particular, how gender-sensitive has DfID been in providing aid? For example, are women as well as men being put on the title deeds of new houses? We hear that that is not being done. As the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, pointed out, women are the poorest people and are especially vulnerable in such situations. Should DfID not be alive to that? I hope that it has been. The noble Baronesses, Lady Kennedy, Lady Massey, Lady D'Souza, Lady Flather and Lady Royall, all rightly pointed out how important it is to focus on women and girls. It is welcome to hear their passionate advocacy of that cause, which needs to run right through DfID's policies.

As the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and the right reverend Prelate said, we must also look from today's tsunami crisis to even more profound problems. The AIDS pandemic, to which others have referred, is surely the most major crisis facing the world today. The HIV/AIDS pandemic is tearing apart much of sub-Saharan Africa and other regions of the developing world. The statistics are appalling: at least 42 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, as are over 3 million children under the age of 15; and 14 million children under the age of 15 have been orphaned as a result of AIDS. The total number of children orphaned is forecast to more than double by 2010. As we have heard, HIV/AIDS destroys families, communities and nations. Young people, especially girls, are most at risk from the disease. Girls are the first to be taken out of schooling to look after sick relatives.

Surely there should be no higher priority on the international agenda than tackling HIV/AIDS. AIDS plays its part in pulling people out of poverty, but clearly the noble Lords, Lord Desai and Lord Hylton, and others are right to say that economic growth, promoted through trade, is the key factor. Can the Minister say how closely DfID works with the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and with the EU external trade commissioner, Peter Mandelson? Trade is pulling the Chinese and Indian economies out of poverty and we need the African nations to follow suit. Their chances are damaged for as long as the EU and the US operate protectionist policies.

I should like to ask the Minister three questions. Do the Government agree with the Make Poverty History campaign that the projected EU economic partnership agreements are likely to be disastrous for poor communities and that those agreements must be completely rethought? Does the noble Lord agree that water should be removed from the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and if not, why not? Following the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Desai, what will the Government recommend to the G8 countries regarding debt, to relieve that burden?

This has been a wide-ranging debate and the number of noble Lords involved once again shows the expertise in this House and their commitment here to this subject. We on these Benches agree with the Government that there is hardly a more important responsibility than lifting the poorest people out of poverty. Where we disagree is on how foreign policy and international development aims have been at odds with each other in delivering a safer, better world. We hope that this year we may see international development win out.

6.33 p.m

Lord Astor of Hever

My Lords, I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, for initiating this important debate. As was discussed in last week's debate on EU Committee reports, security and development are inextricably interlinked. We cannot separate conflict from development when one country in eight is embroiled in civil war. A century ago, most conflicts were between nations and 90 per cent of casualties were soldiers; today, almost all wars are civil, and 90 per cent of victims are civilians.

The majority of conflicts are in Africa, most notably in Sudan and the Great Lakes region. The conflict countries are those that find it most difficult to establish funding relationships with donors. Poverty fosters war and war impoverishes. A typical civil war leaves a country 15 per cent poorer, with around 30 per cent more people living in absolute poverty. A neighbouring country at war reduces economic growth by about 0.5 per cent each year.

A World Bank study shows that when income per person doubles, the risk of civil war halves and that for each percentage point that the growth rate rises, the risk of conflict falls by a point. The paradox is that peace and development will not be possible without international financial support, and such support will not be forthcoming until peace is achieved.

Wars today are more horrific due to the killing power of modern weapons. With the publication of the Control Arms report on Monday and the start of the UN conference on marking and tracing there have been calls from NGOs for Her Majesty's Government to do all they can to implement a global system to track small arms and ammunition. It is easier to trace a suitcase or a genetically modified tomato than a lethal weapon. In a recent massacre in Burundi 150 people were killed. The spent cartridges showed that the ammunition was manufactured in China, Bulgaria and Serbia. But the lack of a tracing system means that it is impossible to prove how that ammunition reached there. Small arms play an enormous role, not only in human rights abuses abroad but also in armed crimes in this country. With 8 million new weapons manufactured every year, can the Minister say whether Her Majesty's Government have any plans to instigate a global small arms tracking system?

