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House of Lords

Monday, 13th February 1995.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Portsmouth.

World Sustainable Development: G7 Talks

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking together with other members of the G7 group of nations to review the international machinery available to sustain global and social development.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): My Lords, at the Naples summit G7 leaders agreed to consider at their June 1995 meeting in Halifax what institutional changes might be necessary to meet the goal of sustainable development with prosperity and well-being for the world's people. Her Majesty's Government will play a full role in that discussion.

Lord Judd: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. However, does she agree that there is an urgent need to review the global accountability of the international financial institutions and their relationship to the UN system as a whole? Is there not a danger, for example in Rwanda, that past financial and trade policies may have aggravated a grave situation? Can the Minister assure us that the G7 will have in mind in its deliberations both the Secretary-General's agenda for development and the outcome of the world summit on social issues which will take place in Copenhagen next month?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, the noble Lord is correct in saying that the G7 leaders should address those issues. I cannot agree with him that the international financial institutions' relations with Rwanda and Burundi actually aggravated a situation which had been going on in those two countries for a long while. However, I agree with him that more account must be taken of the Secretary-General's agenda. We now have the constitutional review in this 51st year of Bretton Woods and the 50th anniversary this year of the UN. That makes the G7 review of institutional questions very important indeed. We should be deciding where we go in the future as well as learning from the lessons of the past.

Lord Judd: My Lords, I again thank the Minister for that reply. Does she agree that it is unfortunate, when so many world leaders will be attending the social summit in Copenhagen, that the Prime Minister is not going and is leaving attendance to a departmental Minister? Does she agree that that situation is difficult

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to reconcile with our ambition to remain central to world affairs and continued permanent membership of the Security Council?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, it has not even been decided who will go to the social summit in Copenhagen in March, so the noble Lord is a jump ahead of me. We want the summit to improve the focus of the international debate on issues related to development. Of course Her Majesty's Government, and my department in particular, have been actively involved in the preparations for Copenhagen.

Lord Shepherd: My Lords, will the noble Baroness give an assurance that she herself will be going to the conference?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, whether or not I can go will depend on your Lordships' business.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, given the conference on the role of women in the world later this year and the Minister's own interest in the subject, will Her Majesty's Government consider making a submission about the role of women in economic development? The Minister may agree that the subject has been consistently somewhat neglected by international financial institutions despite the fact that, with regard to both subsistence farming and local trading in Africa and elsewhere, women are in many cases more important (dare I say it?) than men in terms of economic development.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, the noble Baroness is absolutely right on the last point. Given that the summit in Peking takes place in September, I hope to be able to attend without inconveniencing your Lordships. The role of women in economic development is brought home to one time and time again out in the field. Only a week ago, in Malawi, I saw how the National Association of Businesswomen of Malawi has started up small-scale projects by which women are becoming the earners in the family. That is spreading throughout the country. The whole matter of how much women contribute to subsistence farming should arise in Peking, and I shall do my best to ensure that it does.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, when considering social development within its wider world context, will the noble Baroness bear in mind that, in the light of the recent Rowntree Report, a certain amount of social development is required here at home?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, that may be the reason why my old constituency area has asked me to speak on development in Merseyside in a couple of weeks' time.

Lord Chalfont: My Lords, when the G7 nations consider the machinery of international co-operation, can the noble Baroness say whether they will take into account the possible role of Internet and what is now fashionably called the information superhighway?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I believe that the main challenges must be reducing poverty through sustainable development, promoting sustainable

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non-inflationary growth, enhancing global trade, protecting the environment, managing international conflicts and tensions and fighting international crime and drug trafficking. Since to do that the use of information technology is essential, I am sure that even if the subject is not a heading on the list it will be considered.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos: My Lords, will the Minister agree that the United Nations has been severely criticised for the failure of its continuing policies in seeking to resolve the awful problems in Bosnia? In agreeing with that, will the Minister say whether it is a matter which G7 will consider?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, that lies slightly outside the review of institutions which I believe was the purpose of the original Question. It is true that the United Nations has been criticised but often, I believe, most unfairly. When one assesses some of the efforts of the United Nations, not only to resolve the great difficulties of Bosnia but also to ensure that food, shelter and medicines reach the places for which they are intended, it has done well. One has to keep the problem in proportion. As was said on the radio this morning, the difficulty is that whereas the United Nations started with under 80 countries, we are now talking of about 180 countries. The United Nations membership does not find it nearly as easy to reach sensible resolutions on many of the issues of today.

Lord Monkswell: My Lords, are the Government aware that prior to the outbreak of social instability in Rwanda and Burundi, the per capita incomes of those countries decreased significantly in the two years prior to the instability? Are the Government further aware that the same pattern of reduction of incomes and social instability were exhibited in this country in the early 1980s and more recently due to recession? What steps are the Government taking to learn from that both at home and in the international arena?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I find the comparison which the noble Lord makes somewhat strange. I remember the difficulties of 1976 in this country. It would probably be stretching your Lordships' patience too much to go into all that.

St. Bartholomew's Hospital: Future

2.46 p.m.

Lord Molloy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are aware of the concerns of the professional staff at St. Bartholomew's Hospital about the hospital's future; and what plans they have for the hospital.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): My Lords, Ministers have received a number of representations from professional staff at St. Bartholomew's Hospital. My honourable friend the Minister for Health has visited the hospital and met staff there recently.

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The Royal Hospitals Trust—of which St. Bartholomew's is a part—has drawn up plans for the future organisation of services across its sites. East London and the City Health Authority is currently conducting public consultation on those proposals.

Lord Molloy: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that comprehensive reply. Is she aware of Professor Jarman's report which states that the number of people now waiting for treatment in hospitals is increasing, and that, in particular, the accident rates are increasing? On its first visit, the King's Fund Commission recommended that St. Bartholomew's should be closed. It was then called back to make a second more thorough investigation and it said that its first decision was wrong and that St. Bartholomew's should in no way be removed.

Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, with regard to Professor Jarman's proposals, although the number of people waiting in London has increased, the time it takes to treat them is decreasing and progress has been considerable.

As regards the King's Fund Commission, I am interested that it should have reviewed its findings, but some members of the original commission still feel that the original findings were correct.

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