Stability, not conflict, is an essential precursor to development. Regardless of how the individual needs of each country are approached, nothing will be successfully achieved without the political will to do so, both in the donor and developing countries. Here, we welcome the drive shown by Her Majesty's Government to raise the profile in the G8 and the EU, with the caveat that, as Action Aid has stated: the UK Government talks the talk on international development but the … (UN Millennium Project report) … shows that they've yet to walk the walk ". Two thirds of developing countries are not on target to meet their millennium development goals—a shocking statistic. In 2003, to meet the MDG water targets, we needed to deliver clean water to 350,000 and sanitation to 450,000 people per day until December 2014. The cost of that is equal to 180 billion dollars per year on all water issues, while Her Majesty's Government were spending only 80 billion dollars. Water is a universally neglected issue. At the weekend 2,000 people were displaced and there were numerous deaths as Kenyan tribes clashed over water rights. In the light of that, what is Her Majesty's Government's response to criticism by NGOs of the EU call for water supply to be included in the General Agreement on Trade in Services?

Clean water and sanitation, along with basic education, are vital to the good health of a nation. According to the latest report from the Grow Up Free From Poverty Coalition, 80 million mothers and children will die unnecessarily over the next 12 years, unless the current health development model, diverting funds from primary healthcare to narrower projects focused on cost savings, is changed and more resources made available. My noble friend Lady Flather pointed out that women's health in developing countries is normally twice as bad as that of men. At the current pace, sub-Saharan Africa will not reduce child mortality by two thirds until 150 years beyond the 2015 deadline. That mortality is heavily linked with HIV/AIDS and secondary infections. Some 6,500 Africans die from AIDS each day. What steps are the Government taking to protect HIV-orphaned children from the hell of child sex tourism?

It is clear that greater international political will is required if we are to make progress in the war on poverty. It is imperative that we ensure that the UK and other countries stick to fulfilling their pledges. Yesterday, a UN spokesman pointed out that only one-third of the aid money pledged worldwide for tsunami relief had been delivered.

We support as fast a move as possible to fulfil the UK's commitment to 0.7 per cent of GDP to the aid budget. What discussions are Her Majesty's Government having with those countries significantly behind with this goal, such as the US? But more money is useless unless it is efficiently spent and targeted where needed most—on programmes to help the world's poorest—not just to line the pockets of corrupt officials. It is essential that developing countries promote and adhere to practices of transparency and good governance and crack down on corruption.

One glaring example is Zimbabwe, which is at breaking point due to the disastrous policies of the Mugabe regime. What action are Her Majesty's Government taking to persuade other countries, NePAD and the Africa Commission to use their influence to help counter corruption and human rights violations in Zimbabwe?

While considerable progress has been made through negotiations towards freer trade in recent years, notably the Geneva agreement last July, we need to ensure that trade is fairer too. We must not make the mistake of supposing that developing economies can achieve in a day what has, in the majority of cases, taken richer countries centuries to achieve.

Therefore, we must give developing countries a helping hand by tearing down the trade barriers faster from our side than they do. Free trade should be fairer and fair trade should be freer. My noble friend Lord Eden gave the example of the problems with the Sri Lankan garment trade. He also mentioned his son and stepson's charity, Friends of the South. I have been told by friends in Sri Lanka what wonderful work that charity is doing.

We must also recognise that the technical capacity of richer nations gives us a great advantage over poorer nations in trade negotiations. That is why a Conservative government, as well as pushing for the fundamentals of free and fair trade, would take a lead in establishing and financing an advocacy fund to give developing countries access to the advice and expertise that they need to fight their corner at the negotiating table.

When 1.1 billion people in extreme poverty live in a permanent state of emergency and 850 million suffer through hunger, the world's governments and industry seem to be operating at too slow a pace. It is essential that we reassess our approach to aid development. It is by no means a simple question of more funds, although these are important. Stability, management of aid, cutting corruption and, as my noble friend Lord Selsdon said, trade and political will are also essential

6.43 p.m

Lord Triesman

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Whitaker for her introduction to the debate, which was genuinely comprehensive and full of knowledge. I also thank all other noble Lords who have participated. It has been a good, knowledgeable, constructive and positive debate on the Government's policy towards poverty reduction in developing countries. It makes me very proud of what this country does and what the Government are doing.

I am particularly proud when I learn of local generosity. The noble Lord, Lord Roberts, spoke about a concert held in Cardiff that raised £1 million in one evening, which makes a great statement. It is absolutely true that all judgments will and should be about outcomes, as my noble friends Lord Brennan and Lord Griffiths have said. I appreciate the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady D'Souza, about the complexity of all the issues being considered. I had not quite counted on the goat question, and I have no comment to make on it.

Perhaps I may just say that the idea that all the international work in which we are engaged is so over-shadowed by Iraq that we cannot give proper attention to it has been demonstrated to be nonsense by the quality of the debate today—an ungenerous summary, which I regret.

A unique opportunity is presented in 2005 to the United Kingdom and the broader international community. It is a year when, as presidents of both the G8 and the European Union, the UK can provide the lead on scaling up the response to global poverty and urging all international donor nations to meet the commitments already set out on aid, trade, debt and the broad-ranging millennium development goals.

This year has the potential to be a year in which tangible gains are made, and the year in which the wider international community clearly sets out its commitment to meet the millennium development goals by 2015. The Government will be at the heart of that drive.

The Prime Minister has established a clear set of international development priorities. For the G8, those will be Africa and climate change. He wants the leaders in Gleneagles to be prepared to agree a concrete set of measures for which G8 countries can be held to account. My noble friend Lady Kennedy said that this programme is capable of inspiring young people, and I agree. They are plainly people who understand the millstone of poverty and the great cause of fighting it.

Our main tasks during the EU presidency will be to take forward the inherited agenda and to represent the EU externally. Our priorities on the development side will again be Africa, the need for the international community to address poverty-related diseases and to press for EC aid to be targeted and focused on those who are most in need. We will also press for a new EU ODA/GNI target to raise the average proportion of gross national income going on aid from across Europe.

Three major reports issued in 2005 will contribute to shaping these shared agendas for the international development community. First, the United Nations Millennium Project report was published last week. It makes a powerful case that the millennium development goal can be achieved—even in sub-Saharan Africa— provided, as the noble Baroness, Lady D'Souza, said, bold action is taken to ensure that it is achieved.

The noble Baroness, Lady Northover, asked whether we intend to meet the objectives and, if we do not, which ones do we not intend to meet. We intend to meet the objectives and we will publish an assessment of them in a few weeks.

Secondly, the report in March of the Commission for Africa, following a wide-ranging consultation across Africa, will be available. The creation of the commission demonstrates the personal commitment of the Prime Minister to use the UK presidencies to make a real difference in Africa. I should also like to express my appreciation for the work done by my right honourable friends the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, and the Secretary of State for International Development, Hilary Benn. However, I would emphasise that of the 17 commissioners more than half are prominent Africans. In that fact, I hope that we will all have confidence in the recommendations that will be made, shared, owned and acted on by partner governments across Africa.

Thirdly, September this year will see the United Nations Millennium Review Summit in New York, where the UN Secretary-General will present the first formal report on progress made towards the 2015 targets. These are good news stories, but, plainly, a huge amount remains to be done, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where on current trends it could take more than a century, as noble Lords have said, to reach some of the targets.

I share the view of my noble friends Lord Brennan and Lord Jordan that promises have been made at Monterey and Johannesburg, and promises must be met. The IFF is crucial in ensuring that we do. The noble Lord, Lord Astor, asked what discussion we are having with other countries, which is a very important question. These discussions are going on all the time. I hear routine reports on their progress from the Secretary of State for International Development.

The Prime Minister and the Government are determined to use this unique opportunity in 2005 to help Africa help itself. The challenges faced by sub-Saharan Africa are huge. However, the continent now has a real opportunity to turn itself around by its own will and its own efforts. There will be clear actions which we and other members of the international community will need to take forward in partnership with African governments. As donors, we must show African governments that our aid is dependable and that our policies are coherent.

To demonstrate this commitment, the UK is focusing particularly on improving opportunities for fairer trade, pressing for further debt relief, working to prevent conflict and its consequences, and tackling HIV/AIDS and other diseases which threaten the capacity of states to build for the future. In addition, we need to increase the volume and predictability of aid flows, and harmonise our approaches to development with those of African states and other donors.

The debate has focused a good deal on trade. It is a huge issue and one on which I can assure noble Lords all Ministers work closely with one another. Africa attracts less than 1 per cent of all world trade, down from 5 per cent in 1948. Successful development relies on sound economic growth. Oxfam has estimated that an increase of just 1 per cent in Africa's share of world exports could be worth five times as much as the continent's share of aid and debt relief added together. The failure of the World Trade Organisation negotiations in Cancn was a disappointment and it is vital that at the talks in December we reach some form of commitment on scrapping subsidies, removing trade barriers, reforming the EU common agricultural policy, and building up developing country capacity to gain access to global markets. All those points were made persuasively by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, in a powerful statement.

We believe that an ambitious outcome to the current WTO talks could produce annual global benefits of between 250 and 600 billion dollars, and reduce the number of people living on less than two dollars a day by 144 million. That could finally set developing nations on the path towards being able to earn and trade their own way out of poverty.

A number of noble Lords asked whether we would pursue this. I can say to my noble friend Lady Whitaker that her point about food security and the springboard for growth coming from trade are fundamental to what we plan to do. Equally, the noble Lords, Lord Eden and Lord Selsdon, and my noble friend Lord Desai all raised similar points. Further, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Eden, and my noble friend Lady Jay on the work of their children in these areas. I always like to hear about industrious families involved in this kind of work.

My noble friend Lord Desai pointed out that the flow of private capital is crucial for the economies of developing countries. Debt burden must also be tackled. The UK is currently taking the lead on further debt relief, and we are determined to push this agenda with our G8 and EU partners. The heavily indebted poor country initiative has to date delivered around 70 billion dollars in debt relief for 27 of the world's poorest nations, 23 of which are in Africa. Their debt burden has been reduced by an average of around two-thirds. A further 10 eligible countries may also benefit over the next two years, which could lead to an additional 30 billion dollars' worth of debt relief.

The United Kingdom has already cancelled 100 per cent of its bilateral debt with these countries, and is now undertaking to meet 10 per cent of their debt-servicing payments to the multilateral institutions. That is a signal achievement for the United Kingdom. My noble friend Lord Desai also made a point about debt forgiveness combined with trade. I should like to add to what he said by noting that it is not only the relationship between trade and debt, but also the need to make sure that we do not apply the conditions to trade and debt which led to some of the mistakes that have been made in the past.

AIDS affects nearly 27 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, where it is the leading cause of death and the greatest threat to eradicating poverty and achieving the millennium development goals. The impact is particularly destructive of the opportunities and potential of the next generation. As my noble friend Lady Kennedy said, it is correct that women bear the greatest burden of this problem. In Malawi, more teachers are dying of AIDS each year than can be trained to fill their places. Even when there are sufficient teachers, children frequently drop out of class to care for sick parents or, when they are orphaned, stop going to school altogether.

The UK Government strategy for accelerated action on HIV/AIDS promises increased global resources of £1.5 billion over the next three years, which signals a real effort to improve and co-ordinate the international response to the epidemic; stronger political leadership; support for better programmes beyond the health sector; and specific action to support orphans and neglected children. The noble Lord, Lord Astor, asked specifically about that. It is a fixed part of the programme. Moreover, the NGOs play an absolutely central role in this by ensuring that money gets to the right people in the most effective way.

Preventing both the incidence and impact of conflict is critical since security and good development go hand in hand. African governments have the primary responsibility to avoid conflict and ensure the security of their citizens. But where the state fails to deliver, as we have seen in Darfur and in northern Uganda, as my noble friend Lord Jordan made clear, the international community has a straightforward moral obligation to protect people from harm. My noble friend Lord Parekh made a very similar observation.

My noble friend Lord Griffiths of Burry Port made a most moving point about Haiti, illustrating the key importance of security and the plain obligation of those sent to fulfil a UN mandate to do so, as well as providing the real and practical help that finally makes all the difference. As the noble Baroness, Lady D'Souza, said, democracy has no substitute. Perhaps I may add, in response to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Llandudno, that in Iraq, which has also been the location of huge conflict, DfID has put some £333 million into specific aid projects over the recent period.

There is a clear need to focus on the setting of ambitious targets, and this also applies to the volume of aid and how it is delivered. Total UK official development assistance will rise to almost £6.5 billion, or 0.47 per cent of our gross national income, by 2007–08, representing a real terms increase of 140 per cent since 1997. Our aid to sub-Saharan Africa has more than doubled to nearly £720 million over the past seven years and will reach £1.25 billion in 2007–08.

We have announced our intention and a timetable to reach the UN target of 0.7 per cent. We intend to reach it. The Chancellor's proposed international finance facility, if successful, would lead to the immediate doubling of aid from rich nations, which is judged necessary if the millennium development goals are to be met. I welcome the approval of my noble friend Lady Jay for the programme. She went on to say that aid levels are vital, along with proper safeguards for governance and the use of anti-corruption measures. Those points were also made by other noble Lords, underlying their absolute importance.

I have focused on Africa, but I shall leave the continent for a moment. The year could not have started with a more sombre event. Just before the end of last year an earthquake in the Indian Ocean produced a huge tsunami. The subsequent tragedy has reminded us all of the horrifying power of natural events and their impact on all those caught in their wake. It has also underlined the particular vulnerability of the world's poorest people living in the world's poorest countries. However, the international and public response has been overwhelming.

The UK's current priority is to fund immediate emergency relief operations and it has already allocated £75 million to the humanitarian response. Let me stress, in response to the question put to me by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwell, that none of this funding has been reallocated from existing development programmes. It is freestanding aid. Recovery from the tsunami will take many years, and as well as helping to fund the emergency stage, we must recognise that we will be contributing for a long time to come. The trade component is vital to recovery and we are sensitive to that point.

Many lessons need to be learnt from this tragedy, including the whole issue of seeking to predict such events. My noble friend Lord Hunt of Chesterton asked several questions on these issues, and I shall write to him in detail about the Kobe discussions. However, donor countries and the nations affected have agreed with the UN that they should begin work now on an early warning system in the Indian Ocean to prevent such widespread disruption and loss of life in the future. Given its great technical capacity, Japan will be playing a significant role. Climate change is also a vital part of the entire programme.

Many questions have been raised in the debate and I shall endeavour to deal with a few of them but answer in writing those that I miss. I fully agree with the noble Lord, Lord Eden, and the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, about the innovations made in the Indian banking system. No doubt, there are lessons to be learnt.

On the points made by my noble friend Lady Jay, the United Kingdom anti-bribery and corruption procedures are and will remain among the toughest in the world. The Export Credit Guarantee Department revised its anti-bribery and corruption procedures in December 2004 and agreement was reached on 13 January stressing its commitment to supporting UK exporters, while ensuring that robust measures are applied in all cases.

The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, asked about India's prospects in arriving at its millennium development goals. I will write to him on those because an extensive answer could be given. The issue of caste is fundamental. It is an essential element in persistent poverty and 200 million people are adversely affected. DfID has several programmes specifically targeted on that question. If it is helpful, I will write in detail about them rather than give them short shrift. I am afraid to say to my noble friend Lord Parekh that I do not believe that the Tobin tax is likely to be one of the answers. There are too many technical and feasibility problems in achieving it.

Many points have been made about the role of women. The United Kingdom is investing £1.4 billion in education in the developing world. I say immediately that it is intended that that should be spent equally between men and women, which by definition will make a considerable difference to the amount being spent on women. We want to ensure that girls have exactly the same opportunities as boys; that they enjoy equal education opportunities; that they are protected from conflicts and violence; that they have access to health provision, water and sanitation; that they are protected from social exclusion; and that they are given every opportunity to avoid the perils of HIV and AIDS.

The millennium development goals in respect of girls are fundamental to our work. In response to my noble friend Lady Massey, there are examples from Yemen, Nepal and 25 other countries in a list provided to me. Specific programmes have been provided there in order to deal with the problems experienced by girls. I will write to my noble friend on that matter.

My noble friend Lord Brett—I am sorry, he is on the Cross Benches now but I hope he will not mind my addressing him as a noble friend, a former trade union general secretary—made the point about the role of trade unions as specialised organisations and their civil society role. I wholly agree with him. DfID provides just under £0.5 million to United Kingdom trade union organisations through the TUC and the DfID civil society challenge fund also is a leading fund in trying to ensure that resources and programmes are being made available for trade unions.

I want to respond in due course to some of the points on fragile states. However, I say now to my noble friend Lady Royall that she has the assurance she sought. The role of women and the greater part they play as role models in avoidance and conflict resolution is part of DfID's programme and part of its expenditure.

I said that I would write to other noble Lords but I want to add one point now in relation to the international finance facility for immunisation raised by my noble friend Lord Rea. Today the United Kingdom can announce that it proposes to pledge to the international finance facility for immunisation 1.8 billion United States dollars over 15 years. Through front-loading, that will allow 1.4 billion dollars to be spent over 10 years to deal with some of the diseases to which he rightly drew our attention.

That brings me to the concluding comment. We are clear that we are not working alone on our agenda and my noble friend Lady Whitaker said that it is in our hands. The Make Poverty History alliance of charities, trade unions, campaigning groups and celebrities has come together to demand that rich countries increase aid; that they make it work better for poor people; that we cancel world debt; and that we change the rules of world trade so that they favour the interests of the poor. It is a great commitment and a great contribution.

I give this undertaking. My noble friend Lady Amos, who is in Davos today with the Prime Minister, will study the text of our debate. We will look at proposals, including the notion of the international development trust which was raised, and we will look at all other proposals which might add to the armoury we can deploy in this great fight. That is the best way to respond to a debate of this importance. I hope that noble Lords will feel that not only this debate but the work we intend to carry forward on that kind of basis will be rewarding in the most profound way.

7.5 p.m

Baroness Whitaker

My Lords, another important debate is waiting in the wings. I simply thank all noble Lords who have taken part in such a high-calibre and inspiring debate, not forgetting the mention of my fellow Nottinghamian, Jesse Boot. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

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